The value of travel for a strategist

Today, I wanted to share some musings on the value of travel in the life of a strategist.

I’ve always been a passionate traveller. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to leisure travel quite a bit in my life. I’ve visited nearly 70 countries — some in depth, some just for a short visit. In my adult life, I’ve made travel a priority, making most of my financial and major life decisions on the basis of how I could maximize my opportunities to travel.

For years, I downplayed this in my professional life, worried that it might make me seem less dedicated to work, that the dreaded “resume gap” could make me appear less attractive to potential employers. But I want to make the case today that this doesn’t have to be true.

Travel, when done with a spirit of openness, broadens the mind. I really believe this. It was abundantly clear at the outset of COVID, when closed borders rapidly led to closed minds. When you travel, you get the opportunity to engage with people worldwide and to listen to them, understand them, see what makes them tick. You learn the nuances of culture and how to adapt your communication to connect with people the world over. I’ve never been anywhere in the world that hasn’t taught me something: A good idea, an “aha” moment, a way in which history connects the dots between seemingly disparate ideas.

Travel also deepens compassion, which is a key tool for any successful strategist or, for that matter, human being. You learn that most people in the world are generally good and decent, and want the same things — peace, prosperity, hope, a better life for themselves and their children.

Not everyone has the opportunity to travel, and I certainly recognize my privilege in this post. I’ve met amazing people in my travels who, due to circumstance, haven’t had the chance to leave their borders, but have found other ways to engage with the world — through books, films, virtual engagement, and relentless curiosity. So this is by no means a post to suggest that travel is the only way to gain these experiences. But if you have the opportunity, I think it’s incredibly worthwhile.

Furthermore, I believe in trying to travel as responsibly as possible and in being aware of my carbon footprint, particularly when it comes to air travel. We only have one planet, and it’s important to safeguard it. The effects of global warming are alarmingly visible everywhere, and speaking to local fisherman in Sri Lanka, or conservation experts in the Galapagos, or farmers in Laos, really drives home this point.

I truly believe that curiosity about people is a key ingredient for a strategist. I’ve always looked for this among people I’ve hired, colleagues I’ve collaborated with, and top team members. Travel is certainly not the only way to engage that curiosity, but it’s a great one.

In short, I think it’s time to end the resume gap stigma and learn to embrace the tremendous value that travel experience can bring.

What do you think?

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