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​Making the Most Out of Travel

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​As I write this, I am on a plane, embarking on another business trip, the first of several over the upcoming weeks. This trip required a very early morning flight, followed by a full day's schedule of meetings. While there can be some downsides to traveling frequently for work — some of which I have written about — there are also great opportunities, particularly when travel is approached with the right attitude.

My first internal audit job was at a global organization and required approximately 90 percent travel. While this may seem like a lot of travel to some, at that time in my life, it was perfect for me. I was right out of graduate school, young, and ready to see the world.

Fortunately for me, this particular job allowed me to do just that. I got to visit countries that I probably wouldn't have otherwise experienced, and I met some amazing people, all while sharpening my internal audit skills.

While these days my travel is much more local, I value the opportunity that comes with each business trip. Some of my favorite things about travel include meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, learning more about myself, and building relationships with the colleagues with whom I am traveling.

As I look back over my internal audit career, I have fond memories of certain internal audit jobs in remote locations, both in the U.S. and globally. There is something about being on a difficult internal audit project that can help you bond with your co-workers very quickly.

Seemingly, the more challenging the client, the longer the hours, the more extended time that it takes to get the information you need, the more the team pulls together to achieve the audit objectives. Moreover, relying on one another helps the team make it through some of the frustrations. While this experience may be amplified during travel, given that the team is spending extended time together — including eating most meals and commuting together — I've also seen this take place over the course of audits in my hometown.

Further, when traveling, there also are more opportunities to take part in team-building activities such as sporting events and seeing the local sights. When I traveled regularly, the audit teams that I was part of looked forward to exploring and experiencing the locale, wherever we happened to be.

Another element that I like about traveling for work is the opportunity to meet new people and learn about new cultures. Every person has a story, and I enjoy learning those stories over the course of a project. Some of the most basic questions can lead to some of the most interesting conversations.

Further, learning about the culture of the place that I am visiting provides me a much more expanded view of the world. Interestingly, I find that learning about other cultures can occur whether I'm halfway around the world or just a few hours away from home.

I've also had the experience to travel to some far-away locations on my own. While this could be nerve-racking for some, I enjoyed it, at least in limited situations. Traveling on my own allowed me to learn a lot about myself. Not having other people around to influence my decisions allowed me to figure out how I wanted to spend my time and what made me thrive. And while I wouldn't want to do this on all of my trips, it was definitely a good experience for me.

Each of these opportunities, whether local or far away, have had a positive impact on my career, ultimately making me a better internal auditor. I realize that not all internal audit jobs require travel, and some of those that do require travel may include only day trips here or there.

That said, I challenge everyone to approach their audits and projects — regardless of the location — with a sense of adventure. Take time to get to know your colleagues as well as those within the organization or function that you are auditing. When faced with a challenging project, think about what you may gain from going through the experience. Further, take time to better know yourself through the project. 

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