How Travel Made Me a Better Entrepreneur

November 11, 2016, 12:01 AM UTC
USA, Hawaii, Oahu, Waves breaking on shore near Makapuu Lighthouse
Photograph by Getty Images/RooM RF

I sat at that desk for two years and tried to convince myself that I was in the right place. But, there was no denying that corporate life wasn’t right for me. I had a great job, a wonderful boss, interesting work, and fair pay. However, as a believer in lifestyle engineering — the idea that with the right systems, contacts, and work you can design the life you want — I knew that I needed to make a change.

So, I took on an audacious project: I’d go to the biggest events in the world every month for one year. I didn’t know how I’d pay for it or where I’d go, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Now, as author of The 2 AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure and founder of the Influencers Dinner, I make a commitment every year to travel. I’ve gone polar plunging in Antarctic waters (and nearly froze to death), gotten lost in Black Rock Desert during Burning Man and been crushed by a bull in Running of the Bulls.

The beauty of travel isn’t only the adventures you have or the wonderful people you meet but the person you become along the way. Travel made me a better entrepreneur, because I learned five critical lessons that I never would have in an office.

1. You’re not that important.

In the early stages of startups, you may need to pull up your sleeves and do the work yourself. But, as soon as it’s possible, start looking for tasks that you can outsource.

As I traveled, I noticed that projects would get done and problems would get solved without me. At times, I needed to jump on a call or answer an email. However, for the most part, if I planned ahead and showed people where to find the answers themselves, it was handled.

If you’re comfortable with not always getting credit, empower others to solve problems on their own. You’ll be able to dedicate more time to strategic functions, travel, and rest.

Related: What the Polar Plunge and Running of the Bulls Taught Me About Success

2. It’s not that important.

Identify which actions are leading to your success and deserve your time, versus those you are attached to but have no value. Checking off a task feels good, but it may be wasting your energy. This is where many entrepreneurs fall short, and as a result, they keep work habits long after they’re useful.

3. Vacations prevent burnout.

Answering emails at 2 a.m. isn’t making you a more successful entrepreneur. It is holding you back. Without proper sleep, productivity and creativity decrease dramatically. Our ability to gain enjoyment from the work we’re doing diminishes.

Everyone has limitations. Burnout is real, and it will affect your ability to make decisions. Take care of yourself and get some rest.

4. Embrace novelty.

Getting exposed to other cultures and ideas produces creativity and inspiration. We are hardwired to respond to novelty. If you continuously stay within the familiar, your brain finds it less engaging. Novel and diverse experiences boost brainpower and make you more interesting.

If you want to connect with people, do interesting things. Traveling gives you incredible stories and perspectives worth sharing. I always have a couple stories ready for any social occasion or meeting and, as a result, people engage with me more.

5. Get out of your comfort zone.

As cliche as it sounds, the only way to grow is to step outside of your comfort zone. If it is something that scares you but won’t kill you, do it.

Take a solo trip. I once intentionally visited Nice, France, with limited money and no place to stay in order to force myself to connect with people quickly. I met some great people who put me up for the night, and I learned more about myself.

No matter how busy you feel or what tasks you think you need to do, make the time to travel and explore. You’ll return a more refreshed and effective entrepreneur.

Jon Levy is a behavior scientist best known for his work in influence, networking and adventure. He is founder of the Influencers Dinner and author of a new book called The 2 AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure, where he shares science and stories on how to live a fun and exciting life.