How I met Ting Ting And how we built a giant YouTube channel

Ever since my university days in Canada, I had this crazy dream to start a YouTube channel. I dreamed of traveling around the world and eating!

Check out my full guide on how to start a YouTube channel if you haven't already.

I didn't think I could do it!

In the beginning, Even I wasn't 100% confident in this dream. It sounded so cool, but it seemed so crazy. Getting paid to travel the world and eat? Who does that? Could I actually make it come true? I barely believed it was possible myself. Would my friends think I was crazy? Would my parents support me? What would people think if I just moved to China and started filming videos?

I had been battling with a constant craving for adventure for years. I craved new experiences, exotic destinations, a sense of freedom, and new foods. I didn't want a traditional lifestyle.

But I was doubting myself whether I could achieve this freedom.

I remember while at university in Canada, just before graduation, I visited a career advisor and presented the idea to her. I was going to move to China, study Chinese, and film videos about street food and upload them to YouTube. Eventually, I would be able to support myself through YouTube and travel anywhere I wanted, I explained.

I was expecting a traditional response. That I should follow a career path in Canada, apply for jobs that I may enjoy, and hope for the best. To go the traditional route.

To my surprise, she told me to go for it! What did I have to lose? Go follow your dreams she said, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. I couldn't believe it. I was expecting a totally traditional response and was almost ready to stay in Canada and find a job and live a normal lifestyle.

So I just went for it!

I knew it right then that I was going to go for it. My family supported me from the beginning. They had always told me to do what you love. I had full support of everyone around me. It was right then and there that I decided I was going to move to China and create a YouTube channel about street food.

I moved to China to eat street food!

I had always loved China. By the time I graduated university, I had spent 1 term on exchange in Beijing and had multiple backpacking trips under my belt throughout most of the country.

Chengdu was my favourite city. I fell in love with spicy Sichuan cuisine and all of the incredible noodles as well. So I enrolled in a local university in Chengdu – the Sichuan University of Finance and Economics. I found a scholarship that gave me a living stipend started studying mandarin. Eventually, my plan was to get a degree in international trade. This was my backup plan in case my YouTube channel failed.

However, things would take a big change after I met Ting Ting in Turkey.

This is the story of how I met Ting Ting, how everything unfolded, and the excitement and happiness that has came with it.

How I met Ting Ting

In September of 2014, I had just moved to Chengdu and was having a ton of fun. I was eating around the back streets, biking around, and practicing Chinese.

I was following through on my YouTube idea by shooting short street food videos all around Chengdu.

And my channel was starting to grow!
In 8 months, my channel grew from 0 to 3000 subscribers! In those 8 months in Chengdu, I was teaching English part time to save up a little travel money. I found a couple students through word of mouth that were paying me 150 RMB ($21 USD) per hour to tutor them on their english. And after 8 months, I had enough money to take my first trip out of China to shoot new content for my channel!

One of my first videos from China.

I decided on Turkey. The food would be delicious, and I had always dreamed of visiting Istanbul. It was supposed to be a beautiful city with incredible kebabs, meat, and a ton of sweets. I booked a 3 week trip!

After looking at a list of hotels in Istanbul, I decided on the highest rated hostel in town – the Bunk Hostel. It was quite cheap too, only 12 euro per night!

On July 10th, 2015, I flew from Chengdu to Istanbul, with a stopover in Urumqi. I landed on July 11th at 4am and arrived to Bunk hostel by 6am. After checking in and having a nap, I went out to explore Istanbul.

What an amazing city!
It was more than I expected. Looking out over the city from the view on the top floor of the hostel was worth the flight alone.  Traditional old houses with red roofs and little cobblestone alleyways as far as the eye could see. I explored by foot for six days, eating as much as possible and making some local friends along the way.

And then Ting walked in!
Six days later, at 6:00 AM on July 16th, 2015, Ting Ting came quietly to the 4 bed dorm room with her friend Xue from Guangzhou and accidentally woke me up. I wasn't angry, I had done the same thing six days prior with an early flight from China.

And since I was woken up and they were getting settled in, we began chatting. I told them how I had the exact same flight from China too, flying from Urumqi into Istanbul direct and checking in at 6:00 AM.

Ting told me she was from Guangzhou, southern China – the land of dim sum. After a little more chatting, we decided to walk around and see the city!

I proposed to Ting just a few years later
I proposed just a couple years later!

From that day on, the 3 of us would explore Istanbul together and eat as much delicious food as we could find. We drank a ton of Turkish tea and coffee and got full on baklava every day.

Unfortunately, Ting's friend Xue was feeling like a 3rd wheel (understandably) on what was her first trip outside of China and began getting angry at Ting. But since we are married now, she brushes it off and is still good friends with Ting. She'll sometimes joke that it's only OK since we got married! LOL!

We got married just a couple years later!

How We Grew Our YouTube Channel

You can read my full article on how to grow a YouTube channel for the exact science behind it, but the following is the story of the life decisions we made and the excitement we went through in order to grow our channel.

Full Story Continues Below…

Resources That Helped Me Grow

download express VPN before you go to china
Using ExpressVPN has helped me upload to YouTube in China and saved me thousands of dollars on flights. I use it to double check flight prices on flight search engines like Skyscanner and Expedia. Sometimes using a server in a different country gives drastically cheaper flights!
Tubebuddy helped me grow my YouTube channel
Tubebuddy has helped me grow my YouTube channel all the way from 0 to 3 million subscribers! I recommend it for anyone starting a YouTube channel. It's free to start with as well!
epidemic sound is my favourite music library for YouTube
Epidemic Sound has some of the best music for YouTube. Their catalog is perfect for vlogs with tons of energetic background music.

Moving back to Chengdu
After 3 weeks of travel through Turkey, it was time to head back to Chengdu. Ting went back to Guangzhou and we began a very short period of being apart. It just so happened that Ting had quit her job for China Southern as a customer service rep right before flying to Turkey and was completely free to travel more!

And since I was starting up a new year at school, I invited her to come visit me and to come live in Chengdu for a while and see if she liked it. Ting bravely came alone to Chengdu and moved in with her friend for a couple weeks while she searched for a place to live. I really wanted to help her get settled in, so I found her a job in Chengdu as an English teachers assistant. During those days my channel was still a big side project and hadn’t become a full-time thing yet. I was still dreaming and pushing for it to grow, but I hadn’t experienced any exponential growth that I was hoping for.

Ting Ting begins helping!
I had about 10,000 subscribers by this time. And Ting didn’t really enjoy working as an English teachers assistant. I couldn’t blame her. If teaching isn’t your thing, it’s just not for you. So we decided that we would both push harder to grow my YouTube channel and see if doing it as a team would help. Ting would quit her job and we would both try to get The Food Ranger channel up and running.

This was the first step of many – Ting quitting her job.

We began growing FAST!
It was only about one month or so after Ting quit her job that our channel started to grow. We shot so many different videos. Somehow we shot a magical video that our audience loved and the YouTube algorithm loved too:

It got 1M+ views and thousands of comments about how cool it was!
It was around this time that we learned how to grow on YouTube. We started shooting content that not only we loved to shoot, but the algorithm on YouTube loved promoting too. This skyrocketed our channel and within a few months had 100,000 subscribers! We shot this type of content over and over again not only because it was fun, but because it helped us grow! We did “deep” market tours through some unseen street markets around Chengdu, tasting local street foods and interacting with the people. That was my favourite part. There’s enough stories for a lifetime about the friendly people we would meet through these markets. Chinese people are incredibly friendly towards foreigners and we tried to show that in every video.

Ting ting started helping me grow my youtube channel

Flying to India
After shooting content in Chengdu for about a year, we decided the content needed a change and flew to India. It turned out to be best decision we ever made. I’ve always been a huge fan of Indian food and I craved of trying it at the source in India for a long time. So we booked a flight to Chennai and started shooting! Our friend Jensun that we met in Chengdu traveled around with us through Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Kerala. It was here that we realised the initial growth we saw was only really just the beginning!

Exponential growth
I fell in love with India. The food was fantastic and the people were incredibly friendly. And we had so much fun shooting content on the streets. It was always my dream to visit, and walking around the back alleyways tasting street food was an amazing experience. We shot around 8 videos from our first trip to India. Each one got over 500K views! Our Mumbai video currently has over 15M views!

It was here that our channel really started to explode.

We were earning enough revenue from YouTube to be able to travel full time meaning I could probably quit my English teaching job in China.

This was the next step – quitting my English teaching job.

Back to China
From here onwards, we both realised this could be a big thing. But I was still a student in Chengdu. I was in my first year masters program for international trade. Apart from being uninterested in the subject, it was holding me back from shooting videos and I didn’t enjoy going to class any more.

All I wanted to do was shoot videos. It was in the summer of 2016 and I had a 2 month holiday from school, and was about to enter into my second year of masters degree. We flew to Shanghai to shoot a Shanghai street food video and spent 2 weeks in an AirBnB discussing what to do.

It was here I made the biggest decision of my life. This was the defining moment.

I would drop out of school and pursue YouTube full time
But I still needed a visa to live in China. After some careful consideration, I decided that I could attack two birds with one stone by studying at culinary school in Chengdu to become a Sichuan chef. I made some phone calls to the largest culinary school in Sichuan – the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine (now the Sichuan Tourism University) and discovered there was still space in their cooking course for September. I planned on studying Sichuan cooking and filming it as I went.

So I called my prior university up and told them the news. They were supportive but obviously a little disappointed. I would be forfeiting my scholarship and monthly living stipend, but at this point I was confident I wouldn’t need it. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made. We moved to Longquanyi out in the far south of Chengdu near the mountains and found a beautiful apartment on the 27th floor of a brand new highrise for only 1500 RMB ($211 USD) per month. It was an awesome place to live with a view of the mountains.

studying to cook sichuan cuisine in chengdu
At culinary school in Chengdu, China

I only lasted one term in culinary school.
Every day I would bike to class for 8:30 AM and watch as chefs showed us how to prepare classic Sichuan dishes like Kung Pao Chicken, Mapo Tofu, and Yuxiang Rousi. The program was meant to be a 3 year degree.

It was a lot of fun and very exciting to learn from the source how to cook so many dishes It was all taught in Chinese though, so it was very difficult for me to understand the Sichuan dialect. This ended up being completely fine because Ting was given permission to attend classes and translate for me. So Ting and I would bike to class every morning and learn to cook Sichuan food.

I dropped out again!
After one term, I realised that it was extremely difficult to keep up both my YouTube channel and study cooking at the same time. I would often find myself skipping class to go shoot videos. The school was unhappy with me and spoke to me often about my attendance record. I really didn’t enjoy that feeling as I wanted to learn but I had trouble keeping up. So Ting and I made the decision that I would drop out of culinary school and go 100% full-time YouTube.

From this moment forward, I embraced the unknown and pushed with all my might to create a successful channel with absolutely no backup plan. It turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done. I may not be an expert chef or be able to create a perfect kung pao chicken, but I have been able to pursue YouTube with all my heart and grow it into something giant that has given Ting and I a lot of freedom and a very satisfying life. We have been traveling full-time shooting videos ever since that day and are constantly hopping from one country to the next in search of the best street food to share with you.

It all started with a decision to follow my dreams. It grew because we made small steps along the way that helped us achieve them.

  1. Having the courage to do something I dreamed about and not caring what people thought or whether it would make money. Just do it because I loved to do it. Then moving to China to do it.
  2. Doing it for 2 years without any payoff. Just doing it because I wanted to do it.
  3. Meeting someone with the same dream as me and teaming up with her (Ting).
  4. Having her quit her job and help out with shooting videos full-time.
  5. Drop out of university to pursue that dream.
  6. Drop out of university again to pursue that dream.
  7. Dedicate 100% of every minute of every day working on that dream or thinking and brainstorming about it.

Of course there are hundreds of little decisions along the way that led to this success, but the main ones were:

These are the steps that led to our channels size.

And I couldn’t have done it without Ting.

She has been with me from the very beginning, always supportive of me and this crazy dream. She has put in long hours and held up the camera until her arms are sore hundreds of times just to help grow our channel.

Thank you Ting! I couldn’t have done it without you!

Ting and I enjoying a vacation in Thailand

PS: If you’re traveling for food, check out my street food guides (100% free) and my resources page as well. Make sure to sign up to The Food Ranger newsletter below!

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2 Comments on “How I met Ting Ting And how we built a giant YouTube channel

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  1. Love your videos. Please do a Singapore trip. It’s a melting pot of cultures and foods from street to hawker to peranakan heritage foods that have even won Michelin stars.

    You will not regret it!! Bring 10 stomachs!

    Inspirational! That’s all I can say!