It may sound paradoxical, but taking time off of work to visit new places may actually help you to perform better at work. If you have the opportunity to study abroad in college before commencing a full-time career, do it. If not, don’t shy away from any opportunity to travel that comes your way in your work life. Whether it’s a business trip that allows you to to travel abroad or an invitation to visit a foreign country with friends that requires you to use some of those vacation days you’ve stored up, there are immense benefits to travel that will help you advance in your career and mold you into a better business leader- much more than sitting at a desk all day would. According to blogger Jessica Mattern, “…much of my professional development has occurred outside of the office.” Traveling affords those with a desire to gain something from it the chance to grow personally and professionally as they experience new cultures and better understand their own place in the world.
As the advisor for disruptive healthcare solutions company Phoenix Life Sciences, I frequently travel around the world to meet with various business professionals in the medical cannabis industry, and I can honestly say I have become a better business leader because of it. Here are just a few of the professional development benefits I can think of.
Increased cultural awareness
If you travel internationally, unless you refuse to explore and you stay in your hotel room the whole time, then you will inevitably gain exposure to new cultures. From trying new foods to learning about historical sites to interacting with the locals (maybe even in the native language), there is a wealth of cultural knowledge to be gained when you visit a new place. To get the most culturally out of your travel experience, be mindful of everything and everyone around you. Be observant of how people act and be sure to observe local customs; you could even take what you learn (such as be more friendly and hospitable to strangers, for instance) and continue to practice it when you return home.
Time to relax and recharge
Even if you’re traveling for business, just spending some time outside the office and experiencing a new environment will allow you to unwind. Stepping outside of your normal routine allows you to prioritize your health and wellness. Take a morning stroll before your business meeting, utilize the hotel’s fitness center, relax by the beach…there are so many opportunities to take some time for yourself for once when travel abroad, and when you return to work, you will refreshed and recharged.
Advanced communication skills
Unless you are visiting an English-speaking country or you’re adept in the language of whichever country you’re visiting, there will be a language barrier. At the very least, you will experience a cultural divide. But rather than allowing your differences with the people of another country to segregate you, look at your differences as an opportunity to learn from each other. You will most likely have to ask someone for directions at some point or be sitting next to a stranger on the train, so be cognizant of your own behavior and your counterpart’s reactions, and you can learn to form a connection.
Independence, confidence, and adaptability
In addition to all the skills and benefits mentioned above, traveling abroad teaches some general skills that can be applied to all aspects of your life. Being out of your element, away from your family and friends and what’s comfortable, forces you to become more independent. You will be responsible for getting yourself from point A to point B and navigating your new surroundings, and this newfound sense of independence, and the confidence that comes with knowing you’re capable of getting by in a new environment can lead to be being a more assertive leader in the workplace. Traveling will also teach you to be adaptable and let the trivial things holding you down go. A number of things could go wrong: your flight could be canceled, your luggage may get lost, you could be pickpocketed…and you will have to learn to deal. In the long run, this grit that comes from challenging life experiences will only make you a more flexible person at work and in life.
When reading about other people’s travel experiences, I came across a beautiful line: “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” I couldn’t agree more. If you approach every new experience with an open mind, then you have nothing to lose with an international travel and everything to gain.