4 Founders Who Traveled the World Before Starting Up

Panorama from Brienzer Rothorn

Numerous magazine and blog articles tell us that travel will help our careers…. They tell us it will open us up to new opportunities, increase our self-confidence, and give us advantages over our peers. In fact, our own research showed that the majority of these claims had empirical evidence to back them up.

This got us thinking; if travel gives you such an advantage, have successful or well-known people used their travel experiences as a catalyst for their careers? Did the increased exposure that traveling gives you provide a spark that ignited a passion or created a thought process that drove them forward?

We checked out four entrepreneurs whose passion and experience traveling has given them incredible ideas or a different outlook on creating a company.

Steve Jobs

Probably the most famous entrepreneur of our time, Steve Jobs dropped out of college, quit his ‘career relevant’ job, and spent 7 months traveling around Northern India learning about Eastern philosophy.

Various biographies of Jobs tell us that he didn’t have an easy time out in India. He was defrauded, caught serious case of diarrhea, and stuck in severe monsoon rains. However, these experiences may well have played a part in his success.

As Jobs’ traveling partner, Daniel Kottke, later commented, “I think the trip influenced us both in a general sense of broadening our experience of life on earth and putting our lives in the US in a wider perspective.”

His experiences in India also gave Jobs a different outlook on life. The relatively happy and easy childhood that he had in Portland had been rocked and he realized that life wasn’t a cruise, but a battle. He returned to the USA a more focused and determined individual. A couple of months later he started Apple from his garage, and the rest is history.

Jobs’ travels to India had such an effect on him ,that he recommended visiting India to struggling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg. And, well, Facebook is doing alright for itself these days….

Blake Mycoskie

Blake Mycoskie was a serial entrepreneur and traveler. However, this didn’t stop one trip from changing his life. After exiting from his 4th company, Mycoskie went on a trip down to Argentina. Once there, he couldn’t bare the sight of hungry, half-clothed children wandering the streets.

Using those experiences as a drive to get himself to a place where he could help, Mycoskie created Toms. Every pair of shoes you buy, one pair get given to a child in poverty. He essentially created the rarely-found for-profit business that is able to make a significant contribution to those in need. It’s unlikely the idea wouldn’t have been planted in his head if it wasn’t for that trip.

Travel doesn’t just change values and opinions, it also gives you an understanding of the global marketplace and the realization that if we can connect the dots, there are thousands of ideas out there waiting to be created.

Gillian Morris

Gillian Morris, co-founder and CEO of Hitlist, an app that leverages social data to help you find relevant destinations and cheap, is not only a successful entrepreneur but also very well traveled.

Gillian traveled for 5 years through Asia and middle-east and, in the usual bootstrapped, backpacking style, put herself in dangerous and ridiculous situations. Gillian had little choice but to find solutions to her own problems. Whether it was finding a ride to cross a half opened border, or haggling to buy a pint of milk, Gillian had to live by the decisions she made.

It’s rather easy to find comparisons between her travels and the startup world. From pitching investors to solving tech problems, the startup lifestyle is spent holding on by the seat of your pants and hoping you’re heading in the right direction.

Jay Meistrich

For those of you in the tech world, the organizational app, moo.do is probably one of your favorite tools. However, most people don’t know that Moo.do’s co-founder built the app while on traveling the world.

Jay found that sitting indoors, staring at a computer for 12 hours a day may have looked like he was putting in the hard yards, however, being stuck in the office with little physical stimulation meant that his mental efforts were labored.

After an inspired day working outside, Jay decided that he would be far better off working on the road. Not only is it cheaper to live on the road (compared to SF rent prices..), he’s also found that being constantly exposed to new experiences decreases boredom and increases productivity. As he wrote, “if I’m only in Rome for a week, why would I waste time on Facebook?”

As we’ve seen, travel and working abroad isn’t just about having an incredible time, taking some awesome pictures, and creating lifelong memories, it can change the direction of your life. From using a change of perspective, or realizing there’s a gap in the market, travel allows you to think outside of the self-confined box, and get on the road to success.

Now, where did I put my passport?

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