By Vikram Bharati
Being an entrepreneur equates to everyday fire-fighting, dealing with people and always looking for the next big idea. One needs the right mindset to walk this rocky path. And the best way to gain that, in my opinion, is through travel.
Travelling and entrepreneurship have a lot of parallels. In fact, when you are trying to build a business, I highly recommend that you travel regularly. And this advice comes from my own personal experience.
I always wanted to travel but never had the opportunity to do it while growing up. The wanderlust brewed within me, but the timing was always wrong. However, a few years back, after reaching a comfortable level in my career, I began to feel restless. I was also getting over a long-term relationship that had recently ended. Travel seemed like the best idea to extricate myself from my situation and discover my identity. As if the stars aligned, the lease on my car and house came to an end. With this combination of signs in place, I embarked on a journey. And this journey helped shape my life.
It all began with a one-way ticket to Santiago. I set off on a solo backpacking trip without an itinerary in place, deciding on my next destination on the fly and hoping to encounter the unexpected. With some savings to dip into, I also took up short-term jobs online or at hostels and bars to sustain myself through a nearly two-year-long journey.
When I started the trip, I was trying to find myself. But a few weeks down the line, I realized that I was actually travelling for the sake of travelling. I wanted to see a new city or discover what it was like to walk the Inca trail and see Machu Picchu. Once I became comfortable with this new narrative, the rest of the travels became free of all expectations. And that is when I began to grow as a person and an entrepreneur.
The world is small and scalable
I had a profound realization that the entire world is exactly the same. Every country or city might have certain nuanced differences like the weather, food or language. But the overall socio-economic makeup, history and people are similar, resulting in no big difference between Lima and Amsterdam or Morocco and New Zealand. And when I began my journey as an entrepreneur, this realization made the world really small for me. This made the differences disappear. It boosted me with ambition and drive. In a span of one year after our first launch in Singapore, Tribe Theory today has a presence in nine countries and has welcomed 8000 entrepreneurs from over 100 countries into our community. What would have ordinarily sounded overwhelming, became easy because of the realization that inherently the world is small and scalable.
After nearly two years of travelling across 50 countries with no agenda, it is safe to say that I have become extremely comfortable with being uncomfortable. My travels equipped me to accept and deal with my own and the surrounding vulnerabilities. This is the right mindset for an entrepreneur. There is a lot of unpredictability in the startup business. Things can go wrong or things that you just did not see coming happened. You have to be open and embrace ambiguity.
Adopting a global mindset
Entrepreneurs need a global mindset and travel helps you adopt one. You realize people are just as happy, miserable or friendly in one place as in any other. The preconceived notions we have about places and people get debunked. This changes you as a person and impacts everything –your business, life or relationships. As an entrepreneur, with this global mindset, you can easily deal with people from all walks of life. You can find the common threads between us and therefore, fine-tune what you’re building for a global audience.
Many people are of the opinion that travel is dangerous. Yes, some unfortunate things like losing bags or missing flights do happen. But they don’t make a travel experience “bad.” There were always strong takeaways from the situations I encountered in my two years of travel; yes, even during the time I didn’t have a place to stay for the night! I discovered people are inherently good and anything can be converted into a positive experience. If I hadn’t travelled, I wouldn’t have met my wife. There is no way our paths would have crossed. Travel creates such amazing opportunities. As an entrepreneur, life throws all sorts of situations at you. You can either crumble in a heap or look for the moral in the story and carve your own path.
Every new city I went to, I took a free walking tour first to get a lay of the land and meet some great people. This eased me into a new place. But after two years of backpacking, I feel like I have got the tourist out of my system. Now, when I travel I focus on my work and seek simple meaningful experiences. So, I am quite content going to a really nice park and read a book or connect with locals in a bar in a new city. Travel has imparted some Zen philosophy in me. I am more focused on the present and not suffering from anxiety to see or do more things. This helps me choose things that are relevant and important– whether in a new city, in life or in business. And as an entrepreneur, that is invaluable!
Seeing unfamiliar sights and exploring unknown places always lend new perspectives. For an entrepreneur, this could mean a fresh look at the mundane problems leading to new revelations or ideas. While it may seem difficult or nearly impossible to take a break from building a business to go exploring the world, a trip might be the very miracle you and your startup truly need.