16,400 Reasons To Travel the World and Speak (ft. Satish Shenoy, my dad)

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This blog post is a little bit different from the others I have written in the past. Instead of being organized like a short article, this post is an interview! Today in this interview, I (Snigdha Shenoy) will be interviewing an avid runner, adventurous speaker, and amazing father, Satish Shenoy (who just happens to be my dad!). The topic of the interview is “Traveling and Speaking”. Here is our interview:

Snigdha: Okay, so first of all, what do you think about traveling and speaking as two separate activities? Have you always enjoyed traveling? What about speaking?

Satish:  Let’s start with travel…I have always LOVED traveling from a young age! As a young boy growing up in India, we didn’t travel often since we couldn’t afford it. But when a road trip was planned, I would stay up all night since I was so excited to go on that road trip the next morning.  To compensate for my lack of frequent travel, as a young man, I read books, watched movies on some amazing places around the world and enjoyed being regaled by the stories from my cousins and friends who lived abroad and visited us. When I was 24 years old, I left India and since then, I traveled extensively to over 50 countries and have enjoyed every bit of travel. 

On the topic of speaking… I was a painfully shy individual and an introvert growing up and avoided speaking in public. In Indian schools at the time, public speaking was a skill that was rarely developed. In fact, if you spoke up when not asked, it was not seen positively by the teacher who was trying to keep control of the class. The turning point in my speaking journey came when I arrived in the US. One of the first jobs that I got to support myself when I pursued my Masters degree at Michigan State University was that of a teaching assistant. I had to go in front of about 60 students every week to teach a class on Computers. That was my introduction to public speaking!

Snigdha: Interesting. What do you think about traveling and speaking as a combined activity? How does learning how to communicate well help you while traveling?

Satish: I absolutely love traveling and speaking! Admittedly I never saw the two activities together until I came across a program called “Club Ambassador” within Toastmasters. When I was first exposed to this program, I was so excited because I saw the possibilities.  With this program, you visit a Toastmasters club as a guest anywhere you travel in the world – And you have this wonderful opportunity to speak (if you want to), connect with people, make new friends and share your views and learn from theirs. When you do this often, you learn to interact with people from different cultures, perhaps views and experiences that may be different than your own in a safe and familiar setting(Toastmasters). I believe this helps you to communicate better when you are in unfamiliar settings (as you travel) with people that may have a different view than your views – this is such a valuable skill to have in life! 

Snigdha: I have heard you speak about being a Club Ambassador and this explanation you just gave is really helpful. When I first approached you on doing this interview, we brainstormed on the title until we came up with one we liked. Do you want to tell our readers why we chose this title and what’s behind the 16,400 reasons?

Satish: As you already know, I am a big fan of the  “Club Ambassador” program within Toastmasters. And speaking at Toastmasters Clubs is such a great way to speak informally when you travel, while not having to prepare extensively and keeping it still FUN!.  And guess how many Toastmasters clubs there are around the world? 16,800 and counting! Now you know! 😉

Snigdha: Can you think of a time where knowing how to speak well changed your travel experience?

Satish: There are so many examples, but let me give you an example that is off the top of my head. Back in 2018, when I traveled to Africa for the first time, I was excited but anxious since Africa is such a mysterious continent. Also, the city where I landed, Johannesburg in South Africa, is not known to be among the safest cities in the world. I had notified the local Toastmasters club there that I wanted to visit them. When I showed up, they were so warm and welcoming and were such gracious hosts. After a very enjoyable meeting where I served as an evaluator, one of the members even offered to take me around for a couple of hours and show off the city. How cool is that?! A new place, new friend, a new experience!!

Snigdha: How about a time when traveling changed how you saw or did things?

Satish: Growing up, I used to find it hard to deal with uncertainty or even fear of the unknown.  But as I traveled more and more, I learned to be “go with the flow”, ready to adapt to the unknowns I would invariably face during my travels. A car that broke down, a flight that was late, something new that I ate or drank, someone new that I met… I feel each of these experiences broadened my perspective and made me who I am today. 

Snigdha: How did that travel experience impact your speaking?

Satish: One of the best things about travel is the stories you collect as a result of it. And when you speak in public, you now have your own “story file” (a collection of interesting stories). 

When that car broke down was there something interesting that happened? Remember you had to walk 10 miles to the nearest village to find an alternate means of transportation? And you had to walk through a cemetery to get there? 

What about the time when you ate snails for the first time in your life and it was named  “TGV”…. after the fastest train in France! 🙂 

Snigdha: What are the advantages to possessing the knowledge you acquire from traveling and speaking and how do they apply to other areas of your life?

Satish: Travel leaves you with such enjoyable memories (mostly) and makes you adaptable and flexible. Speaking about those experiences help you build your storytelling skills. The ability to tell stories can be a very powerful thing to leverage in various areas of your life, including social settings, convincing people of an idea or selling a product, or even fundraising for your new startup.  

Snigdha: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a better speaker?

Satish: When you speak, imagine you are having a conversation, like you are telling a story to a dear friend. And remember your speech is never about you, it is about serving the audience! 

When you speak, think about how it will help the audience and how you made them feel. As a wise person once said, “People don’t remember what you said, they remember how you made them feel!”

Snigdha: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to travel the world?

Satish: To someone who wants to travel the world, let me quote the famous Steve Jobs “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”. The curiosity to learn, to explore, to experience! 

Snigdha:  If you could go back in time and talk to yourself from the time you first started really speaking, what would you tell yourself?

Satish: I would tell my younger self, “What took you so long? I wish you would have started both travel and public speaking when you were younger!” 

Snigdha: What would you tell your younger self about traveling? 

Satish: I would like to share one of my favorite quote that aptly summarizes what I would say…

“20 Years from Now… 
You will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do
Than by the things you did do… 
So throw off those bowlines
Sail away from the safe harbor
Catch the trade winds in your sails
Explore, Dream, Discover!!”

Snigdha: What do you wish more people knew about traveling and speaking, respectively or as a combined activity?

Satish: That it can be so much fun!  And it has so many unintended positive “side effects” – such as  sharing experiences and connecting with like-minded folks, making new friends, being more informed, feeling inspired, and inspiring others!! 

Snigdha: Thank you for your time! It’s so nice of you to take your time to do this for everyone. This will help so many people!

Satish: My pleasure. I enjoyed it very much! 

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