Hire a Traveler. Ok, I am biased, my passion for travel only grows more and more as I pursue it, but I'm here to tell you why.
I studied abroad for a year in Ireland and took advantage of my location throughout Europe to travel around the mainland. When the aftermath of 9/11 made it difficult for my graduating class to get jobs, I found a program that let me work in the UK for 6 months. When wanting to make a life change after 9 years as a management consultant, I spent a year traveling slowly through parts of South America and a year living in Argentina. There were many trips abroad in between, but I am highlighting my longer term travel for a reason.
It is fun and makes a great story, yes absolutely. Long term travel is also a choice, lifestyle, an education and an experiential, unconventional asset.
I have had people tease me about being perpetually on vacation. "Do you work?" is said in jest, but perhaps with truth at the source. Before I left for Argentina I was asked how I could leave such a good job. When I got back, I was asked if I would now start contributing again and how I would explain the gap in my employment. There are a lot of cultural pressures and judgments in these statements that I would like to challenge.
One thing my time abroad has taught me, amongst many things, is to be open to looking at things from a new perspective. This is a nice thing to say, but it is entirely different to experience alone in a completely foreign country. It is inherent when traveling abroad; everything is different so you don't have to seek out new perspectives, they are just there, which in turn does help you seek them out when you're back home.
Here are some other things I picked up while traveling and living abroad:
- I have increased self-awareness, knowing myself at a much more intimate level, which helps me to operate more authentically, intelligently and effectively.
I learned these things and more. I learned a new language, picked up guitar, published my first article and self-published a book, wrote the first half of a novel, built two blogs and a website, earned my advanced diving certification, had my first unsupported mountaineering experience, did several solo treks, tried cycle-touring, studied with shamans and volunteered as a cultural blogger, dreamwork coach and organic farmer.
I also took my professional experience of facilitating change for corporate organizations and used it in "the real world"...on myself, coaching others and creating offerings that can help anyone going through a change in their personal or professional life. I'm not bragging, I'm just pointing out that I wasn't "on vacation" and do not see my experience as a "gap" in work at all. In fact my goal was to find a clearer sense of purpose so that I could contribute even more from a grounded, genuine place.
I did not just learn from the culture around me, but also from the traveler community. It is full of seekers, dreamers, adventurers who have tremendous goals, creative energy, thoughtful solutions, enthusiasm for exploration, insatiable curiosity, boundless determination and the freedom and wisdom that comes from stepping away from a "normal", conventional life.
Work experience is important too; not every skill can be learned traveling. I get that. And... Character and experiential education are vital and differentiating. Long-term travel isn't the only answer (and I would love to hear stories of others!), but it's a good one.
The workplace is changing and will continue to expand from the conventional structures and hierarchies. Just look at the new economies that are being introduced...the impact economy and B-Corps, the connection and sharing economies, the makers movement, the mindfulness movement. All of this is making it easier to be an entrepreneur, but it is also influencing the game of traditional companies as we know them.
Hire a traveler and let them teach you about flexibility, balance, creativity and embracing the moment. Hire a traveler and let them teach you about shifting perspective, communicating, problem solving and quality of life. Hire a traveler, become a traveler or at the very least, learn from one.