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7 Lessons Learnt on Holiday

7 Lessons from Recent Travels

As some of you know I recently spent a month eating and drinking my way through Europe, whilst making some European connections, speaking at events and mostly soaking in different cultures. Here is my trip on fast forward with some important cultural business lessons.

1. You make your own sunshine

As we drove from Mt Etna through the middle of Sicily, to Cefalu (after being on the road for 3 weeks), I realised quickly that some entertainment was required before my 7 year old in the back could say “are we there yet’, I switched on some music. We all sang happily along to ‘I make my own Sunshine’ You cannot choose or control the weather around you, but you can certainly control how you dress and how you behave. You control your own mood, so remember to reset it.

The theatre in Pollina (Sicily) ,where I'd love to perform one day -with my son, George.
The theatre in Pollina (Sicily) ,where I’d love to perform one day -with my son, George.

2. Embrace vulnerability (often experienced when around different cultures)

I soon got reminded about the lack of curtains in Holland when I walked out of my bathroom to get dressed and looked up to see the beautiful skylight above me, that looked straight down from all the apartments above us in the inner city. The truth is nobody was gawking down at me (or at least not that I saw), but I felt a moment of vulnerability. Be free, step out of your comfort zone. Guess where I got dressed for the remainder of our stay in Amsterdam!

3. Step back and look at the whole picture

It was breathtaking to see over 7 million bulbs and 800 varieties of tulips at Keukenhof.. Even with so many, each was still unique, but stood together to make the best display. Don’t get bored with your everyday mundane tasks. They add up to make an impressive difference in the end goal. Reframe the little things that form part of a whole.

4. Take time to build relationships

In order to stay on top of work and personal life, we normally have a live in aupair. As you can possibly imagine, I like to mix things up and get au-pairs from different countries to expose my son to as many different cultures as I possibly can. I found our next bro-pair in Lille, France and arranged to meet with him and his entire family in Brugges. We took some time to meet his mom, dad and girlfriend and his mom introduced us to the best French cake I’ve ever tasted – Mille feulle. I could see it meant a lot to her to have met us. It must be hard to send your child to the other side of the world to go do an internship with a family you’ve never met. Take time out to build relations. This carries more weight in some cultures that others, but will secure you some goodwill.

Being transported by a local, in a small town where we could not park our car.
Being transported by a local, in a small town where we could not park our car.

5. Give yourself permission to take a break

We spent 5 nights in Brussels, but by now walked about 10km’s a day and tried out a variety of food out of our normal comfort zone. I could feel I was getting tired and my body was crying out for a rest. I hear you ask, did you not say this was a holiday? I push myself like many leaders do and often feel disappointed if I have not squeezed an extra few things into my day. I often stretch well beyond other people’s ‘normal’ to get there, so taking time out is not something that comes naturally to me. I paused and recognised this was a holiday and took a day off. I spent most of it in bed with a book recharging. Frankly I felt so recharged, that I spent the next day tapping away on my laptop and achieved 3 days’ worth of work in one. There is heaps of research that show us, taking a break, increases productivity.

A gorgeous Sushi and Cocktail Bar in Cefalu, run by a Japanese chef and prepared with ingredients fresh from the ocean.
A gorgeous Sushi and Cocktail Bar in Cefalu, run by a Japanese chef and prepared with ingredients fresh from the ocean.

6. Take responsibility

This far I had the languages covered. Dutch – tick, Flemish – tick, German – tick. My Italian on the other hand is barely existing apart from a few crucial holiday phrases as Vino Rosso por favore, grazie mille; and pizza, pasta and Campari Spritz, whilst animatedly gesturing. Most of the time all went well, but as we like to stay away from mainstream touristy places, we sometimes got stuck with the menu and ended up with something completely different than anticpated. There are a variety of ways one could react to this. We quickly decided that some you win and some you learn from. It was a great opportunity to try something you would normally not. Take responsibility for your decisions. We could have easily blamed the waiters or sat there and complained about the food. Don’t tell yourself BED (Blame, Excuses and Denial) stories. Take responsibility, you may just learn something.

7. Take a breath before you react

At the airport on the way back, my son came bouncing towards me eating a lollypop. He enthusiastically shared: “Look mom, a nice man bought me a lollypop.” I quickly moved forward to karate slap the lolly away from him and get more details, when I saw my husband walking towards me smiling as he saw my reaction. I replayed the possible scenarios in my head trying to imagine the real story, but it was only until my husband shared that he did not have the right foreign change left and a lovely father of two behind him offered to pay for it. How easy it is to leap to conclusions, remember to pause and get all the facts.

PS the event in Cologne went well, but I can certainly confirm that you change the way you think and act, the moment you switch to a different language.


I’d like to offer anyone with an existing quote a 20% discount on the services quoted if you book prior to end July 2017.

Mastermind Group

Apologies for the silence on this end, but I had a few medical emergencies in the last few months preventing me from moving ahead with this. I’m excited to say the next group will start in August. I’ll be sending some more information to those who already expressed an interest. If you haven’t yet and would like to join a very global group of people, please feel free to apply via the form on the website, there are still limited spots.

It is a community of professionals in the area of cultural intelligence/cultural training who meet once a month online share a community of practice. If this sounds like you and you are interested in new tips and tricks and getting that push forward, click here.


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