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Creating Travel Content During the Pandemic - Meet YouTuber Johnny FD

09th February 2021

Johnny FD is a digital nomad, podcaster and YouTube creator currently based in Sri Lanka. In 2008 he quit his corporate job in California to move to Thailand, where he spent the next three years as a scuba diving instructor and Muay Thai fighter. In 2013 Johnny set up his first online business and since then has generated well over a million dollars through his various income streams and enjoyed travelling around the world as a location independent entrepreneur.

Despite having a YouTube channel since 2009, it was during the COVID pandemic that Johnny started getting some real traction with his channel.

I caught up with Johnny to hear more about his YouTube journey, plans for the future PLUS he gave some great tips for budding new YouTubers…but we kicked off the conversation about equipment.

Johnny: I’ve been travelling carry-on only for the last two years or so, and I used to have a big DSLR camera – a Sony Mirrorless with a proper mic and everything, but I realised I never used it. I hated lugging it around, so I just started making videos on my iPhone, and I don’t even use a mic when I’m making my videos.

As long as I’m careful about how loud the environment is, and how the natural lighting is, I can get away with making good quality videos without fancy equipment.

The reason I like the iPhone more than androids, is that the iPhone video cameras are consistently good. They’re very stable – a lot of the time people think I’m using a gimbal or something, but I’m not. A lot of the time people think I’m using mics or have extra lighting, but it’s literally just me holding my iPhone.

Jess: Awesome! Yeah, being able to record on your phone is great and actually pretty much all of us have a smart phone with a good quality camera, so there’s never been a better time to get started with creating content. In terms of your content and your channel, it’s evolved a lot over the years since you started…

Johnny: Yeah I started it back in 2009! It used to be just a place where I could host my scuba diving videos or Muay Thai fighting videos, just so I could share it with friends and family back home. I was so happy that YouTube was free, and it allowed me to host my videos for free, because if it wasn’t for them, there’s just no way you could put such a big file online and share it – you’d have to pay for it somewhere else.

"Until this day I’m still shocked that not only is YouTube free for us creators, but they actually pay us, and with SyncVault there’s additional ways of having extra income – it still boggles my mind!"

Jess: So when you started your channel you were adding videos so you could share your travel destinations and nomadic life with friends and family - did you ever think you would monetize your channel – was that in your roadmap?

Johnny: For the first five years I didn’t actually turn on monetization because I didn’t really think it would amount to anything, and when I finally did it was like between $75 to $200 a month maximum.

"I never thought it could be a career or that it could pay for my cost of living and allow me to travel full time from it".

It wasn’t until the 2020 pandemic when I lost my main business which was in-person conferences, the Nomad Summit – I had to cancel the events and refund everybody – I was kinda stuck and thought ‘what do I do?’

That’s when I decided to try this YouTube thing full time!