12 travels in 12 months. What I have learned and how it helped me to grow.

Iceland 2018
“Selfie” in Iceland.

Making new year’s resolutions is a common habit, but only 8% of people stick to them. For the last 3 years, I’ve spent the last days of each year doing some introspection of what I’ve accomplished and how the year went. My 2019 was pretty remarkable.

My two main personal goals for 2019 were the following:

  1. Travel more

Why traveling?

I started my first company when I was 21. I was studying civil engineering, and if I’m honest, it didn’t excite me at all. I didn’t have the time or money to explore the world. I felt that once my company (I’m a partner in UX/UI Studio- EFEKT ) was quite established, I’d finally be able to broaden my horizons. I always wanted to travel independently, organizing everything on my own, and let’s be clear: traveling hasn’t been more accessible than it is now.

Why photography?

Photography allows you to capture events, times, emotions, and places. It helps you to “save” a particular moment in time. Those memories become a part of your life, and you can always recall those experiences by looking at pictures. When I was 13 years old, I borrowed a camera from my brother because I was curious, but the equipment was too sophisticated for me to use. Technology has progressed significantly, and everyone can be a mobile photographer with a high-quality lens on their phones. On the other hand, I wanted to learn how to use DSLRs and to learn about shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

It turned out that combing traveling with photography was a perfect choice.

Ok, so here is the list of things I’ve learned:

1. Make a good plan

  1. Before any of my travel, I try to research a bit about future destinations. I mostly use Instagram to get a list of places worth visiting. It’s worth typing some certain # like [name of city] + [photographer; architecture; style; secrets].

What’s more, there is a community called “Igers.” Try to type: “igers[nameofcity] as a hashtag, but larger cities have their accounts. An Example here

#igers hashtag is shorthand for the users of Instagram. #igers is short for Instagrammers or Instagram users.

2. I noticed that I usually pack the same things for hiking trips. I have created a simple checklist in Google Docs so I don’t have to think each time I need to pack. It’s much more necessary when I’m camping because it’s impossible to get some equipment while being on the trail far away from civilization. It’s always good to adjust that list according to your experiences. In the beginning, I used to take way too much stuff, and believe me, each 100g in the backpack means a lot once you need to carry it for a couple of days. To improve my hiking trips and save some energy, I have weighted each thing (I know it sounds super crazy). When putting anything in the backpack, I ask myself, “Do I really need this?” (I strongly feel that these questions could be transferred to my wardrobe.) If not, I leave that. #mininalism

3. I took the same approach to plan my exclusive hiking menu. I calculated, on average, how many calories I should consume during heavy physical exertion and what to eat to cover this energy in food.

Excel sheet with equipment and food.

2. Surround yourself with good company

Traveling with the right people is a vital factor for enjoying your trip. Before your journey, you should share your expectations and agenda. In the end, you are going to spend almost 24h a day with that person, so you’d better choose wisely. I’m a fan of backpacking and hiking, and I’m aware that not everyone wants to be soaking wet in a tent in windy Norway. What’s more, once you need to walk 10 hours a day with a 15 kg backpack through rocky surfaces, you need to be a bit in shape. Everyone has some ups and downs, so having a psychologically reliable company is crucial once things go wrong. I remember when we were heading to the small ferry harbor out of nowhere without any people around. It was Sunday, and according to the mobile app, we needed to walk 5 hours instead of 8! (Maybe we shouldn’t rely so much only on technology!) We didn’t make it to the ferry, and we needed to camp for a whole night in a storm. During these times, you need a good company not to have a breakdown.

I firmly believe that this pattern might be copied for businesses. Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, said:

In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline — first the people, then the direction — no matter how dire the circumstances.

3. Be open and use opportunities

Torso Tower | “Hitchhiking” ferry after hard price negotiations | Notes from Agency founder from Lviv

I’m sure you have met many people or have come up with some of the best ideas by accident. Traveling brings many scenarios that you wouldn’t imagine being in. Malmo is famous for its 54-story-high residential building called “Torso Tower,” designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. You are not able to get in unless you are a resident. I checked Airbnb Experiences, and people were offering a 30-min visit on the 25th floor for around 40 euros. A pretty good way to earn an income, right? We were photographing a tower there and walked around the building. We bumped into a guy who was smoking cigarettes. We greeted ourselves with a gentle nod. I just said, “ Hi,” and he replied, so we started a conversation. After 15 minutes, he asked us if we would like to go up to the 43rd floor because there was a lobby accessible for residents. It turned out that we had many things in common (the guy was a 3D designer in Ubisoft), so we ended up having a 2-hour conversation with the proper amount of wine. I believe that my experience was far better than those offered by Airbnb and free of charge. And it was all because I was just open!

In November, I decided to visit Lviv, which was a Polish city up until 1939. This city has a rich heritage, fantastic food and it’s quite cheap to stay there. Ukraine is a vast IT outsourcing market with excellent companies. I found 3 agencies in Lviv, which I considered professional. Then I reached founders via LinkedIn with a brief message, asking if we could meet. Guess what? Within 12 hours, all 3 positively replied. I could visit their office, share my challenges, and ask about their struggles with running a company. Those talks were very enlightening! I made many notes, and it expanded my point of view of many business-related things.

4. Learn new stuff

I genuinely believe that nowadays, there is a vast amount of free knowledge on the internet. You can learn everything from coding, designing, cooking, or playing the piano. It is said that you need to spend 10,000 hours on something to be in the top 1% of people. On the other hand, Josh Kaufman says that for the very first 20 hours, a systematic approach to rapid skill acquisition should be employed (his TEDx Talk)

Some time ago, a friend showed me a drone. I was literally amazed by how technology had pushed forward. It was very portable (DJI Mavic Air: 450 g, 16,8 cm x 8,3 cm, and 4K recording). You could easily pack this into your backpack and get an unbelievable perspective from the air. A month later, I bought my own. I started watching videos on how to fly smoothly (essential when you are recording). It wasn’t that easy at the beginning, but I didn’t give up. Once you have your raw footage (either photos or videos), you need to edit it somehow. Post-production gives you a wide range of possibilities. I had to learn Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Premiere Pro. I was continually watching how other filmmakers and photographers edited, what they did, merely following their best practices. My first video took me around 18 hours to edit. Now, I’m able to edit something in 2–3 hours. It’s just a matter of practice because you gain experience by doing. There is no other way.

Photography gave me the ability to collect moments, not only things. I’ve anchored plenty of histories, experiences, and emotions in particular with photos and videos.

In 2019, I started my Instagram account to upload my images:

https://www.instagram.com/flyingsimon_/

https://www.instagram.com/flyingsimon_/
Part of my Instagram

In April, we drove all over Iceland in a camper, and I managed to create a video:

5. Find a work-life balance

Family time.

For the first 3 years of having a company, it was hectic work. I felt guilty if I wasn’t working on the weekends or spending my hours productively. I could easily call myself a workaholic.

I finished a 7-year relationship, and I was constantly restless about whether we were going to make two ends meet in the company. I hadn’t worked in the industry before, so everything we learned was by our own mistakes. The learning process was bumpier, but I do not regret it at any cost. All those circumstances stacked together caused moments when I didn’t want to go to my own company, not to mention lead a team in the right direction. Out of the blue, while scrolling through Facebook, I noticed some cheap flights to the USA. Hours later, I bought a ticket with a friend of mine. That was my very first step into traveling. I realized that business is a marathon, not a sprint. I let go a bit. What I have learned now is that productivity beats the amount of worked hours. Of course, you could cite Gary Vaynerchuk about “outworking” other people or “hustling 24/7,” but I realized that’s not for me. I just value spending quality time with family and friends, strolling with my dog, and having weekends for editing photos, reading, and recharging my batteries. Our company’s income raised by 30%, and I haven’t been more confident in running a business than I am now.

6. Adjust when things go wrong

In business, life, and travel, sometimes you need to pivot — change directions.

(Pivot- a structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth.)

Despite having a detailed plan, sometimes conditions suddenly change. You can lose one of your biggest customers, which provides 50% in your revenue, or your hiking shoes can fall apart in the middle of nowhere. The key is to draw conclusions and act. In the beginning, we were a “creative agency” having many services like visual identity, website development, social media, and DTP. We took every project that came to us. Usually, we ended up spending much more time than we had estimated, and having a fixed price with low-budget customers was killing our business. Our wide range of services caused us not to be experts in any particular field. Long story short, 2 years ago, we pivoted into UX/UI studio ( www.efekt.co/en). We found our value proposition, a segment of customers that we could help and we developed a time/material payoff. Result? We became the Top #1 Poland and #25 Worldwide UX/UI agency (according to clutch.co).

“First, do it, then do it right, then do it better — this is my mantra for successfully getting things done. It’s all about the iteration.”- Andy Osmani

So, when your shoe has had enough, but you still have to walk for another 2 hours in the hills, you need to adjust.

1st attempt: glue from the tent repair package. 2nd attempt: one of the most useful things “duck tape” which is said to repair anything. 3rd attempt: Rope, which has won the contest of the live-saving method.

Thank God our engineering skills to repair stuff worked, and I didn’t have to carry everything! I had to tie a rope every 15 minutes, and it took us ages to reach the city, but we made it! (Look back to point #2: Surround yourself with good company). I cursed a lot while we were walking, yet this was one of the best memories of our Norway trip.

7. Leave your company from time to time

Camping at Preikestolen | Norway

My travels usually don’t take long. I’m a fan of 3- to 4-day trips, using weekends not to miss many working days. Before my leave, I make sure that I have sorted all the things I’m responsible for. At the beginning of having a company, I couldn’t imagine being absent from the office for a single day. I had to micromanage and remain involved in everything. I have matured now. In some areas, I’m trying to give responsibility to others. I let people fail because this will be a lesson they will remember.

One of my great ideas was to take a few days off from working in the office and fly to Amsterdam with my business partner. We spent 3 days talking about strategy and goals in 2020. That was a productive time; we spent time together and wrote down our action plan. Being together every day in the office is different from being immersed in a particular problem and having the time to think only about one thing. In a daily job, there is usually a rush and dozens of things to be done. Creating a plan is one thing; making it happen is another. I’m going to do monthly and quarterly retrospective meetings to track if we are heading in the right direction.

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Summary

My 12 travels in 12 months. Each photo represents one trip.

Here is my travel list in 2019:

  1. January: Vienna | Austria

Screw it, let’s do it.

It was my very first post on Medium. I hope that you can find something valuable for yourself. I know how stressful running a business might be and I love this quote by Reid Hoffman:

“ Starting a company is jumping off a cliff and assembling the airplane on the way down,”

Speaking about airplanes… maybe it’s an excellent time to find some cheap tickets? Don’t worry. I will guide you.

  1. Click here

Let me know if you really did it :)

Headless ecommerce & Visual page builder | shopstory.app & commerce-ui.com | Drone Pilot | Triathlone | Bookworm

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