okI think this is trip number 13 or 14 to China and it still amazes me that such a transition takes place over such a short period of time. Despite the added hassles of international travel over past 5 years, I have to admit, it’s a pretty easy get.
I was in the office this morning, my wife, Patsy, dropped me off at the Minneapolis airport at 11:30 am and I was off to Tokyo at 1 pm. One and a half Ambiens, a light meal with a glass of wine, a little reading, 5 hours of sleep and I wake up on the other side of the world – Tokyo, specifically. Regardless of how often I do this, I’ll always consider it a special privilege, an important aspect of my life. There really is nothing like travel to a far-away land to remind me that so much of what design’s about is discovery and so much of that happens when you’re on the move, outside your comfort zone, where virtually everything is different.
The fear and trepidation for a trip like this always comes in the planning stage, not in the execution. There are so many reasons to pass when these opportunities present themselves – too much other work, all the uncertainties that come with travel, family obligations and the sheer comfort of staying close to home. Thinking about what could go wrong, during the trip, in my absence, what I might miss, are deterrents that I’ve learned to cast aside.
I think taking what I do, what I’m confident in and comfortable with and throwing it completely out of context, laying it open to scrutiny from a completely different cultural vantage point is at once quite scary and at the same time, very reassuring. It’s certainly a powerful learning experience and learning is at the foundation of design. The global truths are the most powerful ones, a fact that is lost on way too many people today. If design thinking that comes from living and working in the good old USA can be meaningful to young people in Beijing and Shanghai, we might just be on to something bigger than impressing our peers.
I only wish I could somehow transport this experience. It’s been so valuable to me as a designer to make this trip these past 6 years, I want to do everything I can to bring back the learning and encourage others to do similar things. I guess that’s what I’ll try to accomplish, as much as possible, in these posts – sharing “the wealth” of learning and of seeing what design looks and feels like on the other side of the earth.
Next stop, Beijing.