Why Going Travelling Is Good For Your Career
“Don’t be a plant”
– Doug Casey
Travelling can be a brilliant way to advance your career.
This may come as a shock to you if you still believe the myth that travelling is for people without any goals. People with this mindset are stuck in the 1950s, back when travelling was considerably more expensive and the culture was more conservative. You were expected to stay in your home town, marry a nice local girl or guy that your parents approved of, and not venture as far as the next city for University. The only kind of people that went travelling were hippies that were rebelling against their parents.
These days you don’t need to go Easy Rider and divorce your parents to go travelling. In fact, many of the most valued principles of the 1950s ideal: a respected career, thrift and strong values, can best be achieved by venturing past your country borders.
In this article I will be drawing on the advice and experiences of investor Doug Casey (he’s awesome, check him out). He credits his wild success (writer of the best-selling investing book in history: Crisis Investing) to what he learned by his travels to over 100 countries over his life.
His provocative claim is that those that never venture beyond their home town are no better than medieval serfs that could not leave the land they were slaves to. Townies are embarrassing compared to that because they never leave, not because that is their station and they are forced to, but out of choice.
Those who don’t see more of the world are more like plants than humans. Humans have legs with which we were meant to walk. Our first societies were defined by movement. We were constantly wandering. When resources had expired, or the weather had changed in once place, it was on to another. These experiences over thousands of years laid the groundwork for human civilisation.
We crave stability and unity of place for a reason: it is safer, more efficient and can create more wealth. However, when taken too far we get attached to the place and inhibit our growth. We get wedded to our local culture, our jobs, our friends, and miss out on the boundless opportunity of experiment and change.
This is death to your career.
It will sound strange, but things have changed. Back when your Grandparents were working, they were expected to get a solid job very early on in their career to set them up for life. They got their steady pay-check, their health costs and their pension sorted out in their twenties. They were set.
The modern economy couldn’t be more different. Labour chases jobs rather than jobs chasing labour. People move from job to job. Education costs have skyrocketed. We cannot expect the same amount of steady growth we have had in the past.
The economy has matured. In the West we have reached a certain level of wealth that most people in the world would consider luxurious. Most of the growth is therefore occurring in the third world which is in the midst of its own industrial revolution.
What also doesn’t help are the economic barriers put in place for new starts by the government. We are in an economy defined by rising inflation, decimating our savings and making it difficult for small businesses to build up capital. Stringent regulations handed down to us by our own government and the EU make it more difficult to do business and restrict the number of jobs.
On the upside, incredible technological innovations have made it easier for a single individual to create wealth. We are seeing the rise of the one-person business: self-educated, he or she creates products and services to market and sell online, supported by blogs, apps and videos. Gradually we are seeing a shift from traditional employment to a de-centralisied network of entrepreneurs networking and cooperating to create value.
Since most business these days is done online, the particular location for your business is becoming decreasingly important. This means that it is easier to escape from things that are holding you back, whether that be the high tax rate in your state or your waster friends. There is so much to gain from travelling that doing it should be high on your list of things to if you want to make money.
Going travelling helps you get better at finding jobs.
Simply put, if you don’t find a job you won’t have the money to do the things you want to do. That is also the case at home, but travelling almost always means that you have more things that you actually want to do, and therefore more incentive to make money.
But if you are not making money some other way, you will need a job of a matter of necessity. You may not even have the money for accommodation and food, so you better get on it.
That’s why if you’re particularly worried about money and not being on track with your career that you decide to apply for a Working Holiday Visa.
When you’re abroad, you don’t have your family that provides you your false sense of security. It’s very easy to submit to the temptation of staying at home. But when you’re away it’s much more difficult to fall into this trap.
Take my experience: being at home, I had guaranteed shelter and guaranteed food. This, strangely, made me a bit too ambitious with my job search. If you are not dependent on a job to get the basic necessities, there is less incentive to get a job, any job, as soon as possible. I was looking for the ‘ideal’ job, that only comes once in a while (Doug Casey says that we shouldn’t be in the job-search mindset, but we’ll get to that in a bit).
You have to get a job in anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s better to be in a job that you don’t want to do then and no job . And even when you are on your crappy hospitality or construction job there is nothing stopping you from looking for something better.
This was the case in my life in Sydney. I had numerous jobs in the city over about 5 months, including working as a waiter on mini day cruises, working behind the bar at racetracks but also packing at a DVD factory.
This last one was a job so simple a mentally challenged chimp could do it. All I did was literally pick up bundles of DVD cases wrapped in plastic, rip off the plastic, and place them on the conveyor belt. This was not spiritually edifying work to say the least, but it provided me income, experience, a section for my CV, and the job was so simple it became automatic, and I could let my mind wander and think about what I actually wanted to do.
It was only after a few months of working in these crappy jobs that I got a phone call from a video production studio. Months before I had posted speculatively on gumtree advertising my services as a colourist and a video editor, and all of a sudden I was earning more money than I had ever earned.
The lesson behind all this is that you need to develop what are you doing start from the bottom. That doesn’t sound very nice but usually is not very long and you can learn a lot in the process. Any job on your CV is better than none at all, even if it’s not in your chosen career.
Having a job, whatever it is, also gives you peace of mind and security. It establishes a routine and encourages you to budget, and save. The sight of your weekly or monthly earnings is motivating. It makes you want even more money.
Working also increases your confidence and pride, stemming from your independence. It gives you an enormous sense of freedom.
But most importantly you start building experience. And what better way than doing all kinds of different jobs for a short time.
If I had not dived into work from the very beginning, I would not have had the foundation for the career progression I had later on – I may not have even been able to continue travelling.
One event is memorable, not only because it was something out of a bad comedy, but because it illustrates the drive you get out of pure necessity to get a job.
When I was first looking for work in Sydney I used an agency that specialised in jobs for backpackers. As soon as I signed up on the Thursday, I was asked to come to an induction for the DVD factory. The work was to be given as and when it was available. There was no guarantee that I would get it, so I accepted another job from the agency, working behind the bar at Randwick Racecourse for the Melbourne Cup on the following Tuesday.
Later on I got a text asking me to come into the factory tomorrow. On the Friday, I did the job and was told to come in every weekday. In the evening, I emailed the agency telling them that I didn’t need the Racecourse job anymore. All was well and good with the world.
On the Monday I got up early and went to work. Did another day’s DVD packing. I got back to the hostel and showered, and was about to go shopping. I checked my email first. This is what I found from the agency:
“Unfortunately, once you have accepted a job we do expect you to turn up. Please be at Randwick by 9:30am tomorrow”
What would this mean? I thought it through – I can’t upset the agency because they will not put me forward for any more jobs if they think I’m not trustworthy. However, if I go to the Randwick job tomorrow I don’t know when I’ll be able to get the factory job again. I decided to go to the agency and explain the situation. Perhaps they would be understanding.
They were not understanding. They told me that everything is set for work at Randwick. It was apparent that if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t not have that job, but no factory job either. I agreed to do it. They said it required a uniform: did I have it?
“Yes” I lied. I knew about the entirely black uniform I had to purchase but didn’t because I didn’t think I would have to do the job. I could just get it this evening.
“Good – can we see it? We need to make sure it is correct”. My heart did a backflip. I spluttered that I would nip to the hostel and get it. The agency closed for the day in half an hour, 04:30pm, so I would have to be quick.
I got out of the building and stood in the street in a complete panic. Oh. My. God. I have to go buy an entirely black outfit in my size in half an hour or otherwise I might have to go home – England, home.
You have to realise how desperate my situation was. Sydney is a pretty big city, and shopping for things that are in your size, especially if you’re 5’5 and skinny, is painful even if you have all day to do it. If I didn’t keep the agency happy I would have had to look for another job, which I didn’t back myself with since I had already been fired from my other restaurant job and was running out of money. I needed work now.
Where was I going to get an outfit at this time? As I ran through potential options in my head a bus stopped 100 yards away from me that happened to be going roughly in the direction of a shopping mall I had been to once. I jumped on it, heart racing. When I got to the street I frantically asked directions, for the first time in my life making a man fear for his. I sprinted down the street and into the mall.
04:10pm. In Target there was a choice of black shirts, one of them too shiny and another too big. There were no trousers in my size. I managed to find some shoes though. There was another store upstairs (escalator blocked by family of 5 with buggy) that had a shirt and trousers that were still too big. I bought them anyway – it would have to do for now. 50 dollars down.
04:20pm. There were no buses so I jumped in a taxi. I got off around the corner from the agency, 70 dollars down. I did not want to show the agency that I had bought these clothes just now, revealing myself as a liar, so I ripped off all of the packaging and infernal cardboard holders and shoved them into the bin. All I needed to do was show them the clothes, they wouldn’t be able to tell the size just by looking at them. I was just praying that they didn’t make me put the outfit on.
04:29pm. I stumbled into the agency, trying not to look like I was in trauma. I opened up the bag for them. Thankfully, they were ok with it. “See you tomorrow”. A wave of relief crashed over me. But it wasn’t over yet.
04:32pm. I still needed to get clothes in the right size, and there was half an hour before the shops closed. Cotton On was no good, Lowes’ was no good too. I was literally sprinting through the city. 2 minutes before Topman was closing I finally found perfect black trousers in the right size. Another 60 dollars. I had spent more in the past hour than I would earn the next day. At least I could get a return for the oversized clothes – oh, the receipt is in a bin somewhere with all that packaging . . .
When I got back to the hostel, my travelling buddy Joe looked at me in shock: “whats wrong? Where’s the shopping?”.
“Joe, that was the most stressful day of my life”
I always like to draw lessons from times like this. Even though it was a horrible situation to be in, it is highly educational.
What is remarkable about it is the difference in mindset between then and my whole life previously. It’s very difficult to see the damage you’re causing by not being pro-active with work – you are stunting your growth in your career and as a person. But here it was absolutely essential that I got that outfit otherwise I would have gone home with the whole trip wasted.
This was a unique situation, but it is illustrative of the drive you need to thrive. Being out on your own forces you to make a concerted effort – even if I was in a different city but in the same country as my parents, there would be a massive temptation just to say “screw that then”, and go home.
One of the key points of advice that Doug Casey gives is that you should do a job for a maximum of three months. That sounds like a very short amount of time but in fact it is the most optimum point. As soon as you begin a new job you will find it very difficult but you will learn quickly. On average, three months is the point you have gained enough experience to be able to do you do your job properly – after that, the amount you learn per hour of work drops considerably. So that most efficient way is to go to a new job as soon as you’re finished three months in your current job that will give you the optimum amount have experience for each new thing you do.
After a year doing this you have gained so much experience from a wide range of places that will be a much more well rounded and skilled employee. Plus, some working holiday Visas only allow you to work for one company for three months anyway.
Want a job? Look beyond your town
It’s much easier to find work in places where the talent pool is diminished in some way and/or homgeneous. Because you have come from some far-flung country you are inherently different to everyone else your potential employer sees on a daily basis. Purely on the basis of your accent, you have a unique selling point.
Even if you’re going to a country that is teeming with backpackers, like Australia or New Zealand, there is still some novelty – if an employer interviews 10 people of similar skill and experience but one of them is from a different country, which one is going to stand out?
But aside from that aspect, your willingness to travel gives you a strategical market advantage. You can go to certain areas of the world and find getting a good job a cinch, because those areas of the world are starved for talent. If you’re willing to be apart from your family and friends for up to 6 months you can save 5 times as much money as you would back home.
This is also a great opportunity for career progression. For example, the Channel Islands present a great opportunity for learning new roles and promotion, much faster than you would otherwise be able to. The talent pool there is much smaller; it seems that employers are on the hunt for good workers rather than workers scratching around for jobs. This places you, happy traveller, in the advantageous position. You are liberated to pick and choose which job is best suited to you.
Seeking out places that are a bit beyond the beaten path can serve as a career fast-track. You can leave your home with basic skills and no experience and come back after 2 years with the equivalent skills and experience of someone being at home for 6 years.
Now then, who said that travelling was frivolous and you should instead focus on your career?
Here is another idea for people who are especially entrepreneurially minded. Doug Casey has a plan for any young ambitious businessman or woman. Youngsters should visit the most obscure country possible, in a developing area like Africa or Asia. When you get there, get the phone book, or get on the internet, find the most influential and powerful people in that particular town, and call them.
As you start to talk to these people you can begin to make connections, make deals and become more influential in the town. What will happen is is that these people will start to become interested in you, first because you’re from a different country – you’re bringing different experiences, different skills, and different education the table. Coming from a different background gives you a unique context to frame information on their skills and experience. Rather than picking from 100 basically indistinguishable people in the area, you are offering them something they haven’t seen before.
And if/when you do come back to your home country, you will bring all of the skills and experiences that few of your peers will ever have, making you more valuable at home too.
Opportunities for the best investments come in the most obscure countries. Developing countries have more opportunities for investment into the economy as they are not as mature. Their economies are going up rather than stagnating.
As you get more experience and meet more people, the opportunities for wealth creation are basically infinite. This is taking the principle of being unique in your particular place to the fullest extent. Quite a lot of bravery, a lot of independence and structured goal-setting are required but the prospects for freedom and wealth are tantalising.
You need to get into the mindset of creating value for people. There are infinite wants in the market. There will never be a lack of desire for gains and the relieving of pains. And there is no person on this earth that cannot provide some value to another. It just so happens that in the free market, as much that it exists, the people that provide the most value earn the most money. So if money is your primary motivation then creating value should be a primary motivation.
Are you don’t even have to think of yourself as an employee.
Doug recommends thinking of yourself as equal to everybody else, from the point of view of creating value all your interactions with people should be in the form of making deals. It’s all part of the mutual reciprocity of the market.
One of the best ways of making yourself more valuable to other people is by experiencing new cultures and new kinds of people you’re bringing more to the table. As soon as you meet somebody you think can help you you will be able to help them in more myriad ways you’re just making yourself more valuable in the markets. Plus travelling makes excellent stories, which are wonderful way to get to know people.
If you don’t believe me, then take a look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet. They are not plants – they make a habit of broadening their range of experiences by seeing new places and new cultures. Even if it is just for business, widening one’s view of things can mean big personal growth and big bucks.
The new global economy
With the rise of the internet and the app economy, it has become even easier to pack up and run things from wherever you feel like. It is quite unnecessary, and considering all of the amazing possibilities offered up by travelling, irrational to sit in the same place all of your career.
If you are an entrepreneur, current or aspiring, you must be aware of the greater efficiency of online sales and delegating tasks to online freelancers. Especially if you don’t hold the physical stock, there is no reason to stay in the same place. You can be earning passive income whilst you climb the Andes.
As we have shown above, travelling can do wonders for your marketability and personal brand. Travelling can be an amazing way to improve those things whilst you’re making money.
This is an excerpt from my new e-book about how travelling can bring you abundant opportunities for growth in every area of your life, and how you can get over the barriers that “stop” you from venturing beyond your hometown. It is due to be released in September!
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