Creatives In Conversation: How content creator Jordan Kahana turned rescuing two dogs into the adventure of a lifetime.
Jordan Kahana is a living embodiment of the idiom that travel is one of the only things you can spend money that makes you richer. However, his initial investment in getting out of the house yielded an unexpected return when one of his road trips turned into a spontaneous rescue mission. While on his way to the Grand Canyon in December 2016, something on the side of the road caught his eye, and upon pulling over, Jordan discovered two puppies had been abandoned in the middle of nowhere. After getting the dogs treated at a local animal hospital for dehydration, he continued on with his travels with the pups by his side and the Adventure Squad was born.
Stemming from his vibrant background in media and content creation, Jordan's aptitude for telling other people's stories translated beautifully into sharing his own. Beginning with a now-viral video capturing his discovery of the dogs, whom he has named Zeus and Sedona, Jordan’s work continues to reach all sorts of audiences around the world. From Yellowstone National Park to Times Square in New York, Jordan and his trusty companions have explored numerous destinations throughout Northern America, documenting their trips and winning over the attention of dog lovers, travel junkies and those who like to live vicariously alike.
Through capturing stunning shots of nature and experiencing new facets of culture, Jordan has since found a way to leverage his growing social media and web presence to launch his own personal brand as a business and continue his work as a full-time freelancer. His entrepreneurial savvy paired with his sense for adventure has opened all sorts of doors he never before had imagined, all while creating the opportunity to travel to new places. In addition to creating original content, Jordan also started Stay Amo, a company that helps connect those in the hospitality and travel industry with influential content creators in order to drive more business and visibility online.
In between editing video content and planning his next adventure with Zeus and Sedona, Jordan took a moment to talk more about his journey with the DropLabs team, as well as discuss how travel has directly and deeply ignited his creative spirit.
What do you do for a living and what helped you get started?
For the last two and a half years, I've been working full-time freelance as a content creator. I've always worked in media production and after I graduated college in 2009, I started at ESPN. After that, I moved out to Los Angeles to run social media for the NFL. I worked with some big companies on big projects throughout that time. Back in 2016, I was head of digital media at a production company and I set out a goal to adventure out of LA at least once a month. In December of that year, on my final trip, I came across two puppies in the middle of the desert. For each adventure that I was taking, I was documenting it, putting out some videos and getting into vlogging as it was becoming more and more popular. I had my camera at the ready when this happened and came across two puppies. That video went viral and I have been riding that wave ever since, using my media production background to facilitate influencer marketing and monetize social media.
Is there an early memory you’d like to share about when you first discovered some of your passions?
I remember in 8th grade I did a project on being a sports broadcaster. In middle school, I would watch SportsCenter for like three straight hours being enamored by it and loving sports and wanting to be a sports broadcaster. In high school, I took a TV communications class, which was the first time I got my hands on a camera and was able to make skits. That really sparked my interest. From there, I was writing, producing, editing and shooting a sports TV show that I had created for the morning announcements. That's where it started for me. I was never camera shy at any point in time or anything along those lines.
I want to say, back in early 2016, I started realizing how original content was being made on YouTube and was consuming a lot of content from all different people. That was around the time that Casey Neistat blew up and so I was addicted to watching what he was doing. As I was looking at the videos he made, I would be like, 'I could do that!' He'd edit in a way that was how I would have done it too. Just knowing how to use the tools, I realized part of my job is to be a better storyteller and be better with cameras. That's what I had set out to do. I felt very hamstrung in some of my previous jobs and realized that I needed to do a bit more independently. It started with video and over time, it also has grown to include photography as well. It's a bit of both. I get more enjoyment out of video, just because it's a longer process and a bigger challenge, as opposed to a photo where if it doesn't come out right, you can photoshop it to be perfect. With video, it's either you got the shot or you didn't. I like that.
Do you think setting the goal of traveling more initially helped influence your creativity?
Absolutely. I was going through a rough time personally during that time [back in 2016] and just needed something tangible in my life, as opposed to setting out a new year's resolution of like, "I'm going to eat healthier," and then that just not happening. It was something where I could either be like, yes or no. It was very black or white and I needed that in my life at that time. Just being like, 'Are you doing this or are you not?'
I also bought a drone early on in the year because I had just got my tax money back and didn't know what to do with it. That opened up a ton of doors for me that I wouldn't have even expected. As I'm thinking about this now, it really opened up so many doors of putting myself out there and telling my story; just going out, traveling and documenting what I was doing. It's funny, early on when I was filming, my friends would be like, 'Man, why are you filming this? Put the camera away.' I'd always be like, 'This is for me.' I had such a small following so it really was just a way for me to get back into the creative process. Then, after I would shoot and show them, they'd be like, 'Oh send me that, tag me in that!' [Laughs] I'd be like, 'See, this is why I'm doing this.' It was great to have footage like that. I think traveling opened more doors personally and career-wise than I realized at the time.
How would you explain the DropLabs experience to your friends?
It's a really cool sensation. Immediately, I wanted to take them out into real life in terms of going to a music festival with them on. That would be so cool. It just immerses your whole body into the experience. The first thing it reminded me of was that 5 Gum commercial, where they are immediately transported into another world; a Matrix type thing. Immediately I was just thinking of something along those lines where everyone has a different experience.
With the music aspect in mind, the shoes made me want to dance and be at a music festival. I also do a lot of acupuncture and have an understanding of how the whole body is connected, so to include the feet in the vibrations is something I can only imagine the impact that has. I'd be interested in seeing how it impacts the day-to-day of how it adds relaxation or calming because of the vibrations in the feet releasing tension and whatnot.
What is an important mantra that you live by?
Putting me on the spot! [Laughs] I always like the line from 'Adventure Time:' "Sucking at something is the first step at being sort of good at something." That gives you permission to be bad at first and understand that, especially when it comes to creating stuff, the early work, like my first blogs or my first videos, are the first draft. It's okay that it sucked, it's supposed to. You should look back and cringe at it and see the growth and the process and remind yourself of all of that. I also think it's also really important that if you have an idea, do it. The only way you're going to find out is by trying and so it's okay to suck at it. That's how things go. No one is ever a savant at something right away. It's not like you're going to pick up piano and play Mozart the first time you sit down. I think those two speak to my mindset overall of getting stuff done.
What are some of your 2020 goals?
I want to keep adventuring and traveling; that's the brand that I've created and I love to travel and expand on that. I also started a business back last January so we're kicking that into gear. The business, Stay Amo, is about connecting AirBnb and hotels with other content creators. So, a big thing for us is continuing to grow the homes and properties that we have, as well as curating the right influencers and just growing that business while getting to adventure and create brand awareness for that.
For me, personally, I definitely want to keep checking off my travel bucket-list. Japan is really high up there. I still haven't been to all 50 states, or at least the continental 48 states, so I would love to check those off with the pups and adventure there. It's kind of open. That's how I always kind of function; I have a few burning ideas and as that itch increases, it's like, 'Alright, let's book this ticket, let's do this.' I like the flexibility and freedom of something coming up and being like, 'Let's go to Big Bear this weekend!' Jumping into opportunities and doing everything at the last minute is kind of how I function. I need that balance of not planning and some planning.
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