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Fun island memento goes viral

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A change of pace: Karriem Sharrieff embraced the challenges of chronicling his travel experiences in South East Asia (Photograph supplied)

It was supposed to be for fun — a memento for his friend to treasure after her trip to Bermuda.

When Karriem Sharrieff shared the video on Facebook, it gained more than 6,000 views in under a week and more than 60 shares.

“I was not expecting that at all,” he said. “I’ve never had that much activity on a personal video, ever.

The four-minute video shows the pair exploring the island’s beaches, towns and forts to an electronic dance soundtrack.

Using aerial and underwater photography, Mr Sharrieff takes the viewer from cliff, to cave to reef, shot mainly from his perspective.

Requests started pouring in for a high-definition version of the video, which prompted him to put it on YouTube.

“Because I didn’t really plan the video, I didn’t expect it to come off as a polished product,” he said.

“As I was editing it together, it felt super Bermudian, super authentic and I had to share it.

“This is my normal lifestyle, so it was so surprising that people responded the way they did to it.”

Mr Sharrieff has been shooting his personal adventures in Bermuda for years, and though he shared the images on Facebook, he said his style was not similarly embraced before he left for South East Asia in August last year.

Prior to his trip, he was focusing on his own brand of “tourism-oriented photography”, using his compact and waterproof GoPro.

“I hadn’t released any video but most of the photography was actually video stills. I’ve filmed aerial, underwater and landscape candid action shots for almost two years,” the freelancer explained.

“I got a little bit frustrated because I thought that I was producing a solid product and it wasn’t really being picked up on.”

His frustrations called for “a change of pace”. He bought his tickets and habitually documented his adventures in Asia over 10½ months.

“That’s what I do. I love capturing things. I went out there and I filmed a little more and then by the end of it I realised I had 530 GB of cinema footage,” he said.

The 31-year-old backpacked through six countries: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia, armed with his phone, his GoPro, his drone and a tablet.

He will release his six-episode travel series #Asia #Selfie later this month.

He was at first struck by the freedom. “None of the countries had an issue with me flying [the drone] there. Not one,” he said.

And then he was struck by the culture.

“Malaysia and Indonesia are heavily Muslim countries. You hear a lot about Muslim culture that’s heavily negative on this side of the planet. A lot of people assume these places are dangerous, but I didn’t have a single bad experience over there.

“I don’t know if that’s because my name is Karriem Sharrieff, or what,” he laughed.

“It was interesting to be in a Muslim country and then log on to Facebook and see stuff on your news feed. The takeaway is you have to experience a culture before you can really say anything about it.”

“I started to realise a lot of stuff about our own culture,” Mr Sharrieff added. “Besides [visiting] the US and Canada and maybe the UK, we don’t get pushed to travel a lot.

“Everyone I met was European or South American and they were all 18 to 22. How am I 30 and I’m just starting to travel? No one ever pushed me to go see the world.

“Go to school, get a job, go sit in a cubicle. All of these children are pushed to expand their horizons and see how other people live.”

He shared some of the highlights: He was scuba certified in Thailand; learnt to fire spin in Laos; visited temples in Cambodia; swam with Thresher sharks in the Philippines; and hopped the Gili islands in Bali, which eased any feelings of homesickness.

“As far as natural beauty, I’d put it on par with Bermuda,” he said.

Laos is the most undeveloped place he’d ever been.

“Eighty per cent of it is still untouched jungle. The infrastructure is dirt roads.

“It’s a communist country which you hear terrible things about on this side of the planet, but what that meant was that everyone shared everything.

“There was no real concept of personal ownership. And if someone had something they would freely share it with you. I thought that dynamic was incredible

“I’ve never seen a more welcoming atmosphere.”

He called Cambodia “the wild, wild east”. “It’s also very untouched, a lot of open plains. The temples are the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life.”

It was there that he met Eva Van Florestein, the star of his viral video #TwentySix, named after the 26 days she was in Bermuda. He hopes to forge a career as “a digital nomad”, working on the road, documenting along the way. He calls it “guerrilla promotion”. The cost of living is far less than he’s used to.

“You can survive on approximately $500 a month in most places, but if you want to do everything and see everything, then $1,000,” he said, an estimation that includes all travel, food and accommodation. His alias and social media handle, exist270, originated from his former life as DJ Exist.

“It’s exist because creativity is basically the reason I exist. Creating things and sharing things and experiences with people — that’s what I live for,” he said.