How and Why a Travel Experience Can Change The Life of A Startup
And The Life of A Startup Founder
An interview with Brian Helfman
1. How did your interest in the travel industry come about?
The truth is, I didn’t have a strong interest in the travel “industry” until I decided to enter it in October 2015. I always had a passion for travel though, particularly spending time in nature, and found that my travel experiences over the years always brought immense personal growth. When my co-founder Josh and I wanted to create a platform to help aspiring entrepreneurs, we decided travel would be that platform. Travel brings perspective, and stimulates self-awareness and heightened empathy. Travel helps you better manage risk, find balance, and develop patience. These are all attributes that successful founders need. I guess you could say we entered the travel industry for the same reason others may choose to enter the “tech” industry. Travel is our platform, the way tech is theirs.
2. Tell us about a story when you first realized the potential of the integration of travel and overall well-being.
I had some eye-opening travel experiences throughout college, but it wasn’t until after a personal tragedy that I felt the power of travel as a catalyst for overall wellbeing. In August 2012, my dad died after a long battle with cancer. The next few months were some of the most painful and lonely months of my life. At one point, my friend Matt told me he would be spending the winter in Colorado as a ski instructor and suggested I come along. I felt drawn to the opportunity. In the wake of my dad’s death, I decided life’s too short to spend every day in a cubicle, working towards someone else’s bottom line. So I quit my well-paying corporate job to go be a ski instructor in Colorado for the winter. I knew I didn’t want to make this my new career, but I also knew deep down, even if I couldn’t articulate it at the time, that this experience was what I needed.
In a new environment way outside my comfort zone, surrounded by people who were very different from those I grew up and went to college with, I started to feel like myself again. That winter saved my life.
3. Can you provide a few examples of the meaningful ways in which travel has impacted some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs?
It’s really amazing how many examples there are. The most popular is probably the Steve Jobs story, of how he went on a seven-month pilgrimage to India shortly before he started Apple, and put it in the top three most important experiences of his lifetime.
Howard Schultz took a trip to Italy at age 29 where he discovered Italian coffee culture, and was inspired to take the concept back to the US where he started a little coffee shop called Starbucks.
Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia and author of “Let My People Go Surfing” (which I just finished), spent much of his youth traveling up and down the Americas, climbing, surfing, and skiing. He was inspired to create better tools for climbers, and over the course of several decades, grew the business into the globally recognized brand that is now known as one of the most environmentally conscious companies in the world. The list goes on and on.
4. What is it about the travel experience that opens the door to new and the polishing of ideas?
Creative ideation is all about building off of old ideas to form new and innovative solutions to problems. An immersive travel experience helps us learn about other cultures, and different ways of doing things. When we see the world through a different lens, it helps us approach problems in different ways than we might if we’re confined to the way things are where we come from. It’s also just nice to get out of your regular routine and take a step back to see the big picture.
5. Talk about the element of human connection we can get from a travel experience that benefits the way we think and feel.
A mentor of mine once said,
“True friendship comes from shared experiences.”
Taking that a step further, intentional shared travel experiences, when everyone involved is in a new and inspiring environment, create the deepest and most genuine human connections of all. I think anyone who’s ever been part of an experience like that can attest to the value of the connections they made.
Humans evolved to thrive in relatively small communities in nature. With the increasing migration toward congested urban environments where we’re surrounded by strangers, it’s more important than ever that we pursue meaningful experiences in physical nature to bring us back to our human nature.
6. How can entrepreneurs take the most advantage of their time spent away from the day-to-day?
- Talk to people you wouldn’t normally speak with.
- Read a book that has inspired someone you look up to.
- Reflect, journal, and set goals.
For me, every once in a while I pursue a meaningful experience in nature with a specific intention. It could be a week in Costa Rica with Startup Island, or a walk through the park to reflect, reset, and refocus. We’re all inspired by different things, so experiment and find what works for you.
7. How can the travel experience of one person affect the overall performance of an entire startup?
A meaningful travel experience provides perspective, increased self-awareness, heightened empathy, and risk-management skills, among other things. These attributes can be contagious, and have a positive effect on an entire organization.
8. What question about traveling do you think people ask most?
How much does it cost?
9. What question about travel do you think people should be asking more? How would you respond to this question?
What will I get out of this experience? Travel is an investment of one’s time and money that pays lifelong dividends.
10. Any destinations you would highly recommend?
Too many to list, and I have so many places that I personally still want to visit, namely Patagonia, Italy, and all of Southeast Asia. My favorite countries that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in are Costa Rica and Peru.
Article By:- Jordan “J” Gross