I get a lot of questions about @girleatworld, and many of the questions were asked repeatedly, so I thought this would be the easier way to answer them all!
What camera do you use to take your pictures and how do you edit them?
This has to be the most frequently asked question of all time. And the answer is: Always an iPhone. I’m no professional photographer so a camera phone is the most convenient way to get images out on Instagram. As to which iPhone – I’ve used all kinds – iPhone5, 6+, 6s, 7+, 8+, X and now XS Max. To edit, I use vscocam app. It’s really the only app you need, and worth the money to buy the paid filters too! My favorite filters are the C-series, S-series and F-series. I’ve recently written a very detailed post on how I take and edit my Instagram pictures – you can read the post here.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Melissa. I was born in Indonesia but I have since taken up Singapore citizenship. I have been living in Singapore for the past 9 years. Currently, I am working as a UX designer in a wonderful company called TradeGecko.
When did you start the @girleatworld Instagram account?
I started the Instagram account on May 11, 2014. But prior to that, I had been taking these type of pictures for a while and posting it on my personal Instagram and Facebook for friends to see.
How did you come up with the idea for @girleatworld?
I was in Rome with my good friend Serena. She insisted on taking my picture in front of the Coliseum, while I insisted on keep eating my sandwich because I was way too hungry. The resulting pic was a funny one of me pigging out in front of an iconic background. Since then, I thought about doing a collection of pics like that – of me eating in front of famous places – but the next time opportunity came, I was traveling by myself. I was a bit shy about asking strangers to take a picture of me. So I took the food pics by myself in front of whatever iconic backgrounds I happened to be in.
One of my friends convinced me to create a dedicated Instagram. I only got around to it after a trip to Japan in May 2014 — about 8 months after I started taking these pictures. And that’s how the @girleatworld Instagram was born!
How did you get your Instagram followers?
I’m a frequent lurker of reddit and one day I decided to post my instagram on /r/travel. From there Thrillist and Business Insider found me and did a feature. Then Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and DesignTaxi followed suit. Thanks to all these websites, at its peak, I received over 11,000 followers overnight. And no, I have never and would never pay for followers!
When did you start traveling? How many countries have you been to?
I started traveling in 2010. Since then the traveling bug kinda bit me and I’ve been to loads other places – here are the countries I have visited.
How are you able to travel so much?
The question on everyone’s mind, isn’t it? The answer isn’t very glamorous though… I am not rich and no one is funding my travels aside from my own self. I have taken a few sponsored trips (less than five) but most of my travels are still self-funded.
There are a few factors that allowed me to travel as I do:
First, I live in Singapore. Here income tax is low and take home pay is higher, so managing finances has been easier in relative to living in other countries. Singapore is also an awesome hub for traveling. Many airlines fly in and out of Changi Airport to various destinations, so it’s easier to plan travel and get cheap flights. We also have tons of budget airlines in the region, often direct flights too.
Second, I am fairly responsible with money. Travel is a priority for me so I save up by living within my means – DIY stuff when I can, cooking my own food, taking public transports over taxi, walking when possible, etc. When not traveling for work or sponsored trips, I always travel budget. I save money by staying in hostels when I am traveling by myself. If I can’t fly budget, I wait and look out for flight deals.
Third, I used to work in a role that sent me to different places and I would try to maximize this by flying in early and/or flying out late. Now, my work is extremely flexible and allows to work remotely as long as we do it responsibly. I work as a Product Designer in an awesome startup called TradeGecko. – and we’re always hiring! If you’re interested in a role, please contact us and let us know you found the role through me 😉
Are you traveling full-time?
No. Like I said, I still hold a full-time job in Singapore. But I do know that I tend to travel more often than other people. That’s because I jump at the chance to travel anytime it’s presented to me.
Are you rich? Who is funding your travel?
No, I am definitely not rich and no one is funding my travels. I fund my own travel using whatever money I save from work, just like you guys! I think one of the most common misconception about travel is that it’s always expensive, but you do not need to be rich to travel so long as you are creative with how you can save while traveling and do not expect five star accommodations. Be smart with your money!
Why do you travel alone? How do you travel alone? Do you feel safe?
Because it’s difficult to arrange many different schedules and I am impatient. I don’t necessarily prefer traveling solo over traveling with friends (or vice versa). Both have its own pros and cons. It’s more of a matter of convenience.
Traveling solo might be a daunting experience to many, and I have to admit I was pretty nervous before I went on my first solo trip. That said, it’s actually not very difficult at all! In all of my solo destinations so far, I have always felt safe, even when I went to countries that are deemed “unsafe” on my own. As long as you exercise common sense and remain vigilant, I don’t find it to be too different than any other travels.