Seven ways a year of travel helped my business

Taking a ‘gap year’ can have surprising benefits
By Claire Louise Cohen

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to take a ‘gap year’ – when I was a student they hadn’t even been invented! I visited eight countries separately, for the first time going it alone, without family or friends.

I travelled to Portugal, Madeira, South Africa, Antigua, Sicily, France, Greece and Cyprus, returning to the UK after each adventure. In every country I joined an activity group for at least part of the time.

So how did all this travel help my business? The answer is that I discovered not only more about new lands and cultures but also more about myself.

Here are seven ways travel improved my business:

1. Raised confidence
First I had to get over the huge barrier of setting off by myself for the airport to get on a plane with a group of people I had yet to meet. I was supposed to meet them at Gatwick airport but I somehow missed them. In the departure lounge I nearly turned round and went home. I’m glad I didn’t – I finally caught up with them at the baggage carousel at Faro airport and that group of smiling, friendly ladies are still my friends.

2. Generating ideas
Travel is great for creative thinking. Great ideas, both for your business and personal life, can pop up at unexpected moments. It’s not always possible to capture them if you are bouncing around in a safari jeep, in the middle of pasta making or a pilates pose, or hiking up a steep hill. It’s a good idea to carry a mini notebook and attached pencil to jot them down at the earliest opportunity.

3. Making connections
I made either new friends or new contacts on every trip, gaining much from their experience and knowledge, and I hoped they benefited from mine. We all know the advantages of networking – that’s why we belong to IBA.

4. Being an Inspiration
I did not expect some of the people I met to say that what I was doing inspired them. Daring to travel on my own for the first time, without family or friends or a companion. It became evident that many people would find this too great a challenge You definitely have to get out of your comfort zone to grow a successful business and inspire others.

5. Risk assessment
I am not one of these amazing ‘hardcore’ types with lots of stamina. I wish I was, but I have to keep out of the sun and my back is dodgy. But the alternative is to stay at home and never have any adventures, so the compromise is to do things in a certain amount of comfort, assess risk and avoid certain activities.

6. Staying organised
It’s relatively easy to get organised to go away, but I learned to stay organised throughout a trip, especially when you have to keep moving to the next destination or there are lots of activities. I soon discovered that in a group, turning up early was preferable to being right on time.

7. Feeling refreshed
It’s always good to take a break but the real magic can happen when you are back home, whether you are stimulated or relaxed by your travels. Your business can only benefit as you bring to it fresh ideas, renewed energy and a sharpened perspective. These benefits can last a considerable time – hopefully until your next travel adventure!

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