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Posts Tagged ‘Rick Steves’

My love of travel is rooted in not traveling. I didn’t really start traveling until I was 21-years-old.  (And it light of the Coronavirus, this post is to encourage you that better days are coming.  A time when we’ll be able again to travel behind our front door.)

When I graduated from high school in Florida, I’d only been to three states in my life—if you include the Atlanta airport on the way to visit my grandmother in Dayton, Ohio. My lack of travel opportunities caused me in my late teens to make one of my goals that I wanted to visit all fifty states in the U.S. by the time I was fifty.

I made it with a few years to spare, and I was also able to backpack around Europe and do video shoots in South America and South Africa all before I turned 50. I thought I was doing pretty well until my wife began following Kara and Nate on YouTube a couple of years ago.  This married couple from Tennessee had an ambitious goal to take a year off starting in 2016 “before life got serious” and travel. That turned into a goal to visit 100 counties by 2020.

They not only hit their 100th country last month (just before the Coronavirus changed global travel for a while), they videotaped their adventures and built a very profitable following via YouTube. It was like a honeymoon that just kept going and turned into a dream job. (Here’s a sample of their work from a trip they took to Peru,  followed by the extended video they made after completing their goal that gives insights into their journey and how they built a YouTube following of 1 million subscribers.)

I was working on my master’s degree in 2017-2018, which occupied most of my nights after work. From time to time, my wife would show me some of her favorite trips that Kara and Nate took. Having worked in production since graduating from film school back in 1984, I marveled at how they were able to turn around engaging videos so quickly.

They weren’t as polished and produced as Anthony Bourdain’s travel around the world videos, but they captured something special. And they did it as a two-person team which amazed me. Nate took the lead shooting (including drone and underwater shooting), and Kara edited the programs. They both shared hosting the videos as well.

Nate also brought some business expertise to the table, and they were open at sharing  how much money they were making. I became enthralled by what they were doing and decided to breakdown what I think has made them successful.

  1. Focused — They had a clear goal. At first, it was to travel a year, and that turned into a goal of traveling to 100 countries.
  2. Adventurous — Part of traveling globally is embracing not always knowing what’s around the corner. Delayed flight plans, inadequate housing, and bad food may not be fun, but it’s the tradeoff for the really cool experiences. And the bad parts often make the best videos.
  3. Likable—Likability is a vital part of getting hired. People want to like someone there going to be spending a lot of time with. Likability is essential for getting a YouTube following. And not everyone is going to like you, so get used to that as best you can.
  4. Talented — Nate and Kara are not only the co-hosts of there videos, but the tour guys, the camera operators, the post-production team, and the business side as well.  That’s a lot of hats to wear, and you can only do that with a lot of talent. I don’t believe either has a production background. Kara shot and edited a wedding video for a friend and is basically self-taught. (Not sure it that goes under talent, or #5 hardworking.)
  5. Hardworking—If you’ve every had the equivalent of visiting Disney World in the daytime and even through you’re exhausted from a fun day you have to turn around and edit a video that night. They’ve done that kind of thing over and over again for over 500 videos. I’m sure some of their videos took longer to edit, but the turn around time is usually fast.
  6. Smart —They’re college graduates and have to juggle a lot of behind the scene planning, scheduling, and financing behind the scenes.
  7. Savvy—You can be smart without being savvy. You can be smart and lucky. But you have to be smart and savvy to build on what started as an adventure to do until their money ran out. (If I recall correctly, they started with a savings of $25,000.) But you have to make a series of savvy choices to keep that ball in the air for years. To not just ration your nest egg, but to grow it and multiply it greatly.
  8. Ambitious—It’s one thing to have an extended honeymoon, it’s another thing to make travel a business. And you can have a business thrive without having ambition. They’ve tried different things to connect with their audience, and learned what does and doesn’t work. I don’t know what their current cashflow is like, but I know at one point they were generating $30,000 a month. Granted that’s not Kim Kardashian money, but it’s enough for those who thought they were crazy of them to give up their dreams, to now say they’d be crazy to stop.
  9. Young—When they started this, they were both in their mid-20s (I believe) , and I think that’s a great age for YouTubers. They have an exuberance to them that is often lacking in older people who can have a little bit of “been there done that” attitude.  You can connect with teenagers and college kids who dream of living that adventure, people their age who see them as their friends, and a wide variety of older folks who, for various reasons, love to see what they’re going to see and do next.
  10. Variety—Twenty years ago, Rick Steves was one of the best sources of travel information, and his advice was crucial to my wife and I traveling throughout Europe in 1999.. (And the mention of his name alone got us out of a jam in Vienna.) But I clearly remember one morning in Germany when one of the pensions we were staying at had the majority of  people staring at their Rick Steves guide book.  We were all taking different versions of the same trip. Fast forward 20 years, and most people have seen their share of footage shot at German Beer gardens, countless museums, and must see sights (“Look kids, the Eiffel Tower.”). Kara and Nate have bounced around the world and showed many unlikely places where you go, “How did I not know that place existed?” For instance, there was that time they landed on the world’s shortest commercial runway on the island of Saba:

I have two primary travel goals on my bucket list. One is to literally fly around the world making various stops, including Australia (so I can visit my sixth continent), and then make a trip to Antarctica for the seven and final continent. Of course, Kara and Nate just pulled off visiting Antarctica.)

When people asked me how I hit two of my major travel goals I tell them that both goals were more than 20 years in the making. I wanted to do them while I was in good health because I’d heard that one of the main regrets of older people toward the end of their lives is they wished they’d taken more risks. As you get older, it’s natural to have more physical limitations and more concerns about your safety.

I always said that if the world went to “hell in a handbag”—are we there yet?— that I didn’t want to regret not taking more risks. Global travel—and the global economy— may be funky for the next year or two. Or five or ten. We don’t know yet what will be the fallout from the Coronavirus that’s currently impacting the world in significant ways.

But congrats to Kara and Nate on their crazy and venture and thanks for sharing it with the world.

P.S. One of the ways Kara and Nate have generated income is doing a tutorial called How to Edit a BlogIt’s $97 and even though I’ve been editing for longer than Kara has been alive, I wanted to support them—and also learn (and unlearn) some things from her. Since I sometimes work on logging videos for two weeks before I even start editing, I wanted to see how she edited an entire video in a few hours. Here’s the one thing I learned that made the course worth it for me. She edits chronologically. Simple, right? They start filming in the day and stop. And then she’s goes through the footage in the order that they shot it. Huge time saver. There is no logging footage in that system. It’s turn and burn. Find the best shots, sound bites, moments and move on. I believe Aaron Sorkin says something to the effect that most of his movies move forward chronologically. (Not a lot of cuts back and forth in the story.) And movies are rarely shot in chronological order because it does not maximize the shooting schedule. But it happens. Peter Weir chose to shoot  Dead Poets Society in chronological order so his young actors could experience the arc of the story.

Congrats to Nate and Kara on completing their 100 countries and visiting seven continents. It’ll be interesting to see what they do next in a post-Cornavirus world. And remember, the word for the day is chronological.

Scott W. Smith 

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