Why I said “Screw the bank account!” and opted to travel anyway
By Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.
A few months ago I was asked to participate on a panel at an international conference in Spain. I felt honored and excited about the possibilities to network and meet so many new and interesting people. Then I looked at my bank account…the reality was that there were no funds for this trip. Feeling deflated, I walked away from the email invite. I had been trying to get back to Europe for at least five years, but owning my own business was tough. I had always paid my bills, but there was not much left over to travel. Then there was the question of leaving my clients behind. Who would take care of them? And how would I make money while I was gone so that I could continue to pay the bills upon my return? Nope, this trip could not happen right now.
One week later I still couldn’t shake my disappointment. I REALLY wanted to go. I knew that this spelled financial disaster, but I decided to talk to my partner about it anyway. Less than a year into our marriage, I was considering leaving him and our dogs behind to travel through Europe for five weeks on my own. I explained that I could stay with friends most of the time to save money and I would avoid buying anything unnecessary (i.e. souvenirs). After a healthy discussion, we decided that I had to take this trip despite what the bank account said. It was simply something I couldn’t pass up.
One thing you should understand about me is that I am not someone who makes financial decisions lightly. I am very careful with regard to my spending habits so that there is money for things that we want or need to do from time to time. However, the economy in Puerto Rico has depleted anything extra that I have meaning I would literally take this trip on shoestrings. Knowing this, why would I walk away from my business and partner to go traipsing across Europe? These are just a few of the reasons.
1) As an intercultural communication scholar and practitioner, I need to be exposed to different cultures. The linguist in me needs to find opportunities to practice rusty language skills and learn new languages. Feeding my passion is a necessity!
2) Life on an island becomes confining. There are only so many places I can go and only so many viewpoints I can experience. Getting off the island puts me in contact with people who live and think differently. It helps boost my creativity.
3) My business depends on it! Being an entrepreneur is a lonely endeavor at times. Spending too much time with my own thoughts makes it easy to subconsciously sabotage myself. Being in a new place sparks new ideas and helps work through roadblocks. It certainly helps me!
4) It’s a challenge! Living the same routine day in and day out becomes monotonous (in my opinion). Without challenges to overcome, life is dull. Traveling provides new challenges like navigating the city, getting on the right train, or explaining a problem to someone who doesn’t speak your language. These trials can be more difficult to navigate than making major business decisions, but they remind me that overcoming roadblocks, no matter how small, is part of what makes like interesting.
5) Intercultural education opportunities abound! While traveling I experience cultural nuances ranging from food to celebrations to music. I learn from what is going on around me, but I also educate others about life in Puerto Rico. Upon my return, I teach friends and family about what life is like across the pond. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!
Now that I am back, I am so happy that I went on this trip. It was definitely what I needed in order to strengthen my business and my personal and professional relationships. I do not necessarily recommend putting yourself further into debt to take a trip like this, but for me, it was the right decision because in the end there are…
Dr. Julie Parenteau is an intercultural communication consultant and language instructor living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. To find out how to work with her or contract her as a speaker for your upcoming event, visit www.global-perceptions.com.
This article is featured on the Small Planet Studio #MyGlobalLife Linkup. Add your blog on the last Friday of each month!