I have had some amazing opportunities as an actor, and recently I had another one. I landed a lead part in a music video and the locations they were shooting were: Hamilton, Hong Kong and Morocco. Yes, within four days of finding out I landed the job, I was on a plane to Hong Kong. This is the life of the actor; we are the last factor decided on when it comes to most projects and therefore when we are hired, it’s immediately.

Ten days in two countries I had never even dreamed of going to and essentially, I was traveling alone. The crew was small: a director, videographer, and producer, all from Denmark. When we landed in each city, they had to secure their crew, go location scouting, cast background actors, and buy props. So each city, I had two days on my own to explore. I am not one to do things on my own, sure, on stage, with or without a script, I’ll be fine. But throw me into a country I’ve never been to, speaking languages I’ve never even tried before, is the definition of my heart pounding moment.

I teach improv because I see time and time again how people go from pure fear to enjoyment to confidence. The power of stepping outside your comfort zone and failing a little, and succeeding a lot, makes you brave and it shows. I woke up the first day and spent a good hour Googling “gardens.” I judged the distance from the hotel and with those stage-fright butterflies, I stepped into the busy street of Hong Kong and I…improvised! I relied on stopping people to ask where the bus stop was. I met one person who said the subway was way more efficient and then met someone in the subway that showed me how to read the subway lines and how to use the transit card. Within one trip I felt like an expert. The streets are unbelievably confusing in Hong Kong; I got lost every time I ventured out, but the subway system was incredibly efficient and the pre-paid pass is not calculated by trip but by distance. It can also be used at vending machines, and after my last trip, I returned the card and received my unused money back…brilliant!

I was told, a woman walking around alone in Hong Kong, is safer than walking around in New York (which I love doing) and it was so true. I met many solo people, many of them women, traveling alone, and loving it.

If Hong Kong streets were confusing, then the streets in the city of Fez could only be called chaos. Fez is the oldest-largest city in the world. It was built over a thousand years ago and has never changed; it was like stepping back into Biblical times, every turn a photograph, every face felt from a movie. Both countries were in the middle of their heat waves and stepping out of air-conditioning was like stepping into a steam room. So uncomfortable, but we put our heads down and worked, and when I say worked, I mean WORKED. Let’s recap, I’m a lead in a music video, my character: a woman on roller skates. Okay, sounds cool, but… I don’t roller skate! So, now you have a novice, skating over the bridges of the fishing village of Tai O, and the cobble stone streets of Morocco. Getting lifted up by crew members who didn’t speak English, getting into a harness and raised up in front of a green screen under a burning sun. Every muscle was in agony and all I could think was, “I can do this!”

Watching the crew work, the producer deal with disasters and putting out fires, the reaction of the locals, it was amazing to the say the least. It was an experience of a life time and it all started with an audition notice and a shrug with the thought, “Why not try? When am I ever going to those countries?” and then fast forward to a moment with a big inhale, stepping out of the first hotel.

“I got this” is my motto in improv and certainly is becoming my off-stage mantra too.

The ten days are a dream now, but that same feeling I get from improv is coursing through me. I’m itching for another trip and the fear of flying solo is just an excited anticipation. Stepping outside your comfort zone and knowing you can do it. Yet another improv lesson in life.

About the Author

Stephanie Herrera is a comedian, writer, producer, teacher, singer, actor, mother of 4, and shallow philosopher. She runs the Durham Improv & Acting Studio in Oshawa, Canada, is a professor at Durham and Fleming Colleges, and is an award winning performer. 
www.durhamimprov.com / www.stephanieherrera.com / info@durhamimprov.com / (647) 899-3342 
Durham Improv Group and Business pages can be found on Facebook and follow @durhamimprov & @antimommy