By Patricia O'Connell
I love to plan trips, whether for business or pleasure. I read all about the destination and make lists--of places to see, things to buy, must-try restaurants. I plan outfits--and backup outfits--and accessorize them to the nth degree. I Google Map locations and directions so I have three alternate ways of getting anywhere.
The truth is, my love of planning often gets in the way of my enjoyment of the trip. I over-plan to the point that I'm stressed before I close my suitcase and my front door slams behind me.
So why travel--especially when it involves situations that put me outside my comfort zone? I faced this question when preparing for a recent trip to Peru, which included a conference in Lima and a three-day excursion to Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. I went into pre-trip overdrive.
Not being the outdoorsy type, packing for kayaking and hiking caused no small amount of anxiety--as did the prospect of altitude sickness, eating unfamiliar foods, and yes, the kayaking and hiking.
Altitude vs. attitude.
In between gulping herbs to prevent altitude sickness and taking full advantage of my Amazon Prime subscription to find clothes to protect my melanin-challenged skin from the Andean sun, I asked myself, "do I really want to do this?"
I wanted to go to the conference because it was a great business opportunity, but I questioned why I should take time off from work and go to Machu Picchu and the Cathedral in Cuzco. And hadn't I already crossed kayaking in South America off my bucket list 10 years ago?
Not exactly the right attitude, I admit. After all, as an entrepreneur, I've undertaken the ultimate adventure. How scary could eating guinea pig--a Peruvian delicacy--be compared to starting a business? How hard could two days of kayaking and hiking be compared to 18 months co-writing a book?
Sometimes you have to fake it.
I decided to approach the trip--all of it--with the same combination of bravado and conviction that I had when I embarked on being an entrepreneur. Sometimes you do have to fake it while you make it. After the conference I threw myself into the non-business part of the trip with the same excitement I had for the conference. I kayaked in the morning sun, ate alpaca for lunch, and tasting roasted guinea pig.
I walked five miles up and down the equivalent of 100 flights of stairs at Machu Picchu on a foot that is still adjusting after major surgery earlier this year. (I'm glad I did all but one of those things.)
I refused to give up, as challenging as sometimes I found parts of the trip, because giving up is a slippery slope. Once you do it, giving up again gets easier and easier.
Indulging my sense of adventure builds the confidence that I need as an entrepreneur. And confidence is like a muscle. The more I use it, the stronger it gets. The stronger it gets, the more I depend on it.
I made new friends and expanded my contacts, got an infusion of ideas related to business and work, and petted a couple of wild llamas. (Not bad for a city-raised girl who once considered pigeons wildlife.)
After my bout of doubt, I came back from my trip with a resolve to always say yes to such adventures. And I encourage other entrepreneurs to do likewise. When we go outside of our comfort zone, it renews the confidence that fueled us to start our businesses. It's a chance to try things in an environment that is both unsafe and safe.
Lasting sense of accomplishment.
Because the new place and experience aren't part of our day-to-day life, we can tell ourselves that it doesn't matter if we fail or don't enjoy it. On the other hand, if we succeed in doing something new, or discover something that we love, the sense of accomplishment and pleasure stay with us. It empowers us in a way that makes a difference both personally and professionally. So maybe I didn't love that guinea pig, but I still feel braver and bolder for having tried it.
That braveness and boldness have given me the confidence to approach several prospects and propose new contracts for other clients. I'm not sure if these and the ideas I got about generating new business will pan out, but the renewed excitement and the feeling that nothing scares me are worth more to me than a concrete lead.
So yes, it did make a difference to go to the Cathedral in Cuzco and hiking in Machu Picchu. And I got to pet llamas.