4 min read

Pack Your Bags: How Traveling Can Boost Your Creativity and Problem-Solving Skills

Kelly Tagalan
Head of Growth Operations

As someone who has worked in startups for a while, I know firsthand how taking time away from a job can be. From the endless to-do lists to the pressure to innovate quickly, always with tight resources, it can be tough to find a moment to catch your breath. 

What if I told you that taking time off and changing your scenery can actually make you more energised and better equipped to tackle the hairiest of problems?

In my experience, taking time off and putting myself in a new place with smells, sounds and scenes that are altogether different has done wonders for my creativity, productivity, and problem-solving ability. In this post, I'll explore why travel and time off are so essential and offer some tips for incorporating breaks into your routine.

I just returned from 9 days overseas, and I can say from experience that I am looking at some of our opportunities, as well as day to day challenges very differently on the other side of my time away. Was it the sunsets, the rush from crossing the road in a (frankly) chaotic SE Asian city …or was it gazing out at the horizon from the rooftop of our hotel? Perhaps it was connecting with good friends and learning some new words and phrases in a new language?

The correct answer is, all of the above. 

Traveling often involves navigating unfamiliar terrain, adapting to new situations, and problem-solving on the go. These challenges can help us build resilience and develop the ability to handle unexpected roadblocks or difficulties. By pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and facing new challenges head-on, we become better equipped to handle the ups and downs of whatever life throws our way, in the workplace or otherwise. 

Benefits of Travel and Time Away

Let's start with the basics: why are travel and time off so important for us? 

💡 Increased Creativity
When we travel, we are exposed to new experiences, cultures, and ideas that can spark creativity and inspire solutions to complicated issues and problems. There’s actual neuroscience behind this; Traveling presents new challenges to overcome, new cultures to adapt to, and languages to get your head around. It is this strain on problem-solving areas of the brain that is likely to strengthen our creativity skills.

⚒️ Improved Problem-Solving Skills
When we’re in a new environment, we are essentially forced to adapt and think on our feet. This can help develop better problem-solving skills and become more comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity - skills that are essential for any knowledge worker in a modern day workplace tackling challenges. 

💆 Reduced Stress
Let's face it: The life of someone who is ambitious and passionate about their company mission can be stressful. Taking time off and traveling can be a great way to unwind, relax, and recharge the ol’ batteries. By giving yourself permission to disconnect from work and focus on other things, you can come back to your startup with renewed energy and focus.

⚖️ Better Work-Life Balance
As someone who *really* wants to succeed in my role it's easy to fall into the trap of working late, starting early and thinking about work just about all day. Taking time off and traveling can helps me achieve a better work-life balance, which is essential for long-term success. 

Tips for Incorporating Travel and Time Off into Your Routine

Now that we've established why travel and time off are so important, let's talk about how you can incorporate them into your routine. Here are a few tips:

🗓️ Plan Ahead
It can be tough to take time off when you're working in a team that is facing a lot of change, or that is perpetually under the pump. I work at a startup, so I get it. It’s important to plan ahead and make the time away a priority. Set time aside in your 1:1 with your boss, and talk about your plans early. Make a plan, put it in the diary, preferably a shared space and stick to it as much as possible. If you have a big project coming up, try to plan around it so you can take a true break when you need it most.

🚘 Make the Most of Long Weekends
I couldn't believe this post about taking XY days off of work using just your usually allocated annual leave! If you can't take a full week off, consider taking advantage of those long weekends. Personally, I have found a way to sleep on planes to a nice redeye gets me where I need to go without sacrificing zzz’s. 

We’ve got a few coming up, get to planning! A three-day weekend can be just enough time to recharge your batteries and explore a new city.

💻 Embrace Remote Work
If your workplace allows for remote work, consider taking advantage of this flexibility and working from a new location. Whether it's a coffee shop in a new city or a beachside resort, working from a new environment can help you feel more energized and creative. Make note of some good habits and etiquette for your remote work plan- don’t do silly things like disappear from group calls, be present and accountable if you are truly working during the time you’ve allocated remotely.

📵 Disconnect
One of the most important things you can do when you're traveling or taking time off is to disconnect from work. If you are balancing the remote work flexibility, set times and spaces where you are in ‘work mode’ vs ‘disconnect mode.’ 

Turn off your email notifications, resist the urge to check your phone for updates, and give yourself permission to fully immerse yourself in the experience. I have a whole profile on my mobile that allows me to bulk update settings for my work apps. This helps me to create discipline around being ‘always on’ - which has shown to be a big contributor to stress, by the way.

In Conclusion

The benefits of taking time away from your desk, laptop, phone, are all good measures for keeping up a sustainable pace for growing and kicking goals in your role. 

Travel is a valuable tool for our personal growth and development. It broadens our horizons, expands our creativity, and builds our resilience, all while allowing us to experience the beauty and diversity of the world around us. So go on, book the time in. 

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