Photo: eldar nurkovic/Shutterstock

Why the Best Travel Videos Are Shot at Home

by eric warren Sep 19, 2011
Stuck at home for a while? Great! You’re in the perfect place to make killer travel videos.

You buy a camera and hit the road, and before you know it, you’re shooting like the host of some indie-label travel show. You’re having fun and making some decent videos. Then something happens that takes your travel-filmmaking to the next level: you go home.

Local knowledge
The first thing that occurs to you when you start wandering the streets of your hometown with your camera in tow, is that you don’t have to ask Andreas, the dreadlocked dude in Pucon, Chile, seated at the hostel’s check-in desk, or the bartender at The Lion and Eagle (who is known for throwing pint glasses on occasion), what you should see during your visit. You already know. This is your chance to show people the sites as a local rather than as some noob who just arrived five minutes ago. Still want to stop at the pub? Great, now you can enjoy that pint instead of using it to work up the confidence to talk to the surly bartender.

Come back and shoot it tomorrow
One of the most disappointing aspects of shooting while traveling is when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Rainy beach days. Wind killing the audio. Trying to cut expenses by traveling during the off season (it’s the off-season for a reason). When you’re on the road, you are going to miss a great opportunity because the weather is screwing up your only chance to get the goods. Shooting where you live, say Seattle, you can retire to Cupcake Royale, watch the rain with Elisabeth over lavender-vanilla cupcakes and shoot it tomorrow.
Dig in
Perhaps, you decide to show off your town’s huge art scene. At first, you wander around the galleries trying to perfectly frame shots of some blurry, pixelated photography with a curator reading a magazine. That’s when you realize that videos of art galleries are boring. Living in San Francisco, you decide to hit the gallery scene on the evening of the first Friday of the month, during the city’s “Art Walk.” Nothing brings out the artistic flair of a city like giving a thousand people free wine. Between the homeless guy stumbling over a porcelain sculpture and the “artists gone wild” footage, your video is going to be a winner.

You’re not hanging out with other travelers all the time
Sometimes you think back wistfully on your last trip and the people you met. There was an awesome evening talking to Dani, the American aerobatic pilot, about her time flying fighter planes. There were Karl and Stefan, the German brothers who had been backpacking for three years. There was a Romanian and an Israeli… But you were in Ireland. Often the travel community surrounds itself with, well, travelers. Suddenly, you find yourself at home, surrounded by locals. Grab one of them and get an interview. They have all the answers.

It’s easy talking to locals when you are one
Since you’re a local, it’s going to be a lot easier to talk to other locals. Say you live in Portland, Maine, and you see a grizzled, line-faced lobsterman stuffing bloody fish into bait-bags, stop and ask him if he minds you filming him while he works. Would you have done that so easily in another country with its language barriers or cultural minefields? Possibly. Instead of asking yourself if you could have done it somewhere else, get down to the business of getting some great clips of him preparing lobster traps. While you’re filming, he tells you all about the history of the waterfront and how the salt-cod industry changed the area forever. Score.

Get a name for yourself as an expert
Your videos are starting to look pretty darned good and the online community takes notice. People ask you questions about where to go and what to do. You’ve become a destination expert without realizing it. This new recognition gets you stoked to keep your camera rolling, dig deeper and talk to the locals. In your hubris, you email your Convention and Visitors Bureau and they agree to post a few of the videos on their website. They even give you enough money to get a couple of six-packs. Double score.

Find new and cool destinations
Of course, you start out filming all the same shit that everyone does: Maine’s lighthouses, Ireland’s pubs, Thailand’s, well, all kinds of weird stuff happens in Thailand. Once you get tired of collecting all the low-hanging fruit, you’ll start remembering the cool stuff: Novare Res, the underground tavern with 50 beers on tap whose owner bought everyone a pint for coming out during a tropical storm, or that fish market you always promised yourself you’d go to, but haven’t, yet…

Get stoked about where you live
…And here’s the kicker: stepping into Harbor Fish Market is like traveling all over again. You shoot bright-colored fish with eyes bulged out on ice-covered display cases and lobster tanks churning with pumped-in air to keep them alive. The footage is great, but you’ll never forget the thrill of talking to that grizzled, line-faced fisherman.

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