Who doesn’t love traveling? But as a designer, maybe it’s time to consider that travel isn’t only relaxing, it can also offer some significant benefits for your career.
For example, I know that, regardless of where I visit, my skills in communication will improve and, in turn, enhance my work. By temporarily relocating, I’m provided with a hands-on opportunity to observe cultures, cuisines, environments, styles, and trends that I wouldn’t otherwise know about. Extra knowledge always influences a designer’s output.
Adaptable. If you’re going to travel, you know you’ve got to be adaptable. As designers, we strive to adapt on a daily basis. Every work environment is different, and with technology changing every day, the importance of being adaptable is more than ever key for designers.
Creativity. Traveling abroad enhances creativity in a number of ways. Experiencing how people do things in another part of the world removes me from my comfort zone and gives me a new perspective on communication. The street signs, for example, are not only in another language but are designed with different colors, typefaces, and icons. When I noticed this, I learned the importance of taking a new approach to reach your target audience.
Inspiration. Occasionally, inspiration can be the primary challenge when designing. Sometimes Pinterest, Google, design nerd meetups, and so on won’t be able to help you out of that rut. Taking a break from home to visit a new place means you can observe the innovative designs, advertising trends, and creative merchandising of the local marketing. Sometimes that can be just the inspiration you need. Working outside of a routine encourages you to feel or think differently, which is the definition of inspiration.
Language. If you study abroad in college or visit a foreign country, you’ll have an opportunity to familiarize yourself with another language. Linguistic competence can open doors to international businesses, industries, and institutions. Immersing yourself in another language will help you experience first-hand how to communicate with another audience.
Networking. Typically, I visit a friend when I travel. They introduce me to their friends, and I learn about their work in fields other than design. It’s a great opportunity to gain perspective on a variety of cultures and trends and lifestyles, which helps me keep an open mind when I work. It’s also an additional opportunity for work in the future, not just for me, but for each of us.
Independence. You develop a more nuanced understanding of situations and learn when to take the lead in order to accomplish tasks as a traveler. In Italy, I had to ask a station employee about the time for my train ticket — she only spoke Italian and I only spoke English. I remember that felt very intimidating, but I learned that sometimes as uncomfortable as a situation can be, it has to be handled and I’ll get through it. Situations come up frequently in travel that you’ll have to navigate on your own when normally you would’ve let another person take care of it or at least sought advice on how to handle things. Especially if you’re a freelance designer, you’ve got to be a self starter and take the lead in your work.
Experiences. Your many experiences while you travel will each bring a different lesson to learn about yourself, the community, culture, environment, and so on. Apply each of those experiences to your every-day life — whether it’s a story you can share to make yourself relatable to a client, a lesson that taught you not to procrastinate, a new relationship, or seeing beyond cultural differences, you’ll appreciate each experience.
I do want to caution that the travel bug is real. The struggle and the drive to visit new places, experience new cultures, cuisines, and environments is undeniable. It impacts travelers at various levels, but I can tell you it’s worth it and I haven’t met a single person who regrets traveling. Travel is unpredictable and priceless, and you’ll be applying what you learned throughout your career.