(For Entrepreneur)—In the 15 years I’ve worked for myself, the last decade has been much more profitable than the first few years. Though several factors contributed to my successful turnaround, one in particular has led to more confidence, inspiration and awareness than any other: adventure travel.
I’ve met plenty of frequent business travelers who want nothing more than to stay home once they get there. They certainly don’t want to leave their creature comforts for something as seemingly trivial and meaningless as scaling mountains, walking quietly in nature or surfing Australia for several days. I get it. But I promise that adventure travel can do wonders for our business lives. That’s especially true if we consider travel an educational experience more than anything else.
Solely for the fun or challenge of it, I’ve visited nearly half of America’s national parks, stepped on five of the seven continents, explored dozens of foreign countries and met hundreds of people who are smarter than me. Doing so taught me several lessons that I’ve put to good use after safely returning home. They are as follows:
1. Much-needed inspiration. When we visit new or otherwise foreign environments and cultures, we increase our chances of seeing the world from a different point of view. We’re better able to examine our own problems and challenges from new perspectives. While this sometimes can happen on foreign business trips, it’s not as frequent. Work-related travel usually fails to trigger subconscious problem-solving. For that very reason, indirect adventure or recreational travel trips often lead to more “eureka!” moments — and they do so without forcing the issue.
2. Adaptive resilience. Mistakes happen more often when we’re out of our element than when we’re in it. Adventure travel accelerates our ability to fail fast and learn often. But it also develops much-needed grit to help us rise above the sustained rejection associated with entrepreneurship. I was terrified recently, as I prepared for a 300-foot bungee jump over a Costa Rican rainforest. The thrill of overcoming that and similar experiences has made be better able to withstand the seemingly frivolous wrinkles that business throws our way.
3. Reading people. I’m convinced that clear communication can minimize more than half of all headaches in business (and possibly in life). Adventure and foreign travel often expose us to different languages, dialects and communication styles, giving us a broader understanding of how humans successfully interact with one another. It also leads to greater cultural awareness for smarter global marketing. Either way, if we want to learn new ways of reaching and influencing people, we must expose ourselves to the new and unfamiliar communication situations that adventure travel affords.
4. Lead instead of manage. No doubt about it: Everyday business management keeps the lights on. But if we really want to grow business, we have to lead with newer and bigger ideas. These usually are harder to see from within the trenches than they are from afar. When we travel, we force dependent work associates back home to carry on without us, our micromanagement, and/or our direct input. This not only makes them more independent workers, it also ultimately frees us to focus more on strategic growth. We don’t spend all our time simply maintaining the status quo. As crazy as it sounds, our absence from the workplace helps others, too.
5. Exceptional confidence. We garner the respect of peers when we do unexpected or exceptional things. I’m amazed by the number of times I’ve made a favorable impression or even closed deals after sharing a recent adventure or experience that had nothing to do with work. Furthermore, I’ve encountered dozens of admirable and smart entrepreneurs on the trail who remind me, “If they can do it, so can I.” That’s arguably the biggest thing I’ve gained from gallivanting around the world in search of thrills or general-interest inspiration — which always has led to more-inspired work.
About the author: As a recognized writer-for-hire, Blake Snow has produced thousands of featured articles for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. His first book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, is available now. He lives in Provo, Utah, with his supportive family and loyal dog and is thrilled you read this.