When we think about travel shows on cable television, it follows a predictable formula: Go see interesting landmark, visit so-and-so for your shopping, eat at this restaurant for a wonderful meal and relax at this hotel.
However, if you’re entrepreneur Sonia Gil, she uses her weekly YouTube series “Sonia’s Travels” as a way to find the more interesting aspects of a city she visits instead of talking about landmarks and invites her audience to follow her. It’s hard to find a traditional cable show talk about places like the Grand Mosquee in Paris for instance with its Moorish architecture and Andalusian-like gardens where the host relaxes and enjoys the silence.
Finding a refuge in the Grand Mosquee in Paris is one of many interesting tidbits that Sonia Gil finds in her weekly series, where, in her words, is about “trying to find the secret code behind the most unlikely places.” Even though Gil has been posting video for several months now, she has been nominated for a Webby Award for Best Personality and has been approached by major television networks.
What’s the “secret code” behind her series?
“It’s more about the how than the what,” she explains to NMR. “We don’t focus on where to go, but on how to visit a place. For example, in my Mexico [travels], it’s about the food in the market, but in another place [like the Paris episodes], it’s more about finding a place just to take a breather. It’s very different from Travel Channel [shows] because it’s not a show about food, accommodation or restaurants. It’s more about the feeling of a place and just my appreciation for what it is.”
With her explanation of “Sonia’s Travels,” you won’t be hearing her talk about her lovely stay at her hotel anytime soon. Instead, with the help of filmmaker Mariana Hellmund and a small crew, she goes for the unconventional topics—you’ll seeing her running around the German capital Berlin a la “Run Lola Run” or how dogs behave without leashes in Venice.
So far in her series, Gil has explored the likes of Paris, Venice, Berlin and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
Gil has been traveling most of her life—she said she comes from a “family of travelers” and has lived abroad in places like China, where she learned to speak the local language fluently. Her natural curiosity of different cultures and languages has served her very well in her full-time job running FLUENZ, a software company dedicated to helping people learn a language (and she’s the teacher on the software).
“I’ve gotten to know these places very well and [traveling] became a natural part of my life,” she said.
Recently, she has branched out from focusing on a specific aspect of a place on “Sonia’s Travels” to starting a vlog on her YouTube channel that goes into the background of certain locations like the Yucatan peninsula.
She said that she loves the YouTube setup in comparison to using traditional formats such as television because it helps her connect with her audience more.
“You can actually connect with your audience, you can actually request things from them, get comments, get ideas behind it and that really makes people participate,” she said. “I’m really happy to be born in this era.”
Although she is enthusiastic about the input from viewers, Gil is mainly focused on building up the channel with the new features and content. She is looking forward to traveling to England, Spain for future segments as well as filming episodes in her hometown of Miami, Florida.
As for her trademark tapping the camera during every episode of “Sonia’s Travels,” Gil explains, “It’s kind of [a message saying] ‘Wake up! Look at what’s going on around you.’”