Christianne Risman is a 27-year-old full-time travel vlogger and entrepreneur with a flair for backpacking. Adventure Pending co-founder Ann Holmes recently caught up with her to find out how her YouTube channel Backpacking Bananas started, and what’s next for the travel pro.
Travel pro Christianne Risman reveals all on Backpacking Bananas
Christianne admits that ex-Girls Aloud star Cheryl was one of the reasons she headed to Kenya and Tanzania at just 18, as the celeb had recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief.
It was her first taste of life outside of Europe and was the trip that started the adventure of a lifetime. “I was obsessed”, she said. “I really wanted to explore the world from then on, so my friends and I planned a gap year when we were 19.”
Since then, Christianne has been to over 35 countries around the globe including Colombia, Australia, Mexico, and Thailand, and runs the successful YouTube travel channel Backpacking Bananas – but it took a lot of hard work and determination to get to where she is now.
The start of Backpacking Bananas on YouTube
Christianne’s channel was created when she went on her first backpacking trip in 2013 with two friends.
“It was a ridiculously huge trip for our very first time. I don’t think we really thought too much about it – we were just like ‘we want to go everywhere’ and we did it on the biggest budget possible, but something that I was really keen to do was start making videos.”
The channel started to grow when Christianne created a travel ‘Top Tips’ series. She said: “I literally just started giving advice answering all the questions that I had before I left (for my first trip), and it was fairly basic, simple stuff- but it covered questions that a lot of backpackers have before they go away.
“Those videos actually ended up doing quite well and a few of them have hundreds of thousands of views. A lot of people on YouTube make these tips and advice videos now, but at the time in 2013, there really wasn’t very much information on YouTube about that. I think I hit a little gap in the market which is when the channel started to grow.”
But it wasn’t as easy as booking flights and filming videos in faraway locations – the new vlogger worked hard in between trips to fund her new obsession. A Q&A on her website tells of concierge jobs in car dealerships, receptionist positions, and even working in the betting booths at Ascot Racecourse before YouTube took over.
“I would literally just save my money at home doing temporary jobs, go to new locations, make more vlogs, come back home, and make tips and advice videos about those destinations.
“Eventually, I started getting money from YouTube and was able to phase out the temp work. That was a really, really long process and it took me five years to transition to making it my full-time job, but I loved it.”
Fast-forward to now and Christianne has more than 139,000 YouTube subscribers watching her travels, and some 36,000 followers on Instagram.
Starting SOLO – Christianne’s clothing line for backpackers
The travel pro decided to expand her brand in 2019 when she launched SOLO, a stylish yet fit-for-purpose clothing line for backpackers.
“I saw other YouTubers selling merchandise, but the idea of that didn’t really seem to fit for me. But I did have this idea for clothes, and that’s because there were clothes that I really wanted to take backpacking that just didn’t exist.
“So I thought about it for a really long time and then I finally bit the bullet – I told myself I was starting, and it was going to be a big project, but I was ready to dive in.”
SOLO stocks a number of versatile pieces to make backpacking that little bit easier – including our favourite, the SOLO travel towel, designed with a handy elastic tie at the top to ensure there’s no embarrassing moments on your way out of hostel shower blocks.
The next big focus for the brand is on zipped clothing and accessories, which backpacking fanatics are sure to love.
Christianne said: “I’m really, really excited for what’s coming next. When I started SOLO, the thing that I always had in mind was to create products with zipped pockets. I want to create nice-looking travel clothes because a lot of people dress for travel these days with a nice aesthetic in mind- people want to take photos, you want to look good on your travels, but you also want to have the practicality of something like a zip pocket.
“You want to be able to put your phone in your pocket, but you don’t want to do that when you’re travelling because either it will fall out or someone could just reach in.
“We’re finally close to launching (the new products) – we’re in the final stages and I feel like I always say that but we are so so close, and I’m absolutely buzzing for what’s next with SOLO”.
These products have also helped Christianne to transform the way she travels. “Some of the SOLO products that we have, like the towel, solve a few problems that I would have had before.
“I also travel with fewer things now than what I used to. I travelled two years ago with an 85-litre backpack, really thinking that I needed all of that space, but over time I just realized I didn’t need everything I was carrying.
“You pack to fill the space you’ve given yourself. So if you’ve got a 70-litre backpack, you will pack it to the brim.
“But if you’ve only bought yourself a 30-litre backpack, you have to make compromises and you will fill that space and make it work. So the first step is just buying the smaller backpack.”
Christianne’s backpacking essentials
We asked Christianne to share her top 5 travel essentials for any backpacking trip, which we’ve revealed below…
1. A great pair of sandals
“I’ve trialled quite a few different pairs of sandals over the years because when I’m travelling in hot climates, that is what I live in. I’m currently using Birkenstock’s waterproof Arizona sandals and they are great, my favourite so far, but just find a great pair of sandals which you’re going to be wearing every day.”
2. Packing cubes
“No matter what backpack I have, organizing all my different items into packing cubes just makes my life so much easier.”
3. A bum bag
“You want something for your small valuables day-to-day that’s sitting on your front – I think that’s just absolutely essential when backpacking.”
4. A padlock
“If you’re staying in hostels, then you need a padlock to keep your belongings safe.”
5. An open mind
“This last one’s a bit corny, but I think you have to have an open mind when you’re backpacking because you’re going to be put in situations that are unexpected. You’re probably going to be in uncomfortable situations sometimes and you just need to have an open mind about it, because that’s what’s going to keep you positive.”
And Christianne’s top tip for anyone heading off on their first trip? Go with the flow.
“You should never expect to be fully ready for a trip before you go. If you’re planning a backpacking trip but you don’t feel fully ready, don’t panic and go on the trip anyway.
“I don’t think you will ever really feel fully prepared before going to a new country because you’ve never been there, so of course you’re not going to be able to fully plan and know what it’s like.
“Just know that it is a bit scary, but that’s normal and that’s okay- and that you should go for it anyway.”
Is Scotland on the cards for 2021?
So what’s next for Christianne in the post-pandemic world? The North Coast 500 is on the to-do list.
“It’s not completely set in stone yet, but I want to go on my first solo road trip. I’ve solo backpacked and I’ve been on road trips with friends, but I’ve never actually been on a completely solo road trip where I’m camping in the car.
“I saw a girl on TikTok who is currently on a road trip around the UK, and she’s really into history and stuff and she’s literally travelling around in her little Fiat 500, sleeping in her car. I just thought that is so cool because I only have a Toyota Aygo, I only have a little car, and I’d never really thought about doing a proper road trip in that.
“I had been doing some research on the North Coast 500 in Scotland, I’ve been hearing more and more about it. And so I thought, you know what, this is my next challenge. I want to solo road trip in my little car to somewhere I haven’t been before and I think it will be a good time.
Most of Christianne’s followers will also know of her upcoming Pakistan tour taking place in September, which sold out at an unbelievable speed- so much so that she launched a second trip to fit the demand.
She hopes to break the stigma connected to travelling Pakistan with the two-week tours- backpackers will take in the country’s beautiful scenery, stay with locals, and enjoy fantastic food.
“I would really love to show people like the lighter side of Pakistan and I’m confident we will have an experience like that because of the team that we’re going with. I’m so pleased that people really want to experience Pakistan in the same way that I do.”
‘The best is yet to come’
But if there’s one thing to take away from our conversation with Christianne, it’s her positive attitude towards everything she does, and everywhere she visits. “My Grandma has a quote,” she told us, “Which she always says, and it’s like our family motto- ‘The best is yet to come.’”