In a sick twist of fate, the more startups and companies that offer the benefit of unlimited vacation time, the fewer days people are actually taking off. It’s often cited that the pressure to appear hard-working and the fear of how it will look to—gasp!—take the break you deserve, shames you into trading the Belize beaches for your desk chair (or, these days, perhaps a desk treadmill).
But traveling, whether short-term or for an extensive period of time, offers incredibly valuable experience that you can apply back to the job in order to become an even more treasured employee.
In fact, traveling and work performance go hand in hand. Here’s a few career skills you learn by traveling:
1. Cultural Awareness
It’s hard to really pinpoint the definition of “culture,” but it exists both in the real world and in the office. Traveling helps you become more culturally aware and sensitive, and also opens your eyes to the vast and varied cultures that are actually out there. Apply this back to your job in a number of ways—you may be doing work with clients who live abroad; you (hopefully) have colleagues who come from a number of different backgrounds; and your office likely has its very own work culture. The ability to adapt and empathize with other cultures is essential both abroad and in the office.
2. Worldly Experience
There’s only so much that office manuals or company retreats can teach you. Experiencing the real world through travel crams in so much information at warp speed. Much of this new knowledge that you’ll undoubtedly acquire with a passport may have never come up in your engineering or marketing courses.
3. Improved Problem Solving
Traveling abroad throws all sorts of curveballs your way. You’ll need to think on your feet, adapt quickly to unforeseen situations and roll with the punches. Stepping off the bus a stop too early in rural Poland, or convincing immigration that, actually, your visa is valid—these problems will require you to be anything but complacent. Navigating issues abroad—while possibly a nightmare at the time—provides practical experience and skills that you can transfer back to the workplace in order to become an invaluable member of the team.
4. Gain New Perspectives
Traveling to new corners of the globe stretches your mind and allows you to see things differently. Employers might call this “thinking outside the box,” but really, it’s just a new outlook that comes from living and witnessing things outside of your day-to-day norm. It could be something as small as the way people do laundry in a foreign country, or as large as entrenched political or religious ideologies. Regardless, new viewpoints bring about new perspectives on the work you do.
5. Make Connections
Of course, this happens more the longer you travel, but chances are you’ll meet a few people while traveling who you’ll maintain contact with, even when scattered around the globe. Besides the importance on a personal level, it’s also beneficial to your career that you expand your connections and networking opportunities beyond your immediate geographical sphere.
And these aren’t the only benefits of travel. Depending on how long you’re on the road, you’ll probably improve your social skills, grow an appreciation for diversity, take initiatives and risks, and possibly even pick up some of a foreign language. All valuable skills to then take back to the workplace to help you excel.
Forget about foregoing your hard-earned vacation time in favor of slaving away at the office. Seeing the world provides so much experience that you can use to grow in your position. Now we’re just waiting for the day all employers not only avidly agree, but offer to buy our plane tickets.