Backpacker's Guide to Entrepreneurship
A few years ago when my mother announced her retirement I thought it was the perfect time to also announce that I would be retiring from my dream job on the paradise of Bermuda! Needless to say she was not excited nor was she encouraged when I told her that I had saved no money for the two year trip and would depend on my violin skills she had invested so much money in while I was a kid to finance the trip. A few days before Christmas however she gave me her blessing with the caution that she didn't have enough funds for my ransom if I was kidnapped. When the news came early the next year that I would be offered a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston to study Music For Social Change you could imagine her ”support” but my dream to travel the world while busking was far from extinguished. After graduation I would later learn that that adventure realized would become the fuel and fire I needed to embrace my new life as an entrepreneur.
When the last scholarship check dried up……
When the last scholarship check dried up and graduation was a few days behind me I had the honor of joining a contingent of 50 musicians traveling to Poland on a mission to bless the people of that country with free concerts and relationship building conversations around truth, origin, purpose, and destiny. When the tour ended, I parted ways with my colleagues armed with a violin, a suitcase, and a dream: Get from Berlin to London in 3 weeks….with NO money. The journey was one of my most memorable “trips of a lifetime” and shortly after my return I realized that I had learned some life changing lessons in entrepreneurship. Here are 4 of those lessons I learned while backpacking through Europe on a Zero Budget!
#1 DARE TO FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness -Thomas Jefferson
The words of Thomas Jefferson still ring true however we aren't often told that the pursuit of happiness can be both frightening and risky. Comfort, the status-quo, and well laid out back up plans are among the many competing voices that will keep you from becoming an Entrepreneur. The only way that I was going to embark on my zero-budget Euro-trip was by not giving myself any other options. When the trip to Poland was planned it was understood that everyone would fly out of Berlin together when it was over but I asked if I could be flown out of London…...3 weeks later. The only catch was, I had no money! So, having a risky, life changing trip through Europe was my only choice and getting to London was the only way I would ever see my family again. We are often capable of our best work and can get the most out of life when we follow our dreams, my travels showed me that sometimes you have to first take that leap of faith!
#2 TAKE A LEAP OF FAITH…….well….sort of
We've been led to believe that taking a leap of faith can only be accomplished in the dark. When beginning my 3 week journey I had a foundation of confidence in my trip because I've been traveling since childhood and had many previous trips to Europe. One could say that I had done my market research and was aware of the pitfalls and the array of options. Knowing that I could understand directions in any language just by watching a person’s hand gestures made crossing borders easier (i.e. left, left, straight, right, right) Traveling gives you so many opportunities to push through perceived boundaries and embrace and move beyond failure. These are the experiences that inform our leap. As entrepreneurs we must realize that faith isn't always blind; risky moves can certainly be informed!
#3 YOU DON'T NEED A LOT OF MONEY
My first few “trips of a lifetime” were experienced through the lens of a steady well-paying job. We often believe that our options to either travel or start a business are limited by funds. The grass is always greener on the other side of financial instability. On my adventure I quickly learned that not only did I not need a lot of money but I didn't need a lot of stuff. It is often through our handicaps that we have a chance to become creative. Backpacking opened up my horizon to a myriad of really cool options such as couchsurfing, a community of over a million generous internationals willing to share a space at their home for free and I also learned about the world of street performing as a way to make income on the road. Being in need can connect us to each other in meaningful and imaginative ways more valuable than money while at the same time leading us to the very resources we thought only money could provide.
Being in need can connect us to each other in meaningful and imaginative ways more valuable than money while leading us to the very resources we thought only money could provide.
#4 BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Traveling is more about meaningful relationships than monuments. On my first solo trip through Europe I discovered a vast community from around the world who were on similar pilgrimages. Whether it was over a meal, trapped on a train in the mountains of Spain, or on a field at a Reggae Music festival in the Alps the brief or lengthy interactions with other travelers can be the spring board for the most exhilarating parts of ones journey. We can often complete our enjoyment of an experience when we share our stories. It is often through the sharing of our story that we can make the deepest connections with others, grow our community of stakeholders, and get a new level of clarity on a situation. In the same way, building relationships will not only grow your entrepreneurial venture but can become a highway for inspiration, the source of timely industry secrets, and act as a sounding board to help you see your project through clearer eyes.
When I returned to Boston I was fired up to chase my dream of starting an inner city youth orchestra with a mission to transform lives. I was willing to not only immerse myself in strategy and research but also knew that my leap of faith would be informed by years of risk taking and doing the very thing I was hoping to do: teach music. Without any funds I was able to build a community of supporters who, inspired by our mission, provided instruments, space, and numerous volunteer hours of teaching. It has been rewarding to create a platform that has allowed so many young people a chance to find their way into the American Dream. The next time you travel or start a new venture I hope you’ll be encouraged to dive in…..knowing you don’t need a lot of money, you’re not alone, and taking that leap of faith may begin the greatest adventure of your life.
David France is the author of Bestselling book Show Up: Unlocking the Power of Relational Networking, he is a Speaker, violinist, string pedagogy clinician, and Founder and Executive Director of Revolution of Hope, a music for social change initiative transforming inner city lives through the arts. He believes that joy in this life is maximized when you Give your life Away. You can also follow him on twitter