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March 28, 2016

By Lindy Chen, RAPP Dallas

There are plenty of benefits to taking a vacation and yet in 2015, 56% of Americans said that they had not taken a vacation in the last 12 months.

I am not one of those Americans.

I not only adore traveling and exploring the world, I find it absolutely crucial to my work as a planner.

When I climbed four kilometers to reach the top of Mount Inari, I got the adrenaline rush and thrill that adventure junkies (like my clients) seek.

When I volunteered in a Shanghai inner city, helping destitute mothers, I felt a real understanding of a root cause of an issue, that my nonprofit client was battling.

When I watched a World Cup game with locals in Barcelona, I experienced the passion they feel towards the sport, and how my clients’ consumers genuinely, unapologetically think and behave. Yes, I knew soccer fans were intense fanatics but being hoisted on the shoulders of strangers cheering and running through the streets allowed me a deeper level of understanding that was not just known but felt.

Real empathy.

Real empathy is not learned through reading – but through experiencing, doing and witnessing first hand. Every bit of knowledge gained in all my travels, including the few listed, has been used to create better work for my clients.

To those that agree with my notions but argue that not everyone has the means to go globetrotting, I offer a solution.

No, not the obvious “connected world enabled by technology and the Internet” solution… although it is a solution and we are lucky to tap into many parts of the world far away from the comfort of our homes for almost no charge.

I offer this; get out and experience what’s right in your city. Thankfully, our great nation continues to grow in diversity – and that is reflected in just about every town. Explore unchartered territory in your city; experience a “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant foreign to you, shop in an entirely new business, chat with a friendly stranger or even people watch.

I challenge you to get out to explore the unfamiliar. Wherever that may be! And in doing so, acquire real empathy that accelerates your life and work.

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