Traveling, at its core, is a means of education.
I personally spend about 230 days a year traveling--sometimes for work, sometimes for leisure. I usually travel with my family, but sometimes I travel alone, solely to learn something new.
But regardless of where I'm going or the reason behind it, every time I travel, I become a better version of myself.
That's because traveling makes you a more empathetic and interesting person. It forces you outside your comfort zone, which teaches you certain things about yourself that are actually more beneficial than any lesson available at business school or in textbook.
Traveling is more than the process of going from point A to point B. It's more than an excuse to party. It's a vehicle of development.
Here are a few of its most tangible benefits.
Every time you travel, you learn something new.
Every time you travel--around every new corner and in every new face--there is a lesson to be learned. To explore is to experience, and to experience is to discover.
The last time I went to Japan, for example, I learned that Sakura season is the most photographed time of year. So at my company, Skylum, we decided to launch a photo contest centered around Sakura season, which received an outpouring of positive responses.
Sure, reading books can help you discover things about the world and your place within it. So can listening to lectures and podcasts. But to discover by way of travel is to take facts about the world and feel them in your fingers, understanding their weight and importance. And it's the experience of feeling that lends you wisdom and perspective. It's the feeling that helps you understand new things.
When it comes to leadership, this genuine understanding is critical. You need to understand the mechanisms driving customers and markets. You need perspective. You need wisdom. All of which--understanding, perspective, wisdom--is accrued through travel.
Especially for leaders, travel is the best form of education. If you don't travel, if you rob yourself of this schooling, opting instead for the familiarity of routine, you'll quarantine your mind and limit your potential for gaining new knowledge. That's unwise for you both personally and professionally. No effective leader I know is narrow-minded.
Traveling grants you different ways of thinking about things.
We arrive in this world bearing inherent limitations.
We're limited to our two eyes--that is to say, our unique perspectives.
But when you travel, you absorb new information, knowledge, and experience just by listening to people's stories and worldviews. In the process, you enhance your ability to think more dynamically. It's a means of education, but by dismantling your human limitations.
Being able to think dynamically and assess problems through various vantage points is a skill that sets great leaders apart. It's not enough to be knowledgeable--you also have to be empathetic.
This is just one of many reasons I encourage my employees at Skylum to travel abroad at least once a year. The experience betters them, which in turn betters the company.
Traveling equips you to better grow your business.
The benefits of travel are not limited to leadership or problem solving. Just as traveling equips individuals with an enhanced sense of perspective, it also enables leaders with the soft skills required to more effectively grow their businesses.
How? Well, successful businesses are always seeking new ways to innovate--to find more impactful solutions to intractable problems. And those answers exist. But they're often hidden out in the world, just beyond the walls of your comfort zones. Traveling to new places and teaching yourself new things is the only way to find them.
Skylum has benefitted from having that mentality. We operate in countries all over the world. Last year, in part because of our efforts to make connections there, we grew at least 70 percent overall in our newer, developing markets. And we grew more than 300 percent in places we had identified as key markets, like Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands.
This happened because we spent a lot of time on the road. We spoke to photographers, met with business partners, and tried to really understand what people want out of photography software. This directly informed our strategy for growth.
Simply put, there is no way to expand your business without expanding your own boundaries first. You have to go into markets, immerse yourself in communities, and search for insights. If you don't engage in this search, you won't find anything new.
Traveling helps you make connections.
As the founder of a company, it makes sense to travel. It helps you learn new things and pick up new tricks. And in traveling, you meet new people--people who you can partner with, gain insight from, or bring onto your team.
Last summer, I organized a roadshow with my business partner in Washington state. We were hoping to meet different U.S.-based photographers to get their feedback on our software. That's all we were looking for--feedback. But we ended up meeting a man named Scott Bourne who, as it happens, is the top bird photographer in the world and a very successful businessman.
We spoke initially for about thirty minutes, discussing Skylum, photography, and business, and I thought that was that.
But then we met up the next day for coffee. And over his capuccino, he shared a vision for how our operation could be enhanced that was so inspiring, we hired him as a consultant. Now, he's the president of Skylum U.S., leading our international expansion team and playing a dramatic role in our growth as a company.
Traveling is the only way to make these kinds of connections. Emails don't cultivate relationships in the same way. Calls and messages don't, either. Even social media isn't as effective.
You need to meet people face-to-face. And you can only do that by immersing yourself in new, sometimes uncomfortable situations.
At the end of the day, the importance of traveling speaks to the importance of experience--of understanding and awareness, of perspective and empathy. To travel is to broaden your perspective, garner understanding, and train your brain to think more empathetically.
I haven't seen a business school provide training so impactful.
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