Travel as a Lesson in Field Expediency

Posted on Feb 3, 2015 in Adventures, Work | No Comments

This is a photo of a map that we used to navigate public transportation in Milan, Italy. 

One of my favorite parts of traveling is the necessity of just having to figure things out. My wife and I most often opt for trips that aren’t 100% spelled out, but have multiple major destinations and room for unplanned exploration along the way.

Here are a few fun things we faced while traveling last year:

  • Language barriers, both in speech and signage
  • Unreliable transportation schedules and routes
  • Out-of-date maps and GPS (especially in South America)
  • Limited voice and text plans for a single phone
  • Limited access to wireless (especially in South America)
  • Limited time between arrival at and departure from different stations/stops/etc.
  • Miscalculated distances
  • Wrong directions
  • Inability to use credit cards and no access to cash (especially in South America)

In the picture above, you can see one solution: take pictures or screenshots of maps that you can reference later on your phone. (This is especially useful when GPS and/or a map app will suck precious battery life away.)

My dad calls the act dealing with those limitations (and others) well “field expediency.” Here’s one of the better definitions of field expediency I could find:

The art of getting the job done despite the limitations.

A few months ago I wrote about dealing with crises in your business1:

Over the last year I’ve learned by experience that crisis is a crucible for those who would be leaders. Problems can arise from any part of your business unexpectedly (even if you’ve crossed every “t” and dotted every “i”).

I’ve found that an inclination towards the unknown—towards solving unexpected problems with limited resources—can be just as fun and challenging when growing a business as it is when I travel. In each context there’s inherent risk and potential material cost. Facing such challenges is simultaneously scary and invigorating, which is part of what drives people with an entrepreneurial spirit.

This is a picture of a map we used to navigate the streets of Zürich, Switzerland. 


1. You can read my post called Crisis Separates Leaders here.

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