Not many people understood why I was leaving on a 10-week trip to explore Southeast Asia. Some thought I was just vacationing for a really long time and others didn't understand the concept. I was opening a gym later in the year and before I was locked down for an indeterminate amount of time, I wanted to complete market research in an environment I knew nothing about. I had a hypothesis that people were doing things differently on the other side of the world and I wanted to know what those things were.
I get it--10 weeks is a long time and I could very well stay in the comfort of San Francisco to understand the market. That's the easy thing to do. The hard thing is to ask the question: what am I missing? I believe that the world is bigger than the bubble we live in and it is only through travel that we can find answers to the questions that keep us up at night. I told myself that if I could come back from this trip with one game-changing piece of knowledge, then it'd all be worth it. Halfway through my journey, it's been evident that every single day has been game changing. I cannot imagine how my business plan would have looked had it not been for this trip.
You may not need ten reasons to see the world, but if you're stuck in a rut and looking to revolutionize the way your company works or how your product is marketed, then traveling may be your answer.
1. Learn how other businesses operate
This isn't the sexy part of running a business, but it's the most important. There may be a more efficient way to take customer's orders, lay out a retail space, or complete a transaction. It may not change where you live, but somewhere else, someone has gotten it down.
2. Discover how all types of people spend and consume
Staying in the same place can ground us in our thoughts of consumer habits. Finding out how people behave in other places can support or negate your beliefs and change your marketing techniques in the best way possible.
3. Test the importance and scalability of your product
So, you don't ever want to open up shop in Singapore? What about Milan? It doesn't matter. By completing market research in other areas, you learn if your product could one day have a need in other territories. Some products may be niche to an area, but ultimately, think about creating things that can help people no matter where they live.
4. Understand your industry in a whole new lens
Visit other businesses in your field and see how they're doing it. It's not cheating, it's learning about your industry in an authentic way. On my trip, I spent 16 days in Singapore and completed 30 classes from 18 gyms. Yes, I was tired and extremely sore, but it was all worth it. Which leads me to...
5. Become a student
Pretend you are not a master or professional and go through the whole consumer process. Experience it all just like you did the first day you discovered it. What did you like and what would you change?
6. Talk to complete strangers about your hypothesis
There are so many cool things to create in this world, but it's important to make sure that your product is ultimately helping society. Have unsolicited conversations with people and learn what their views on the industry or product category are. Their one viewpoint could change the course of your plans.
7. Just show up
Cold e-mails often go unanswered. Take a chance and show up at someone's door or put yourself in a situation that you could never be in if you stayed at home. You might meet someone or see something completely unexpected and totally wonderful.
8. Expand your mind
According to an article from the Chicago Tribune, your brain literally grows when you travel. It's exposed to "novel and complex" situations and it goes into hyper drive to adapt to its new surroundings.
9. Let nature inspire design
It's no secret that designers go into nature to be inspired--just check out these famous architectural works of art. What will speak to you in the wild?
10. Find opportunities where they may not exist
Buy that ticket to that place you've been eyeing and do it. Just go. You won't regret it.