Design by Reid Graham

In March 2020, I found myself where many of us were at that time: stuck in my house, drowning in online school work and bored out of my mind. My screen time was through the roof — largely due to the hours I’d spend scrolling through TikTok each night — and my supply of Netflix series to binge was depleting fast. I was in a funk and in desperate need of some new, engaging content to distract myself with. Luckily, a hero came in the form of Kara and Nate, a husband and wife filming their life and putting it on YouTube. 

Kara and Nate are not your typical vloggers. The two began posting on YouTube during a year spent traveling after they moved out of their Nashville apartment and put all their belongings in storage. Their honeymoon in Belize had opened up their eyes to what travel had to offer, and they were itching for more. In 2016, they boarded a plane to Tokyo with every intention of returning to Nashville, but the end of the year did not bring them back home. As their channel grew, they dismissed the idea of “settling down” and set a goal to visit 100 countries, which they accomplished at the start of 2020 after just four years of traveling.

Naturally, when I stumbled upon their channel, I started from the beginning, watching eagerly as they went from Tokyo to Singapore to Thailand and on. It was like finding a new show I loved or reading a book I couldn’t put down. I was anxious to see where they went next and what they did next. As I watched more, I found myself compiling a list of the places I wanted to visit based on where Kara and Nate had traveled: a cruise through Antarctica, an over-water bungalow in the Maldives and a biking trip down the Tuscany Trail. By watching their videos, I had been infected with the very thing that drove Kara and Nate to start their channel in the first place: the travel bug.   

Prior to traveling, neither Kara nor Nate had any filming or editing experience. Nate ran a printing company and Kara was a preschool teacher. While this lack of experience may have been apparent in some of their earlier videos, you wouldn’t know it now. Each video is beautifully shot and manages to perfectly capture the essence of each place they visit. This pristine quality has certainly played a role in my love of their channel; I truly feel like I’m there with them. However, what sets these two apart from the many other travel channels on YouTube is not their filming quality but the fun, infectious energy that fills each and every one of their videos.

Kara and Nate make it a habit to seek out unique accommodations and experiences in their travels, but they can also make the blandest day seem like the world’s greatest adventure. Somehow, watching their videos has made me romanticize sitting in airport lounges, dashing to the gate minutes before the plane boards and all the other not-so-glamorous quirks of traveling. They have the epitome of a positive attitude, and when I sit down to watch their newest video, I can feel their optimism emanating from the screen. 

Since finding their channel in 2020, I have avidly followed each of their newest adventures. The pandemic posed some unexpected challenges to travel channels, but Kara and Nate took this in stride by buying a van in the summer of 2020, setting off to explore hidden corners of the United States, in the hopes of visiting all 50 states (still waiting for them to visit Michigan, though). They have since returned to the realm of international travel, touching new corners of the world that I wouldn’t have even thought to visit. Their recent North Pole series not only had me adding another location to the very long travel bucket list I have curated but was also a welcome form of escapism as I returned to school and was swamped with loads of boring homework.

Often, watching a social media influencer do something as momentous as visiting 100 countries can make traveling seem like nothing more than an expensive, time-consuming and out of reach pastime. Kara and Nate push against this — they aim to make travel something that is accessible to everyone, regardless of how much money you have saved. When Kara and Nate began traveling, they weren’t swimming in money, nor was their channel some kind of overnight success. They saved and they sacrificed to make their dream of traveling the world a reality. It was inspirational.

Most of us probably aren’t looking to be YouTube influencers, but traveling the world is a dream for many, and Kara and Nate make it plausible. They’ve even started a company called FareDrop, which aims to educate other travelers on how to get inexpensive deals on flights, as well as what kind of travel credit cards to purchase to rack up the most airline points and miles possible — one reason Kara and Nate manage to travel so much. Their mission is not just to make their dream of travel a success, but to help us do what they do; that’s what makes their channel so special. 

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who has noticed what a difference these two are making. Kara and Nate were recently nominated for a Streamy Award in the Lifestyle division, and while there’s no audience voting, I will be crossing my fingers that they win because they deserve it. They’ve helped to make my dreams of seeing the world seem not so far out of reach, and I am forever grateful to them for that. 

As of now, I don’t have any immediate plans to drop everything and travel the world (no matter how appealing that may sound), but in the meantime, I’m going to keep following Kara and Nate’s adventures, and hopefully — someday — it’ll be me surfing in Mexico or hiking in the Alps. 

Daily Arts Writer Rebecca Smith can be reached at rebash@umich.edu