Posts

,

How Travel Will Prepare You to be a Better Entrepreneur

I never thought I’d become an entrepreneur. In college I wanted to be successful, independent and make an impact. I interned for big, international organizations, thought I’d work in Human Rights or for the UN. But then, I lived on four different continents and traveled over 30 countries in three years.

I pivoted: every job suddenly seemed too slow moving, every industry too narrow-minded, a life lost in a blur of daily routine. Unthinkable. I started my own marketing business and co-founded NomadApp, now a Silicon Valley-based travel tech startup. I am by far not “ready” to be an entrepreneur (nobody’s ever ready) but I think travel has been a big puzzle piece in preparing me for startup life and has taught me a few interesting things along the way.

Traveling Teaches you Resilience

Having a resilient team is one of the most important things in a startup. Things will go wrong — all the time. You will run out of money, lose clients, and get rejected. Sometimes, you will have to tough it out. Spend the night on buses, shower in dirty hostel bathrooms, and sleep in bunk beds with noisy roommates. But in the end, resilient travelers and entrepreneurs alike will get up the next day, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy the journey.

You Learn to be Humble

Travel has also taught me to be humble. I have met incredible people all over the world that have received me like family in their homes. Random acts of kindness — often by people that had less than I did. People have shared their life stories with me making my own problems seem small and almost ridiculous. Once, I lived with a lady who has lived on her own since she was fourteen and has worked two jobs while sleeping only two-four hours each night for the last forty years. And I’m complaining about my 12h a day startup-life?? She has taught me more than all the business books I’ve ever read. The most successful startup entrepreneurs are incredibly humble and down-to-earth. I believe only humble leaders can be good leaders.

You Learn not to Sweat the Small Stuff

Thought, losing a client is the end of your world? You think getting your phone stolen is gonna ruin your life? No, it’s not. If you travel, you’re gonna lose stuff, miss a flight or a bag. Not a big deal. Life goes on. You realize that only very few things in life really matter.

Traveling Teaches you to be Spontaneous and Pivot Fast

Startup life is like landing in an unknown city. You can take an Uber to the closest hostel, head straight to the beach or rent a tent to camp out . Which one will be the right decision? Nobody knows. You can make plans, but things change ALL the time. You have to be able to read the signs (often in a confusing language), follow your guts and be spontaneous; even taking the night airfare that dropped to only $20 to get to the next destination. If you stay home all day, you’ll miss out. Keep going.

You Learn to See Different Perspectives

Traveling puts everything into perspective. You meet people of various cultures with different ways of thinking. As a startup founder (especially in Silicon Valley) it is easy to get stuck in your little bubble, creating a Silicon Valley solution that fixes only Silicon Valley problems (or nobody’s problem at all). Go out there, listen to other people’s problems, see how they see the world and tackle their daily lives — create solutions for the world’s problems.

Traveling Sparks Creativity

You ran out of money? Create a viral video about your life. Sell cereal to fund your startup like AirBnB did. There are plenty of ways to tackle problems if you’re creative. A CEO’s job is not to burn the most amount of investor money in the shortest period of time. His job is to create maximum impact with limited funds. The day our little travel tribe had to prepare food over an actual fireplace in a Caribbean National Park, we worked together best as a team. Everybody ate and it was probably the most delicious meal we have ever had. Traveling, you learn how to open coconuts without a machete and make your investment money last as long as possible.

Traveling Encourages you Live Louder

One of the best things about traveling is that it made me appreciate every single day and realize how fast life goes by unless you get out of your comfort zone every now and then. Much of being a traveler is a mindset: to be resilient, humble and thirsty for adventure. Life’s an adventure: get out there and live it! With our startup NomadApp we want to make it easier for you to go out there and see the world. We created an algorithm that shows you all the places you can go based on your budget and preferences. Get it for free here.

How to get started in any new place… and combat lonliness

Let’s be real: being an expat or living abroad for extended periods of time is freaking hard. When you’re far away from your loved ones and familiar home lonliness is lurking at very street corner.

During the last 3 years I’ve lived on 4 continents and in 5 different countries. This is my ultimate game plan to get your life started anywhere and find friends.

Being on your own in a new city can be depressing. I remember the first day I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a 6 months internship. I didn’t have a place to stay, nobody to talk to, my hostel room was so small I couldn’t even fit my backpack into it next to the shabby mattress, it was raining and I felt nothing but lost. Never in my life have I felt so out of place. The first day I just wanted to cry and go straight back home. I didn’t leave the hostel the first day.

LESSON 1: GET OUT THERE. PEOPLE ARE GOOD.

So well, the next day I made it out of the door. I grabbed my guidebook and just did one walking tour after the other. I took tons of pictures and just forced myself to be out there. I climbed up the KL Tower and met a Malaysian family on top. They started chatting with me and we ended up having coffee together. I realized: it is NOT THAT DIFFICULT to meet people. Just go out there and start talking to people. I felt better. If you don’t wanna chat up random strangers try the following:

  • Go to a local co-working space and get a tour. It will get you out there.
  • Hang out in the lobby of a backpacker hostel
  • Go to a Couchsurfing meetup
  • Go to eventbrite and attend the next event coming up

LESSON 2: THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THE SAME SITUATION.

Anywhere you go, chances are there is a strong community of travelers, interns, international students or expats around. I am a huge fan of connecting with locals but sometimes internationals are just easier as they are in the same situation as you are and looking for friends, too. So make an effort to find them (not even a big effort). In my experience you’ll always at least find Germans and French people around (no idea why these guys travel so much).

Here’s my usual routine.

  1. Go to Couchsurfing.com and look up the upcoming events at your location. Yes, couchsurfing’s not only a place to find a place to crush for a few nights. It’s also a really cool community to find like-minded people.
    One of the coolest things I’ve ever done was go to the Thaipusam festival in Kuala Lumpur with a group of Couchsurfing people. One night in Bangkok I celebratet my birthday with a really cool bunch of Couchsurfers. I loved it.
  2. Internations is a worldwide community for expats organizing events and regular meetups for internationals. I felt a bit out of place when I was younger but I went there anyways.
  3. Meetup.com — I totally love, love, love Meetup. Literally anybody can start an interest-based meetup group and organize regular events and workshops.
  4. Local Event Pages: Google or ask people if there are local event calendars that feature meetups or stuff going on. In NYC I used Garysguide for startup events, Timeout KL was great for events in Kuala Lumpur… Just look for stuff going on.
  5. Facebook Groups: there are a lot of facebook groups focusing on local communities. Look for them and you’ll find.

Now that you’ve done your homework. Get out there and talk to people. Don’t be afraid to go there on your own either. You’ll find that especially abroad you’ll meet a lot of solo travelers or expats. And in case the event gets weird or you feel like you’re the only stranger — remember: nobody of these people will ever see you again.

LESSON 3: LOCALS ARE COOL.

I’ve learnt people are kind and cool. The majority is hospitable and happy to break out from their daily routines by letting you into their lives. I’ve lived with Colombian grandparents and been invited to Malaysian weddings. Be open to experiences and serious about sharing your life. I personally enjoy opening my doors to foreigners — it’s like traveling without actually traveling. Sometimes giving can be even more enriching than receiving. I’ve learnt that people are happy to give if you’re truly interested in them and willing to get to know them. How to meet locals? I usually look up my facebook contacts for people who’ve been to places I am looking connections in. I ask them for referrals and I’ve had great success rates. People are good — believe it.

Conclusion: Being new in an exotic place on your own can be hard. It may be overwhelming in the beginning and it might pull you down. Culture shock does exist. But you must not get caught up in it. Get out there and meet people. Nobody cares. It’s a great chance for you to re-invent yourself, do things you might not have done otherwise and meet people that will change your life. I found it’s sometimes even easier to get to know people abroad than it is at “home” as there are tons of people looking for friends, too.

Let it happen.

One Day in Bogotá. Bogotá in One Day.

Today I finally set out to explore Bogotá and had a perfect Sunday. Here’s my walking tour.

I left at around 11 am for Usaquén: an artistic, cute little district in the north of Bogotá. Originally it was a separate municipality but as Bogotá has grown and grown the city has just “eaten up” the village. Now Usaquén stays a village by its own with an own nice square, cafés and cobbled streets that turn into a street market every Sunday. Lots of Colombians come here on the weekends to have brunch, stroll around or do sports. Every Sunday a big part of the city’s streets are closed for runners and cyclers – it’s called the “Ciclovía” and I swear half of Bogotá is outside in the streets.

Bogotá

La Ciclovía: Bogotá is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in Latin America.

In one sentence: Usaquén is the perfect place to have breakfast, enjoy music in the streets and stroll around the market stands on a Sunday morning.

colombian breakfast

pan de bocadillo and orange juice

DSC00227

As for me I had breakfast in a cute café at the corner of Usaquén square. Outside people were dancing in the street. I was having delicious orange juice and “pan de bocadillo” (pastry filled with a Colombian sweet made of Guayaba).

Later I took a taxi to meet up with a friend in the center and made my way to the Calendaría – the historic, colonial center of Bogotá. On Sundays entrance into Bogotá’s museums is for free, so it’s the perfect day to explore the city. I started off at the “Museo de Botero” – one of Colombia’s most famous artists.

DSC00234
DSC00261

Later I strolled down the busy streets and stopped by a café that caught my attention. I entered and asked one of the meseros for a recommendation. He brought me “chocolate completo”: one cup of hot chocolate with typical colombian cheese, ovenfresh pandebono (bread made of corn flour, cassava starch, cheese and eggs) and bread with butter.

DSC00243

The cheese is dropped into the chocolate and eaten warm and creamy. Colombian’s love hot chocolate! For me this was always a kind of children’s drink but here hot chocolate with bread is one of the most typical dinners. I fell in love with the place before opening my Lonely Planet Guide and realizing I had landed at the legendary café “Puerta Falsa” – a cute café and bakery famous for its hot chocolates and a history dating back to 1836.

Later I strolled down Carrera 11 to land directly at Bogotás most famous square – Plaza Bolivar. From there I exlored the pedestrian zone “Carrera Septima”. On Sunday afternoons the street is full of food stands and artists.

DSC00251DSC00249

At its’s end I took a taxi to “Parque de la 93”. A nice, clean park surrounded by bars and restaurants – ideal for having dinner around there. I had a cup of coffe at Juan Valdez – Colombia’s most popular coffee chain.

DSC00281DSC00283

I set out without a fixed plan but ended up having just a perfect Sunday walk around Bogotá. Very much recommended. Still missing: The Monserrate – a mountain that rises up to 3,152 metres and a spectacular view over the city.