Travel can be extremely rewarding if you open yourself up to new experiences and learnings. And as The Luxe Nomad founder and CEO Stephanie Chai proves, it can also enrich your career.
As an entrepreneur and the founder of Asia-Pacific’s leading luxury villa booking portal, TheLuxeNomad.com, being street smart is a key trait I look at when hiring a candidate for a job. And that you can’t learn from a degree or a MBA—you get that from being out of your comfort zone.
One key way to be out of your comfort zone, is of course, to travel! Regardless of our reasons to jump on that plane, whether it is for adventure, discovery or escape—there is no better education than travel itself.
Having travelled non-stop for the last 5 years, here are a few little things I learned when one often moves from one destination to the other:
When you have to fly all the time and watch the bottom line, you learn to be smarter with bookings. For example, did you know the best time to book flights is 21 days before - that's when airlines usually run specials!
Trying to get your way out of a traffic jam in Bangkok? When traffic is mad and all the cabbies are charging an arm and a leg, I resort to my bits and bobs of Thai to convince them to give me a cheaper rate. Same thing happens with business, it's all about negotiations and adapting to the other party.
The wonderful thing about living in Asia is that we are a myriad of different cultures which we all need to recognise and respect depending on where we go. For example, meetings in Bali your approach has to be more indirect and based on building a relationship—whereas in Singapore, meetings are very businesslike and fast-paced to cover as much ground as possible. It’s all about adapting to where you are at the moment.
Being a travel company with team members everywhere, this also means being able to manage team members or partners who have completely different values from one another. I am still learning how to adapt and handle each individual differently - yet be fair to all at the same time - it’s a tricky process - management!
You'll never learn more than you do when you experience new places and cultures—it’s the school of life, and travel allows you to expedite that process. For example, in Bali we found our staff had natural ways to help reduce mosquitoes in our villas... things we wouldn't have learned had we just spent our days at Cold Storage in Singapore looking for pest solutions!
Seeing what has worked in some destinations and not others has also opened my eyes to the need to get down on the ground and strategize what works and what doesn't. No 'research report' or news article online can quite compare to just going to a place and speaking to people there about what is working and not working.
Some places in the world are simply light years ahead. The benefit of that is in regions such as Asia which are still up and coming, we have the advantage of being in a landscape that is not as mature as compared to established markets like in the United States... so we can see what works in those mature markets and adapt it locally.
Had I not traveled, I can honestly say I would be a shell of the person I am today. The experiences I had visiting different places and cultures have opened my eyes and taught me to see things with an open mind. And that has helped me in all approaches of life. After all, as Saint Augustine wrote, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”