What you need to know:
- While I have travelled internationally before, this is my first time out of Africa!
- I will be in Sweden where I will be speaking on a panel about how media organizations measure their journalism's impact.
As you can tell from the headline, this week’s Daisy’s World comes to you from off the shores of the mother continent!
I am away for a work trip, attending the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in the second largest city in Sweden, Gothenburg. I will also speak on a panel about how media organizations measure their journalism's impact. My initial plan was to only write about all the great things I have learned on this trip, but thinking fast, I decided it was a good idea to start from the beginning.
So, this column will be a pre-travel journal of sorts – one, to give you a glimpse of what getting ready for international work travel looks like, and two, to share tips to make your preparation easier.
Start thinking about your travel documents immediately after you get the invite
When I received my invitation letter, I was excited! While I have travelled internationally before, this is my first time out of Africa! So now imagine the number of WhatsApp messages I wrote to my close friends and sisters starting with “Hebu Guess Whaaaaat!” followed by a litany of emojis.
For about three days, I was floating in excitement – of finally traveling out of the continent, until my boss reminded me to write to HR to request a visa letter. Besides confirming that I am an employee at my organisation, the letter confirmed that I am cleared to travel.
Just my luck, I got all the required documents in good time, and as soon as my head settled down, I actually applied for the visa.
Check your country carefully, especially if you are traveling to countries that are sometimes ‘handled’ as blocks. Take Sweden for example – it is part of the Schengen territory, made up of 27 countries, including Belgium, Norway, Finland, and The Netherlands. Once I figured out the specific section to book my appointment, I was set. I got a next-day appointment, at the visa centre.
The wait time at the centre was short – less than 20 minutes. A nice and kind gentleman attended to me, guiding me through what I needed to do, and the additional documents I needed before my application could progress. Most of this information is available on the website. I needed to provide my travel itinerary (a document showing my travel dates and time and the hotel where I will be staying), an invitation letter from the host conference, as well as the organization that was inviting me. I also handed in a copy of my press card and the visa letter from my employer. I did not have travel insurance but that was easy to resolve. I called a human resource person in my organization, who facilitated my insurance cover letter and I was able to complete the process in one day. The cost of the visa was Sh12,670, a centre fee of Sh4,600 and a delivery fee (delivering the passport to me after the visa sticker was affixed) was Sh350. I spent a total 0f Sh17,670 on the visa. I also spent an additional Sh500 on passport photos – I completely missed the instruction to carry recent passport photos to the visa centre.
With the application process done, I was issued a tracking number which I used to monitor the progress of my visa.
I received my visa six days later (the wait time on the website says a visa is usually ready within 15 days).
Additional information and your contact persons
Once the plans were set in motion, I had to do a couple of virtual calls with the event coordinators, to understand what I would be doing on the panel and additional logistical information. Since my travel notice was short, everything was time-sensitive – whether this meant getting in touch with their travel agent to give my passport details and preferred travel times, speaking to HR in my office for the support I needed, signing contract forms, and sending them back, etc. Although the event is happening in Sweden, the organisation that invited me is based in the US, with a time difference of about seven hours. To ensure I did not delay passing or receiving critical information, I had to regularly check my emails after work hours, to make sure I responded to everything that needed my attention regarding the trip.
PRO TIP: Pray about everything.
Next week, I will walk you through the trip, a bit about the conference, and what surprised me most about Sweden. Stay tuned.
The writer is the Research & Impact Editor, NMG, [email protected]