What I Learned from My Solo Trip to Japan
FILED IN: Behind-the-Scenes, Education, Unboxing the Business
Posted By: Jamie Kutchman Wynne
Sometimes you hit a point in life where you need to get away. Not just want to but it's becomes a gnawing feeling like you kind of need to. For me, this was late last month and long story short, I went to Japan all by myself. I’ve always dreamed of going there, their borders finally opened post-pandemic, and without a lot more in-depth thought other than the two things I just mentioned (because if I thought more deeply about it I would have chickened out), I booked a trip for 9 days exploring Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hakone. At first I was confident about going alone. Then the moment the plane touched down, I was questioning whether or not I’d underestimated how it would feel to actually venture that far away completely on my own. Different language. Different currency. Different food. Different time zone. Different everything. But within 24 hours, I could feel my adventurous spirit kicking in, a side of me that I truthfully hadn’t been in touch with in a long, long while. Far too long actually.
I learned a ton on my Eat, Pray, Love-style getaway and since some of these lessons relate to me as a business owner, I figure they’re totally fair game to share with you for this month’s edition of Unboxing the Business.
Risk Taking is Necessary in Your Personal Life, Not Just Your Professional Life.
By definition, an entrepreneur is someone willing to take risks. You take a huge risk when you start a business and certainly when you leave a full time career behind to create something out of nothing. Then you take additional risks each time you have to scale the business to the next level. The risks just keep coming and while I’m fairly risk averse compared to most, taking these repeated risks at work made me feel like a risk taker. But in my personal life, I was becoming the type of person who was set in their ways, not trying new things, not doing things that would cause anyone to say “whoa, what’s she doing?” and well, I think you get the idea. In order to be a balanced person in both life and work, you have to be willing to take risks in both areas of your life. You cannot merely do one or the other or you run the risk of losing yourself altogether. While a trip to Japan certainly isn’t the most brave thing one could ever do in life, it definitely felt out of my comfort zone and I’ve come back with a renewed confidence in myself that had been lost for quite some time.
Test the Business by Leaving the Business.
As a business owner, it’s one thing to think you have your business set up in such a way where it can function on its own while you’re away. But it’s another thing to actually test this theory in real life. By leaving to a country in a far different time zone, it’s not anywhere near as possible to stay in touch like you normally would if you were traveling somewhere a little closer to home. As a result, your team is forced to use their best judgment, make decisions big and small on their own, and problem solve without oversight from you. I’m convinced this is the only way to truly know how ready your team is to run the show without you. It’s healthy to put the business to the test and see with clarity where the strengths and weaknesses are.
Creativity for the Sake of Creativity Can Fuel Creativity for Profit.
Because I was alone and got to create my own itinerary without any compromising with anyone else. This meant artistic, creative activities that would allow me to learn new skills, discover unfamiliar customs, and overall explore beautiful things. As just one example, I took at stab at Japanese calligraphy lessons, something I’d never done before. While the instructor claimed that I was “a natural”, I can assure you that what I created was far from being something I’d ever want to frame and hang on the wall! However, having the chance to be creative simply for the sake of being creative, instead of being creative for profit like I need to do daily at work, allowed my imagination to wander and gave me a sense of true relaxation and peace that I hadn’t felt in a long while. This feeling of peace has stayed with me and has actually helped me now that I’ve retuned to the business and am required to create new and fresh content, dream up new gifts designs, and all the other ways in which I’m creative in this role as the owner.
The Worst Time to Go Away is the Best Time to Go Away.
Leaving a gifting business behind in the last part of the year is not exactly ideal. The holidays are our Super Bowl where we do a very high percentage of our annual revenue and it’s approaching the time of year when it’s all-hands-on-deck mode all day, every day. But I booked this trip anyway. I knew I needed it in order to perform at my best and thankfully I was right. Nothing fell apart while I was gone. My team handled everything beautifully and didn’t skip a beat. And I came back as a better person in my work life and my personal life. The worst time to go away is actually the best time to go away because it’s usually when you need it the most.
Details and Design Have an Impact.
The travel agency I booked with sent me a packet of information to try and prepare me for my trip – whether or not I needed cash, making me aware of certain customs, weather patterns, all of those sorts of things. One of the things the packet spent a lot of time discussing was the fact that Japan is a non-tipping culture and that tipping can be viewed as an insult. Instead, gifts are encouraged and that the way in which a gift is wrapped and presented truly matters. Presentation can even matter more than the gift itself. As the owner of a gifting business this was music to my ears! I spent a lot of time shopping for furoshiki (reusable and decorate cloth wraps made for carry belongings and for gift wrapping) to beautifully package gifts for my tour guides and even to a gentlemen who drove me from one city to the next. They were so appreciative of these gifts and made a huge deal about the way in which the gifts were wrapped. (I’m sure my furoshiki skills were sub-par but they gave me an ‘A’ for effort!) This part of the Japanese culture was something I knew a bit about ahead of time but had no idea the high level of importance they place on gifting. It was truly a JOY to experience this first hand and to have my very own ‘why’ for starting Marigold & Grey reaffirmed. Design matters, details matters, thought and intention matter, and allow you to have a profound impact on one another in life and at work. The perfect travel destination for any owner of a gifting business!
I hope hearing a bit about my Eat, Pray, Love adventure (or should I say Eat, Pray, Gift?) has inspired you to get out of your comfort zone if that's been a challenge for you. Whether it be your first time traveling solo or trying a new creative pursuit or taking a risk and changing jobs, don’t wait. Just do it. And if you need some extra words of encouragement, drop me a note here. Always love to hear from you!