It’s been seven years since I left on a motorcycle journey across two continents and six years since I returned to the corporate world. When I turned 40 I decided to take a sabbatical from the corporate world and explore North, Central and South America by motorcycle. I would be gone 11 months, visit 14 different countries and cover of 65,000 kilometers. The experience changed my life exponentially on both a personal and professional level. Upon reflection, after an already intensely taxing 2018, I often reflect how my adventure changed me professionally.
- My journey made me more resilient
Things don’t always go as planned. That is just a given in our personal and professional lives. How we respond to challenges often define our careers. My plan was relatively simple, keep riding south until I reached the most southern city in the world, Ushuaia Argentina. At one point protestors in southern Chile impeded that plan, at least temporarily. While standing on the dock, watching the cargo ship that dropped me, my plan and my motorcycle in Puerto Chacabuco sail away, I was informed that the road going south was blocked by protestors and nobody was allowed to pass. I was stuck there for almost a week. The ATM’s were empty, food in the stores and restaurants was running low and there was no alternate way out. It was a difficult and stressful situation. Fortunately there was no shortage of Chilean wine and new friends, so I made the best of a “bad” situation. In the accounting profession we all know that year-end, system implementation (and for me a recent acquisition) rarely go as planned, they can become difficult and stressful quickly. Have a plan but be prepared to tough things out for just a little longer and have confidence that things will work out. I learned that I just needed to keep focused on the goals, work smart and stay positive and the worst would soon be behind me, and it was.
- Travelling made me a more confident person
I feel that I was a confident person before I left on my motorcycle adventure, but confidence brings more confidence in yourself and others. With this epic adventure behind me, I have the confidence in the new adventures that lie ahead. I don’t doubt that I will not reach my goal of riding to the four corners of the Americas. Now back in the office, with new managers, new co-workers and new opportunities I display an aura that I am confident enough to get things done and done right.
- Roaming made more resourceful
I had to find a welder in the middle of the Peruvian Andes, and not just any welder but one that could seal my aluminum rim. Start early, ask the right questions, explain clearly, be patient and think outside the box – that’s how you get a rim welded in a small town high in the Andes. Who knew that welding rods were sold next to paint supplies and children’s shoes? How would I have known the best welder in town (probably the only welder) was the cousin of the shop keeper who opened 15 minutes before everyone else? As accountants we have endless resources that tell us where the debits and credits go, but there is no Handbook for business problems, you have to arrive early, clear your head and think strategically and not be afraid to look where nobody else is looking.
- I am fundamentally rejuvenated from this “vacation” in a way “normal” vacations can’t offer.
Seven days off work at a beach resort in the Caribbean just doesn’t offer enough, especially when you receive text messages and emails poolside. Often, you come back from vacation frustrated to find that even the simple things have not been taken care of in your absence. I needed to reset, I like many, felt burnt out and knew that something had to change. For almost a whole year I had no alarm clock, no last minute requests for information and most importantly no deadlines. The motorcycle adventure taught me to recognize what is important and to deal with stress before it becomes unmanageable. As a result, I have become a more productive employees in these past years than I was before my adventure, mainly because I know when it’s time to rejuvenate and prevent undue stress.
- My epic adventure made me a better manager
Growth comes from challenge. Inspiration comes from many sources and different sources from different people. I feel that it is my role as a manager to help my staff grow and become inspired. I grew in so many ways as a result of my adventure and was inspired mostly by tales of exploration. I remember getting caught in a snow storm high in the Andes, I had never ridden in snow before and knew it would be a challenge. By lowering the tire pressure and keeping my speed down I managed to ride out of the storm without incident. I challenge my co-workers to do difficult or new things on a regular basis, “is there a way we can improve this?” is a common question I like to ask. Set a goal to improve, celebrate the small goals with them and provide the tools necessary to get the job done. My co-workers have amazed me. I have been told that my motorcycle adventure was inspirational to some people, I try to remain humble and give encouraging feedback with the hopes of inspiring others. It seems to be working.
Although it may not be possible or even desirable for you to take a trip like mine I would encourage everyone to challenge themselves beyond what they think they are capable of, push your limits, stay focused and get into a positive headspace. You will be forever changed for the better.