Nick Fisher, better known as Indigo Traveller to his over 820,000 YouTube subscribers, is a New Zealand vlogger who in the last few years has taken the internet by storm, visiting countries that your travel agent would never recommend, but altogether shedding a positive light on the places he visits.
Unlike some of his contemporaries, most notably Harald Baldr and Bald and Bankrupt, two Europeans who spend most of their time monologuing to their cameras, Fisher offers his viewers a different take on the countries he visits.
For Fisher, his filming style is more documentary than comedy, as his lens offers insights into the way everyday people live, which again, is not something one would find on a travel brochure.
In spite of his rising popularity, Fisher insists he is still just a normal guy, a Kiwi with a passion for traveling and an eye for the unappreciated aspects of human cultures.
At the same time, he admits there have been moments where he has encountered adoring viewers who take the time to show their support for the content he produces.
“It’s definitely happened before,” Fisher says of serendipitous meetings with fans, also adding that these informal meet-and-greets happen when he would least expect them to. “It happened in Somalia and in Georgia, and then at airports in Spain and Mexico. It’s not consistent but it happens every so often.”
As mentioned, part of what makes Fisher’s filmmaking so appealing is that he showcases the less glamorous aspects to countries.
For example, even though he is currently gallivanting across Brazil, his videos don’t feature clips about the nightlife in Rio De Janeiro, or what it’s like to get scammed by a taxi driver in Sao Paulo.
Instead, Fisher and his camera take you to cities and neighborhoods that even the local denizens might suggest avoiding.
While some interpret Fisher’s daring exploits as dangerous, others enjoy the transparency that he brings to the screen.
Either way, there is no denying the fact that Fisher has become a bona fide YouTube sensation.
But ask Fisher and he will tell you that he never imagined having the global audience he now entertains.
He says that when he originally began traveling, he was a newly minted college graduate who yearned to see the world, but it was during a pivotal trip to the small Asian country of Nepal that Fisher sensed he could bring real value to the oversaturated market of travel vloggers.
This was back in April 2015, a period where Nepal suffered a tremendous catastrophe via an earthquake that rocked the nation.
While Fisher was fortunate not to be implicated in the natural disaster that unfortunately took the lives of thousands, it was while sitting in his hotel room watching TV coverage of the events that he realized how inaccurately the media was depicting the turmoil.
“I finally got to a hotel room and was able to turn on the news,” Fisher recalls. “They were saying some facts about the earthquake that I knew weren’t correct because I was right there on the ground. That fueled a fire in me.”
That being said, Fisher is not out to lift the veil off mainstream media, but he does want to give people a glimpse into a universe they otherwise might never be able to visualize.
“I am more neutral [toward reporting] these days, but I still have that desire to show parts of a country that aren’t really seen because often people will see a news story, and maybe that story is correct, but then it is abandoned and there’s still so much more to the story.”
“I like to see behind the headlines.”
Fisher’s kind nature and compassionate perspective certainly translates to the screen, which ultimately is the driving force behind his unique style of storytelling.
“I like to combine journalism and travel blogging into a hybrid,” he says, but is quick to mention that everything he does is intended to be genuine and give a voice to those who are often left unheard.
“A lot of the things I cover are interesting to me. That can be perceived as negative by some people, but to me the most interesting parts of a country are the working-class people and their living conditions.”
“Even when I wasn’t making videos I was traveling to parts of Eastern Europe or India that were lower on the socioeconomic scale because I find that’s where there is a lot of life.”
That’s partly why you are unlikely to see Fisher filming at the beaches of Los Angeles or next to the Louvre in Paris. While Fisher acknowledges that luxury traveling has its place, it’s not what his audience is eager to see.
With all the misinformation and propaganda being spread around various news channels, I then ask Fisher which country he feels is the most misrepresented.
“Iran. One hundred percent,” he says unequivocally. “People might have the perception that Iran is dangerous, but it’s not at all. There is no internal terrorism. You can walk down the streets and it’s completely fine. I feel safe walking down the streets in Iran the same as I do in New Zealand. The people are nice and very educated.”
In that sense, Iran is vastly different from Afghanistan, its eastern neighbor that has received intense scrutiny over the years.
“Afghanistan lives up to its reputation,” Fisher tells me. “It’s very dangerous and there are explosions on the streets. There are seventy terrorist attacks a day.”
Fisher found out as much during his 2019 trip to the disheveled nation.
But not all trips to less economically viable countries have yielded terror.
In the summer of 2019, Fisher packed his bags and headed to Venezuela, a South American country rife with political corruption.
And unlike in Afghanistan where Fisher was accompanied by armed security, the only peace of mind Fisher was granted came in the form of a street photographer named Lenny, a Caracas native he was put in touch with through one of his contacts.
Fisher’s time in Venezuela proved to be hectic, but before leaving the country he met Andres, a young man who ran a local food shelf for underprivileged children.
After spending time with Andres and learning more about his organization, Fisher set up a GoFundMe that would allow people to contribute to Andres’ cause.
Fisher tells me that when he first started the campaign, his goal was to raise $5,000, but now, over a year later, the GoFundMe page has received over $340,000 in donations.
“I’m still shocked,” Fisher admits, deflecting all praise onto the generous individuals who helped secure the immediate futures of countless young children. “It’s still going up every day. Something in that video resonated with people and that’s how all this came together. That’s how life goes sometimes.”
“I’m very fortunate to be a part of something like that because the system in Venezuela is not giving their people the support they need.”
The reaction to Fisher’s Venezuela series obviously helped people embroiled in dire straits, but it also had a huge effect on Fisher’s career.
“It’s led to a lot of opportunities that I am so grateful for,” he says, one of which included the chance to partner with UNICEF, a humanitarian aid organization that for years has helped children around the world.
“I’ve been to a lot of places where they have a lot of humanitarian work going on and in one of my Venezuela videos there were these kids wearing UNICEF bags,” Fisher says, noting how in the video he also made a comment on the UNICEF bags, which thus set the stage for his eventual partnership with the organization.
“That was me not having any kind of connection to UNICEF. It was just me making a statement based off my observations, and after our GoFundMe campaign continued to raise money, I got a contact from the head of coms for UNICEF in New Zealand, and that ultimately led to the Afghanistan trip. That was another fundraising trip that was also reasonably successful.”
In that sense, it may seem like Fisher has it all: the vagabond lifestyle, the big-name brands in his corner, and a steady flow of revenue from his YouTube videos.
Yet in actuality, Fisher stresses that there are a few challenges that come with being in his line of work, and that not every carefully curated video he publishes is representative of his everyday life.
“I have to check my privilege here because I’m talking to you from Brazil and most of the world is locked indoors, but people have a perception that travel vlogging is simple, and it’s not. There are long days of editing. You can outsource that, but I enjoy it and like to control the editing,” he says.
“Still, there aren’t too many things that are misunderstood. I get to be my own boss, but things can be intense because I’m constantly going to countries where there are dangerous situations. All of that does wear on my mental health because I’m seeing people who are suffering, but I have set up the right support systems, so it’s not something that I’m unhappy with. I’m living the ultimate dream.”
As mentioned, that dream currently has Fisher positioned in Brazil, a place he has always dreamed of going. Even though he is taking the time to appreciate the majestic and more tourist-friendly parts, he still is taking care of his artistic responsibilities.
“Brazil isn’t necessarily off the beaten path. In terms of a travel destination, it’s world-famous with Rio, but I’m trying to show some different angles of the country. My last trip before this was to Lebanon, and that was very heavy on the heart because that country is going through absolute hell right now. It reminds me of Venezuela because inflation is happening, and the country is going in a very worrying direction.”
“In Brazil, I am trying to show the hardships while trying to keep things upbeat and positive, but it isn’t going to be about the touristy side of the country. I do go to the tourist areas but as far as the videos are concerned, that’s not what I’m interested in filming. If I’m not interested in something, my audience will sense that in the videos.”
Fisher will eventually depart from Brazil and head to his next destination. He reveals that he doesn’t plan his itinerary at the last moment, but he also typically only plans out his trips a few months in advance.
“There isn’t much structure because I always know where I’m going next. With the pandemic, I have to plan, and I need to take what I can get because countries are opening and closing so fast,” he remarks.
“I also try to have a bit of space in between trips for editing and calming down because I have been burned out in the past and it’s not fun.”
Still, it’s hard to see Fisher scaling back his operation anytime soon. He’s still young and healthy, and most importantly, his content only continues to get better with time.
But that’s not to suggest that Fisher has never thought about the future, or what his life might look like if he wasn’t producing content for millions of people to consume.
“These thoughts always circulate through my brain, but at the moment I’m only focusing on the next few months, especially with the state of the world being what it is, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen,” Fisher says, before offering a potential preview of what his career might look like once the open road eventually convinces him to undertake a new venture.
“I’ve been fortunate to do the charity side with some of my videos, so that’s something in the future I could see myself doing more of. I also would love to make long-form documentaries, but at the moment things are going reasonably well, so I’m happy with the path that I’m on.”
For now, all that is certain is that Fisher will finish out his time in Brazil capturing a part of the world that few will recognize. Then, he will embark on a similar journey, albeit in a different country.
Whether it’s walking the streets of Lebanon or riding a subway in North Korea, one thing is certain:
We are likely to be shown a part of this planet that few have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. QS
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