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What I’ve Learned About Business From Traveling

Relationships are everything. Without a relationship with those around you, a place is just a place; with a friend, it’s an experience. But know when it’s time to cut ties – maybe you don’t share the same philosophy or you’re just starting to get sick of each other. Don’t prolong it, move on and look back with a smile. Better to take a step back and maintain the relationship than to try and force something and end up destroying it. In business it’s the same way. You develop trust and share ideas which can add value to both of you.

You get a lot more out of everything with context. Without context, the scenery all looks the same. But if you know something about where you are, it can create or change the meaning. For example, in Athens I watched the sun rise over the Acropolis from a rocky outcropping. It was made much more meaningful by knowing that I was standing in the place where the Athenian Council used to meet on such matters as deciding the fate of Socrates. If you understand the context in relation to clients, you will then understand the culture, the problems, what will work and what won’t.

Recognize when it’s time to move on from a place. It’s perfectly alright to stay a while in one place. It’s perfectly alright to move on quickly. If you’re someplace that fits your style well, stay a bit longer than you planned. Every place has some reason to stay on longer – people, scenery, nighlife, solitude, etc. But if you find yourself not getting anything out of your time, leave early.

Know your goals; know your purpose. If you haven’t set out what you intend to do, you can’t possibly succeed at it. If you’re pursuing a goal that is undefined, you’re just wasting time and money going from place to place. Once you’ve established what you’re trying to do, your path becomes pretty clearly defined. But if you don’t have a goal yet, it’s alright to meander around as long as you know where you stand. Eventually you’ll find something that makes sense and meandering can lead you to it.

Don’t waste too much time planning, get out and start doing. Plans will always change so worrying over the smallest details before getting there is largely going to be wasting time. Most things can be figured out when you’ve arrived. Once you get to a place, don’t force reality to conform to your plans – this will always be a disaster. Any plans you do make should be able to adapt to changes.

Look around. Don’t miss out on something great because it’s not in the guidebook. Events are often more important than scenery, and events can change on a moment’s notice. Don’t miss out on an opportunity because you weren’t looking around.

Don’t be afraid to go alone. Sometimes you’ll find out you’re not alone and that many others have gone along the same path. Sometimes you’ll find something great that most people haven’t. But you’ll get more out of it if you have to discover things for yourself and learn your own lessons.

Location Of The Mystery Trip (Part 3)

Atlanta Travels The WorldThis is part 3 in the series, where I speculate on where I might be going and tell you where I’d send me. Here are some things that I’ve learned in trying to figure out where I’ll be heading:

  • Did you know that the official language of Guyana is English and that it is more similar to the Caribbean than to South America?
  • Did you know that the three least known countries in the world are Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati? Nauru has a very interesting story. Kiribati is the only country in the world that spans all four hemispheres.
  • Did you know that this will be the 199th year of Oktoberfest in Munich? It will be held September 19 – October 4.
  • Did you know that the second largest Oktoberfest celebration in the world is in Blumenau, Brazil? And that the third largest is in Cordoba, Argentina?

I think that the most obvious place to send me during those dates is Oktoberfest in Munich. So obvious, in fact, that I doubt this will be it – or there will be an added element of surprise thrown in. Like “You fly into Munich and out of Prague. You are not allowed to take any form of motorized transportation during the three weeks.”

So where do I think I’m going? I think I’ll be flying into Venice, then following the Eastern coast of the Agean down to Greece and out of Athens. None of those countries require a visa and it would be a really cool trip. I put my odds of being right at about 15%.

Location Of The Mystery Trip (Part 2)

This is the second part on where I might be going on my Mystery Trip, wherein I let you know where other folks have suggested to send me and stop just short of revealing where I think I’m headed and why.

My boss said he’d send me to one of the following locations:
Kerguelen Islands
Canary Islands
A Finnish lake

I like the idea of Tajikistan. The mountainous region of Afghanistan and Pakistan – two of its neighbors – is someplace I’ve long wanted to go, and Tajikistan is 90% mountains. They also share a culture with Persia, another place I’d love to visit. The border with Afghanistan has been guarded by a modern army since at least 2001 and the country has ties with the World Trade Organization and NATO. I’d feel safe heading there, although I’d better get there quickly, according to Barnett.

A couple of my friends said they’d send me to Thailand. I like that idea, too. If nothing else I’m sure I could get some spectacular Tom Kha Gai soup. Though it will be the rainy season, that just means fewer tourists and cooler temperatures.

South America has been a popular suggestion. Specifically Peru and Argentina. I’d be alright with either of those. Machu Pichu looks incredibly beautiful and I’ve wanted to go to Buenos Aires for a long time.

Location Of The Mystery Trip (Part 1)

It’s now less than two weeks from my Mystery Trip and I have no more idea where I’m going than I did when I started this crazy idea. This is part one, in which I lay out what I know so far and stop just short of providing speculations on a location.

I’ve started working on the skills that I’ll use when I am wherever I am. I’m using an Asus eeepc 1005HA-B to type this up now. The screen glare is killing me. I’ve uploaded photos to Flickr and done some other basic tasks on here which will be required if I’m going to blog my trip.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s what I have been told so far:

I have been told that I have at least one mission planned.
The location will be North of the equator. (I suspect that this may be a red herring, since the real intent is so I don’t have to deal with Winter conditions where heavy clothing is essential to survival.)
I will be traveling Internationally.
I will not need to get a visa in advance.
I depart Saturday, September 19th and return Saturday October 10th.
I will be on a direct flight from Atlanta.
I need to travel light and carry boots.
I should have connectivity to the Internets available to me, though not at all times.

The Tyranny Of Planning

You remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? They sucked after a while. I kept getting eaten by giant ants or falling into a black hole. Choosing your own adventure in travel can be the same. Take this cartoon, for instance. The image is of a couple at a travel agency looking through brochures. One says to the other “It all looks so great. I can’t wait to be disappointed.”

And it’s true – the more we plan and the more we put into some of the things we do, the less we get out of them. But if we simply go with what we are given, we have a great time. With few pre-conceived notions, we have a smaller chance of being disappointed. The surprise is a part of the enjoyment of the trip.

But ironically, I really enjoy planning trips. Oh, could I catch any good concerts or sporting events while I’m in town? What are the best places around for sightseeing? These types of things keep me up at night searching online excitedly. But it doesn’t make the actual trip any better.

So that led me to undertake the travel experiment that I am currently undergoing: I will plan as little for my next trip as possible, knowing nothing in advance but the dates of departure and return. The planning is essentially in what to pack – and I plan on packing very light.

This is probably part of a larger issue we have in our society with choice. According to Barry Schwartz, we have too much of it and it is ruining our lives. Any time we feel we could have made a better choice, we feel we should have. The more choices we have, the more potential we have to make a sub-optimal one. But if we have few choices, we focus on making the best of what we get.