It’s not every day that you meet someone who holds a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Sam Bentley Instagram |
Sam discovered his passion for travel while growing the UniLad brand and he now focuses on sustainable travel and finding hidden gems close to home. He believes that beauty exists on our doorstep and that we don’t have to travel far to seek adventure.
Hunkered down in America, Sam likes to spend his time road-tripping from Venice Beach to New Mexico and beyond. He opened up to us about life beyond UniLad and what he’s up to during COVID.
What Do You Do for a Living to Be Able to Travel So Much?
“I focus on creating content around quirky places to stay and hidden gems. I think what I want to portray with my content is that you can be content with little—living in little places and having little things. It’s kind of cliché to say, but the best things in life are free. So often we just drive by places on a mission to get to the other side of the world. I’m trying to cultivate an interest in local destinations.”
What’s Your Life Motto?
Wherever you go, leave the space better than you found it.
“If it’s a room full of people obviously bring light and smiles and positive energy and if it’s a natural place makes sure there’s no trace left behind. We want to be sustainable, but the goal is ultimately to live in a regenerative way, where we haven’t left the world a mess, where we’ve planted trees and saved bees and brought new well-informed human beings onto the planet.”
What Drove You to Adopt a More Conscious Travel Lifestyle?
“When I was 17 I went to South Africa to build a home with Habitat for Humanity and woah—there were all these different weather conditions and landscapes and cultures and food and I thought: “This new world is amazing!”
I learned that there are people struggling, there are people making our goods that are soaked in harmful substances, in the leather industry for example. We, on the other side, just see the finished product and don’t see the hidden cost on the people and the environment. Out of sight out of mind is a mindset we need to get out of.
There’s also a correlation between kind-heartedness and open-mindedness and those who’ve travelled and experienced different cultures.
I think we often fear the things that we don’t understand and travelling is a way to bridge that gap.
When we understand more, we fear less. And we develop a deep appreciation for nature. For example, I went to Yosemite National Park last year and the Grand Canyon last week. No person on Earth could design Earth as beautiful as it is. These destinations for the most part are affordable.
There’s always ways to do things on a budget. To me, travelling is like playing a video game. Where’s the fun when you cheat and you get all the money in a video game right away? In a real-life trip, I might have $1000 to spend and there are two people that are coming with me. How can we make this work? I like to view life as a bit of a game. Being a problem solver helps with the travel mindset. And travelling gives you a lot of problems along the way.”
How Did COVID Affect Your Travel Plans?
“It’s been interesting. I moved to America in February because I got a VISA to live and work here, probably for the long-term. I’m used to checking in with my family every few months. I miss my family. At the moment I’m kind of stuck in America, which isn’t bad. I’m grateful and it isn’t the worst thing.
I feel like you can be in the most luxurious location, in a mansion, and you can still be sick of that environment. LA is a bubble and Venice Beach is like a bubble within a bubble. I bought a van a few months ago, literally right before COVID hit. I’m lucky that I had the option to escape and I could go on mini road trips.
I find the whole van life thing interesting right now because there’s lot of stops along the way and a lot of places—like toilets and showers—are closed down because of COVID. It goes back to the problem-solving thing:
If you really want to do it, you can find ways to do it. It might not be perfect, but life isn’t perfect.
Life is full of failures and that’s okay. COVID has pushed me down a different path, so I guess for that I am appreciative.”
What Advice Would You Give to Someone Wanting to Travel Safely During COVID?
“Research places local to you. One of the things I’ve been doing and promoting is having short weekend getaways in cabins or converted trailers or AirBNBs, an hour to 90 minutes away. Just something to let you step out in the morning and maybe hear some chickens or step into grass. I’ve recently started getting more connected to nature through “grounding”, which is walking barefoot. We really have to be conscious of our mental health at this time.
A getaway is not going to solve the problems of the world, but it can help alleviate some of that weight. Give yourself time to breathe and travel to places that allow you to think and experience nature.”
What About Countries That Need Our Tourism Support During COVID? What Can We Do as Travellers?
“People are still going to want to travel and that’s okay.
If you do travel, stay at locally-owned places, eat at locally-owned shops.
Don’t go to the Hilton. Maybe it comes at a slightly higher price tag, but build that into your budget if you can.
If you are looking for a honeymoon destination, go with a place whose GDP has been the most affected. For example, in The Maldives 38% of their GDP is based around tourism, so they are losing a massive amount of support during COVID. Same with Seychelles and the Bahamas. If you are in America or Canada, consider heading down to Mexico. And if you’re in Europe, try Croatia, Malta, Montenegro, or Iceland.”
What’s your next trip?
”If the world opened up tomorrow, I would drive to Mexico, Oaxaca or Baja California. Once international travel opens up again fully, it’s going to make stepping off the plane so much sweeter and so much more. There was a period where I was jumping from country to country. Eventually, I was exhausted and I wasn’t enjoying what the country had to offer. You lose your sense of wanderlust.
Now it’s like ”how cool is travelling going to be after this“?”
What Can We Wish You for the Future?
I’m on a mission to save the bees. Wish me luck on my journey to promote content around how we can save the bees and give back to the bees. It’s something that I’ve really connected to over the past year.
Every person can do something, whether it’s planting certain flowers, putting out a little bath for the bees, or building a little bee house. For anyone who’s reading this, if next time you spot a bee, just for 30 seconds just watch it. It’s so amazing how it works, how it doesn’t interfere with you, it doesn’t care that you’re there. They are beautiful little critters.