Traveling Internationally With Video Equipment
Helping Christian nonprofits communicate their stories visually takes us to many places around the world. In fact, we often travel away from our home base in Birmingham, Alabama, about five months out of every year. Traveling with professional video equipment really has become a valuable skill set and even art form. It takes years of domestic and international trips to begin to streamline the process, but you can never get too comfortable. Every time you think you have the system figured out, something unpredictable happens.
I’ll never forget our first real travel adventure back in 2012. It was my first trip to Africa, and I was going to Liberia. In my research beforehand, I learned their national language is English, so “no problem,” I thought. Little did I know the trouble that would happen before taking even one step on the plane. See, to go to Liberia from the US, a person needs to send his or her passport to the embassy to receive a visa. I did this, but included the wrong style photos of myself as part of the application. After a series of back-and-forth’s, I finally sent everything they needed, with a week left until the trip. I still had time to spare, except once it became apparent that UPS had misplaced my passport in its route back to me. By the time they located it, the scheduled delivery date was that of my departure date for Liberia. Having a morning flight and an afternoon delivery, I was in trouble. I went to the local distribution center the evening before and asked them to hold my passport before it went out on the truck. The next morning I planned to stop again by the distribution center as soon as they opened on my way to the airport, praying the whole time my passport didn’t end up on the delivery truck. I showed up at 8am and, miraculously, my passport was there. I proceeded to the airport just in time to make my 10am flight for Africa.
I’ve applied for visas and had my passport stamped numerous times since then, but again, you can never get too comfortable. Soon we are headed back to Liberia as well as a country in East Africa for different video projects. We applied for our Liberian visa and had it approved with flying colors and time to spare. What caught us unexpectedly was the visa process for the East African country. We applied well in advance, answering the questions in the application as best we could. After more than two weeks and our trip approaching, we finally got in touch with the embassy only to find out they felt we needed to apply for a different type of visa, which required additional funds. We were in the middle of shoots across New England at the time, but managed to get the additional money to them for the visa to be approved. But it makes you think, if we had never persisted in calling them, would they have simply continued to hold on to our passports without telling us we needed to pay more? Regardless, traveling will always keep you on your toes, and it always requires you to lean in on God’s sovereign plan, while realizing your responsibility for action to get things done.
Adventures don’t stop with visa applications. Traveling with airlines is always a scary variable. Weather and maintenance delays, canceled flights, lost baggage, checking our camera equipment and charging crazy amounts, we’ve experienced it all. And we’ve learned over the course of time ways to navigate all the different scenarios. Still, the adventures don’t stop with the airlines. Then you have to make it through customs and making sure the required permits for the particular country are obtained for filming. I’ve learned lessons here the hard way, being detained for five hours and having my drone confiscated and never returned, among other stories. But in every adventure, God teaches us how we can better tell His stories through ministries around the world, without compromising on quality just because we are working on a shoestring budget or in a third world country. No matter the challenges, we find great joy in what we do and trust God to continue to pave our way overseas.