6 WAYS TO USE CORPORATE TRAVEL TO BUILD YOUR OWN EMPIRE
How would you feel if you got the opportunity to travel the world for a living? Sounds glamorous, right? You’ll be exposed to new food, different cultures, business class status, untapped experiences, colorful stamps on your passport…it’s a whole new world!
Because I spent the last two years traveling the world for a corporate job, I’ve written a bit about my amazing adventures.
Hey, I traveled the world, therefore, I’m one of those people who kicks caution to the wind and just says yes to everything, right?
Well, not exactly.
If you are ever asked to travel the world for your job — or you just become one of those world-class vagabonds — I say good for you. But for those of you are about to hit the road for work, I will caution you this:
It’s fucking hard.
As humans, we organize our lives based on proximity to what we need to maintain a rocking daily life, right? And perhaps, in all my entrepreneurial glory, I didn’t realize just how much I got used to my community-centric life. Over time, I collected acquaintances, friends and colleagues in my home city; I staked claim to my favorite grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants and gyms. I became addicted to my Vitamix, my Pilates studio and my can’t-live-without girlfriends.
The words ‘community’ and ‘network’ are not just professional buzz words: they are essentials to a whole life.
But when your job is to get on an airplane to go to work, you become a stranger every time the wheels touch down. This, of course, brings infinite opportunity to meet new people and entrench yourself in new cultures, but when you leave your daily life, like I did every single week for nearly two years, I wasn’t fully aware of what it was going to feel like.
For most of us, we’d love the opportunity to ditch the dishes, pitch responsibility to the wind and jump on an airplane. But when, like me, you got up at 4:00a.m. every Monday to kiss your husband goodbye and take the first flight out to land in a corporate office by 9:30a.m. week after week after week, shit got real.
If there ever was a time in my life when I was exposed to the depth of my own tenacity, it was within the apex of these Monday mornings.
Despite my efforts to lean all the way in, the self-doubt crept in:
Could I handle this?
Did I know what I was even doing?
Would this corporate lifestyle become my new lifestyle?
On those bleary mornings, I had to dig deep and remind myself that I said yes for a reason.
And though my travels took me far beyond the confines of an office (I visited 20 international cities in 24 months, after all), in addition to all of the incredible landscapes, fascinating people, fabulous restaurants, swanky hotels, magical memories and shiny experiences, there was also plenty of lost luggage, smelly rental cars, delays on tarmacs, tears, gripes, unexpected sicknesses, jet lag and so much loneliness.
Now, having come out on the other side, I’m mostly filled with gratitude. I now have endless lessons from my corporate life that have made me a better entrepreneur, a more authentic listener, a sharper communicator, a confident leader for my team, and most of all, crystal clear how I want to design my career moving forward.
Travel gave me a shot of clarity and today, I want to share it with you. These “tips from the road” are something that can be applied to anyone who is on their own tenacious journey.
(And if you’re any kind of entrepreneur, I’d bet a first class ticket that you are.)
So here goes.
Tips from the road:
1. Show up and be present.
When you are not weighed down by daily life, you have a chance to be in the moment. Imagine if you could apply that same sense of wonder from being in a new city to your weekly staff meetings? How much more fluid, open and excited would you be? When you’re in this vibration, everything is possible. So be an observer. Sit back and listen no matter what territory you’re in, new or old. Take it in. Don’t judge. And then jump all in.
2. Find an ally.
It’s lonely on the road. Whether it’s a longstanding colleague, or simply a stranger you meet at a coffee shop, connection is key. I always say: “It’s not where you are, but who you are with that makes all the difference.” Finding someone you can work with, have a cocktail with, laugh at the weirdness of it all, and bitch and moan to your heart’s content when you lose your luggage makes the insanity of life so much more manageable. Allies come in many shapes and forms. Find yours and cherish them.
3. Take good care of yourself.
When you travel for work, you don’t always have the luxury to hop off a plane and take a nap. When you have to hit the ground running to a meeting after a 14-hour red eye across the ocean, sleep, nourishment and self-preservation are critical to stay sane. The same principles apply to any entrepreneur, traveling or not. My feet have been firmly planted back in Chicago for the last four months and life is just as grueling. (#90hourworkweeks.) So prioritize your self-care before you even try and fill up anyone else’s cup. (This includes clients and employees too.)
4. Step outside your comfort zone.
When you travel somewhere new, anything goes. This can be scary as hell, but it’s usually within those terrifying moments that we recognize what we’re really made of. Say yes to the detours, embrace the pit stops, try the weird food, make conversation with the stranger. In a new land, you can be whoever you want to be. You can be bold, take risks and present the “you” you’ve always wanted to be. Why throw this adventurous spirit out the window back in your “real life?” Bringing this sense of openness to your own business is critical to its growth, and essential to your evolution as a person.
5. Embrace the sadness.
You will get lonely. You will have down days. Pro tip: I brought a long a journal with me when I traveled and made a point to record where my head and heart were, as I traveled. Believe it or not, the pen to my paper became one of my most soothing outlets. I always had someone to “talk” to. As in life, learn to be within those moments of sadness. Don’t judge yourself for anything that you feel. Your feelings are your power. Use them to harness more potential in your personal and professional life.
6. Accept that no balance is the balance.
Some of us work too much. Some of us don’t know how to disconnect. Sometimes, we can start the day or the week off just right, and by Friday, we’re lucky to just make it through the day. Nothing is permanent. Remember that. Take it day by day and focus on actions rather than getting stuck in a wheel of negative thinking.
Because of travel, I now speak a new vernacular on so many levels. I have a more thorough understanding of what it really looks like to do business internationally and how Americans are perceived in other countries (of course, this was pre-Trump, so…).
What’s the bottom line in all of this, as I sit at a new desk, building my new empire, so outside of Corporate America and weekly jet setting?
I now know I can do anything I put my mind to. Shit is hard. Not everyone is cut out to be a corporate road warrior, least of all me, but I fucking did it. And I take pride in my tenacity.
And above all else, I learned, am learning, and continue to learn about business, about myself and most importantly, about the world.
Whether I’m up in the air or on the ground, feet firmly planted beneath me, I know that to truly succeed in business, there has to be an element in you that would say YES to the things that make you uncomfortable.
Being an entrepreneur is hard, y’all. Don’t expect otherwise. So be your own ally when you can’t find one. Get shit done when no one else will step in and help. FEEL YOUR FEELINGS. View the world — even your every day, seemingly boring one — through the lense of a adventure. Step away when you feel the whole world pressing in.
And then come back, use all that you’ve seen, learned, felt and experiences and build the best business — and life — you can.