This column, “Escape Artist,” is a series about folks who have escaped. More importantly, this biweekly column is for those thinking about trading in their 9-to-5, leg-shackled-to-the-desk existences to forge their own way. The brave outliers featured in this collection of interviews are the digital nomads, online entrepreneurs and lifestyle trendsetters who decided it was time to say to hell with the humdrum and grab life by the roots.
Nadine Sykora runs Hey Nadine, a lifestyle blog focused on travel and online videos. After graduating from college in 2010, Sykora moved to New Zealand for a year and began traveling. Now she creates videos for brands across the world. In 2016, she’s looking forward to a road trip in Australia.
The “escape the 9-to-5” mentality seems to be popular now. What are your impressions?
Nadine Sykora I think it is wonderful. Anytime people have more choices and options in life is a wonderful thing. We are so lucky to have these options because not everyone in the world does. If you can take advantage of it, why not?
What was the “aha” moment that sparked ongoing travel and video blogging for you five years ago?
NS I started traveling in 2010 after I graduated from university. Before getting a “real job,” I decided to move overseas to New Zealand for one year. During that time I worked part-time and did short trips around New Zealand, China, Bali, Malaysia and Singapore. I was hooked on the excitement of new things and new places. Vlogging was a natural progression since I was already doing funny skits and I wanted to document my travels. Video was the medium I choose.
How did you develop the “Hey Nadine” brand and attract your initial followers?
NS When I started, I didn’t know anything about branding, niches, or marketing. I just wanted to create videos and show my travels. Once I made the decision to treat it as a business, I began experimenting with trial and error. The biggest thing is I stuck to what I believed in and created the content I wanted to see. Keeping true to myself has ensured I’m proud of what I produce. For attracting initial followers, that’s always been a tricky one, since what worked back then doesn’t work now. When it comes down to it, it’s content. Create great content that people want to watch and come back to.
Do you have a favorite travel anecdote you’d like to share with Paste readers?
NS Anytime you can hike anywhere, up a mountain, into a jungle, and then come upon something, it’s a very special feeling. Maybe it’s the fact that you have to put in that extra work to get there, which makes it seem all the more unique. Also, anytime I get a bird’s eye view, or a view from above, is always a treat. I think it’s because I used to wish I was a bird in another life. No, really, they are my spirit animals!
The “dream job” and “travel blogging” mentality is also becoming more popular. What do you think, and does the market seem saturated?
NS The market is only saturated if we have depleted our audiences. Our goal as travel bloggers is to encourage new travel and more travel, and we are doing it. Each year there are more opportunities and places to visit, and there are resources, hostels, hotels and tour groups forming at each of these destinations. The more that people start travelling, the easier and more accessible it will be for everyone else.
There is a reason why the “dream job” and “travel blogging” mentality is becoming more popular. With technology comes innovation and opportunity. People are realizing that they don’t have to sit in an office all day. They don’t have to play the rat race. There are alternatives for those willing to try. If you are cunning, creative and work hard, you can dream up the life you want, and that can involve travel. Is this an easy dream? No, definitely not, but it’s achievable.
What’s one tip you have for readers who want to live life like yours?
NS Start planning now. Today. You have to get your dream out of your head and onto paper and into action. I started by buying a plane ticket to New Zealand. Start with little steps. Booking a ticket is a start since it forces your hand and makes you rearrange your future life choices around something that IS happening, not something that MIGHT happen.
What are you most excited to focus on in 2016?
NS Knowledge. this year has been a slower one for me and travel, and I’ve been focusing on knowledge, expanding it and sharing with my viewers. I’ve also been working on a few larger projects, so those have been exciting and different but also time consuming. However, with all that said, I’m still looking forward to heading back on the road at the end of the year for an epic Australia road trip I have planned.
Carolyn Crist is a freelance journalist based in Georgia. She writes about travel, health and business for regional and national publications.