As I write this, I’m 25,000 feet in the air on my way from the west coast to New York City. Gazing out the window at an endless blanket of clouds, I remember my first time traveling outside of the country on my own. I was 23 and my best friend was living in Italy. My “job” was re-selling jewelry on eBay, so I took a month and went to visit her. Everyone says travelling is a life-changing experience, but the way I found global travel for the first time not only affected my life but shaped the way I would work going forwards.
That trip melded business and pleasure inextricably in my mind, and I’m forever grateful for it; it’s a secret of sorts that not enough business people fully use to their advantage.
Having grown up landlocked in Texas and then Nevada, seeing the Amalfi coast, experiencing the magic that is riding European trains, eating the best pasta of my life in the shadow of the Pantheon, was almost too much to comprehend.
At the same time, I was running a small, online jewelry business. So part of my days would be spent hopping from wifi cafe to wifi cafe.
That trip not only opened my eyes to the world outside of the plains and desert—but it made me realize for the first time that I could go anywhere, do anything, be anyone… if I just could get the dollars together and book a flight.
I had always been entrepreneurial. My brother and I had what we referred to as a “mint farm” as children that we unsuccessfully tried to sell throughout the neighborhood, at 19 my best friend and I started selling metaphysical jewelry and trinkets on eBay which, for a while, was a booming business. But I had never connected the dots between work + pleasure.
My plan was to start a business, make money, then go travel the world. At first, that sounded like a plan. As I learned more about the beauty of virtual work and the ability to start a business online that you could operate anywhere, I realized that independent work actually allowed me to make my life an adventure—not just a series of work-save-travel loops.
I am never happier than when I am traveling somewhere new for work. I also know if I was simply taking a vacation to that place without the logistics + challenges of executing a project, the excitement of completing a task and then exploring the bowels of some new city, I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much.
Business to me is a puzzle, a challenge, that, if done well, rewards you and those around you. Going to the beach is great, but, for me, going to the beach with a puzzle is better. Scooting around Ubud, Bali or walking the streets of Madrid and looking for patterns that—though they may have nothing to do with the business puzzle at hand—may unlock a pathway in your mind that fixes your problem and leads to success.