During our marriage, my ex-husband always took charge of the travel plans (and hosting our dinner parties. The man was a natural.) I just had to rock up with my passport and bag. Now that I’m single, the travel plans are my remit and I’m planning my first holiday.

And it’s a doozy. I’m not just dipping a toe in and testing the waters gently.

In June, I’m travelling in Europe with my mum (who lives in Perth) and my aunty (who lives in New York). We’re meeting at a train station in the Spanish capital of Madrid and travelling to Valencia, followed by Sitges just outside Barcelona, and then up to San Sebastian.

I can’t wait but … the planning has been a big learning curve. I’m booking the big infrastructure stuff like flights, accommodation and train tickets (if you’ve ever trained in Spain you’ll know there’s lots of types of trains!) I’m learning lots of new skills, researching quirky little coffee shops, bars, restaurants and galleries. I want to go where the locals go rather than join the hordes of tourists, although I think everyone says that these days. Hopefully there are some hidden treasures which are still hidden.

There’s talk of the need to see the little villages out of Valencia, which means driving. Rather than my aunty and mum tackle Spanish roads I’ve put my hand up to take the wheel.

That will be a first, driving on the wrong side of the (narrow, unfamiliar) road. So I guess there are lots of firsts and lots of learning going on to ensure a smooth, enjoyable trip where we can all Play and really immerse ourselves in the adventure rather than worrying about what could go wrong.

While all the planning has been about taking time away from work, it keeps reminding me of things I apply or discover in business.

As small biz owners and solopreneurs, we’re always learning and doing lots of things for the first time. We’re constantly co-ordinating logistics and undertaking research and decision making that will impact results. We need to be brave and take risks—like trusting that three women can find each other in a strange, giant overseas train station and that of course I can be trusted with the lives of my beautiful family on European roads.

I’ve identified seven other lessons from planning travel that can be applied to business:

1. Attention to detail. The logistics side of planning a holiday means double and triple checking, a skill that every business owner needs to master.

2. Time management: all our flights and activities have been booked to make the most of our available time. Every biz owner should be great at finding time then using it wisely for best results.

3. Flexibility. Travel plans can often be derailed by flight cancellations or delays, so I’m having to be flexible and adaptable (and realistic) in my planning. The same thing’s important in business when dealing with unexpected changes or upheavals.

4. Budgeting. I’m an old hand at this thanks to mum’s lessons when I was a teenager so this has been easier than the idea of the Spanish driving, but it’s reminded me as always of how important it is to manage expenses effectively in business operations.

5. Communication. I’ve been coordinating things not just with mum and my aunty but with travel providers including hotels and airlines. I’m hoping effective, clear communication will mean things run smoothly, just as they do in business when you make clear your expectations, needs and wants.

6. The importance of self-care and personal growth. The point of all my planning is to take a break to relax, recharge and reflect on the experiences so I can hopefully gain an even deeper understanding of my life and the world. I want it to be fulfilling, joyful and playful.
That’s what business should be about—finding how to turn the hard work and results into something that truly fills your cup (even while it’s driving you nuts sometimes.)

7. The value of research and preparation. Before heading to the airport, I’m researching our destination and the local customs and cultures, and identifying potential risks or challenges. I want to have an understanding of Spain before I arrive. The business parallels are clear: researching competitors, your own customers, advances in technology and changes in your market gives you an advantage. And sharp critical thinking skills and the ability to assess risks in different situations are vital for biz success.

The one thing I still need to do is think about what to pack. The shoes always confound me. Sandals? Sneakers? Both? No heels of course. I have a friend who took hand luggage for a six-week European trip—travel goals. Any and all tips gratefully accepted.