I get a lot of questions about @girleatworld, and many of the questions were repeat questions. So I thought this would be the easier way to answer them all!
About Girl Eat World & Instagram
What camera do you use to take your pictures on @girleatworld and how do you edit them?
This has to be the most frequently asked question of all time. And the answer might surprise you since you probably have the same device in your pocket: All of them were taken with an iPhone. I’m no professional photographer so a camera phone is the most convenient way for me to get images out on Instagram. As to which iPhone – I’ve used all kinds, basically every version since iPhone 5. To edit my photos, 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 and K-series.
I’ve recently a very detailed post on how I take and edit my Instagram pictures – you can read the post here.
How did @GirlEatWorld start?
I have always enjoyed writing stories and have grown up blogging with the writing platforms like Blogger, Livejournal, Xanga, and so forth. Unfortunately, none of the blogs stayed after I grew up and started working full-time, but I did keep up my travel blog as I found it very useful for future reference.
But even then, I couldn’t find any time to blog anymore and I stopped writing eventually. Although, I did not stop traveling. In fact, I traveled a lot more than when I used to keep up the travel blog.
Fast forward to Summer 2013 – I found a cheap ticket to Europe went on my first backpacking trip, solo. I didn’t feel like asking strangers to take pictures of me and I’m not too fond of selfies, but I AM always eating so I took pictures of food at whatever memorable site I was in. I posted these pictures to my personal Facebook where I received plenty of positive feedback from friends so I kept on taking one at every city I visited, mostly for my own personal amusement.
One of my friends (who owns @nycars, a popular Instagram for unique vintage cars) convinced me to create a dedicated Instagram for my food pictures. I toyed around with the idea but only got around to it after my Japan trip in May 2014 — about 8 months after I started taking these pictures. And that’s how the @girleatworld Instagram was born!
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 the same 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 name @girleatworld?
Great question! It was back in 2014 and I was in between jobs and traveling in Europe. I was trying to think of a blog name that represents my posts, and considered a few names – like “Stuffing my face around the world”, “eating around the world”, etc. I eventually settled on “Girl Eats World”, but the name is not available as Instagram handle or domain name. So I just made it grammatically incorrect and stuck with Girl Eat World. It’s kinda catchy now isn’t it?
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 Colosseum, 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.
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!
PS: If you are an aspiring Instagrammer and looking to replicate this success via Reddit, I don’t recommend it. I did it back in 2014 when the community was very different and I did not post with the intention to get famous. Also, I had been a Redditor for over a decade. Nowadays self-promotional posts are not accepted – it might backfire.
About Me & Traveling
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 decade. Currently, I am working as a designer in a wonderful company called TradeGecko.
How did you start traveling?
I moved around quite a bit with family and school as I was growing up. I would occasionally do a little bit of exploring, like a short weekend trip to Las Vegas or San Francisco, but I was not really a traveler. I was a poor college student back then and I assumed traveling would require a lot of money.
After completing my undergrad degree in California, I moved to Singapore alone without knowing a single person. While this is not exactly something nobody has done before, I wasn’t really an adventurous person back then so moving to a new country alone was a challenging experience for me.
Little did I know moving to Singapore ended up opening a whole new world. Thanks to Singapore’s strategic location I was able to travel to nearby Asian countries in a timely and cost-effective manner. After a short trip to Thailand, I was hooked. Most importantly, I learned that you don’t have to pay a fortune to travel. The year after that I went to Europe for the first time… and the rest is history.
Since my move, I’ve come to love Singapore and have found my own place and friends here. I am now a proud Singaporean after gaining the citizenship in 2017.
Here is a list of places I have visited so far since then. My goal is to visit at least one new city (or country!) every year.
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 the truth is most of my travels are still self-funded.
I’ve written a post on how I afford to travel, but the gist is that 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 a taxi, walking a lot, buy second-hand stuff, 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, then 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 I don’t travel for work anymore but my current work is also 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 get in touch and let them know you found the role through me 😉
Are you traveling full-time?
No. 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 and I prioritize my resources around it.
Who is funding your travel?
Myself. I am definitely not rich though. I fund my own travel using whatever money I save from work, just like most of you guys! This question has been asked so often by my followers that I wrote a separate post on how I afford to travel.
I think one of the most common misconceptions 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!
Ever since my Instagram took off, I did have the chance to go on a few sponsored trips, which I’ll always clearly state on my post.
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 think if you’re always waiting on others to become available, you might miss out on some adventures. I don’t necessarily prefer traveling solo over traveling with friends (or vice versa). Both have their 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.