Taking on the International: Reflections on World-Wide Storytelling

We really love when we find a company who is honest about their journey. We get hooked on the challenges, the pitfalls and triumphs. But it’s so easy when putting your story out to the world to to glaze over the parts that feel like they could be confused for weakness. So sometimes the most real and tangible parts of a company’s story go untold. 

And this doesn’t mean we don’t also fall into the same trap. 

In a way we have to practice what we preach, so in order to catch you up with what we’ve been doing and more importantly, where we have been, it also requires being uncomfortably real about it. 

 

To start - our team has covered 13 different international locations for different projects in the last month, the majority of it happening within a two week time frame. Basically, it was a worldwide sprint. When one of the largest projects landed "confirmed" in our email, there was a quiet that descended on the team in the office. It felt a little surreal that this absolutely massive project with locations all over the world was happening. It honestly felt a little intimidating. But, at the same time, so endlessly exciting. Both emotions seemed to compete with each other at once.

There wasn’t much to debate on (quite frankly there wasn’t time). So, in that moment the daunting offer had to be met with, “challenge accepted.”

And that’s how this whole thing began. 

It’s been a busy month quite obviously, but it’s been one packed with a ton of lessons. Here’s what we’ve discovered, and here’s how we’ve grown. 

Lessons learned….

Draw Upon Connections and Collaborate

Call it incredible or slightly creepy but it’s impressive how quickly you can draw up connections in a country you’ve never been to before through your own team, social media or “someone who knows someone who knows someone.” We went from a handful of people around the world to comfortably having a contact or few in each location who could help guide us if we needed it pretty fast.

We also managed to scale quickly and bring new people into the fold domestically as well as internationally to work with us. We loved the new people we got to work with and they were critical to keeping this project going. They are new team members that we absolutely feel we can turn to again if we need them. Looking back on it, that now feels pretty great. We have a world wide web in real life. 

Simplicity is Everything

Having a lot of stuff was not going to fly. Literally. We love to keep things simple in general but with so many locations on the docket we had to boil things down to what was really, truly needed. We ended up with a pretty light but powerful kit that ended up playing out beautifully. It was a healthy re-examination of what we need. It is totally something we suggest all people - no matter how or why you travel - do. Your wallet will thank you. Your back will thank you more. 

Embrace the Unknown

There was no way of knowing how much those Typhoid shots would really help us. There was no way of knowing if that neck pillow from amazon was going to actually help with a good night’s sleep on overnight flights (spoiler - the raving reviews were false). Sometimes you have to step on a plane with your best plan and your best intentions in place and not get mad when they completely shift. Some things that popped up on the road include: having to tactfully avoid Bastille Day traffic in Paris, changing drone flight plans in Australia because of potential attack from Australian birds, and no one accepting what you thought was a five yuan note in China only to find out it was their equivalent to five cents. You get it, things come up.

 Your patience and resilience muscles are strengthened during a quick burst of travel and we are thankful for that. It made us stronger. It made us laugh. And we had some great stories for happy hour. 

Things may seem different - but really people at the core of it are the same. 

The experiences and interactions we've had with individuals along the way are truly reinforcing one of our core values: to focus on the organization and its people.

The context and culture in which a person lives their lives may be different but we are all after the same things in life. A smile goes a long way when shared language is minimal. Kindness is key wherever you are.  Our clients in each location were so welcoming and became incredible partners in the process. Partnering with companies and individuals from different cultures has truly expanded our understanding of the human element in every organization - and how impactful it can be to share that perspective. There was so much that was shared between the people we met that being English speaking natives ended up not being an issue.  Our travels have changed us in some ways but most importantly it reinforced what we love about getting to know a company personally and sharing their stories.  

It’s the best feeling to walk away from this time period and realize that we did it.

The thing that seemed so big and challenging happened - and successfully so. It was a new sense of self and understanding of what we can take on. And we can’t wait to take what we’ve learned and apply it to future shoots. We hope to keep taking on new parts of the world and look forward to sharing more stories soon. 

 

Best, 

humanstory team

 

P.S. If interested, you can check out some more of our travel photos on our Facebook page!