2015 – A Retrospective

2015 has been a great year.  Some people get bummed on New Years.  The freak out by the inexorable passage of time, feeling older. I do not.

For me, the 31st of December is like a viewpoint that suddenly emerges from the covered canopy of a mountain trail.  It is a chance to pause, catch one’s breath, and look backwards at how far we have come.

Temescal Canyon Hike
Temescal Canyon Hike, looking over Los Angeles

The result is gratitude – thankfulness for both the good as well as the bad, for the lessons we’ve learned and the people we’ve met along the way.  So in this post, I’d like to take the time to thank you personally for supporting Alex and me on our journey.

Making a life from YouTube would not be possible without an audience.  That reality can inadvertently cause creators to conflate their own success with quantifiable numbers – how many views their videos get and how many people subscribe their channel.

It’s easy to obsess about growing the size of your audience or making content that goes viral.  And there were many times in the year when we fell victim to this “status anxiety” so pervasive in our society, using the yardstick of subscribers or channel views to measure ourselves alongside more established creators.

Such thinking is not healthy.  And whenever it struck, Alex and I would ground ourselves by appreciating the people who tune into our channel every week.  Reading comments from viewers who say our channel has helped inspire or inform their own travels reminds us why we do what we do.

Budapest, Hungary

Even more helpful has been focusing our on energies not on advancing our “careers,” but on perfecting our “craft.”  Each week we have tried to improve the quality of our filmmaking and the strength of our storytelling.  We have aimed to move beyond tired cliches about travel (including the over-used California slang “epic” and “awesome” – guilty!) and really get into what makes each place we visit special.

To that end, we had the priviledge to have gone on some truly unique adventures with you guys.  Let’s recap.

Winter forest in Finland

We kicked off 2015 with our Winter in Europe series, traveling by train throughout Central Europe in the midst of winter.  The trip was partially inspired by Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which celebrated the wonderful aesthetic of Bohemia in the winter.

Central Europe is a place where buildings are painting all sorts of bright colors.  They look wonderful all year round, but with the first snows of winter arrive they make the landscape truly pop.  We were on the road for two full months, traveling from Finland to Pilsen, Prague, Budapest, the Austrian Alps, Chamonix, Iceland, Bavaria, Cologne and Berlin.

Charles Bridge, Prague

We spent spring time exploring a bit of our backyard in California before heading north to the Canadian Heartland to film in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  It was a great chance to see a part of Canada that a lot of visitors miss.

Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta

After VidCon, we were invited on a road trip up the California Coast by Ben Brown, who challenged us to daily vlog the trip.  The resulting seven-video series was a big departure from our normal style and was quite well received by our audience.

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 8.21.19 PM
Yosemite National Park with the YouTube Travel Crew

Many encouraged us to continue daily vlogging, however we have no appetite for that lifestyle.  The format is quite popular on YouTube, but it does not suit us.  Our channel is about the places we visit and people we meet, and we didn’t want to shift the focus to ourselves.

Still, we knew we could learn a lot from the experiment at daily vlogging.  For one, we enjoyed letting the videos breathe a more.  Instead of editing three days of travel into a single eight-minute video, we decided to keep the daily vlogging format while traveling.  Secondly, having longer and more numerous videos allowed more of our personalities to come through, which people seemed to enjoy.

We also wanted to take what we could from daily vlogging while keeping our production quality high, so we decided to film each day of the trip but only release two videos a week.   That way, we would still have time to adequately research our upcoming trips and put the effort into the edits that define our signature style.

The result was a new series – a trip through the Nordic capitals exploring New Nordic Cuisine in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki.

Rooftop view in Copenhagen

After that shoot wrapped, instead of returning home to California we decided to travel to nearby Estonia to chill out for a few weeks while we worked on the edit.  We got an affordable AirBNB in Tallinn ($350 for a week) and got to know the capital quite well.  It was a cheap and enjoyable way to balance out work/life as digital nomads.

Hanging out in Tallinn, Estonia

Our last major shoot of the year was a nine-day road trip through Ireland, which produced our second “vlog series”, and a further improvement on this new hybrid style we pioneered.  Both of us stand by the Ireland series as our best work to date.

In the midst of all this, a funny thing happened.  Our audience tripled in size to 69,000 and our channel racked up three million views.  Little by little, more and more people found the channel, liked what they saw, and stuck around for more.  Perhaps you are one of them.

So as 2015 draws to a close, we’d like to thank you once again.   In the last month, we’ve launched a new channel trailer (below), a clothing company, and a brand new website (you’re looking at it!).

We’re happy to be where we are, and excited for what comes in the future.  Thanks for traveling with us this far – we look forward to more adventures in 2016!

3 thoughts on “2015 – A Retrospective

  1. I am your mother’s cousin and I wanted to let you know that my son Ted is a graduate student in economics at McGill in Montreal. If you are planning to be in Montreal during your trip to Quebec he said he would be glad to talk to you about the city.

  2. Hey guys! You’re such a wonderful inspiration. So glad you got to make it out to Alberta, Canada. No many people come travelling to my nick of the woods, and I love it when people appreciate the beauty it has to offer like me.

    By the way, going to the Badlands in a yearly tradition here. So glad you could join in. Hope to see you guys make your way up here more often.

    Your videos are “awesome”, and just plain fun. Thanks for everything you do! Can’t wait to “go” on more adventures with you guys 🙂

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