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March 16th, 2016

Just so I get the cMex2onfession out of the way – yours and mine – I just returned from a fantastic week in Mexico. I left several days after launching the podcast that I’ve been working on obsessively between clients and sleep for months. There was still so much to do, I struggled in deciding whether to go. The workaholic gremlin with a whip and an endless “should do” list was yelling at me from one shoulder; a sombrero-wearing, mango-savoring traveler relishing the sunshine and adventure was whispering from the other shoulder. I’d let you guess who thankfully won, but subtlety has never been a strong suit so please refer to the confession and visual evidence above.

It’s also probably not a coincidence that my latest podcast guest Brian Hawkins, CEO of the DC VA Medical Center advocates travel as a way for leaders to expand their perspective and comfort zone. So true! I wholeheartedly believe that travel makes us stronger, better and more resilient leaders and humans. So here are the top three reasons (of many) that I chose to travel (and often coach my leader clients to do the same):

1. Travel Stretches Our Comfort Zone

IMG_4829 copyAlbert Einstein, one of my all-time favorite quoters, once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.” But as leaders, day-to-day, we are immersed in the same problems with the same people who often share our same perspective. Hugely worthwhile problems and hopefully fantastic people, but still the same ones. This creates the proverbial comfort zone and it’s so comfortable, it’s only human to assimilate to it, snuggle with it and sometimes even become it. It’s one of those we don’t know what we don’t know phenomenon. So how does one go about challenging our own reality we don’t even know needs challenging? This is where travel is so crucial!

Travel, particularly internationally, constantly presents us with opportunities to see the world – literally and figuratively – through a new lens. Sometimes I don’t even know I have a lens actually until I go to a place like Vietnam and realize that the subtlety of communication required to successfully navigate the culture is completely missing from my Russian-American gene pool. I am used to “yes” meaning “of course, go for it” and “no” meaning “no way, lady!” But this is not how everyone communicates – internationally… or down the hall. When we travel our comfort zone and understanding of possible ways of communicating, relating and doing life naturally expands. Isn’t it a gift to come back to the office and tackle the problems we momentarily left behind with fresh eyes and perspective, ready to solve them at a new level of creativity and expansiveness!

2. Travel Makes us More Flexible and Adaptable

Countless studies indicate that neuroplasticity – ability for our brain to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections – is crucial in leadership. It’s easy to say at work that when something unexpected happens this is how I’ll handle it, but that flexibility muscle takes training. And what could be a better way to exercise the brain than to take it on a trip? I bet any time you travel something unexpected happens.

IMG_5688Perhaps you end up in Tokyo during the 2011 earthquake having to navigate chaos, fear and uncertainty – yours and those around you – and attempt to get home among thousands of people endeavoring the same feat amidst 8-hour commutes to the airport, sleeping at the airport and… I know, extreme travel story and hopefully one you can’t quite relate to, but all these and similar circumstances happen in course of travel. The hotel you reserved four months in advance is double-booked; the cab breaks down on the way to the airport; the interpreter your company hired is great – except her language of expertise is French, not English.

Dealing with stressful, uncertain, vulnerable circumstances travel naturally provides aplenty teaches flexibility, adaptability and resilience like nothing else (except maybe having kids and/or traveling with kids which is definitely a different story or possibly book!)

3. Travel Gives Us (and Others) a Vacation (from Us)

Let’s be truthful, leaders frequently exhibit workaholic tendencies. You love and live your mission. The job is never done. You have goals to accomplish, stakeholders to engage, a world to save! Staff sees you at the office early in the morning and late at night and on weekends. Last time you took a vacation bell bottoms were in fashion – the first time. What message does your incredible work ethic and dedication send to staff?

Whenever I conduct an organizational assessment and data points to a boss described above, the feeling in the office is mostly overwhelm and perceived pressure to do the same. From my client I hear that she doesn’t actually expect staff to work the same number of hours. But – mostly unconsciously – seemingly tireless leaders put tremendous pressure on their team to conform to the same standard. And that’s just not realistic because even your most committed, dedicated, mission-driven colleagues (and newsflash, YOU too) are bound to lose steam and/or burn out. I won’t point to the dozens of studies that verify this very fact, you’ve read them too – all I’ll say is GET OUT! Get out of their way and your own.

Take a trip, with or without your bell-bottoms! See the world, walk on a beach, hike a forest, try new foods, breathe in new scents or just fresh air, meet new people and yourself anew…. For a day, week or a month intentionally put yourself in a space of relaxation, adventure, wonder and/or curiosity travel so naturally gifts us. Give this gift to yourself and others because you have a world to change and there is nothing like travel to rejuvenate your super powers, perspective, agility and resolve to make a difference!


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  1. Mari comment:

    This is great, Margarita!!

    I felt as if you were talking with me one on one. Your personality, humor, and enthusiasm for life came through in Technicolor! Rather than another boring “How To” piece, you’ve brought your thoughts to life–much more enjoyable to read and more effective. Loved the integration of the information with the story-line and photos:) Write on lady–you’ve got talent, wisdom and style!!

  2. Shelly comment:

    So true Margarita. I am a firm believer in using travel as a way to push “reset” and open up creativity and new energy.

  3. margarita comment:

    Many thanks Shelly and Mari! I know you both embody the spirit of flexibility, adaptability and curiosity travel is so wonderful for!

  4. London Management Centre comment:

    I agree. Many managers/ leaders that are stuck in a office their entire career would really benefit from just traveling, it opens you up to different cultures, experiences and values that you can easily implement into your job.

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