In January 2018, she had a hunch that there are extraordinary adventures just outside her doorstep: in the wilderness, in the mountains, in the steppe. At a crossroads in her life, she listened to that voice, left everything behind, and moved out of London.
Now she produces her travel show on YouTube, creates travel films for partner brands, and hosts travel documentaries. She is a presenter, director, and producer of original, fun, insightful videos that people love to watch. Before that, she worked at the European Parliament in Brussels and studied French & German at the University of Oxford. We interviewed about her wonderful journey through the WhatsApp.
-How are you doing Ms. Eva Zu Beck. Welcome to Interview Magazine.
-Thank you for the opportunity interview for you guys.
-What do you think the current pandemic means for traveling worldwide?
-Currently, travel has become difficult for many passport holders. Of course, we now have fewer connections to places worldwide and it's also a question of whether travel is ethical these days whether if we're traveling, we might be bringing infections to countries and regions. I think coronavirus and the pandemic will affect travel for many years to come and primarily I expect that we will start to travel more slowly and more locally. Trips across the world via planes will be out of the question for at least a year or two. Also, I believe that people will start to explore areas closer to home and neighboring countries. Even domestic travel will rise. I certainly hope that travel businesses agencies and guides in countries like Mongolia which rely on a lot of foreign tourists can survive this difficult time
-What has inspired you to start traveling solo?
-When started traveling full time I decided to travel solo to meet more people along the way. To create my schedule and be more independent in my travels. I knew that solo travels paradoxically encourage you and motivate you to meet new people and make local friends. Of course, we always see the company on our travels and it's perhaps a little bit easier to make new friends when you're alone than if you're already with a group of your friends or in a couple. First, I started traveling full-time two and a half years ago after quitting my corporate job in London and I decided to buy a secondhand camera I taught myself video editing skills from YouTube and started making travel videos which is what I’m still doing today.
Most people don't know that when I started traveling, I left a very comfortable and cushy corporate job in London. Behind I had a sort of a life that looked very successful by all standards in London. But I wasn't happy, and I decided to leave and try creating something of my journey around the world. That's how I started out doing travel vlogging.
-What made you decide to go to Mongolia?
-Three years ago, when I was going through some personal trouble, I decided to take a holiday solo alone. I jumped on the Trans-Siberian train across Siberia and into Mongolia. Mongolia was my final destination. When I arrived, I spent a few days at a horse trekking camp in the Terelj National park. The nature outdoors and the sense of freedom in Mongolia made me fall in love with the country. I came back again the following year for over a month to work with a horse-tracking camp near Ulaanbaatar which gave me a taste of living and working in Ulaanbaatar. I did a couple of horse treks out in the hilarious National parks during that time. I wanted to come back again to do a solo horse trek and the year after that I came back to Mongolia a third time and did the solo horse trekking that you can now watch on my YouTube channel.
The world is not as scary as it. Sometimes seems to be so a little bit of extra courage can help you have incredible adventures.
7 days of horse trekking alone in Mongolia was your craziest adventure ever. Is that Real?
-Yes, Mongolia I would say is a very challenging destination for independent solo travelers. Because there isn't that much infrastructure. The distances are absolutely huge moreover an adventure like even trekking or hiking even by yourself is difficult enough. You have to learn to navigate the terrain, you have to bring your own food. Being alone is risky, but with horses, the adventure becomes even more challenging. In addition to taking care of yourself, you also have to take care of your horses and be very confident on horseback. I had never before setting off into the wilderness on my own for such a long period. That was the first time so, it was a lot of challenges one on top of the other that made it my most challenging but also my most rewarding adventure so far.
Nature outdoors and the sense of freedom in
Mongolia made me fall in love with the country.
-Have you ever liked a place so much that you went back a second time?
-Yes, absolutely. I think the world of travelers is split into two different communities. One is the people who are really counting countries and always trying to go to new destinations. And to the people that like to return to their favorites. I'm definitely in the second camp.
I'm always returning to places where I've made friends or places that I really loved or places that struck me as particularly beautiful or charming. I've been to Mongolia three times and I spent about a year in total in Pakistan. These are places that I'll always come back to because I find the people there truly welcoming and very special. I find the landscapes just mesmerizing so I hope to be able to visit Mongolia again next summer.
-Tell us about your latest 14 days trip on a cargo ship during the pandemic, please?
-Let me start at the beginning. In March I traveled to the Island of Socotra in Yemen for a marathon. I was running and filming there. However, the news of the pandemics struck soon after my arrival on the Island and I decided to stay there. I spent the following almost three months on the island of Socotra and towards the end of my stay I was given the option to leave the Island by cargo ship cargo ships are an Interesting way to travel because they're a very basic way to travel there aren't many It's not very comfortable but It's also not as bad as people think. I think the main sort of the most interesting thing about traveling by cargo ship is that you get to meet a very International crew of people. Seamen tended to be hail from all sorts of lands all around the world and our crew was no different. We filled the time with reading talking sitting on the deck and sunbathing. I know that cargo ships seem like very rough ways to travel. But for passengers, they're relatively smooth sailing. I should say and after 14 days on the cargo ship, my friends and I were allowed to leave. We took an airplane straight from Abu Dhabi to Europe.
Most people don't know that when I started traveling, I left a very comfortable and cushy corporate job in London. Behind I had a sort of a life that looked very successful by all standards in London. But I wasn't happy, and I decided to leave and try creating something of my journey around the world.
-You worked at the European Parliament in Brussels. If not travel, what you would have done?
-If I weren't creating my own travel videos on YouTube I would have been working in media. In general, perhaps in internet media or video production. The media always told stories that have always been my forte. I've always wanted to work with a medium that allows me to share my perspective on the world with people.
-What should every solo female traveler pack?
-I would say that especially for women traveling alone it's very important that before you travel you learn a little bit about the culture of your destination and you pack items of clothing that would be appropriate to wear in that specific country. I've traveled a lot in Muslim majority countries in Asia and the Middle East. I've always packed more modest clothing longer trousers and outfits that cover me up a little bit more. Because women in those countries generally tend to dress a little bit more modestly. The most important thing is to know where you're going and pack in accordance with the local cultural norms. I would also say definitely pack a bit of bravery. The world is not as scary as it. Sometimes seems to be so a little bit of extra courage can help you have incredible adventures.
-What was the worst cautionary tale from your years of solo traveling?
-Honestly, I've never been in a situation that would make me rethink the way I travel. My worst cautionary tales all relate to travel planning, flights, hotels, visas. Making sure that I have all of these things in order before I travel. I've been in a couple of situations where I didn’t have all my travel admin sorted and that got me into some trouble. For example, at the very outset of my travels, when crossing the border between Vietnam and China by overnight train. At the Vietnamese border at the passport control, the Immigration officials stopped me and didn’t want to let me go. Because I didn’t have the right exit visa from Vietnam. Basically, I got my exit visa for a different exit port from the country, not the one that this train specifically was crossing. That meant that I had to stay in the Immigration office overnight with no aircon and tons of mosquitoes biting me with no food and no water. I had to wait for the Chinese border to open the following morning. That I could cross the border through a different crossing point that made me check all my future visas and make sure that all my admins are in check.
-What are some of your strategies for deflecting unwanted attention as a female on the road alone?
-There are some strategies that I use when I'm in situations that necessitate some sort of emergency thinking. If I find myself alone in a situation where there are maybe men around me who I don't fully trust. I would normally say that I have a husband at home. For example, I need to leave the room to give him a call and there have been rare situations where I changed the rings on my finger to make it look like I was wearing a wedding ring. I think a very Important trick is confidence. There's a lot to be said for sort of looking confident and not looking distracted not attracting the wrong kind of attention. Kind of projecting a sense of confidence and strength rather than vulnerability. Especially, if you're walking around the streets of a city that you don't know alone in my experience people have tried to sort of stop me and bother me less frequently whenever I've walked with my head up high sort of straight and very confident rather than projecting a sense of fear. Now, this isn't a sort of fix-all solution um but it's one of the tricks that I've picked up from my years of solo travels.
If you'd like to rediscover your sense of freedom and independence Mongolia is an incredible place to visit. If you like to immerse yourself in the outdoors and truly feel the greatness of nature it's also an incredible destination.
-Have you been in a situation where you felt unsafe? What did you do?
-There's been a couple of situations I've been in around the world where I was made to feel unsafe mostly by men who took an overly active interest in me. Perhaps didn’t have the best of intentions in Mongolia specifically. I have felt not comfortable in a couple of situations where for example, I needed to hit a ride in the evening from Ulaanbaatar to the host wrecking camp where I was staying about one hour away from the city. The way that I solved that situation was I simply switched on live location tracking on my WhatsApp and sent my live location to my local friends. That if anything happened or if the driver took a wrong turn and they would always know where.
-What would you tell women who want to travel solo but worry about their safety?
-I travel alone most of the time and I've picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that really helped me navigate fishy situations. I always let someone know where I am especially if I am in a remote place so usually it's a close family member that has my coordinates and I try to make local friends so that In case anything does go wrong I can always reach out to them and ask them for help um I learn some words of the local language so that in case of emergencies I can always communicate with people around me and I pay a lot of attention to the behavior of the people around me Into cultural norms um I observe and make sure that I don't put myself or risk being In situations that could turn out to be dangerous for me I would also say that solo travel Is nowhere near as scary or dangerous as mass media will have you think. I've only had a couple of negative experiences during two and a half years of full-time travel to some very unusual destinations so I would recommend that everybody try it at least once in their lives.
-To which kind of traveling women do you recommend Mongolia?
-If you'd like to rediscover your sense of freedom and independence Mongolia is an incredible place to visit. If you like to immerse yourself in the outdoors and truly feel the greatness of nature it's also an incredible destination. If you're ready to push yourself beyond the boundaries of standard travel I always say that Mongolia is my sole spot. It's unlike any other place I've ever visited around the world. Because it is just so pure pristine and massive wild country which you can explore pretty much endlessly. Mongolia is also extremely adventurous because you can explore it in a huge variety of ways which is not possible in many other countries around the world. Of course, you can take a bus or you can rent a car but you can also explore Mongolia on horseback or motorbikes. There are endless adventures to be had in the country so any out I would recommend Mongolia for any kind of adventurous intrepid traveler who's seeking a different kind of experience.
-You visited very remote regions within the country. From all the off the beaten track places you explored in Mongolia, which one would you recommend to female travelers and why?
-I would recommend for solo female travelers renting a good quality car. Maybe grab a friend or two and setting off on a road trip to the Gobi Desert. I made a video about exactly that kind of road trip where I got to see some incredible places around Mongolia. It took me about three or four days to drive down to the Gobi, and I crossed beautiful sights like the white stupa or the flaming cliffs on the way. These places are easily reachable if you have good navigation and if you're in your own car. You can seek out yurt camps and hotels along the way. You're likely to be quite safe. When I eventually arrived in the singing sand hunger and else section of the Gobi where I got to stay with a camel herder's family. This is an experience that's maybe not for everybody. If you're adventurous and intrepid and you love to immerse yourself in local culture then seeking out sort of more informal camps like this one in the Gobi Desert this is definitely an adventure worth seeking out.
-Mongolians are famous for their hospitality and random house invitations are very common. As a female traveler, did you also experience it? Did you ever hesitate?
-Absolutely Mongolia is one of the most welcoming countries I've ever been to. The people there are so warm and inviting. I've had countless invitations to come over to people's homes share some food drink some Airak. As a solo female traveler, I love accepting invitations like that especially when they come from families or from girls where there are women and children inside. I wouldn’t accept an invitation to visit a home where it was just men or just a single man. This rule doesn't apply just to Mongolia. It applies really wherever I go as a solo female traveler. I need to make sure that my safety is a priority so you know having women and children in a home always makes me feel a little bit more comfortable.
As a solo female traveler around the world, I'm used to facing reactions of surprise and often disbelief in Mongolia. It was no different people who were very surprised that I was setting out on my own and often they seemed worried.
-Are you earning a stable income through travel blogging on Instagram, YouTube?
-Yes, I am currently managing to scrape by on earnings from Instagram and YouTube. The internet is such a wonderful thing. It's made it possible for people to earn a wage by creating valuable useful or inspiring content on social media. It's a beautiful thing that as creative people or as artists we can have our platforms where we tell our own stories and also make an income through them. Of course, it’s not always a stable income. Every freelancer knows what it feels like to have a good month or a bad month. The same is true for YouTube and Instagram. Many vloggers and influencers work with brands, work with YouTube advertising. That's how we earn most of our income.
-You create some amazing travel videos on YouTube. Any tips you can share on how to create such good videos and what equipment to use?
-I always encourage people to think less about the equipment. They use and more about the stories that they want to tell when I started traveling making videos for YouTube. I bought a secondhand camera and a secondhand lens for a total of about 300 euros. That's what I started making my videos with I've also made some of my best content with very basic equipment like phone cameras and Go pros. I encourage people to think less about their gear and more about what It is that they want to say through their videos. Before you create your channel or make a video think about what kind of message that you want people to know, about how you can inspire them, or how you can provide content.
-What your favorite hobby outside of traveling?
-Whenever I'm not traveling or exploring or climbing or discovering the outdoors, I love to read. I'm a huge bookworm. I have a massive collection of books. I love to just curl up on the sofa under a blanket have some tea or some hot chocolate and read a really good book. I've been reading more adventure books and non-fiction books. Also, I love a little bit of poetry here and there. I even write my own poetry and I'm trying to write more and more every day. Hopefully one day these passions can lead to publishing a book.
-Do you have any travel stories during driving 1300 miles alone to the Mongolian desert? Share an instance with us?
-During my 1300-miles trip to the desert In Mongolia, I got lost maybe 15 times. I'm not exaggerating. I was always getting lost. I couldn't find my way even though I had Google maps. Even had a satellite phone and satellite maps. Driving as most Mongolian drivers will know driving out on the step means that you end up having a choice of about five different diverging paths and depending on which one you take that's where you'll end up. It can very easily get confusing. Every time I got lost there was someone that helped me out with directions. I don't speak Mongolian and of course, out in the countryside, not many people speak English. There was always some way that people tried to communicate with me. I would sort of say the name of the place in Mongolia and they would always try to either draw me a diagram of how to get there or point me in the right direction. I remember for example being very close to my final destination in the Gobi but then taking a wrong turn and driving up into some mountains. Eventually, after about 10 kilometers, I found a tiny little yard camp with an older lady in it. Although we didn’t speak the same language. She figured out the place that I was after and even offered to get in the car with me and drive me there. But in the end, she managed to sort of showing me the way she drew it for me on a little piece of paper. Finally, I managed to find my destination.
-What is your travel motto?
-The world belongs to the brave. When I say that I mean the brave the people who are adventurous and who want to go out there and experience new things. Even more than that the brave of heart people who are open and kind and who are always seeking out new human experiences and are on the road in order to make new friends.
-Is there anything you do on your travels or in your everyday life to try to minimize your impact on the environment?
-Yes, I'm very passionate about the environment. I've always reduced the amount of meat that I ate. Recently a month ago I went vegetarian. So, I don't eat meat anymore. I am very passionate about and not taking part in a fast fashion. That means you know reducing how many. What I buy in terms of clothes or outfits, mostly I just wear the same stuff over and over again that I purchased from good quality brands. It can last me for a longer period of time. On my social media channels, a very particular about what I wear. I try not to promote the image that we need to consume a lot or that we need to be wearing new dresses all the time in order to be successful on social media going forward. Also, I like to travel less by plane and more by car and public transport.
-The best meal you’ve eaten anywhere?
-Honestly, all the best meals that I recall have been not about the food. But definitely about the people. In Mongolia, some of my favorite meals have just been cooked over a campfire in the middle of a faraway valley accompanied by a few horses. You can see one of my favorite Mongolian meals in my Gobi Desert vlog and there was a “horhog” that we cooked in the middle of the Gobi just on the edge of the singing sands dunes. It took us several hours to cook the final dish but it was the atmosphere in which it was cooked that made it so special. With this nomadic family that lived out there in the desert over a cup of Airag. Making some new friends those are usually the most special experience not about the food but who you share the food.
-The most creative thing you’ve ever done to save money during your travels?
-I think in some of the more expensive countries that I’ve traveled to like Saudi Arabia or Oman I tried to maximize my use of the tent so Instead of buying expensive nights inexpensive hotels. I did those trips mostly camping so I rented a car for a relatively affordable sum of money and then mostly camped my way across the country. Kind of like taking showers at friend’s places or even when I was CouchSurfing. Mostly really spending most of my nights in the wild out in nature, in the outdoors in the billion-star hotel under the night sky.
-Thank you for the interview.