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Sorry, Instagram. YouTubers are the key influencers in travel

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-08-2017 Tom Samiljan

Major firms in social media are offering new initiatives to embrace the next generation of viral video makers. Instagram has a feature that will let followers access a livestream for up to 24 hours. YouTube has got a production tool called VR180 that makes it easy for people to create and share 3D videos in 180 degrees. And Facebook has updated the Mentions app, which lets verified creators apply effects to live videos and connect more easily with followers. The titans of social media are courting creators, in the hope of expanding their audience engagement through addicting video content.

It’s no surprise, since vlogging is becoming a big business. And travel creators are poised to steal the spotlight on these video platforms, just as they have on Instagram. By and large, their influence is being wielded on YouTube. For viewers, cutting through the clutter can be like taking a metal detector to the beach in the hope of striking gold. So whether you’re seeking inspiration for your holiday or simply want to discover the next Anthony Bourdain, here’s where to look.

Inspiration for your next road trip: Kombi Life

The premise: In 2010, former IT specialist Ben Jamin bought a 1993 Volkswagen Kombi bus and embarked on an epic, four-year drive from Chile all the way to Alaska, with the idea of sharing the experience (and driving time) with anyone who could throw him gas money. More than 100 different travellers, 111,232 (140,623 as of 17 August) followers, and four seasons later, Jamin finally made it to Alaska—having met his partner, Leah, along the way.

Why we like it: It’s like The Bachelor meets Top Gear. You get drama from scantily clad, hitchhiking surfers and nitty-gritty car talk from stuck-in-the-mud bus repairs. It’s also well-produced, with a solid script, professional-sounding voice-overs, and a fun concept that in future seasons will take Jamin across the US and into Europe.

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Culture news you can use: Vagabrothers

The premise: San Diego-based brothers Marko and Alex Ayling talk squarely to members of their own generation—millennials—as they seek out the trendiest cultural experiences around the globe. They take viewers on neighbourhood tours of Santa Monica, into a “sparty”, or spa-bathhouse party, in Budapest, and to the coolest gaucho-style barbecues in Mendoza. If there’s a craft beerhouse, cocktail den or dance party worth seeking, these will be the guys to tell you about it.

Why we like it: Marko and Alex are tapped-in and adventurous, helping you flesh out itineraries in well-trod destinations and giving you a reason to consider new ones (think vodka shots with yurt-dwelling nomads in Kazakhstan). And while Vagabrothers’ affordable, nightlife-heavy vibe is unabashedly youthful, there’s broad appeal in reliving your glory days.

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It’s strangely compelling to see a destination as a bunch of slickly shot clips, like a travel-vlogger version of a Godfrey Reggio or Ron Fricke film.

The masters of travel porn: Beautiful destinations

The premise: This company creates short-form, striking vignettes in full 4K resolution that are like cinematic postcards from the most beautiful destinations on Earth, just as the name would indicate. The simple concept relies on flawless execution: slow-motion pans across Yosemite or the Dubai desert, time-lapse shots of crowds in Macau, overhead drone shots of boats in the Arctic. Escapism is this company’s bread and butter—after all, these are the same social media pros who have drawn followers on Instagram since 2012.

Why we like it: It’s strangely compelling to see a destination as a bunch of slickly shot clips, like a travel-vlogger version of a Godfrey Reggio or Ron Fricke film. And without deeper narratives to latch on to, these stunning clips are like bite-size snacks that offer quick, satisfying breaks from reality.

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Rare looks at forbidden places: Kick the grind

The premise: Marine biologist-turned-videographer Mike Corey checks out all sorts of fascinating places you wouldn’t dare step foot in, like abandoned shopping centres, creepy doll museums, and a Garden of Eden recreation in San Luis Potosi originally built for an eccentric millionaire. He captures them with stunning drone footage and up-close-and-personal walk-throughs, detailing their little-known histories. Also on his channel: mini-documentaries showcasing obscure festivals and traditions around the world. In one episode, he dives into an annual celebration in one of Spain’s tiniest towns where a man dressed up as the devil chases children through the streets.

Why we like it: Though Corey has a tendency to use words like “crazy” in reaction to otherness, he makes a genuine effort to present global traditions without judgement. His content is immersive and thoughtful.

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Your new adventurous man-crush: Mr Ben Brown

The premise: A former champion kayaker with a keen sense of dry British humour, Ben Brown has been vlogging his first-person, high-octane adventures at the ends of the Earth since 2010. That can mean a motorcycle road trip through the Alps or a zodiac excursion between Arctic glaciers. Other times it’s a visit to his favourite camera shop in Cape Town, with tips on his preferred new gear. It’s almost always the life you would dream of living, if you had the time off and the athletic prowess to pull it off.

Why we like it: Visually breathtaking video work and slick hipster pop soundtracks lend the clips real production value, and Brown’s effortlessly cool personality is as aspirational as his travel schedule.

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