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Meet the Vagabrothers

They're about to get the best job in the world

By Erin Chambers Smith

Meet the Vagabrothers


Meet the Vagabrothers. They followed me on Twitter last week, and reached out about a contest they are trying to win. Turns out these Mission Hills natives and La Jolla High grads are in the final stages of vying to win one of those crazy cool travel jobs. As part of a promotion, is giving away $50,000 to one team to go around the world and shoot video gudies to 25 rad cities. And the “Vagabrothers” video landed them in the finals. Watch their video below, and check out the Q&A with one of the brothers Mark, that we did via email. I bet it’ll make you want to pick up and go somewhere far, far away.

You have awesome video skills. Do you have your own production company? Did you go to film school? 

We don’t have a production company and we never went to film school.  We do everything ourselves with Go-Pros and an entry-level Canon T3i camera – less than $1000 of equipment. After learning the basics of video editing on iMovie, we invested in a copy of FinalCut and taught ourselves to edit via YouTube tutorials.  We’ve been learning from trial and error as we put in our “10,000 hours,” but because we love telling stories, the work is always fun.

You grew up in Mission Hills and graduated from la Jolla High. When did the travel bug bite you? 

We were born with the travel bug – our parents met on a train in Switzerland while traveling and have never stopped since. Our father is an immigrant from New Zealand and our mother is a career flight attendant, so we grew up between cultures and always on the move.  Our mom was flying to five countries a week for work, and occasionally she took us with her. We went to university in California but after graduation we decided to follow our parents abroad. I went to India to work at a microfinance NGO where I discovered a passion for travel writing. That eventually led me to blog my way across Asia before settling down to teach English in Spain.  Alex joined me a year later, after partaking in a documentary expedition searching for lost Incan gold in Ecuador.  In our free time, we wrote and shot video and “Vagabrothers” was born.

The video that got you selected for this contest is all about San Sebastian. What do you love most about it? 

We typically call it by its Basque name, Donostia. It’s right on the beach, it’s stunningly beautiful and it’s the perfect size – 180,000 people live between three mountains, two beautiful beaches and a river. Much of the city is styled in the “Belle-Epoch” style of the early 1900s – think Paris on the green coast of Northern Spain. There’s surf on your front door, you’re in nature in five minutes, and France is as far away as Tijuana is from San Diego. The old town is brimming with bars and restaurants where you can eat “pintxos” – bite-sized samples of the five star cuisine that makes San Sebastian famous. Throw in the annual San Sebastian Film Festival and you get an idea why it’s been named the European Capital of Culture for 2016.

What are you other favorite cities? 

That depends on the brother.  I love the East – Mumbai, Hong Kong, Saigon, Luang Prabang, St. Petersberg, and Dubrovnik. Alex prefers south of the equator: Queenstown where he worked for a snow-season, surfing in Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica or San Pedro La Laguna in Guatamala.  But both of us have a soft spot for Spain.

What’s the best place for young people to travel right now?  We always advise our friends not to travel simply to escape, but to break out of their comfort zones and put themselves in direct contact with the immense diversity of this planet – diversity that is at risk of vanishing as young people around the world move to cities and give up traditional lifestyles. Asia is changing fast, and if you get outside the cities you can watch entire societies going through historical shifts. Similarly, indigenous culture in many parts of South America is at risk of disappearing. We’re talking about the last traces of Aztecs, Mayans and Incas. In another way, North Africa and the Middle East would be a fascinating place to visit in the wake of the Arab Spring, but consider the security issue there.  Europe is still a classic, and through websites like or WWOOF you can interact with locals of all walks of life.

How about if you’re a bit older with deeper pockets — where would you recommend for an adventure?

The Basque Country should top your list.  Trust us, we’ve coached many of our parent’s friends. First off, it’s fascinating: Basques are some of the most culturally distinct people in Europe, and yet they don’t have a country to call their own. So in a way, discovering the Basque Country is like having a new nation appear on the map. Secondly, it’s easily one of the best places to eat in the entire world. San Sebastian alone has more Michelin stars per person than anywhere in the world, and that sets the standard for the every restaurant in the region – from a 1€ pintxo to 300€ 10 course menu degustación. There’s wine tasting the famous Rioja wine region in the summer and ciderhouses in the winter. Too many dining options, really! Lastly, the Basque Coast is one of the most gorgeous coastlines in Europe, full of traditional fishing villages like Hondarrbia, Getaria, Lekeitio, St. Jean de Luz, Biarritz, and the Urdaibai estuary. There’s plenty of rural tourism as well, and we love Oñati, Tolosa, and all the mountain villages in the Pyrenees. Shameless plug: I wrote the app on it called The Basque Country: Cuisine & Culture or you can read the book by Mark Kurlansky Basque History of the World.

You’ve been traveling full time for a few years now. What do you miss most about San Diego? 

Mexican food, craft beer, and sunshine.  We’ve been bingeing on all three since we got home. Beyond that, San Diego is just a very chill place. It’s a huge city that feels like a small town, and people here are so friendly and laid back. That’s something special that we try to bring with us wherever we go in the world.

Why should we vote to help you win this contest? 

Yeah, we know – we can’t just play the “local” card! We honestly think that the two of us would make the best candidate for this job – they may call it a “contest” but this is really a job as a traveling filmmaker and TV host. Experience aside, our biggest strength is our differences: I am the super-curious one who travels to learn about the world, while Alex is the outgoing outdoorsmen that keep the shows fast, friendly and fun. We balance each other out, and if we win we’ll present viewers with complimentary view of 25 destinations around the world that will be as entertaining as it is educational.  And now…we ARE going to play the local card – do you really want to see this prize go to someone from Brazil or South Africa?  If not, vote for us by clicking “Support and Follow this Finalist” here! If we win, beers are on us!

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