How One Travel Vlogger Gained 100k YouTube Subscribers – Fast

It took Travels of Sarah Fay less than a year to gain 100,000 YouTube subscribers. Here's how she vlogged her way to a massive audience that continues to grow.


How do you gain 100,000 subscribers on YouTube in a year or less?

If you ask Sarah Fay, who runs the Travels of Sarah Fay channel, it's all about learning. You have to figure out how YouTube works, test different content, and craft a schedule that feels consistent. She’s still finding her way as a travel vlogger, but Sarah Fay recently hit a goal every creator wants to reach: snagging 100,000 subscribers.

It all happened once she decided to get consistent on YouTube in January 2021. Now we're sharing her story so creators know it's possible to grow their channels authentically and quickly.

YouTube Channel Stats: Travels of Sarah Fay

Here's a snapshot of Sarah Fay's tremendous growth on YouTube:

  • YouTube subscribers: 119,000
  • Subscribers in the last six months: 118,563
  • Views over the previous six months: 62 million

Looking at these stats from vidIQ, we can see that Travels of Sarah Fay gained 99% of its subscribers in the last six months. That’s an insane amount of growth.

But if you think travel vlogging is about seeing pretty places and watching the subscribers roll in, keep reading because there’s more to the story. Even if this awesome photo says otherwise…

Turning Viewers Into Subscribers with YouTube Shorts

By the time Sarah Fay went viral on YouTube, she had more than 40 videos on her channel. They were a mix of vlogs and travel guides, and many of them showed her adventures in Florida, Georgia, California, and the Virgin Islands. She even posted a few YouTube Shorts of those beautiful excursions.

Things got interesting when one of her Shorts went viral. In that video, Sarah Fay yawns, rolls out of bed, and gazes at the sunrise over California's Alabama Hills. The short video is called "Van Life Perks Waking Up Wherever You Want" and has 61 million views.

This simple yet aspirational video brought new viewers to the channel – lots of them. But it was Sarah Fay's collection of other videos that made people subscribe.

“People think I just posted that Short, got 60 million views, and that's why I have all these subscribers,” she says. “But I'm like, ‘I think it was all the work that went into it across platforms and the last few years of me posting consistently and learning how to do some keyword research or how to form [video] titles.’ ”

Another reason was Sarah Fay guiding short-form viewers to full-length videos on her channel. She did that by returning to popular Shorts and pasting links to longer videos, letting people know she had more content to enjoy.

Running a YouTube Channel Like a Startup Business

Becoming a travel vlogger on YouTube isn’t easy. Imagine constantly paying for plane tickets, gasoline for your car, and expensive hotel rooms. And that’s just the beginning when you realize the time it takes to travel and have new experiences while vlogging.

When you get back to the hotel – which you’re hoping has strong WiFi – there’s still more work to do: editing, crafting thumbnails, and uploading content.

Sarah Fay approaches these challenges with an entrepreneur’s mindset. She treats her channel like a startup in growth mode, which helps her prioritize specific tasks and grow her subscribers.

Here's how to apply the startup mindset to any YouTube channel:

  1. Solve a problem that’s close to your heart. During the pandemic, Sarah Fay knew people missed traveling anywhere – domestically or abroad. She posted her own adventures to feed their nostalgia and demystify "pandemic travel."
  2. Keep costs low. Traveling is expensive, but Sarah Fay finds cheap airfare using Skyscanner and Secret Flying, and she also stays in hostels. But even if you don't travel, filming with your smartphone is the best way for any creator to save money.
  3. Find your home base. That might be the city you’re in now, but who knows? Sarah Fay chose Orlando, Florida, because it has flights to almost everywhere.
  4. Always be testing. What do viewers want to watch next? Sarah Fay finds the answer by testing different content or asking people on the YouTube Community tab what they want to watch.

Bottom line: Be passionate about your YouTube niche, then find effective, low-cost ways to deliver the content people want. That’s how you gain subscribers on YouTube without sacrificing too many resources, including energy.

“Even if [you’re doing] it as a side hustle, you're going to spend hours on this, and you have to really love it,” Sarah Fay says. “Because I think a lot of people, they want to do it, and then they realize how much work it is, and they fold.”

Authentic Yet Trendy: The Perfect YouTube Mix

Following trends on YouTube is never a bad idea, especially if they mirror your YouTube niche. But sometimes, being your authentic self is even better. It makes people connect with your content faster and eventually hit subscribe.

Sarah Fay balances the two – authenticity and trends – by focusing on her life’s journey.

“I try to do a mixture of what people want, but I’m also reminding myself that this is also my journey as well in terms of exploring the world and seeing different places,” she says.

Sarah Fay doesn’t post nightlife vlogs, even if those videos get tons of views. It’s just not her. She even turns off the camera when socializing with other travelers to avoid burnout. What she’d rather show is a place’s culture – its deep, exciting, or unknown history.

At the same time, Sarah Fay understands that viewers want to see popular places. So she works hard to uncover which destinations align with her desires and viewers’ interests.

“So, for instance, I posted a Community tab post to get an idea... I said, ‘Would you rather?’ and then I [shared] options of [places] I'm thinking about traveling to. I'm not saying that's what I'm going to do, but just to get an idea of where they would like to travel to see where I should pick next. I also use Pinterest Trends to see what's trending and search for travel destinations. Or Google Trends, because I think that does help.”

Creators can learn a lot from Sarah Fay's YouTube journey. She essentially grew her audience by:

  • Being herself
  • Jumping on trends that align with her interests, such as "van life" content
  • "Advertising" her channel with YouTube Shorts
  • Asking viewers what they want to see

And guess what? If she can do it, so can you!

But if you're a long way from hitting 100,000 subscribers, read this post to get your first 10,000 instead.

All photos courtesy of Travels of Sarah Fay.