As Communications Manager for the Confederation of Professional Golf I have been very lucky to visit a good number of our member countries for various events, tournaments and more.
A recent example was spending 10 days or so in Bulgaria at Pravets Golf & Spa Resort just outside Sofia. During that period we hosted around 50 people for various reasons tied into our education operations and I was lucky to spend much of the time interviewing these people and generating content.
During this trip and others before it I’ve picked up a few tips for travelling in a communications context that I think could easily help others heading to foreign climes:
Never be afraid to ask a question – when I first visited countries outside of my ‘comfort zone’ (Britain), I always held back when I needed to find something out. I assumed people wouldn’t speak English and even if they did they wouldn’t want to help. Well it turns out, oddly enough, that they’re just like you and me. There are always people out there willing to help.
Asking questions also has other advantages – a whole world of culture and idiosyncrasies opens up to you and you often find out some enlightening things. This is especially important in what we do at the Confederation of Professional Golf – you would be amazed at what you can find out when you ask the right questions and listen properly.
Learn Your Ps & Qs (phrases)
One of my only regrets is not having paid more attention in language lessons at school. Admittedly I am in an interesting position where we have 36 member countries that speak approximately 39 languages so it is more relevant to me than perhaps others, but I really wish I had at least one fluent second language. It is amazing to visit other countries and be able to speak to them in English and communicate effectively, but it would be better if the visitor could adapt to the host rather than the other way around [although something that can help is Google Translate’s amazing app that instantly translates printed text in 27 languages].
Because of this my advice is to try and learn just a couple of phrases and words that could help during the trip. Easier said than done of course but it is genuinely worth it. And don’t be afraid to test out your phrases when you are there. Again I’ve often hid away from using some snippets of languages I do know, but a) how will you get better if you don’t practice, and b) the natives don’t mind if it’s a little wrong…at least you are trying!
Always having documents to hand is great – I love to travel using Apple’s Passbook functions on the iPhone, but I always have backups somewhere in my hand luggage. And then I tend to have digital backups available offline in the app Evernote.
Then there’s your kit – more or less every time I travel for work I will have a bag of camera gear, computer bits and pieces and a mass of cables with me. The key here is to make sure your gear is secure and safe, easily accessible (especially for the times when you get a tear-down from security) and in its place. Amongst other things I use a ‘Cocoon GRID-IT!®’ – this is a great organisation system that uses elastic straps to hold anything and everything together so you can get to it easily and also keep a variety of items in one place.
Backup! Backup! Backup!
The last tip (for now anyway) is to backup. That’s it. Simple. Always, always, always back your files up before you go anywhere. I have various hard drives and memory cards with me when I go away but I always have another back at home with a very recent backup ready to go if I ever need it. I haven’t needed it yet, but you never know…