Lights, Camera, Action!: The world of travel video


Travel is visual. From stunning sunsets to jaw dropping landscapes, travel is like having sex for your eyes. It’s exciting, it’s unpredictable and definitely creates a feeling of pleasure.

That’s not speculative, either. A study by Hakan Boz on the Psychoneurobiochemistry of Tourism Marketing links the consumption of rewards, such as “devouring palatable food at an all-inclusive hotel,” to the production of dopamine in the brain resulting in hedonic consequences.

But travel is not actively something one has to participate in to get those juices flowing, because now it’s available on a screen.

Whether that’s a television, computer, mobile phone or tablet, we can be transported to anywhere in the world with just a few simple clicks. What’s travelling to North Korea like? Type it in on YouTube and watch one of multiple videos that come up. How beautiful is Warsaw’s Old Town? Do the same.

One of the big appeals that travel video has is that anyone can do it. In 2014, British nationals made over 60 million trips overseas according to this report, and to think that a large proportion took along phones and camera equipment capable of shooting both still and moving images shows its attraction and accessibility to the everyday person.

It’s a notion picked up on by Sam Bentley, and he would know. Bentley is the CEO of UNILAD, one of the most engaged video platforms in the world, pulling in over three billion views per month. Earlier this year they capitalised on the popularity of travel media by opening up UNILAD Adventure – a branch of their social portfolio entirely dedicated to travel.

“We decided to start the page because following the success of our main page and others, like Sport and Sound. We also know how passionate people are about travel and worked out that it would be a good idea,” says Bentley.

“Video is such a good medium for travel because it is so visual. People love to see amazing things from all over the world and we can deliver that to the palm of their hands.

“What we do is we licence content from various people. So that includes professional photographers and videographers, to someone who has captured a great shot and wants to, or has, shared it with the world.

“We’ve been smashing UNILAD Adventure, we’re recruiting another member of staff for the page and we can’t wait to take it to the next level.”

But you don’t have to start out as professionals, or be so fortunate, to get in on the travel video game. Alex Collins started Travel Beans with his girlfriend Emma Cox whom he met in Thailand half a decade ago. The two left home with £500 in their bank account and a passion for creating travel content, and have since built their YouTube channel into a full-time career.

Emma Cox (left) and Alex Collins (right) are the dynamic duo behind  Travel Beans . Image credit:  Travel Beans

Emma Cox (left) and Alex Collins (right) are the dynamic duo behind Travel Beans. Image credit: Travel Beans

“I have no background in video at all. I studied philosophy at York and then travelled pretty much soon after,” explains Alex.

“However, I had been really interested in video from a young age. I used to take notes on TV shows growing up like The Office. I actually did philosophy because Ricky Gervais did it. I always had the intention to eventually do something in video, but no plans on how to do it.

“We travelled for a couple of years before going home and working corporate jobs. We decided to save to go away again but this time start filming for a YouTube channel.

“We have been doing many things to make money through our travels and use our contacts we meet along the way to help.

“It just kind of organically grew into making videos once travel became a part of our lives. I couldn’t see a life without travel and, in turn, I wanted to film it. I enjoyed photography for a bit when I first travelled but it didn’t capture the feelings and emotions that I wanted. That’s one of the main reasons to film as well. I wanted something to look back on with my kids and grandkids that had more meaning and was more entertaining than a photo.

“We have made promo videos for high end hotels and excursions to supplement our travels. We have also had a couple of viral stories that have helped as we go. This now allows us to get free food, trips and accommodation when we need to in exchange for a video on our channel.”

I, too, know what benefits the travel video game can bring, having been on press trips with the tourism boards of Hamburg an Ljubljana which were secured with the promise of a promotional vlog in my pitch.

Kees Colijn is also someone that has turned shooting videos on his travels into both an channel and means of income. The Dutchman works in healthcare and hits the road every two years for six months when his contract expires and he awaits its renewal.

He sits just shy of 30,000 subscribers on YouTube and has mastered the art of finding a niche, which he explained, saying: “I make videos where I turn on my camera, walk around for two hours, and turn off my camera again in different cities around the world.

Kees Colijn creates unique travel videos on his  YouTube channel , where he walks around different destinations with his camera pointing forward. Image credit:  Kees Colijn

Kees Colijn creates unique travel videos on his YouTube channel, where he walks around different destinations with his camera pointing forward. Image credit: Kees Colijn

“I travel a lot, and mainly alone. On those trips I come across beautiful views, but I still find that the most beautiful is simply walking through a city.

“Everywhere you look something is happening – you can see and hear so much. I want to share that feeling with someone, but words don’t say enough and photos are just moments.”

But making travel video isn’t all rosy, insists Alex: “Money is the biggest hurdle. It is easy if you save up lots of money at home and travel but the problem here is that there is a short life span of a YouTube traveller. You can only do it until the money runs out, then you have to go home.

“We had this problem, but decided to commit to making this a sustainable lifestyle. We put it out there when we had no money and said that we will do this. We needed the fear.

“Another problem is no audience. If you have no-one watching but make regular content it is demoralising, and you also have no guarantee of future success.

“Having internet is the most important thing to us, though, and moving every few days is too stressful when hoping it is good. That is one of the main reasons we have got an apartment now.”

The message here is that leading a life of creating travel videos is attainable, but does include sacrifice and is not quite as glamourous as it may appear.

Travel and leisure is a growing category in an ever-expanding digital industry. But the best thing about it is our eyes. No matter whether you’re behind a camera or behind a screen, wonderful places and amazing stories can be communicated by the few, but enjoyed by all.