One of the great perks of being a development journalist is the travel; the new people and cultures you encounter, breath-taking landscapes, gorgeous hotel rooms that make you wish you are on vacation and off-road drives that remind you to appreciate any pothole-ridden tarmac road.
This is not about the negative side of travelling for work but the attitudes to carry and that can assist you work as well as have fun.
Cultural sensitivity – Research or talk to a native about behaviours that would offend the “hosts”. It is important to know their preferred language – is it English or Swahili?; do they like to shake hands?; during meals, do they eat with their hands or use cutlery? When you find yourself in unfamiliar situation, ask politely what is expected of you.
A smile – Wear it whenever and wherever you can. A smile softens your appearance and this will help when getting information or taking a photo or video. Wear the smile when introducing yourself, shaking hands and during the interview even when behind the camera.
Unwavering will to work – be focused on the job at hand. Forget the night life. Forget the late night chit-chat. The following morning you have to work to do. Unless, you can manage working sleep deprived or with hangover. However, there will be always be that nagging rhetoric question; “If I had slept my usual hours, would I have done a better story than this?”
Openness – Be ready to step out of your comfort zone, while still wearing a smile. You might discover something new about yourself, write or shoot. Be open to explore new foods and different way of doing things.
Understand, don’t judge – you are in a new place and chances of encountering situations that make you want to shout “STOP IT!” are expected. You will be judging people’s behaviours according to your moral standards and worldview. Take a breath, calm down and excuse yourself to leave, if you cannot stomach it.
Don’t not be afraid to travel. You might just rediscover and reinvent yourself. And who does like working in a new environment.
(Painting by Self Portrait as Allegory of Painting (La Pittura) – Artemisia Gentileschi 1638-39)