10 tips for travelling during Covid

Almost twenty years ago, the horrific events that transpired on September 11, 2001, changed travel forever. In the immediate aftermath, many of us thought that removing belts and shoes, tossing our beverages, and foregoing metal utensils on flights were part of temporary measures.

Now we don’t bat an eyelid at the stringent airport security screening, improved security on aircraft and thorough identification checks that modern-day travel involves. Who even remembers when travel was fun? When you could hang out at the gate until final boarding and say farewell to loved ones or be invited into the cockpit to greet the captain!

After travelling last summer and again this year, I’ve been wondering if Covid has also changed travel forever. Will we always wear masks on an aircraft where recirculated air carries greater risks of spreading a virus? Will we need to be tested before and after each international flight and be armed with vaccine passports? Will we always feel Tense? Exposed? Unsafe?

In June 2020 some of these questions were on my mind as we planned to leave England for Canada. We were in the height of the early Covid wave, living in strict lockdown in London. Flights leaving the country were few and far between. As non-Canadians, landing in Canada required government permission and we nervously awaited the required approvals. It’s hard to look back at that time without remembering the anxiety that permeated the air, enveloping everyone in a permanent cloud of collective panic.

A couple weeks before we were due to travel in July, our flight was cancelled because of Covid restrictions, and the airline wasn’t going to resume flights until September. I had already wrapped up my contract, we had terminated our lease, and most hotels weren’t accepting guests – the one nearby was being used to house the homeless. In other words, we had to leave England. I literally lost hair trying to get another flight booked close to our original date.

On July 20, travel day, we rolled up at Heathrow. Only travelling passengers could enter and the normally bustling airport was a ghost town. At that time airlines weren’t demanding negative Covid tests, just a barrage of questions about symptoms and whether you had travelled in the last 14 days.

All the shops were closed. A single fast-food outlet was open, and the line stretched to eternity especially with social distancing. Everyone wore masks and the few passengers in the departure lounge avoided each other studiously, sitting several seats apart. People avoided looking at each other, possibly in fear of telekinetic viral transmission. Back in 2020 it was anyone’s guess as to how the virus was being transmitted, and I was armed with my own anti-bacterial wipes to clean every surface we had to sit on or touch.

There were mandatory temperature checks before boarding. Business class was reduced to a bare-bones affair and there was minimal interaction with the flight attendants. Without the distraction of a drink and nibbles before take-off, I got busy sanitizing our seat and surroundings.

Masks were mandatory for the duration of the 8-hour flight and a plastic bag with PPE: mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and wipes replaced the typical goodie bag. Hand lotion would have been a welcome addition. Meanwhile, meal service was a single vegetarian option served on a tray with only bottled water as beverage. We were encouraged to eat efficiently and replace our masks as soon as possible.

Upon landing we went through all the screening questions at Pearson. We left the airport and went straight into quarantine for two weeks. Not one of us even put a big toe outside the door. And then, we settled into a year of ‘on and off’ strict lockdown in Ontario. Unfortunately, it was more ‘on’ than ‘off’ which thwarted any plans for holiday travel throughout the year.

It’s no wonder therefore, that I had all but forgotten last year’s experience of travelling during Covid. But as I made plans this June to jet off with the kids and spend a few weeks in the USA, I started realizing just how much travel has changed from the ‘before times’.

There are so many new regulations now that you can’t plan an international trip in two days and jump on a flight. So, if you’re thinking of a getaway sometime during the remaining months of 2021 here are a few tips from my experience of travelling in Covid this summer.

  • Assess your personal comfort level

It’s time to reckon with how you really feel about the safety of travel as new variants emerge. Also, find out how your hosts feel. Will they be ok entertaining indoors when you pop by for a visit? Or is it strictly patios and backyard shindigs? If you aren’t comfortable, reconsider. A tense holiday where you feel anxious isn’t worth the expenditure.

  • Check those travel documents

If your passport is expiring any time soon maybe it’s time to plan a staycation. I waited six months for an appointment to renew my daughter’s US passport in Canada. So, we travelled to the States to apply there but had to wait several weeks for the new one to arrive. Long wait times may be similar in other countries too so check passport expiry dates and renew early.  

  • Research regulations in your destination and for your return!

What are the airline regulations? What’s required for you to land? Do you need proof of vaccines and negative test results? Do you have to download an app and complete registration before checking in for your flight? Will you have to quarantine upon arrival? And for how long? Do you have to pre-book a quarantine location? Pay close attention to the details on this one. If you are in the US – The EU has just announced new regulations for US travellers.

On the flip side – what are the requirements for you to return home? To return to Canada and avoid quarantine we had to show proof that we were fully vaccinated and had negative Covid PCR tests. Plus, we were tested again upon arrival at the airport.

  • Buy airline tickets early

Believe it or not, flights aren’t cheaper right now even though airlines are desperate to recover business. Plan your trip and secure tickets months ahead, if possible. Many airlines are still waiving change fees, so you won’t be out of pocket if plans shift. Otherwise, invest in travel insurance.

  • Book your car rental way in advance

I found out the hard way that there is currently a shortage of rental cars in the US along with exorbitant rates for even the most basic models. Shop around for deals and book early.

  • Plan your activities and make reservations

With reduced capacity because of Covid, reserving tickets with specific entry times is essential for most attractions. To visit Disney, we had to buy our tickets and then reserve the date based on which park was available.  

  • Arrange your Covid Testing

Know what test is required by your destination country. Antigen tests are cheaper but some countries, like Canada, only accept the pricier PCR test. It’s more expensive too if you need test results in under 24 hours.

Booking your test in advance saves you time in lines at busy airports. I did the regular PCR test at Fort Lauderdale airport for $100 per person and got the results within two days. But you also need to time your test carefully – our return flight was delayed due to mechanical failure and the airline scrambled to find a replacement aircraft to get us out of Charlotte and into Toronto before everyone’s Covid tests expired!

  • Carry extra masks

You will go through those things like water and lose a few too. Plus, a fresh mask after a few hours in the airport or on an aircraft is always welcome. With the new variant on the loose you may wish to upgrade to medical grade masks – just a suggestion; I used the non-medical type.

  • Eat

Eat before you leave home for your flight and carry your own snacks. Fewer airport food outlets may be open, and lines are longer with social distancing and new sanitizing measures.

  • Maintain your sense of humour, relax and be grateful!

Overall, travelling during Covid-times is more expensive, less comfortable, and more inconvenient. Despite it all, nothing beats seeing somewhere new and visiting with friends and family. For many of us, being able to travel again is another step towards restoring a sense of normalcy. Planning carefully, taking precautions, and treating fellow passengers with kindness will help you make the most of every moment and enjoy your return to the skies.

And as for when these changes will end? It’s hard to predict.

Until then, safe travels!  

A Teenager’s Take on Moving Countries – Turn your head towards the new things to discover

The Change Diaries Podcast explores how to better embrace change, spark change or simply be the change we want to see.

Moving Your Life is the focus of this new series of the Change Diaries podcast as we explore Changing your location – the ups and downs. Experts say that moving ranks as one of life’s biggest stressors, right up there with death and divorce. In this series I’ll speak with some experts to lead us through the ins and outs of managing a move and I’ll get personal, diving into how a family (my family) has experienced moving, including international relocation.

Kicking off the season is my teenage daughter Lauren. She was born in Florida, spent the first two years of her life in Jamaica before we made the permanent move to the US. Then we headed to London, UK, where she started high school. Now we are in Toronto, Canada. What’s that journey been like? What has she learnt along the way? And what’s her best advice for teens going through a move? Whether you are moving or not, if you have a teen in your life this is a must listen! Tune in and leave a comment after the show. By the way, have you subscribed yet?

Listen to the Episode

Thanks for being with me and joining this second season of the Change Diaries podcast. Please comment below, follow my blog and share with others.  Never miss an episode! Subscribe to get new episodes as they become available.

Catch up on Apple or Spotify if you missed any of the first season, ‘Changing your life – Do you need a life coach?

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

You can also listen on Spotify.

Thank you for being here. I post new content each week.

The Change Diaries Podcast theme music by Ellan Neil

The Change Diaries Podcast cover design by Aris Amitirigala

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.   

Are you getting what you deserve?

Get more by asking for it  

I still remember the day I got the call from the internal recruiter delivering the news. The job was mine! I was pleased as punch. It was a role I wanted at a company I was eager to work for as they had a strong reputation and I had already met the team. But when the recruiter told me the offer over the phone, I was bitterly disappointed. Why was it so low?  The story gets worse – I accepted it.

It was one of my worst salary negotiations. I literally felt cheated. And not by the company but by myself. I later learned they were surprised that I had come on board at that pay. Ugh.

All I can say is that you live, and you learn. I’m glad I made that mistake early enough in my career to recover.

Recently, on The Change Diaries podcast, I chatted with Jenny Ward, a career and transition coach who specializes in supporting women. She wasted no time in highlighting some of the struggles that women face – from not knowing their worth, to not negotiating for better compensation or failing to talk about their accomplishments.

Honestly, I believe this is the result of socialization, and long-standing systems of oppression. Both of which have done a number on us, and I am including myself here. I’ve already shared the mess I made of my early salary negotiations. Later, I also realized I simply didn’t know how to brag about my accomplishments. In fact, I would downplay them.

I recall handling a big change communications project several years ago. Now, if you’ve done this, you know there are several moving parts and a lot to get right with your company’s most senior leaders. Weeks of adrenalin culminated in carefully crafted messaging, along with team calls, and then an all-hands session. My GM was happy and when everyone had left, he gathered up his papers to leave, but not before turning to tell me:

“Arlene, you did a great job. Everything went really well. Thank you.”

Before the last words left his lips, I cut him off.

“No, no it was nothing.”

He literally blew a mini gasket and flung his hands up in frustration.

“Why can’t you just accept a compliment?”

Was that my reputation? Someone who wouldn’t accept a compliment.

It was an aha-moment for me. I felt a little bit sick because he was right. I was always judging myself so harshly that if someone complimented me, I was sure they were wrong. I couldn’t accept the praise because sooner or later they would find me out for the imposter that I was.

I discovered it was a skill I had to develop – learning to accept praise. From then on, I found myself practicing some variation of these words: “I worked hard on that. Thank you for noticing. I appreciate the recognition.”

In Jenny’s experience, I am not unique in this struggle. To support women who tend to shy away from bragging, she recommends having a ‘things I got done list’ every day to remind yourself of your accomplishments. It is critical to know your worth and practice talking about awesome you are.

Coincidentally, I recently came across an article entitled “Savvy Self-promotion”. If this is your challenge, after you listen to Jenny’s episode on The Change Diaries, you might also wish to give it a read. Take it seriously because this is a change worth making in your professional life.

On the matter of getting paid more, Jenny noted that women find it difficult to negotiate a pay increase while men go in with the attitude of ‘give it to me’. Women, she finds, are schooled to be humble while men are comfortable outright asking for it.

An interesting thing happened the week that I taped that show with Jenny. We were having dinner one evening and I made the kids an offer. If they helped me with some work, I’d pay them $50 bucks each. My son, who is twelve, did not miss a beat. He immediately said, “Pay me $70.” I noticed that his sister who is three years older didn’t ask for more.

Credit: Aris Amitirigala, created using Pixar

I waited a day or two before bringing it up with her. Are there any reasons why you think you should earn more than your brother? She pointed out her age, experience, speed, and ability to focus. All great answers yet it hadn’t occurred to her to demand greater compensation.

It was a live example of someone being better qualified yet hesitant to request more. At the end of our conversation, I asked her to repeat this to herself daily for the following week:

I deserve more.

I am convinced that those three words are part of the reason why some people land amazing compensation packages every single time. Yes, they are well-qualified, and certainly they have a great track record but, above all else, they know their worth and they believe they deserve more. This is what makes them ask for it and get it too.

To make this happen for you, I suggest honing your negotiation skills. If you aren’t accustomed to doing this, it takes practice. Perhaps even some rehearsal. Gather your accomplishments, do your research, and then role play with a friend.

Lastly, I highly recommend that you listen to Jenny and all the wonderful coaches featured during my first season of The Change Diaries. They offer great advice for both men and women.

Thank you for stopping by! Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Listen to my new podcast now available on Apple: The Change Diaries Podcast or you can also listen on Spotify.

And don’t forget to follow and share my blog. I post new content each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.   

Bridgerton Serves up 10 Lessons in Internal Communications

I rarely watch TV, so it was somewhat of a surprise to find myself binge-watching Bridgerton, the Netflix megahit from Shonda Rhimes. Frankly, it made a Covid New Year 2021 bearable. What’s there not to love when you have dazzling costumes, an entertaining storyline, and incredible eye-candy in the form of a smoldering, swaggerific Duke?

Speaking of the Duke of Hastings, I’m sure you’ve heard the news that Regé-Jean Page will not appear in ‘Bridgerton’ Season 2. Don’t despair though, there will still be plenty of the drama that made this series a hit. Here is Everything You Need To Know About ‘Bridgerton’ Season 2.

But setting aside the thirst-trap, Bridgerton was a veritable masterclass in Communication, Inclusion and Change. Although each episode made me reflect on these three areas of my expertise, I’m itching to share my observations related to internal communications, particularly what we can learn from Lady Whistledown, the town’s anonymous gossip columnist. Don’t worry about spoilers below…there are hardly any. Really, though, who hasn’t watched Bridgerton yet?

Be Bold

As a masterful content creator, Lady Whistledown reminds us that, ‘she who holds the pen has the power’. Through tapping into high society’s insatiable desire to be in the know, she gains tremendous influence and a faithful readership. She seems quite unperturbed that her efforts also earn her the unwelcome envy of the Queen and a warrant for her arrest. Although it is generally unwise for communicators to draw ire from their most senior stakeholders, it does speak to the need to be bold with your ideas, content, and your approach. Being disruptive occasionally has its merits.

Content is King

Lady Whistledown provides breaking news, connects the dots, and asks provocative questions. The content is entertaining, and she weaves in suspense to leave her readers wanting for more. Your publication must have great content in an engaging style – the stories, the news and features should fill a need for employees to ensure that they keep coming back for more.

Improve your craft – pick up a copy of Everybody Writes by Ann Handley. It definitely lives up to its tagline, ‘your go-to guide to creating ridiculously good content’.

Write for your Reader

In creating her scandal sheet, Lady Whistledown doesn’t pander to the Queen or any of the powerful aristocrats, which is especially surprising when her identity is revealed.

There is a lesson in this: write for your reader – not the approver. Are you sharing what employees need to know versus what management wants to say? Your job isn’t about spinning stories or making leaders look good. Authenticity, transparency, and openness are all essential. Share information with the people who need it to do their jobs and in a way that they can understand it.

Be Relevant

In Regency-era London, aristocratic society thrived on gossip, and Lady Whistledown cleverly fills that gap. Each week she tells her readers:

  • What was happening in the Ton and When
  • Who was involved
  • Why these events were occurring
  • How people were being perceived as a result
  • Where they needed to be – obviously at the latest ball!

Do you have your 5Ws and H covered? What are the most important topics that you need to cover? As we saw last year when the pandemic hit, information needs shifted and there was much more focus on news related to Covid-19, workplace policies, benefits, and health and wellbeing. Ensure that you are keeping pace as needs evolve.

Feature your People

The gossip rag is all about the debutantes and the aspiring suitors and that’s what makes it sell. A winning ingredient for any internal publication is to highlight the people in your business – interesting feature stories or profile pieces. People love stories where they can see themselves. So, hero a team that delivered a breakthrough, share photos, or video clips of your people telling their own success stories. Featuring real people in your organization doing the right things in the right way can be a powerful way to influence change.

Choose your Language and Style

Lady Whistledown shows us a couple things – the value of writing in a way that mirrors how people speak, and the beauty of nurturing your own style and personality as a writer. Her words float off the page and into the reader’s ear as if it were a conversation.

Are you aligning to the brand voice of your company? What tone will you use? Formal or casual? Chatty or serious? Are you planning to use fun, feature stories or just the plain facts? Check whether your language is laden with leaders’ cliched phrases or ‘management speak’.

Pick your Channels

In 1813 London, the convenient tabloid format was popular. Lady Whistledown prints her gossip rag overnight and peddles it in the morning through newspaper boys making brisk sales.  

Well, it’s 2021 and there are a plethora of channels even for non-desk employees. Digital delivery through intranets, internal social media and company apps are growing in popularity. Take the time to research which channels work best for your audience. This is about them – go where they are!

Be Consistent

Week after week the entire Ton knows when to expect the next tabloid full of the juiciest tidbits. In fact, it is this level of reliability that enables the Queen to plot Lady Whistledown’s arrest – while she on her way to the printers.

Do you have a set day and time for publishing so that your audience can count on getting their news when they expect it? Is the format consistent so that they can navigate it easily? Also, even if you have different writers the tone should not vary wildly.

Measure and Evaluate

Roaring sales is one way that Lady Whistledown evaluates her success real time. But that’s not the only thing that matters. Thanks to her undercover status, our favourite scandalmonger readily discerns how her content is resonating. The Ton is all abuzz after each edition is released and it decidedly influences many an outcome in the feverish matchmaking season!

Likewise, internal communicators must evaluate whether their content is engaging readers and if it is influencing behavior.

What can you do? Run A/B tests for your publication. Analyze open rates, click rates, and drop off rates to see which content resonates most. Test reader knowledge by asking specific questions in an annual communication channel survey. Use shorter surveys at the end of a publication to find out what they valued the most. Analyze engagement, comments and follow-through actions. Use good metrics to help you make informed decisions about your publication.

Have a Purpose

Ultimately your publication exists to achieve an outcome. It shouldn’t simply be a nice to have or exist because you’ve always had it. It takes time and effort to produce so make it worth the investment.

Lady Whistledown not only satisfies her readers thirst for gossip, but she also uses the publication to advance her own interests and sometimes selfish motives – breaking up Colin’s relationship as a prime example.

Know what you are trying to achieve with each content piece and each edition of your publication. Set SMART objectives and use it as a valuable tool to help embed your strategy, inspire your people, and cause positive transformation that translates into business growth.  

Sure, it can come in many different formats, styles and be delivered via various channels. But whatever you decide, focus on what you want to achieve and let that guide your approach.  

Tell me, did you watch Bridgerton? What other lessons in communications would you add to this list? Please share your comments below.

Thank you for stopping by! Visit again soon, subscribe and share. I post new content each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.    

Jenny Ward – Know Your Worth

The Change Diaries Podcast explores how to better change, spark change or simply be the change we want to see.

In this episode I talk with Jenny Ward, a career and transition coach with almost two decades of experience in corporate recruitment. Jenny focuses on helping women to value themselves, excel, and enjoy the lives which they deserve. 

Jenny brings infinite wisdom peppered with delightful humour and a strong dose of realism in this conversation. Her honest and refreshing coaching style, will inspire you to abandon a mediocre life and get unstuck. Absorb this conversation with a notepad and an open mind.  

Listen to The Change Diaries with Jenny Ward

Guest Bio

Jenny is a certified career and transition coach helping corporate women finally live by design, not default.   

She spent 15-years in corporate recruitment seamlessly matching people and jobs and now focuses on ensuring that women excel in all areas of their life by moving them out of reaction mode and into the driver’s seat.  

This includes empowering them to tell their personal and professional story to get the job they want and the money they deserve. Jenny offers 2-hour strategy sessions as well as services like interview prep, resume overhaul, LinkedIn blueprints, and cover letter composition.  

She loves holding space for humans to be heard and championed as they transition into the life and career that they only dreamed was possible. 

Find out more about Jenny Ward – have a consultation session or be inspired to shift your life:  

Website: http://www.jennywarrdcoaching.com 

IG: @jennywardcoaching 


Thanks for listening. Never miss an episode! Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.

You can also listen on Spotify.

Follow my blog and share with others! I post new content each week.

The Change Diaries Podcast theme music by Ellan Neil  

The Change Diaries Podcast cover design by Aris Amitirigala 

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.  

The Interview: Part II – A short, short story

This week I’ve decided to share a short story instead of my usual blog posts. Yesterday, I posted the first part of this story, so you already know Shauna is hunting for a job. I kept on writing because I was curious to see what would happen during her next interview. Turns out it was a bit more than she expected. Let’s see.

By the way, have you subscribed to The Change Diaries Podcast on Apple podcasts? New episode coming this weekend! Now, about Shauna…

The Interview Part II 

On a normal night, the sound of Roxie barking fiercely at the neighboring dog would have jolted her out of slumber. But in the wee hours of Wednesday morning Shauna was already wide awake. She peered through the window to make sure there was nothing awry and then hissed at the half-breed Doberman to ‘be quiet’ before drawing the curtains closed.  

She had sent resumes each week to private sector companies while holding out hope for the opportunity to host a prime-time radio show. After three interviews at different stations, she still had nothing. Each conversation had been more demoralizing than the next. Everybody wanted experienced talent. Was it that hard to break into radio as a newbie?  

Now Shauna feared she would never know. Under mounting pressure from her parents to get a job she was booked for an interview at the local telecom giant the following day. Her best friend, Tanisha, had put in a word for her with Tariq Morrison, one of the HR managers. He also happened to be Tanisha’s neighbor and had arranged an internship for her there last summer.  

Tanisha had branded it corporate hell. “Full of backstabbers and fake-smilers,” she had reported while gratefully pocketing the generous salary for ten entire weeks.  

Shauna rolled over and reached for the remote to start the ceiling fan. It wasn’t yet summer, but the heat was fierce. She would have preferred to turn on the air conditioning, but she was tired of fighting with her parents about the electricity bill. 

That was another reason why she loved visiting her cousin in Miami – central air conditioning, along with shopping and The Cheesecake Factory. Anyway, there would be no more trips for now – her parents had refused to dole out any more cash. Shauna told herself, ‘Tomorrow I’ll do whatever it takes to win that job’. She started practicing interview responses in her mind and bid the thought of sleep goodbye. 


Cocooned in his office, Shauna was perfectly still while Martin Campbell, Vice President of Regulatory Policy, perused her resume. She used the time to observe him from across the small meeting desk. He was a tiny man, pale and balding. Peering through Tom Ford eyewear, he stroked his greying beard absentmindedly. His office was dotted with awards and a framed law degree from Stanford hung above his head. Shauna tried not to smirk. Islanders loved to show off their foreign degrees…as if the local University wasn’t good enough for them.  

“Miss Templeton. First class honors!” He was beaming when he finally looked up at her. Shauna was convinced she could see all thirty-two teeth. “And you won the Principal’s Award two years running. I am impressed indeed.” 

“Thank you, Mr. Campbell. I worked hard and I am proud of my achievements.” 

“Please call me Martin. We aren’t so formal here.” He grinned again. 

‘That’s weird’ Shauna thought. Tanisha had told her it was a stuffy environment and you had to address senior staff formally. It was already unusual that she had a shoo-in to meet with the VP directly, but that was the power of connections – life on a small island was a closely networked affair. If she played her cards right it would surely mean a job come Monday morning. 

“What do you believe you bring to our company?” 

“I am a hard worker, determined to find solutions, and I get along very well with people. I’m also a natural leader, and I am excellent at public speaking. In fact, I co-hosted a radio program as you can see on my resume.” 

Martin Campbell was intrigued. The questions flowed like rapid-fire, and Shauna was surprised at how confidently and easily she fielded them while asking some of her own. Dressed in her favorite Ann Taylor grey suit and a crisp white button-down from Zara, she was prepared and focused. Plus, he was turning out to be likable. She hadn’t expected to enjoy the conversation and she felt a twinge of guilt at her earlier cynicism.  

“Why don’t we finish this over lunch? It’s already twelve thirty but I’d like to continue the discussion.” 

The suggestion caught Shauna off guard. She hadn’t prepared for this in her script.  

“Ahm, now? Do you have a canteen in this building?”  

Martin laughed at her question and Shauna was suddenly on high alert.

“Oh no. I was thinking of somewhere more deserving of a fine young lady such as yourself,” he said.

Chill, Shauna, just chill. She willed her body to relax as a horse started galloping in her chest.  

“You flatter me Mr. Campbell. I’m actually not hungry.” 

“Trust me, you will have an appetite when the lobster arrives.” He stood up and grabbed his keys and jacket. “Have you ever dined at Morgan’s Park?” 

Shauna was nonplussed. The horse was thundering about in her mid-section now. 

Morgan’s Park was a swanky dining spot next to the famous Harbor Hotel. It was also a thirty-five-minute drive away from the town center. Even if she was okay with going to lunch, the whole thing would take at least two and a half hours.  

She swallowed over what felt like a guinep seed in her throat, her confidence slipping away while ‘win the job’ floated across her mind in subscript. “Mr. Campbell…” 

“Martin, please. And don’t forget your purse.” He was already opening the door. 

“Mr. Campbell are you married? The question slipped out but Shauna already knew the answer. 

“Why would you ask me that?” He was squinting behind his glasses.  

“Why would you want to take me to lunch thirty-five minutes away?”  

He closed the door and stepped toward her, “Because you should aspire to have the finer things in life.” His voice grew softer, “Don’t you want the best for yourself. Fine dining, a nice apartment, trips overseas, diamond rings?” 

Shauna Templeton contemplated the temptation of a thousand years. It meant driving a nicer car, taking more shopping jaunts. It would come with her own apartment, a steady rise in pay and promotions and a coveted Prada purse. But while she could stomach the privilege of getting a job through her connections, she couldn’t do this…this other thing.  

“I told Mr. Morrison in HR that I would be down before 1:00pm to complete the last page of my application form. Thanks for your time but I need to head back now.” She rose to her feet.  

They faced each other. In her red Aldo heels, Shauna was close to his height, so they were practically eye to eye. They both knew she was lying. She hadn’t completed an application form. She didn’t even know if Tariq was at work.  

Shauna held her breath and waited. The herd of horses was galloping through her entire body.  

Martin Campbell placed a hand on the doorknob to signal that the interview had indeed come to an end. His parting smile looked more like a grimace. 

“I’ll take you across the floor to meet Victoria Jenkins. She runs the Corporate Events unit, and they are looking to take on one or two promising graduates. I think you have the polish and savviness that they would value. It’s a shame you won’t work out for me. Best of luck.”  

That’s it for Shauna. Definitely hope she has better luck next time!

Thank you for stopping by. Do leave a comment to let me know what you thought and don’t forget to follow and share my blog. I post new content each week.  

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.     

The Interview – A short, short story

I didn’t plan to write a short story. I never do. I’d like to be more intentional about it though and get much better at telling the stories of these characters who suddenly take up space in my head when I sit down to write a serious piece or while I’m doing the dishes. Here is Shauna – she inspired a two-parter. I’ll share the second part tomorrow and I’ll see you this weekend for another episode of The Change Diaries Podcast. Have you subscribed yet on Apple? Anyway, let’s meet Shauna…

Shauna strutted into the boardroom of TLC Radio, tossing stray locks over her shoulder as she approached the oval conference table. The natural finish struck her as unusual; normally corporate environments favored a deep cherry stain.

Her mind wandered to the mahogany table sitting regally in her parents’ dining room. A wedding gift from her maternal grandparents, they treated it like an only child. Shauna wished that she still felt like their pride and joy but after graduating with first class honors and failing to nab a job after six months – they were beginning to despair. Anyway, why on earth was she thinking of dining tables and disappointment when she needed to be on top of her game?

‘Stay focused, you are here to win this’, Shauna gave herself a stern mental reminder as she strode towards the outstretched palm of Errol Powell, Managing Director of The Listeners Choice.

“Ah, good morning Miss Templeton. Thanks for coming by.” Mr. Powell grasped her manicured hand in a firm handshake. “Take a seat and make yourself comfortable.” 

“Thank you, Mr. Powell.” Shauna smiled briefly, hoping that a mask of dislike hadn’t flashed across her face. After reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, she had become obsessed with reading faces and searching for hidden messages.

“So, let’s get right to it. Tell me what you have in mind and what kind of future you see for yourself at TLC Radio.” Mr. Powell said as he leaned forward, his skin gleaming with a sheen of sweat thanks to a subpar performance from the struggling air conditioning unit. Life in the tropics was often a sweaty affair but Shauna was cool in a white cotton top and skirt and her lightweight navy blazer. All from Banana Republic in Dolphin Mall, Miami. She hadn’t shopped on the island for years.

“As you know, I’ve been freelancing for the last couple years, doing voiceover work and a few adhoc interviews at the station to fill in for presenters when needed.”

Shauna started her pitch, vaguely conscious of Michael Jackson’s Dirty Diana wafting through the intercom system. It was eighties hour at the station with DJ Chris at the controls. She watched Mr. Powell’s eyes drift toward her slender ankles and slowly start to work their way upwards. The image of a snake unfurling assailed her like a bad cliché and she paused, distracted. ‘God damn it’, she thought, ‘Get it together’. 

With a shake of her head, Shauna’s locks tumbled forward. She cleared her throat and her voice inched up a decibel as she continued. “Radio is my favorite communication channel and I have a real passion for it. I like the team here at TLC Radio and I want to make it my home by taking things further, ideally hosting my own show. I’m thinking of initially working with a co-host, doing a mix of current affairs, music, interviews, something that will appeal to…”

“What’s your experience in hosting a live radio program?” Mr. Powell cut her off abruptly. The leather chair squeaked as he shifted his bulky frame.

Shauna observed his curly hair and slanted eyes set on almond colored skin and his broad nose with thick lips. His features were the gift of many nations mingling – master and slave, indentured laborer and plantation owner, indigenous people and colonizer.

‘Enough’. She brought her mind back to the room and took a deep breath. “Well, I’m broadcast trained, by the best in the business. I co-hosted the university radio program ‘On the Beat’ during my final year. I’ve been doing voiceovers here in studio for the last two years Mr. Powell. People know my voice and…”

He interrupted her desperate spiel with an offer, “How about a midnight to 3am slot? We have an opening for a new co-host of Man and Woman Talk. I’m sure our listeners would appreciate a young, smooth female voice to explore sex and love. Don’t you think?” He licked his lips and Shauna tried not to shudder as her mind bounced around desperately. Her face felt hot, and she wondered vaguely if finally, she would be the one to prove that a dark-skinned girl could blush bright red.

Mr. Powell drummed his thick fingers on the heavy oak table while Michael pleaded urgently:

Dirty Diana nah
Dirty Diana no
Dirty Diana nah
Dirty Diana no

In the end her response took a second too long and the door closed as quickly as had it opened. ‘Just as well’, Shauna thought as she headed down the stairs and into the visitors’ parking lot. She didn’t want a graveyard shift and she wasn’t doing a late night no-holds-barred call-in program to talk about what men and women want from each other. She had no plans to be the Howard Stern of the local airwaves.

She was Shauna Templeton. She wanted to bless the world with her voice from the moment they woke up until they were safely at work or back from the school run. She wanted a prime-time slot with news, music, meaningful discussion and inspiring interviews. And prime time was what she would get.

Thanks for stopping by. It’s a two-part story. Tomorrow I’ll share what happened on Shauna’s next Interview! Follow my blog and subscribe.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.    

Abbi Buszard – Making space for people to think for themselves

The Change Diaries Podcast explores how to better embrace change, spark change, or simply be the change we want to see.

In this episode I talk with Abbi Buszard, Life Coach and former Commercial Director. She believes that the solutions to your biggest challenges are never quite as good unless they are yours and that change means growth.

Abbi brings her insightful style to this conversation, sharing advice on how to find the right coach for you, affordable options, and examples of successful transformation. It’s a practical conversation with great advice.

Guest Bio

Abbi Buszard is the founder of Grow Your Own Organic Learning. She is a qualified coach and former Commercial Director with a love of creative problem solving. She is also known as ‘mum, stepmum and wife/reluctant cycling buddy’. 

With extensive experience in all aspects of helping people to grow and develop, by challenging, supporting, managing, leading and mentoring, Abbi works with large organisations and ambitious individuals alike. With a postgraduate certificate in coaching from Henley Business School, Abbi believes making space for growth is both the hardest and most important thing for everyone to do to succeed. 

Before starting Grow Your Own, she spent fifteen years at Cadbury, Kraft and Diageo, working across sales, customer marketing and transformation and change. These days, Abbi works with a network of partners across a variety of specialisms, who enable Grow Your Own to deliver programmes to any scale, from large corporates to boutique brands. Grow Your Own has a social enterprise heart- every commercial programme is matched with pro-bono work for a charity partner.

Abbi considers her nosiness a superpower that can be used on self or others. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram and you can join in the reflection by following her daily questions and learning to change your world by building a growth habit in just 2 minutes a day!

Find her at:

LinkedIn: Abbi Buszard

Instagram: @AbbiBuszard

Website: www.growyourownlearning.com

Never miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.

You can also listen on Spotify.

Follow my blog and share with others! I post new content each week.

The Change Diaries Podcast theme music by Ellan Neil

The Change Diaries Podcast cover design by Aris Amitirigala

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.    

The Change Diaries Podcast is Here!

I’m excited to launch The Change Diaries Podcast: Conversations to change your mind. Each season, different guests will explore themes related to embracing change, sparking change or simply being the change we want to see. My hope is that you will fill your backpack with knowledge and gain inspiration to try something new. 

It’s been a long time coming. I’ve wanted to start a podcast for many years but there was always a reason to put it off. Like for instance today. I didn’t think it was perfect and I started second guessing myself.

And then I read a quote that Greg Monaco of letsgomonaco.com shared this morning. It was from film director, George Lucas: Anybody that makes films knows the film is never finished. It’s abandoned or it’s ripped out of your hands, and it’s thrown into the marketplace, never finished. It’s a very rare experience where you find a filmmaker who says, “That’s exactly what I wanted. I got everything I needed. I made it just perfect. I’m going to put it out there.”

So here it is!

Check out this launch episode where I introduce you to The Change Diaries and share a short story of how I am navigating change and absorbing the lessons.

The first season is about How to spark a change in your life – do you need a life coach? I’m thrilled to have lined up some great guests from various corners of the globe for each episode. These life coaches will share stories about their own lives, and how they guide people in defining their goals and getting past what’s blocking them. You don’t want miss these thought-provoking conversations.

The first episode drops next week. Stay tuned!

Thank you for stopping by and listening in. Please share your comments below, like, and hit ‘subscribe’. I update content each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Celebrating Black History Month at Home

Yesterday morning my son greeted me with a question, and our ensuing conversation was short but provocative.  

“Mom did you know it’s Black History Month?” 

“Yeah. What should we do?” I was pretty much a deer in headlights, wondering if I was going to get called out. 

He shrugged. “I guess we can just be ourselves.” 

He turned his attention back to online school while I went downstairs to make my green smoothie, brain whirring like the blades of our Ninja pro.  

I have never willingly made a big deal about Black History Month. Consequently, I’ve also been a bit blasé about it with my children. This might be surprising given that I am a black woman who for the past twelve years has been living in various societies where people who look like us are minoritized.  

Smoothie in hand, I contemplated the root of my ambivalence about this one month. I landed on three things: Identity. Discomfort. And a fear of not getting it right. 

Let me explain. 


Everyone has an identity comprised of visible differences like race, and invisible ones like religious background.  

I can list many components of my identity: woman, mother, extrovert… but a most important one is that I come from an island in the Caribbean Sea. To be precise, I am Jamaican.  

I was born in Jamaica and lived there for many years. I didn’t grow up as part of a minoritized group. I didn’t have a preoccupation with my ‘blackness’ at the forefront of my identity. Despite our colonial past and its legacy of colorism and classism, I did not feel disadvantaged because of my hue. I was at home and I belonged. 

Immersed in my ‘Jamaicanness’, celebrating Jamaican history was a daily event as natural as breathing. From the first inhabitants encountered by Christopher Columbus, to the enslavement of African people and their journey to our shores, to the fight for freedom, to becoming a melting pot of many nations, to claiming independence, and becoming an international brand synonymous with music, dance, cuisine and athletic prowess, I embraced it all.  

Perhaps the closest thing to Black History Month for me as a child was the public holiday in October when we recognized our National Heroes – fierce warriors for freedom from slavery, both physical and mental.  


When I migrated to live in the US, I struggled to reconcile with how Black History Month applied to me. Just speaking about it made me feel self-conscious. In my mind it was something that America and other countries had to observe because they grappled with ever-present racism.  

In my first year, I accepted the task to help organize an event for the occasion. I was one of less than a handful of Black employees at the office and I did my best to navigate my discomfort. We planned a celebration of the Caribbean region during a cocktail hour –booked a steel pan player, asked the caterer to provide an ‘island menu’ and then delivered a talk celebrating Caribbean heritage and our business operations throughout the region.  

No mention of oppression, inequality, inequity or injustice. Everyone was happy. We danced. We toasted. We laughed. 

Looking back, all I can say is: What. Were. We. Thinking. 

The following week, my friend invited me to a lunchtime event taking place at another company in Miami. I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how other offices observed the occasion. The keynote speaker led a powerful, personal conversation that went straight to the heart of racial injustice in America and left the employees in the packed cafeteria with an unmistakable call to action.  

For me, it was an uncomfortable awakening. This white, middle-aged man had made me deeply aware of something that I had been denying – my life was different now. My identity as a Jamaican was invisible. I was now a black woman, part of a minoritized group.  

Fear of not getting it right

Okay. I now had a new identity to add to my other identities, but I wasn’t sure what to do with that realization. I didn’t feel oppressed. I didn’t plan to start binge watching Roots. I didn’t know how to become an activist. What was I supposed to do in February? 

Over the years, my children did projects and activities at school to ground them in the stories of black American leaders and icons such as Dr. Mae C. Jemison, Muhammad Ali, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.  

Born in the US, my children identified as Americans. This was their history, and I was learning more about it because of them than they were learning because of me. So, I didn’t interfere because I wasn’t sure of what I had to offer. I let them share with me what they learned at school and each February came and went.  

Where do I stand now?

After a slightly sleepless night and some self-examination I am reassured. Yes, I do celebrate Black History at home. How could I not? I do it every single day. 

There have been signature moments like visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. or the Nelson Mandela exhibition in London and Nottinghill Carnival. There have also been tough discussions after watching movies like Just Mercy, or painful moments talking about what happened to Trayvon Martin and George Floyd.  

But the most important thing is how we live our daily lives – our beliefs and values, our faith, the stories we tell, the leaders we quote, the music we listen to, our food, the books we read, the films we watch, our time with extended family… our history and culture are all blended into who my children are and who I am.  

Maybe I could make a thing out of February and be more intentional about unearthing stories of black excellence and watching films and documentaries, but it is far more likely that we will do as my son so wisely suggested. We will be ourselves. 

Please share your comments on how you are celebrating Black History Month 2021. Thanks for stopping by. Remember to visit again soon. I post articles each week.  

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.