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Roam like George

Liz Guthridge Posted by Liz Guthridge, Managing Director, Connect Consulting Group.

Liz Guthridge is a coach, consultant and facilitator who helps leaders turn their blue-sky ideas into greener-pasture actions. She uses applied neuroscience, behavior design and mindful communications. 


Roam like George

“There’s no need to roam when you call this your home”—

T-shirt with an outline of the state of South Carolina.

No!

Roaming is a vitally important pursuit to our development—both professionally and personally.

Exploring new areas opens your mind to new people, new experiences and different ways of doing things.

As a result, it’s easier for you—and your brain—to make new connections to form new memories, expand your perspective and get new ideas.

If you have any doubts, consider the impact of roaming on the father of our country, George Washington.

The first president visited only one country outside the United States–Barbados–as my husband and I learned last month when we visited the George Washington House museum in Bridgetown, Barbados. (Yes, we were roaming on vacation….)

As a 19-year-old, George Washington accompanied his half-brother Lawrence, who was suffering from tuberculosis, to the British Atlantic island, now part of the West Indies.

After Lawrence found out that Barbados had a reputation for treating lung diseases, he started planning a trip there. Since wife Anne had just given birth to the couple’s fourth child and didn’t want to travel, Lawrence asked his brother to join him.

The two brothers stayed in Barbados for just two months in 1751, yet it was a life-changing experience for the younger Washington, who had been working as a surveyor in Virginia.

While in Barbados, George Washington learned about the growing of sugar cane and other crops, which probably influenced his farming and role as a plantation owner.

He explored the extensive military structures and forts on the island and became interested in the military. When he returned, he changed careers and sought a military commission.

He also became quite ill with smallpox, which had an adverse influence on his immediate health but a positive one on the future of the United States of America, historians maintain.

Because he was exposed to smallpox in Barbados, Washington was immune to any future bouts of the disease. When smallpox spread throughout the colonial army during the Revolutionary War, Washington was spared. Being intimately familiar with the danger and extreme discomfort of the disease, he ordered the men under his command to undergo one of the earliest known inoculations against smallpox.

As my husband and I learned, many Barbadians are quite proud of their small country’s outsized influence on the future “First Father” of the United States of America. After all George Washington became “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Washington’s journey to Barbados took more than six weeks on the Success, a small trading sloop.

By contrast, my husband and I flew to Barbados from Charleston, SC in less than seven hours, including an hour-and-20-minute layover in Miami.

While in Washington’s time, it wasn’t unusual to stay within 200 miles of your birthplace—which was his experience before setting off for Barbados—today many of us love to wander.

Moreover, 264 years after Washington’s journey, we have many more options for exploring the real and virtual world. If we’re provincial in our outlook, it’s more of a personal mindset than a way of life.

That’s why the slogan on the T-shirt caught my attention and bothered me.

As I’m discovering, many US Southerners are proud of their heritage and seem quite content to stay in the region, not only for school and work, but also for vacations.

Yet, staying still and being content with your surroundings and the status quo can lead to fostering a “culture of genius,” which hurts future development. For more about this, check out the blog post, Why you don’t want to be #1.

As a citizen of the United States who happens to live in the South now, I’m so thankful George Washington got to see some of the world.

Bless my heart! Yes, I’m ready to do some more roaming.

What about you? Are you planning any new adventures?