Rulebreakers Series: Melissa Findley

15 questions with the internationally renowned travel and lifestyle photographer who’s become one of Australia’s most recognised travel influencers.

Here at The Travel Bootcamp, we define a ‘Rulebreaker’ as an original thinker who walks their own path. In the rulebreakers series, we sit down with some of the industry’s most prolific creators to chat about everything from successes to failures to productivity hacks to favoured social media platforms (naturally).

15 questions on success

With Melissa Findley

AKA @Melissafindley



1. What’s the one rule you always break?

“When it comes to photography, I always break the ‘rules’ – that’s actually a philosophy that I teach.

“It’s great to learn how to use your camera and learn the rules but once you understand the basics you also need to know when it’s okay to forget those rules, be in the moment and just create how you feel.”


2. What was the one defining moment in your career where you realised that you were on your way to success?

“When I taught on-stage at Canon Lights of the World in Hobart. That was about five years into my career and I think that was actually when I first found my confidence in the industry.

“I got great feedback from everyone who watched and something clicked and it just made me realise that I do have something to offer and that I do belong here.

“I’m a self-taught photographer and so before this, I spent so much time feeling like one day I would wake up and everyone would realise that I actually had no idea what I was doing. I just had no belief in myself.”


3. What defines you as different to the thousands of others trying to break into your field?

 “Understanding the fact that I’m wired a little bit differently to most people and just embracing that rather than trying to be like everyone else. I have quite a hyperactive personality and I’ve learnt to embrace it even though it makes me a little different – quirky, I guess.

“Also, deeply knowing myself and understanding why I’ve created this lifestyle has ultimately helped me to be where I am in my career.”

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“It’s okay to break the rules sometimes and just create from your heart.”






4. What’s the biggest mistake you see others make trying to get to where you are?

“People seeing something online, particularly in travel, and just wanting the glamour that’s seen in the shot but not wanting to put in the hard work to get there. I see people trying to skip that middle ground and just get instant success but it doesn’t work like that.

“You need to do things naturally and organically, learn along the way; learn from mentors; learn by experience and really get to know your brand instead of just jumping straight in the deep end. Understanding your own brand is so important, it’s the most crucial thing you can do.”


5. What do you foresee as the next big trend?

“I guess I don’t spend a lot of time looking at what other people are doing, I do what feels right for me and I try not to just follow the crowd. I don’t really know what trends are. I actually don’t even know what the current trends are.”


6. Can you tell us about your most painful failure and what you learnt from it?

“There have definitely been challenges which I’ve found particularly hard and hard to pull myself out of but I don’t look at them – and never will look at them – as though I’ve failed.

“These were situations that, now that I look back on them, I can see I learnt a lot.”


7. How do you deal with people in your life who don’t support your vision?

“This is a really hard one for me. This career has given me so much but it’s also meant that I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of time with friends and family. And there have been people along the way who haven’t necessarily been able to understand that and I’ve ultimately had to separate from those friendships.

“It’s really important for me to have people around me who support and lift me up –they say you’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. And I’m really grateful for the community that I have around me and the people in my life who do support and encourage me.”


“Having structure in your day is really important.”






Q8. Success often requires sacrifice. What have you had to sacrifice?

“When I first started out in this industry I sacrificed a lot. I sacrificed my own health for my creative obsession I was so driven and so passionate that I’d stay up late, not sleeping anywhere near enough, just working and creating. I’ve since learned to balance this out, I understand the importance of getting my eight hours of sleep and my work has improved tenfold for it.

“I’ve also missed out on a lot of important events like birthdays and anniversaries because I’ve been on a plane travelling somewhere, so that’s hard too.

“That’s why it’s so important for me to remember why I’ve chosen this career, I want to inspire others to travel, I want to bring happiness to people’s day and if I can do that then I believe it makes all of the sacrifices worth it.”

9. What’s your ultimate goal?

“Ultimately I want to give back – I really want to help people using my photography. That might mean physically teaching photography or bringing awareness to issues that are important to me like animal welfare, mental health and human rights through my platform and my images.

“Like I said, that’s really been my goal throughout my whole career, just to help people. If I can make someone smile just for 10 seconds in their day then I’m happy with that.


10. What do you long for?

“I guess I could say that I long for a little more time at home. I travel so often for work but I love it so much that it’s really hard for me to say no to opportunities that come up.




“I don’t see things as failures, there’s always a lesson to be learnt.”






11. What practices have you incorporated into your routine to ensure you stay mentally and physically fit?

“A lot actually. I have phone-free time when I first wake up, I also meditate, journal and write down 3 things I’m grateful for every morning.

“Plus, I always try to do some form of exercise each day. That’s about maintaining my mental health as much as it is about me staying physically fit.”


12. How do you set your day up for success?

“My routine differs whether I’m at home or out on a job but, regardless, I always lay out some sort of structure to my day. Having structure makes such a big difference to my attention span, my creativity and my mental wellbeing.

“I also write physical lists and cross off tasks once I’m done. I learnt that habit from Tim Ferris – there’s a dopamine hit that comes from crossing things off your to-do list.

“I also check my emails and make time for admin tasks daily, this is a routine that’s now turned into a habit. There have been times, in the past, when I’ve had hundreds of emails in my inbox and I’ve just felt so overwhelmed by it. I’ve found having little things like this under control frees up my headspace to focus on the things I love –creative things.”

13. What’s the most life-changing purchase you’ve made in the last year?

“I bought a plane ticket and took a beautiful month’s holiday in Mexico. It sounds crazy but that was easily the most life-changing purchase I made last year. Just being able to take a break and step back from everything was really profound for me. You don’t even need to buy a ticket anywhere, sometimes it’s just about taking a moment for yourself, it’s so important to look after your mental health and sometimes that means slowing down. 

14. What’s the one destination you’ve visited that deeply changed you?

“I went to Nepal in 2015 after my mother passed away. She told me that was the next place she’d wanted to visit. It was a conversation that we had while she was in her hospital bed in her final days. So I went there for her and her legacy and that was my main incentive for going there. But then when I got there, it gave me so much more than I could have ever even imagined.

“It’s this place of extreme beauty. I still struggle to put it in words and I still actually struggled to photograph it because it is that incredible that I don’t know how to encapsulate it either via words or by a photo. It’s just a wild, incredible place, in the mountains it’s so quiet and so pristine and so beautiful, and then in the cities, it’s pure chaos. And the hearts of the Nepali people are unlike anything I’ve seen across my travels around the world.”

“You are enough.”





15. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give 5-year-old Mel?

“You are enough.”

“I think that would have been something I would’ve liked to have known a bit earlier or told myself a little bit earlier.”


All images in this post are courtesy of @melissafindley.

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