When California announced its stay-at-home order last March, a serious case of cabin fever ensued just outside of Ventura. Instead of succumbing to boredom and redecorating their house five times, Stephen and Giselle, the content creator couple behind The Lovers Passport, built a bed in the back of their Toyota 4Runner and set out on a social media journey with no destination in sight. One year, and over 100K followers later, The Lovers Passport share the beginnings of their quarantine side hustle, what everyone should know before heading out camping, and what’s next for their brand.
Within the first month of dating, Stephen - a Taekwando World Champion, and Giselle - a Public Relations and Marketing Director, headed to Havasupai on a 20-mile backpacking trip. Little did they know, this backpacking trip would just be the beginning of their adventures together as a couple.
Giselle credits the Girl Scouts for her introduction to the outdoors, “I think we were adventurous in different ways,” Giselle said. “I was more of the adrenaline junkie - going skydiving, bungee jumping, hang gliding, and parasailing,” whereas Stephen was more traditional in the sense of camping, backpacking, and mountaineering. For him, almost every weekend growing up was spent outside - whether he was camping in California National Parks or hiking with his dad.
As word of Coronavirus reached the United States, Giselle had just barely started a blog of her own focused on solo female adventure. Soon after, she had asked Stephen if he wanted to create one together, and The Lovers Passport was born. In January of 2020, they reserved the domain and social handles but didn’t start posting consistently until April, the week lockdown truly started. “We started our account because all of our friends and family kept asking for trip itineraries and recommendations - What jacket should I buy? What do I need for camping? - And so we started sharing that information because our friends were kind of oblivious to it, and then it grew and we were like ‘Oh, this could be a potential little side business.’” The couple saved up to buy a camera and practiced using their camera and tripod by setting up shots on their neighborhood walks.
“In the beginning, I was doing most things,” Giselle said. “But then probably like April, May of last year is when we both started going crazy with free time. And Stephen was like ‘I wanna go really hard on this.’” Stephen then dove into photography and Giselle into editing. “I think that was a pivotal point in starting our account, was each getting really good at one thing instead of both being okay at both.”
It took the couple almost six months to get their first 1000 followers. “We kind of figured out our flow, what we were doing, and we finally got our style down,” Giselle said. “I would say we’re creative self-portrait photographers. We took the travel couple and the landscape photographer and tried to blend them together.” The Lovers Passport found inspiration from landscape photographers like Renee Hahnel and Chris Burkard and travel couple Marie Fe and Jake Snow. “Adventure travel couple, that’s our in.” In doing so, the couple tried to brand themselves early on in the process.
They wanted their followers to look at a photograph and be able to recognize it as their own instead of emulating someone else. “Once we got [our branding] down, we noticed we started growing a lot more. And then the introduction of Reels and Tik Tok just pushed us up so much,” Giselle said. “We went from growing 1000 followers over six months to like last month. We grew 50k in a month.”
Regarding Instagram Reels and Tik Tok, “It’s so crazy because we have so many viral reels, whereas, our photos, they’re good on their own, but when you put them all in a highlight reel, it gets a lot more traction,” said Stephen. “That’s how we kind of exploded overnight.” That was just the beginning.
To 100K and Beyond
Because Giselle works in PR and Marketing, The Lovers Passport had a leg up when they began pitching themselves to brands. “I already kind of had an idea of what brands were looking for because I’m looking for engagement rates, quality content that I can repurpose, and I know what the brands are looking for in terms of statistics and content creation, but on the other side of things,” Giselle said. The Lovers Passport began getting brand deals with around 2000 followers. Giselle shared, “We had like 2000 followers when we did our first content creation gig, lifestyle stuff. And from there we just started building our portfolio, and were then able to leverage ourselves a bit more with brands.” Over the course of the year, they have worked with brands like L.L.Bean, Kuju Coffee, CLIQ, and RinseKit, already crossing some dream collaborations off their list while having bucket list experiences.
“Catching the Firefall in Yosemite was really cool. We saw it on our anniversary too, which was really dope,” Giselle said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime magical moment. It was cloudy all day. We had snowshoed 13 miles in the rain and it had cleared up. Everything happened perfectly.”
At the beginning of this, they never thought their following would grow so big. One of the best parts of this journey has been the community they’ve created. Two weeks ago, they ran into a follower in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, ended up camping together, and then that follower came out on a trip with them the following weekend. “Meeting like-minded people and just knowing you helped someone get outdoors when they wouldn’t have necessarily been pushed to otherwise - it’s a really cool feeling,” Giselle said. “We obviously love the outdoors very much, and a lot of people have that barrier to entry of knowledge so the fact that we can share our knowledge and our experience with people, and encourage them to get outside, and kind of bridge that gap is always very fulfilling.” With that in mind, “Our goal this year is to start expanding, spending more time in Colorado. We already have two trips booked out there and more time spent in Washington and the PNW,” Stephen said, “And hopefully be able to go international at some point, as soon as the borders open up.” In addition to new locations, The Lovers Passport hopes to release more digital products to coincide with their Travel Photography Guide e-book that they released in February.
Among the advice shared, “You don’t need to be great to start, but you have to start in order to be great,” shared Stephen. “The first few trips, we forgot things. There were things we didn’t know we should have brought. And then slowly, the more you do it, you start adding things to the checklist, and you start taking things off that you don’t think you’d ever use but you started packing initially. The biggest thing is you just have to start going out.”