Ever wondered about those people who drop exotic-sounding one-liners into conversations? “When I was learning Italian in Rome,” or “while I was living at the ashram in Nepal.” You know the kind. Smart, professional, competent, not a hint of grungy backpacker about them. How do these educated individuals find the time to travel and still be good at their jobs? Isn’t climbing the ladder to success a little harder if you’re busy eating gelatto with the locals? Not if you think like an entrepreneur.
The tendency for freelance working is on the rise — set to make up 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. Whether these folks set up a formal business or not, they still must have an entrepreneurial mindset in order to be successful working from remotely. This means they have to be self motivated, excellent problem-solvers, and good with people. If they can master those skills, they can have a flexible schedule that allows them to work from anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately, for many of us, daydreaming about camelback riding at sunset in the Sahara is about as close as we’ll ever get to the real thing. Why? Because unless you’re a flight attendant or cruise ship employee, traveling and working are totally incompatible. Right?
Not according to Rebecca Rubin, marketing and mindset coach for entrepreneurs. With a quest fulfilled to work and live in 12 different countries over 12 months in 2016, my conversation with her was pretty humbling. You might think all that packing and moving would be distracting. And what about internet connections, language barriers, delayed flights and time zone differences? Not a problem for Rubin and her devil-may-care attitude.
According to Rubin, traveling can actually make you better at your job. As she was telling me about her lifestyle, I couldn’t help but think that she was cultivating strong entrepreneurial skills on her journey. Here are some of the best points:
Traveling makes you better at solving problems
If you want to know how to become an entrepreneur, you have to think like one. That means solving a lot of problems!
We all face problems every day and there’s nothing like arriving in a foreign city where you don’t speak the language to give you a crash course in problem solving. Any traveler has experienced fully-booked hotels, pickpockets, missing buses and canceled flights. But there are all kinds of extra obstacles to overcome when you’re working and traveling at the same time.
From buying plane tickets that coincide with your itinerary to making sure you’ll have a faithful online connection for hosting meetings. You’ll solve problems with all the dexterity of a Zen master. A skill that you can translate to your job.
Rubin managed to ensure that her professional life didn’t suffer by anticipating problems and planning accordingly. “I was worried about not finding the right workspace or internet speeds while traveling, especially to developing countries. But the truth is, if you plan accordingly, you find a solution to every problem.”
The phenomenon of “digital nomads” is on the rise and according to some reports, could reach one billion by 2035. Which means that companies are cropping up everywhere to offer services that help smooth the traveling entrepreneur’s path. Take Roam, WIFI Tribe and Remote Year, for example. For around the price of your apartment rental back home, they’ll solve your accommodation and workspace needs when on the open road. Because traveling no longer involves a map, guidebook and grit determination. Thanks to internet and smartphones, the less-trodden paths are now pretty smoothed down.
You develop your people skills
Travel without doubt broadens the mind and brings you into contact with people from all walks of life. If you don’t want to get slapped with a parking ticket in Shanghai or start a misunderstanding in Mexico City, you learn to become a people person. Even when you don’t speak the language, your instincts are heightened and you start to develop the tools you need to diffuse problematic situations.
Diverse teams are often the lifeblood of the most successful companies. Learning to appreciate other ways of thinking, different cultures and ideologies can help you better understand your employees, clients, or suppliers. Travel increases your emotional intelligence and makes you better equipped to deal with situations that might have been hard for you in the past.
You learn how to plan well in advance
If you want to work and travel, you’ll need to ditch some of the spontaneity and freedom that other travelers have. Rubin was able to pull off so many international moves in one year thanks to her extensive planning. She explains, “even the small things you may not think about can become hurdles, or lifesavers when you plan in advance.”
Before arriving at each new destination, for example, Rubin developed a foolproof routine for smooth transitions, down to doing her laundry before leaving to noting down time differences on her calendar. Leaving herself a couple of free days to transition into each new city was essential. If you can’t take a break from your working week, try to travel over a weekend. This will give you time to recover from jetlag, check out your new surroundings, get a SIM card and test your internet connection.
When you manage such a huge scale international operation solo, you can handle just about anything life throws your way. This is not only great for your personal life, but for your professional development as well. People who have traveled extensively are less phased by day-to-day issues and learn how to plan accordingly.
You learn to delegate and focus on what you do best
Traveling to new destinations is exciting and complicated at the same time. When Rubin was working from Asia, her timetable was completely incompatible with her US-based clients. If you don’t want to work the nightshift, learn to focus on what you do best and delegate the simple tasks to someone else.
When you get your priorities straight in life (and work) you become more successful. Instead of answering every phone call or spending a lot of one-on-one client time, Rubin was able to outsource the daily management of her business. This left her free to work on key initiatives that had always been on the back burner. Learning to delegate (being forced to delegate) allowed her to focus on what she did best.
You can improve your language skills
While living in 12 different countries over a year may not give you the time needed to perfect your Czech, Chinese or Thai, you will train your ear and start to learn at least a few words in different languages. The benefits of learning a language have been well-documented. From increasing your brain capacity, to making you a better leader and helping make decisions easier.
So, consider how important a new language may be to you and your career choices as well. If you have a client base that speaks Spanish, you could try traveling around South America, where you’ll get an entire year to practice your verb conjugations. If you’ve always wanted to learn Arabic, there are a wealth of Arabic-speaking countries you can choose from.
As our economy fast shifts from manufacturing to knowledge-based, more and more Millennials are discovering the value of life experience. But, now you don’t have to trade your professional development for your personal one, or vice versa. As Rubin and other digital nomads have proved, you can travel and get better at your job at the same time. And have more interesting things to talk about at parties.
Originally published at medium.com