road coffee lens / part two: Where did rcl come from? Cont.

In full time employment, stuck/not stuck at home, exit plan written and new YouTube idea – road coffee lens – thought of: that’s where we are in the story, that’s where I was at the end of 2012, beginning of 2013.

I had also just given two months notice to leave my job and I had bought my ticket to Bangkok for March, 2013.

In fact I had all my main flights booked; London to Bangkok, Hanoi to Seoul and Busan to LA. How I got from Bangkok to Hanoi, Seoul to Busan and LA to New York would be an adventure – although I had pretty much settled on train travel.

NB. Something I want to talk more about is my relationship with social media, and more specifically my timeline of what I’ve shared with the world over the past ten years. I’m not going to do that now, however I want to point out that I wasn’t always into it – sharing. I used to enjoy being out there, doing it, recording it for me, by myself. I still do. But it’s like a relationship that’s become more complicated with time. It’s, well, complicated.

I am one of those people who does something/sees something/watches something and then has a few weeks of intense motivation to do that one thing, or something like it. Its happened to me throughout my life. I could list off a few examples, however once again that’s a topic for another time. Needless to say that that habit of mine was one of the major reasons rcl came about. I had it in my mind that YouTube vlogging was what I should be doing, and I suddenly really wanted to make videos of myself doing things in the world. So I did. I bought a load of equipment – mainly a GoPro and a mic plus a few accessories – and created my first road coffee lens episode. I was about to go to Wales and Falmouth to visit a couple of friends I was going to miss a lot, and so I decided it would be a good opportunity to film the trip. I planned to film everything and then, back home, create an introduction. Then cut in the story with some hilarious commentary throughout.

This is the result, and the first video:

I actually had a lot of fun! And initial feedback was pretty positive, which gave me the needed motivation to keep it up and plan on it being a weekly or bi-weekly thing every week throughout my travels.

Now, there are some very impressive vloggers out there – and one in particular who not only vlogs daily, a feat in its own, but has the most active, non-stop lifstyle I’ve seen on YouTube. His name is Louis Cole, and his online persona is FunForLouis. I hadn’t seen, or heard of Louis before I embarked on my adventure. He started his YouTube travel channel* in late 2012 just as I was in the midst of planning my own travel adventure. I think I would have learnt a lot from watching his videos before embarking on my journey – I would have gone about some of the things I did differently, perhaps in more successful ways. However, I didn’t see his videos, so I was learning on the fly and making it up as I went.

I had filmed and edited my trip to Falmouth and also a trip to London, which really solidified my reasons for what I was doing. I had a great time in London and I felt the video captured it perfectly.

I was feeling pretty confident in London, a great example being getting myself invited into a food truck for a behind the scenes view of taco making.

Behind the scenes, however, it took a while longer to get together than it maybe should have – and I edited it and filmed the commentary for it the night before I left for Bangkok. Yes, the night before – around 2 am before getting up at 8 for my flight. That’s why I am a little frantic (/crazy) in the video – also because my brother was sat behind the camera joking at me the whole time.

What was my plan for rcl when I left England?

My plan was to video everything, and edit together a video for either once a week or twice a week depending on my schedule. I wanted to put up a ‘video per place’ – which perhaps, in hindsight and with my current knowledge of other travel vloggers, wasn’t necessarily the best idea for on the road production. I took a tablet (original Nexus 7) to edit my videos on – a mistake. Video footage was taken on my GoPro that needed to be transferred and processed. Another fail. Had I done all this on a smartphone, which also had editing software (the tablet I had didn’t because it had no backward camera) it may have been easier. So, first and largest piece of advice for my pre-travel vlogging self – LAPTOP. It would have made editing everything easier, and then, perhaps, I would have actually uploaded a video a week as I had intended – as I was travelling, and not over a year later.

Everything went relatively smoothly at the beginning, I had a great time. I was completely fucking nervous and shy to begin with – but for not traveling solo for a while, that was (and is) OK. It didn’t take long to get back in my stride and I was wandering and filming a lot. My strategy was to film semi-covertly; hiding my camera in a DIY holder around my chest with a hole cut for the GoPro’s lens.

I did this for two reasons:
1 – I didn’t want to attract attention and change people’s behaviour because I had a camera in their face.
2 – I was very self-concious about being that guy with a camera in peoples faces.

The GoPro allowed me to capture a wide-angle view of what was going on, and they are tiny so it was easy to conceal. Even in my hand I could hold it in a way that would not be picked up on. GoPro’s are great for some things. They are, however, awful for others, including and not limited to: dim-light scenarios (ie: anything other than glorious sunshine – 50% of the day), being ‘smooth’ (with no inbuilt stabilisation) and, finally, they are rubbish at doing anything creative with focus (they have infinity focus all the time). So, my second piece of advice for my pre-travel-vlogging self – get a GoPro, sure, but get a decent HD video-capable compact camera too.

About a week into my time in Bangkok I had the footage and I was ready to film the commentary. I had rented a little cabin on an island, and I set to it. I was going to make the video for Bangkok – talk about arriving, wandering and being in the city. I filmed the commentary in my cabin and I managed to get all the footage I needed on my Nexus and then I began to edit the video. At that moment I realised I’d fucked up. The tablet wasn’t near as powerful as I thought, and the GoPro’s files were larger than I’d taken into consideration. I also realised that talking about a subject that happened several days ago was awkward (although I still do that today) – the main tip I’d have picked up from FunForLouis (as well as using a laptop). It took me two days to edit the video, mainly because the Nexus would allow me to do so much before crashing. I learnt to save at a point I recognised would be just the limit of its power, then let it crash and continue from the save after I rebooted it. It was a nightmarish way of editing and bad enough to make me stop editing all together for the rest of the journey; focus purely on filming. I did upload the Nexus edited video, but something messed up every time I tried and the sound cut out for half of the video. Fail. I didn’t let it get me down though and I continued to enjoy and document what would prove to be a life changing journey.

Over a year after I sat at the bar of an island in Thailand failing to edit what was supposed to be an up-to-date beginning of a new life, follow my adventure video series, I uploaded the first Episode of BKK to NYC; Road Coffee Lens’s first real video:


*Originally rising to internet fame through his channel Food For Louis where he ate anything and everything.


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