How Traveling Can Help You Become A Better Businessperson
According to many successful business leaders, traveling is a key factor of success in business. While traveling unarguably brings us many benefits, how it
can make us better at business is probably not obvious. That is why I will give my opinion on the subject here, speaking from my own experience.
Here are the benefits traveling can bring you:
You improve your ability to adapt
When you are traveling, things do not always go the way you want. Your bus or your flight can be late, the address you have been given can be wrong, and going through customs can take longer than expected in the airport. Sometimes the consequences can be annoying: if like me you tend to trust Google Maps blindly, you too might someday end up being lost in an unfamiliar town in Ireland, at midnight and with no place to spend the night!
When this kind of situation arises, we have to adapt and quickly find a solution. Traveling teaches us how to better react to unforeseen events. I personally noticed that traveling makes us more resistant to the stress generated by unexpected situations, when traveling for business or in daily life – which perfectly makes sense, after all: what should we be worried about when we have already been in more awkward situations on the other side of the Earth?
You discover other ways to do things
When we study or work in a country, we learn how to do everything from this country’s perspective. This includes business matters such as how to communicate professionally as well as more personal aspects of life like how we dress or communicate. Traveling enables us to discover alternate ways to work and new ideas, concepts or methods that are not common in our home country. Thus, we can draw from methods and processes we saw abroad and incorporate them into our own work method.
Here is a basic example of how traveling can influence the way we work: when I was still a college student I learnt the French, absurdly formal method of business communication. Later, as I travelled around English-speaking countries, I ended up adopting their more straightforward way of communicating in my business emails: I cannot remember anyone complaining about me being too informal in my professional emails and letters so far (I actually noticed my sales pitches resulted in a higher reply rate when I was using an informal tone).
I strongly believe that discovering new work methods and ideas is one of the best benefits of traveling. Standing out from the crowd is essential in business: bringing and testing new ideas and methods in your company is what will enable you to achieve that!
You improve your language skills
Improving our language skills is one of the biggest benefits of traveling, and also a major reason for traveling for many people. As a matter of fact, we learn more in a couple of months abroad than in three years spent at university! The mastery of foreign languages is a major asset for anyone working or planning to work in business. Now more than ever, speaking English only is not enough to communicate efficiently, and being fluent in several languages is definitely helpful.
You develop your cultural sensitivity
Cultural Sensitivity refers to a set of skills that allows you to understand people whose cultural background is not the same as yours. Traveling enables you to learn more about other cultures. More importantly, it allows you to learn how to better interact with foreigners.
As a matter of fact, being culturally sensitive does not mean you have to know everything about other cultures. Cultural sensitivity is rather a mindset that enables you to be more aware of cultural differences when you communicate with foreigners, and to adapt accordingly. That also involves being open-minded and not judging everything you hear or see according your culture’s norms and values.
Cultural sensitivity can be acquired with practice: as you travel and discover other cultures, you gradually stop seeing everything through the lens of your own culture and learn different ways of thinking that allow you to better understand foreigners, which is essential when it comes to dealing with business partners abroad.
You get used to traveling frequently
Traveling is an art that can be stressful the first time(s) you practice it. And like everything else, it is a skill that can be mastered: the more you get used to traveling, the less stress-inducing it becomes.
Being used to traveling abroad is a useful skill, as traveling for business trips is expected from many businesspeople working on a global scale. With time, you can quickly and efficiently plan all the aspects of your travels, from the trip to the airport to the long-awaited time when you can finally collapse on your hotel bed abroad. You can then spend more time thinking about the purpose of your trip, and less time managing all its practical aspects.
You make new contacts abroad
Networking is a central part of business: success is often a matter of knowing the right people at the right places. However, we never know which contacts might be useful someday: the new friend you just made who lives on the other side of the globe might very well provide you with exciting opportunities in a couple of years! Traveling allows us to meet A LOT of people from everywhere with very diverse backgrounds, so why not take the most of it?
You stimulate your creativity
Hopping on a plane to visit the world is a great way to stimulate your creativity. Being away from home, seeing new faces and discover new places and cultures make you come up with many new ideas you would not have thought about otherwise. Some of these ideas can actually have a great impact on your life!
When I started my last travel a couple of months ago, new ideas – business ideas, career goals or new hobbies – naturally came to my mind. While some of them are clearly too crazy to be feasible, I kept the other ones for future projects to be considered. As it turns out, being away from home in a new environment makes us come up with more numerous and ambitious ideas. That does not only concern creativity, though; traveling also makes us more willing to try new things, learn new skills and knowledge, including things that will be useful, if not decisive, in our career.
The Bottom Line
Traveling can bring a lot to your career: better communication, useful knowledge, new language skills, new ideas, and other skills you never thought you would learn! Therefore, it is something that should seriously be considered by all businesspeople or businesspeople-to-be, especially those working with foreigners.
Have you traveled a lot? If so, how do you think your travels influenced your professional skills?