I wouldn't be running a tech startup without my travel experience.

The following is a guest blog post from Lauren Wolfe, Founder & CEO of Partyista

Though one can certainly have all sorts of deeply contemplative thoughts about why they first wanted to travel, I didn't really. I just knew that I wanted to see the world. 

What I did not know, was how much traveling would be beneficial for my future career. 

When I set off to take a yearlong trip around the world, friends thought I was nuts. My parents worried about my safety. Colleagues worried about how I'd re-enter the work place. I was obviously a little nervous myself. Would I run out of money? Would I be safe? What would I do when I got back? What was I doing?

Instead of getting an apartment while in DC, I slept in a friend’s hallway. Within months, I amassed enough frequent flyer miles through all of my work traveling for a free ‘around the world’ trip. I was ready.

On August 1, 2010 I took off by myself on a trip through 34 countries on six continents. Though every day I learned something new, a few events still stand out:

  • I dove with Great White Sharks in South Africa.
  • I bungee jumped over the Victoria Falls Bridge on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border.
  • My flight from Paris filled with smoke and had an emergency landing at 3am. 
  • I spent two amazing weeks in Syria right before total chaos broke out.
  • My backpack, with all my belongings, disappeared in Johannesburg. 
  • I'm fairly certain every bug and spider on earth bit me at some point. 

There was a bit of chaos, but with it a crazy amount of learning.

As a woman, the most striking thing I saw traveling was the lack of women in public. Women are over half the planet, but by walking on streets around the world you might never know. In the US, we have to fight to have more women in the boardroom. Meanwhile, many women in other countries just dream of being able to walk down the street without being ridiculed or assaulted. 

I saw crushing poverty. Poverty that you have probably seen on TV, but when you see it in person it changes you. Seeing a kid in front of you, without shoes, with strings of dirty clothes hanging off of him, starving and covered in bug bites and boils, you will feel your heart sink to your stomach. 

When I visited Syria, I went to an internet cafe and saw that I couldn't reach Facebook. The horror! A ten-year-old sitting next to me saw I was confused. In his best English, he explained to me the government banned Facebook so you needed to set up a proxy server to reach it. Then he showed me how to do it. He was an expert. 

All these experiences gave me so much gratitude for the opportunity I have had living and working in the US. I knew I wanted to continue to learn and be inspired through travel. I committed to making it a part of my life. 

After my travels I returned to D.C. to a desk job I was grateful to have, but found unsatisfying. 

Had I not traveled, I probably would have just stayed there. 

But given my new knowledge of how incredibly lucky I was to be able to pave my own path, I quit and started my own web-based business

I would not have been able to launch my own company if I hadn't been willing to take a risk. I was scared when I set off around the world. I had never been to the countries I was visiting. I could not even speak the language in most of them. When you make friends who bungee jump off a 420 ft high bridge - well, you think you can do it too. And you do. 

When I got home, I had serious hesitations about leaving my job to launch my own business. Knowing that risk is relative, I made sure to meet with dozens of people who launched their own businesses. They made it seem normal, gave me confidence, and reduced my fears. 

Another important lesson I learned when traveling is that you just need to pretend like you belong. As a white woman traveling around by myself, I felt like I could not be more out of place in most every situation. This "impostor syndrome" can take over and really make you question your worth as a human being. 

Whether it is traveling through the Middle East or being a woman starting a tech company, you need to just keep your head up high and pretend like you belong. Everyone else doubts themselves, so just recognize that and get over it. You belong wherever you want to belong. 

Being able to take risks, surrounding yourself with the right people, and generally being confident were three very important lessons I learned when traveling. Those lessons along with the newfound appreciation I had for my opportunity and freedom, is the reason I was able to make the leap into my own business. 

Traveling makes you grow as a person, it exposes you to new ideas, new markets, and new opportunities. My around the world trip changed my life and paved a new independent career path for me. 

I am incredibly grateful. 

Read more about Partyista, a tech startup that makes party planning easy through a searchable database of party venues. 

Ready to empower your career while traveling? Pivot Journeys offers structured getaways for people who want to recharge, be inspired, and take the next step in their career. Read more about our upcoming adventures here