TRANSCRIPTION
#97 EVA ZU BECK

But this is what turns me on, rough conditions, remote places at the end of the world where you have to travel for a long time and then make an effort to get anywhere. I love such difficulties. Travel, for me, as a travel blogger, is not synonymous with going to Bali to sit under a waterfall. For me, travel is an opportunity to test myself, to experience and learn something new. Not to lie down and relax, there are other opportunities for that. But to have a new challenge.

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fot. EVA ZU BECK

EVA ZU BECK:

"New year, new opportunity" is a truism, but I thought to myself: "Okay, I'm going away starting tomorrow, I'm changing everything, but constructively". Travel videos are not about places. Travel videos are about the person experiencing the journey. I try to blaze my own path, and it's often paradoxically easier in these wild places. Because those tourist trails are just less beaten down. There's usually less of that tourist business around and you can feel free.

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Hi, welcome.

EVA ZU BECK:

Hi, welcome.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Thank you for making time in your busy schedule, week and life, since your life has sped up a lot lately. Seems ridiculous to have 1.3m subscribers on YouTube.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yeah, even more, if you count all other channels. I don't count it and I don't want to count it and it's even hard for me to imagine. Because if you think about that, it's a whole city. When you imagine a whole city looking at you, you immediately go into panic mode.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Even more than a million. Let's face it, you've got 5, 7, 9 million views there.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Let's not talk about it.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

That can get really stressful. On the other hand, do you have a team of people who take your messages and so on? Do you have anyone to help?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

In the beginning, I was on my own because I couldn't afford to hire anyone. I was working on my savings. After working in corporate for a couple of years, I saved some money and finally decided I would spend all of it on traveling. Of course, that's what you do at 25 and that's what I did. So when I went away for the first time to make my travel videos I was just operating on savings and I knew that I would have enough for a year and a half of fairly budget travel. But if I don't start making money sooner than that on my videos then I'll probably have to go back to working in corporate. So I gave myself a year and a half to start funding all of this with videos. That took me a bit less time, but being able to hire someone - a bit more. So last year, after just three years of editing on my own, I hired an editor to help with all my videos. Last year, I also hired an assistant manager, who helps me to take care of all the logistics.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Connections, flights, etc.? 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

That’s still something I do myself and probably shouldn’t.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

So what kind of help?

 

EVA ZUBECK:

Research on interesting places and topics, business negotiations, something that I, as a creative, just don't understand at all. So a team like that has slowly started coming together.

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Beautiful, we jumped ahead a bit but I’m curious. What did you do in Antarctica, because you just came back?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yeah, just came back. Almost didn't make it there.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You had problems at airports. Because of covid, right?

EVA ZU BECK:

Even being fully vaccinated and having all the documents, you can't always get around some of the local laws. But I finally managed to get to Chile, from where, after 4 covid tests in four days, I was allowed to fly to Antarctica. The mission there was to climb the highest mountain in Antarctica, Mount Wilson. After more covid adventures in Antarctica, I succeeded. Coming back with a sense of accomplishment.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

How did the idea of climbing that come about? I thought you were supposed to go on a long trip through the Americas, but that didn't work. Also because covid, right? And all of a sudden you leave like "gonna fly to Antarctica". How did that happen?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Sometimes it's like that, you plan for months but you don't want to go public. You never know what's going to happen.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

What’s gonna happen exactly.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Maybe something will go wrong. Happened before my first official ultramarathon. I announced I wanted to start in the event on Instagram. Then, that same evening, I went for a run, fell down, blew out my knee, almost lost a tooth. Since then, I try not to announce such plans too early.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Only when you're almost done, that's when you announce.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Exactly.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You go and collect material if it all goes well…

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Inspo for climbing Mount Wilson was, you know, being the highest mountain in Antarctica, it's a pretty extreme mountain. Not technically, but because it's in a very remote place. It's hard to get there. It's not cheap, and the weather. The weather conditions are just nuts. Unpredictable, windy, really quite extreme. You have to be prepared. Being there you have to find the strength to go out when there's a snowstorm to a makeshift toilet behind a small wall of ice. There are logistic limitations. But this is what turns me on, rough conditions, remote places at the end of the world where you have to travel for a long time and then make an effort to get anywhere. I love such difficulties. Travel, for me, as a travel blogger, is not synonymous with going to Bali to sit under a waterfall. For me, travel is an opportunity to test myself, to experience and learn something new. Not to lie down and relax, there are other opportunities for that. But to have a new challenge.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

So you often just go places where people don't usually go.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I try to.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

There are exceptions, like this wonderful view of the balloons in Cappadocia on Instagram. And I get that, I’d love to go to see that myself. But still, most of your destinations are desolate.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

That's right, I don't look at travel guidebooks. I try to blaze my own path, and it's often paradoxically easier in these wild places. Because these tourist trails are simply less beaten up. Usually, there is less tourist business and you can feel free. I'm not talking about truisms like "I feel like a traveler, not like a tourist", because I don't buy that. Simply talking about the feeling of freedom.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

But it's not like people are looking at you all weird. They seem open, "Oh, fresh face, interesting". On the other hand, you have to have a lot of eyes on you as you go through these places.  

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yes, especially driving without DRM and as a woman. But even in downtown Wrocław I see different reactions. I often see a reaction like "Are you riding alone? A woman alone? Really no one with you?" That kind of thing, right? But, even not knowing the language, what helps the most is just smiling. Yeah, alone and driving around.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You’re really social, it's perfectly visible in your videos. While preparing for our conversation, I saw your first video from Wrocław.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Oh, no!

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You're in a church and you're looking at Wrocław, the first scene, were you shooting with your phone at the time?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

No, some kind of cheap, borrowed camera.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You can tell, it's so rough. But something happens when you point the camera at yourself and say, "Listen, wonderful views", and you go like, "I know, you probably want to feel what I'm talking about". And there's something about that that immediately draws people to you. So, despite the technical shortcomings of this first episode, the very first scene shows what it's all about.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Thanks. Though I try not to watch old ones.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

When you do, what do you make of them?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I try to be understanding with myself, it's easy to be too critical. Everyone starts somewhere. I think the hardest part is just telling myself that I had to start somewhere.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

What are you picking on in these videos then? 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

The music completely sucked. How could I do that? Those transitions are weird too, the camera shaking all the time. But those were my humble beginnings and that’s cool. I'm looking at a video that I created with zero skill and experience less than 4 years ago. Then I look at what I make now, and after all, I'm proud of myself.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Totally. 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

So it's generally fine.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Glad you feel that way.  

 

EVA ZU BECK:

That's what's quite interesting about the travel vlogging thing is that I don't have any real background there. I wasn’t trained, no film school. I used to be a manager in London.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

What industry?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Travel and media, but I never had an opportunity to shoot.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Outside.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I was a creative team manager. Looking back at these old videos I think alright, at first I would pick up the camera and try to make out which button does what because I had no clue. The SD card is already full, what now? This was all new to me. So of course, nothing was perfect, still isn't. But that was my beginning and that’s cool.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Okay, we've said a little bit about London and what came before YouTube. What made you want to change your life? I remember your vlog about that. You had a nice life in London, but you didn't want it anymore and you kind of said "Okay, I'm quitting and giving myself a second chance at life". And that worked out for you. But tell me where were you in life at that point? And why did you have to take the leap?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Finally, an opportunity for my grandparents to understand the story. When you're a teenager, you finish your studies and start thinking what's next. I was at Oxford and I studied languages. Among my peers, it was expected that after graduation everyone would go to London and start working there, either in corporate or startups or media, and steer towards an ideal life. Promotions, a career, maybe a relationship, family. These are standard ideas we have as young people about what being an adult means and what is success. And I went down that path because I didn't know anything else. I didn't know anyone who lived in an alternative way. All my life I thought that success means a job where you make a lot of money and a handsome husband. A perfect, beautiful, small life. I didn't question it because nobody teaches us to do that. So I went down that path. I met a handsome man who soon became my husband. I started making a lot of money, getting promoted, going to New York, Miami, business trips at a very young age, and it was all so intense. And I thought I was so successful and happy, and all of a sudden, strangely sudden, I woke up and noticed that purses didn't make me happier than I was yesterday. I also started to notice that I was burning out at work, didn't have time to go for a run or just relax. I also started to notice that even though I said yes to my fiancé back then, I am not happy in this relationship and not getting what I want out of it. I suddenly began to question everything I had built in my beautiful, small life and I realized this was not what I wanted.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

That’s not what’s life’s about.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I don't think so. I thought it was maybe too late to jump the ship, there's an apartment, a job, a husband. Job, apartment are smaller issues but a husband is not. It was a stormy period in my life. A lot of things were falling apart. I abused various strange substances for a few months. I walked away from my partner. Then I realized that this wasn't the way to go either, and I needed to do something constructive. And then I decided, I remember it so vividly, I’m sitting in Marrakech, in a cafe on the Medina above a busy marketplace. It was New Year's Eve, and I’m there with a glass of Moroccan tea, thinking, "We're going into a new year. I am still unhappy. I've destroyed everything and it's even worse than it was before. What am I doing?" "New year, new opportunity" is a truism, but I thought to myself: "Okay, I'm going away starting tomorrow, I'm changing everything, but constructively". Next morning, first of January, I woke up with a new idea. I’ll go to Mongolia and work for a camp that organizes horseback riding trips. I’ll take a year off. Or a little bit longer, and I'll shoot some videos or something for Instagram there. That's when everything was still kind of new. So that same morning I called my family and said: "Hi, I'm going away for a longer while”. I resigned from my job, emailed my landlord in London, told everyone I was leaving. A couple of weeks later I bought the tickets and went on a trip of a lifetime. Oops, look at me talking!

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Great. You've worked creatively and in media before. What does “creative” mean to you? What exactly did you do for a living?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I used to work for a startup called Culture Trip. I was the first employee there when I started work. And when I left, the company had over 120.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

In what time?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

5 years. So I was the one who started to build it all up, first, I had under me, no experience at all…

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

As it is in startups.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yes. I had this small editorial team under me that wrote articles. Then it grew into a team that also did social media, and then also videos. Each of these teams grew fast and became successful. It was like a drug. When we created the video team, we had a billion views in the first year.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

What platform? YouTube?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Facebook. Those were interesting times, and I'll admit that this job, even though I was a manager, I wasn't technical, seeing how popular travel media was inspired me. I had this feeling that I was able to do it myself. If this content is so popular then maybe there is a chance that it’ll work. But first I had to learn how to edit and shoot.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Yeah. After that, it's relatively simple. Also, it wasn't like you were knitting and suddenly decided to become a director.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Nope.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You were kind of close to it all..

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yes. I guess I also had an intuition for what was popular within that niche and what wasn't. And I have a sense of mission in all of this. The fact that at the time, I didn't see any women who were doing that on YouTube and that I’d want to watch myself. So travel, but adventurous, kind of extreme, plus unusual places. There were a few guys who were doing it, but no girls. And I asked myself why? If that’s so, I'll be the first one. And that's what happened.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Great. Now I understand why YouTube and why videos. You had some skills, maybe not technical, but you knew what you could achieve with your videos and what it should look like to attract people. You said you were in Marrakech on the Medina, but you made your first video in Wrocław. It wasn't a far journey at all. Did you decide to start with what was closest to you?

 

EVA ZUBECK:

Yeah. It's often hard to start because you wait for that perfect moment. And that's a mistake because you can start anywhere and at any time. No excuses such as it's not the right time. It is possible if you want. And that's why Wrocław, because back then I was like “I'm not going to edit yet, I'm not going to shoot yet, I'm going to go abroad and start there. But I realized that I was just creating obstacles where there were none.  

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

And you procrastinate, too, by the way.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I kept telling myself “not yet”. And yet, you can make a travel film anywhere. For me, Wrocław is a city I know well because my family lives there. But for someone else, it is the end of the world. Wrocław is a travel destination, so why not. That's how this first episode was made, but I lowkey hope nobody will watch it. 

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

I hope everyone will. I’ll put the link below at top. That comparison is great. Especially since it was only 3 years ago. Almost four.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Four. 

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

The speed at which your channel is developing and growing is amazing. Fascinating. So Wrocław, and then what was your first conscious destination with a camera, aware that you were going to make videos?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Nepal. Kind of a mecca.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

For travelers.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Exactly. Kind of by accident because a friend invited me to go to Everest Base Camp together. I didn't know what to expect. I've never considered myself a nature-loving person, I liked my beautiful, small city life. I liked sitting on my balcony, drinking coffee and watching people. So the fact we were going somewhere uphill, somewhere far away, two weeks of trekking, it was a bit extreme and definitely new. But I said fine, since we are starting something new and I want to visit unusual places. The element of nature was not there yet. But okay, I’ll go, why not. And we did. That trip, despite that today I’d probably find it easy, because my life has changed a bit since then. But back then it was probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I wasn’t fit at all at the time. I had never been on a long hike like that. So I remember one moment at the end where there was this hill. Now – a hill. Then - a mountain, and some 500 meters of elevation. The fact that I had to go up there with my backpack was so difficult. My friend came to check on me. I walked and cried because it was so hard. Funny how things change.

It's often hard to start because you wait for that perfect moment. And that's a mistake because you can start anywhere and at any time. No excuses such as it's not the right time. It is possible if you want. And that's why Wrocław, because back then I was like “I'm not going to edit yet, I'm not going to shoot yet, I'm going to go abroad and start there. But I realized that I was just creating obstacles where there were none.  

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Yeah. 3 years later you do 200 miles on a hill.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Kilometers.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

200 kilometers in the Balkans, a drone in your backpack.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Exactly. Everything changes so much in life. And it's fun to recall and see how things used to be and how things are now, it gives you confidence.

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You have now built a big company around you. You're such an entrepreneur, under the name of Eva Zu Beck. How are you doing with that right now? Don't you feel overwhelmed sometimes? Can you slow down sometimes and not shoot for two weeks or not?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I could, but I don't know if I want to.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Oh. 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I have a vacation planned, I wanted to take 2 weeks of surf lessons in Mexico, no camera. But now I know that's not going to happen and a camera will be part of it. But I want to do it totally relaxed. But it happens, as every entrepreneur knows, this is a 24/7 life. You don't go to work from 9 to 5, and you can’t, because it is all your responsibility. And YouTube or Instagram always has a crowd of people looking at you, everyone is interested in what is going on. Not only in a good way, because you also have to watch what you say and what you show. It's also important not to have this feeling that someone is always watching, which happens. It is a complicated life. Maybe I have made my life more complicated than it was before. But I think it's good to do things like hiking or just being in nature, carving out time for yourself and doing things for yourself so you don't go crazy. Some time ago I took up running more seriously and at first I was posting on Strava, and of course different people started to follow me and comments and likes started to appear. Everything was positive, but I quickly realized that I felt like I started running for myself, but I started doing it…

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

For the people.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Exactly. And you have people judging and watching. After a few weeks, I turned Strava off and I don't publish my results anymore. Unless I take a cool picture because I'm just going for a run. I try to avoid this extra pressure. Running is time for me. I don't care if anyone looks and thinks it is good or bad. I just enjoy doing it for myself. So I think it's good to have little things in your life that you do only for yourself.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Like a safety valve a little bit. About running and your relationship with sports. Was there ever any other sport in your life?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

No. I didn't play sports as a kid. I was a bookworm. I remember being able to, still am, sit for two days reading a book without leaving the house at all. So I was that kid who sits in the corner reading a book. My dad is a tennis coach, my mom played squash, and I was an exception. I didn't start taking sports seriously until I was an adult.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Before traveling?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yes, I started running more in London.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

What does 'more' mean? We run an awful lot here.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Right, you guys are running a lot.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

So I wanna know what that means to you.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I ran less. Well, working in London I ran like my friends there. So we go for a run, twice a week, on the weekend when the weather’s nice. Great if we do like 10 kilometers. It was kind of running to move for fun. So I wasn't really the sporty type, and team sports, for example, no thank you. So it started to develop when I started this new traveling lifestyle. I began being fascinated with nature, hiking. I realized how cool it is to hike with a backpack and sleep in a tent, in the wild. It was all so new and I started getting more and more into it. I think it wasn't until 2,5 years ago, when I ran my first marathon, that I started to get more into regular sports. Of course, I'm still not running the crazy miles you guys are running here. This is super inspiring. But I hope I will one day.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Have you listened to the podcast?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Of course.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Really? Cool.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Sure, I kept listening and wondering why Kamil invited me because they all run some wild distances.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

This is my podcast and I will invite whoever I wish.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Okay boss, I'm not saying anything.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

I liked your personality. After all, I met you through our mutual friend, who said "Hey, listen, there's this cool Ewka. She ran Cappadocia". Where Dominika Stelmach took some good place. First, maybe. So I check out Ewka on YouTube. I think that was when you were getting Land Rover (Odyssey) ready. Which immediately caught my attention me because I also adore that car. I went back a few episodes and started watching how it used to look. And it's all connected, everything has to do with running and with ultramarathons.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yes, it’s where it all starts and ends.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

And does so differently. But a lot of things in my life start with that. Running for fun, marathons. Was your marathon in London?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

 I ran my first marathon in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Oh yeah, there’s a video. I remember. Was it flat?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Very, very flat. 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

And where did you get the idea for an ultra in the mountains? Because then you did Cappadocia, 63 kilometers.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I ran that first marathon and I found that running makes me happy. It's fun to exercise. So I started doing it regularly and then I ran my second marathon, about 6 months later, on Sokotra Island in Yemen. It was a kind of a private marathon, which took me ages because I was unprepared. I didn't care and I felt a bit down. And after that run, I decided that I didn’t do well enough. I decided I needed to get more serious. Also, running in wild places, because I liked to hike in wild places and so I thought if I liked to hike there, why not run? I tried to run up my first mountain, which ended badly because it turned out to be terribly difficult. I was like how can people run uphill at all? Those were my beginnings. Anyway, a desire was building in me and I wanted to move as much as possible. There was a moment I befriended someone who was running in such events. She inspired me a lot, she had run 30 marathons before she turned 30, various charity runs. She was training for an ultra at the moment. And she started to encourage me, that maybe this was something for me. Indeed, after much deliberation, I decided to give it a try. I moved to southern Turkey for a month, where I started running in the hills and fell in love with running in such wild terrain. And then I knew that I wanted to go back to Turkey in the future to run my first, official ultramarathon there. I would also like to run something just for myself, without a score, for adventure, to practice navigating the terrain. A warm-up before my first official ultramarathon in Cappadocia. I decided to run a beautiful route called The Peaks of the Balkans, which runs through Kosovo, Albania, and Montenegro through the local mountains, the so-called Accursed Mountains. A perfect route, since it has less than 200 kilometers and I decided to do it alone in 5 days. On your way, you can stop in lovely guesthouses in the evening, have a good meal, then continue your journey in the morning. And so I did that.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

There’s a nice video of that. Is it like you had to book guesthouses beforehand or you just went? I feel sorry for that big backpack.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Unfortunately.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You carried a lot of equipment. And the the drone shots. My god!

 

EVA ZU BECK:

You have to set up the camera, run, come back for the camera and then start really running. Repeat 30 times or more per day to get those shots. And the backpack is scarily heavy because I have to take the battery, camera, drone, tripod, microphone and 5,000 other things. This is my job, so I take the office with me.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

That's the way it is. Audiences judge a movie by whether they think it’s cool or not. But they're not able to realize all the agony that filmmakers have to go through. Because it's often very difficult.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yes. But it’s not that bad. I like to joke that suffering is part of the job. It couldn't be easier, I could just go for a hike. But I won’t, because I have to shoot. 

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Do I sense that you're still pretty much into shooting?  

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yeah. 

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

And you don’t feel like quitting yet... It’d be a shame to go somewhere and not shoot. You're still at that stage. Very good.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

It's a professional deviation.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

But that's great. It means your smile won't leave your face for a long time.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I hope so. Let's be honest, the fact that I have a camera with me is what enables me to live my life. This work enables me to live this life and this life enables this work. It's a circle. So I really appreciate it after all.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

 You have to have the right mental structure for that. I did a test 2 weeks ago, I decided to do a running vlog every day. I would take the camera out for a run, come back, and edit somewhere between work and everything. Took me about four hours.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Not bad.

I actually shoot every day on Instagram. I mean any kind of coverage, stories. I try to post every day. But when it comes to longer videos on YouTube, I try to separate it a little bit, I choose a place where I want to go or a topic, and I do things, I shoot strictly in this context. You won’t find films about my everyday life on my channel. Unless it is my everyday life in the Sahara desert.

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

It went on for 4 days, on the 5 day I got up and when I thought about taking the camera in my hand… I knew it wasn't going to work. But I wanted to try and I think that if I was traveling, had a full day, didn't have stuff like family, work, it might work. Still, making a short vlog every day is exhausting. I suspect you shoot something every day.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Well, I don’t.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

So what does your process look like?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I actually shoot every day on Instagram. I mean any kind of coverage, stories. I try to post every day. But when it comes to longer videos on YouTube, I try to separate it a little bit, I choose a place where I want to go or a topic, and I do things, I shoot strictly in this context. You won’t find films about my everyday life on my channel. Unless it is my everyday life in the Sahara desert.

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

The train ride was great, by the way.

EVA ZU BECK:

Wild times. But those are more themed videos on my channel. It saves me from a lot of stress because I don't have to shoot all the time. There's a topic, I go there, I make content on that topic, I come back, I edit and that's it. From the very beginning I’ve been clear on that this is what I’d like to do, because I know a couple of people who started this travel niche on YouTube, who were posting each and every day. To me, paradoxically, that is the opposite of what travel should stand for. These people became prisoners of their channels and had to post every day. It's ridiculous. So people who are supposedly so free and travel all the time, they have freedom, but yet every day at 4pm the travel day ends, you sit down and you edit. Or you hire an editor. You can't go anywhere where there's no internet because you can’t upload. That's the scary part. For me, it's just another kind of prison. So I just did it a bit differently.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

How often do you post videos now? 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Every week.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Don't you get major breaks sometimes?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Sometimes. For example, going to Antarctica, I knew I wasn't going to be online for three weeks, so I had to make peace with fact that there wasn’t going to be a new video in that time. It happens.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Is everything edited by your editor now?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Mostly yes. We have this system where I shoot everything and write the script after shooting. She takes the script, and based on that she creates the first edit. Then, there’s a second version, sometimes a third and I usually finish the final one, adding some little things.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Such as?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Some sound effects, or I change the song, or a clip, or I add final voice-overs, that kind of thing.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Is it you who publishes on YouTube? 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yes. I haven't given up that control to anyone yet.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Must be difficult to deal with someone on the other end, because it takes a bunch of traffic to send that amount of data, right? How long does it take?

 

EVA ZUBECK:

Depends.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Depends where you are.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yeah. When I was with my grandparents, who I'm very close to, in Poland...

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Any dumplings on you?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Nor delicious pączki, which my grandmother makes. Last time I was at their house was a while back, and I tried to upload some files, and I couldn’t because the connection was weak. They're older, they use a computer, but it’s not like they need some ultrafast connection. So I told my grandma that I couldn't upload something, and that I'll maybe go to a friend's place and upload there. So the next day my grandma called the operator and asked them to turn on the fastest Internet connection there is. Is 1 gigabit per second enough? Ok. So today, my grandparents have the fastest internet I’ve ever seen. So nice of them. But there are times when I have beautiful footage from somewhere, say the Sahara. I'm in Mauritania, I go into a hotel, the most expensive in town, because I know that's where I'd rather find the fastest connection, so I check in there for one night simply to upload. I go online and turns out it’ll take 35 days until everything is uploaded. So there are times, when...

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You just can't.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yeah.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

And then what? Do you change locations, look for better connection, or wait?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I send messages. I call other hotels, ask what kind of internet you have. When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I went back to Arusha in Tanzania, and the connection was so weak everywhere that I edited the film myself. I didn't send it anywhere because I knew it couldn't be done. I’d have to fly out of the country or to another big city. There are those logistical problems. But there's always a way out.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Technical question. What resolution are you shooting in, HD or 4K? 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

HD. 

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

A bit lighter. What are you shooting with now, Sony A37?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yeah. I've had it for two years, it's really great.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

It's cool, just a bit heavy.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yes, but that's actually a good thing.  

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Yes, the picture is very nice. I noticed that sometimes you hire operators, since the shots are more polished. And then you sometimes have shots where you're walking without anything in your hands.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yeah. For my own channel I usually shoot by myself, because I like to ride by myself. I think it’s a bit uncomfortable to have somebody sitting next to me in Odyssey and filming all the time. I like to be alone. But there are times when I work with a cameraman because I have a certain budget, or I'm making a sponsored video or some other publication. Depends. I think it's nice to have that experience from both sides. But usually after working alone, when I'm my own operator, presenter, director, writer, sound guy, working with a team becomes incredibly easy. Too easy. I don't have to think about sound. I don't have to think about light. What a luxury.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

But then you have to give up control and you're not alone. It's a bit different. How do you do sound when you're alone?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I use the camera microphone.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

But you have some kind of an attachable, like a shotgun microphone.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yes, also Sony.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

If you have to edit an episode yourself, how long does it take you? 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Editing in my opinion is super underrated.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

It is absolutely crucial. The editing is how the film is really created.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Exactly. Editing can take as long as you want really. The simplest films are a day's work for me, maybe 8 hours. And more complicated ones, with a story, where I try to draw the attention to the way the narration flows, with different voiceovers and a special vibe, that’s a week's work, maybe longer. There are films that I worked on and off for months. Probably because I didn't know exactly how to approach it. But it seems that on YouTube there are a lot of films that are quite simple, with a chronological structure, without a great narrative. There are also some beautifully narrated videos. Anyway, editing is key in my opinion.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Most important. What is your take on adding sound to videos? I've recently discovered that adding good sound to a video is insane. Even something like the sound of putting a glass on the table. The camera won't catch it very well, but if you download a "Putting a glass on the table" sound file and edit it properly, it suddenly works. Also adding sounds is great, I‘ve been toying with it a lot lately, how about you?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

There's a niche like that, with these videos that are made with sound design, where you're watching someone cook, and you hear the knife hitting the table.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Or oil sizzling.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

And sweet, juicy onions. It's clearly important and it evokes emotion.  

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Have you noticed a pattern like that in your videos?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I used to just add music that I associated with the place. But I've been noticing this trend on YouTube for a while now, and I'm also trying to be more careful with sound, not just video. And it's even been said that it's more important for sound to be outstanding in YouTube videos than the video itself. Might as well be true. For example, one of my favorite videos on my channel is a video about a solo horseback trek in Mongolia. It was almost two years ago. It took me a few days to find music for that video, to make it atmospheric and beautiful. Plus, of course, finding effects like the sound of hooves. There was a moment then when I fell off the horse, and that was the end of my whole trip. I didn't capture the moment on camera because it was turned off, and it’s hard to turn the camera on while falling off a horse. Anyway, it was a crucial moment in the film and in the whole experience, so I remember thinking how do I signal that to the viewer. So I made a kind of mini sound studio in the apartment and recreated that moment of falling there. 

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You threw yourself to the ground.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Exactly, on the floor, making the sound a person might make when they fall on a hard floor. And that sound became what ended the film.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

How did you show it in the video? 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Black screen.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Cool solution.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

So sound is very important, right?

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

And do you follow trends, do you educate yourself on what is new on YouTube or do you follow what the algorithm is doing? Do you spend a lot of time on that?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Being on YouTube as a youtuber I think comes naturally, you just see what works and what doesn't, you see what works for you. YouTube also sends a newsletter. The single most important thing about the algorithm is that retention is crucial, that is how long a viewer watches a video. In my opinion, the most important thing really, unfortunately, is the title and the thumbnail. Regrettably, that's the way it is. I’d like it to be different. It's not cool, but that's the way it is.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

So the CTR. 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Exactly, clickthrough rate.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

So you have to make up these clickbaits.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yeah, but can’t be too clickbaity, because people know.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

And there must be a connection to the video.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Exactly. It's kind of an art. You have to feel it out, right? It's often the case on my channel that with casual content, like I'm driving in my Land Rover somewhere and planning an adventure, then before I plan the adventure I think about how I'm going to call it. How will I describe it in a short title?

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

So you do that before you shoot?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Often. Otherwise it doesn't make sense, I can talk about things I find interesting, sure. But still, YouTube is my job and I have to approach it professionally, knowing that if nobody watches my videos, I can't keep doing it, right? Simple. You have to find your balance. So yeah, I think about the videos like "will it really interest anyone?", "will anyone find a reason to watch it?"

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Interesting. I thought it was the other way around, you shoot and then figure out what to call it to make it catchy.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

It’s actually the other way around. But not always.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

But you start thinking about it, it's natural. And tell me, how do you prepare for trips? You mentioned having someone to help and assist you with research. How do you choose a destination and do you prepare, do you read books, articles? Do you prepare fact-wise?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yeah. Depends how that trip comes about. It's often the case that someone invites me somewhere, and I've never heard of this place. So I start looking into it, because it's interesting, and a week later I'm on a plane. Kind of spontaneous. But, for example, Afghanistan. I was there about a year ago, just before the Taliban took over the country. And I had been wanting to go there for two or three years because I knew some people there who were organizing a ski festival that I wanted to go to. And over those two years, as I was preparing for this trip, I read a ton of books about Afghanistan, ton of movies, really tried to learn more about the country and its culture. So there are trips like this. The dream-come-true trips, where we go and make awesome films. But there are also trips that are totally spontaneous, like I'm going to Mexico in a week and I'm shipping my car there. The plan is to get from Mexico to Alaska in the next few months, pass through the US, and then go from Alaska to Argentina over the next two years.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

How do you plan to get from Panama to the south? A ferry? 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yes, there’s a ferry. This is a good example because I wanted to say "I'll think about that later, see how it goes". That's what this trip is a supposed to be. Spontaneous. Of course, we look at the map, we look for interesting things nearby. But I had enough of this kind of planning. I’d like to drive for some time just to see how it goes. And this will be a trip like that.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

I don't want it to sound bad, but I often get the impression that you’re unprepared and that you shoot whatever you find. But because of that you can be happy like a child because a local told you about something exciting, and you set off to find out more, or not, and do something else. You’re super natural at it.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I think it's curiosity. 

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You have a lot of curiosity in you.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I've heard it a couple of times. Different people judge it differently. I've heard "oh god, she's so naive". So there’s that, but there’s also "she's very curious about the world", or "she's open-minded". Everyone sees it differently. I just try not to have any expectations. I think having expectations is the worst thing you can do when traveling. You go on vacation and you expect things to be one way and not the other. You book all-inclusive and expect everything to be just like home, but better. Mojito tastes the same as in Warsaw. In a restaurant in Egypt or Morocco the food is the same as in Warsaw, only the weather is nicer, there’s a beach. People build up different expectations and I think it's nice to go and let yourself be carried away by everything and give in to the experience. To open your mind to something new and unexpected. And that's the philosophy I follow in my travels.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

I think that attracts people. Depends what people like. I like what you said, that people may think you're naive, but there are channels where there’s a professor telling you exactly what architectural style a building is. But those videos have a different audience, and you are doing your own thing and that’s most important.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

About the professor. Seems to me that travel videos are not about the places. Travel videos are about the person experiencing the trip. I think they say a lot more about the person in front of the camera than about the place itself. For example, I can't tell you how many people live in Warsaw. And I don't care much, what I care about is how you feel when you stand in front of the Palace of Culture. How a doughnut tastes on Chmielna Street. How the language sounds. It's cool that there's also a world of architectural facts, you can collect that kind of information. But I don't think that's really what travel is about.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Why do you think people enjoy watching travel videos?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Good question.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Because I think people love it.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Right. When you go on a journey, you look for travel videos on YouTube, you click on the video and you're also going on this metaphorical journey yourself. Like I said, not necessarily to this place, but on a journey with someone who, just like you, is experiencing the place for the first time. So you're discovering something new together. That's where you have to look for reasons. 

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

The viewer is traveling along with you.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yeah, and I think it's not really about the place, it's about doing something together, looking at something new together. That everything’s new and different and you experience it together.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

I think that this "naive" approach of yours works very well. In my opinion, it attracts people a lot. You're not trying to be someone else, you're yourself and that optimism is infectious to viewers. We're going to wrap this up, but tell me how many videos have you posted on YouTube so far? I haven't counted. 100, 200?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I don't know, 150, 200 max.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

That’s quite a lot of content, highly recommend it to everyone. I didn't get through everything. 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I don't blame you.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

I just don't have the time, but I'm catching up. Anyway, you seem like a person who’s not afraid of anything, you love to experience and share it. Are there things you know you’d never try? 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

No. 

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:Something you're afraid of, like paragliding or cave diving or swimming with a shark. Is there anything that Ewa Zubek doesn't want to do?

EVA ZU BECK:

There are things that I don't feel like doing.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

And what are those?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Now I’m done for. I wouldn't feel like showering myself with snakes. Not that I wouldn't if a challenge came up. But I’d rather not.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

That is exactly what I meant. And eating live bugs in the Amazon forest?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I tried it before I went vegetarian. Ants, all sorts of bugs. In Mexico.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

How was that?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

It was very tasty. 

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

And other than snakes? What do you think is so dangerous? That you'd be worried about not being able to handle it physically?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

You can handle anything if you prepare for it.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Well, is there anything that raises your concerns? Not about preparing, that's not the point. Just like "no, thank you". Are there things like that?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Let me think. You caught me off guard, I don't know. Maybe cave diving.

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Have you ever been diving?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Yeah, I didn't really get into it. But then I really liked it when I started doing a freediving course and I'm planning on doing another one in a few weeks. I'm not really into scuba diving. Not my vibe. Anyways, I prefer to stay on the ground and climb up instead of dive down.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

And walking in caves? 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

It's cool.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

It's wet and dark. Is that ok?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

That's cool, there’s a vibe and cool sounds. I like the smell of caves too.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

It's hard to film there though. Not enough light. Okay, thank you so much for meeting me, and for taking the time to visit and chat. I always see how lively my audience reacts when I upload photos of my travels. It's always rad reactions. So I think they'll look forward to hearing your stories, and even more to getting to know your channel.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

I hope so. Just don't watch the Wrocław video.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Don't. Thank you so much. 

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Thanks. It's been a pleasure.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

And next up - Mexico?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Mexico, the US, and in September my first eight-thousander.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Which one?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Manaslu.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

You're nuts.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

You're crazy yourself.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

I don't have to do eight-thousanders. If you wanted to know, it's too dangerous for me. I have a daughter. Okay, is Odyssey in Mexico yet?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

No, I'm shipping it next week.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

How long will it take, 3 weeks?

 

EVA ZU BECK:

Just under. Pretty quick, and in the meantime I'll be getting ready. Then we'll go off together on what will probably be the longest trip of my life. The Pan-American Highway.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

Yeah, America is going to take you a while.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

A long while, almost thirty thousand kilometers.

 

BLACK HAT ULTRA:

So jealous of Alaska. Ok, thanks Ewa, cheers, and we'll be watching you. Bye.

 

EVA ZU BECK:

So nice.

GO TO EPISODE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8h5Gue8CobU