"No one would follow you if you posted photos of you waiting at an airport."
Be it in Israel or Thailand, Nicola Easterby will make you jealous. Whether it's sailing through Greece or partying in Belgium, Easterby turns every second into a magical moment and makes every location a living legend.
The travel photographer and Instagram star has found fame in the last twelve months - she now has 250,000 followers after travelling through 46 countries across five continents in just three years.
Stuck in a rut in university, the Brisbane woman decided to forge her own path - a path "paved with unpredictability and instability", she tells news.com.au.
"It was the scariest and best decision I have ever made."
But the path to fame doesn't come easy - and while we sit back and yearn over those perfect pics the reality of life as an Instagram star is much tougher than pretty dresses and amazing views. What's the truth behind the filters?
"Anyone can travel, but you also have to play to your strengths," Easterby explains.
"A lot of people look at Instagram influencers and think, 'that's what I want to do, it looks so easy'.
"But people don't realise there is obviously a lot more behind it. It is so much work, everyone works so, so hard for it.
"If you just do it with the intention of wanting free stuff, you're not going to get far because you'll burn out."
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
"When I first started travelling, I did everything on a real budget," Easterby says.
At the very beginning, Easterby travelled for two years, well before her Instagram fame, where all of her travel was self-funded from working casual jobs, including wedding and event photography.
To save enough money for her first big trip, Easterby had to bite the bullet and move back in with her parents so she "wouldn't have any expenses". She would eventually save $15000 for her first trip to Europe, kicking off her career as a travel photographer.
START AS A SIDE PROJECT
When Easterby first started her blog, Polkdadot Password, as well as her Instagram handle of the same name, she used pictures from former trips. It's here where the blog started to "gain momentum", as Easterby describes it - and where she started getting contacted for jobs. Slowly but steadily, Easterby was getting somewhere.
"You have to put in the hard work to begin with. It was two years of travelling before anything happened for me," Easterby says. "That's the key, you need time to save up, to build your content and to take your trips before anything is going to happen."
PICK UP OPPORTUNITIES WHEN THEY APPEAR
Before long, the photos Easterby was posting on Instagram were noticed by a tour operator who asked if they could use some of her travel snaps for their brochures.
She began developing a relationship with them and soon after scored her first paid gig travelling overseas to take photographs.
"I didn't get on my return flight home and I kept travelling," Easterby says.
EVERYTHING CAN BE FREE
Easterby says her blog is successful because she's mixed her pictures with promoting brand product.
"I work with hotel chains to do a hotel review, fashion brands to promote their products for travel photos," she explains.
She says she has a "diverse mix of supporters" - hotels are obviously the big one, but she also works with airlines, tour companies and fashion labels.
"I get an email from a watch brand almost every day asking to work together," she says.
"A blog especially is all about trust. People follow you because they trust your opinion. I always try to be as honest as possible"
She says she hasn't encountered many bad experiences, but "I had an airline stuff up my flights, I had a terrible flight with them and a lot of things weren't good about it. I was honest about that. At the same time I wouldn't completely slam a brand unless it was completely justified. I'd try to look for something positive to balance it out. I don't want to be a terrible person about it.
"It's finding that balance between staying true to my feed and making things look organic but also realising this is my fulltime gig, so I do have to earn some money somewhere. I try to find brands that align with my brand and what I value and not just sell out, like lots of people do."
FIND YOURSELF A BASE CAMP
Easterby says she spent an entire year travelling across the globe before setting foot back on home ground again. She's relocated from Brisbane to New Zealand, because, as she puts is, "it's nice to be in one place for a little bit".
She talks up the importance of being settled and having a routine and "having a bit of a base, unlike the past year where I was living out of a suitcase which was a bit full on.
"It has literally been a year since I've been home."
She says she plans on shorter trips throughout the year, one month or two, and will return back to "base" before her next trip.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
Nowadays, Easterby is lucky enough to earn income from her blog and Instagram. Most the time when she travels, all her expenses will be paid by the client she's working with.
Funnily enough, this means she actually saves a lot more money travelling versus paying rent at home.'
"I know where to say no now, when you're starting out you say yes to a lot of free stuff and everything is so exciting because someone wants to give you a watch for free. Now, I'm a lot smarter. I can be a lot more selective.
"I never started doing it for the money and I didn't know what my value was. Everyone has to start somewhere but now I look back I think, 'I can't believe I did all that for free'.
"It's nice now earning what I think I should be earning."
BEING INSTA-FAMOUS DOESN'T MAKE YOU RICH
"I've literally just moved into a share house," Easterby says of her new base in New Zealand.
"I'm living with five other people and I'm really loving that.
"I'm still living quite a modest lifestyle," she says, despite her impressive social clout.
"It's funny, in the past week I spent more money than I would have in the past year, buying a car and settling. It's weird."
For more information on Nicola Easterby's journey, visit instagram.com/polkadotpassport.