Beyond Borders: An interview with Travel Influencer, Louis Cole

 “In a world that is more “connected” than ever before people are crying out for a connection that is more significant”

With over 3 million followers on his Instagram and Youtube and a place on Forbes list of the Top 10 Travel Influencers of 2017, our #CocoIcon for this issue had to be Louis Cole, aka. FunForLouis.

An explorer, trailblazer and self-confessed ‘global citizen’, Louis has been travelling the world non-stop for 5 years, bringing his followers unconventional adventures, honest portrayals and new perspectives on both popular and lesser-visited destinations.

His game wasn’t always travelling, however, as he made his first appearance on YouTube through FoodForLouis, a channel dedicated to “messing around” with his mates and performing different food stunts. As his following on channel grew and he began to meet up with other content creators paving the way on YouTube, he swiftly realised that there was a spectrum of content possibilities he could grab. And boy did he grab them!

Now a well-established travel influencer, Louis has visited over 81 countries, lived out of a backpack for half a decade and hasn’t had a dedicated home since he left Surrey for life on the road 5 years ago. He truly lives a nomadic lifestyle. “I’ve been in this apartment in Cape Town for two months and that’s the closest thing I’ve come to having a home in a very long time,” Louis tells me as we introduce ourselves over a chilled out Skype session. I say ‘chilled out’, I was internally fangirling for a guy whose adventures I’d been following for years and who has inspired me to board many flights. “I would say that Cape Town feels like a home from home. Home to me is often about where my friends are.”

Our draw to Louis stems from his content and how real it is. He has an exceptional ability to bring the world we want to see closer to us. He is an inspiration to anyone who wants to make travel their way of life. It’s his passion for slow travel, breaking stereotypes and embracing other cultures that drove him to embark on his greatest journey yet, Beyond Borders.

“Within the first few minutes of meeting JP Schulze, the pilot and my partner on the Beyond Borders mission, he had invited me on a round the world flight as it was always a dream of his. From there we did a test trip flying around Namibia for a few weeks. We then realised that we needed to make the world trip happen,” Louis explains as I swiftly run through my list of contacts to find my version of JP. “Of course, it wasn’t that easy and it was an uphill struggle trying to find ways to fund it and work out the logistics. Then it dawned on us that we could start a Kickstarter to create a documentary out of the trip, as I’d be creating content anyway, and we could then offer this documentary as a gift to people who donated.” Once they’d cracked the code the donations started flooding in, because who doesn’t want to see a documentary of two guys on a 90-day circumnavigation of the globe in a 4-seater plane, through 22 countries?

Like us, Louis has a passion for meeting people along the road and celebrating different cultures. “Through Beyond Borders I want to show that we aren’t so disconnected, that we’re all part of the same human race and actually share a lot in this world,” he tells me from his apartment-studio hybrid where he and his team are working tirelessly on the director’s cut of the movie. “I’m passionate about people, so it frustrates me to see a lot of hostility in the media, who love conflict, and for global politics to be regressing back to this place where we don’t want to unite as a planet and we don’t seem to be moving forward.”

Recognising the tension that has come to light in recent years between younger generations and those in power, and the “desperate need to move forward to continue involving as a society that’s more accepting of other cultures”, Louis and JP managed to make their dream something that’s going to have a vastly positive global impact.

Beyond Borders’ mission is to highlight that “we should be celebrating other cultures and standing with them saying ‘we want to protect this and use our differences to create something great’, and that we can exist together and love each other, making this planet better no matter what the adversity.”

“This will be a film that intends to break down borders, illustrate how small our world really is, and encourage others to travel and explore their world.”

Hearing a huge influencer like Louis say something like this was incredibly moving. For him to be able to use social platforms to build a following who clearly respect his opinion, to then be able to make a worldwide difference through his message is something I’m sure many peacemakers, sociologists and activists had never dreamed of happening when they wondered about the future of society.

When taking off from Kern Valley airport, Louis and JP had one thing in mind and that was to ultimately show people that building walls and creating borders is not what this world is about. It became more than just a travel dream, it was at that point an act of humanity, passion and global citizenship.

Many stereotypes are likely to be eradicated through the documentary, something we at House of Coco always strive for in our content, too. One such typecast is that of Pakistan. “Pakistan was a stand-out location for me, as I hadn’t heard a lot about it and anything I had heard was quite negative,” Louis explains, “but it was one of the most welcoming places we visited. The people there were just so, so friendly and there was no hostility at all. It was very moving to have complete strangers come and shake our hands and hug us.” Memories like these and the hope of a border-breaking victory, encouraging people to travel to countries portrayed poorly in our media are just some of the rewards Louis and JP have continued to reap since lifting off the runway.

“Completing the flight itself and having that accomplishment of being able to say ‘We flew around the world’ is most definitely a reward for us,” Louis tells me, grinning with pride from ear-to-ear, “but I think when we release the documentary and actually see that it has a positive impact on viewers and travellers then we’ll feel like we’ve truly accomplished our mission.”

Even though the physical journey has ended for the boys, it has really just started in many ways too. Louis hopes that the release of the documentary will herald in a new career direction for him, creating longer form content and documentaries to audiences beyond social media.

Louis’ desire to impel people to travel spans more than just Beyond Borders and his personal social channels.  With a hectic schedule, a mountain of admin and the need for networking all while on the move, Louis brought in a team to help him manage his FunForLouis projects. He soon realised that having a supportive and like-minded team around him was the perfect opportunity to cultivate a community through which people are inspired to embark on an adventure. “For me, Live the Adventure represents a community of big creators, travel enthusiasts and people who want to embrace the adventure of life. It doesn’t even have to be about travel. Personally, I think people should travel as it opens your mind and eyes, broadening your understanding of the world. However, Live the Adventure is about encouraging people to step outside their comfort zone and embrace their adventurous side.”

He has an exceptional ability to bring the world we want to see closer to us

While writing this the Live the Adventure team got together with influencers like Travel In Her Shoes, Raya Was Here and Sam Kolder, to embark on a multi-country tour of Africa. The content produced was outstanding, so definitely check it out! Although he was at the heart of this meeting, Louis was very much in the background of the Instagram stories I watched, maintaining his humble nature in a bid to bring content creators closer together in a positive setting. “The creative community can be quite lonely for some people. It’s a toxic industry too, so I want to create a supportive group where we can help people not get sucked down the wrong path,” he tells me of his community project that is a little over one year old and is, like everything Louis touches, having viral success.

While it’s crazy to think that social media has given us the ability to bring people together through beautiful content, as well as showcase the world to those who may not have had the chance to explore, it’s something that could vanish tomorrow. However, we’re ever optimistic that the masters at Facebook won’t turn the switch off so that we can use our content to tell stories of old to generations to come. Louis, explaining how he wishes he could look back at his grandpa’s younger years said, “It will be incredible looking back on my content as a historical reference to see what the world was like. It’s nice to be able to document it through my life and how I’m experiencing it, as there’s going to be such dramatic changes to the world in decades to come.”

Having been vlogging every day for the past 5 years and showing a spectrum of places to millions of eyes across the world in a personal perspective, Louis has used something accessible to many in a way that’s comparable to none. His adoration of the world, humanity and cultures can be shared daily by people across the planet, and had he never created Beyond Borders he could still rest assured that in his own positive way, he brought the world closer together.

At House of Coco, we try to bring you real experiences and honest perceptions. We want you to live our adventure with us through the words and imagery on the page. Our aim is to encourage all of you to travel and to see the world for what it is; ours. We want you to explore it, respect it, care for it and ultimately connect with everything on it, be it people or nature. We want for both our team and you to understand the world which is ever-evolving, so get yourself over to @FunForLouis and wait with us in anticipation of the release of Beyond Borders.

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All images © FunForLouis

Louis helped us to produce our latest print issue, the Adventure issue. His incredible photography heralds in our first destination cover! To purchase our latest issue:

Caoilfhionn Rose

Caoilfhionn is a freelance travel writer who enjoys slow travel and avoiding landmarks in favour of diving into a destination's culture. Instagram: @CaoilfhionnRose

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