Jason Rupp enthusiastically presents his popular travel and food vlog on YouTube. He looks for the unusual in his travels around the U.S. and the world, and his fans enjoy his quirky sense of humor and adventure. He is a fine arts graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, with an emphasis on global studies and photography. He spends part of the year in Southeast Asia and is a regular travel presenter and announcer reporting on travel tips for the Pattaya Channel, a regional television station in Thailand. Jason’s stories and pictures have appeared in Never Stop Traveling, Offbeat Travel, and the Ingredients issue of Asterisk Magazine.
1. What got you into travel writing and being a travel Youtuber?
I am an international vlogger, and a proud NATJA member. My Youtube channel has grown to 330,000 subscribers, well over 100 million views, and over 700 videos. I have filmed in many countries, such as Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, Turkey, the Philippines, and of course Mexico and all over the United States. Many people have told me that my videos show kindness, are relaxing to watch, and fun. They like my positive personality and fun twist on the situations I film.
I have been a big fan of Youtube since its early days. Around four years ago, I began to teach myself to edit videos. I got into this just for the fun of it – to share my stories. Learning video editing by myself was challenging, but I enjoyed it. This became my art and my passion. I started without any plans of what my Youtube channel would specialize in, only that I knew I wanted to make travel videos. I want to make videos that other people don’t. I want to tell people what other vloggers won’t. I want to say YES to do what others say NO to.
I call my type of videos “travel & pamper”. When I travel I look for my own special twist on places such as the spas, the local barbershops for a shave or a haircut, restaurants, museums, historical sights, attractions, spas, and hotels.
My mission is to document my travel experiences for my fans. I link the business locations of where I film inside my video description to help my fans who follow in my footsteps. It is humbling that my fans love to follow me after seeing the video to get the same experiences as I had. I love that. Putting a link to the business in the video is so valuable to them, and I believe in giving back.
I try to include people that are gay or transgender, and as many races and cultures as possible in my videos. My goal is to meet the most unique locals and showcase the colorful personalities of the location I am in. In doing this, I hope that I can promote love – especially an appreciation of diversity and inclusion. I hope I have opened their mind to being kinder to those that are different than they are.
2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?
One of the biggest challenges of being a travel journalist is forcing myself to stop having so much fun while traveling, and take days to work on the content to upload. Of course, the travel cost is another challenge. I want to do more, but the cost can sometimes hold me back from seeing new destinations. That said, I always find the budget way of getting to where I need to go.
3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?
I always have to carry the best smartphones with me! You can do so much with smartphone cameras. I can edit and upload content immediately. Also, I will never be without my trusty tongue scraper, even when traveling! That is one of the best inventions ever. Always bring cash. Eat fruit to stay healthy.
4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?
I went into a barbershop at 2 a.m. in the party zone of Taksim in Istanbul, Turkey, and asked for a haircut. I confirmed the price ahead of time. The haircut took a very short time to complete, just a few minutes.
Before I could get up and pay, my barber immediately began giving me a facial cleansing, moisturizing facial, a facial steaming, head massage, face scrubbing, dead sea mud mask, full face waxing, nose waxing, used a lighter on my ear to burn the hairs off, hair tonic conditioning, hair washing, and more. I never stopped him from doing any of it, since I was enjoying it. I had no idea what the bill would be at the end. Of course, the bill was five times the price of the haircut price. I found out later that even the haircut price was more than double what locals would have paid.
Did I have any regrets? No way! It was one of the best nights ever. This barber and I are still friends today, and he wants me to come to his hometown when I return to Turkey. It was my second viral video on my Youtube channel. Watch it here: https://youtu.be/0LPmJ0Jsz4I
Another incredible experience was being in Wuhan in November, just before coronavirus took over the world. I had an amazing time there shooting videos with the local people. My videos show how kind and friendly the Wuhan people can be. Just over a month later, Wuhan was the top headline in the news around the world. It was surreal to think that I was there just before the virus took over the city. The Wuhan videos are here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8TCpg1mOZ0j-ptfqZ5I3ximVwXJqwyYj
I also arrived in Italy the day lockdown curfews started in March. I did not mean to do that, but my luck had caught up to me. I was interviewed and featured on ABC-TV Nightline News three nights during my time in Italy. You can see a video from that trip here: https://youtu.be/v6S2Qq2wHCM
5. How did you learn about NATJA and why did you join?
I learned of NATJA through my mother, Carla Marie Rupp, an award-winning travel journalist, and long-time member. We have written many stories together. My grandmother was a highly respected feature story journalist in Kansas. We love NATJA, and the connections we make through it. Of course, the biggest draw is the annual conference, which we enjoy to the fullest, with so many valuable workshops, destination representatives, editors, and speakers. Carla and I are very much looking forward to Puerto Rico in 2021 to meet you all!
6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?
Smile and say hello to people when traveling. You never know who you may meet, or what advice they may have for you. As a travel journalist, open your mind to what “travel” means to you. Set yourself apart by defining your niche. There is too much competition out there to copy others. Don’t write/vlog about what everyone else does, such as the top ten must-see sights copied from TripAdvisor. What do you really like to do when you travel? Is it to look for the best vegan tacos? Or do you search out the best dive bars downtown? Perhaps you are a jazz fanatic. Or do you like to find where the best art murals are? Do you always travel with a pet? Be yourself. Find your niche, and then do more of it. Don’t give up!
Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time for your followers to find you. Write or vlog about your real experience. Don’t make your stories sound like a press release or an advertisement. Tell us in a tactful way the positives and the negatives. Your readers/viewers will respect you for your honesty and will be even more loyal. For example, where I did the Pattaya Park Tower jump. It was extremely scary. Link here: https://youtu.be/GPMB_PuozoA
A few weeks ago, Carla and I were invited to the grand opening of the Circa Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. You have to see us all dressed up and enjoying the red carpet treatment here: https://youtu.be/sxDCLSFgbCA
As a travel journalist, vlogging has taken me all over Asia, Europe, and the Americas. My most viewed video is 47 million views. I have many more videos planned. It is an honor to be a part of this prestigious group of travel professionals. I wish you all the best in getting through these hard times in the travel industry. Better times are ahead. We will get through it. Hang in there.