I am heading back into the field for research this summer, and I find myself getting a little anxious about it. In some ways, my research will take me to familiar "territory," in that I know people like the ones I will meet and interview. And yet, I am traveling to unfamiliar places where I will have to use a map to get around, stay in strange hotels, and spend a good deal of time alone. None of these are my favorite things...
It takes me back to my dissertation research, which was also a field project in a very unfamiliar setting. I was uncomfortable a lot of the time. I kept wanting to spend time with my friends, go home, or just NOT do the interviews. Sometimes I got physically ill before an interview. The interviews were never bad, just a little anxiety producing. And I am an extrovert! But there was something about being out of my element that just made the whole experience extremely difficult.
It did get easier in the next project. I did the interviews locally; no interview required an overnight stay in a strange town. I also did a number of interviews over the phone, which was great. I sat in my office and looked out my window while I listened to the participants' stories. (Once I actually got up and made a sandwich while an especially verbose interviewee waxed on and on... not great interviewing practice, but better than screaming!) And I probably benefited from the dissertation experience, which made me a little more comfortable in my own skin.
I think about those sociologists and anthropologists who spend years in a different culture, and I am amazed. I would have to travel in teams, or I would bring my family and friends with me to field sites. But the gf has a big job, and we can't afford for both of us to take these trips.
The good news this time is that the trips are going to be short--only a week at each setting--and only a few trips this summer. I am cramming in as many interviews as I can while still being lucid (lucidity being an important component of interview-based research!)... And I get to play with a new laptop and digital voice recorder, so that will be fun. You gotta love funded research. (I've never been funded before, so buying stuff and traveling on someone else's dime is a blast!)
I'll certainly be blogging from the field, so you can all see how the trips go... And perhaps you can make me feel a little less lonely.