November 12, 2015
Most of the time when working, we find ourselves in very predictable places: same cubicle, same desk, same office, same cafeteria. At Fast Horse, the flexible “work when you want, from wherever you want” policy allows most of us to vary where we rest our laptops on a day-to-day basis. However, if we’re being truly honest with ourselves, we’re mostly creatures of habit. So while we may not have the painful monotony of the same cubicle every day, we all have our go-to coffee shops, and most of us work at home when not in the office. So even when “varied,” we’re mostly predictable.
Now, on occasion we travel to exotic locales like Atlanta or New York for work, and that’s indeed fun, if not semi-regular. For others, it may be Nashville or Portland, or somewhere maybe we’ve never been — but also not too far off the beaten path. However, sometimes you find your office for the day or week in some place you’d never go yourself, some place far away from the communal coffee-shop table you’d normally be sending emails from.
This happened to me for a project we were working on recently. I was producing a mini-documentary for a client about an employee’s volunteer work. This particular employee was volunteering with an organization that distributes food and aid to impoverished communities around the world. He was accompanying them on one such distribution trip to the Dominican Republic, and we were going to film his experience.
A chance to go to the Dominican Republic for work was something I jumped at initially, but when time came, I was actually sort of salty about. I had been traveling a lot, was stressed out by other projects, and sort of just wanted to chill at home with my cat and not be on the road again. But I went, only a little begrudgingly, and it takes actually getting there to really realize how dumb I was being.
Travel is something that makes you a better person. Being exposed to different people and cultures broadens your horizon, makes you more empathetic and aware of the world at large. What’s overlooked, though, is the different ways we can travel. Living in L.A. is like travel every day. I can go to Little Ethiopia, Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, or Thai Town and get “authentic” cultural experiences there. However, there is no substitute for really getting out of your comfort zone and putting stamps on your passport.
So I found myself in the Dominican Republic with a camera crew, going to rural communities of Haitian immigrants who lived in the middle of the sugarcane fields that they worked. I met some of the warmest, friendliest, most beautiful people I’ve encountered. Children would run up to you and climb all over you, whether you liked it or not. We shared meals, played basketball and were invited into homes. The next day, by chance, I went to the beach before I took off back to the States, and found myself 100 yards away from two supermodels and a film crew shooting for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. All I could think was, “This is a weird life….”
And this was all for work. It was a chance to really encounter something different, to meet people and see things I normally wouldn’t, and push myself outside my comfort zone — like travel tends to do. All, technically, from the comforts of my office for a few days.
It was a reminder that perspective and environment have a huge impact on the work that you do. So maybe it’s going to a new coffee shop or working outside in a park. Maybe it’s surrounding yourself with new coworkers you don’t know quite as well or eating your lunch at the museum. Or just take a trip to that convention in Pittsburgh that sounds really boring. Any change of scenery is good for one’s outlook and good for one’s work.