“Is that seat taken?”
I asked, pointing to a chair containing a purse.
The girl turned in surprise then looked at me and moved her bag, “No,” she responded.
Shit. What do I do now? It would be awkward if I ran away.
I was at TravelCon and all the attendees were congregating in the large ballroom of the conference hotel. I noticed several of the big-name bloggers who were speaking at the conference together at their own table, and although star-struck to be in the same room as them, somehow summoned up just enough courage to walk up to one of the vloggers I’d been following online. I’d expected she would say the table was reserved for speakers and I’d walk away, proud of myself for having said four words to her. I hadn’t thought out what to say next!
As I sat down my mouth blurted out, “I LOVE your videos! I’m from Alaska! You should come to Alaska.” I wanted to fall through the floor. I was talking to Kara of the vlogging duo Kara and Nate, who until now I’d just watched on YouTube. She had no idea who I was and I was already telling her to come visit me.
In preparation for TravelCon 2018, I started working though the list of speakers to familiarize myself with the books/blogs/videos/content of each one in order to decide ahead of time which sessions I wanted to attend. It was on this list I found a couple called Kara and Nate that were vlogging (video blogging) their way around the world. I sat down to watch one of two of their videos to find out what they were about. Thank goodness it also happened to be a weekend. My partner, Micah, joined me on the couch and before we knew it, one video turned into 3…. which turned into 5… and then it was Sunday evening and we’d binged watched our way through almost all of Kara and Nate’s YouTube channel! Weirdly, by the time you’ve followed someone’s story online for a while you begin to feel like you know them. And then you meet them in person and you realize, to them, you’re a complete stranger.
Thankfully, it turned out that both Kara and Nate are exactly as nice in person as they appear in their videos, and they quickly put all the fans brave enough to approach them at ease. Thus that night when I spotted them at the evening TravelCon party at a nearby bar, I inched over to join their circle. Kara and Nate, jet lagged from having flown in from Kyrgyzstan, soon declared they were ready to call it a night, and somewhat jet lagged myself, I decided to join the small group headed back to the hotel. Outside the bar Nate pulled out his phone and opened Google Maps, navigating for all of us.
“This feels like being on one of their adventures!” I thought.
It was so surreal. A day ago this couple had just been faces I’d watched online and here I was following them through the darkened streets of Austin, Texas. I decided then that I would definitely love to travel with this couple if there was ever a chance. I was just sorry Micah wasn’t with me, because he loved their videos as much as I did.
That chance came this November. When Kara and Nate announced they’d be leading a week-long boat cruise up Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River, Micah and I signed up before we could rethink how crazy it sounded! We were going to travel to Myanmar because of two YouTubers. Trying to explain this decision to friends and family went something like this:
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a cruise for young, active people. They’d chartered a river boat and changed up the company’s usual day trips for more active ones, including a 40km bike ride. We’d be seeing a part of the world to which we would never otherwise travel alone. And finally, we’d be learning from and getting to observe some of the best travel vloggers out there. And during our down time on the boat Kara promised to teach a class on video editing and Nate a class on travel hacking.
Finally November arrived. After months of exercise prep so we could survive the bike ride, and travel planning, we were on our way. We decided that if we were going all the way to Asia, to spend a week in Bangkok getting used to the heat and time change before our cruise, and then spend a few days in Tokyo on the way home since we had to fly through there anyway.
Surprisingly, all our planned logistics went smoothly and the night before our cruise we touched down in Bagan, Myanmar where we would meet our tour group for dinner at the hotel Kara and Nate had booked for us the night before we all biked 40km to where our ship would pick us up and start our up river journey.
It was just about dinner time when we arrived at the hotel, so we ditched our luggage in our room and went to find our group.
“Do you think they’ll remember you?” Micah asked as we walked.
“Not a chance.” I responded. TravelCon had been a 3 day blur of lots of people and faces. I was certain Kara and Nate wouldn’t remember who I was.
We rounded the hotel pool and found our group on the patio. Kara spotted us, ran over and giving me a hug said,
“It’s so good to see you again!”
Not only was I wrong, but we ended up sitting across from both Kara and Nate at dinner and Nate even remembered what it is Micah and I do for work!
As we walked back to our room that night, Micah, who had never met them in person before dinner sputtered, “We just sat across from Kara and Nate! And they’re so NICE!”
If we still had any doubts about following two YouTubers to Myanmar, they were gone now. This was going to be an amazing week.
Want to find out how the rest of the Myanmar trip went? Make sure you’re subscribed to the blog so you don’t miss it! And stay tuned for the coming posts!
Have you done a group tour? Have you traveled with someone you discovered online? If you could travel with your favorite author/blogger/vlogger who would you choose?
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