Written by Tabitha Wilson
The world of travel vlogging has been steadily growing over the past few years and spread from YouTube onto other social media platforms such as Instagram and, more recently, TikTok. During the pandemic, an increase in media consumption has led to an explosion in popularity of the travel community, and allowed people a glimpse into a world unknown. However – the content creators that have garnered critical acclaim are not the typical tanned, toned influencers flexing their picture-perfect lives in Dubai and Greece – instead, many have been looking towards content that takes the viewer to isolated, and often dangerous, corners of the globe.
Channels such as Bald and Bankrupt and the Indigo Traveller have amassed new audiences during the pandemic, and grown their already established online communities.
Bald and Bankrupt, (real name Benjamin Rich), has gained fame from his trips to remote villages and isolated communities in post-Soviet states, and his earlier travels around the Indian subcontinent. Brighton born Rich, (who joined YouTube in 2018), first discovered his love of adventure after a backpacking trip to India – his original plan to stay for 1 month turned into 4 years, with Rich even opening a small hotel in the country. His unique ability to connect with local people and his impressive ability to speak multiple languages has enabled him to move through various parts of the globe with ease.
Even before the pandemic, Rich’s far-flung destinations of choice would be the last places on anyone’s bucket list – but with his fresh, raw content (he mainly films his adventures on a smartphone), it is easy to become immersed in a new, unfamiliar culture.
Rich’s travels do not come without incident though – his recent hospitalisation in Serbia with COVID-19 forced him to reconsider his attitude towards the pandemic, and he encouraged his viewers to take lockdown laws seriously. Outside of YouTube, the vlogger has published a book discussing in further detail his extensive travels, giving viewers a chance to engross themselves in the fascinating soviet history he has uncovered.
Indigo Traveller, also known as Nick Fisher, has racked up over 800,000 subscribers since joining YouTube in 2016, due to his documentation of his visits to some of the world’s most dangerous locations. Fishers most popular series surrounds his trip to North Korea, which gave many an insight into an area of the globe that they will most likely never step foot in. Fishers decision to travel to one of the most isolated countries in the world has been condemned by a few outspoken critics, however, with some commenters feeling the risk isn’t worth it.
Fisher has also travelled to Somalia, globally recognised as one of the most hazardous places on the planet. The likelihood of terrorism against westerners is very common, with the site WikiTravel going as far to state that ‘independent travel will most likely result in death’. Despite these warnings, Fisher managed to capture a more positive image of the African nation and highlighted the friendly, caring nature of the Somali people. The picture painted by the New Zealand born vlogger gave an incredible insight into the country for the average viewer – who will most likely never travel to Somalia.
A final content creator enabling viewers to see the world in a new way throughout the pandemic is GeoWizard. Real name Tom Davies, the British born creator produced an incredibly popular series of ‘straight-line challenges’, where he combines his love of geography with his outdoor expertise. His well-received missions, in which he walks across Wales and more recently Norway in a straight line, provide a great incentive to get outdoors, and show new and exciting parts of more accessible countries.
Davies is perhaps best known for his videos in which he plays the online game GeoGuessr, in which you are sent to a random place on google street view and have to pinpoint on a map your location. His popularisation of GeoGuessr enables fans a new and exciting way to see the world during the pandemic and creates a community of like-minded geography and travel enthusiasts. His skill online has also translated into the real world, and the creation of his ‘real-life GeoGuessr’ series has demonstrated his ability to combine his popular virtual content with his love of the outdoors.
It seems as though this content is perhaps just the travel content we need – not the bronzed models in Greece, but an exploration of the real world to provide a sense of escapism during a very difficult time.
The opportunity to see every nook and cranny of the globe from your living room has never been more accessible, and offers the viewer a chance to leave gloomy England for half an hour or more.