Win my 1 bitcoin! or learn why Youtube travel vloggers are bullshit

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No need to read my entire blog eviscerating travel vlog youtubers. I’ll state my challenge up front. I’ll send 1 bitcoin to the first person that can guess where this picture was taken this week. I’ll make it easier than naming a beach. You must name the closest city to the beach. The deadline is 7 March 18 at 7pm Eastern US time. To prevent spam and an excel spreadsheet of every city in the world, type the location in the comments below. One guess per person. The first 500 guesses will be accepted and tallied and I’ll post the answer along with the 500 guesses, other pics of this beach with me on it on another blog. At the current spot price of bitcoin, this is actually a pricey gamble that might not even think beyond their home continent. Maybe they think it’s Myrtle Beach (pssst. It’s not, or is it?). I know it’s not exactly a Forrest Fenn type loot, but hey, it’s something.

What? Is it too hard? Too many choices to pick from? If you don’t know where to start, you must not like travel pictures. Maybe when you think of traveling, you think of only 10 glamorous places in the world (like some youtubers below). Traveling for most people is a form of escapism. People like to think of going to the beach, but don’t actually like sitting on the beach for more than a few hours.

Most people with a little wanderlust in them have traveled to many places for many different reasons. Some want to be inspired. Some yearn for a sense of discovery and wonder. Some do it for spiritual growth. Some are running away from a past life. Some just love doing what would be considered “illegal shit” in their home country. For most of human time, some might say, military conquest, economic opportunities, a quest for a new start in life, a sense of honor, or flight from religious persecution were primary motivating factors to travel beyond your home borders.

I’ll begin by saying the days of Arthur Frommer are over. There are simply not enough beach selfies in any Frommer guide for millennials to pay attention.

In the mid 20th century, the jet-setter crowd glamorized affluent adolescents taking quick trips to lavish locations. London. Paris. Rome. This wasn’t really for fame. It was just self indulgence and storytelling fodder for social circles. Today, with platforms like youtube, a new industry has formed around what I call “Tube-setters.”

Tube – setter:

noun:

Definition: Charlatan vloggers who travel world and create self-indulgent travel videos visiting mostly beaches and five star accommodations. Ignores where most humans actually live. Cultures and languages don’t matter. Bathing suits are near mandatory every few videos. 

Related:

affiliate marketer, noun

Today, I argue, youtube stars like Eric Conover, The Perkins, Vagabrothers, High On Life, FunForLouis, Danielle Mansutti, and Lost Leblanc travel in self indulgence for fame, self promotion, and monetization schemes. Some are better than others (I’ll name my opinion on the best below). They travel to destinations well-known. They dress fashionably and always ensure a girl in a bikini is nearby as they head to places like Monaco, New York, Thailand, Miami and Bali. If they do go to place in Africa, they label the entire trip “Africa” or “Safari” without knowing how thoughtless it sounds. It would be like a Kenyan saying, “I just saw Asia. Check out my 1 day trip.” Or maybe a Mongolian saying “I flew to Myrtle Beach. It’s official, I saw North America. Click here.” Although I know the golden rule to never argue with a Mongolian, but in this case, I’d probably ask him to consider a larger sample size.

They act as if they know the world after taking some video on a Bali beach with their GoPro. They are taking the easy path as they make clickbait titled videos in hope to monetize what is essentially their vacations (nothing is lower than a dang clickbait title um ………). For those that are fans, know that I’m really impartial. In fact, I’ve never seen a single one of their videos before today. If you do the math, you would quickly find out it is impossible to watch every minute of every video except for clicking through a large sample to hear if there was any actually anything worth learning about. In fact, anyone that does take on this Clockwork Orange-ish punishment of actually watching all the content ever produced from these youtubers, they could suffer death-by-youtube through boredom where their anus and eyeballs explode at the same time. This is punishment no human being should suffer through.

I simply did a “travel blog” search on youtube and clicked through a few pages of the top followed channels. Simple as that. You can try this, and see the same theme. Lots of beach thumbnails of girls in bikinis. Some confessional videos. Some offer some “advice.” Obviously they have the wisdom to part top 10 lists. Some are more about getting the content out there (and since there are only so many beach GoPro shots you can take), so they resort to Q&As where they obviously want to talk to their fans. I think even they don’t know. Are they fans? Are they wanderlust inspired viewers? Is it just an accountant in Dallas who put on youtube videos while he toils away in his cubicle at his firm. How many times can their freaking grandmother click on on their videos?

Or, maybe people are truly memorized by this stuff. Like the whole subculture going to sleep, or doing something else entirely, to ASMR videos. You don’t feel out of touch until you are suggested by Google to watch a ASMR video with 9.4M videos of a woman whispering. It’s like culture taking a perfume-laden fart.

*Note: Upon further review, FunForLouis gets 3 bonus points for visiting and vlogging on North Korea and Somalia, but lost 3 points in authenticity for the countless videos dedicated to his dreadlock styling decisions, “surprised looks,” and clickbait titles such as “Caught by Mexican Police” (where less than 10 seconds of a 12 minute video shows a mexican copy car pulling them over).

I know, maybe I’m totally delusional. Maybe not everyone wants to travel to Chennai (population 4.5 million), Ahmedabad (population  5.6 million), Surabaya (population 2.8 million), Medan (population 2.1 million), Dhaka (population 14 million), Chengdu (population 14 million), Suzhou (population 11 million), Accra (population 1.7 million), Kisumu (population 1.1 million), Fes (population 1.1 million), and Belo Horizonte (population 4.4 million). Maybe royalty-free music tracks don’t go quite well in these locations.

There are still knowledgeable travelers. The ones who monetize through books and maybe some affiliate marketing with resorts seem to be more knowledgeable than the ones who focus more on their appearances and well-lit selfie shots. None can compare to professionals like Rick Steves on PBS who can actually tell culturally significant stories, albeit in more of a dry presentation to an older crowd (aka those who no longer are entertained by beaches/beach selfies). And yes, instead of the beach, he is probably guilty of focusing a lot of attention on European locales, but he works for PBS and not Vice.

As for the youtubers above, no travel vlog can be perfect. I surfed a few videos and reviewed many of the clickbait titles. From what I can see, Eric Conover really really loves himself and might or might not have accidentally proposed to himself in a mirror at one time or another. The Perkins really love going to events and taking selfies. Solutions for Syrian Genocide, they do not have. FunForLouis has the most interesting channel as he jams the most diverse set of activities, friends, and hairstyles in his series. Danielle Mansutti, well, has discovered something else beautiful makeup tutorial youtubers with beautiful boyfriends can do (along with Kane and Pia, Emitaz, Angelica Blick) … she just needs to remember content creation goes beyond visuals (pssst say something interesting). High on Life parlayed a “Titty Pec Dance,” “Epic Backflip Fail,” and “Straddle Jump to the Balls” around 6 years ago into the party travel blogger channel to today. This is like a modern day youtube fairytale. Who could have imagined that? Lost Leblanc was the most basic of the channels, but oddly enough, was the one who chose to add a series on “How to make money on Youtube.” This sort of puts the channel in its own class and probably deserves its own unique word. It’s not the blind leading the blind … but maybe the tube-setter leading the tube-setter.

Out of all the channels I watched, only the Vagabrothers seemed to actually mix diverse locations, food, activities, while remaining authentic with their personalities. A lot of it is focused squarely on travel, and based on the range of videos, if I was a space alien and wanted to know more about Earth, Vagabrothers is what I would watch out of this sample.

It is clear that people watch for part wanderlust and part aspirational life since most of these tube-setters are under 35. For more credibility long term, I think the tube-setting crowd should at least explore the parts less known. Eventually, there will be other 20-somethings who will steal the views and attention space if you remain one-dimensional. First youtuber advantage won’t save you against people younger, and more cooler than you as you get older and less relatable. Ask any actress over 35 what happens in Hollywood. It’s a shallow world. Diversify your content. Take a leap of faith. Let us actually learn something. Give us interesting facts you learned that we can’t find anywhere else. Go to cities that people have not vlogged about. Try speaking the local language and learn about local customs. Try to eat their foods. I’ve actually watched many of the youtube videos of The Food Ranger, due my love of Asian food. This was an accident, again, from the damn Google search suggestion algorithm. I never realized there was so much weird stuff to eat in India and China.

But stay off the beach. The world doesn’t need more beach selfies and GoPro videos uploaded on youtube.

And wear sunscreen.

Or, win my 1 bitcoin.

Follow me on Twitter @Matt_M_Leonard

Travel Blog – Qatar Dune Surfing & Beach “Party”

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Qatar might not sound like a travel and leisure destination to you, but for me, back in 2007 there was no better place to be. I needed a week off of work. I needed to get away. You might say, to me, Qatar was the top destination on travel list.

You also might say Qatar was the only option.

And, the trip there was free.

Upon seeing my accommodations, I inquired about the available day trips I could take. There were a number that I signed up for and took that week.

Only one, for the cost of $60, took me on an excursion to a destination unknown. The description at the front desk was vague. It described a dune surfing adventure along with a beach stop and delicious meal to conclude the trip. I was skeptical, but needed to see for myself. This is not exactly the excursion desk on a Carnival Cruise.

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Our chariots awaited us in Nissan Pathfinders. The drivers instructed us to pick a car, any car, as we boarded not exactly knowing where we were going. I wish I could remember the exact conversation with the driver. I’m pretty sure he was not even Qatari. Like many workers in Qatar, the U.A.E. or Kuwait, they brought over from much poorer countries to work for a period of time at much higher wages than their local economy. Pakistan and India notably provide a larger base of English speaking workers. Countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and Indonesia provided low cost labor for large construction projects. From the few videos I did take, much of the attention of the driver seems to be paid to the music selection. It seemed to be the singular most important thing to him. In one video, Beyonce is playing. In the other, it’s Linkin Park. One hand is on the wheel, and the other is trying to impress us with his taste in music. Don’t let the media fool you on what people around the world think of Americans. You’ll be surprised how many people love American culture, movies/fashion/music, while disliking only politics. Even in America, most people dislike politics.

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Once we hit the actual dunes though, it didn’t take long for me to realize how good my driver was. He wasn’t exactly a stunt driver, but I could tell by the time we began going up and down large dune slopes, some almost the slope of a roller coaster drop, he knew exactly what would impress us. There was a certain joy I think in getting a reaction from us. Before the last drop, we parked for some pictures before going to the Meesaid Sealine Beach Resort. R&R Dune Trip #6.jpg

It might not look like it, but you could have rolled me off that sand dune. If you look closely, you can see tire treads of the cars that drive up and down the dunes.

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So there we were. What better way to celebrate surviving a sand dune roller coaster? How about jellyfish. Lots of them. So much, there was a jellyfish bottle spray to use if we got stung by one. Never in my beach travels had the jellyfish been the actual attraction. I ventured in the ocean, only in part to say I stepped foot and “swam” in the Persian Gulf. I basically sat most of the time reading the paranoid Michael Crichton novel, State of Fear. R&R Inland Excursion #3.jpg

Then came time for the meal. It was much better than what I expected. It was kebabs, pilaf, and some sort of chopped salad. The kebabs came in three different flavors: chicken, lamb, and a “mystery mix.” Whenever presented with the “mystery mix” you have to sort of go with the “destination unknown” theme and just try it. It was good and I ate all of it, to include the grilled jalapeno. R&R Inland Excursion Meal #3.jpg

After a couple hours we departed back to our accommodations. There were many other “adventures” that week, but nothing gave me the same moment of solitude that eating kebabs on a beach in the Persian Gulf did.

I still remember it over a decade later.

Surprise surprise.

Foodie Review: Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX)

They call it a culinary religious experience in the heart of Texas. Since around 6am peopled lined up in the morning at Franklin BBQ to be amongst locals, tourists, and fascinated fans of BBQ.

They come for the best BBQ in Texas, or some say.

I got there around 8:30 and the line was already at the 2 hour mark at least according to a bearded man who boasted a belly providing testament he had quality checked many briscuits over the years.


There isn’t that much to do waiting in a long line. People talked for the most part. People brought their own coolers but for the most part everyone was chilled out. You can watch dozens of YouTube videos of this place, but the thing I found amazing was that people would wait so long for food in America. I asked people why and all they could say is “it’s good.”


The place serves around 2k lbs of briscuit daily and once it runs out, it’s gone until the next day. I think the limited supply factor and promise from the founder of the company that he would never expand or franchise gives the place a certain mystic. This is the same concept behind Black Friday sales. 


We arrived and sat down and I realized another factor. There is only one line where people order their cuts one by one. This makes it incredibly slow compared to anything. Chipotle could probably process a line 10x as fast, however there wouldn’t be the certain marathon feel of crossing the finish line. I mean, people spend on the upwards of 5 hours for their food, so some one on one time with the man cutting your meat is the least they do.


We sat down maybe 15 mins early as a person in our group did a big order instead of 5 seperate orders. It kind of comes out to family style but since we all order by the pound, it results in the same, in 1/5th of the time. The downside was the bearded belly manager eyed us 6 times and then actually asked where in line our food orderers were. It was kind of annoying, considering it was 105 degree Texas heat and the fact they purposefully have few tables to sit at.


It was the moment of truth. We got a bunch of briscuit and some ribs and some sausage. It came with bread and onions and pickles and we ordered potatoe salad.

What did we think? We all agreed the briscuit was awesome. The sauces they had on the table were great as well. The ribs were terrific too. When they smoke the meat, they truly seem to rely on salt and pepper. They made the baby back ribs at Chiles seem like chewy dog food that was nuked and lathered with sauce. 

As for the sausage, we were split. Some said it was ok, while me and my wife said it was pretty greasy, so much so that it was the only thing we didn’t finish. 

The briscuit and ribs were an A. The sausage was like a B- at most.

The line sucked. I would only do it once with that long of a wait. 

Now the black eye…The bathroom at Franklin BBQ is absolutely disgusting. It’s also right across the hall from the kitchen. Maybe they want to keep it in the same spot to keep the magic going, but at least tear down and remodel parts of it.

Foodie Review: Torchy’s (Austin, TX)


On South Congress Street in Austin, Texas you can partake in a variety of culinary delights. My meetup group decided to choose Torchy’s, a burrito/taco fast casual joint with the architecture of a Whataburger. 


At the door you can purchase a variety of swag. I particularly liked this version, but only if the signature sauce met the hype of image of hell in my mind. I mean, come on, the entire brand evoked hotness of food … supposedly. 


I ordered a grande burrito and a fountain drink. I almost ordered a glass bottle Coke just to fit in the local crowd. Austin is kind of like the Portland of the Midwest. Overall my bill was something like $10.


This is it, the grande burrito itself. I asked for the hottest sauce which they put on the side. The burrito reminded me a little of Freebirds, but the hot sauce was better. It was hot, but didn’t quite live up the hype of hell inside a tortilla. It was kind of like a branding over promise and under deliver, but it was tasty.

The folks I was with got the tacos and they said they enjoyed it. I looked around the table at the rest of the group and everything was chowd down so it had to be to everyone’s liking.

Foodie Rating: 8/10 Tortillas

Foodie Review: Moe’s Southwest Grill


I used to think Moes was a Chipotle ripoff. I had been a Chipotle loyalist since 1999 having gone to college in Colorado Springs. 

The odd thing is I started eating Moes during grad school, as there was one on campus. I ate there a ton mostly due to proximity and convenience, but to be honest, the food was pretty good too. I always remembered it for providing chips and salsa with the entre. 

I went to a Moe’s recently and I have to say it’s still pretty good. Some stuff has changed; like a queso upcharge combo and a “Moe’s Monday.”


I usually order a Homewrecker burrito. The taste is different than Chipotle. Compared to he fajita burrito I would take Chipotle over Moe’s, mostly because the food seems slightly more fresh. 

The one advantage of Moes to me is the salsa bar. I can pretty much make my burrito as hot as I want by adding salsa myself. 

The downside to Moes is the weird trash cans they use, making some places smell a little. Chipotle has a large bin to dump trash and place baskets. Moes has a tiny slot similar to burger joints. This makes it messy for patrons who always seem to miss when dumping bowls. 

Instead of having a worker (who also handles food orders) constantly wipe trash can rims, why not just have it like chipotle and just have the trash emptied more often. No smell. No missed food dumps. And people eating don’t have to watch the trash can cleaner also be the person handling food. I know some bean counter at Moe’s corporate made the decision because less plastic baskets are dumped in the trashcan (15 cents a basket if in 1000 piece bulk), but the entire experience and brand is destroyed with the mess and employees having to constantly clean it up. This was a Moe’s in Texas on 27 June.

On another note, I recently had Moes in the Las Vegas Airport on a trip, and it was also an awkward experience and example of brand killing. The homewrecker was the most expensive of what I’ve ever paid for one (understand airports upcharge a ton like amusement parks) but it didn’t come with chips (no salsa bar). They made patrons pay for chips seperately. I asked and said chips came with it and the employee acted like I had no idea what I was saying, like it is preposterous that chips came with it. I said “I think it’s even on the website.” She said, “that’s only company stores.” Good job killing the brand. Then I ate at the few tables next to the food line, where another customer didn’t come for the next 20 minutes. A manager of some sort arrived and lectured the two women on food portions for 10 minutes. I mean, customers are all turning their heads and listening to the managers virtues of making the burritos as small as possible. Overfill on rice but go easy on the meat. Geeze. They should train without customers there, because we all probably felt ripped off in that moment. This occurred 22 June.

Travel Blog (Vegas Adventure 16)


So I heard about this place in Vegas to get a good cut. With poker players from around the world coming to Vegas, some for 6-8 weeks at a time, many of them need a cut or two while they are here.

I was told to check out “High Rollers” which offers a premium cut with a premium experience. They cut anything but do seem to specialize in the old school styles like the undercut. 


Walking in, the first thing you notice is the decor. Martin, the owner says they had bought the shop back in Feb 2012. 

Since then, some celebrities of sorts have been patrons of the shop.

Bryce Harper used to come here for a buzz. (A signed jersey and bat are hung on the wall)

One of the first things the winner of the first WSOP Colossus did was get a haircut here. 


These dudes at pretty cool and chill. They take their time and the conversations are interesting. A chiropractor came in and chatted about his band and the local bar scene. They give some serious attention to each patron. At one point, the man on the right started playing guitar as he waited for his next appointment. 

My haircut lasted 50 minutes, which is 40 minutes longer than my usual places in San Antonio.

It was well worth it.

It was an appointment day ($30 per cut) and I was a walk in which they usually only take on the back half of the week ($20 per cut). On their website they list all the packages.

If I lived in Vegas I would consider becoming a patron full time. If you are in town, and need a trim, consider stopping in.

Travel Blog (Vegas Adventure Part 15)


It happens every night in Vegas in every casino. Most of the time it is at the bar. Other times, they are called to people’s rooms (lower end surprise pricing). For the wealthy, everything is prearranged. 

It is fairly easy to spot. 

If you see a dressed up woman at a bar alone, constantly checking her phone and the bartender isn’t really trying to press them to chat as if they have seen them 100 times before, they are likely a hooker. 

If you see some nice looking younger women dressed to the nines, talking to an older, slightly pudgy man in a suit from India, China, or remarkably distinct nationality, between midnight and 3am in Las Vegas, they are a hooker.

If you see a man in their 60s with a cute blonde in her 20s, holding hands in Vegas, come on, that isn’t her grand daddy.

In my 8 days here, I’ve only been approached once. Last year I was approached once, almost to the point getting intercepted after taking an alternate path to avoid them. 

Last night, I was playing poker at a certain place and we all watched the negotiation commence from afar. The girl in white was aggressive as a leopard. We don’t know the pricing she was quoting him but he was toiling with the idea. It isn’t too often this man from Indian descent was probably away from his wife long enough to get a quickie and blame it on gambling losses. 

He walked away.

Then the woman in white turned and said something again, presumably a counter offer.

He returned to negotiations. 

We don’t know what the exact terms were. We think they were working in pairs and offering a three some at a cost of at least a thousand each due to their looks. 

Mr.Indian businessman toiled with it for 10 minutes, then finally decided to walk away.

Then the poker room peanut gallery shouted and yelled that he should have taken the deal, shocking the man thinking he was incognito. 

He shook his finger at us, when really, he should take a long look in the mirror.