Among the most enriching experiences I have had in my professional life are those I have had while traveling overseas. I enjoy business travel, first, because it gives me insight into international consumers’ opinions, attitudes, needs and wants.
You can learn a lot about overseas consumers through research and surveys, teleconferences and videos, pictures and reports – but you don’t really see the whole picture until you have traveled abroad and witnessed the environments and interactions of your international partners in person. For instance, I had seen pictures of Romania in the past, and I had admired the handcrafted work of its traditional craftsmen, but until I visited the country myself, I did not realize the extent of its natural beauty or the diversity of its businesses.
Pictures of the Danube cannot capture its earthy smell, a smell that helps transport you back in time – especially when you are beside one of Romania’s traditional villages. But while Romania’s strong links to the past make it a charming destination to visit, I was most impressed by its thriving industry and rapid development. Its reputation as an automobile manufacturer is growing with the innovations and beautiful styling of Dacia’s newest models.
In addition to gaining insight into the needs and desires of international partners, traveling abroad has allowed me to draw inspiration from businesses and consumers abroad that have helped me formulate ideas on improving business at home.
While American businesses tend to focus on cutting-edge technology and aim to make their products appear as cutting-edge as possible, I was captivated by the charm of Romania’s old-fashioned markets and traditional wares. On a visit to Maramures County, I had the chance to see locals dressed in hand-stitched folk costumes and to visit markets full of meats, cheeses, flowers and crafts. These things made a greater impression on me than many of the advertisements I have seen at home and it inspired me to try to combine the traditional with the modern while at home.
Traveling abroad has also benefited me personally. Exposure to new cultures and traditions has given me an increased understanding of world history and of international relationships. It has helped me grow as a person, opening my mind to new ideas and giving me a greater appreciation not only for other countries, but also of the rich cultural influences that have helped shape my country.
One of the experiences that really made an impression on me was a stop I made at a McDonalds in Russia. I was surprised – perhaps shocked – when the locals began folk dancing as I waited in line – right inside the building. Such things rarely happen in America. Most of us are too reserved or we feel that we must respect the space of those around us, so we try to keep to ourselves. But I was so charmed by the dance that I asked and was permitted to join in. I was surprised at how quickly dancing with others made me warm to them and them to me. That day I formed lasting friendships that I would not otherwise have developed and it made me look at my own culture from another perspective.