My PhD research focused on the problem of social sustainability in biodiesel programmes in Brazil and Timor-Leste. An enthusiastic yet inexperienced researcher, I designed a two-country, multi-language, qualitative research project that incorporated action research, co-researchers, quantitative farm surveys, participant interviews and farm observations, which were video recorded to create a research documentary. This study discusses the practicalities of conducting qualitative research overseas, such as undertaking scoping visits and finding co-researchers. I also discuss why I think transdisciplinary research and action research approaches are well paired and how in-field analysis and reflective practices were important in my research journey. Finally, I conclude by acknowledging that I underestimated the analysis phase of my research and by explaining how an action research approach benefitted my research project.