13 lessons from 22,000 miles of adventure

On February 13th 2017, we stepped off Argentinian soil and boarded our plane to Cape Town. This was to be where we would spend our last few weeks meeting social entrepreneurs and investors before returning to the UK. After eight months on the road, the MacroAdventure journey was at its end.

Having now travelled across 22,000 miles over eight months, and having met and interviewed over 75 incredible entrepreneurs, we’ve collected almost as many lessons about life and entrepreneurship as the number of miles we’ve travelled. We’re hoping to hold onto as many of these ‘Macro-isms’ as we can as we transition to life back in the UK.

Last week Virgin Unite shared part one of the MacroAdventure blog: Now we’ve finished, it’s time to get started

Here is part two of the 13 lessons from the MacroAdventure journey:

7. Keep an open mind - Open yourself up to new points of view, differences in opinion, new smells and new surroundings. We were initially distraught after the pound crashed post-Brexit and smashed our budget for the year, but saving money by spending more time camping provided some of our most treasured moments. Allow yourself to adapt - we found it made us the richer for it.

Virgin Unite, MacroAdventure, Entrepreneurship

8. Stay Healthy - There’s no point in doing any of this if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy it. It’s not always easy, but Jo and I made a conscious effort to try and maintain a healthy diet whenever possible. We could also be found running through parks, doing sit ups in our room, and skipping on tiny roof terraces across the Americas. We found that a good blast of exercise at least a couple of times a week helped clear our minds of accumulated clutter, and bring focus back into our mission. For long-term motivation and energy, staying fit and healthy was one of the most important aspects and a vital stress-reliever!

9. Chose consciously how you spend your time - Whilst it is great to have a mission, life shouldn’t be all hard work. For us, this journey was all about balance. We would work hard for a few days and then play hard for a few. The last eight months have been a huge gift to us both.

One of the hardest things was deciding how we each wanted to use this time we were giving to ourselves. It is very rare in life that we give ourselves time, and when we have it it can be quite daunting deciding how best to use it. Ask yourself where you will get the most value. It can be hard to push back against the voices around you telling you that you always have to be productive, but we made a conscious effort to do things which life in London hadn't allowed us the time to do - to read, to spend time with each other and new friends, and to spend time in nature, exploring mountain hikes in Canada and getting pummelled by steep waves surfing in Nicaragua.

Virgin Unite, MacroAdventure, Entrepreneurship

10. Have fun - Just remember to enjoy life. Having a break, an adventure and a laugh is good for the soul, and good for you. Make time to enjoy the things and people you love.

11. Passion - is one of the most effective motivators. We consciously chose to uproot our lives and dedicate time to finding what it is in life and business that feeds us. It was a big challenge for us to make the leap but we are also conscious that many people don’t have the luxury of choosing. Make an effort to find something you’re passionate about and if you’re lucky enough to have found it, do everything you can to nurture it. Passion is a powerful force that will help you share your vision with enthusiasm and endure the challenges you’ll inevitably face as an entrepreneur and as a person. We are so lucky that we had the ability to do this and will always be grateful that we did.

12. When it comes to society and the environment, it’s everybody’s business - We’ve met so many people on our journey and had so many discussions about business as a force for good, the environment, education, energy and politics. Every one of these issues affects us all, some now, some in the future - but we are all stakeholders in this planet and the society that surrounds us.

We have built an incredible network of game-changers and are now putting all our energy into developing plans to continue building this community 

We’ve seen so many ways people are creating businesses that do good, from people like Francisco Torrealba and Juan Andres Camus who are completely reshaping Chile’s energy landscape with Valhalla, to Pato Bichara who is making Harvard-quality education accessible in Mexico with Collective Academy. We’ve met incredible entrepreneurs who are helping to build communities in Buenos Aires like Lisa Besserman with SUBA at Area Tres, and those who are bringing clean drinking water to people in need like Philip Wilson with EcoFiltro. If you want to make a difference, there have never been more ways you can do it. You don’t even have to start a business for good, you just have to vote for them by buying their products. 

13. The biggest lesson we’ve learnt is how much knowledge is out there to be shared. If we can raise awareness, expand the circle of influence, and bring these people together we can catalyse the growth of world-changing ideas. So, where to from here?

Since we’ve been in Cape Town we’ve become acutely aware of the huge social and environmental challenges this region is facing. The vast chasm of social inequality is immediately evident as you drive past the townships and through the streets of the CBD. We were also stunned to learn that the city is rapidly running out of water. With its reservoirs at 20 per cent Cape Town only has about 100 days of water remaining. But there are also huge and unique opportunities here, particularly for social entrepreneurs. We were lucky to continue the MacroAdventure project while we were here by meeting some passionate, hardworking people who are using business to help solve some of these huge problems.  

We met entrepreneurs like Debbie Harris from Arumloo whose innovative toilet design is well-timed to help Cape Town tackle its serious water shortage problem. Further still, Arumloo could help save lives in the townships where women and children currently risk becoming victims of violent abuse when they leave their home in the middle of the night to use one of the hundreds of communal loos. We spent time discussing the huge need that exists in South Africa for problem-solving businesses like this when when we met Max Pichulik. Max believes passionately in the power of business to solve some of Africa’s greatest challenges, and with his accelerator Impact Amplifier is catalysing the growth of social entrepreneurship.

Virgin Unite, MacroAdventure, Entrepreneurship

We also met with Dave Hutchison from Sexy Socks, which is not only helping normal folks drastically up their sock game, but is taking the cross-subsidisation model one step further. For every pair of socks they sell, they give another pair of school socks to a child in need. Not content to just put socks on feet, they are now using their platform in schools to promote social enterprise in Africa, and inspire young people that they can make a difference and empower them to work towards improving their communities. Truly powerful and inspiring stuff!

We have been blown away by the greatness of people we’ve met and the stories we’ve been lucky enough to share. We have built an incredible network of game-changers and are now putting all our energy into developing plans to continue building this community with MacroAdventure Phase Two. We’re excited to see where this journey takes us next and welcome ideas and inspiration - do get in touch with us if you’d like to chat about collaboration.

We have been so lucky to have been surrounded by a wonderful community of partners on our journey. To Virgin Unite, CleanSpace, UpEffect, WakaWaka and all those who believed in our dream and supported us, we are enormously grateful. In the last nine months, we’ve summited the peak we set out to climb almost a year ago, and, as we stare out at the vista, can see a whole new collection of adventures stretching out in front of us. It’s beautiful and we’ve earned the view, but we know crossing this next collection of peaks will bring a whole new set of challenges. Luckily we now know how to climb. 

- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.