I had three goals for my recent solo trip to Washington DC: I wanted to photo-document my travels, explore a new place, and visit as many off-the-beaten-path parts of the city as possible. I decided to stay with a local through Couchsurfing, which matches you with a local resident to throw yourself into the city lifestyle.
1. You Become More Observant
I began to take notice of the environment I was in. Paying attention to detail does two things. One, it allows you to appreciate what you are working on, in my case photographing people. Secondly, it allows you to spot errors like when typing up a report or sending an email. You will be surprised by how much you can hone this one skill by spending a day taking in your surroundings rather than just walking through them with your eyes glued to your smartphone.
2. You learn how to set realistic expectations
Traveling to an unfamiliar place can be just as thrilling as starting a new job or working on a new project. Yet, our expectations usually differ from what reality offers us. The more I travel to different places, the better I become at managing my own expectations. Instead of making up in my mind that something has to be one way, I approach new places openly. This same tactic applies professionally. Instead of going into a new role or project with high expectations for how things will go, set the bar low and have an open mind. This will allow you to appreciate and understand things better rather than being upset that things did not go according to your mental plan.
3. You become a better and more rational decision maker
Learning how to react swiftly and make reasonable decisions was already my niche. However, I utilize these skills a lot when traveling. For example, I could have made the irrational decision to go back home because I was disappointed that my expectations were not met. Yet, I quickly and sensibly decided to go somewhere else in an effort not to ruin my own mood. When working at a startup, or a company that runs like a startup, quick and logical decision-making is essential. There will be times when an answer or solution is needed, and you will have little to no time to research information or consult with someone else for help. This is how leaders are born.
4. You become more creative
When traveling alone I get to adhere to my own game plan; yes it still does have bounds as I will have to alter it to fit the schedule of a museum or gallery that I may want to visit. The same can be said for a project manager. Although, you have to keep your client’s expectations in mind, you still get to be a bit more innovative because you are the one managing the timeline. On another note, I found myself tapping into my inner artist to take pictures of a building. Who does that? I do, because it was refreshing. Giving yourself time to be creative sharpens that skill as well. Creativity, in my opinion, is something most are just born with. Yet at the same time, I also think it can be learned. The more you practice something the better you get, right?
I travel alone as much as possible and for obvious reasons, I highly recommend it. If you travel for work, that does not suffice. If you are a student, money and time do not have to be deciding factors. Although, the goal of Couchsurfing is not just to have a free place to sleep, it is something worth considering if you are on a budget. There are plenty of budget travel options like Bolt Bus and Megabus. Skyscanner.com is a search engine for cheap flights and has a useful “Everywhere” feature which allows you to search for flights to anywhere in the world. With all of this information and Google at your dispense as well, you are more than ready to pack your bags and get traveling!
Brittany is an artist and marketing student graduating from Rutgers Business School this fall. She enjoys Couchsurfing, eating like a local and longboarding. She’s passionate about music and has a career goal of becoming a concert/festival photographer. Follow her on anybritt.com to see the world from her lens!