Originally posted on September 6, 2018 @ 11:59 am
Travelers are lazy, not able to commit and thrill-seekers. They spend their days flirting on the beach, having cocktails for lunch and partying excessively every night.
Many people think this way, whether it’s bosses, professors or your Mom. “You should finish university and get a solid job as soon as possible!”, you hear her voice. And although I love your Mom (really, Mom’s are great!) – that may not always be the best advice.
It probably left you wondering though how a gap year (or two) would look like on your resume? How do you explain that you weren’t just having a good time, but actually learned something valuable? Maybe you haven’t made the decision yet and don’t even know how much you will actually learn that can help you in life and business.
The world is evolving, and so is the working landscape. Globalization and digitalization are taking over quickly, and this requires different skills from employees than ten years ago. The ability to come up with solutions, ideas and responses become more important than ever. Companies look for people that have the drive, right mindset and motivation to survive in this fast-paced world.
Whether you’re still wondering if going on that solo trip will be valuable or you aren’t sure how to use that gap year to your advantage in the recruitment process, here are
11 Must-Have Job Skills You Learn from Traveling Solo:
1. You develop a growth mindset
In an ever-changing world like ours, one of the most important skills employees have to possess is the willingness to learn and grow. Many people never even read a book again after graduating. People who travel, on the other side, do so because they have an innate hunger to learn. As a traveler, you’re humbled by what you’ve seen and you realize how much more there is to learn and how little you know. Traveling inspires you to constantly educate yourself – not just about other cultures, languages, history, and food. It’s a character trait that applies to all areas of life. You develop an innate drive and don’t need to be motivated constantly. Employees who are constantly looking to learn, grow and improve themselves are valuable assets to any company.
2. You understand what you really want
As a solo traveler who has been on the road for a while, you really have time to figure it out. Figure yourself out. You only need to focus on yourself, without distractions and expectations from anyone around you – partners, family or friends. You learn what it is that you really want, not what society and cultural norms expect you to do. And while employers may think that this is a bad quality because you seem to not be used to compromise and only do whatever you feel like, it can be seen from a completely different perspective: If you apply for a job, it’s because you want to. You choose to work for that company out of free will, not because you need the security of a job or paycheck. You know you have other options, but this career is the decision you made.
3. You gain confidence
Without a doubt, traveling unchaperoned comes with a lot of challenges. Facing them inevitably makes you more confident. Especially in the beginning, solo travelers constantly find themselves in situations that seem overwhelming, and there is nobody to rely on other than themselves. The more situations like this you handle (you didn’t really have a choice!), the more confident you become. You build trust in yourself and your ability to master challenges without help. This increased confidence level goes a long way in business – you won’t shy away from difficult tasks, tight deadlines or risky decisions. You know you can rely on yourself and will figure it out even though something may seem impossible at first.
4. You become super-adaptable
When you travel, especially alone and in different countries, you land in a completely different world, all by yourself. A new language, new culture, new food, new rules. Usually, when you first arrive in an unknown country, you have no idea how things work there – but you learn to adapt. The comfy mattress at home becomes just a distant memory and you haven’t eaten your favorite home-cooked comfort food in months. The internet connection and electricity may or may not work at your next destination. You miss flights and buses, and if not, weather conditions screw your plans. Nothing ever happens as you expect it. You’re constantly thrown into completely new situations, and with time you learn that you can survive (even thrive!) in any surrounding. Having this skill of being able to adapt quickly in all sorts of situations is incredibly valuable in a job, as the business world is changing fast and there will always be new challenges.
5. You improve your organizational skills
Every trip involves a lot of organization, especially if you travel alone. Researching and choosing a destination, evaluating safety aspects, budgeting, finding good flight and accommodation deals and sorting out an itinerary. Well, that part usually gets thrown overboard quickly, because, as mentioned, the #1 rule of traveling is that nothing ever happens as expected. Traveling requires an extensive amount of research and planning. It’s not a one-off task though, organizing becomes part of your daily job, there’s no more routine. You can’t just follow someone else’s schedule (unless you book a tour, but that’s not the kind of traveling we’re talking about here). You have to make plans for your next destinations, research and book transportation and accommodation. Most jobs require at least some sort of organizational skills, and you’re pretty well equipped for that part.
6. You practice decision-making
Starting with the very moment you decide to go on that next big trip, you’re honing your decision-making skills. You become comfortable with making big decisions that have far-reaching consequences. You learn from constantly making decisions on the road, especially because you will inevitably make wrong decisions from time to time – and those are the ones you learn from the most. Not only do you start to evaluate risks and benefits better, you also build intuition and learn to trust yourself based on all those experiences. Being able to make responsible decisions is crucial in any job that doesn’t exclusively require you to follow orders. Any smart leader will benefit from having an employee they can trust to make good decisions without constantly having to consulate their boss and co-workers to get reassurance.
7. You develop general business skills
Being a solo traveler has many similarities with handling a business. First of all, discipline and sacrifices are required to finance a big goal like this, which have become rare traits in today’s culture of credit cards and immediate gratification. The significance of monetary goals and committing to them is invaluable in the workplace. You will only be able to travel for so many years because you know how to budget, work or trade your skills against accommodation. You think outside the box to extend your trips – all sought-after skills. You learn negotiation 101 in the alleyways of winding markets and hole-in-the-wall travel agencies. The delicate, cross-cultural dance between pushing too hard or not enough prepares you for negotiations of any type. Managing your time wisely is another thing you learn quickly. Scheduling to fit in plans and making the most of a new place is about identifying all options, evaluating them and making decisions, as well as living with the potential consequences – an asset in the working world.
8. You master communication
While traveling with your partner or friends doesn’t require communicating with strangers much, traveling solo leaves you little choice but to interact with people. This is one of the reasons many prefer to go on trips alone – you make more and deeper connections with locals and other travelers. You learn how to communicate (verbally and non-verbally) with anyone, regardless of status, age or ethnicity. You know how to find common grounds with people that you, at first glance, seem to have nothing in common with. Walking into a room of strangers with your head held high, excited to listen and learn from everyone’s stories and diverse foundations of knowledge is something traveling taught you. And not only is cross-cultural competence crucial in the age of globalization, it’s also vital to company culture. Having empathy and respect for your co-workers, bosses, interns and even cleaning staff adds to everyone’s well being and in effect enhances productivity and motivation. Thanks to traveling solo, you should feel confident saying you now have multi-dimensional “people skills” that any company can benefit from.
9. You become a real problem-solver
You understand that the road to success isn’t paved, but closely resembles the winding, unexpected paths of the foreign lands you explored – whether that’s the path to life success in general or business success in particular. Your experience of navigating problems on-the-go can compare to that of a manager with decades of experience. Dealing with daily uncertainties and challenges is an environment you now thrive in. The accidentally deleted business proposal presentation for the investor meeting in an hour is nothing compared to making your way through Ugandan pre-elections when tanks sprayed tear gas to silence the crowds (true story!). You were forced to solve problems under pressure by yourself, so you don’t need someone else to deliver solutions for you. Navigating issues in a different place altogether provides practical experience and problem-solving skills that can make you an invaluable member of a team – a leader, even. On top of that, I think you can fill the corporate world with a little more magic through your belief in people, your unconventional methods and unique stories.
10. You become courageous
I believe by making the decision to travel by yourself you have already proven to have a lot more courage than most. You haven’t only left your comfort zone when you decided to embark on this long journey by yourself, booking that flight despite the fear of the unknown. No, you leave your comfort zone on a daily basis, and with no support other than your own. There is no one to make decisions with, no one to reassure you and no shoulder to lean on to. You won’t hesitate when your boss asks you to take over that risky project at work while everyone else is afraid of failure. You have the guts to take the lead and do so with confidence. You’re independent and have built an innate strength that allows you to conquer your fears and challenges successfully.
11. You’re now a creative, outside-the-box thinker
You have learned to think differently. Not only outside the box, but in and around and above and beyond. You’ll flip that box upside down and shake it to find a new, better way of doing things. Being confronted with different colors, smells, languages, art, and people leaves its traces. There’s almost no way of not becoming creative when you’re a traveler. You’ve seen, tasted, smelled, touched and felt life in a million ways. You’re bursting with new ideas and aren’t afraid to take a leap of faith in a new direction. Companies can receive valuable input from travelers which nobody who spent their lives in the same place could possibly come up with. You had the chance of soaking in new experiences fully present, without being distracted by travel companions. You’ve immersed into cultures in a way no tourist can. Whoever hires you will likely never have to worry about running out of fresh, creative ideas ever again.
Enjoyed this article? I’ve also written about why I stopped planning my trips around Instagram hot spots, despite being an “influencer”, and dealing with loneliness as a digital nomad.
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