Five Of The Most Important Career Skills I Learned From Traveling

With the world being so small because of the speed of travel and the internet, learning can take place anywhere and at anytime.  Career skills are no longer obtained strictly in the classroom.  One can argue that career skills obtained in other countries by traveling is more powerful because of their real world concepts.

I was never the smartest kid in class.  For me to learn something, I had to be hands on.  I was fortunate enough to travel a lot as a child and a young adult.  Looking back I can say that lessons and experiences from travel were more impactful that what I learned from the class.  He are just some of the career skills I learned from traveling.

1. Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

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As I was traveling from New York to Guam, I was suppose to have a two hour layover in Hong Kong.  Upon arriving in Hong Kong, I knew that something was wrong.  Maybe it was the fact that with 45 mins left before we were to leave no plane was was at the gate.  Soon after an announcement was made (in chinese) and I can see from the faces of the people around me that is wasn’t good.  I tried getting the attention of the ground staff to get more information but no one could speak english.  I finally gave up and just sat down feeling defeated.  About an half an hour later an old lady came up to me with food, water, a travel kit, and a note.  The note said something along the lines of “Im sorry it took me long to give this to you.  I do not speak english.  I asked my boss to write this.  Here is some refreshments while we wait for the plane.  The plane will be about four hours late but if you write down your confirmation number on this paper, I will make sure your bags and seat is secured.”  I was beyond shocked!  I wrote down my information and with a smile she turned around and left.

I never saw or heard from her again on that trip but the impact she had in my life was profound.  Actions are more powerful than words.  Words are hollow without action.  In a place where communication was nonexistent due to a cultural barrier, this lady was able to show me she was concerned and attentive to my needs as a customer simply thru her actions.

2. Time Waits For No One.

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This was suppose to be our first cruise as husband and wife.  We were to leave from Jacksonville and tour around the Caribbean and Mexico for a two week honeymoon.  We decided to leave during the midnight hours and drive during the night to Jacksonville.  Everything was going to plan and you can fill the anticipation in the air.  The problem came with about 45 miles on the road trip.  An accident had occurred some miles ahead of us the traffic came to a stop.  By the time we passed thru the accident we were now worried about not making the cruise.  The cruise was to leave at 8:00 am and we got to the port parking lot at 7:45 am.  We explained to the parking attendant what happened and he assured us that we had at least 30 more mins before the boat departs.  With that reassurance, we found a good parking spot for the car (under a street light) and walked ever so calmly to the boat.  It was now 8:02 am when we got to the boarding plank to the boat.  It was 8:03 am when we realized the plank was closed and the boat was leaving the dock.

We always tend to think that the world revolves around us.  I certainly did at one point in my life.  We had every excuse to be late for this trip from the accident to the wrong information given by the parking attendant.  In the end, none of that mattered.  It is important to remember that others value their time just as important as you do.  I was upset that the boat couldn’t wait.  Then I thought about how the people on the boat would have felt if the boat left late.  Time waits for no one…and that includes me.

3. It’s A Numbers Game.

“Here’s the thing. Math and I broke up two years ago, and now whenever we get together it’s just weird and awkward for both of us.”

― Sariah Wilson, The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back

The one thing everyone does when they travel is SHOP!  We all love those little trinkets and knick knacks to bring home to family and friends.  I certainly do but I quickly learned how important math was from shopping in Singapore.  The year was 1990 and the thing to own back then was a Sony Discman.  I badly wanted one and as a young child, I saved every cent I owned for one.  Now staring in front of me in a foreign country was my “precious.”  The guy behind me gave me the amount and after calculating the exchange rate in my mind, I determined the price was the equivalent to $125.00…an absolute steal!  I quickly made the purchase and enjoyed my new Discman all the way home.  It was only when i was home when I actually took out a calculator and found out that i actually paid $300.00 for the Discman.  FYI, The retail value of a Discman back then was about $200.00

My appreciation in the importance of math increased after this trip.  Math is just as important as speaking is.  Actions may speak louder than words (see number 1) but numbers is universal.

4. Negotiating

Traveling to Europe and Asia often, I learned that companies incorporate two set of prices.  As a tourist chances are you will encounter a store or establishment that has a visitors price and a local price.  Your visitors price will be the equivalent of retail price while the local price can be up to 50.00 cheaper.  Even if you are a tourist, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a lower rate.  By negotiating you probably wont get the local rate but you will probably get a rate between the highest and lowest rate.  Don’t be afraid to ask and save money.

Arriving to Guam last year, my family and I was excited to see this beautiful island.  We visited Atlantis Submarine for an underwater tour of this island.  The price was to be $84.00 per adult and 42.00 for kids 3-11.  Price was a little high but considering we were in an actual submarine we were willing to pay.  As we were about to pay the total of $252.00 for the family, the attendant heard my wife and I talking about how excited we are to be living on Guam for the next two years.  She then went on to say that if we can prove that we are Guam residents we can get the tickets for $35.00 per adult and $15.00 per child for a total of $100.00…A SAVINGS OF $152.00! After showing our new Guam drivers license, we got our discounted tickets and enjoyed the tour.

5. Perception

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When I was in 8th grade, I spent a semester oversees in a small city in Ako, Japan. I was excited for the opportunity of just being in another country.  My host family was kind but the father of the family was one of the scariest people I have met at the time.  He was always quiet, had a stern look on his face and his voice was as hard as steel.  I could not be around the man.  The first week in Ako, I always had an excuse not to eat with the family if he was around.  By the second week, the mother of the family was sensing that I was uneasy and asked me why.  I told her the truth and that I was scared of her husband.  She laughed out loud calling her husband.  He walks into the room with his mean look and now I suddenly want to run out of the room.  She talks to him in Japanese and then an amazing thing happens.  The father starts to laugh and says in broken english “relax!”  I then learned that he was an elementary teacher and the most liked teacher at the school.  He tells me (his son was translating) that Japanese men are like that by nature and culture.  Whether you are having a good day or a bad day, a man should not show his emotions on his chest.

My perception of this man may have caused me to miss out on some of the best experiences in Japan.  I would of missed out on baseball games, soccer games, Kabuki shows, and all that Japan has to offer.  As an 8th grader I learned that perception is not reality and not everything is as it seems.  Its up to the person to investigate and come up with their own conclusions.

A person should not be close minded with just their surroundings but be willing to adapt and learn from what is around them.  I am a better person by willing to learn from the experiences I gained by traveling.  Traveling can relaxing and hectic at the same time.  Just take some time to step back and appreciate where life takes you…LEARN FROM IT!

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