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A little over 5 years ago now I shocked myself (and everyone that knows me) by booking my first-ever solo trip. It wasn’t the “solo” part that was shocking (I bask in my alone time)—it was that my flight left in a mere 5 days.
Long story short, I was going through a Ross and Rachel-style “break” (with my present-day partner 😜) while simultaneously leaving my very first big girl 9-to-5 job to start a new one. While wallowing in my sorrows and stress, my younger brother Jacob casually suggested I use my week off between jobs to go somewhere cool. Honestly, I think he figured I might take him with me. But the next thing any of us knew, I was on Google Flights finding the cheapest flight to Europe. Apparently in 5 days, I was leaving for Copenhagen.
(In hindsight: Copenhagen might’ve been the cheapest place to FLY to, but once I got there I couldn’t find a coffee for less than $7).
Fast forward 5+ years and I’ve taken 8 solo trips seeing more than 10 new cities and places. And while I’m very much tempted to just make this a travel blog, I’m here to say that traveling solo has taught me so much about entrepreneurship and running a small business.
Here are 3 lessons I’ve learned:
1. Solo travel has taught me to get comfortable being uncomfortable — which is a regular state of mind while running Crafted by Carly.
Just boarding the plane on that first solo trip to Copenhagen was uncomfortable. Mentally, yes, but also physically, because for some stupid reason I brought a hiking backpack instead of a suitcase like a normal person.
But each time I land in a foreign country, it’s usually with little-to-no local currency, no cell phone service, and no friends. Navigating to my hostel running on only a few hours of coach economy sleep in and of itself always feels like a triumph.
At Crafted by Carly, I’m regularly pushing myself outside of my comfort zone—whether it’s something small like overcoming my fear to talk to the camera on IG stories, or something bigger like launching my first digital course.
Allowing myself to be uncomfortable on my travels has always ended up being rewarding, because it means I end up seeing new places, meeting new people, and learning something new about the world. Remembering those rewards help me to keep going—whether it’s in travel or in business.
2. Solo travel has taught me to get creative and scrappy — which is so necessary for entrepreneurship.
In November 2018, I was headed to Venice, Italy for a solo trip after visiting a friend in Vienna, Austria. The only issue was that Venice was underwater—which isn’t entirely unusual, except for this time it was the worst it had been in literally decades.
On the flight to Venice, I decided pretty quickly I needed to stop freaking out. Instead, I was determined to get creative and make the most of it. Rather than wading through the floods in Venice, I’d take a 2 hour train to Florence once I landed.
Bonus scrappy points: even though I was excited about Florence, I was still pretty anxious about canceling my itinerary that I had perfectly planned in the months leading up to the trip. So I paid 1 euro to go into the train station’s nasty public bathroom to have a quick cry. Hey, gotta do what ya gotta do.
As a designer running Crafted by Carly, my expertise is in branding and web design. But I’ve gotten creative figuring out allll the other things I need to do to run a successful small business: I create content. I’m my own salesperson. I write a lot of my own copy. I keep my own books. And I know if you’re reading this you can say the same for yourself.
As entrepreneurs, knowing when to get scrappy and take things into our own hands is crucial (and in travel, it makes trips a hell of a lot more fun).
3. Solo travel has reminded me that real life isn’t glamorous. (Shall we start calling it InstaGLAM?).
In March of 2016, I took a solo trip to Berlin and Prague. On the second day of the trip, I got pick-pocketed in a metro station. My entire wallet—every card, a couple hundred dollars in cash, my freakin’ passport—gone.
Let’s talk quickly about the good in this situation.
The hostel staff gave me a free sandwich to eat while I blubbered on the phone to my mom about how upset I was that I lost all the stamps in my passport. (To which she said, can we worry about your cash flow situation first?).
A fellow traveler that I barely knew gave me some cash—no questions asked.
A woman on the metro FOUND MY WALLET, emailed me, and proceeded to hand deliver it to me at my hostel.
And while I might’ve posted a bit on social media about it after the fact, nobody besides me was able to experience everything: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
While I always strive to be transparent in my journey at Crafted by Carly, my content is largely positive (and always well designed 🙃). I share my refined branding concepts, the design tips I’ve learned after much trial and error, and client success stories. But I don’t necessarily share every time I experience creative block, or feel overwhelmed by the workload, or have another less-than-glam experience.
In short, solo travel has taught me a lot about the way I see the world and the way I run my small business. In my pre-COVID travels and my daily tasks running Crafted by Carly, I’ve gotten comfortable in the discomfort, gotten creative and scrappy, and reminded myself constantly that it’s not all glamorous—despite what social media may make us think.
Can you relate? Head over to Instagram and DM me the biggest lesson you’ve learned about running your small business!
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