Alex & Victoria from Northabroad - Danish Filmmakers and Digital Nomads
Tell us a little about yourselves! How did you guys meet and how long have you been traveling?
We’re Alex and Victoria, both 27 years old and born in Copenhagen where we grew up very close to each other. We met during high school at a mutual friend’s party and hit it off quickly.
One of the first things we did together was travelling to Malmö in Sweden for a day - and that pretty much laid the groundwork for our future travels.
We both liked to travel and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.
Since becoming a couple in 2010, we have travelled to more than 30 countries together and spent years on the road in total. If our current trajectory continues, we’re not slowing down anytime soon.
Having both grown up in a (relatively) big city it was only once we started travelling to more remote locations away from civilisation that we started appreciating nature on a more profound level.
Vistas and landscapes proving how small we are in the context of the planet inspire us - and so do animals of all sizes and shapes whom we feel very connected with.
By being good examples, we feel like we can contribute to leaving this world a happier, healthier place.
We are mindful of our consumption habits; including avoiding using or eating any kind of animal products and we try to share a lifestyle full of freedom, possibilities and sheer joy for being alive.
(Everyone’s favorite question) How do you fund your travels? Do you work while on the road? How do you balance work and travel?
Most of our early trips were funded with periods of work in Denmark. This was all “short” trips ranging from days to about a month at a time as we had commitments like education or jobs to return to.
Once we decided to become digital nomads, we have worked hard on creating a sustainable lifestyle from the road.
All of our income is very sporadic in nature so smart spending is paramount as we might not know when the next cheque is coming.
We work with brands that align with our values to create content - often for them as well as for our travel blog Northabroad and our Instagram @northabroad. The blog also provides a little bit of affiliate income. We blog in Danish on Nordombord.
As Alex has a background as a web designer and developer, he sometimes takes on website jobs that can be done from abroad. Between trips, he sometimes does photo and/or video work in Copenhagen.
In addition to the above, we also sell stock videography.
As much of our income is passive, it’s a constant juggle between experiencing whatever amazing place we might find ourselves in and working on our projects, which are often both short-term and long-term in nature.
Every week, we aim to create a rough plan for the coming days with work priorities. As we have honed this over time, we rarely feel overworked because we continually know what’s most important to focus our energies on.
There’s always more to do, of course, but we try to find peace and say to ourselves that as long as we enjoy our life every day without greatly sacrificing our health or future, we must be doing something right.
So far, it seems to be working.
We really enjoy our work and feel super privileged to be able to live as full-time creators.
You guys are pretty awesome photographers/videographers. Was this something you guys did before traveling? Where/how did you learn photography and film?
Thanks a bunch! We have both been creative in many of our endeavours through life and always felt a profound need to create; whether or not it’s through imagery, movement or the written word.
Seen from the outside, Alex is probably more of a creative in the classical sense. He’s the one behind the camera, he’s editing the videos and he’s making the website; those are the things that the audience sees.
Victoria’s strength creatively is more in what isn’t seen. Like asking the right questions or trimming and revising work to take it from good to great.
She’s very much the leader and producer while Alex does the groundwork.
Alex has been a full-time freelance creative since 2014 but has worked with clients since long before then. He created his first website way back around 2003 and picked up his first professional camera in 2012.
Everything is self-taught. Experience is definitely the best teacher, and the internet provides answers to all the questions we didn’t even know we had.
Today, YouTube is the perfect platform to learn from if you’re just willing to motivate yourself!
While Victoria took her bachelor’s degree in Project Management from Copenhagen Business School, Alex paid his bills through creating music videos, shooting portraits and photographing weddings.
You’re currently working on a documentary. Can you tell us a little about it? What inspired you to make a documentary on this topic?
“Shade Grown Coffee” was our first big, collaborative creative project and what has defined much of our career as a couple working together.
The film is about how humans affect nature - and can choose to do so with varying degrees of positive and negative consequences.
Coffee is grown in the most biologically diverse areas of the world in a belt around the equator; generally in places where halting the rapid deforestation plays a significant role in minimizing the impacts of climate change.
Once we learned that it’s possible to grow coffee in the shade - in conjunction with nature - instead of conventionally with agrochemicals (and few to no trees!), we knew it was an urgent story to tell.
We started filming “Shade Grown Coffee” in 2015 and we have visited Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Jamaica and Ethiopia to interview passionate farmers working with sustainable coffee production.
We have also interviewed importers, roasters and cafés in the US, Europe and Asia to capture the whole process from seed to cup.
Now, the film is finished and we’re currently working on our release strategy. It’s super exciting to finally be able to share this important story with the world.
How do you go about making a documentary? Can you give us a rundown on the process from start to finish?
We probably aren’t the right people to ask about this - surely, we have made every mistake in the book!
From the beginning, we had no idea that we would make a full-length documentary. We just set off with no clear plan or concrete idea about the form of the final product.
In the end, this was probably great for the film, though.
Had we set the length in stone before we started filming, for example, the project definitely wouldn’t have become so big in scale. More like a mini-doc. Which would have been cool. We just wouldn’t have been able to tell a story as well-rounded and complete as the one we can tell now.
The more insight we gained into the coffee world, the more we felt like we had to give the story the amount of time it needed to be told authentically. Too little and it would be rushed; too much and it would be boring or irrelevant.
From the beginning, we had a rough outline of the plot, which helped us immensely with creating relevant questions for the interviews we conducted.
While the plot changed throughout the process with the new knowledge we gained and the people we met, the foundation of our story - that working with nature instead of against it is the only way forward - kept us on track.
As filming has spanned over a long period, we have had the opportunity to revise underways.
By editing the material we had at the moment, we formed the story as we went along.
Though this approach has dragged out the process timewise, we actually think it has been healthy for the movie to be shaped this way.
Once we knew we had filmed the last bit of material, we edited together the final version of the documentary.
Doing the last edits, colour corrections, adding music etc. has been great fun once the framework felt complete.
Were you big coffee drinkers before making this documentary? Has the work you’ve done on this documentary changed the way you drink coffee?
We both liked coffee before starting our work on “Shade Grown Coffee”, but there’s no doubt that diving into the coffee world like we have has changed our relationship with the black elixir for good.
Tasting amazing coffees directly from the source and visiting some of the world’s top coffee shops has definitely expanded our horizon for what coffee can be.
It’s not like we now spit out the coffee that we liked before; it’s more like we now know how to appreciate the beautiful beverage in a whole new way.
On many of our travels, we carry an AeroPress and try to find local specialty coffee wherever we go.
This was something we didn’t even realise was possible just a few years back and today it almost feels like a necessity!
How has working on this documentary changed the way you travel? Has your documentary work taken you to any interesting locations around the globe?
There’s no doubt that one of the reasons we started thinking about making a documentary film about coffee was the fact that the beans are grown in such wonderfully exotic countries.
When we visited a country for the film instead of “just” as tourists, our experience of that country has been formed in large by the people we have met through the documentary.
We spent a month in Ethiopia and barely saw any of the regular tourist highlights, for example.
Instead, we tried living on coffee farms in remote locations.
Both kinds of travel have merit, and as we set our own schedule, we try to mix business and pleasure - but to have authentically experienced a country through the eyes of a local is so different than just “visiting”.
For example, we first went to Mexico in 2012 and enjoyed the usual attractions of the Yucatán Peninsula as young backpackers.
When we visited again in late 2015 for the first interview of “Shade Grown Coffee”, our experience of the country was vastly different. We saw a totally different part of Mexico and got intriguing insight into this complex part of the world.
In general, coffee-growing regions are supremely beautiful with lots of elevation change and lush landscapes. Even if we hadn’t been filming for the documentary, we would have loved just walking around the farms enjoying the views.
Has making a documentary been harder or easier than you expected? What are the biggest challenges?
While it has been awesome to work in such fantastically diverse places as we have been lucky enough to, it should be said that being just a two-person film crew trying to create a professional product while travelling on a shoestring is exhausting.
When setting off, we didn’t have clear-cut expectations, which was probably both a blessing and a curse.
It has been equally hard and lovely; impossible and exhilarating.
While we have never seriously pondered giving up, there have been plenty of times of doubt - as there probably always is with big, important creative projects!
The biggest challenge has been to balance working on the movie (which has been 100% self-funded) with actually making a living and having a life at the same time.
Most of the time, we have been compromising on at least one of those things, which, while necessary, has been frustrating at times.
We have learned a ton from this whole process, and wouldn’t really do anything differently if we had the chance.
But next time around, it would probably be a good idea to first set the scope for the film in terms of length and then to carve out funds and time to actually work on it continually until it’s finished.
When can we expect Shade Grown Coffee to be released?
It will be out in spring 2020! You can find the most up-to-date information about the film at https://shadegrowncoffeemovie.com.
This is always a hard one to answer but what is your favorite destination or destinations that you’ve traveled to so far?
As you also know, each country you visit touch you in a special way and comparing places seems unfair.
Our favourite all-around country for adventure travel is Indonesia, simply because it’s so fantastically diverse and exotic in terms of nature. The Philippines is a close second. They’re also both dirt-cheap, which of course helps when you’re travelling long-term. And the people are the friendliest, ever.
The United States of America is where we really fell in love with pristine environments, and the sheer range of landscapes on offer is mind-blowing. The national parks have got to be some of the most beautiful places on earth.
We keep returning to Italy. Alex has travelled there since he was a child and his experiences there have been very formative. The food is the first thing to talk about, of course, but Italy really has the whole package. As a start, there are bustling cities as well as charming, quaint villages. There’s world-class history and culture. And then you mix that with some of Europe’s best beaches, serene alpine lakes and equally dramatic and graceful mountains.
How has travel changed you? Do you have any words of wisdom for people thinking about traveling full-time?
We don’t know! Having travelled as much as we have, it’s almost impossible to separate ourselves from travel.
Though we haven’t been travelling full-time for so long, we have always both had travel imprinted deeply into our DNA.
During our first few years as kids, we both visited more countries around the globe than our grandparents had collectively during their whole lifetimes.
Travelling is addictive. Constantly experiencing new things is like crack for the brain, and our best words of wisdom for current future full-time travellers is to practice taking it slow.
This is something we have focused on a lot during the past ~ two years.
Try to savour every experience and every location.
Spending more time in a place will afford you the freedom to explore those nooks and crannies you might otherwise pass up as being "not interesting enough" compared to the next "tourist highlight".
In our experience, some of our best memories aren't made at top 10 spots but rather at lesser-known spots or with opportunities we couldn't have planned for.
By travelling slower, we give ourselves the chance to catch these moments and enjoy them instead of rushing on.
You’ll never be able to experience it all. That’s fine. It mustn't be the goal.
To enjoy each day to its fullest can be.