Posted by The SoleSisters on -
Singapore-based designer Melissa Hie became an overnight Instagram sensation after dedicating her account entirely to food shots with travelgram-worthy backdrops. We catch up with this Indonesian foodie with an appetite to match her wanderlust.
Our spotlight this month is sure to get your stomachs grumbling. Travelling foodie Melissa Hie of Girl Eat World found herself stumbling upon massive Instagram fame after pushing through with a simple concept two years ago: publish photos of food in hand against current setting. And just like that, her page exploded online, getting featured on Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Business Insider. Today, with more than 236,000 followers, Melissa is a bonafide Instagram celebrity.
“Thanks to all these websites, at its peak, I received over 11,000 followers overnight,” says Melissa.
We’re lucky to have been able to grab a quick interview with her in between her day job and sponsored trips. What do we uncover? A down-to-earth personality who is good at keeping things simple, and becoming all the more successful for it.
Teh Kotak at Pianemo view point in Raja Ampat, West Papua
Could you tell us more about your earliest travel memories?
My parents took me to Genting Highlands in Malaysia when I was maybe 3 years old. Back in the day, Genting was known for its casinos. I don't remember much from the trip except that I somehow met a met a kind dealer from the casino and he gave me some tokens to play with.
How did you start traveling?
Growing up, I moved around quite a bit with family and school. Then in 2009, I moved to Singapore. Thanks to its strategic location I was able to travel to nearby Asian countries in a time and cost effective manner. After a short trip to Thailand in 2010 I discovered my love for being on the road and that it doesn’t have to be expensive to travel. The year after that, I went to Europe for the first time, and didn’t stop from there. My goal is to visit at least one new place every year! I also enjoy scuba diving, which sort of overlaps with travel in a different way. It takes me to obscure places I never thought I would ever visit!
What pushed you to move to Singapore by yourself?
After finishing college, I tried to move to Jakarta to be closer to my family. However I found that I don't do well sitting in traffic jams and it was making me very unhappy having to deal with it everyday. So after visiting Singapore in March, I looked into career options and sent off my resume to a bunch of companies. The rest is history.
Inside Angkor Wat
What were the biggest struggles you had to deal with moving abroad on your own?
Making friends that truly connect. I'm an introvert and I find it difficult to open up to people that I don't know very well. But over time, I learned how to make friends and this is no longer an issue.
How did you begin Girl Eat World?
I have always enjoyed telling stories and have grown up blogging with the likes of blogger, livejournal, xanga, etc. Unfortunately none of the blogs stayed after I started working full-time, but I did keep up my travel blog and found it very useful for future reference. Then one time 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 happened to be in. Then I posted these pictures to my personal Facebook where I received positive feedback from friends so I kept on taking one at every city I visited, 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!
At the Great Wall of China
How do you eat your way through the world?
For me, as long as it’s local I will try it. Bonus points if they tell interesting histories about the place (like currywurst in Germany for example).
You often travel alone. What are the pros and cons to you of solo travel, especially as an Asian woman?
Solo traveling allows me to make a trip completely for myself and about the things I want to see or experience. The downside though is having less food variety since there is no one to share meals with!
As a woman, the pro is that people are much nicer to me. They don't see me as a threat and are more willing to help. It also helps that I tend to look much younger than I really am.
The con is that - for the same reasons - I could be seen as an easy target for scams too.
What was the most challenging country you've been to? And how did you overcome that?
Probably Morocco, but only Marrakesh, since it was overwhelming. After awhile I just kinda learned to be vigilant, ignore the seller touting and learn how to bargain, so I was okay.
How do you fund your trips?
By saving up and being very careful with my spending.
Australian Outback: Kakadu National Park
Probably not. I plan to take a break and do full-time traveling for maybe a year, but I think I would go back and do a normal job. I need that stability in life.
How does your family see your travel lifestyle? Are they always supportive or do they sometimes show concern?
My mom is always concerned and thinks I'm crazy whenever I go to a place that is less conventional! Haha!
Melissa Hie is the girl behind Girl Eat World. As the name suggests, she loves eating and traveling the world. Food, Travel and Visual story-telling are her three main passions. She also enjoys scuba diving, which sort of overlaps with travel in a different way. It takes her to obscure places she never thought she would visit. Follow her gastronomic adventures on Girl Eat World and her Facebook and Instagram.
Want to read more about women empowering women to travel? Check out more at Sole Sister Spotlight.
Do you know of travelers who conquer the world one country at a time? We would love to interview them for Sole Sister Spotlight. Please send us an email at solesisters(dot)weare(at)gmail.com. We look forward to your suggestions!