As I planned my reporting trip into Syria, I prepared for rough living. Among other survival gear, I packed energy bars in case there wasn't enough food and iodine tablets in case there wasn't clean water. Arriving at the Turkish border with Syria, though, I realized I was going into a very different war: a commuter war.
Syria's opposition fighters have captured the border crossing near Kilis, Turkey, and control several roads into Aleppo, the center of fighting. With Aleppo just a two-hour drive from Kilis, many journalists have opted to drive into Syria each morning and return to Turkey to write stories and sleep. Not only is it safer, but electricity and Internet access are a sure thing.
The commute made my job of writing and filing stories easier, but it also made for a surreal reporting experience. In one afternoon, I might find myself taking cover as windows blew out around me in a bombing. By that evening, I'd be back in Kilis getting my hair cut in a barbershop where a miscommunication led to an accidental mud facial mask.
I've always thought the hardest part of conflict journalism is the anxiety you feel before and after an assignment. When you're navigating a war, you're too busy to think about the what-ifs. Commuting in and out every day creates one of the strangest cycles of stress and decompression I've ever experienced.