Hi, my name is Demitra and I am a traveling actor. What does that mean exactly? Well it means that my career in performance has afforded me the ability to travel around the world for work, internships and awards. Through acting I have gotten work all around the world; traveling to places I never thought I’d go and seeing things (sometimes really weird things) that I never knew I even wanted to see.
Currently, I write to you from France on a warm sandy beach in the beautiful Riviera. Well, that’s a lie, currently I write to you from France in my hotel room because sand is bad for my computer, but I wanted to sound poetic! Three days ago, I embarked on a trip to Cannes France to attend a ‘Networking Internship’ with the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. I am one of two people chosen worldwide for this opportunity, a huge honour afforded to me through an internship program with the Creative Mind Group. France will be the 10th country I’ve visited in the last 3 years for my acting career. The roll call goes: New Zealand, Malaysia, Spain, England, Italy, South Korea, Canada, the US, an Australian national tour and now France.
So, in honour of my 10th country, here are 10 pieces of advice for actors, from my experience as a traveling actor.
- Double check EVERYTHING! People make mistakes. And people tasked with organising something as large as a touring show or festival tour definitely make mistakes. Often really, really, dumb ones. Like booking your flights in the wrong month (shout out to my Spain trip) or booking you a hotel in the wrong city because the names sounded familiar (how do Venice and Messina sound similar?). You need to be responsible for yourself and make sure everything – from flights, hotels, venues, personal food requirements and programing – is correct. This includes travel insurance; if the organisers didn’t get you any get some yourself (just do it), if they did print out your policy number. On this France trip alone so far, the airline lost my bag, I dropped my phone in the French Riviera and I missed a connecting flight due to a big accident on the highway.
- Print everything out. Unless you’re visiting an English-speaking country, once you arrive at your destination, surprise (!) not everyone will speak English. Even in places like the airport, the transport office and taxis. Win the award for best traveling actor by printing everything out before you leave; plane tickets, map instructions to hotels from airports, bus instructions, Air BnB itinerary instructions, phone numbers. You don’t know what’s going to happen and having a physical copy on you at least means you have a back-up if something goes wrong. For example, my phone likes to die anytime from 50% battery (well at least it used to, RIP) and Wi-Fi when you’re traveling can be spotty to connect to at the best of times. Remember your Scouts training and ‘Be Prepared’. On that note, if you are in a country that does not use the Roman Alphabet, have someone write down where you are going in the local characters. This was a particular problem for me in Korea. I was kicked out of 4 taxis when going to my film’s screening as the drivers didn’t know how to read English and I was so bad at pronouncing Korean neither of us really knew what to do.
- Buy a universal adapter and do it before you leave. One of most annoying things about world travel is every other country has a different outlet system. I mean, get it together Earth! Your phone is pretty important when traveling, especially if you didn’t listen to point 2, so make sure you can charge it at all times. Battery packs are also highly recommended.
- Turn OFF your phone data and beware the ‘Roaming Data’. Do it as soon as you get on the plane, before you leave your country. I learnt this the hard way when I came home from Malaysia to a $360 phone bill. My Instagram updates were on fleek though.
- Bring business cards. You absolutely never know who you are going to meet or who will come to see your work, and business cards are the quickest and easiest way to connect with someone. I even bring resumes with my headshot to festival events (people don’t really ask for them and I’ve only had to use it once, but that one time was so worth bringing them all the other times.) However, be very careful about bringing resumes or a TONE of business cards (we’re talking like the entire Vista-print/Moo box) into America or England though (I recommend you actually don’t). Especially in America if the border security suspect at all that you may be trying to work in the country they will no sweat send you straight home at your own cost.
- Keep up to date with emails. I know, it’s super annoying to think about when you’re traveling but think how annoying it will be when you get home and have 600 emails to sort through! Also, the world doesn’t stop when you travel. You may miss an opportunity to send through an amazing self-test! With that, for DIY self-tests I always recommend bringing a mini GorillaPod of some sort with you when you travel for quick tests in your hotel room on your phone or camera.
- Research where you’re going. All work and no play makes Demi a very dull girl. Explore the treasures of the country you’re in, expand your mind and learn something new. Trust me, it helps your art and your business conversation more than you think.
- Learn basic phrases in the local language. A little effort and politeness goes a long way! If people can see you are at least trying to connect with them in their local tongue, most people will want to help you. In no particular order, I have found the most important phrases when traveling to be:
- Thank you
- Yes and no (though a nod and a shake does the job, of course)
- Where is the bathroom?
- How much does this cost?
- I’m sorry
- Do you speak English?
- Excuse me
- Which way to___ ?
- I would like to order wine.
- Allow at least an hour and a half between connecting flights. Airports are large and crazy places and border security is no joke these days; you want an hour and a half MINIMUM between your connecting flights, especially if your connection happens in a country where you have to go through border security. When I first traveled to America I was so stressed out about making my connecting flight I must have spooked the border guards or something because they sent me to this little white room for further questioning. Have you ever been questioned by American police? … not a peach of a time. I had done everything right; I had my ESTA visa, all my hotel documents printed out and had booked my return flight before entering the country. Still, turns out they thought I was some sort of Mail Order Bride… from Australia. Instead of believing I was here to snag an award they believed I was here to snag a husband. Couldn’t. Be. More. Wrong. Eventually, they let me go but I missed my connecting flight and they didn’t have a free flight from San Diego to NYC for 10 hours more. A total nightmare. Moral of the story. Don’t stress in an airport.
- Document it! Take pictures, videos, blog if you want. Something to show the Grandkids one day. I am by no means recommending you see the world through your camera lens, but you don’t know if you will ever be back in this country. I never used to document anything (I know, weird for the Instagram Gen) and now I totally regret it. I had amazing times traveling and working with some really kind and cool people; this is a gift acting has given you. Enjoy yourself, eat everything (Bonus advice: Avoid street meat before opening night) and make memories with people to last a lifetime. Also, trust me, not having any pictures to show your mum when you come back will really annoy her.
So, there we have it! 10 pieces of advice from me to you. There are some obvious ones I left out like pack clean underwear or bring a bank card that works in the country or purchase currency of the country before you travel, but that’s my two cents for traveling as a traveling actor!
If you have any questions or want to see pictures of my trip to Cannes or of my past travels as a traveling actor follow my Instagram www.instagram.com/da_seal and connect with me there!