Hi all. Well November is here, and I’m starting it with another interview! And today it’s a HUGE hello to Tim Blight, from Urban Duniya. Tim has been a ‘friend of the blog’ for quite a few years now. These days Tim has spread his wings from blogging and now makes some fantastic YouTube videos. Let’s check in with him and see what’s making his world go round in 2020!
- Hi Tim! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Although you might be familiar to many readers of this blog – Would you mind starting by telling us who you are and where you’re from, and of course the name of your blog?
Hi Andy! Thanks for having me on here! I’m originally from Sydney but now split my time between Melbourne and Lahore, Pakistan. My blog’s name is UrbanDuniya, it started out as a city lifestyle blog with travel as a feature of that, but a few years ago it became a full time travel blog. When I’m not blogging and vlogging I love travelling (of course) and photography – although I’m a bit of an amateur. I’m currently based – or stuck – in Australia… I had planned to go to Europe then back to Pakistan this year, but everything is on hold at the moment.
- Tim when I first met you, you were blogging regularly. These days you’ve turned your attention to YouTube and have been concentrating on vlogs. What has prompted this change?
It’s been quite a natural progression – and not one that I planned. I had a lot of video saved up and planned for the vlog, and I really enjoy how dynamic video can be – the addition of light and colour and sound makes for an interesting change from writing. The other thing that happened was I started getting busy with a lot of other things, which meant travelling less, writing for other work (I’m currently working on a book) and overall less time and energy to spend on writing for my blog. The video has also petered out lately, a result of the disruption caused by the pandemic. Both will be back soon, bigger and better… it’s just a matter of when.
- What has been the main challenges of vlogging and filming when you’ve been travelling?
It’s partly a challenge of being constantly mindful of how I’m going to piece the video together once I get ‘home’ – I find it challenging to figure out how it’s going to look and play out once it all gets into the editing software. It’s also partly a challenge of trying to get engaging footage while still enjoying the trip – video is so much more demanding than writing, and vlogging makes it feel like a work trip in a way that blogging doesn’t. There are trips that I have been on where I intentionally do not take video, because I just want to enjoy the holiday.
- What are some of the most interesting destinations you’ve visited in the last few years – excluding this year naturally?
I went to Iraq for Arbaeen in 2018 – that was incredible – and I travelled to Saudi Arabia for Umrah in 2019. That left me speechless… I hope I can go back to both of them again one day.
- Who do you see as the audience for your vlog?
I know that the audience for my vlog is quite diverse – I have a large support base in Pakistan, who seem to be locals who are interested in outside perspectives on the country, as well as travellers who would like to visit some of the places I go to. I’ve also got a significant audience in Australia who became interested in my Sydney, Melbourne and Gold Coast vlogs.
- What advice would give to someone just starting out on Youtube? And how have you managed to garner a good list of subscribers?
I’d say that YouTube requires a very specific formula if you want to be popular. A lot of people love the idea of putting themselves out there, and creating content in “their own way”, and that’s great, but YouTube audiences tend to like things to be a particular way. Certain music, shots, graphics, styles of narration… look at what other people are doing and apply that in your own way. Of course, if you are just doing things for your own enjoyment, that’s great too – but it’s not true that subscribers just flock to anything which you put out there.
A lot of my subscribers have found me through certain videos that I’ve done which attract them – “How a Eurail pass works” was popular, my Iraq and Saudi video diaries about religious events were popular for obvious reasons, visits to obscure destinations garner a cult-like following among people local to that area. Sending off written pieces to newspapers for publishing, enquiring to be interviewed on television programs about my book have all helped too.
- What is the hardest thing about running a channel on YouTube? Is it easier or more difficult compared to maintaining a blog?
It’s maintaining consistency. There’s always something to write about, even if it’s mundane. Video requires so much fresh content, and it needs to be amazing – and maintaining that is the hardest thing. A short video requires so much more technical work than a quick written piece too – it’s not just the time spent going to a place to film, but then the voiceover, the music, the graphics, the editing… and then maintaining the pace of all of that.
- In vlogging you need to address the camera quite a bit – have you found this challenging and do you have any tips?
Just keep practicing. It’s daunting at first, but you get better and more confident and natural. I look back at some of my earlier vlogs and cringe… a lot of YouTubers delete their earliest vlogs because they just don’t match the higher standard which they have developed as time goes by.
- How has your world changed due to Covid-19? What restrictions are in place where you are right now?
Australia is one of the only countries in the world which is prohibiting its citizens from leaving. I don’t quite understand this, because surely if you are leaving the country you are going to be less of a burden then if you were here? Perhaps they believe that people will get to another country, fall sick then need to be repatriated… but that doesn’t apply to many of us who have lives and business in other countries and don’t need or want to return to Australia any time soon. The result of this is that I’m trying to make the most of my time in Australia, saving money where I can – one of the great things about being here is the strength of the currency. I’m hoping to be able to leave in early 2021.
- How do you think travel will change due to the pandemic?
I think in the short to medium term it will slowly come back with masks and tests and possibly vaccines… but I think in the long term it will go back to almost normal. What that means is that Covid-19 will either be considered just a manageable part of life for people who travel, with sporadic outbreaks around the world (similar to how tuberculosis, smallpox and cholera were for travellers in the decades prior to 1970s). The other possibility is that people will eventually get bored of the restrictions and masks etc, and throw caution to the wind. I think we’re already seeing a lot of that.
- What place would you really like to visit and why?
I’ve never set foot in South America, and I’ve only been to Egypt in Africa… those two continents are probably next on my list.
- Your videos are from some amazing locations, including many from Australia which you call home. What have been some of your favourite Australian locations you’ve vlogged from, and why?
The Gold Coast hinterland and Sydney – they’re both so photogenic (videogenic? cinemagenic?), and particularly the Gold Coast Hinterland is beautiful but I feel that my vlogs didn’t do justice to it – I’d love to do it again and differently.
- Please recommend three videos you’d like readers to view, and tell us why! Please include links!
- Finally, how can people find you on the net and social media? Please include blog address, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and any other channels you use.
- Finally (again!) what are you hoping or dreaming for in 2021?
I wanna go back to Pakistan! Time to go to my other home! Seriously… right now I just want to be in Lahore, on my terrace sipping a cup of chai… that is my humble, unexciting dream for 2021 but honestly it’s what I’m longing for.
Many many thanks to Tim for the interview. If you’d like to know more about Pakistan, I have a post about Tim’s book ‘Pakistan Traveller‘ which might interest you. Thanks for popping by today! May the Journey Never End!