Like all readers of this travel blog, I love travelling to new places in the world. In fact I enjoy it so much that I’ve worked hard to turn it into my job. I’ve funded the last decade or so of my life by a cycle of travelling, writing, travelling, photographing, travelling, giving talks. It’s not easy to make a living from it, but it is possible.
In a nutshell I would say the essence of making a living from your love of travel is this:
- Travel to cool places, preferably in an interesting or unusual way
- Live very cheaply
- Tell your story well
- Repeat points 1 to 3 with relentless enthusiasm and determination until eventually someone starts to give you some money!
It is also important to be versatile and embrace new things. I began by writing (blogs and books) about my travels, then taught myself photography to add another string to my bow. Speaking well about your adventures is another possible source of revenue, particularly if you’ve got great photographs to back up your tales.
Most recently I have been teaching myself how to film my travels. Making short films for and Vimeo is a great tool for promoting yourself (an unpleasant but necessary aspect to the job). I’ve really enjoyed making films (enjoyment is vital for doing anything well!) and it has been helpful in reaching a wider online audience. My short films on Vimeo, for example, have been embedded / loaded in blogs 1.5 million times this year. Hopefully that has led to a few extra book sales.
It seemed like a natural progression from the short films to try to make a longer film. My aim was to make a film that I could enter into Travel and Adventure film festivals around the world. It would also be another product for me to sell on my website. (The more revenue streams you can generate, the better, especially if they are for things like movie downloads which don’t actually require any work for me once they’re up and running.) My film, ‘Into the Empty Quarter’ tells the story of a trip I did in the desert in Oman and the United Arab Emirates last year, inspired by one of my travel writing and adventuring heroes, Wilfred Thesiger.
More and more people are now wanting to film their travels. It may only be for fun or for friends and family back home. It may be to share with a wider online audience or even with aspirations of becoming the next Steven Spielberg. Whatever your aspirations, I hope that these tips for filming your travels will be helpful.
If it’s worthing doing, it’s worth doing well. You have to really want to make a film. It’s far more time-consuming and invasive of your travels than photography or writing.
Tips for Filming your Travels
- You don’t need a fancy camera. Of course, it certainly helps! But don’t let a lack of swanky kit stop you from getting started. Stanley Kubrick gave this advice to people wanting to make films, “Get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.”
- Having said that, the two simplest ways to massively improve your output is to buy a tripod and a microphone / audio recorder. And once you have them, USE THEM!
- Think what story you are trying to tell. Your film needs a start, a middle and an end. Make sure you film everything the viewer needs to see to understand that story.
- Start recording 5 seconds early, and stop recording 5 seconds after the action finishes. This bookending will really help when it comes to the editing phase.
- Set the scene – film the wide landscape.
- Paint the details – film small little things.
- Film people – they are the most interesting parts of your story.
- Help your editor – film ‘cutaways’. Essential and worth Googling what they are.
- If there is distracting background noise that you can’t get rid of, film the source of the noise (e.g. a generator, an idling engine). Viewers will forgive you poor audio if they see that it’s not your fault.
- Film when you really don’t want to film. Crying, vomiting, arguing, falling off cliffs – these disasters are what your viewers want to see!
- As a generalisation, don’t zoom wildly in and out. Film some bits zoomed in, some bits zoomed out. Film some head shots, some wide shots. But don’t jump wildly from one to the other.
- Talk to the camera lots, particularly if you are unsure what direction your story will go in the edit.
- Show the viewers that you are human. But avoid being self-centred and narcissistic. There’s a dangerous risk of overlap between these two things!
- Enjoy it! If the process of filming is preventing you from enjoying the travel experience then ditch it. It’s supposed to add to your journey, not detract from it.
Editing your film once you are home is a completely separate topic. But shooting the right things and shooting them well in the first place is the most critical stage of the process. I hope it helps!
Now, please forgive a very cheeky invitation for you to consider buying a copy of ‘Into The Empty Quarter’ for yourself…?!
is a British Adventurer, Author and Blogger. He spent over 4 years cycling round the world, a journey of 46,000 miles through 60 countries and 5 continents.
More recently Alastair has walked across southern India, rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, run 6 marathons through the Sahara desert, completed a crossing of Iceland, and participated in an expedition in the Arctic, close to the magnetic North Pole. He has trekked 1000 miles across the Empty Quarter desert and 120 miles round the M25 – one of his pioneering microadventures.
Alastair has written five books. He was named as one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the year for 2012. Follow him on Twitter: