Saturday, June 15, 2024

Travel YouTuber looks off the beaten path for his Mexican adventures

The idea of “a little bird that goes from place to place” inspired video creator and world traveler Blake Wilkinson to name his Mexican YouTube channel Colibri Travel, after the Spanish word for hummingbird.

“It’s a bird that is only found in the Americas, and given that I’ve traveled so much of North, Central and South America, I thought it was appropriate,” Wilkinson said.

A Texas native and temporary Mexican resident, Wilkinson arrived in Guadalajara two years ago from Portland, Oregon, where he met many residents who maintain winter homes in Mexico to escape the cold weather. The YouTuber is currently in Mérida, where he is staying with his dog Binks in an Airbnb until he moves on to his next shooting location.

Mexico was not his first venture outside of the U.S. At 39, the videographer has visited 39 countries and has lived in three. His love of travel began at age 13 when he went to England on a school trip, and then when his aunt, who travels frequently, started taking him along with her.

“It’s that somewhere over the rainbow thing,” he said. “It’s always looking for that magical place over the horizon.”

Wilkinson hasn't made a fortune with his YouTube channel, Colibri Travel, but he's “not in it for the money” or fame.
Wilkinson hasn’t made a fortune with his YouTube channel, Colibri Travel, but he’s “not in it for the money” or fame.

Mexico was a predictable choice because he speaks Spanish after having lived in Spain for more than two years teaching English as a second language after he graduated from De Paul University in Chicago with a degree in anthropology.

He originally thought he was going to spend winters in Mexico and summers in the northwestern United States. However, he eventually realized that life full-time across the border suited him even better.

“I had heard about Guadalajara, and I wanted to see it,” he said. “I thought it would be a cool place.”

After a year in Mexico, he started making videos with his GoPro sport camera in January 2020, venturing about Guadalajara and nearby towns. He focused on the area’s everyday life — the streets, mercados and celebrations.

By the end of the year, his YouTube channel had more than 3,000 viewers and had produced 75 videos about Mexico and its culture.

“I thought I had something to contribute with travel and travel in general, especially for Mexico,” he said. “I know how to travel, and I travel well.”

Wilkinson supports himself with online work in the stock market when he is not recording and editing videos or playing the piano to relax. He has earned only a three-digit income for his last year of work, but he is “not in it for the money” or any sort of fame, he said.

His viewers support him through Patreon, an online fundraising platform for artists and other creators.

“If you enjoyed it all please contribute a coffee to me,” he tells people at the conclusion of his videos.

Many of Wilkinson’s videos are aimed at those who want to make the same choice he did — to live in Mexico. In one, he interviewed his immigration lawyer, who explained how U.S. residents can obtain temporary and permanent resident status here. In another, he gave a tour of his apartment and a glimpse of the neighborhood he was staying in. Still another outlined reasons why foreigners should move to Mexico.

“I had a good time while I was [in Guadalajara],” Wilkinson said. “It’s fun to have fun with the camera.”

When he started visiting other locales, he shot videos where he went, places like Guachimontones, Tapalpa, Cascado el Salto del Nogal, Puerto Vallarta and Zapotlanejo. He also made several videos discussing the Covid-19 pandemic in Mexico.

His favorite spots to make videos are random and off-the-beaten tourist paths. In Puerto Vallarta, he took viewers on a hike in the jungle above the beach and in remote neighborhoods rather than through the many shops, bars and restaurants catering to tourists.

A favorite theme is his search for the best tamales in each city.

Although Wilkinson says that for most of the first year of his YouTube channel he revealed nothing about himself, he is now opening up more.

“I can be myself in the world wherever I may be,” he said. “I’m not ashamed of having a foreign accent when I speak Spanish.”

At the start of 2021, after visiting his family in Dallas for the holidays, Wilkinson realized he’d tired of Guadalajara and decided to go “on the open road to enjoy total freedom.” He documented driving his Jeep from Guadalajara to Pachuca on the first leg of his trip to Mérida.

“No plans to go back to Guadalajara, no plans not to go back,” he said. “The plans now are just to travel and explore Mexico.”

He plans to visit Oaxaca and other places as he finds them, he said. And in addition to covering all the ground he can in Mexico, he will most likely visit Nicaragua or Honduras, the only two countries he has not seen in Central America.

He will turn 40 in August, he said, referring to it as the “oh my God” age.

“I’m trying to keep up with my age,” he said. “I need another country before my birthday, or I will be indebted.”

Currently, his family has some concern about his wandering around Mexico alone because of the reports of violence in the country, he said, but they are supportive of his project. Nevertheless, he is careful, seldom washing his Jeep to make it less attractive to thieves.

“They haven’t said much about it,” Wilkinson said of his family’s concerns. “They probably think it’s just me and what I do.”

His long-range goals are “pretty open,” but they no doubt will involve more travel, he said.

“The journey continues,” Wilkinson said. “That’s how I like to have it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

David Webb is freelance journalist based in Texas.

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