5 Life Lessons You Learn From Working Abroad
Living and working abroad opens your eyes in more ways than one. From commercial to personal growth, you will probably learn more about yourself in six months abroad than you would during two years at home. If you are dreaming about the digital nomad lifestyle, or about to embark on a travel journey — here are five life lessons you are likely to experience…
1. Listen More to Make Meaningful Connections
Amidst the daily grind, it can be easy to forget to really listen to people. From customers and clients, to friends and family: we are often in danger of being in ‘automate mode’. When you travel, you have more time to devote to random encounters: a great opportunity to develop your listening skills.
During your time abroad, keep an eye on your surroundings and listen carefully to the local rhythm. People enjoy speaking with travellers and sharing their experiences, so don’t waste this opportunity to really broaden your horizons. Talking to strangers may seem odd at first, but good listening and networking skills are essential for anyone looking to create a long-lasting business or brand.
Take this same openness back home with you. Remember: work and business opportunities could reveal themselves at any moment, so it’s important to be open to new people. Every person you meet has a story, and by becoming more open to hearing people’s stories, you will start to see the value in them all. After all, some of the world’s best entrepreneurs are brilliant storytellers.
You should always hear colleagues, staff members, associates, and friends out when they approach you with an idea or suggestion. Introverts and people who like to observe first, talk second, really come into their own when you hone your listening skills.
2. Resilience is Everything
Now and again, we can all have bad days. But when you’re travelling, a bad day can quickly turn into a terrible day. What happens if you face delays or cancellations on an essential transit route? Or you end up stranded in some floods with no phone or internet?
Resilience in the face of adversity and challenges is important. In fact, resilience can be found at the heart of every great entrepreneur and business, and travelling can help you build an armour of steel.
Cultivate your own resilience by coping with unexpected travel events and situations in a calm and collected way, rather than panicking and stressing out. You might not find the ‘cool and collected’ approach so easy at first, but making a conscious effort to develop your own resilience pays off.
The ability to remain calm under pressure will help you manage your career and personal life better, and keep you from illnesses and ailments associated with chronic stress.
3. Be Prepared to be Unprepared
Being far away from familiar customs and rhythms can throw you off. You might find that you are less confident than you would be normally. Testing your own comfort zone is a powerful way to develop problem thinking skills, but being abroad without a plan can be daunting.
To help you prepare, it’s good to plan things out before you hit the road to ensure that the wheels in your life and business keep turning. You won’t be able to plan for absolutely everything, but try to be prepared for the obvious challenges.
Here are a few things that all entrepreneurs should do before they hit the road:
1. Schedule social media for your own & branded accounts for the next couple of months so that you can dip in and out whenever you can (life-saving social tools here)
2. Sort out your shipping and fulfilment so that your customers keep getting their orders – dropshipping is one way to automate shipping, but you need to work with a supplier you trust to make it work. Third-party shipping companies are also a cost-effective way of handling orders, but you’ll need to have data systems that can handle inventory changes
3. Implement some customer service measures like automated emails, chatbots, and maybe even hire a part-time VA to deal with any inbound inquiries. The downside to some dropshippers is that dropshipping delivery times can vary – which can cause customer service challenges if you operate on a global scale. The most important thing to keep in mind is transparency – make delivery times obvious throughout the checkout process, and follow up with any delays quickly. This is where building relationships with suppliers helps.
For a service-based business, you want to ensure that any websites and databases are backed up before you go, and that community managers have been fully briefed in case of any customer challenges
4. Speak to financial advisors to ensure that your tax returns, accounts, and other essential business finances are in-hand. It’s no fun trying to do a VAT return from Chiang Mai!
4. You Need to Take Yourself Out of the Picture
One of the biggest business lessons that you’ll learn by going on the road is that you need to make yourself non-essential to the day-to-day running of your business. Whether that’s achieved by hiring a remote team, outsourcing, or using better tools and systems: don’t build a business that solely relies on you.
1. Embrace tools that help you automate and scale. Here are some digital nomad tools you might find useful
2. Document processes using help sheets, videos, and training materials so that you can quickly train people up when the road starts calling you again
3. If it is all down to you right now, start thinking about bringing other people on-board to help you grow and scale.
When you travel, you will feel the need to switch off and distance yourself from routines. That’s completely normal and healthy, and actually beneficial for your business.
From a personal perspective, learning how to let go, and embracing help where you can find it is also a powerful lesson to learn. You cannot be everywhere at once, and everything to all people; and you shouldn’t have to feel that way either.
5. Make an Effort With Language and Customs — It Goes a Long Way
People like to feel understood and respected, so make an effort to meet people halfway. Whether that’s picking up a few local words and phrases in Thailand, or taking an interest in someone’s background back home, making an effort with people goes a long way.
In today’s digital world, our horizons are shrinking, and being able to relate to people can help you navigate negotiations better and close deals faster.
Caught the travel bug? Research your trip and industry well and you will find your pursuit of the digital nomad life will become a lot easier. What other life lessons do you think you’ll learn from working abroad? We’re keen to hear your take – share your own experiences in the comments.
About the Author
Gareth Simpson – Technical SEO & Startup Founder
Gareth Simpson is an SEO pro with over a decade in the digital industry. He’s currently focusing his attention on blogger outreach and content marketing as part of his new startup venture.