20 Business Lessons Learned While Riding Across Africa

Posted on /by Natalie Sisson/ in Business Travel / 8 comments
Kids smiling

I’m writing from Lusaka, capital of Zambia on our rest day. I’ve just come off a five day stint on the bike, clocking up huge kilometers, including two days of over 170km! I feel I’ve pushed myself through, and over, some big mental and physical barriers.

As I mentioned in my last post This Is Africa, this trip is certainly an all consuming adventure. I’ve had to create daily systems to ensure I can reach our destination with the right supplies for my bike and body to get through a day of climbing, rolling hills, and varying weather.

I’ve lost weight, I’ve gained muscles and I have been exhausted on more than one occasion. But I’ve found myself becoming a better cyclist, using a more efficient pedal stroke and gearing ratio to get me up the hills. I’ve paced myself against far better riders to see how long I can stick with them on the fast days. All of this is making me see improvements that are making this tour across Africa more enjoyable every day – but still challenging!

In every single way it reminds me of running a business. You have days when everything feels like a grind and others when you’re on fire and your wheels are spinning effortlessly. So I took a moment to reflect on the business lessons I’ve learned while cycling through the depths of Africa. Enjoy.

20 Business Lessons Learned From A Bicycle Seat

1. Always expect the unexpected – it will make you prepared for anything
2. Stop pushing shit uphill – instead find the right gear to ensure you make it to the top
3. Understand you’re a stranger in someone’s world until you bring them into your journey’s purpose
4. Always treat everyone with respect and remember a smile and introduction goes a long way

A smile and introduction goes a long way

5. Learn the language of your customers and speak it to them for maximum interaction
6. Don’t forget to take in the scenery on your road to the top and remember the defining moments
7. Find your own winning peloton to pull you along when the going gets toughFind your own winning peloton to pull you along

8. Working as a team is twice as much fun and half the effort when you get the right formation
9. Rain, sun, wind or shine, you will ride on and you will reach your destination – never give in
10. Sometimes you do have to experience the pain and doubt in order to really climb the highest mountains and succeed
11. Sunrises are worth savouring so get up early more often and make the most of your day

Sunrises are worth savouring

12. Less is more so only pack what you really feel is necessary on your business journey
13. Constantly work on being more effective and changing your strategies to see what works best
14. Sometimes taking the uncharted path leads to surprises and delights you may have never know otherwise
15. Cherish the hard work you put in on the steep hill climbs and enjoy the downhills that always follow
16. When you think you can’t possibly go on, know that you have an abundance in reserve

Know that you have an abundance in reserve

17. Don’t get too big for your boots. Respect the rules of the road and know your limits
18. Accidents and crashes happen and they’re a sign you’re pushing too hard so take it easy
19. Always look after yourself by fuelling your body and mind daily so you can continue to be in your best shape to take on the world
20. Life takes unexpected turns – sometimes for the best and sometimes to test your endurance, stamina and determination – lean into those turns with all you have.

I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to all who have donated to the Ride of My Life and made donations – especially since my birthday – less $500 to go to reach the $10,000 fundraising goal for Women Win!


  • Natalie,

    This post is right on. I have learned so much about running my business when I push my body biking, hiking, doing jiu jitsu and farming.

    And here’s the thing – your biking discoveries are perhaps the biggest thing you can get out of biking for your business – the chance to think and reflect.

    Hence, I consider my bike one of my most important business tools. I’ve written about this here as well as 8 ways you can make your bike rides work better for your business:


    Great post – what a trip!

  • Great tips that can be applied to life in general, let alone business. Thank you for sharing your great adventure with us, Natalie.

  • Natalie, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and lessons from your journey. Getting away from the daily grind of business opens your mind to bigger possibilities, as well as the places where you need a bit (or ton) of refinement. I find it interesting how all the experiences that push us the most are the ones where we always learn the most about every part of life. Keep up the great work! You can do it! Shannon

  • Hi Natalie,

    Experience is always more valuable when you do something with it…sharing it with others contributes to inspiring us in our daily struggles!! Thank you for sharing:)

    I could not help but chuckle as I read some of your tips, traveling across South America, I have come across some of them:)
    On a walking tour in Valparaiso, Chile, the tour guide showed us the oldest (100 years old) funicular elevator. He said something that I have carried with me. “You need to be very flexible when you are in Valparaiso, this elevator is opened 5 days a week, but, never on the same days.” Hmmm, I thought, so true when facing daily challenges! The more flexible we are, the more possibilities of learning new things!

  • Reading this post just validated my belief that you can’t learn entrepreneurship by taking an MBA in a top tier uni but by setting up a business (and traveling by way of Africa :)) Business is a hands on affair.

  • These are some great lessons. As an International Business student, I especially appreciate number 5 because I think many people have accepted that English is the universal language for business. I think that even if you can’t speak a language fluently, trying to use some phrases in your business partners language really shows you care. I look forward to applying these lessons both to the business world and life itself.

  • What a wonderful, creative post Natalie. A pleasure to read and lots of great gems in there. Very cleverly done! Off to take a look at the fundraising bar and see where you are at now…a little bird tells me you have passed $10k!!!

  • These are great tips. I really like #12. This is a great tip in life and in business.
    You really are an inspiration.
    How many people are travelling in your group…..looks like a trip of a lifetime.

Pin It on Pinterest