What is your first thought when one of your co-workers decides to take a two-week vacation abroad? Sure, now you have to work overtime in their absence, but would it be worth it if they came back better than ever? At a crossroads in my career, I decided to spend two weeks in South America to gain clarity about what I want to do with my life, and as great as this experience was for my personal growth, I underestimated how much this trip would impact my professional life.
Here are the 5 ways it changed my performance and how it can change your performance too:
1. You Learn to Build Relationships from Nothing
As important as your time alone is for your personal development, finding ways to effectively socialize while abroad is probably your greatest challenge. Solo traveling forces you into uncomfortable situations where you must find common ground with people who speak different languages, have different beliefs, and come from different backgrounds.
Traveling alone gets lonely with minimal socialization, and the way you learn to respond to challenging social moments oftentimes is the personal development you seek when choosing to travel alone.
The ability to introduce yourself to new people and build relationships quickly is a skill that translates immensely at work. Whether you are at a company event, meeting a new employee, or building a relationship with a client, your experience socializing abroad gives you a new confidence in your conversations.
2. You Gain Self-Awareness
When traveling alone, it is a gift and a curse that you make every decision for yourself. You very quickly learn more about the things that you enjoy doing and the ways that you like spending your day. Every decision you make offers immediate feedback that further reveals your priorities and preferences, and from that you gain a new sense of self-awareness.
Although self-awareness can be practiced deliberately, a foreign setting brings about organic opportunities to develop self-awareness through cultural and natural introspection.
Self-awareness is hugely valuable at work because it allows you to be more critical of yourself. Being in tune with your skillset makes you a more productive and efficient member of your team.
By identifying your capabilities in different areas, you can focus on your role and add value in the way that is optimized for you. The first step is to understand more about yourself and what you offer, and travel is a great way to hone in on exactly that.
“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?” – Marcus Aurelius
3. You Learn How to Take Ownership of Poor Results
When sharing any experience with another person, the blame, guilt, pride or triumph dilutes into the entire group. When traveling alone, however, everything that happens is directed back at you, and you are responsible for every consequence of the decisions you make. You must learn to take ownership of your own mistakes when abroad, and learn to manage negative situations proactively.
In the workplace, accepting fault is especially important because blame is a huge source of conflict, and can greatly affect your office relationships along with your team’s willingness to work with you.
Taking ownership might be a source of immediate animosity, but serves well in the long-term because it builds a foundation that will help you overcome issues that arise in the future.
On a personal development note, when perceiving the error as your own, you assume the role of correcting the system that caused the error and gain experience as an individual while setting the company up for success moving forward.
4. You Learn How to Problem Solve Independently
I’d be remiss to not mention that traveling alone is stressful. You need to navigate public transportation, manage travel itineraries, and book all accommodations, which is not easy to do solo. Nonetheless, this challenge is valuable, because it makes you practice new skills in a high-stakes environment along with growing a sense of autonomy.
Independent problem solving is an irreplaceable skill in business, and being capable of finding an answer to a tough question on your own saves your team from unneeded distractions. Alternatively, when a peer presents you with a difficult and important problem to solve, you now have more faith in your ability to come up with a creative solution.
The skill of solving problems for yourself is an asset at work, and can develop quickly when being alone while abroad.
“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” – Duke Ellington
5. You Learn to Trust Your Own Impressions
As a solo-traveler, you have a lot of time to internalize everything you experience. Although I do suggest everyone keep a journal while they are traveling, your impressions are limited to your own vantage point. With this limited input, you begin to value your own instincts more than you did before.
In your job, trusting your own impressions will increase your productivity at work by accelerating your work-flow. Certain projects require that you just move forward, and instead of second guessing yourself, you will have more confidence that you can handle the task. Time abroad brings a new-found confidence in difficult situations that will manifest in all areas of your life.
Outside of the unmatchable personal exploration you experience while traveling alone, you develop certain traits that prove to be extremely beneficial in a professional setting. By learning to build better relationships, gain self-awareness, take ownership of poor results, solve problems on your own, and trust your own impressions, traveling abroad hands you a polished set of skills that can deployed upon your return.
Where do you want to travel to and why? Let us know where you want to go in the comments below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com
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