Melissa Teng from Wit & Folly on The Importance of Travel
You’ll find her on Instagram as @witandfolly always sharing inspirational stories, heartfelt messages, and whimsical photographs. Melissa Teng will win you over with her authenticity and inspire you to pursue a better version of yourself. At least, that’s how we feel and this is why we have brought her to you. We asked her a few questions about the meaning of travel for her and how it has changed the way she perceives this world. Don’t skip a word of this charming interview and get to know why we love her.
1. Melissa, can you tell us a bit more about you? Where do you live or what’s your “day job’?
I grew up in a family with strong traditional Asian values, meaning my parents set high expectations for me from a young age. So naturally, I got good grades throughout school, went to a good college and earned a practical degree in Economics so that I could graduate with a stable job lined up.
I’d say I’ve done a decent job in meeting those expectations, as I currently live in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN and work as a healthcare consultant for a top Fortune 25 company. I currently help manage the financial reporting and business development of our executive leadership board for the consulting division of the company. My daily 9-5 workday may look very similar to others in corporate America, but once I’m back home from work, I focus a lot of my time on the creative side of things I crave, but is usually missing from my job, and I’m always scheming out my next travel destination!
2. How did you get started in travel?
“I fell in love (with traveling) the way you fall asleep; slowly and then all at once…” – My family often took trips to Shanghai to visit our relatives during summer breaks, so I was used to flying overseas from a young age, but it wasn’t until the 5th grade when I went abroad on my own as part of a program called C.I.S.V. (Children’s International Summer Village) that I really experienced “traveling” and started to enjoy it. As part of the program, we lived in a summer camp for a month with kids from all over the world, and interacting with so many different people while immersing myself in the variety of cultures really helped broaden my mind and expand my curiosity to see more of the world.
Then later, in college, when I studied abroad for a semester in London, I had the opportunity to travel around Europe after my semester was over for a couple of months, and I just fell in love with each new city I visited. This insatiable wanderlust continued when I got my first job out of college, and I was literally spending my evenings on Skyscanner rather than out socializing, looking for cheap tickets for a quick weekend getaway.
When I met my current boyfriend (who used to casually take trips to Milan or Amsterdam over a weekend when he was single…like who does that?!), the travel planning and quick weekend trips grew exponentially. I don’t think it’s that common to be able to find someone else who travels the same way as you do, and is just as keen on investing mainly in traveling, so I think I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been able to grow and cultivate this passion of mine.
3. And how did you develop your beautiful photography style, did you study or are you self-taught?
Thank you so much! I am by no means a professional photographer, but I have always been drawn to photography and the arts. It’s my creative outlet and keeps the right side of my brain happy, since my day job relies heavily on the left side of my brain, driven by data and analytics.
In terms of photography style, I draw inspiration from my own personal style as well as the works of others on Instagram. I’m a huge fan of color and patterns, so I think that definitely influences the bright and colorful theme of my feed. I also love anything that evokes a sense of magic and wonder, or that ‘whimsical feeling’, so I try to bring that out in my photos.
Ultimately though, I think photography is meant to capture a feeling, an emotion, and tells a story to the viewer. It’s so fascinating to me how one photo can be interpreted in so many different ways just depending on who is looking at the photo because everyone views life differently and is shaped by their own unique experiences. At the same time, photography also brings people from different backgrounds together, because even if we don’t share the same language, we can all understand an image.
4. What has travel taught you about yourself and about other cultures?
I find that the more I travel, the more I learn. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. But perhaps the greatest thing that travel has taught me is its ability to break down all preconceived notions and stereotypes of a place or culture. When you travel, you are forced to reconsider what you thought you knew; it’s really quite humbling to visit a new place you think you have a pretty good idea about, only to find out that you really knew nothing about it!
5. What would you recommend to people that have never traveled outside of their comfort zone?
Whenever I find myself creep back towards the safety of my comfort zone, I’m always reminded of this quote: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” If you want to expand your horizons and experience something new, then you’re going to have to do something you haven’t done before. It’s never easy to travel outside of your comfort zone, but even a small step out is a step in the right direction. But no matter what traveling outside of your comfort zone means to you, I would recommend starting small instead of diving head first into the unknown. (Although that’s also a great way to learn how far you can really push yourself!).
For example, if you’ve never traveled outside of the country before, maybe have your first international trip be somewhere closer to home, or a place where you have a family member or friend you can visit. If you’re not an outdoorsy person or have never gone camping before, then have your first camping trip be somewhere that’s close to a town that you can easily drive to if being out in the woods becomes too much. Having a backup plan in mind may be all you need to push yourself to try traveling outside of your comfort zone!
6. You are a girl that has pursued her dreams, even at the cost of contradicting your parents, and you are slowly building the life you want to live. What can you tell other people that still hesitate to go for their dreams?
For the people that still hesitate to go after their dreams, I totally get you. I still have no idea what lies ahead, and yes, that does make me incredibly nervous, but I also know that there will never be a right time or a perfect moment to start living out my dreams. If we waited until we were ready in life, we would be waiting forever. There really is no such thing as being ready; there is only now. And it really wasn’t until recently that I found the courage to truly start building the life I want to live. I read something a little while back that I think has stuck with me and given me the courage to break the mold of the stable and “successful” life my parents have always envisioned for me: “No amount of security is worth the suffering of a mediocre life chained to a routine that has killed your dreams.” – Maya Mendoza. When you boil it all down, you’re left with two choices in life: either spending your life planning to live it, or spending your life living it, I hope you choose the latter and let the chips fall where they may because at least in the end, you’ll have had a hell of a time living the dream.
7. One last thing, why do you think traveling matters?
Traveling matters for so many different reasons – it inspires us, it emboldens us, it gives us new experiences and stories to share. But I think at its core, traveling matters because it shows that we are all connected in this world, first and foremost, as human beings. No matter where you grew up or how you were raised, you see a reflection of yourself in the smiling eyes of a local, the lively laughter of children playing, or the helping hand of a stranger in a foreign place.
If we confine ourselves only to what we know, we will never grow and find new meaning. We remain ignorant. But when we find the courage to explore new boundaries and allow ourselves to learn through traveling, we begin to understand not only more of the world around us, but of ourselves as well.
Follow Melissa on Instagram and don’t miss out her take over on Hayo’s Instagram! If you liked this story, don’t forget to like, comment or share with your friends.