If you are guilty of hoarding copious amounts of travel snaps in your ‘saved’ Instagram stash, or consistently plugging various coastline sanctuaries into your ‘places’ pin, raise your hand. It could be the cobbled streets of Lisbon, black sands on the Amalfi, or crimson sunsets in Santorini… They remind you of when asked that daunting question of ‘what is your ballpark, dream job?’, you once scribbled down something along the lines of: presenter on Getaway, professional globetrotter, certified island-hopper.
But, has it occurred to you lately, that perhaps a stint of travel photography could be turned into your true calling?
Before you scoff and place this romantic job on the impossible pile, let us introduce you to Travel Mints blogger Cindy Susanto. Her documented lineage of tropical escapades and mosaic of turquoise havens is proving all the skeptics wrong by championing the blurred lines between work and holidaying. We’re a little jealous, and extremely intrigued.
Here, we quiz Cindy on all things travel, photography and influencing. Get your passport ready.
You’ve got us suffering from a severe case of wanderlust. Have you always had your eyes set on globetrotting, or was this a recent development?
I’ve only had this travel bug around 2 years. I use to hate travelling so much that I missed out on many family trips. I would prefer to play online games at home or party with friends than be stuck in a plane like sardines for hours! My trip to Thailand with my best friend was what changed my perception, or to be exact, my fascination with the ocean left me addicted to being in the warm ocean water while my mind thought of nothing but the sea creatures. Since then, I have found it very hard to sit still at home for too long and I would willingly fly with the freight plane to settle my addiction if I could.
Prior to poolside piña coladas and clever communication, what was your day job? How did you find the courage to take a leap of faith and make Travel Mints a reality?
I worked as a real estate agent for a few years but as the years passed, I became an unhappier and snappier version of myself. Deep inside I knew that working in a 9-5 job under a micromanagement leadership style was not for me. I have loved photography since high school, but my parents had different hopes for me as they wanted me to go down the traditional pathway of working in an office, wearing a blouse and pencil skirt, and participating in corporate politics to win the conspiracy rat race that everyone lies about. In 2016, after much reflection, I realised it was time to stop living my life according to other people’s expectations, and to start living my life for myself. It took a lot of courage but everyone is entitled to pursue their dreams.
So I saved enough money to buy my very first 10-year-old second hand DSLR camera and taught myself to be a proper photographer with YouTube. Since then, I have adopted a new vocab in my life: grittiness! I have not, for one second, ever regretted my decision at all because it has led me to where I am – the creation of Travel Mints – and I am very excited to see where this dream-chasing journey will take me. One quote that has taught me how to filter out people’s opinion about my life decision is, “people who abandoned their dream will discourage others from pursuing theirs”.
Travel blogging must mean you are rarely ever fixed in one office space. What are your tips for working on-the-go?
This is a hard question! I find it quite challenging to work from a new environment all the time. The distractions and temptation to procrastinate when you’re travelling is unavoidable sometimes, especially when you meet new friends whilst travelling. I often contemplate if I should live for the moment, or sacrifice some fun to do work. I find having a routine schedule and getting to know my own work rhythm is what works best for me. For example, mornings are usually spent on shooting photos or replying to emails, whereas the evenings (after dinner) are spent on editing photos.
Another tip would be to always have your working equipment next to you, especially when you’re travelling. By default you will have plenty of waiting time from boarding the plane to travelling, and even whilst waiting for food! I use the waiting time as a work window even if it is simply 10-15 minutes spent replying to emails from my phone or doing research on how to improve my skills and knowledge. There is something special about writing or editing pictures while listening to my favourite music and having an amazing view of the ocean.
Who takes all of your stunning photos and what camera gear do they use?
This is the question I got ALL THE TIME! In theory, I can’t take my own pictures if I’m in it and I understand why people always get confused. But, I am my own photographer in a way. I set the camera settings, the angle and also have full control over editing and choosing the final image. I normally ask friends, hotel staff or random strangers to be my voice-controlled tripod, otherwise I just use a real tripod and a remote control. I also recently bought a drone to overcome this issue because it allows me to fly my drone to get the angle that I want and hit the continuous shooting button as I pose.
My Camera Gear:
- Canon 5D mark ii
- Lenses 24-70mm F2.8 for travelling and 85mm 1.2 for portrait/fashion
- Gopro Hero 4
- Olympus OMD EM 5 mark ii
- DJI Sparks Drone
- Lastly tripod + remote of course.
What have been your travel highlights over the past twelve months? Where do we have to add to our bucket list?
The Philippines! To date, it still remains my favourite island holiday because of its water habitat and it is definitely worth every penny spent. Beware of the food though! As my body is not used to the local food, I was hospitalised twice due to food poisoning, however, I still love this country to the core of my heart.
You are living the dream! But, is there ever trouble in paradise? How do you stay grounded and focused as an influencer when you are constantly jet-setting?
Weather is my biggest enemy when I travel in the tropics. Once it is pouring rain, you are practically forbidden to take your gear out or do any outdoor activities – which are usually the ones you want to do when on a tropical island. When I am collaborating with resorts, I treat it as work most of the time. I approach it professionally but also with a warm and friendly nature, and I make a point to not over indulge myself with the cocktails to avoid embarrassing moments. Be friendly to staff, locals, or fellow travellers and you’ll be surprised how much you can learn from them!
What are your current goals for Travel Mints?
Australia is so blessed to be so close to the Pacific Ocean. So far, I’ve been to Samoa and Fiji and I can’t wait to visit and collaborate with other resorts and visit all islands in the Pacific Islands such as Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and many more.
For other aspiring travel bloggers, what would your advice be for authentically growing a following?
Know who you are, find your niche and develop your creative style. Give back to the community and share some love back. Be proactive, don’t be scared to ask nicely and become friends with rejection, because it’s all part of the deal.
How can they ensure that their account stands out from all the other turquoise-filled travel Instas out there?
Everyone’s style is different. To be unique and stand out, I believe you have to be truly yourself. Get inspired but don’t copy. Be open-minded with criticism but always follow your heart when it comes to the final decision. After all, photography is an art. It’s subjective and there is no right or wrong. Most importantly, you can’t please everyone and there is nothing wrong with you if someone else’s taste is different to yours.
Is there a particular aesthetic that you try to maintain with your Instagram? Do you edit your photos to imbue them with a specific ‘look’?
I’m still exploring my own style and have been guilty of changing it a few times whenever I have a crush on someone else’s work. I guess it’s not a secret that my theme is turquoise or blue and I always make sure I incorporate this through my editing style or through the background choice. My obsession towards the ocean, blue or turquoise makes it natural and easier for me to maintain this theme.
How long does it take to get the ‘perfect’ shot?
I think if I could duplicate myself and ask my clone to be my photographer it would be within a second! I always have a vision in my head of what I want. When I have someone to help me, it generally doesn’t take long – but If I have to use a tripod and remote, it takes endless shots just to make sure the angle is right (human hand is always better than the tripod’s three legs). Not to mention, making sure I’m in the focus with shallow depth focus is quite tricky! But the endorphin rush I feel when I see the perfect shot makes all the effort worth the sweat.