Lessons from Travelling and Working around the world!

Reading time: 9 minutes

(The “short” beginning of a year-end retrospective)

It has always been my dream to travel around the world. Travelling, for me, is one of the greatest teachers. And I am not referring to that one week trip & 10 top things you need to see in a city. I am referring to that kind of travelling where you get to know some locals, habits, perspectives and views about the world, how did they get there and… much more.

I had on my vision board, in 2019, to do online coaching from Bali! At that time, people smiled to me while hearing this. And, given the context at that moment, my vision board didn’t seem to be very achievable. But, I was already having online clients from France, Singapore, Germany etc.

For me, it was just about shifting the income weight between training and coaching and just get enough revenue from coaching in order for my vision to be sustainable. I went to Bali in 2018 and I felt a certain flow there. I also had some ideas and anchors when it came to prices & living style, how much a house would cost, how the food was etc.

Then the pandemics came!
And it actually shifted my way of working completely. After realising I have spent nearly 2 years working in front of my computer, mostly from home, and getting close to a burnout, I got to the conclusion that this could be the right moment for my dream to come true.

Was I scared?

Did I have it all figured out?

Were there some tradeoffs to be made?

Then, I realised that most of the advices that people were offering me were mere projections of their own fears and impossibilities. As a Coach, I should have known better.

The “you will be exiting the market”, “business will go down” ,”you will loose connections…” and much more were the usual phrases. Then, the reverse came: “ohhh, I so envy you for being able to do this”, “when “I grow up” I want to be like you”, “I wish I could do the same… but you know, the kids…” and for some time, I felt privileged to be able to do this.

Then, during my journey, I understood that, although logical and pragmatic, these phrases too are just barriers and limiting beliefs. During my journey, I’ve meet families with kids having this type of lifestyle, travelling together around the world. And different kind of professionals doing the same, while running multiple businesses remote.

But all these thoughts that were also crossing my mind. And, limiting beliefs and projections are also, valid, potential risks. So, that means you can account for them.

Therefore, I did monthly budget. A budget that could be realistic enough, that I could support with no business at all, from economies, but would also be comfortable to reach with some amount of working. I wanted it to cover for more than the “habitual” nomad requirements, which I didn’t identify with. I wanted this kind journey to be possible for everyone with a “normal” life and to have some living conditions and not to feel as I am doing important sacrifices.

I am still grateful that my partners allowed me to do this while growing the business, and understood that this could even be an opportunity and not a problem. I have wise partners. I am also grateful for my family and friends who supported me, although they have not believed I would actually do this. I was planning for more around 10 months before leaving but somehow it wasn’t embodied for them.

In a nutshell, what is best describing this year is that I have changed 36 homes, 6 countries with multiple locations, around 700 #officetoday places (impromptu offices in which I have worked) and a lot of sceneries, nature and people met. I realised early in the journey that changing location every 1,2 weeks is not sustainable, if I am also working, but even like that with “homes booked for 1,2 months we have still managed to have an average of 8.5 days to change the house. And this is a great lesson in itself.

I will split some of these lessons a couple of “random” areas, while I will write more about each of them below (the more practical stuff will come a later stage but as this is the year end/start reflection period… here is the more philosophical part):

  1. Travelling (as a teacher)

                A. Gratefulness

As I’ve started the journey under COVID pandemic restrictions, I have realised how hit was the tourism in South East Asia. With little government support and relying almost entirely on this regions like Bali or some islands in Thailand really suffered. Entire Resorts went bankrupt and deserted buildings and restaurant were covered by mold and the nature were taking over.

There, I have seen people living with way less than what we have. Eating mainly rice with just a little “sauce” on top for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, that didn’t prevent the to be happy and grateful with what they have. What was striking was their genuine gratefulness that we were visiting their country, area, etc. You feel very different when you are welcomed like that. It goes deeper than a trained smile and a studied service.

I know this is not Africa and that worse is possible. As better is also possible. But this teaches you about experiential gratitude.This made me realise how lucky I am for the place, education and opportunities that my imperfect upbringing system gave to me. It also taught me that it is useless to compare and that my actual “emotional life quality” & wellbeing are given more by my expectations, projections, intent, awareness and internal resources. (to be further developed)

                B. Anchors, Habits and Routines

Changing 36 “homes” taught us that we need anchors. And this was a more important lesson that we though it would be.

We knew from psychological theory that there needs to be a balance between structure and flexibility and that neither extreme is good for people. The first is leading to rigidity and the second to chaos. A guiding line for me is that the freedom doesn’t exist in the absence of constraints.

This is especially important for all our clients there that are overwhelmed by emotions in their career right now and want to break all the chains. Total freedom doesn’t exist nor we should be wishing for it if we want to be functioning in this world. As innovation loves constraints so does freedom.

Constraints are good for us. They are saying us energy and giving us a feeling of security and certainty. They are also good teacher pushing us for creativity and innovation. Innovation loves constraint. And at a psychological level, it helps us enjoy more when we release them. They are pleasure creators.

Everyone I ask, loves to travel!
It is the most expressed desire whenever we are asking people “if anything was possible, what would you do?” Travelling is the response! It is this magical escape that comes to save us from our stuckness and monotony.

What we have experienced is that it’s not completely like that. Yes, it is beautiful. But it is different when combined with work and “normal living”. It is fundamentally different in terms of needs, rhythm and almost everything else from a “normal” vacation.

While doing all this home shifting we have observed a pattern of fight in our couple. 3-5 days before and after changing a location we were fighting. We realised that unconsciously each one was having feelings of longing, the fear of missing out and a general regret that we haven’t done enough there. The feeling that we didn’t experience all there is. This was actually the same feeling as you would have when working and you scroll the vacation instagram pictures of your friends. That made us talk about it and realise that this will always be present. And it doesn’t need to transform into resentment.

Then, the first week after changing a location, was also scratchy due to the lack of clarity, certainty, structure. We didn’t know where the good internet was, where to work from, we didn’t find the right restaurants with good food and nice coffee, we were not finding the clothes that we needed… and much more.

Relationships are tested with either of these extremes (routine and boredom on one side vs change, uncertainty and looseness on the other). That is why presence, awareness, open & vulnerable communication and connection are key. (to be developed more)

The first “brilliant” idea in my mind was…
– Ok. I need anchors!
– How can I make those anchors location independent?
– What if they take the form of routines and habits?

What if I have a yoga, meditation, walk, exercise routine that is designed in such a way that can be done regardless of where I am living at? And I still think this is a good idea. Find your anchors within because those may be the most stable over time. You need to feel at home in yourself.

But there is also an important location aspect. Places, cities, countries, regions and the people there come with their influence also, from a cultural, spiritual, connection aspect to the more pragmatic and city and service design.

Environment drives behaviour!
And you just feel to exercise more or eat healthier in some places rather than in others. Some places just feel better for you.

And it’s important to acknowledge how are you feeling in a place that you will call “home”. Home may be a feeling, a relationship a mood, some routines or some good anchors.
You cannot book that on Booking.com. Although this is enough for a vacation when you are planning to live in it, the way you’re feeling there is important. Of course, this also has to do with the mood that you are in, but there is more to that than what meets the eye. People & places have an energy of their own.

                  C. EAST vs WEST

I am an engineer by degree. And that was because my parents had a strong influence on that. But what I was always more attracted by was how people function. How they think, feel and what perspectives they are having about self, others and the world.

If we go beyond the self, I love to see behavioural patterns, systems and people dynamics. I guess that makes me rather a “human engineer”, as I like to joke. My father was wondering why I have little interest to see how the car works or to play by dismantling & assembling my toys. Although I see the value in that, I was always more interested in watching children playing, seeing what influences actions, understand emotions, how relationships are formed, what makes us tick… (more to be developed on this)

I believe this is part of what attracted me to Asia.

They have paradigms that are so different that it’s striking for me. Their way of functioning and understanding challenges my ways and this is a learning process in itself. And it breeds a lot of curiosity for me to find out more about the ancient knowledge of the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Zen, Acupuncture, Yoga, Breathing (Tummo, Pranayama, Holotropic, etc), Energy work, Massage Tradition & more to the collectivistic organisation of the society and the difference in language, relation with emotions, resilience and fast pace growth that can be observed now.
There is a whole world out there and the beauty for me is in finding the correlations in understanding & wisdom between cultures and people with very different upbringing and education. As this is quite a wide subject, I will only address now a little part of it. (To be further developed)

Being raised in a mixed Catholic & Orthodox family I had an early interest to study and understand the difference in religions and religios movements. Then, between belief, medicine & healing. Later on, I have been trained as a Yoga teacher, I have experience acupuncture, been trained in energy work and explored more on those realms. If you put all these on top of my engineering training & need for structure and rational understanding all those were “woo-hoo” stuff. But it may be exactly this need for understanding, structuring and rationalising very conceptual things that got my interest in actually translating all that I observe and experiment.

I believe there is a false dichotomy & useless debate between these two worlds and realms of understanding. We oppose science to ancient understanding & beliefs as if they cannot coexist.

We oppose intuitive insights to analytical ones. We oppose emotions to rational thinking. We put the brain against the heart or the other way around as if there’s only a way to perceive and take decisions.

My stance is for balance!
It has always been. It’s not one or the other. It’s both! They are in tune and they can complement awareness. It’s yin-yang, ha-tha, sun-moon, deterministic-nondeterministic, masculine-feminine, right-left brain hemispheres, emotion & analytical reason, heart and brain power.

I find more value in staying open, curious and realise that not all that have not been scientifically demonstrated, yet, it’s false or doesn’t exist. As not all intuitions and feelings are the only answer.

There is a lot of power in intention & belief (whatever that might be, in an ideea, concept, cult, religion). These unconscious intentions & beliefs are governing our day to day life more than we are prepared to acknowledge.

If you go at a deeper level of understanding you realise that anything that frames your current reality is actually a belief regardless of its rationality or not. And, if you think you are a rational being, think again and read on the scientifically proven studies on our irrationality and our biases, behaviours and decision making patters.

Also. when we believe we are superior or more correct in our beliefs and understanding let us turn the problem in its head and see if this is the right debate in itself. I would love for us to actually look for intention, collaboration & laying bridges between cultures, countries, world views, paradigms and levels of understanding.

– Why is this part called East vs West?
– Well it’s mostly because it’s what have been the most striking for me.

I have been on a business conference in China while the German Government & Chinese Government were opening a mixed western/eastern medicine to treat cancer. I have seen now a lot of neuroscience studies that are proving what eastern intuitive knowledge was applying for thousands of years on stress, emotions, nature, etc. I am seeing more books trying to linking these various wisdoms. I am seeing more links between quantum physics, the way the brain works, psychology, arts, philosophy and religios beliefs…

I love this term “scientifically debate”. And I believe it should stay a debate and not a fight. A debate with the intention to learn, to enrich, to understand and with the openness for disconfirming pieces of information. There’s a subtle knowledge here. And in it’s subtleness this is whispering not shouting. Like the heart does.

More to come on…

2. Self Leadership

Managing Expectations
Hedonic adaptation
Managing FOMO

3. Leading Business Remote

Mihai ZANT

Mihai ZANT

Mihai ZANT is an Executive Coach, Trainer and Managing Partner at CoachingAfterSchool.com, Humanistic.ro and CareerShift.ro. Having over 10 years of experience in leading teams and communities he concentrated his work in building Learning Organisations.

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