One year ago, Johan Lolos was like any other young, independent traveler. Backpacking round Australia and New Zealand the 27-year-old Belgian was enjoying the sights and occasionally uploading something to his Instagram account – @lebackpacker.
After a few months however, he realised his shots were gaining a fair bit of attention. And when he started taking his Instagramming more seriously, uploading photos to his account on a daily basis, stuff started to snowball.
Soon, he told Outside Magazine recently, he found his photos were being re-posted by the likes of Australia’s official tourism account and National Geographic.
And as his follower count started to mount, Johan realised he could turn his passion into a job. “I’m pretty much traveling for free thanks to all sorts of partnerships I’m making with tour operators and tourism boards,” he told Outside.
“I’ve traveled all around Australia and New Zealand for more than a year. I did most of the outdoor activities you can do in these countries and I didn’t spend a single dollar.”
He’s currently employed by the tourist board in Wanaka, New Zealand. His job? Experience as many of the outdoor activities that the stunning region is famous for and share his shots of them with his more than 80,000 followers.
While he’s obviously massive online, Johan’s rapid rise has started attracting the attention of more traditional news outlets too. The Daily Mail and National Geographic France have recently featured his photos.
Of course it helps that Johan was social media savvy to start with – as his website explains: “I got my degree in public relations after completing a masters in Brussels.
“My thesis dealt with the use of social networks in business, so I consider myself as an expert in social media.”
But the main thing that’s driven his success is his eye for a great photo (honed while shooting bands at many of Belgium’s biggest music festivals apparently) and the obvious love of travel and adventure that his pictures convey.
Interviewed by the Bon Vivant blog recently, Johan said: “I always wanted to explore the world and take photos of the wonderful scenery’s and the people of the world.”
And as to what’s next? “I don’t plan anything,” Johan said. “I just go where the wind blows. My journey is planned with the people I meet and with the stories I heard about some places.”
As career paths go, it’s not a bad one is it?