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

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

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 14)


Vegas is a city where dreams go to die. 

In the old days, when the Mob ran the Vegas, there was a saying that if you went broke, the casino would ensure you would get home by buying you a bus ticket. 

When the corporations and suits took over Vegas, things changed. Nobody gives a shit about the homeless and those that lose everything, not even the city. 

This is sad. 

In a city that millions are wagered, and some high rollers bet as much as $100k on a hand, just outside, literally on the bridge between the opulent Palazzo and the Wynn, there was one homeless woman begging for money, and another who evidently had turned in for the night and decided to sleep on the there. 

Go down the escalator and enter the Wynn promenade and you can buy Rolex and Loius Vuitton and Chanel, and just outside people are destitute. 

Back when I used to live in Vegas, I saw all sorts of stuff. I lived behind the strip for 3 months as I was trying to close on my house. 

There is a huge homeless problem surrounding the strip with people suffering all kinds of addictions and bad turns in life. 

In fact, they estimate 2000 people actually live in the storm drain tunnels beneath Las Vegas. 

I know, because I have seen it. When people lost their homes in the housing collapse, some people even moved their entire furniture sets inside. They sleep at night and come out in the day and roam the strip. You’ll see them scavenging casinos looking for dropped money or tickets. They hand out those club tickets and ask for a donation. 

Some efforts are made by charities to get folks on their feet, but many don’t break the cycle. 

And sadly, many are vets. 

Here is one story I have, from my first week in Vegas in 2008. I was at chipotle next to Harrahs and a homeless man with torn up clothing, bloodshot eyes, was hogging the corner table just outside. He watched as a woman was done with her burrito bowl and she tossed it in the garbage. 

The homeless/drugged man then walked inside and reached in and grabbed the remainder of her bowl from the trash. He took it outside and mumbled to himself and ten started eating it with his fingers as tourists walked by. 

The next time you are in Vegas take a look, the homeless are not as invisible as you may think.

Travel Blog (Vegas Adventure Part 12)


For those of you who want to eat Asian food in Las Vegas, know that there is a pretty large Asian community west of the strip on Sprint Mountain road. You can find any Asian sect of food you want plus a score of karaoke bars and foot parlors and grocery stores in this area. 


I went to a restaurant a strip mall called “Mr.Tofu,” a Korean spot next to a karaoke bar and a tiki bar. The place is pretty small but I’ve been coming here at least once a year the last 6-7 years. 

The food is a pretty good and the price is decent so it makes for a quick bite. For the first time in many years the menu was updated to include combo prices. In the past, the kimchee tofu soup was a seperate item for $8 but now it’s a $3 add on with a main dish. 

So I ordered a Diet Coke and a pork bulgogi combo and asked them to make my soup extra spicey. The order comes with some standard Korean side dishes that seems to change every time I go.

The tofu soup was hot as hell, the way I like it. The vegetables seemed fresh. 
The bulgogi was awesome. This is why I come here. For the price and quality it is hard to beat it in contrast to the prices on the strip.

With the total price plus tax and tip, I think I left $25. 

Travel Blog (Vegas Adventure Part 11)

I saw a show.

Cliche?

At the Wynn, with each room comes a ticket to “Showstoppers” which I guess is a Broadway greatest hits of sorts. I’m not exactly a fan of musicals, but was told that I might as well check it out for free. 

So I headed down to the casino from my room and walked up to the ticket center. 


I asked a couple people in line if they had seen it. It was around 10 minutes prior to show start and I was not sure if I wanted to commit that much time to this experience. 

Then I met who I call “The Excited Man in the Safari Hat.” He was noticeably excited and couldn’t contain it. He said if I loved Broadway that I would love the show, because it is just the hit numbers. I guess translating that to stage play speak that is like a dinner of all deserts. 

He said this not realizing I don’t even recognize what a hit number is, outside of movie adaptations.

The guy was decked out with a backpack as if he had been on a hike. A large blue water bottle hung from his pack. 

Based on his demeanor he looked like he came to Vegas just for this show.

Then the lady behind him chimed in. “It’s great, I’ve seen it 3 times. What’s wrong? Why is your nose scrunched up?” 

I said I had a free ticket and they agreed I should give it a chance.


My seat was in the 4th row but all the way to the edge. This made my getaway plan feasible. 


Do you want concessions? I guess this works the same way as a movie? The prices were about the same.


There is a balcony for those who want a higher view.


The theater is a pretty good size. It might be a little smaller than the Penn and Teller show I last saw.


The show began with the main singers opening it up. I didn’t know what to make of it. They were well dressed and sounded pretty good to me. 

I think this was the Cabaret set. This is where I noticed how hard the performers were working. Everyone on stage has a role to play. The smiles were all at max capacity, cuz I was so close to the stage I was almost trying to spot if they got tired enough to break a smile and take a deep breath. From my seat I could even see the little wig-lines on their foreheads.


This was a Vegas set of some sort and I have no idea what the songs were, but I did like the lighted signs. A few of them had to dance and sing on top of those benches and I closely watched if any of them got close to stepping off.


I did recognize the songs from Grease. There are 66 performers in the show and they are all giving it their best on a Monday night. 


This was some number I don’t know. People seemed to like it and the balloon popping. They did this spinning feather move that was pretty cool though one girl totally messed up a little. 


They had a pretty nice set from Chicago. I mean, I am not a theater guy, but watching the girls dressed in very little dance was pretty entertaining to me, despite the music being about how they all killed some dudes. 


The show ends in a line dance of some sort. I guess this is popular, or was at some point in theater history?


The crowd loved it. I was a little confused to what I had just watched. My observation is the quality of the performers are top notch and they all work their asses off each night. Some of the singers are especially good. Good on them. 

As for me, it was only 90 mins and I didn’t walk out.