Where Vagabond Journey stands in October 2014, 3,861 days since our first post.
I have now returned to Xiamen. It was a good jaunt of travel in Singapore, Batam (Indonesia), and Malaysia. I learned much, made friends, and set foot in three countries I hadn’t been to before. The stories from this trip will be blogged about over the coming weeks. Videos that show just about every step of the way will be published in rapid bursts throughout the next month. The focus of the Southeast Asia stories will be on the people I met there, delivered in the form of profile narratives — which is a form that I really enjoy but haven’t done too often lately. The videos will show what travel is really like there, as well as a few journalistic pursuits. Look for these posts to start appearing on Monday.
The rest of the previous trip to Kinmen, however, will be written up in an book. There is just far too many intrigues going on there now to pass up the opportunity to compile a singular work about it. The place sits outside the window of my apartment in Xiamen, but is culturally, politically, and economically a world away. I intend to work on this book in increments throughout the next six months, visiting Kinmen two or three more times, and I hope to have it finished by summer. This book will be a straight up travel narrative, a relaxing type of book to write and read — very much unlike Ghost Cities of China, which is a piston pounding of insane facts and observations.
Video per day
I’ve been shooting more and more videos lately, and have gotten in the habit of talking to myself in front of a camera wherever I go and, pretty much, whatever I do. I’ve been cultivating my ability at using a camera as a device to engage people and places a little more deeply. It took a while for me to figure out how to do it.
How do I get people to talk on camera in impromptu situations — unscripted, unplanned, raw? I’ve now uncovered some methods that seem to work. The best trick, apparently, is to walk into a room full of people, pull out your camera, and start filming yourself talking. It attracts attention — needless to say, it’s an odd thing to do — but it also draws people towards you and warms them up to talking in front of the camera.
I heard a story about a photographer who did a lot of work in extremely remote regions of Tibet. When asked how he got so many people to act so natural in front of his camera, he answered with a simple strategy: when arriving in front of his prospective subjects he photographs himself first. A camera is like a weapon, pointing it at yourself seems to make people feel a little more comfortable. Perhaps it’s something like a medieval dinner host taking a sip of wine while giving a toast to ensure everyone else that it hasn’t been poisoned . . .
Also, doing something boldly and confidently is often enough to attract participants. If I film myself brashly enough it may give the impression that I’m doing something far larger or more important than what I really am. This seems to draw people into the frame — they want to be on TV too, or something like that.
I now also have a super fast, bare bones method of assembling and editing videos, so I am able to publish them in rather prolific quantities. I’ve fumbled with making semi-professional quality videos that take longer swaths of time to put together, but the additional benefits were not there. A rough video about an intriguing topic seems to get as many, if not more, views/ likes/ ad clicks as one that is more nicely produced. Raw and real videos is what Youtube is for, one of the main benefits of the medium is that it’s a way to see the world in a way that’s not shown in the prim and posh “professional” media. If someone wanted polished, over-produced video content they would watch the Travel Channel, not me talking to myself on Youtube. The videos that I make are about real life and this should look real.
Another reason for the increased attention that I’ve been putting into videos is that, on average, a video will make five fold what a blog post does and takes five fold less time to produce. Though Vagabond Journey will not become a vlog anytime soon. There is far more that you can do with writing that you can’t do in video, and vice versa. A blog is a form of media that combines the written word, photos, and video, and a solid one will have all three in equal doses.
I now have a stockpile of videos from China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia that I’ve been frantically publishing. It’s to the point that I think I could start publishing a video post per day on Vagabond Journey. I like these kinds of posts as they don’t only contain a video — which shows a rawer, more sensual take on travel — but also provide text which explains in a little more detail about what is going on behind the camera, as well as some additional information about the topic of what was filmed.
Next month I should be going to the Philippines, another country that I haven’t been to before. I am currently planning some projects, so if you want to know something in particular about the Philippines, let me know.
As for the rest of the team:
Lawrence Hamilton is currently in Kaifeng, China. I have not met him yet, but would like to. He’s across the country from me, a long, long way away, so it’s not a quick jump between us.
David Fegan is traveling through Bolivia now, on his way north to Peru.
Michael Britton is still recovering from being caught in the floods in Kashmir and being relocated by the Indian military. It sounds as if it was a rather uncomfortable situation. He’s been in Pokhara “not really doing much of anything.” After an experience like he just had a little nothing time is probably more than warranted. He says he’s going to get back at it soon and will tell us of the tragic ordeal in Kashmir.
Tristan Hicks has taken a job teaching at a university in South Korea. I haven’t heard much from him other than that he is incredibly busy with the work of travel — visas, apartments, and stuff. But he did say that he’s learning to sail. I’m still awaiting his story about busting a notorious conman in Bangkok, and I’m very interested to hear more about his experiences teaching in Korea.
We have a new team member: Lisa Hamilton. She’s base in Australia and is prepped to write about the odd aspects of food and culture there. Look for her first posts coming soon.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.
Next post: The Effects of Native Bilingualism