Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Have you ever traveled outside of your comfort zone? Up until the summer after my sophomore year in college, I had not traveled outside of the United States less a short stint to Montreal for a soccer tournament. I had plenty of experiences driving around the Northeast of the United States for family vacations and soccer, but nothing was ever shockingly different from what I already knew.
In the first two years of college, I was continually exposed to new ideas of life outside of the small bubbles that I had grown up in. I was reading more adventurous texts, meeting new people, and learning about different opportunities to study abroad.
It was around this time that I made a decision that I was going to take a risk and travel to South Africa for 12 weeks during my upcoming summer break. What seemed like a chance — or as some may say, a risk — at the time turned into an eye opening experience that would shape me into the person that I have become today.
In this column, I’ll give you a better understanding of how traveling abroad and into unknown lands can impact you as a person and prepare you to be a leader for others.
How Travel Can Impact You as a Leader
The best way to describe what happens when you travel somewhere new is a paradigm shift.
You come into the travel experience excited or perhaps nervous about what’s going to happen. You have a certain way in which your mind already thinks influenced from your upbringing and surroundings.
As you arrive in the new place, your senses are immediately overwhelmed by everything that you are forced to take in. Some people embrace the new people, places, and things while others need time by themselves to interpret everything that is going on around them.
Over time, everything that is new begins to become normal. What was shocking or overwhelming at first begins to make a permanent imprint on the way that you think leading to the paradigm shift.
By the end of the journey, you leave with a new outlook on how things look, how people interact, and what is normal. Your mind is challenged to combine the new beliefs with the old beliefs resulting in a new, refreshed you.
Eight Paradigm Shifts and How they Impact you as a Leader
Below are 7 paradigm shifts that I have experienced throughout my life as a result of traveling. I offer advice on how they directly correlate to your abilities as a leader.
Lesson #1: Traveling opens your eyes to new ways of life
Privy to the person you were before, you now understand life from a number of new points of view.
As a leader, you now have the ability to be empathetic meaning that you have the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes when approaching a given situation. You understand that not everyone thinks or acts the same and you take that into consideration when making decisions or handling tough situations.
Lesson #2: Traveling challenges you to make decisions on the fly
When you’re traveling, you are bound to run into scenarios where everything does not go as planned. Out of necessity, you’re forced to make difficult decisions based off of your wit and what you think is best.
As a leader, it’s important to have the ability to make quick, yet smart decisions on the fly. When working with a group of people, they will look to you to make the difficult decisions. With travel experience, you’re more prepared to think on your feet, weigh your options, and make the best decision for the team.
Lesson #3: Traveling exposes you to uncomfortable situations
It’s common that you will travel to a country where you are forced to communicate with people who do not speak your native language. That can be extremely frustrating and awkward at first, but it teaches you that you can make it through the most uncomfortable of situations.
As a leader, you need to be able to hang strong in the toughest of interactions. You’re responsible for your team’s performance and a particular team member isn’t pulling their weight. You know that you have to let the person go, but it’s a difficult thing to do. Building up the courage to speak with the individual will be conditioned by your travel interactions.
Lesson #4: Traveling creates a sense of greater self understanding
Traveling is mind numbing. Each day, you are exposed to something new. As an individual, you gain a sense of freedom from the normal routine that you strictly adhere to and you gain a better sense of who you are.
As a leader, you need to fully understand yourself before you can attempt to lead others. With a greater understanding of self, you have more confidence in your abilities and it is recognized by the people around you. When you lack an understanding of self, you are easily challenged and may make poor decisions for the wants of others.
Lesson #5: Traveling brings out the passions in you
When you’re traveling, you’re enjoying life and thinking about the things or the people that you love most. It’s a rare time that you truly reflect on what matters to you in life.
As a leader, you want to be pursuing what you are most passionate about otherwise it just becomes another job. Knowing your passions allows you to exude happiness and become an inspiration for others around you.
Lesson #6: Traveling makes you question your normal influences
As a leader, it’s critical that you listen to others and their thoughts, but that you ultimately make the decision for the best of the team. Traveling puts you on a trajectory to think for yourself and leave the negative influences out of the decision making equation.
Lesson #7: Traveling makes you appreciate what you have
Being exposed to varying levels of income and lifestyle makes you appreciate your lifestyle and the people that you are surrounded by at home.
As a leader, you are responsible for saying “thank you” and showing appreciation to those around you. Without that ability to recognize others, it is much more difficult to create trust and loyalty.
A Full Physical and Mental Challenge
Traveling anywhere new is an amazing experience, but I argue that it is even more meaningful when you force yourself to travel somewhere that is outside of your comfort zone. It’s an extremely taxing experience where you are exposed to new ways of life and are forced to question the person who you have become.
However, what comes of it is true mental, emotional, and spiritual growth that cannot be taught in any classroom. If you want to be a leader that people are inspired by and are willing to follow into battle, take the risk on an experience outside of the bubbles that you currently know. I promise that you will return transformed by the people that you meet and the challenging experiences that you are forced to be in.