The advent of YouTube has democratised the filmmaking process and paved the way for a flood of new content to arrive at our fingertips, a flood which has permeated into all aspects of life. Subsequently, this has led to the genesis of the “vlog”, which to the uninitiated, is a contraction of “video blog”.
By nature, vlogs are of course generally lifestyle or hobbyist-orientated, but nonetheless they are wide-ranging, spanning categories ranging from gardening to gastronomy, and collectables to cinema. However, in my opinion one category stands out, unparalleled in its ability to create excitement and intrigue: travel vlogs.
That creating engaging, entertaining, and unique content no longer requires a Hollywood-style studio and an army of production crew means that anyone can pick up a camera and cultivate some good old movie magic from the comfort of their own home. Travel vlogs take that a step further, with vloggers able to venture out into the world armed only with a camera, bringing their viewers along for the ride. Vlogs can be found about pretty much anywhere, with many vloggers also making the journey as much of an event as the destination, producing detailed coverage of their flights, train journeys and road trips – there’s a seemingly infinite amount of focal points out there.
This simple yet brilliant formula is proving to be a hit, with travel vlogs appearing everywhere and the category’s popularity growing exponentially. Indeed, a quick YouTube search for ‘London travel vlogs’ yields a colossal number of results, many boasting viewing figures which number in the thousands. This is no coincidence, and I am thus convinced that travel vlogs are the spiritual successor to that age-old institution, the guidebook. A number of factors contribute to travel vlogs’ success, notably the entertainment they provide. Vloggers are generally charismatic, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and getting to live vicariously through their experiences is a lot of fun. Many travel vloggers I follow, such as Wolters World, Theme Park Worldwide and Lost LeBlanc are really enjoyable and relaxing to watch – to the extent that often I’ll find myself watching vlogs from places I’ve already visited or don’t plan to visit. The fact that travel blogs are so heavily intertwined with social media makes them interactive too, a feature that guidebooks don’t offer.
Despite this plethora of positives, travel vlogs are by no means short of naysayers. Critics complain that they cheapen the travel experience, removing elements of surprise and discovery, and that after watching them, people may feel they’ve gained a sufficient flavour of a destination so they won’t actually visit. On the contrary, vlogs can actually be a powerful research tool and fertile source of information, allowing us to get a small taste of a place, growing our appetite to visit it rather than satisfying it. They give us ideas for new places to see and aid us in deciding whether we want to take the plunge and book a trip. After all, travelling is expensive, and it’s good to have a rough idea of whether you’ll enjoy visiting a place before committing. Further criticism about vlogs creating unrealistic, high expectations of places (consequently often leading to disappointment) is valid, but simultaneously travel is all about compromise, flexibility and open-mindedness, and if you keep those things in mind, you’ll rarely go wrong.
Ultimately, travel vlogs are a prime example of “edutainment”, providing a wealth of useful knowledge whilst having a lot of fun along the way. Next time you’re bored on the internet, why not try one? You never know where it might take you…