Doing “useful” things to save the planet has been a constant motivation of mine. So, I consciously chose to pursue a career in the tourism industry and partially have a foot in academia. With this approach, I held academic positions in numerous universities. I worked as a consultant in eco and sustainable tourism with various companies and destinations internationally, and this pursuit connected me to amazing people and projects. In 2010, I was the sustainability manager of the Zero Emission Race, which made me the first person to be allowed to blog on UNEP’s website, as I accompanied electric vehicles on an 80-day journey with electric vehicles around the world.
Visiting unique sustainability projects across the planet inspired me to pursue my dream to establish a tourism company based on sustainability principles. The idea led to a successful small family enterprise and created the first 100% electric tour bus operated on renewable energy. It also won numerous prizes and received five-star customer ratings and the 2015 UNWTO Innovation in Enterprise Award. Sadly though, it is not possible to always do everything at once, and for many personal and health reasons, our operations had to cease despite’s the business’s apparent success. Now, I am on a mission to achieve satisfaction by doing less professionally and seeking a balanced life with my family, including three young children. Although exciting and mostly satisfying, it is also a demanding enterprise to pursue. I never knew how hard it is to juggle things that are all high priority.
We live in an era where we are constantly reminded that we can achieve anything that we aspire to, and our thoughts are the only limits. Although I agree wholeheartedly with this, I learned a few lessons, which may help others avoid some of the mistakes I made trying to do many things at once on a part-time basis.
If you want success, don’t do everything at once. It is better to focus either on academic work or tourism industry involvement or vice versa. I have gone down the road of attempting the 50-50 approach in the pursuit of wanting to do well in to achieve a good balance, but the result has been mixed (in my view). It is tough to stay relevant and credible in academia with a shorter publication list than would be expected from the years past due to working part-time. This is also why my company suffered too, simply because I did not fully commit my efforts there either. Unless you have a lot of financial resources and much support, it is a lot tougher to pursue academia and your own tourism business at the same time than people would admit to. Even if you start a business out of passion (as I did), in the end, success requires 100% ++ commitment, and part-time engagement is just not enough.
If you go down the academic path, focus your research as much as possible. If I look at my publications and professional reports, it seems that I have contributed to a lot of meaningful projects. But taking opportunities to be involved with worthwhile projects meant limited time for academia. In the end, your credibility in academia remains mostly your publication list. When you apply for grants, an attractive CV with industry contributions is rarely valued appropriately for all the work they represent.
Pursue your interests with love and don’t let fear derail your path. There will always be people who will tell you that your project or idea is not good enough for whatever reason. Just listen to yourself and take as much wisdom from people worth listening to as possible. Often it is not what you know, but who you know that helps. Spend your time around people that give you positive energy and not those who take yours away. Everything happens one step at a time anyway, and you may as well keep pursuing your own goals and dreams.
Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Switzerland