I’m en route to spend a week with startups in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia (the country not the state). I was invited to join a group from Silicon Valley by friend I’ve wanted to collaborate with for a while.
Through the week I’ll be working with Tbilisi entrepreneurs. I’ll also be getting to know Georgia, a country rich in history (and wine). At some point we’ll also be meeting the Prime Minister.
On the way back I’ll be jumping through London for 18 hours and hanging out with the badass guys behind Butterfly Twists.
The journey to a not-often-visited place is always interesting. I travel about 25% of the time and am overseas several times a year. Each time I leave the US I wonder why I don’t do it more frequently.
Traveling helps me reform my world views. I am a better, more grounded person because of these experiences.
When I travel I do weird things. I take weird flight routes. I try to stay in neighborhoods instead of hotels. I buy my weird food in local grocery stores. I workout at local gyms.
When I travel to a new city I usually take a full day and explore, mostly walking. In the growing number of cities with bike share, I do that too.
I don’t buy guidebooks. I don’t hire tour guides. I did this before one could travel with a data-enabled cell phone. Google Maps and T-Mobile have radically transformed this experience.
I think as a result of just getting lost and finding my way I’ve been able to discover things I wouldn’t otherwise find. Today on a six hour layover in Athens, Greece, a city I’ve spent time in before, I grabbed a cab to a neighborhood I enjoyed on my last visit. It’s not a neighborhood the guide books care to include.
While en route I found a restaurant with a lot of great local reviews. Then it was back to the airport for the next leg of the journey to Tbilisi through Kiev.
All of this might sound exhausting to some. It’s not. But to be able to flow naturally in unfamiliar countries you have to suspend the need for complete clarity. I do not do unsafe things. I am as vigilant about safety internationally as I am walking through Las Vegas or New York. You can be in danger anywhere…if you do dumb things.
To enjoy unplanned travel you must resist what I call life seizures. This is the mindset of a person who walks into an airport and immediately is anxious.
You’ve seen those people. They are the ones looking frantically for their gate without looking at the departure signs and looking around to figure out how the gates are numbered.
They are the ones who immediately walk to the boarding door the moment anyone starts talking on the PA system.
They often speak loudly, move nervously. They exhaust you just looking at them.
They would never take a taxi to an unfamiliar part of town because how would they, I mean, getting back, what if, oh god. WHERE ARE THE…WHERE IS MY BAG? I’M JUST…WHERE’S MCDONALD’S?
Life seizures are equally possible no matter a person’s age. They happen at home and abroad. People have them in grocery stores. And old people don’t have them any more frequently than young.
For these people everything is hard. I have never been one of those people even though I have definitely been lost in lots of places, usually while trying to find a bathroom.
It’s generally true that if you assume something is going to be hard, it will be. Remember Henry Ford’s perspective: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
I spotted this little gem during lunch in Athens and sent it to a friend at TOMS. It is a small world.