11:30 am EDT, August 28, 2017

Meet Trainer Tips Nick, one of the biggest Pokémon Go YouTubers in the world

Two years ago he was living in a van. Now he’s made a career of traveling the world catching Pokémon.

In case you thought it wasn’t really a thing anymore, let this be an official reminder: Pokémon Go is still a very huge mobile game. In fact, as I write this, Pokémon Go is ranked No.21 in the iTunes Store’s Top Grossing apps across all categories. Although the initial wave of fans from last summer’s launch has definitely leveled off, there’s still a very active, global community playing this game by the millions every single day (myself included!).

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Last fall, I was looking for a YouTube video on how to get the most XP out of your Lucky Eggs in Pokémon Go. I found myself watching a video from a guy simply known as “Nick” who runs a channel called Trainer Tips. After one video, I browsed his uploaded videos only to find a gold mine of original, passionate Pokémon Go content. But besides the Pokémon and the how-to’s, Nick’s content stood out to me because it incorporated his daily life and routine. Where other popular Pokémon Go YouTube personalities intentionally overreact to portray an almost cartoonish, maniacal excitement, Nick serves as the antithesis: a more professional, intellectual and appropriately witty super fan enjoying the game.

I recently got a chance to chat with Nick about his Pokémon Go YouTube account, his social anxiety (and how the game has helped him overcome it), and how he went from living in a van after a major life change, to traveling the world catching Pokémon.

So, how did he end up in that van? “After leaving my old job and ending a long term relationship, I was pretty depressed for a while,” Nick says. “I’d been following the vandwelling movement for a while and decided to give it a go. I used my savings (and eventually maxed out my credit card) to buy and rebuild a 1995 Ford Econoline that was formerly used for wheelchair transport. I built a bed and some shelves into it and set out in a month long solo road trip up the West coast, from San Diego to Vancouver. It was totally a journey of self-discovery, and probably would’ve lasted much longer if I hadn’t run out of money. The van ended up breaking down, and would’ve cost as much to repair as I had already spent on it, so that was the end of that.”

Nick talks publicly and openly to his fans on his channel about his social anxiety — something you wouldn’t expect a YouTube personality with 600,000 subscribers to have. “Both the game and the channel have been immensely helpful in overcoming my social anxiety. The channel has thrust me into the spotlight and essentially forced me into social interactions that I had no choice but to embrace.”

He also says that hearing stories of how his channel has helped others become more comfortable with themselves is extremely rewarding. “There are plenty of people who say my channel is the only reason they’re still playing the game, which is flattering. Even more flattering though, are the people who say they were inspired by my work to pursue something similar, whether it be a YouTube channel or another creative endeavor. And then of course there are a few standout stories from people who have overcome their own social anxiety or depression as a result of both the game and me sharing my journey.”

Nick’s interest in the Pokémon series dates back, as it does for many people of his generation, to when he was a young child. “I’ve been a fan of the franchise since it first launched in the U.S., back in 1998. I just really enjoyed the games and kept up with them. I guess when I got my Kanto badges tattoo, that was a pretty good indication that I was committed for life.”

So how did Nick go from soul searching and living in a van to traveling the world playing Pokémon Go with 600,000 YouTube subscribers and sudden financial success? “The channel idea was born almost immediately after the initial Pokémon Go trailer was released. The plan was always to try to grow it to a point where it could fund travel around the world to play the game. I didn’t expect it would happen so quickly, but I’m incredibly grateful that it did,” he says.

Related: Check out ‘I survived Pokémon Go Fest: It was basically Fyre Festival for nerds

At its peak, Nick’s Trainer Tips YouTube channel was gaining 20,000 subscribers per day. As he slowly made his rise on YouTube, so did his public fame. At Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago this July, organizers gave Nick his own meet-and-greet area for 30 minutes. The demand was so high, he ended up staying for two hours taking pictures and receiving gifts from hundreds of his excited fans.

Nick (a.k.a. Trainer Tips) points to the enormous line of fans waiting to meet him at Pokémon Go Fest in Chicago.

Nick recalls the first time he was recognized in public. “There was a kid at a park in Irvine who came up to me, awestruck the he was getting to meet a YouTuber. It was such a trip to me because I had literally only been posting daily for a week, so it was strange to me that after such a short time in someone’s life they could react that way to seeing me in person.”

If you’re just subscribing to Nick’s channel today, you’re being treated to an almost daily tour of the entire globe. In the last few weeks alone he has been in Chicago, Hawaii, Japan (for the Pikachu Outbreak Festival), Thailand, London, and Amsterdam. And by the looks of things, he’s got a few more stops along the way before he settles back down at home in Long Beach, California.

With so many people watching his channel and his endless traveling adventures around the world, you would think Nick has every moment of his life planned out, right? Wrong. “I hardly ever look too far ahead,” Nick says. “I just hope 5 years from now, I’m still free to create and express myself. I don’t necessarily need to be on YouTube. I’d like to have a bit more freedom to work on longer, more artistically involved projects.”

Whether you like Pokémon Go or not, Nick’s channel is a rewarding glimpse into the life of a creative, passionate person with an endless drive to share his experience with the world as he sees it.

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