While we’ve been busy grumbling about COVID-19 playing spoilsport to our travel plans this year, Nuseir Yassin has taken this time out to create content to ‘uplift the spirit’. For the 28-year-old Israeli-Arab travel vlogger, better known to social media users as Nas Daily, the world truly is his oyster and travel—just a mode of transport between different homes. Yassin gained global fame through his quirky 1000 daily one-minute videos—most of them documenting his travels across the world, where he’ll take you with him to both a homeless village in Hawaii and a luxury resort in Phuket.
Unlike other travel vloggers, Yassin’s videos often carry a social voice. When asked, his reply is earnest — “I’ve made it my mission to portray humanity”. His one-minute videos stand testament to that, along with his quick-on-the-feet agility—a fact that I can personally testify to considering his lightning response to my invitation for a freewheeling conversation.
You went from studying Economics in Harvard, to a highly cushioned job at Venmo and dropped all that, bought a camera, a plane ticket and started on a new adventure. What was the defining moment or feeling that changed the direction of your life?
Look, it’s simple: you won’t live forever. Everyone is trying to pursue meaning in their life. Some people get meaning from their kids, others get meaning from travelling, others get meaning from building amazing products. I didn’t get meaning from building an iPhone app, so I had to quit and start my own adventure. And even though I now spend most of my time in an office space, it’s spent working on something I love.
Unlike a lot of travel influencers or vloggers, your videos show both the beautiful and not-so-pretty aspects of a place. For instance, even in your video about moving to Singapore, you talk about its bad weather and overly expensive lifestyle. If you had to distill your overall travel philosophy into a set of commandments if you will, what would that entail?
My only commandment is simple: don’t promote hate. Social media makes it incredibly easy to create hateful content—and I wanted it to be my life’s mission to not promote it. So yes, when you talk about Singapore’s weather, well, no one can hate anything about it. It’s not like you can blame it on an individual. I try to focus 90 per cent of my efforts on the positives because I find it greatly lacking in today’s world. The remaining 10 per cent of negatives, I try to be really picky as to what deserves criticism and what has enough of it. It’s always a balance—I don’t get it right all the time, but I try my best.
How have you picked which country you will travel to next? Rather, what factors does the choice of your destination hinge on? Would you be able to give some examples?
The country matters a lot less than you think. It’s about the story that I can find. For example, I’d love to go and spend time in the Swiss Alps, but there is no story that I can make there. For me, it doesn’t make an interesting video. So I skipped Switzerland. Papua New Guinea is a much tougher place to travel to but it’s full of stories, so I would go there instead. In short, the choice of a country is highly dependent on what videos I can create there.
In your video about the ‘homeless village’ in Hawaii, you speak about them living crime-free and peacefully as a ‘community’, despite overarching poverty. Yet, in a social sense, their standard of living seems better than that of a metro city. What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt about ‘community’ and the role it plays in our lives in your travels?
Community is a very tough one to crack. I’ve been trying to build one for the last four years. I think, to be honest, the only community that matters is the global community—and not necessarily the local one. I could be wrong on this one, but I try for Nas Daily to promote “globalism”. Every country is good. All groups of people are worthy. I believe a global community mindset may help us a lot more in the future than a local community mindset.
Are you a very different kind of traveller when you’re travelling for yourself and not for work? Does constantly travelling for work impact the thrill of a new journey for you?
The truth is, when life becomes your work, then personal travel disappears. I rarely travel for fun or for joy. Most of my travels are to create content, but that’s what brings me the most joy! The journey for me at this point is defined by the content that I can create, rather than the meal that I’m going to eat.
You address the rising concerns of climate change in many of your videos. In your video about ‘the plastic straw dilemma’, you speak about ‘selective empathy’ and in another, you speak about the need for clean energy. How do you think travel is adding to climate change, or in other words, how can one travel more sustainably?
I think there is a price to all my travels. Those planes and carbon emissions, private vehicles and all of it creating more pollution. The way I view climate change is like an equation: cost benefit analysis. The cost of my travels are X but the benefits of my travels (especially when I make videos) is 10X. You can’t say the same for leisure travel. I do think the world is moving towards sustainability slowly but surely—and I do think opening up more conversations around this topic can certainly be helpful.
The views on your “Sad Black Baby Test” video have skyrocketed and addressed the glaring reality of racism across the world. Have you faced any form of racism in your travels?
I have rarely experienced racism during the course of my travels. I think by virtue of being brown…some people in Asia consider me white, and others in the U.S. consider me black. Of course, I have experienced racism growing up. As Nas Daily grows more, people start looking beyond my skin, or at least that’s how it feels. Am I over the 20 years of racism that I grew up experiencing? Definitely not. That’s why I’m committed to making more and more videos regarding this issue.
Have you had any harrowing or close-shave experiences in your journeys?
I feel like I’ve been extraordinarily lucky. I haven’t had any close death scenarios—but maybe I’m speaking too soon. You never know!
You seem to travel with a social conscience and always remember to bring out a place’s humanity in ways we may not have seen before. Where does this urge stem from?
This comes from personal experience. The mainstream narrative and media tries to hide my humanity. A Muslim Arab isn’t the most popular face in the world today. And that has bothered me for years. So I told myself: I am going to do my utmost best to portray both my humanity, and the humanity of others.
Having had the time to consider a world with less travel, in these last few months, what insights, if any, have you had about yourself and the world?
A world with less travel is a terrible world. Period. There are countless businesses that rely on tourism and it just boggles my mind to think about the economic hit that the pandemic has forced upon them. However, every time there are major shifts in the world, there arises an opportunity to create new content. So I have learned to seize these opportunities and create positive content that can uplift the spirit, or help just a little bit.
Have you travelled a lot in your homeland of Israel? What are some of your favourite places there?
I’ve gone to a whole bunch of places, but I think my favourite part of Israel is the Dead Sea. There really is nothing quite like it in the world. There are zero fish in the sea and you can just float peacefully on its waters. And as an added bonus—you can heal your skin from the minerals. To me, I’d pick this experience over visiting even the Big Ben. Any day!
There has been a lot of reflection this year about what travel means to people. What does it mean to you personally? Can you speak to its meaning and purpose in your life? And if you had to pick the definitive journeys of your life, what would they be?
I don’t view travel as a thing. Going to Japan, for instance, is not a travel feat to me personally. I view the world as my home. So, going to Japan means going home. Going to the U.S. also means going home. Of course, I feel at home a lot more in certain spots over the others. But to me, travel is just a mode of transport between different homes.
To catch Nas Daily live in conversation, log on to NGTI’s instagram page (@natgeotravellerindia) on World Tourism Day, September 27 at 6 p.m. to hear him speak about how he’s spending the pandemic, his world travels and Thailand—a favoured destination.
Sanjana Ray is that unwarranted tour guide people groan about on trips. When she isn't geeking out on travel and history, she can be found walking around the streets, crying for Bengali food. She is former Digital Writer at National Geographic Traveller India.