What it’s like being a reporter on assignment

Hanging Rock, VIC (Photo credit: Hannah James)

Going on assignment has always been, in my fairly limited experience, an odd mixture of exciting, terrifying, infuriating and boring. But mainly, quite honestly, exhausting.

For a woman who spends most of her time sitting at a desk working on a computer (or – whisper it in case my physio hears – slumped on the sofa, working on a computer), simply walking or driving around all day is tiring enough. Combine that with the early starts most photographers require to capture that dawn light, repeated jolts of adrenaline born of interviewing people and trying to get great quotes out of them, followed by despair if you didn’t and exultation if you did, and flying or driving for long periods of time, and the result is always bone-deep fatigue.

The best bit is briefly, involuntarily turning into a lark. I’m a night owl who loves staying up late and hates getting up at any time, let alone before 6am, but those early starts mean early nights, and sometimes that resets my harried nervous system and results in my collapsing into bed at 8.30pm for nine hours of deep, restful slumber.

Although serendipity by definition never comes when summoned, we were fortunate…

This time I was in country Victoria reporting a story for Australian Geographic, and a short flight followed by a short drive to Mount Macedon was a pretty friendly way to kick off the trip (the same can’t be said for my late arrival at the airport in Sydney, which was occasioned by nothing more than my own idiocy in thinking that I could just drop off luggage at 8.30am on a Monday and breeze on to a 9am flight. I could not).

Slightly sweaty with panic but safely on the flight, I began to realise how little prep work I’d done for this trip. I’d just finished a three-month stint as the features director for two magazines at once, and had barely had time to breathe, let alone pore over maps and academic papers, so I felt a little on the back foot. That can be scary – there are no second chances on a reporting trip; once it’s over, it’s over – but this time, it meant the photographer and I were open to serendipity, with no fixed idea in mind of what we wanted. And although serendipity by definition never comes when summoned, we were fortunate. Chance roadside chats turned into video interviews, a 6pm beer in a country pub turned into a road trip with a knowledgeable local, and an aimless drive with an hour to kill turned into a beautiful photo.

I’m being vague because the story’s not out yet, but suffice to say the trip went well.

What happens on reporting trips that don’t go well? I’ll never tell…

RELATED: Another Australian Geographic reporting trip, this time to Carnarvon Gorge. (And that’s me in the white hat hiking around it!)

An incredible AusGeo trip to a remote Queensland national park on my birthday!

A trip to terrific Tulum

And to equally terrific Tasmania.