Anthony Marnell escaped the city and continues his indefinite traveling. He’ll eventually stop somewhere long enough to continue with his startup plans or contribute to building companies.
Four months ago, I left on a global trip of indefinite destination and duration. I had just completed my MBA and quit my job of six years at a global investment company when the opportunity to travel paused my startup plans. As with all my travels, I learn new things and, if I’m lucky, change for the better. Though, I had not expected some of the lessons learned to resonate so strongly with my plans to eventually get back to starting a business. Here are a few things that my travels have reinforced and I hope I keep in mind when launching a business in the future.
1. Consider My Audience
It’s a chilly second night on a trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal and I’m sitting in a bar with a stereo blasting typical backpacker fare. Other than a couple other trekkers, it was only the employees in the pub. As someone who admittedly might be a music snob, I thought we could be listening to something better. So, I put together a quick playlist, ask the bartender if we can play it, and he plugs it into his stereo. Two songs later, U2 is playing and I look back to see the bartender handing me my iPad. I thought maybe they would want to hear some new music, something fresh. They didn’t want that though – they loved the hits and wanted to jam to their favorites. When talking to future customers or partners, I can’t just assume I know what they want, I need to ask and understand.
2. Build My Network
Couchsurfing may be a great tool for getting a free place to crash while traveling but its real value is insight into a local resident’s life. Isn’t that one of the things we look for when we travel, a local experience? In Pondicherry, India, I connected with a group of expats working at a consulting company and spoke to them about their experiences working and living abroad. Just a few of many people I’ve met while traveling. Now a few months later and I’m still chatting, emailing, and facebooking with people I’ve met on the road. Some will hopefully be valuable advisors when starting my business and one is even trying to recruit me for a position with their firm. People we meet have the possibility to aid us in the future and us them. I’ll continue to try and maintain these connections and will be much savvier in growing my network in the future.
3. Face Fears
I’ve always known I am not built to grow a beard. In fact, I thought I’d look pretty terrible with one and while working would never risk the personal and professional embarrassment of actually starting one. Though, I decided for the first time in my life I would let it continue growing while traveling. I learned a couple of things through that. I confirmed that, yes, a ‘beard’ looks silly on me. But I also learned how important it was for me to continue to do things that I’m afraid of. It’s through that I learn more about myself, and potentially the world, and taking risks is critical to growth. When starting a business, I want to continue to do things that I may be a bit afraid to do, not avoid them.
4. Taking Advice
When travelling extensively one meets people on various types of global journeys. Inevitably, people have recently traveled to where you’re headed and you seek their advice as they’re happy to share. I had a number younger travelers wastedly tell me how I couldn’t miss one of the incredible full moon parties in Thailand. I decided to explore Northern Thailand instead. Just like travel, advice that I’ll receive when starting my company needs to be put into context of who delivers it and the question they’re answering. Everyone has a different story so learn to recognize valuable information and take others for what it’s worth.
5. Spending Cash
At a train station in Sri Lanka, I’m faced with the choice of two classes – a VIP car with air conditioning, wifi, and comfortable chairs or a third-class car with lightly padded bench seats, open windows, and that’s really it. The train ride is a couple hours through hill country – VIP costs $10, the third-class $1. Now, VIP is affordable for me but I choose the third-class ticket. Riding VIP doesn’t get me to my destination any faster and an additional $9 will easily pay for that night’s hotel room. In starting my business, remembering the importance of cash is something that will be always on my mind. I’m willing to spend more when it will deliver me to my goals faster but I won’t throw money. I’m no VIP, yet.