The travel experience is unrivaled. Unlike buying a car, an overpriced steak at an instagrammable restaurant or (ridiculously priced) matte lipstick, you really can’t buy travel as a commodity. No other undertaking can expand your world view, show you new cultures, and expose you to life through a different lens like travel can.
While not everyone has the time nor the means to travel and see the world, thanks to the digital age, many of us experience 360° tours of cities across the world from the comfort of a device and the era of travel vlogging. It’s amazing how you can tour Marrakesh or Santorini just from watching a video on YouTube today.
Farhan Oberson is a loveable homegrown YouTuber who, thanks to her quaint girl-next-door vibe, has curated an enviable travel channel. Her travel videos are wholesome, no-fuss, and devoid of the annoying ostentatious displays that characterize most travel vlogs.
She lets us in on how to she got started, her fave destinations, outlandish travel experiences and how to travel on a budget this holiday season:
KB: How did you catch the travel bug and why did you decide to document it on YouTube?
FO: I have always loved traveling. As a family, we went on vacations to Europe nearly every year. My first solo trip happened when I was 18 when I traveled to Canada and met with family friends. I remember being so scared of getting lost in transit but I made it in one piece.
It wasn’t until my second year of university that the “travel bug” hit. Although I had traveled alone many other times, someone was always waiting to receive me.
Encouraged by my parents, I took a solo vacation to Langkawi Island in Malaysia and spent 3 days, 2 nights exploring the place alone. I’ve never felt freer and as independent as I did in that moment, and I just couldn’t stop after that. I initially documented my travels on YouTube only to show my family and friends back home. I never intended to be a travel vlogger but things escalated quickly.
KB: You seem to be a lot more open and honest in your vlogs than most travelers. Like that elephant incident at the park ;). Why this approach?
FO: That’s what I personally love seeing from other travel YouTubers. If I am planning a trip to Korea and I research the country on YouTube, I’d definitely appreciate the realistic YouTubers cause that makes me more aware of places and experiences beforehand. Also, I want my rafikis (my followers) to trust my work, so I tell it like it is.
KB: Give your subbies-the ‘rafikis’ a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the vlog.
FO: I put in substantial planning time. I’ll research places and get my facts straight before sharing any information. I tend to mentally create vlog structures of the places I go, so when filming I keep that structure and flow in mind, and follow the plan. Of course, there are always spontaneous moments one has to work around. My Zanzibar video is a good example of this process.
KB: You surprisingly didn’t study anything travel or hospitality related to school. You reckon you could hack an International Travel and Tourism test? Would you recognize those pesky IATA codes and decode tourism lingo from all the traveling you’ve done?
FO: HAHA! IATA codes I don’t think so… But tourism lingo? I’m confident I could pass and decode that test for sure!
KB: Your passport must be worn out by all those stamps it’s collected. How many countries have you traveled to?
FO: I have been to a little over 20 countries so far. Traveled to 6 of them including Turkey, South Africa, Malawi, Ethiopia, and Dubai.
KB: What’s it like traveling the world as a young African woman?
FO: It’s very interesting actually. Whenever I travel and people ask me where I am from, no one ever believes I am from Kenya, especially in Malaysia. People have this perception that Africans across the continent are all dark-skinned. To make it worse I wear a headscarf, confusing them even more. So most of my travel revolves around convincing new people that I am African.
KB: What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve seen or encountered or experienced in your travel adventures?
FO: I found it so strange that in Malaysia, for example, they literally eat rice, chicken, and egg (TOGETHER) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When I first arrived and would order waffles and cereal with my Malaysian friends, they thought I was trying to starve myself because to them that’s not really eating breakfast. I found it quite bizarre yet interesting.
KB: Which destination has been your fave so far and why did it stand out?
FO: I absolutely loved Cape Town, South Africa. That city is just incredible. It’s so diverse, the city is so lively especially on weekends when all these African bands play at the waterfront. It’s so full of culture and people walking around freely, and the variety of food is fantastic as well.
Oh, and don’t get me started on the activities that you can do; they are endless. I went paragliding above the city, swimming with seals, and driving around admiring the incredible views. Cape Town is the place to be!
KB: Where do you hope your wanderlust takes you next?
FO: I would love to visit more of Asia; places like Japan and Thailand. I have only been to Malaysia and Singapore so hopefully next year my dream of Japan comes true!
KB: It’s that time of the year again! Everyone wants to vacay at the coast. It’s our national pastime to crowd Mombasa every December. You’re a Pwani girl, born and bred. Are there any hidden gems that are rarely explored in your city you’d like to share with us?
FO: Oh yes! A lot of people do not know of Nguuni Sanctuary. There are giraffes that literally come as close as a meter away from you. You get to feed them from a thrillingly close distance.
You can either go there for a picnic for the day and enjoy other animals like ostrich and donkeys or you can just go for a few hours. The best time to go is after 4 pm because the sunset with the giraffes is just beautiful.
KB: Any ‘off the beaten track’ destinations in Kenya you’d recommend this holiday season?
FO: Tiwi is another place Kenyans do not know about. It’s about an hour and a half away from Mombasa, towards the South Coast; a beautiful beach for camping and swimming in crystal clear blue waters. At the campsite, you can walk along the beach to a rocky hill where the rocks and ocean below forms a natural map of Africa during low tide. During high tides, you can cliff jump from the top to the clear blue waters. It’s beautiful.
KB: Travelling can be quite expensive. Do you have any tips or hacks of your own for cheaper flights or just making travel experiences affordable peak season?
FO: One tip is to book your trips in advance. The closer it gets to holiday peak season, the higher the demand hence flight pricing spikes. As for accommodation, Airbnb is the best option.
Group traveling makes accommodation so much cheaper. You can cost-share among friends and get a super lux villa by the beach at such a cheap price!
KB: Does travel vlogging pay the bills? Can this be a fulltime job in Kenya?
FO: It does pay the bills sometimes, and other days it doesn’t. The thing with being a travel vlogger is you constantly need to travel, but at the same time, you need to rest. It can get daunting but the rewards are pure.
KB: You know Mark Wiens. The Mark Wiens. Wow! Let us in on how that vlog happened!
FO: First of all let me say that he is the most chilled most humble (multiple) million subscriber YouTuber I have ever met! He simply contacted me on email and we made it happen. I think he researched YouTubers in Mombasa and I was the only one who came up and bam we collabed.
KB: Which is your favorite travel vlog?
FO: I recently went on a road trip from Kenya to South Africa, and not to boast but I genuinely love my craft in those videos. I made it a series of 5 episodes per country. Following along is quite interesting.
KB: What can be done to make tourism better in Kenya?
FO: Tourism in Kenya has made a major shift over the past few years since local tourism has grown immensely and this is absolutely great. It would be great if more and more influencers within and outside Kenya showed more of what this beautiful country has to offer. We are the only country in the world with a national park in the capital city, yet the world doesn’t know it.
KB: Are there any do’s and don’ts that you think are important for young travelers that are just getting started with their travel vlogs?
FO: Do: Start showcasing with what is readily available to you. Your city, your local park, your favorite food place. You can slowly use those videos to pitch to companies that can help you branch out and make other content.
Don’t copy what other YouTubers are already doing. Rather take inspiration from those doing it big and give it your own touch and twist.
Kenya never stops Buzzing. You shouldn't either