Will Travelling Make You Better at Work?

15a84ceImagine the following: you are an employee who needs to improve communication and problem solving skills, as well as become more creative and organized in your job. Yet, instead of organizing training hours and educational materials for you, the employer books some plane tickets in your name and sends you away to travel

That sounds like a surprising employee development initiative, right? Yet, it could indeed make sense, as the popular knowledge suggests that travel can make you better at work by developing your professional skills.

A recent Forbes article argues that traveling can make one a more successful entrepreneur. Drawing on data from The Brightspark Edu-Travel Report, the author highlights that business leaders view student travel experiences as a competitive advantage in the future workplace. A similar notion comes from a Huffington Post article that looks into the possible benefits of travel. So what can travel experiences teach?

Thinking about the possible travel stress associated with complex logistics, delays, time pressures, unknown situations, ambiguous environments, and interacting with different people, travel can truly become a great ‘real life’ simulator and training field. When going abroad you need to plan, organize, and adapt to different situations. Moreover, to get around, find what is needed and obtain what is desired, travelers have to effectively communicate with appropriate awareness and sensitivity towards cross-cultural differences. Finally, when traveling with others the experience might also call for teamwork and leadership skills. Just think about what it takes to organize a group of four to go for dinner, given multiple options and different tastes.

The notion of benefits from being abroad and multicultural learning has also received some scientific support, which I have looked into in one of my earlier posts. Specifically, research by Maddux and colleagues (2008, 2010) found that multicultural learning facilitates flexibility of thoughts and ideas, and thus improves problem solving, boosts creativity, and helps to overcome the limitations of one’s existing knowledge and experiences. As the researchers conclude, all this results from the process of adaptation while living abroad. Given that even short-term travel might require adaptation, we might assume that the same adaptation mechanisms may underlie learning from travel. Yet, can any travel contribute to the development of professional and people skills?

I highly doubt so. I would rather suggest that the developmental aspects of travel depend on the travel aims and style. For example, most probably the need for adaptation during travel arises most when the traveler experiences genuine contact with the country and culture of visit. As such, the groups of charter tourists who generally travel on a pre-specified agenda with pre-organized logistics and familiar amenities would less likely be exposed to situations that would require actions ‘outside their comfort zone’. Moreover, these tourists might lack contact with locals overall, as they travel within groups of their co-nationals and might communicate only with local staff in tourist places. Therefore, going on an ‘all-inclusive’ vacation to Spain for example is most certainly not going to contribute to any development of the traveler. According to the cross-cultural literature (e.g. Ward et al., 2001) so-called ‘backpackers’ would be the group of travelers who will most likely come into genuine cross-cultural contact, with its respective challenges and learning opportunities. Why? Because usually backpacking tends to be longer in duration, and it means travelling on a tighter budget, which in turn involves local transport, local food, local contacts, and lots of unexpected challenges to sort out on the way. In other words, this would be the type of travel that counts most as a cross-cultural experience, that puts you really out there and makes you learn and change.

Therefore, even though the advice to travel for personal and professional development purposes sounds simple, not every move across borders will be enough. I would put it like this: Travel, but not only out of your home place, but also out of your comfort zone. With this specification in mind, I think Mark Twain put it nicely when he said the following: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime” (from Innocents abroad).


Further reading:

Leung, K.Y., Maddux, W.W., Galinsky, A.D., and Chiu, C.Y.(2008). Multicultural experience enhances creativity: The when and how. American Psychologist, 63 (3), 169-181.

Maddux, W.W., Adam, H., & Galinsky, A.D. (2010). When in Rome…learn why the Romans do what they do: How multicultural learning experiences enhance creativity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36 (6), 731-741.

Ward, C. A., Bochner, S., & Furnham, A. (2001). The psychology of culture shock. England: Routledge.

52 thoughts on “Will Travelling Make You Better at Work?

  1. “… business leaders view student travel experiences as a competitive advantage …” Of course they do. And if only because it shows that this person was able to step out of the “cocoon” in which he/she was safely embedded in their native state and environment. However, I don’t think that each travel scheme has the same complex logistics you mention. What in my opinion really counts is not if someone hops from hotel to hotel (or even campsite to campsite) but if he/she actually goes through all the troubles of finding e.g. a flat, finding out about local utilities and insurance etc. And then maybe gets at least a few odd jobs which expose them to the local work culture and ethnicities. These are then the people whom you could later charge with setting up a new foreign subsidiary in a “far-off” land …

  2. Travelling really helps a lot in getting a relief from office stress as well.One should often go for a tour,after taking out time from their busy schedule !

  3. That’s really a nice idea of improving one’s performance through travelling. Such a nice post and good research for work efficiency. Keep posting such inspirational blog.

  4. Its nice thinking of travelling a better tool for learning. Its true in many context that travelling makes one comfortable with others and learn new things of that place.

  5. Now a days success has a lot of names and one can say traveling will definitely boost in the success path as it improves one’s confidence, knowledge, different culture.

  6. I think that travelling can be educational, if you step out of your comfortzone.
    You won’t learn much from a trip to Spain while sunbathing and swimming every day.
    But when you step out of your comfortzone, and put yourself outhere, you can learn so much from other people and other cultures.
    We are people who have our own habits, and don’t really like changes.
    But it is very important to stop and smell the roses now and then, and overlook your way of working.
    I think there is no better way to do that when you are visiting another country. But you have to set your mind to it, and be open to changes.

  7. I like Travelling . It naturally helps a lot in getting a relief from stress of office work. Everyone should go for a tour in a weekend for refresh mind. It will increase energy and give new ideas.

  8. There is no greater feeling than having your bags packed and knowing you’re ready to go on your next adventure – it’s almost as if our eyes open again for the first time. We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

  9. Visit another country is a completely different experience.language,cuisine,climate,culture,architecture.To know these things people on their vacation visit new places.

  10. I love travelling as well. You made some really good points. Travelling is truly therapeutic. Your post really helps a lot with regard to that. Thanks a lot!

  11. Traveling — the best way to escape life’s problems and recharge your emotional batteries.

    It broadens your perspective.
    It makes you learn to live in the moment.
    ıt makes you value experience over things.
    Itmakes you a person who is more open to different ways of life.

  12. there are so many advantages in traveling it’s amazing, you just become an overall better person in the end of this journy, and I am certain the work that you will put in after traveling will exceed what you did before in all metrics.

  13. Travelling will make you better at work if you are an executive or an entrepreneur. When you travel you see new places, new ideas and new habits. That can help you come up with new ideas, that will make you more profit.

    Travelling will also make you better at work when you are just a worker, because travelling can be the goal of your work. You work better and in a more efficient way in order to save more money to travel.

  14. Travelling helps to broaden your horizons, there’s always so much to be learnt from travelling. Understanding new cultures, learning new languages, experiencing new adventures can all be useful in the work environment. If you have the opportunity to travel, do it!

  15. Travellers are a special breed even before they start travelling. But its true travelling develops many skills, and rounds and expands a persons skillset, mindset, and toolbox.

  16. Our brain need refreshening, traveling to some remote places in any great place in the US or rest of the World will be a great experience. Normally, when you stop working for two day and on the third when you return back on work. You will see a difference in your working experience.

  17. I think we do have to venture out of the Comfort Zone. When you intend to make a trip, you must be ready with all the possibilities that occur. Make all learned valuable lessons for your life. Meet new people, new cultures and habits. The location and the new food. And must always good to keep yourself in a new place.

  18. Travelling many times leads to higher cultural sensitivity & a broader level of thinking from interacting with diverse languages and culture. So in a way it makes u a better person

  19. Meeting people from other cultures will teach you that the way you’ve been looking at the world isn’t the way everybody else does. In fact, your point-of-view might have some major blind spots. Seeing the world for yourself will improve your vision and your grip on reality.

  20. There is no greater feeling than having your bags packed and knowing you’re ready to go on your next adventure – it’s almost as if our eyes open again for the first time. We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

  21. What is work nowadays. I think more and more people will not work anymore from 9 to 5. In addition self expression and travelling will become more and more important. Step out of your comfortzone and start travelling.
    In Holland people are going more and more to countries like Turkije, Canada and the United States (Amerika). However they need a visa for that to go to these countries. Important therefore is that they apply on time for these visa.
    Visiting other countries will open your mind. It embraces new cultures, get’s you inspired and brings in the adventurous side again.

  22. Ask yourself if you need to start traveling later or now. Does it make sense for you to wait or to travel later? In order to travel you need confidence, savsings and be social. Especially travelling in the US can be quite costly. A daily budget of 40 to 60 dollar is needed. However in the United States you can couchsurf. However never forget indeed to get your ESTA on time. Without an ESTA you are not allowed to get in the US by plane.

    An ESTA is valid for 2 years or until your passport expires. In addition, your passport must be valid until the end of your stay in America. During this period, you can travel to the United States as often as you like. However, each visit may take up to 90 days (including the days you stay in Canada, Mexico or Caribbean islands in this period). Please get your ESTA on time.

  23. Travelling can make you better at work when you are just a worker, because travelling can be the goal of your work. You work better and in a more efficient way in order to save more money to travel.
    what a nice article, thanks for sharing..

  24. Great Post!!! according to me it boost up your confidence and increase your efficiency in work because travellers faces some difficult situations where they get to know that they can face any situation and rise from it.so i think travellers make better employees.

  25. Yeah!! Travelling is important when it’s comes to give your 100% at work. Sometimes you need to go out and explore hidden gems which will definitely relive your mind.

  26. Travel Blogging has given us a full-time travel lifestyle. Before I started my own adventure travel blog 8 years ago, I was inspired to explore the world after reading other people’s travel blogs online.

  27. Of course when we plan to travel or when we heard about some journeys, trips we will get excited automatically. I want to go to all the places in this world and want to experience every tradition out there in the world.

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