Getting ready for the field is not just about preparing for the big hardships, with vaccinations and security briefings, but also being prepared for the small, day-to-day hardships. The everyday things we take for granted while we are at home can be seriously missed when we find ourselves living in less than luxurious field conditions, but there are a few tricks you can use to prepare yourself for life in the field that will help make it a bit easier to adapt.
Expanding Your Diet
Some people are happy to eat anything, but for others, the adjustment to field cuisine can be more difficult. Sometimes, you have to cope with repetitive dishes and a very restricted diet, while in other situations you might need to be open to a variety of local foods that you are not used to eating. Being flexible in your tastes is a big advantage, so if you are vegetarian or have any other special dietary requirements, life in the field might be a little more difficult for you. Even so, it can help if you try to adapt your taste buds to new flavors before you enter the field, particularly if you can find a restaurant that serves food from the area where you will be working. Once you are in the field, taking the chance to try new foods and flavors can make life more interesting, although you must always be careful about food hygiene.
Building Up Your Fitness
Fieldwork is hard, and it helps to have a good level of basic fitness, even if your job is not one that seems particularly physically demanding. Simply coping with a different climate can be a challenge if you are not adequately prepared, and you never know when you may be asked to help out with another task. You don’t have to be an athlete to cope with fieldwork, but it will help if you are a fit and active person, so you might want to work some time at the gym or running laps at the local park in your pre-travel schedule. Your body will thank you for it when you end up having to move those heavy boxes that got delivered to the wrong part of the building, or trying to push your vehicle out of a rut.
Smoking is not just bad for your health, it is also an annoying habit to feed when you are living in a remote environment. If you smoke, it can be a good idea to give it up before you find yourself in a stressful situation that becomes worse because you are suffering withdrawal pangs for your cigarettes. It is not always possible to buy cigarettes in the field, and even if they are available, the only option might be a local brand that is even worse for your health than your usual cigarettes. Giving up smoking before you throw yourself into a new and difficult situation is a sensible choice, so consider seeking out some advice and aids to help you quit before you are forced to by circumstances. Quitting smoking can be hard, but having the deadline of your departure date in mind can provide you with the motivation you need to give it up once and for all.
Planning Your Downtime
Improving your language skills or getting to know the local area and culture can be an interesting way to unwind, but it is also a good idea to have some form of distraction that will allow you to relax completely, without taxing your brain at all, no matter where you are. Playing a sport can be a good way to keep fit and have fun, and it is usually simple enough to find a few people to kick around a soccer ball with, although space and equipment may be limited. Reading, doing puzzles or crosswords and playing card games can also be good distractions, particularly if you are in a posting where there is little opportunity for social interaction. The trick is to find something simple that you enjoy doing and which doesn’t require much in the way of power, equipment, or even company.
Getting Ready For Long-Distance
Finding ways that you can maintain your relationships with friends and family while you are away can be important for everyone involved, so make use of whatever means are available to communicate, whether you are in a field office with a good enough internet connection to talk by Skype, or forced to return to more old fashioned methods and rely on letter writing and an infrequent mail delivery. One particularly useful trick is to make sure you pick out birthday cards and gifts before you go, and leave them in the care of someone who can pass them on to the recipient while you are away, so that your loved one knows you are thinking about them even though you can’t be there.