Travel Vlogs are more influential than ever, thanks to Youtube. As the world’s second-most visited website, available in over 100 countries and eighty different languages, YouTube has become an essential resource for viewers and vloggers alike. This global pool of video content is a seemingly limitless wellspring for us travelers who enjoy unfettered access to artsy montages, epic adventure shots, immersive video tours, and interviews with fascinating foreigners we wouldn’t have the privilege to meet offline.
These videos not only entertain us, but also exert powerful influence on our travel choices. So we’ve compiled a list of video content creators whose influence we welcome. Each one of our top ten travel vlogs offers a unique perspective on ethical travel by questioning systems or ideologies in need of overhaul, championing multiculturalism, or vocalizing the pressing environmental concerns often overlooked by mainstream travel vlogs.
Doug Lansky is regarded by many as an intellectual authority on the subject of travel. His podcast (also available in vlog form on YouTube) is an informative and brutally honest commentary on the tourism industry. In his view, Covid-19 afforded the world a “great pause” to partially recover from the deleterious effects of rampant overtourism. So he asks viewers, “How are we going to learn from our past mistakes and put locals and the environment first?” He critiques the buzzwords and clickbait that run rampant in travel media and admonishes the all-too-common commodification of “fragile” cultures that suffer irreparable damage at the hands of unregulated tourism.
An accomplished keynote speaker, Lansky advises politicians, city planners and private companies on improving sustainability issues and combating overtourism. He has spoken for Google Travel, Microsoft, Amadeus, Expedia, Booking.com as well as airports, hotel associations and city, regional, national Destination Marketing Organizations worldwide. Start with “The New Normal For Tourism” for a taste of his acerbic commentary.
Using positivity and humor as his foundation, travel vlogger Phil (aka Philwaukee, aka “Phil The Culture” ) brings viewers along for the ride as spreads smiles across Europe. With unapologetic goofiness and undeniable warmth, he endears himself to locals by embracing their customs and languages. In celebration of each new destination, he never fails to: 1. Sample the local potato chips, and 2. Stand in a public space offering unlimited free hugs to passersby. In Phil’s words, “Travel is about creating solidarity with all peoples and all cultures all the time.” He challenges racial stereotypes with a playful, down to earth attitude (See “Why I’m A HUG Dealer Not a DRUG Dealer”) and isn’t afraid to dance in the street to the beat of his own drum…or his own singing, for that matter.
GLP, aka the Green Living Project, is less like a travel vlog and more like a collection of cinematic travel videos. This award-winning content marketing agency and film production company dedicates their work to authentic storytelling that supports sustainable travel. “We have a vision that authentic storytelling has the power to challenge industries and change the world, and we strive to tell great stories that support this vision.” Since 2008, GLP has produced over 100 short-films across 25+ countries, partnering with a variety of industry innovators and leaders (including media networks, governments, corporations, NGOs, think tanks) to produce and distribute custom video content.
Their YouTube series, The Best of Destination Storytelling is a captivating, cinematic, soulful collection of stories from people around the globe. Each short video captures the essence of a place through the eyes of an individual with a particular relationship to it.
We also recommend their #TourismStrong, an uplifting video series that celebrates the resilience of the travel industry with positive tourism stories amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.
A self-proclaimed travel junkie dedicated to inspiring people of color to see the world, Oneika has visited an impressive 118 countries on 6 continents. Her travel vlog reflects a fierce commitment to women who travel, and an honest account of her experience traveling while black. Oneika strikes a charming and entertaining balance of keeping it real while delivering polished video content. She’s the plucky, sophisticated friend you’d want by your side in unfamiliar territory.
On top of creating her own award-winning travel content, Oneika Raymond is the host of Travel Channel’s One Bag and You’re Out and Big City, Little Budget. She’s also a travel and lifestyle correspondent for NBC New York and CTV Canada and was honored with a 2017 Voices of the Year (VOTY) award at BlogHer, one of the premier conferences for women in digital media.
You’re in luck, number five is a two for one!
Johnny Harris is a journalist at Vox who explores the human stories behind the lines on our maps. In addition to his geopolitically driven YouTube videos, he created Borders, a series of documentaries that reveals how the borders determined by few affect the lives of billions residing within them.
Bright Trip, by Johnny Harris is a travel education website that also provides some free content on YouTube. Bright Trip aims to help people prepare for trips using comprehensive, video based learning so that they can feel empowered, informed and more connected to the destinations they explore. For more information, check out Harris’s detailed introduction video.
Mat and Danielle believe in living large with less! These minimalist nomads have been traveling full time in their converted campervan since 2012, sharing their lifestyle experiments along the way. In addition to personal insights on sustainable living, these travel vloggers also interview other unconventional rovers trying to minimize their ecological footprints. They feature people who live in small spaces (tiny houses, vans, RVs, sailboats) and those who are exploring long-term travel, minimalism, zero waste living, renewable energy, and more.
Indigo traveller, Nick Fisher, Indigo Traveller YouTube Channel explores the world’s most misunderstood places and creates videos that challenge incomplete perceptions perpetuated by mass media. His first hand experiences in Venezuela, Honduras, Iran, Somalia, North Korea, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan will debunk some common misconceptions that influence international opinions of regions within *The Global South. But his vlog isn’t just about proving the mainstream media wrong. Sometimes, he experiences the same brutal realities that appear on international headlines. In these cases, his videos offer a current and unfiltered context to help put those headlines into perspective.
*The Global South is a heavily debated term that many scholars use in reference to places previously considered “third world”. It points more to geopolitical power than geographical location. Ironically, much of the Global South lies within the northern hemisphere.
Travel vlogger, Eva Zu Beck documents her solo adventures in the wilderness of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. She promotes communing with nature, building survival skills, and living like locals with locals. Unlike many other travel vloggers, she doesn’t promote luxury accommodations, products or tours. Instead she focuses on respectfully ingratiating herself with the people she meets, humbly capturing the joy of connecting with strangers. She takes viewers along for the ride as she confidently gallops two horses across the Mongolian tundra, but doesn’t shy away from sharing her vulnerabilities either. When she encounters a road block, the camera keeps rolling. Zu Beck’s vlog strikes an intriguing balance between wilderness adventure and cultural immersion, respectfully sharing the proud heritage of little known tribes and communities with the world.
Josh Fenn’s vlog focuses on minimalism, travel, and technology. His One-Bag-Travel series is especially helpful for those looking to lighten their loads for long term travel. His approachable manner and orderly aesthetic make minimalism look incredibly sleek and manageable. He also excels at product promotion without coming off as “salesy”. Fenn’s frugal living series applies to life in general, but eco-conscious travelers can easily apply his useful tips for waste reduction, repurposing, and smart spending on any trip. Finally, he sprinkles in useful videos on other topics that digital nomads and frequent travelers would appreciate such as: My Favorite Travel Apps, Why I Travel Light, and Digital Minimalism.
Responsible Travel is a multifaceted travel activism company dedicated to making tourism a more caring industry for people and the planet. If the name rings a bell, you might remember seeing the Responsible Travel booking platform in our Guide to Green Tours! In his vlog posts, CEO Justin Francis gets real with viewers about the sustainability issues that he encounters in the travel industry. He also uses his platform as an activist to call out problematic practices such as keeping turtles in tanks and elephant trekking. The YouTube channel also provides education videos explaining responsible tourism, suggests best times to visit certain areas, explains common concerns like wildlife abuse and overturism, and promotes responsible travel options in select destinations.