Well-Traveled: Tanyka Renee
On any given day you can find social media creative Tanyka Renee swimming with sharks in the Bahamas, flying over Rio de Janeiro by helicopter or kayaking in Seychelles. She takes over 300,000 followers along for the ride, traversing various continents and giving people a direct glimpse into her adventures. I caught up with the former magazine editor to find out which experiences thus far she cherishes the most and how she built her global platform.
What’s your unique take on travel and lifestyle on social media?
Tanyka Renee: My unique take is simple in that I just do and photograph what I like. I started doing this after a breakup — I decided to head on a solo backpacking trip which was very empowering. I really wanted to grow as a person and started documenting my trip. This was my first trip and I was a little nervous before but then I realized, hey this isn’t hard at all. I started building a following after that. I just do what I like to do and show it — that’s my aesthetic — who I truly am. I love adventure travel and unfortunately, you don’t see that many women doing adventure travel. I want to show people that you can do it. Don’t get intimidated, it’s fun!
When did you go from running an account for fun to it being a business?
I’m still running it for fun, I try to make sure that work doesn’t really feel like work. I might even turn down a job because of that. I’m one of those people who truly believe that if you follow your happiness you will make money from it. For the past four years, I’ve been doing this fulltime. Before this I was an editor at a magazine and there I learned how to write proposals, pitch businesses, and produce content, so now that’s what I’m doing with my content. Say if I want to go to the Philippines to swim with whales, I know how to pitch the tourism board so that they help cover my trip.
Who shoots your images? And how do you recommend getting the perfect shot?
Sometimes I take my own, sometimes a photographer shoots my images, and sometimes a tour guide takes my images. A tour guide has the best eye, they know the best spot, for example, where the sun is best. When you’re taking travel photos it’s about the location and photographers often make it about you. Tour guides know how to build a photo like a postcard.
One of the most impressive things about your photos is how you manage to interact with wildlife and nature – how do you prepare for those hard to get those shots?
It’s funny because most of those shots are done in one take. I’m in the moment enjoying and whoever is taking the photo just captures it. The camera or video is just running and they’re getting the shot. Just like when you’re on vacation and you’re like, hey get this picture of me, except mine is with a shark swimming around. I don’t want to overthink it or have it be like a set. I want to be in the moment enjoying it because those are the best photos for me. When I get booked by a brand for a photoshoot sometimes I overthink it and it feels really weird.
I get the shots underwater with an underwater camera housing that they have for your iPhone. That allows for those half underwater half out shots that people really like.
What’s your favorite photo you’ve ever taken?
My favorite photo would be when I got to hang out with the Masai tribe in Kenya. I got to meet Makai and her eight-month-old son. It was amazing because it was my first time meeting someone from an African tribe. People think Africa is such a poor continent, we’ve been brainwashed so much. Kenya was amazing, especially meeting Makai. She was so beautiful and I admired the richness of her skin. She built houses for the tribe and told me about the construction process which was really interesting.
Instagram makes a lot of places people didn’t know about accessible, is there a place that you’ve traveled to that you feel is still untouched?
I’m going off a tangent here but I would really love to say this. What I love about Instagram is that it’s giving women and minorities, especially female minorities, a chance to rewrite their narrative. We can create our own stories. In the 1970s it was unheard of for black families to travel, I didn’t realize that but now I keep hearing “wow, I never went there” or “it wasn’t an option for us to go.” We only just started traveling if you think about it. Black families in the past didn’t know what would happen if they traveled, there was too much fear and people couldn’t afford it. That fear trickled down generations. Only 40 percent of Americans have passports. So for me and my Instagram, every place is a place I recommend. That real-world knowledge is needed and I think people should travel everywhere.
Where are you excited to go in 2019?
Iceland, India, and I’m also really excited to go to Palau. I’ll be swimming with jellyfish out there. There is a famous place where jellyfish no longer have stings. I also can’t wait to go to the Philippines, Java and I’m also excited to head to West Africa.
What’s your global mentorship program?
I created my global mentorship program because I always get asked, how did I do it? What was the process for creating your platform? The mentorship program shows people how I got started and gives them a template. I also help them curate photos. I give others the chance to start their own page on social media and make money from it. Additionally, I have a scholarship program for those who can’t afford to participate.
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