This special-needs teen is a vlogger and budding online entrepreneur
From Tel Aviv to Haiti, Alex Smooha’s vlogging backdrop is impressively international.
The 16-year-old Great Neck resident started a YouTube channel, Alex’s World Tour, a little more than a year ago, documenting his global excursions for friends and family to see. Alex, who is developmentally challenged, was encouraged to start making videos by his mother, Jessica.
“Alex used to be very shy, and he never really made eye contact,” Jessica said. “On our first trip to San Francisco, I told him that he was going to be a news reporter and that everywhere we went, he had to give a fact about that place and show people. I would send it to my friends and family and they would all write back. It taught him to make eye contact and think about what he wanted to say and to combine it with a love of geography and travel.”
David Smooha, Alex’s father, added, “We’ve always been trying to find ways for him to interact with other people.”
Alex sent the video to his classmates in Great Neck, and they were “ecstatic.” “They all loved it,” said David. “He came back to lots of cheering. That gave him the encouragement to get started.”
Alex’s videos give viewers a glimpse into what he’s seeing and doing on his family’s trips. In a video uploaded in February, Alex stood in front of the London Eye and detailed his surroundings, describing Big Ben that lies just across the river. Alex greeted viewers with a friendly “Ciao” in Rome, as he shared his first experience trying pizza in the Eternal City. In the video, he declared that a slice of a Roman pie is “better than” a New York slice, a bold declaration for any online blogger, especially a New York native. In Israel, Alex stood on top of Masada, the ancient fortress overlooking the Dead Sea, and gave his subscribers an exciting play-by-play of the family’s travel itinerary. As evidenced in his videos, Alex “loves everything about travel,” and he looks forward to exploring different places so he can make videos and tell people about his experiences, according to his dad.
When asked to name his favorite video on his YouTube channel, Alex replied “all of them.” He enjoys making videos to “learn about new places.”
Additionally, his vlogs have become a fixture for Smooha family vacations.
“We all look forward to him doing videos,” David said. “It’s very much a part of our vacation experience.”
Jessica agrees that it’s been “a win-win” for the family, and David said the community’s support for the YouTube channel has been “amazing.” He believes that making videos has been a catalyst for Alex to improve his interpersonal communicative skills.
“He has a very hard time with looking straight on and you can see a big difference from those early videos to today with how he’s progressed,” he said.
Casey Neistat, a YouTube blogger with nearly 4 million subscribers, is someone Alex looks up to. Alex was lucky enough to meet Neistat.
“You should have seen the smile on his face,” David said of the experience. “For hours afterwards he couldn’t stop talking about it. It was really cool.”
Alex’s latest project is his travel website, www.alexsworldtour.com, which includes an online store featuring travel-related items. The website has become an additional space for Alex to share information about his adventures around the world.
“I wanted to write about my experiences,” Alex said.
“He’s actually produced his own email marketing with 150 people on his list,” David said. “He does everything from deciding what to purchase and sell to actually packing and shipping the product.”
Alex’s website also features travel tips, such as checking how much your suitcase weights before leaving for the airport. Alex said he hopes to post pictures on the website in the future. When he’s not blogging about his travels, Alex likes biking, exploring destinations on Google Maps and creating his own word searches, according to a post on his website. In another post, he reveals his favorite destination.
“The place I most love to travel to is Tel Aviv, Israel, because I like learning about Jewish history and want to learn how to speak Hebrew,” he writes.
Initially reluctant to make his first video, Alex has fully embraced vlogging.
“We just got back from a cruise and, on the trip, he kept asking me when and where we were going to do the next video,” David said. “He comes up with his own concepts now and he’s very good about telling people to subscribe to his channel. He likes taking ownership of it.”
David affirmed the important role of the YouTube channel in his “incredible” son’s life.
“It’s given him the chance to expose himself to and to have conversations with people,” he said. “It’s given him something to talk about and to be proud of.”