Mindy the Lion’s Megan Scraper Talks Immersive Travel & Entrepreneurship
One of the most enticing things about immersive travel is getting to the heart of a city, absorbing your surroundings, and learning new ways of life from different cultures around the world that you previously may not have been exposed to. It’s for this reason that we were so drawn to Instagram Influencer @mindythelion’s Megan Scraper, a social media marketer, content creator, and lover of all things travel. We were intrigued to get her perspective on what it means to truly immerse yourself in another culture and the positive outcomes that can come out of these types of experiences, so we interviewed her to find out just that. Read her answers below.
Can you tell us a bit more about you? Where do you live or what’s your “day job’?
At the moment I split my time between working with my direct clients as a social media marketing consultant while also working with brands and travel companies as an influencer and content creator. I love straddling both sides of the Instagram marketing world because even though my projects are quite different, each role is complementary to the other – my role as an influencer enables me to offer connections and trending insight to my clients who are looking to capitalize on the influencer advertising trend to grow their social media communities, while my work as a consultant helps me provide the right kind of content and tactful exposure for the brands I partner with as an influencer. It’s a bit tough to pinpoint my “day job” because there’s something different happening all the time, but I generally introduce myself as a content creator & Instagram consultant based in Vancouver, BC, and everything I do revolves around digital storytelling on Instagram.
How did you get started in photography and how did you develop your beautiful photography style?
Ah, thank you very much 🙂 It’s funny you say that actually because for the first three years of attempting to take photography seriously I had a real talent for butchering good photos with awful edits. Every shot I published from my first trip through Nepal, Thailand, and Indonesia back in 2013 looks like an acid trip. It’s just part of the process though. I’ve enjoyed photography ever since I was a kid, my dad made sure we had a family camera and whenever it came out during the holidays I would always snap a few photos, and then as I got older it turned into me sneaking our family camera to school, which turned into me taking photos for my high school yearbook. Photography kept me sane when I tore my ACL playing field hockey in grade 11 because it gave me a way to stay involved with sports by taking action shots when I couldn’t physically play. You could say photography was something I gravitated towards naturally, but never in a million years did I think it would play a cornerstone role in how I would make my living. I’m still working on my personal style which changes depending on my mood and where I’m travelling, but these days my photos are a lot more natural than they used to be and I like to edit in tune with the energy and culture of the place I’m visiting. My style is really just a continual process of refinement by trial and error, which I think is the magic formula to any truly personalized style, photography or otherwise.
Do you have a preference for things you like to shoot?
I love shooting luxury vacation experiences. That’s my favourite. Resorts, boutique accommodation, private villas – when an owner or designer invests their heart and soul into the spirit of a space, or when you first wander the streets of a foreign country – you can feel the shift in energy when you’re there, and I love the challenge of picking up on that energy and then translating that feeling into unique content that reflects this essence, visually. I know that might sound kinda froufrou but the thing in the back of my mind whenever I create any travel-related content is that when people do their research to decide which country to visit or property to book or honeymoon getaway package to select, they’re searching for a feeling, so my goal is to provide content that doesn’t just show what’s out there, but to share what it feels like to be there and facilitate an authentic connection. At the end of the day I just love being behind my camera, so whether that’s with Four Seasons or Tourism Dubai or Stella Artois, if I can spend my time producing content and titillate a few travel bugs while I’m at it, then I’d consider that a pretty good day.
What has travel taught you about yourself and about other cultures?
I’d say one of the greatest things travel has taught me is the value of finding out why things are the way they are. Like, ‘why do Muslim women wear burqas?’ ‘Why does every single dog in Nepal have a red stripe finger painted down the centre of his forehead today?’ ‘Why do Moroccans pour tea from several feet above the teacup?’ Things that may first come across as odd or unrelatable often carry meanings that transcend cultural barriers. When you travel, there are a lot of opportunities to not only be exposed to these new values but to hear from the source ‘why’ these values are significant. Self-expression, celebration, and tradition are presented in various forms from nation to nation and are ultimately different representations of the same thing. That’s been one of my greatest takeaways of travel – realizing that even when it might seem like cultures have opposing values – whether someone is rocking a bikini or a burqa – beneath it all, we share the same value of wanting to feel comfortable and accepted in our own skin.
What would you recommend to people that have never travelled outside of their comfort zone?
Well, the first thing I’d have to ask is, what’s holding you back? Is it fear of the unknown? Do you watch too much “news”? The world is an incredibly rich place filled with beauty and inspiration. Travelling outside of your comfort zone is not scary – it’s living. Just do your research. Every country and every major city, whether that’s New York, LA, Marrakech, or Mumbai, are all going to have safe and beautiful areas, and areas that require you to keep your wits about you. If you learn the neighbourhoods, get a baseline understanding of main cultural customs, and weave a few polite words of the native language into your vocabulary, you’ll be fine. And always befriend the locals because with a genuine connection, they’ll show you a side of their country that tourists don’t get to see; you’ll get to experience a side reserved only for the eyes of truly immersive travellers who get it. I know that a lot of people prefer to stick to what’s already familiar, but the world is not a scary place. If you do your research and enter your next adventure with an open heart, a little bit of preparedness will not only give you peace of mind, but it’ll leave you wondering why you put a cap on your comfort zone in the first place.
How was your experience living abroad and how do you think that has shaped your current self?
Every experience I’ve had working around the world has been incredible. Bali, Thailand, Dubai, the Maldives, Morocco, Greece… We live in such an astounding time right now because it’s never been easier to contribute on your own terms, from wherever you want to be located. Wifi is pretty much everywhere, and having semi-formal meetings over Zoom or Skype is commonplace. Living abroad has taught me that there’s no reason not to live a life on your own terms, because anything is possible right now – and the only real limits to success come back to figuring out what it is you want to do in the first place, because nowadays, we have the technology to connect with anyone, and facilitate any venture. So on one hand living abroad has shaped me into a champion for location independence and deliberate lifestyle creation, which I love, yet on the other hand, I’ve also become more aware of my own reality. I’ll be sitting in a coffee shop with my latte and MacBook out, emailing a client and updating my website, in my little bubble, happy as can be, and then I’ll spot a mother with her four children begging visitors for spare change across the street. These moments are so important to receive because they put things back into perspective and act as reminders that yes, it’s an awesome time to be alive, but there are a lot of other people out there living very different realities. The gift of living abroad is that there are more consistent reminders of personal privilege, which has definitely helped me become more aware, empathetic, and grateful for this journey.
One last thing, why do you think travelling matters?
Ah! Travel is water for the garden of the soul. To enter an environment where everything is new – the flavours, the sounds, the scents – it puts you in a position to constantly recompute your environment on a regular basis. When everything is a little different from what you’re used to, your senses go into hyperdrive, and every little thing becomes a rich experience because you’re drawn into the present moment by the contrast. And when you see and experience how others live, it begs you to question why you live the way you do and, deliberately or not, oftentimes with travel, bits and pieces of other cultures begin to surface in your own life, whether it be through cooking or mannerisms or general values, or simply as a newfound appreciation for all that you have. We are the sum of our past experiences, and the more we experience, the richer our lives become because we have more to draw upon when making decisions, as well as a better sense of self. Travelling matters because it beckons personal growth, and acts as a gateway to the discovery of your best self – and it serves as a beautiful reminder that no matter how different any culture or person may first seem, no matter how we make a living or what we wear to the beach, we’re all just trying to do the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt – and that, alone, unites us all.
All images: Mindy the Lion