There are different kinds of holidays and trips. There’s the all-inclusive Bahamas holiday where you travel to a nice sunny place and get some peace and quiet in an all inclusive beach resort. These holidays can be perfect to relieve stress and get away from the hectic world we work and live in.
Then there is also the kind of holiday where you grab a backpack and travel to a faraway part of the world. About one year ago I took the plunge and booked a return ticket to Asia to start a solo backpacking adventure. Probably the best decision I had made in quite a while. It brought me many valuable lessons, friends and experiences. Without hesitating I grabbed my backpack again last September and left for South-America.
The reason I feel the need to share this, is because it has also added a great amount of value in my work, specifically in marketing. Why would there be a parallel between traveling and marketing?
Embracing new environments
Most marketing roles are externally focused, which require someone to work with very dynamic environments. Consumer demand and behaviour changes, and forces you to be agile to adapt. Traveling on your own to a new and unknown place also requires a high level of agility. It puts you on the spot and forces you to embrace a new environment along with its culture. Because of this it’s a valuable way to learn how you as a person deal with change. After several trips you actually start to feel trained and confident in adapting new environments. It’s something your work can only benefit from once you’re back home.
Escaping your comfort zone
When traveling solo in an unknown country, you encounter different situations where you’ll have to think fast to make a decision. Some might not always be the most enjoyable situations which you want to get yourself out. But – you are outside your comfort zone and you get challenged to be creative and think in solutions. I believe this is exactly how a marketer goes about his day. Every day challenges require a high-degree of creativity and a solution-focused mind-set. Stepping out of your comfort zone is the perfect way to improve these skills and learn fast.
Everyday marketing operations can get you stuck behind a desk, crunching numbers to improve minor margins. The risk here is you are losing touch with consumers. Especially in a more-and-more customer centric time, this can be very dangerous. I’d advise any marketeer to regularly get away from a desk and put him or herself back in a more socially demanding environment. With that I mean a place where you are forced to network, communicate and be socially active. I my line of work I’m lucky to be in a such position almost daily. But travelling on your own, from place to place, has always been the most valuable experience. You continue to meet new people, create an amazing network of travel friends and you’ll be amongst different personalities and cultures. You’ll learn how different people think and respond. This is something I can take back to work every day.
Back to Basic
I can’t deny I am digitally connected. My work requires me to be, but sometimes I feel it’s a bit too much. On your backpack trip it will take about one or two days until you’ll experience a liberating feeling of being unconnected. I feel ashamed saying this, but being unconnected opens up your eyes to many ‘offline’ things you tend to take for granted. Before I left to South America I had been struggling with a marketing issue, trying to integrate off and online channels in a new way. After one month unconnected I could really get my hands on the offline channels which enabled me to come up with a solution.
The biggest hurdle to take is making the decision to travel alone for the first time. You basically have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. Being alone in an unknown place is not something most people have on their to-do list. That’s completely understandable; I struggled with the first step as well. Let me be the one to tell you, traveling solo you’ll never be alone. A trip like this will not only make you a better marketeer, but it will also teach you some valuable lessons in life. It’s an amazing and worthwhile experience nobody will ever take away from you.