Not only does travel expand your thinking, but it can also be an unparalleled source of creativity: just ask Instagram’s founder Kevin Systrom, whose breakthrough for his famous app came while strolling along a beach in Baja California, Mexico. So where do entrepreneurs travelling in Asia go to get their own doses of inspiration? We caught up with four of them to find out.
As the costs of U.S. dental care spiraled upwards in recent years, Paul McTaggart did what most Americans do: grinned and bore it. But when his father and new bride found themselves unable to afford proper care, it became personal.
Following his travels in Mexico, Hungary and Thailand, Paul founded Dental Departures, an online company that matches qualified global dental providers with patients. He was particularly attracted to the city of Bangkok, where he now resides, due to its combination of world-class hospitals and dental clinics with affordable transportation and technology infrastructure.
Living abroad has changed Paul: “I see myself now as a global entrepreneur: taking my education and upbringing, combining it with my technology experience in the U.S. and applying it to build a dynamic startup in the fertile soils of Asia.”
But life in bustling Bangkok isn’t just about work: in his free time, Paul enjoys taking his two daughters for a ride on the Klong Saen Saep Express, the ferry system that offers 18 kilometers of great views from the Old City on the western end to the modern Mall Bangkapi at the eastern terminus.
After stints as a PR consultant for the Marriott Hotel Group, sub-editor of the Vietnam News, and correspondent for Time Out Magazine, Australian Linda Ruck moved on to Singapore, where she established a boutique PR business. Ten years on, Linda Ruck Communications handles a select portfolio of clients in the Asia Pacific Region, from the Body Shop and Christian Dior, to Outbound China and the World Wildlife Federation.
When asked to choose one place that inspired her, however, she unhesitatingly chooses Sri Lanka. Even beyond her visits to the Ceylon Tea plantation or to Bundala National Park, Linda finds inspiration in the strength of the people.
“Once, when walking through a town recently destroyed by the tsunami, I came across two men sitting on the front of a flattened house. They were sharing a book and sitting there quietly reading; it was humbling and has left a lasting impression on me. Sri Lankans are a resilient people that have stuck together in the face of tremendous adversity,” she says.
Globetrotting Natalie Sisson, author of the bestselling book The Suitcase Entrepreneur, has dragon-boated across the English Channel, cycled 6,000 kilometers across Africa from Nairobi to Cape Town, and participated in Beach Ultimate Championships in Brazil and Spain. She did all of this while running a successful mobile business centered around her blog (she has been named an “outstanding female blogger” by Nike) and personal brand building.
Of the more than 70 countries she has visited, however, her epiphany was spurred by Laos’ Mekong River, in riverside paradises such as Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng.
“It made me appreciate that when people strive for more money and more possessions, working harder and harder to supposedly find happiness, that they're in fact missing the point completely,” she says. “Life is about the simple things—about enjoying nature, being present, and living fully each day.”
In 2012, Karan Anaja co-founded Portea Medical, a company designed to provide home health and outpatient care in India. After a rapid expansion, the company was acquired the following year and Karan stayed on as part of the core management team, focusing on partnerships, new business development and international expansion. India, it would appear, is in his heart: “You can basically see all of humanity in one square block,” he notes.
“The barriers people face, from poverty to space to infrastructure, fuels a resilience and ingenuity that is really unique and inspiring. I think it's both the need and the freedom for that creativity that brings entrepreneurs to India.” Of the nation’s multiple jewels, Karan prefers its financial and creative center, Mumbai. “Whether it’s in the arts or in business, Mumbai is where people come to explore their passions, where traditional Indian ‘culture’ meets a new breed of ideas and shows openness to change,” he says.