Sunday, May 5, 2013

Going at it alone - what travelling can teach you

2013 began by taking a few weeks off from the day job to travel around Asia doing a whole range of things that I wouldn't normally do at home. From being a marketing intern with a Chinese company that imports Spanish food and wine in Shanghai to writing for a magazine in the South of India, it was the trip of a life time.

While it was only 7 weeks away, it took just under 6 months to organise. Applying and being accepted into the programmes in China and India took a bit of effort, applying for visas required coordination, developing a budget and a savings plan wasn’t too difficult but was securing funding from government and business was something (scored $1450 J) I hadn’t done before, while going to the travel agent had to be the best bit.

Being in a new culture and city with a bunch of new people (these had to be the best bits) meant that I have to be adaptable, self reliant and be comfortable with hanging out/working with a group of people that I wouldn’t normally be around. I also had to find solutions to problems with bank cards, sending stuff home and how to get to airports at odd hours, just to name a few.

But adapting to unexpected situations and having to improvise due to unexpected events have been one of the best bits about travelling alone and while they can be a little scary at the time, you end up look back and laughing.  

Having to adapt to a new workplace and tasks was another really cool challenge that I would do all over again and something that I would recommend to anyone.

Being invigorated and inspired by my time away I have been toying with the idea of moving on from my current position. But while exploring various options there have been several interesting discussions about the value of doing volunteer work and doing something for nothing.

On one side, it was argued that employers “frown on volunteer experiences” and since it wasn't real paid work meant that the skills that you used and/or picked up had no economic value.

Those on the flip side argued that such experiences should be promoted and the skills used highlighted to show transferable “soft skills” and life experience.

Why do things need to be of economic value to be worth something?

It does seem a shame that doing something for nothing whether it is volunteering in Cambodia, taking on marketing luxury brands as an intern in NYC, being a Scout leader in Australia or a stay at home parent is not considered to be a learning experience or evidence that you have developed particular skills because it is not paid.

I hope that one day unpaid experiences will have the same economic value as paid employment and that you don’t need a paid job to show what you can do.   


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