Spanning the globe is more than just a hobby for the Ayling brothers – it’s a way of life.
UCLA alumnus Mark Ayling and his younger brother Alex, who call themselves the Vagabrothers, have combined their passion for travel and storytelling into several successful travel blogging endeavors. Together they are now top 10 finalists in the international Biggest, Baddest Bucket List contest, sponsored by online travel guide My Destination, which the Ayling brothers hope could help them break out from their video blog and work toward creating their own travel show.
The contest ends on May 24, and the winner will receive a six-month all-expenses-paid trip around the world to fulfill an international bucket list, in addition to the $50,000 cash prize. The winner will also create a series of videos documenting each destination of the trip.
As a top 10 finalist, the Ayling brothers will compete in a weeklong series of unknown challenges to test their initiative and adaptability. If they win, the next six months will take them to six continents as they continue to pursue their passion for travel in new locations.
The brothers have had a wide range of experiences working abroad. Just one week after graduating from UCLA in 2008 with degrees in economics and political science, Mark took a job at a microcredit non-governmental organization in Mumbai, India.
“My idea was to use my economics degree to do some good in the world if I could,” Ayling said. “But the reality when I got there was very shocking and I basically started writing. I think that’s where the initial desire to pursue a creative path came from.”
After nearly five months working in India, Ayling said he decided to pursue travel writing in order to teach his readers about other cultures.
“It made me realize the importance of creating understanding in the world, and I think that’s where I started pursuing the path of being a travel writer and trying to understand cultures that were very different than my own,” Ayling said. “From travel writing it eventually evolved into video making with my brother (Alex) and that’s how we got to where we are.”
Mark, who has also blogged his way through Asia, later ended up spending two years teaching English in Spain. He was then joined by his brother Alex in San Sebastián, a city in Spain’s Basque country, and the two combined their passion for travel to form their Vagabrothers blog.
The brothers have since teamed up to create travel videos that they hope one day to transform into a televised travel show. According to Mark, winning this contest would be a step in that direction.
Because San Sebastián has become a very familiar location for the Ayling brothers, they chose to feature this city in their contest entry video. The three-minute video highlights the key sights and sounds of San Sebastián and captures the brothers’ knack for presenting educational information in an entertaining format.
Mark said he and his brother discovered the contest on Twitter and decided it would be a perfect fit for them. The contest, which began on January 28, received 1,251 submissions created by travelers from over 110 countries. Each submission consisted of a blog post, photographs and a three-minute video of the contestants giving a quick tour of their destination.
Alex, a UCSB graduate, said he thinks the brother dynamic sets him and Mark apart and makes their approach both interesting and relatable.
“At the end of the day it’s just fun to go and see new things with my brother and share experiences, not only with the world through the videos that we’re making, but … with my best friend and my closest family member,” Ayling said.
Alex also said that he and his brother work best when they are able to combine their talents and find a way to fuse education with entertainment.
“That has proven to be the crux and the most difficult (part) at times. … We have very similar visions. We both want to learn. We both want to have fun. At the end of the day, it’s been a balancing act,” Alex Ayling said.
According to their friend Andy Paul, who recently travelled with the Ayling brothers, Mark and Alex offer a positive perspective that would make for a compelling travel show.
“(They) try to seek out and highlight all the positive stuff that’s going on in the world,” Paul said. “I think the boys have a really creative perspective for a travel show that could work.”
The winner will spend the remainder of 2013 travelling around the world but according to the Ayling brothers, winning the contest would be more than a vacation – it’s a chance to demonstrate their potential.
“They need to make sure that we have the ability to create content every single week for what would be a six-month trip,” Mark Ayling said. “That means 25 destinations in 25 weeks, which means 25 videos. … They’re going to make sure that whoever they pick has what it takes, and we’re hoping that we can do it.”