How Traveling 20,000 Miles Made Me a Better Leader
The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you stay inspired to run a business?” is written by Joel Holland, founder and CEO of VideoBlocks.
As an entrepreneur, your life is consumed by your business, and staying inspired is crucial to the well-being of your venture. Entrepreneurs are inspired by a range of things, from people in their lives to certain hobbies and pastimes. But for me, I find that the easiest way to clear my mind is on an open road. There is something soothing and therapeutic about watching the blur of towns, mountains, and landscapes fly past.
In 2014, I reached a low point in terms of inspiration and motivation, and stepping into the office felt more like a chore than an exciting start to my day. It was then that I realized my inspiration was outside of the office. But hopping on a plane to visit friends and business partners in big cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to travel to places that would provide new cultural experiences.
So I turned to one of the greatest unexplored parts of the world: America. We spend most of our lives as entrepreneurs traversing the major U.S. cities and coasts, while flying right over the rest. So I did the only reasonable thing I could think of: I purchased an RV and hit the road.
In the last two years, I’ve traveled more than 20,000 miles and seen 28 states, with some unbelievably awesome stuff along the way. Largest cross in the U.S.? Check. A Victorian biker town in the mountains of Arkansas? Check. And after some epic hiking, biking, camping, and exploring, I can say this has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made in my 31 years.
With 20,000 miles of driving comes hundreds of hours of alone time for reflection—just me and the white lines dancing under my truck. Eventually busy thoughts quiet down, and a calm sets in. That’s when I can “zoom out” and think about what we’re trying to build at VideoBlocks.
While I still spend a lot of time on airplanes to places known, I have been disciplined about scheduling road trips in my RV almost monthly, usually taking a week or more to explore completely new places with absolutely no real plan of attack. This exploration of the unknown matched with uninterrupted driving time has been instrumental in not only keeping me sane, but also fueling some incredible creative planning for VideoBlocks. For example, much of the ideation for our radical marketplace where we give 100% of the money back to contributors happened on the road after I visited Bentonville, Ark. to see the home of Sam Walton’s first Walmart. Inspired by Sam, we flipped our industry on its head, and it worked.
I get such joy out of traveling around the country, doing what I love and shooting video content for VideoBlocks. We have over 9,000 videographers who shoot stock footage for the company, and I’m fortunate to be one of them. At first, fitting so much travel into my busy schedule as an entrepreneur proved to be a challenge. But once I realized the extreme benefits of being on the road, for both my state of mind and the health of our business, it was a no-brainer that this was the right decision.
You don’t have to buy an RV to experience the wonder of road-tripping. Just get in your car and explore this awesome country we live in, but have barely seen. You will experience some powerful stuff, and your mind—and business—will thank you.