Upon returning to the workforce after several years spent working and traveling abroad, I worried potential employers would see the random travel jobs and various employment gaps on my resume as negatives. To me, my stints abroad were time well spent; I learned a lot about who I was and who I hoped to become. I knew, however, that not everyone would see my employment history in a positive light and I worried that my odd career choices would make me seem flighty, unfocused and unambitious.
To my surprise, however, my various travel experiences were seen as real positives and actually helped to set me apart from the competition. In fact, two different employers admitted later that my time teaching ESL and working on a cruise ship were what convinced them to hire me. Now, several years later, I look at the 10+ years I spent in limbo and am grateful I didn’t fret about a career timeline and followed my heart instead.
Because not only does travel make you a healthier and happier person, but it also makes you a more valuable member of the labor pool. Here are seven reasons why:
1. Travelers aren’t afraid of change; we see change as a normal part of life
Travelers learn how to embrace change mostly out necessity. When you travel, you learn quickly that even the most careful plans can—and will—go awry and there’s oftentimes nothing you can do about it. You learn how to roll with the punches.
This is a useful trait to have in any job, but especially when you work for a small business or in a field where staying ahead of trends is important. I work in internet marketing, where every other week it seems as though some new social media trend or Google algorithm is popping up. If I didn’t embrace the continual changes and the evolution of my job role, I’d probably be a lot more stressed.
2. We’re open to new experiences
Although every traveler is different, what many of us have in common is our open-mindedness. In psychology, “Openness to Experience” is thought to be one of five personality traits every person has to varying degrees (the others include conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism). Perhaps unsurprisingly, travelers and adventure-seekers tend to score higher-than-average in tests that measure their aptitude for novelty. You can read more about it in my blog post What do all travelers have in common?
Our openness is our superpower. It is the part of our personalities that make us highly creative, imaginative, flexible and independent—all traits, by the way, that top CEOs look for when hiring employees, especially in the tech field.
3. We’re creative problem solvers
As travelers, we’re accustomed to being thrust into foreign circumstances; circumstances where the typical problem-solving strategies no longer apply. This forces us to seek out new and innovative solutions. A study that examined the correlation between creativity and time spent abroad found that people with expat experience were more creative than those without.
You can read about this in my blog posts: Study Reveals Time Spent Abroad Will Make You More Creative and Living Abroad Will Make You More Creative, But What Happens After You Return Home?
4. We’re flexible and don’t sweat the small stuff
Traveling has a handy way of putting problems into perspective. A broken photocopier or forgotten appointment will seem incredibly trivial after you’ve survived malaria, volunteered at a Sri Lankan orphanage or traveled through a war zone. Employers can rest happy knowing that their travel-loving employees will be able to remain calm and solution-focused in a crisis.
5. We love learning new things
Travelers are naturally curious about the world and are continually searching for novel ways to challenge their minds and spirits, whether it be studying a new language or learning about a country’s history or culture. They also have a knack for finding the interesting side of everything, which can come in handy when faced with boring or monitions work projects.
6. We aren’t afraid to step outside of our comfort zone
While traveling gets easier the more you do it, that first time you travel abroad or take a trip by yourself can be terrifying. Frequent travelers are frequent risk takers and have mastered the art of “being afraid, but doing it anyway”. This is a skill that can work well in the professional world, especially for would-be entrepreneurs or those in leadership roles. Employers need people willing to take chances and risk vulnerability.
7. We question the status quo
Traveling teaches you that there’s more than one way right way to do things. People in America may approach a situation from a perspective that’s drastically different than someone in Peru, for example. As travelers, we learn that neither way is necessarily wrong; just different. Having an employee who is able to objectively question ineffective or outdated policies and practices can help a business stay efficient and current.
Travelers aren’t the perfect employees. Our thirst for variety and challenge means that we may become easily bored with jobs that aren’t mentally stimulating. We can also become frustrated with positions that provide too much structure and too little autonomy. We work best in fields that capitalize on our creativity and intellect and allow us to be our spontaneous, adventurous selves.