5 Workplace Skills that Long-Term Travel Will Help You Build

Sometimes it can be hard to step away from your workplace responsibilities. Project deadlines, client meetings, sales calls, presentations—they all need your input. As someone who’s been on several extended trips overseas, most recently to Botswana, take it from me: An extended break from work doesn’t have to be a vacation. It can actually be good for your career development. It’s true! Here are just a few examples of travel skills that can help you in the workplace. 1. Decision-making Extended travel is really a series of decisions: what sights you should visit, which hotel you should stay in, where you should stop for lunch, what route you should take to get there… Depending on your perspective, these choices can be part of the fun, or feel overwhelming. You can’t see every sight nor eat at every restaurant. You just have to make your choices and appreciate the new experience. Similarly, weighing out business decisions can often lead to stress and worry. But by being decisive, you won’t get bogged down in confusion or delays, and you’ll keep your business moving forward. 2. Planning and time management Using a foreign map or train schedule to find your way across town, or across the country, can be quite a challenge, even downright impossible. All those dots and squiggly lines! And how long will the journey take? And what will it cost? Time is money, whether on the road or in the office. So managing your time well and creating an effective plan is highly valuable—not just to you and your workday, but to your company and colleagues, as well. As you try to navigate your way forward, focus on your destination. The way to get from here to there is usually easier than it seems: Start at the start, map out your budget, schedule, and priorities—then just connect the dots. 3. Communication You’re wandering through a Latin American market when you see a locally made tapestry you’d like to buy, and your Spanish is rusty (at best)—so how do you communicate with the merchant? A series of gestures and exchanged smiles eventually makes the transaction happen. How easy it was to get your message across! Upon returning home, you’ve gained a new perspective on communication: Keep your message simple and direct and you’ll be understood. 4. Adaptability Planes are delayed. Buses break down. Entire towns are booked solid. It’s important to have a Plan B when things don’t go exactly according to plan. (A sense of humor helps, as well.) Likewise, you have to be flexible if a hard drive melts down or new direction comes in after you’ve already spent countless hours on a project. Just take a deep breath, go for a walk, have some chocolate. Rest assured: You’ll always get where you need to, eventually. And if you arrive with a smile on your face, you’ll be appreciated and rewarded for your perseverance. 5. Have empathy International travel is the best way to gain an understanding of other cultures and people. Experiences in foreign places can (and will) positively reinforce the importance of taking another perspective, of standing in someone else’s shoes. Indeed, sometimes you have to stay mindful of the many different perspectives within your workplace. Other departments have different missions and needs. Even though everyone wants to get their job done and succeed, finding the common ground can be a challenge. Perhaps you can picture your organization as a small world—and remember, it’s a small one, after all. And these aren’t just examples. In my career, I’ve put many of my travel experiences to practical use. The lessons I’ve learned have helped me grow more curious, confident, and understanding—all skills that have translated directly in my professional life. So book that trip you’ve been wanting to. It doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on continuing your career development. Happy traveling!

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