Friday, November 22, 2019

How to Stream While Traveling Anywhere

If you're like me and have to travel often, you may find it hard to keep your streaming habit intact. I’ve mentioned a few times in previous entries about how I travel to about a dozen US states per year on business, and through creative problem solving, have managed to set up a style of show which allows me to never miss one of my streams, no matter where I am or what my schedule looks like. Through proper planning, any logistical hurdle can be scaled and still allow for consistent streaming. In this entry, I’m going to share how I orchestrated my most ambitious travel streaming regimen yet: spending two weeks in Tokyo, Japan while still streaming three times daily, never missing a single broadcast. And the most challenging part about this? It wasn't work- it was a vacation.


There's a lot going on in Tokyo, and considerably
more people than in this image.
What are the challenges associated with streaming on a vacation to Tokyo? I’ll leave all the concerns about finding consistent internet upload speeds in another country, and everything about equipment, for another entry. The main issue we want to deal with is how to even get motivated enough to stream on a trip like this at all. Think of how much pressure people usually feel on vacation, trying to make sure they have a good time. Add three separate, hours-long broadcasts to the mix, and you can see the challenge. If you’ve ever attempted to go on vacation while being a Twitch streamer before, you understand the most common outcome: Before leaving, you imagine how much fun it would be for yourself and your audience if you could go live from your destination, but almost as soon as you arrive, you give up. You decide you’d rather not interrupt the fun of your vacation for the drama and hardship of solving stream problems. It’s like bringing work with you to your place of relaxation, and you'd rather take a break from all that.

Plus, if you mostly stream video games and you want to do IRL shows while walking around at your destination, you almost certainly won’t be ready for the particular kind of humiliation that comes with being in public, talking out loud to nobody, while everyone around you stares. For me, the time lost on an international flight was a major concern as well. Flying 12 hours from Los Angeles to Tokyo, when adding the 17-hour time difference, meant I'd lose and entire DAY in transit. So I'd arrive, and already be a whole day behind on streams, which could compound the feeling of futility in trying to keep to my schedule. These are some of the issues that lead most streamers to do one or two broadcasts from their vacation if they’re lucky, and then write the rest off, counting their non-streaming time as a much-needed break until they return.

But wait, what’s wrong with taking a break if you’re going on vacation? You probably think I’m insane, that I work hard enough, maybe even that I deserve a break. Why would I spoil my ‘time off’ by trying to stream it? Everyone is different, and there's nothing wrong with taking a break if you need one. But for me, I want Twitch to be a completely natural part of my life. Despite it taking a lot of effort and work, I don’t want ‘streaming’ and ‘relaxation time’ to be relegated to separate categories in my mind. I’m trying to manufacture a style of living in which Twitch can be integrated into everything I do, and create as little of a burden on myself and those around me as possible. Meaning, I don’t just want to live a lifestyle in which I can take a vacation to Tokyo, I've created a lifestyle in which I can stream my vacation to Tokyo, while still having it feel like a vacation.


When undertaking something like this, you should think first and foremost about the people who will be with you. For my trip to Tokyo, it would be my brother and I, and I didn't want to ruin the way the two of us would authentically enjoy the city by talking to my stream the whole time, or by dragging him into some sort of guest star role on my show. I went to him before anything else and established boundaries- we talked it over and I found out what he was and wasn't comfortable with in relation to my stream, then I built my shows around those hard limits.

I decided that the best way to do this would be to create a new kind of stream for my channel- one in which I engage very minimally with chat, even to the point of completely ignoring chat, sometimes even having full conversations with other people off-camera during the show. I wouldn't do intros and outros, I wouldn't fuss about the best camera angles, and most of all, I wouldn't worry if the internet cut out while we were going somewhere. I didn't want the stream to create an artificial barrier for us and our enjoyment of such an amazing city. This had the effect of creating an extremely natural feeling for the both of us while I was streaming. Plus, viewers were able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Tokyo, which is of course always entertaining, whether or not someone is 'hosting' the video and talking to them about it the whole time. All of this was only possible however, by going to the person I would be traveling with and establishing limits beforehand. I didn't leave it to chance, which would have likely caused a major burden on our vacation.


It's not all theoretical, however. There will always be practical aspects that you can't foresee until you get in the field. If you've been following along with The Twitch Playbook so far, you know how big I am on getting as much experience as possible.

Get your tools in order before going.
In the months before leaving for Tokyo, I did several streams in which my brother and I got dinner at various restaurants, working on my ability to be less engaging on-camera than I normally would be, and simply letting myself enjoy the moment without always worrying about what to say or do to keep the stream alive. This is one of the most immensely difficult things you can do as a streamer, but it's necessary if you don't want to be projecting obnoxiously into your camera and getting kicked out of every place you go. All this preparation allowed my brother to get comfortable with the type of show I was making as well, and he was able to give suggestions and feedback afterwards about which things made him uncomfortable, and what he thought would work better. It also allowed me to encounter several logistical problems before arriving in Tokyo, like how to deal with internet issues, when to point the camera away while talking to someone, and how to not accidentally show my credit card info on stream when paying the check at dinner. Solving these kinds of problems can be overwhelming if you have to encounter them for the first time while on your vacation. I wanted everything to be natural before I arrived, so I didn't have to worry about anything while I was there.

Like all vacations and work trips, there will always be some tasks you simply have to cram before getting on the plane. To account for the loss of time while flying out there, I pre-empted two extra streams while still in the US, doing five streams in a day instead of three. To keep The Twitch Playbook consistent, I wrote, recorded and scheduled three separate entries to release on the three upcoming Fridays which coincided with trip preparations and the trip itself. I set up an auto-Tweet system because I knew I wouldn't be able to write custom 'going live' Tweets while away, and loaded my chatbot with commands which could explain various things about the Tokyo trip and its differences from normal streams, knowing that I wouldn't be able to answer questions verbally as often. No matter what you do for a living, this kind of preparation will always be necessary before traveling, so don't neglect these steps as a Twitch streamer either. Doing all this allowed everything to go off without a hitch while on vacation- I didn't miss any daily streams, The Twitch Playbook came out every Friday like normal, Tweets notified people without me sending them, and my chatbot could explain things to viewers for me. And the best part was, I never had to think about any of it while I was having fun in Japan.


It's important for me to be able to integrate Twitch into my life as deeply as possible. Thanks to preparation and communication, my stream wasn't a burden while I was on vacation. Twitch streaming was simply something I did, in the same way someone might bring a camera to take lots of photos, a sketchpad, or any other hobby activity. I don't need a 'well-deserved break' from Twitch, because for me, Twitch is the break. It's a both hobby that I treat like a job, and a job that I treat like a hobby.

This entry was the account of how I solved specific problems for my trip, and because everyone and their streams are different, you won't necessarily find success doing the exact same things I did. But if you keep the same underlying problem-solving concepts in mind, there's no reason you can't also travel while Twitch streaming, without ever missing a beat!

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