Gwendolyn Tan is a food loving social media queen, working in international social media management across Asia. Currently based in Melbourne, Australia and originally from Singapore, Gwen spends a lot of her time travelling the world chasing the newest flavours and sights from her favourite places.
Gwen currently manages the social accounts of some of her favourite food spots from around Asia, while working with a collective who offer some of Asia’s top food vendors a home to display what they’ve got to offer. One of these places is HWKR street food, located in the heart of Melbourne. Gwen’s current travel goals are set on exploring the land down under, and experiencing all Australia has to offer. From the vast open deserts, bustling laneways, award winning beaches and unique flora and fauna Gwen has a lot of travelling ahead to see all that Australia has to offer. We had a quick chat with her about some of her top suggestions for places around Asia to grab a bite to eat, her ideas on how travelling impacts creativity and how she thinks travel is changing for the solo millennial.
Places been: Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia
Going to next: Probably Adelaide, Australia. Maybe I’ll go in February too because Fringe Festival is on then and they have some really incredible international acts I’d like to see. And pretty good food too.
Ultimate travel tip: Plan where you want to go in advance. It helps having an itinerary, especially if you’ve not been to the place and you only have a few days. It helps you build up the excitement too.
Favourite country in Asia for food: Japan has the best food for sure. I don’t really have a specific place in mind, but I suggest the fish market (Tsukiji I believe). One of the most interesting foods I’ve eaten was raw horse meat sushi. It tasted way better than it sounded.
As a creative person, do you find that travelling inspires you? Which destination have you found has inspired you the most and why?
Definitely. I love Japan the most. Tokyo was a great place with amazing food and culture. They are very advanced in technology and you get to learn quite a bit. I went to Akihabarai and there were so many interesting and new things. One night I went to a Robot cafe which my friend recommended I go and see. It was amazing how the people had choreographed their performance with the robots and got me thinking about the future of people and machines. Another place I thought was cool but bizarre was the maid cafe, where there are girls dressed as traditional western maid who you can take photos with and drink interesting teas.
Taiwan was another place I found which was very rich in culture and again, had crazy delicious street food. I went to the museum of strange things and I got to see really weird creatures like (alive!) three-headed turtles and fish with two mouths. These experiences are etched in my mind, which could become useful whenever we need some creative ideas for campaigns!
What advice would you give to anyone travelling to Australia for the first time?
Plan ahead and do a bit of research. Travel with someone who can drive too because you’re going to need it for all the road trips. Some of my favourite road trips in Australia are the 10 day trip around Tasmania, driving up the East Coast of Australia, and many of the beautiful drives in Victoria all within a couple of hours of Melbourne.
How has your experience moving to a new country impacted your view of the world and how you travel?
I would say I became more open. I feel that my ideas are more accepted here compared to my home country. Melbourne is a very creative city. It inspires me everyday, from its streets to culture to food. I am also more independent than I was previously. I feel like I can be more creative now and express myself better.
How do you think social media has changed the way young people travel? How do you think it’s changed the way we experience food when we travel?
Those travel videos on Facebook and Instagram Stories and posts makes people want to travel. There’s this travel bug going around when you see amazing and beautiful snaps of a certain place. We save these posts so we can revisit them or they could be a reference when travel to that particular destination. It’s kinda like a bucket list (I’ve done a similar campaign that saves IG photos where you can build a bucket list). For food, obviously we’d love to save those social posts we want to eat. #foodporn is one example of how people who love social media + food came about. We travel with our smart phones and updates our friends/followers almost instantaneously wherever we are. E.g. If I’m at the Grand Canyon, I want people to see that I’m there and share the beautiful sights. I saw a friend share her snaps on Grand Canyon a couple of days ago. I was so jealous!
What advice would you give you travellers who want to take more creative photos, see more creative places, or embrace creativity in a new way?
No advice. Just be yourself! Capture whatever you feel will tell a great story. If you want to experience wild and crazy things while you’re overseas, obviously the experiences you have will affect your capacity to take crazy photos (like the one I took when I went skydiving). If you’re into more calming, relaxing travel, then find your niche and stick to it. I think authenticity is important because we travel for ourselves, not the camera or the internet. If you’re having a good time, and experiencing what you want to, then just so happen to capture it in a photo – that’s going to be so much more valuable than trying to plan your trip around pleasing the internet.
Travelling with friends, or allowing yourself to meet new people along the way can often be the best way to discover new and creative places. If something is underground, it’s underground for a reason. The more you talk to people and explore, the more you’ll learn and discover. Also, travelling to places where you might not speak the language isn’t always an issue if you’re good at making friends or know how to use technology. I find that no matter where I go I can always find someone who can speak English and Chinese (I speak both) as well as the local language. We help each other out. Otherwise, the internet has really good translation apps, and oftentimes you can pick up on social cues to work out what’s going on.
Written by Stefan Petersen.