Operating in Challenging Environments / el Mina 2019

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  • Regular price $3,250.00

An intensive training programme on the processes and soft skills required to operate in challenging environments, hosted in Tripoli, Lebanon.

While most courses on working in challenging and hostile environments emphasize process, we balance this with the softer skills required for meaningful work-travel including navigating cultural norms, coping with and mitigating culture shock, blending in, reading body language, physical and emotional resilience, negotiating with officials and other local actors, and ethical considerations.

The event is lead by Studio D Founder, Jan Chipchase. Mornings are focused sessions, afternoons include immersive activities that make the most of the locale to reinforce learnings. The setting provides an opportunity to reflect on your own career and realign to what’s next.

We've booked a beautiful 19th century lodge in the Phoenician heart of Tripoli. As visitors to Lebanon will appreciate—the quality of the Southern Mediterranean food is part of the experience. Tripoli is also a great jumping off point to explore Lebanon, including the border region with Syria and the Beqaa Valley.


Sessions are highly interactive and draw on Studio D's and the attendees experience of operating in challenging environments.

Attendees will learn:

  • Advanced planning
  • Techniques for rapid cultural calibration
  • Understanding and mitigating culture shock
  • Ascertaining risk—tolerance for, mitigation of, versus the value of spontaneity
  • Rationalising threats
  • Working within and beyond organisational protocols
  • Managing oneself and teams—physical and mental wellbeing
  • Cross cultural team dynamics
  • Understanding team attributes
  • Identifying, hiring and working with fixers and guides
  • Finding the right balance between ethics and hustle
  • How to read situations—understanding the impact of your presence, social dynamics and social engineering
  • Border crossings and other tension points
  • Evacuations
  • Navigating corruption
  • The psychology of higher risk travel


Limited to fourteen attendees.

Studio D Retreats attract people from diverse backgrounds and life stages. Past attendees have included designers, researchers, filmmakers, strategists, founders, VCs, and security specialists, from independents to those working for some of the world's most interesting organisations. All have an international mindset and many are looking to broaden their network of likeminds, skillset and world view.

We also offer a scholarship for one local attendee. Suitable candidates can apply here.


21 - 24th October 2019 / 4 days / 3 nights

We suggest arriving in Beirut on the 20th October and travelling up to Tripoli in the morning. The journey to the lodge takes an hour. The event closes at 10am on the 24th.


A 19th Century lodge in Tripoli, Lebanon.

For those of you that want to extend their trip, our local team can advise on where to go and logistics. 


The retreat price includes:

  • Four days of informing and inspiring Operating in Challenging Environments training, with time for local immersions

  • Lodge accommodation in an inspiring venue

  • Breakfast + lunch + dinner

Excludes: travel to Tripoli, visa, travel insurance, alcohol.


In keeping with the spirit of Studio D's operating procedures we operate as a "popup studio" and treat the space as our home, including the full run of the kitchen.

We cook breakfast ourselves. Lunch and dinners are prepared in-house with locally sourced ingredients. A banquet on the second night is held in a nearby venue, and the on the last night we have a rooftop barbeque.

High quality caffeine is provided.

Let us know if you have any dietary requirements.


Sleeping arrangements are popup studio style.

Our attendees will share five, gender-split rooms. Given that we have full run of the lodge, if you prefer a bit more privacy, take your bedding in a quiet corner and make it your own.

Rooms are assigned on the day of arrival. There are four bathrooms shared between attendees. 



Prior to the retreat, we share a detailed Welcome & Logistics page on how to make the most of the event. A retreat WhatsApp group goes live one-week prior to the retreat to enable attendees to meet up and travel in together. 

Weather-wise, the Mediterranean in autumn has sunny days and cool nights. Light jackets are sufficient. 

Our host will provide home-cooked meals. In keeping with the spirit of popup studios, we will help out in the kitchen. There will be a good supply of quality caffeine. 

Sessions will be in English. Two Arabic speaking guides will also be available to support local immersions.


Fly to Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport airport (BEY), and head upto Tripoli by bus, service (shared taxi) or Uber.

Many nationalities can obtain a Visa on Arrival (VoA) at the airport. Alternatively, obtain a visa through your local Lebanese consulate. You are responsible for your visa application. 

Note: persons with Israeli stamps in their passport (or country exit stamps from land border crossings going into Israel) will be denied entry to Lebanon.


Please see our cancellation and refund policy.


    Studio D provides discreet international research, design and strategy services to multinational clients with a global remit. Our team have extensive experience of running projects in challenging environments from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and most letters between. We also make our own field equipment under the SDR Traveller brand, and run a range of masterclasses, retreats and expeditions.