As a traveler and project guy, I often noticed that these two important things in my life have a lot in common. Things that happen while I’m on the road are similar to situations I observe in my daily project business. When I struggle in a new or existing project I often think about similar situations I had on journeys with my backpack.
9 Tips How Travel Experience Will Improve Your Project Skills
Traveling people are described to gain skills abroad that help them in their everyday life. Not only in everyday life, but also in projects or working environment. So „traveling your project“ could be a legit approach in dealing with certain situations. Some of the skills I think to be helpful are collected in this article.
1.Meet the culture
When in Rome, do like Romans do. You need to understand the culture of the country you are visiting. It’s the same when you onboard a new project or company. Every culture is different and this is ok. If you take a closer look you will notice that people all over the world have a lot in common: You would not try to change the culture of a foreign country; in the same way, you should not try to change the culture of a project, customer, company or coworker right away. Learn to deal with the foreign culture and learn to respect that different cultures have different rules.
So if you start a new project and meet a new customer, you should start to observe. Take a look on how things work out, how people deal with specific situations, and what are the main rituals of the culture. Don’t try to adapt all of them as fast as possible – starting to observe is the first step of understanding and this is the step you need if you try to dive deeper into the culture and work there.
2.Respect the culture
As mentioned in the last paragraph, dealing with different cultures is not optional. If you really want to travel, this is a must. And for this, respect is mandatory. It is easy to look at different cultures and laugh about the way they are dealing with things. But everything happens for a reason and every process has its very special history. And you don’t get this on the first sight. It’s easy to blame customers or coworkers „doing stupid things“ but it’s not that easy to take a closer look and find the reasons for a specific behavior.
Respect has two important principles: don’t judge what you don’t understand and accept that people are solving problems in many different ways – none of these ways is wrong as long as it solves the given problem. Therefore you should not blame your customer for solving his problems like he does, most of the time he will have a reason for this way of problem-solving. Try to learn to respect others and how they work and deal with problems – if you give respect, be sure you will get it back.
3.You will always be a stranger
Something you can notice often when you are traveling and meet expats. People that are living in a foreign culture for a long time, know the culture, they know the habits and they have close local friends. But what many of them forget: they will always be strangers. Even if they understand many aspects of the country they live in, they will always have a different mindset and they will never understand all aspects of the local life. So you should always keep in mind, if you work in a customer project you will always be a stranger in the customer environment. After a long time, you will understand many aspects of how they do things and you will be respected as a close partner. But keep in mind – if things change or go wrong you will always be the person from the outside. So never forget your own personality and where you started, you are just an expat in foreign cultures.
4.You become more social
When you travel, you will meet many new people. So you either become better in making friends or you will end up alone.
You learn to make friends out of strangers and get more comfortable in approaching new people. Especially if you are a more introverted type of person, you will gain skills that will help you not only during travel. For example small talk: the more often you talk to strangers, the easier you can leave your comfort zone, meet new people and get in touch with them.
This skill will help you not only while traveling, but also in project work and your whole personal life. If you can talk to foreigners and keep your eyes open in your working environment, you will notice all the great people around you and you get in touch with them. This will improve your understanding of the project or the customer in a whole new way.
5.You learn how to read people
Especially when you don’t know the language, you need to switch to non-verbal communication. You do not only learn to express yourself, more important, you learn to read non-verbal communication. Learning to read body language will help you to understand people more-in-depth. This could help you when you talk to coworkers and customers. You learn to empathize with other people in a better way. And this is a key feature in understanding others.
6.Let it flow
You have to deal with so many different problems while traveling: missed flights, slow buses, wrong turns, unavoidable delays, bad food and much, much more. But you learn how to adapt your plans to ever changing situations.
Yes, you will get mad and angry sometimes, but you learn to move on. Projects (or life) throws curve balls and you have to hit them out of the park. That’s the way things go. You can try to plan anything, but as you know plans can change and you have to deal with it. Especially in project situation plans do not work out in the expected way, so learning to deal with problems and trying to make the best out of the situation is very valuable and important. Because if you take a closer look, sometimes changing plans is not so bad – many things happen for a reason.
So learning to go with the flow helps you not to panic in not planed situations – you learn to keep calm and move on. Accept that you can’t plan everything, situations can change and this is fine most of the time. Things are not going compulsory wrong, they just sometimes take different ways, and there is nothing bad about that.
7.You WILL BE more adventurous
While traveling, you’re becoming more confident in your ability to do anything, because just do anything. You jump off cliffs and fight your fear of heights. You learn diving, eat bugs. Whatever. You got this. It’s all part of the journey and the more you put yourself in uncomfortable situations, the less uncomfortable they become. It’s all part of the journey and you want the journey to be an adventure.
So notice, adventures commonly don’t happen in your comfort zone – you have to take one more step to archive them. If we bring this back to the project context, it’s almost the same: Every new project is an adventure happening outside your comfort zone, so deal with it, enjoy it and don’t try to get back into your comfy little, habit-driven environment. Look out for things you are interested in or even that you have always wanted to do and then go for them! It’s part of the journey.
8.You’ll learn to make it anywhere
If you can travel to foreign places or countries you’ve never seen before you can achieve the same for your work life. You are not afraid of the unknown, you might even be excited about the unknown and have respect, but this is not a negative feeling like fear. You learn how expectations differ from reality and that things most of the time look, feel and happen differently to what the picture in our head looked like. But this is nothing bad, it is just different because everybody has it’s own, different imagination. You learn not to be disappointed when your expectations aren’t met, and more important, you learn not to rely on these expectations. You can do it anywhere – every project, every customer, just anywhere.
9.You gain confidence
You’ve traveled many countries of the world. You slept in the jungle. You woke up on lonely islands during tropical storms. Had a great dinner in a fancy Italian restaurant in Rome. Navigated through foreign cities or countries with ease. Frankly said, you have done many awesome things. After accomplishing so much, you are feeling a lot more confident in your ability to achieve anything you want to achieve or anything you need to. Besides for traveling, this confidence is important for your work life, your daily project business and it will empower you in many, many more aspects of your life.
Now it’s up to you!
As you see, traveling is fun and can be a life-changing experience. Yes, in some situations you hate the decision you made and you think this may not be the right thing. But after looking back at your journey with a little distance, these situations are the ones you will talk about afterwards. You are not telling stories about all the things that are worked out well, you talk about the adventures or special things you’ve been through. When you try to get this point of view into your daily work life, you can get more confidence with the things you are doing every day. Because your project is just like another journey and your customer is just another country you visit. With a little distance, looking back at your projects at what you remember and tell about them, these stories are not about the things, that worked out for the first time. You will talk about the adventures.
So take your backpack, laptop bag or briefcase and start the journey. Don’t think about the problems, think about all the good things that will happen, the new people you will meet and the adventures you will experience. Traveling is not always glamor and luxury when you are on the road, but the experiences you make are priceless.