Career / Speaking Out / Work Life Balance

How being a travel junkie helped me in my corporate career

. 5 min read . Written by Vanshika Goenka
How being a travel junkie helped me in my corporate career

Travelling has always been one of those luxuries that I aspired for, ever since I was a kid. I remember when I was in school some of my classmates would travel for an entire summer and talk about it when they’d resume school. At that time travel wasn’t a very frequent activity in my home. For a middle-class family of four, travel comes with a lot of planning.

As I grew older I began to travel more, with family at first of course. Luckily for me, my parents’ enthusiasm for travel matches mine. I clearly remember taking my first international trip at the age of 12. It was also my mom’s first and naturally we were over the moon! We were off to Nepal for a family holiday and that still remains one of the most cherished memories of my life.

The year 2016 has been remarkable for me in terms of travel. I travelled every month of that year (something I always aspired to do), started a travel and food blog, quit the job that meant so much to me because it wasn’t making me happy anymore and found the love of my life. And I honestly believe that any one of these would not have been possible without the other. Travel made me a stronger individual one who was independent and fierce and in a lot of ways fearless.

Eventually, I got back to my work and realised I was a more content and confident person because I went out, saw new things and had some really memorable experiences. In a lot of ways, my perspective towards life had changed and this became a boon for my corporate career.

Over the years, travel has become an integral part of my life and while I took many journeys with people and without, there are some learnings from these trips that have helped me immensely, both personally and professionally.

The art of planning

A few years ago, 15 of us decided to go to Goa on a whim. It was in December and we were excited because Goa meant a lot of food, drinks, partying and the beach. But turns out this by far has been the worst Goa trip of my life. The reason? There was absolutely no planning whatsoever. All of us had been to Goa multiple times so we didn’t feel the need for an itinerary. This led to a total mess and waste of good time.

This is when I realised the importance of having a plan – on a trip, at work and in life! Yes, plans often don’t work out but when you have one ready you know which path to follow. Making changes on the way is only natural. I apply the same logic to my work-life as well. Make a mental roadmap of my day, month and year. A lot of times, the plan doesn’t work out, but I’ve realised having one makes me feel in control of things especially at work where performance is integral. Along with planning also comes budgeting, organising and researching that are all important skills that come in handy at work.

The importance of networking

When you travel, you meet a lot of people and even though it isn’t great to trust everyone you meet on your journey it surely benefits to talk and get to know others.

On another trip to Goa with a cousin, we happen to meet three young men at the train station who we ended up sharing a cab to Calangute beach with. We wanted to cut costs and while our hotels were already booked the guys didn’t have any bookings so they ended up staying at the same hotel too. We became friends and over a span of three days spent a lot of time together. Later, we discovered that the men we befriended were influential. So much so that when my lawyer cousin told them about her job hunt, one of them immediately made some calls and fixed up an interview with the partner of a big law firm. We were happily surprised at the way things worked out and that’s when I realised the more you meet people, the more opportunities you come across.

Same at work put yourself out there, meet people, talk to them, stay in touch. You never know how someone may end up helping you at a later stage in your career.

Breaking language barriers

When I took a trip across Europe, I had no clue there would be places where they wouldn’t understand English. That’s when I began to use words and phrases in the local languages of places we visited. With the help of Google translate of course, but it made a huge difference in how people reacted and treated us. In fact, there were multiple times when we would also act things out for the locals to understand and it kind of helped break the barriers.

A particularly helpful skill that I learnt on my travel, and apply while meeting new clients is to use the local language to warm up to people. Depending on the situation, sometimes approaching people in Hindi or their mother tongue instead of English instantly put them at ease making them comfortable and me more approachable. The foreign phrases have also been saved to use on future foreign clients or delegates.

Increasing cultural tolerance

When I travelled to Pondicherry via Bangalore I realised how people in different cities have a very different culture. In Bangalore, knowing the local language is extremely important. Something we Mumbaikars don’t pay attention to at all. When I went to Mecca for a pilgrimage a few years ago, I realised how women weren’t allowed to walk alone on the road or drive by themselves. For me, this was extremely regressive, but for them, it was their culture. In Rome, hanging clothes outside the windows and balconies is an offence and in Amsterdam smoking up is legal.

The learning here? Adapting is the key to being happy. Be it an organisation or a new business or city you’ve got to pick up on the local culture of the place. This one thing has helped me immensely while I moved from one job to another.

Cultural tolerance and respect for other people’s beliefs and behaviours is something that I began to consciously consider. I also think this is an important trait that holds people together in an Indian organisation.

The importance of money

Travelling to multiple cities and enjoying various luxuries made me realise one thing – money is important and the only easy way to earn money is by working for it.

I went to Dubai last year and it was supposed to be a budget trip as I was staying in a relative’s house. But even then I ended up spending thousands in the malls for things I wouldn’t otherwise buy. I realised I could only do that because I had a job to come back to and I knew money wouldn’t be a problem.

When I came back to my otherwise frustrating job, I was extremely thankful I had it and worked harder to keep it even if I thought I could do better. The urge for a better lifestyle and a luxurious living has many times been the driving force of getting through bad work days and uninspiring projects.

Decoding decision-making

Travelling comes with a lot of decision making. When you travel to unknown places, you begin to trust your instincts more than ever and make decisions based on what feels right and wrong.

On our family trip to Ladakh last year, we were driving to Pangong Lake and the weather conditions were going from bad to worst. We had to return the same night but decided on spending it there and taking off the next day.  That turned out to be a great judgment call as we heard news of landslides the next morning.

This trait is also of great help in the corporate world. Trusting your instincts is a great strength that automatically helps you become more confident in your craft. Decision making is also considered an important leadership skill that is much-appreciated by employers.

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