I have been getting frequent questions about @girleatworld, 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. 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+ and iPhone X. 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.
Who are you?
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 awhile and posting it on my personal instagram and facebook.
Where did you get the idea of @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 eating my sandwich because I was 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 I went to Europe I was by myself and 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 happen to be in.
One of my friends (who owns @nycars, a popular Instagram for cars) convinced me to create a dedicated Instagram. I 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!
How did you get so many followers? Did you buy your 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.
When did you start traveling? How many countries have you been to?
How do you travel so much?
The question on everyone’s mind. I am not rich and no one is funding my travels aside of myself. 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 where income tax is low so managing finances is easier. Singapore is an awesome hub for travel with many airlines coming in and out to various destinations, so it’s also easy to 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 also save money by staying in 6-8 beds hostels when I am travelling by myself. They usually only run me about $8-25 per night depending on the city. If i can’t fly budget, I wait and look out for flight deals. For example I flew from Singapore to Germany for S$990, which is $500 less than the regular price thanks to an awesome sale by Lufthansa.
Third, this no longer applies to me but 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. I work as a User Experience designer.
Are you always traveling?
No, definitely not. I still hold a full time job in Singapore! But I do know that I travel more often than other people, and that’s because I literally 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! I think one of the most common misconception about travel is that it’s always expensive, but I have found that 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. I’ll write a blog post on tips to travel within budget soon :)
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, and 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 like India on my own which may have been deemed “unsafe”. As long as you exercise common sense and remain vigilant, i don’t find it to be too different than any other travels.