Touring the World Through an Entrepreneurs’ Eyes
A few years ago I travelled with two of my “mentees” (entrepreneurs who I had been mentoring) to Moscow and Chiang Mai (Thailand). Before the trip these two friends had not travelled abroad much if at all, whereas I have been to 41 countries. We had a great time, learned a lot, and one of the two fellows is still in Singapore, working in social entrepreneurship and working on starting his first enterprise.
Our deal was that if they paid my travel expenses, I would walk these places with them and we’d see the place through my eyes – those of a deeply curious entrepreneurial thinker (hopefully this is no hyperbole).
My students know that I always promote “getting out of the house.” Whether it’s visiting the “wrong” side of the tracks in your city, the town nearby that everyone ignores, or crossing the world to see exotic places, it is so important to understand the bigger world around us. More important than ever, in this big, globalized world.
Towards that end, I want to start leading very small group tours to interesting places. Consider this an "on-the-road" class in entrepreneurial thinking. I need you to let me know of your interest, and of course your candidates for places to go.
Tops on my list is Mexico City, which is (in my not-so-humble opinion) the most underestimated city on earth. I went there in January of 2011, my 4th visit, and was blown away. One of the world’s great museum cities, and full of urban life. 400,000 street sellers! Great food. I felt very safe there. And it’s a bargain! Other Mexican cities including Queretaro, Guadalajara, and Oaxaca are also among my favorites.
New York City is also a great city for provoking entrepreneurial thinking – but a lot more expensive. Any big city works (and some medium sized cities). Pittsburgh, for example, would be a great town to study business history, including pioneers of finance, technology, and marketing (Mellon, Westinghouse, Heinz, and more). Detroit is also an amazing ride through the history of technology and business. Dayton is unequalled as a center of invention. Florence (Italy) combines commerce with art.
I also want to go to some cities for the first time (like I did with my mentees in Moscow), as this becomes a heightened experience for all of us. Tops on that list include Merida (Mexico), Panama City, Bogota, Santiago (Chile), Lima, Aleppo (Syria), Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Seoul. (There are no major US cities which I have not visited.)
Tours, Number of People, Costs
Each trip would be customized to the group’s needs and desires, but a typical trip would look like this:
Arrive in the destination on Thursday or Friday evening. Fly out on Sunday evening or sometime Monday. Ideally, for example, we’d fly to Mexico City Thursday night, and fly home Monday evening, allowing 4 full days for exploration.
We’d agree in advance on where to stay, single rooms. I am a “moderate” traveler but can move upscale if requested. I have plenty of experience in travel planning, picking hotels, etc. We’d have pre-trip and post-trip in-person discussions (or email for more distant participants). Also reading lists and recommended books and maps.
On the trip, we’d walk the streets, visit stores, museums, historic sites, but above all else watch people and think about this society and how it differs from our own. Think about its future and its past. We’d perpetually be looking for new ideas, entrepreneurial opportunities, human needs. We’d tend to spend about 2/3 of our time together, with some free time for you to roam on your own or go to additional stores, museums, and sites. We would mix up our dining experiences, from diners and local joints to occasional top end restaurants.
Here’s the kicker – in order to really see the world without drawing attention to our group, I think these need to be very small groups. Including me, no more than 5 people, and probably not that big. (Drawing attention is not about our security; it’s about how I can’t really take a big group through a department store or farmer’s market and comment on it without drawing the manager’s attention.) Maybe later I will do bigger groups, but that’s a different type of trip.
The economics are that I would figure up all the costs and recommend flights in advance. Your total cost would also include your share of my travel cost, plus your share of my fee. I will try to keep this fee as low as possible. For Mexico City, it would be $1000-1500 (split among the group). To make it easy, I might set it at a flat figure, like $400, per person. (I need to charge something to help justify the time I spend planning the trip, leading the group, taking time away from teaching, etc.)
In the Mexico City example, right now I estimate the cost of a four day trip in the late summer or autumn of 2011, Thursday through Monday, including hotels, roundtrip airfare from Austin, meals, taxis and ground transportation, museum and site admissions, and my expenses and fees, to be about $1700 per person. Closer to $2000 if we trade up to a ritzier hotel. This figure goes up and down, largely dependent on airfares. If we went down over Labor Day weekend, we could add yet another day. The hotels are cheap; the main cost is the airfare, so it’s great to stay as long as possible.
New York would cost quite a bit more. Some cities would require we rent a car – I am always more than happy to drive and show you the town.
Of course I would provide a lot of information and thoughts prior to planning any of these trips. I can talk to you right now and fill your head with reasons to go to Mexico City.
All I can guarantee you is that you will come back from such a trip full of ideas and lust for life and for travel!
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your interest in and/or ideas for trips. My bags are always packed for the next adventure.