Today my friend and business colleague from Morocco, Amine B., asked me why I travel so often and far from home. Why am I far from my family, and why am I not married yet? – it’s not uncommon for people here to get married in their mid twenties.
The question came as a surprise and my frugal response did not satisfy my friend’s curiosity. Neither was I happy with my answer.
So next week when I meet my fried I’ll explain him that it’s learning that I’m seeking and that living and working in different countries has taught me so much.
Living in Slovenia and Belgium allowed me to experience a work environment where trust, fairness and respect were almost unquestionable. It challenged my previous experience and this stuck with me ever since. I’ve taken this values and now they’re with me no matter where I move.
I perceived people in Poland as professional in their work, structured and respectful, while at the same time warm and friendly to strangers. I enjoyed tremendously my six months in Krakow and it’s this kind of structure in the work environment + warmth towards those around you that I’m seeking in the city that I’d like to call home.
Morocco had challenged my work values. As I said before, the structure that I’ve experienced in Slovenia, Belgium and Poland stuck with me, and Moroccans view time a bit… differently. This being said, it’s the country where I’ve met, by far!, the most hospitable people no matter where I’ve traveled. It was incredible to be hosted, fed, and helped by total strangers. From now on, I’ll do me best to replicate this kind of kindness and hospitality no matter where I am.
All these experiences have made me a better person. It’s hard to imagine a better way to become more cultural aware, more assertive (taxi drivers are taxi drivers no matter what country you are in), and more relaxed about cultural differences. Traveling has made me more respectful, more confident, more resilient and more detached. While this post has touched on the personal aspect of living and working abroad, I think it’s just as important to mention that the cultures I’ve experienced made me see things from more than one perspective. I’ve had the opportunity to build a set of skills that are easily transferable to a globalised work environment, and I believe that these skills and behaviors make me a better colleague and leader.
Disclaimer: this post is biased by my optimistic nature. My travel experiences are themselves strongly biased by that. Changing countries is not always easy and pleasant, and I’ve had my fair share of CRAP (Criticism, Rejection, Assholes, and Pressure). The positive aspects, though, greatly outnumber the negative.