I have traveled to dozens of destinations around the globe in my life, both for work as well as pleasure. During my corporate career as a Banking Executive, I was fortunate enough to attend countless international banking conferences hosted in a variety of different cities and countries. When I retired from my final position, as head of Credit Suisse in Cape Town, South Africa, several years ago, I continued to embrace international travel to develop my personal goals further and focus on my philanthropic work. Each venture, full of new sights and cultures, nudged me outside my comfort zone and helped me hone my leadership skills, especially as a board member of several non-profit organizations.
And, of course, traveling with family has been one of my greatest pleasures. As a dedicated mother, I was eager to expose my children to different experiences, cultures, and viewpoints so they would think both locally and globally as adults. While traveling the world with children may seem daunting to some parents, rest assured that the trips will pay dividends in the future.
Travel – whether for business or pleasure – can enhance your business skills if you take the time to not only enjoy your experiences but also relate them to your everyday life. You are not going to improve your time management skills if all you do on your vacation is rent a beach house and spend time drowsing in the noonday sun!
But if you are mindful when you travel, even trips you take just for vacation’s sake and to recharge your batteries can help you improve the necessary business skills.
Organization and Planning
Anyone who goes on vacation with their family will very quickly learn how important it is to be organized and to plan as much as possible in advance.
For example, how much stress will you be under at the airport if you can’t find your plane tickets because you didn’t put them in a safe place? Instead of digging through a purse jam-packed full of this and that, holding up a line at the check-in kiosk, think of organizing your tickets beforehand in an envelop or utilize your smartphone for mobile ticketing.
As for itinerary planning, as soon as you miss out on an event or a play because you assumed it happened every day instead of on selected days, you’ll never think twice about planning ahead.
An ability to manage one’s time efficiently is perhaps the number one skill that business people need to develop. Travel helps hone this skill because time management is such an essential part of travel, right up there with organization and planning.
If you’ve planned your vacation well, you will have minimized your travel time, such as flight duration or layover(s), and maximized your time at your vacation spot.
Time management comes into play with how early you leave for the airport, how long you take eating food so that you don’t miss a shuttle bus, and so on.
If your time management skills are weak, embrace the technological benefits that today’s society offers and create a digital calendar on your smartphone with daily reminders for travel excursions and meals. Time is, after all, a luxury so make the most of it on your vacation!
You’re supposed to be in Geneva giving a talk at a prestigious banking conference, but you’re stuck in San Moritz because of a blizzard. There’s stress for you.
Again, some people never learn from their experiences, but others who approach each minute of the day mindfully will take these experiences in stride and benefit from them. It’s not your fault there’s a blizzard! And there’s nothing you can do about it. So, when things happen that are beyond your control, you learn to “go with the flow,” as the Americans say.
Of course, multiple lessons can be learned and skills improved from one event. Did you pay attention to the weather reports beforehand? Could you have cut short your visit to San Moritz because you knew there was a blizzard coming? Coping with unexpected events and having a Plan B are valuable skillsets both on the road and in the world of business.
Traveling to a country where the inhabitants speak a different language can be stressful – even if the locals are well versed in your native language. In most major cities in Europe for example, signs are printed in a variety of languages because tourists and business people come from all over the world. However, one-on-one interaction with a local may not be as straightforward.
Communicating with others is so essential when you are on travel – the taxi or bus drivers, tour guides, the people you meet – that you soon learn whether or not you are communicating efficiently, on a social level, or if you have to somehow improve your skills. You may need to reflect on your syntax or diction and revise your choices based on the responses and reactions of the residents. Soon enough, you will receive an insight into how to develop your skills because you’ll realize, from any misunderstandings that occur, where you’re lacking.
If you’re traveling with a group – whether with your family or on a trip with a group of strangers – you quickly learn how important it is to make decisions. Does one child want to go on this ride at Disneyworld? Does that child want to go on that ride instead? Sometimes you just have to decide for the group. While some of your travel companions may resent your choice at first, it’s more likely that they’ll thank you in the end for keeping the group on track to make the most of each travel day.
When you’re managing several disparate groups in a business setting, you may not want to compromise. But once you go traveling, you’ll soon learn how important it is to find common ground. Weigh the facts and make a decision that is fair. “We’ll go to the art museum today, and you can choose what we do tomorrow.”
The unexpected always seems to occur when you’re traveling. Perhaps, your flight was canceled, and you cannot make it to the office as planned. Thanks to technology, you can solve that problem. When you’ve got your laptop, you can simply work remotely from almost anywhere in the world. Search for WIFI or a hotspot network in an airport or a local cafe. The ability to connect with clients from anywhere in the world is a common practice now more than ever. Life enjoys throwing unexpected hurdles your way, but technology can prove to be fantastic in creating a solution.
But other problems occur where solutions have to be found and decisions made on the spot. The skills you gain from having to do this while you’re on travel will absolutely benefit you once you return to your office. You’ll know that you faced a problem and solved it, and that will work wonders for your confidence to meet and defeat other issues.
So, when you’re traveling, embrace every moment, whether or not things are going smoothly, and know you’re gaining life experience and knowledge you will be able to utilize in the future.
About Carole Hambleton-Moser: With a Master of Arts in Law & Diplomacy (M.A.L.D.) from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University, a B.A. in French from Gettysburg College, and a Diploma from Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales in Geneva, Switzerland, Carole Hambleton-Moser has traveled the world for her education as well as her career. She thrived in the corporate world, with her last position as Head of Credit Suisse in Cape Town, and she continues to thrive in her early retirement as a member of the Board of several non-profit organizations.