A catch up with Karl from Karl Watson Travel Documentaries

By: Flashpacking Duo

 So you may have heard of Karl Watson from HK2NY, or watched his ever-growing YouTube channel. Giving up the 9-5, with friends and camera in tow, he has gone on to see some of the most awesome parts of the world, enjoying things some can only dream about and documenting his every step. Having previously had a career in film editing, He has managed to capture a real sense of adventure from start to finish. With such big success on his last series, and the inspiration that followed, there will be a lot more in the horizon for this fellow Brit. We managed to catch up with Karl to give us an insight on the high’s of his experiences, the drive behind it and how YOU can follow in his footsteps….

1, We know you worked as a video editor but what inspired you to make HK2NY being on the other side of the camera (apart from the travel experience… of course!)

I’ve always made films of my trips as I think they’re the ultimate souvenir – you can relive your trip through them. However HK2NY was something far more ambitious. I not only wanted to do the biggest trip possible, I also wanted to film it as if we’d been commissioned to make a TV series out of it, kinda like ‘The Long Way Round’. Except there was no commission, it was just going on YouTube, and we didn’t have a massive film crew – we were just filming it ourselves with one camera!

I wasn’t even sure if anyone would watch it, it’s hard enough getting people to watch one short video never mind 11 full-length episodes! But I’ve been overwhelmed with how successful its been and how many people have got in touch saying it’s inspired them to travel – some people even binge watched the whole series in one day!! I never expected that so it really means a lot.

2. Having James along with you on the trip, How did that come about? We are About to take part on a long trip as a duo ourselves, do you feel you had to compromise any part of the trip having someone else with you planning it or did you get to visit everywhere you wanted?

 James and I went to university together and had been friends for 11 years by the time we did the trip. He knew I was planning this trip and had been wanting to travelling himself, so he asked if he could come too. Sometimes when you’re travelling with someone there can be lots of compromises over the route and itinerary, but James was quite happy just to follow the route I was doing. This meant I got the best of both worlds – I got to travel with my best friend and do the route I want!

 The route and rough schedule did change whilst we’re on the trip depending on how much we were enjoying the place though, for example we skipped through Malaysia and added on Nicaragua. You can plan a trip to death but in the end the only dates that matter are your flights – and even those can be changed!

3. Talking of James, We see you joined him for a while in Central/South America. Are we expecting a new series from you guys soon?

 Definitely! James quit his job again and started travelling in March, beginning in Cancun and working his way south through Central & South America. I joined him for 7 weeks through Panama, Colombia & Venezuela. The trip was incredible, we sailed through the Caribbean paradise of the San Blas Islands, trekked to the Lost City in the jungles of Colombia and went to the “lost worlds” of Angel Falls and Roraima in Venezuela.

 I’m going to start working on the video in November (just finishing off my Canada film right now) and hopefully it’ll be online at Christmas. These things always take longer than I think to edit though because I’m doing it all in my spare time! It’ll either be 2 to 3 episodes depending on how the footage cuts together – watch this space!

4. Of course the obvious question, In all your travels where would you go back to and why?

 I’d like to go back to South East Asia and explore more of it, particularly Vietnam that we only did the northern part of. My favourite country though is New Zealand, I’ve been there twice and I’m going to head back there at the start of 2017. The place is just so beautiful and there’s so much to do. It seems ridiculous to be planning a trip this far in advance, but I am – I’m so excited about it because New Zealand is just THAT good!

5. Could you give any tips while travelling. Eg, essentials you wouldn’t necessarily think of if you haven’t been on a RTW trip?

 There’s plenty of blogs with packing tips and essentials to bring, but the one thing they always miss is bring a tablet! Whether it’s an iPad or whatever, they’re so useful for travelling. They’re light and small which is perfect. You can load it up with movies, music and games to keep you entertained on the long journeys. You can store all your tickets, documents, passport copies on it so you don’t have to carry around loads of bits of paper. You can get on the wi-fi at hostels which saves you queuing for the internet computers. You can load up maps of the town you’re in which will still work when you’re disconnected from wi-fi. Translation apps, money exchange apps, the list goes on.

6. What are your travel plans for 2016? I believe a trip to India is happening?

 Yeah I’m going to India for 6 weeks in January, it’s my first time there so I’m gonna travel to all the tourist highlights – I can’t wait!

 In May my flat mate Chris and I are heading back to Nepal to complete our ‘Quest for Everest’ series and do the Everest Base Camp trek. Then in July/August I’m heading to Southern Africa to travel from Cape Town to Victoria Falls with G Adventures. I’ve never been to Africa so this is going to be a good start!

Everyone keeps telling me to go to the Philippines so hopefully I’ll find time to go there too…

7. Finally… for someone looking at making their own travel series, what advice would you give?

 There’s 2 parts to it – filming it right and then editing it! First of all with filming, don’t just film the view, turn the camera around and film yourself. Tell the audience where you are, what you’re doing, but most importantly tell them what it’s like. Is it fun? Mind blowing? Awful? Tell us!

Then after the trip when it comes to editing, you’ve got to take all the footage and turn into something that’s entertaining and engaging for the audience. You have to make it so that someone who has never met you, and frankly doesn’t give a shit about your “amazing travels”, they’ve got to be able to watch it and enjoy it! So my advice is keep the story moving, be brutal with your editing, don’t have any in-jokes or “you had to be there moments”. Make the audience feel like they’re with you on the trip, experiencing it with you and hopefully they’ll enjoy the journey too!

So… there you have it! We would like to thank Karl for taking time out to answer our questions and hopefully giving you all an insight into future planning and filming. You can check out all the latest on his YouTube channel here. If you, like Karl would like to share your experiences and advice with others then get in touch, we would love to catch up with you!

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Karl Watson Travel Documentaries