This is an excerpt from our new podcast series, Unfiltered, and has been edited for length and clarity.
Instasize: All right, so by now this is the third interview that we have done during Tokyo. Thank you guys for tuning into another episode of the Instasize Unfiltered Podcast. I am here with the lovely Joanna from the Essential List On Instagram.
IS: Thank you so much for joining us in Tokyo. I know it's been a very hectic but productive past couple of days.
TE: It's been a blast. It's been chaotic and hectic, but the best time and the days that are the most busiest or the most funnest and fulfilling. It's been amazing.
IS: So what has, I guess we'll just kick it off by asking, what has been like the highlight of your trip? Is there something in particular that coming into it you had kind of researched about Tokyo and you're happy we stopped, or what's been your favorite point of attraction?
TE: There's been a lot. There's been so much that we've seen and so many things kind of blow my mind. But I think my favorite must've been the day we went to Mount Fuji. I've seen it plenty of times in photos and it looks beautiful every single time, but still seeing it in person and seeing just how majestic and grand and beautiful it was. Just was, I think definitely my favorite part of it.
IS: You know what's so interesting? When I went to France for the first time, like I've seen pictures of the Mona Lisa, I've seen the statue of David, but nothing really prepares you for seeing those types of things that you've only ever seen in history books or on Instagram and seeing them in person. It's kind of just surreal because it's like, I don't even know how to feel. This is like so humbling. That's how I felt. I felt very humbled.
TE: Exactly. Me too. And we were very, very lucky too because the mountain came out. It was a little bit of a cloudy day, but-
IS: It was a way, cloudy day.
TE: It was cloudy. Yeah.
IS: I was concerned. When we had gotten to the top. Well, so when you go to Mount Fuji, unless you're climbing it, there's a certain point that tourists can get to and that's it. And we had gotten to that point and nothing but fog and I thought, oh my gosh, this is going to be, this is going to ruin all the pics.
TE: Right? I thought it was just going to be something we got to check off the list. Like we went and we kind of saw it, but we didn't get the full experience and we got so lucky because by the time we went to the viewpoint, it cleared up perfectly for us and it was beautiful.
IS: The girls had to climb 400 steps in order to get to the observation point and Layla was wearing heels, so she is for sure the MVP of the day. But all you guys were troopers. If you guys can hear the piano music, it is in the background. It's going to be consistent throughout this entire interview. I meant to bring it up in the beginning, totally blanked.
TE: But it's a special mood just for you.
IS: Just for you. Just for you. We had all the requirements you wanted piano, music check.
TE: It's an essential.
IS: It's an essential, oh, speaking of essentials, okay, good segue. So as the essential list, I know in discussion we had talked about kind of like why you had coined the phrase for your handle, you wanted to start a blog, correct. Where you were talking about all the essential things, things that you thought were essential when it came to fashion and traveling, what have you. So yeah, what are your top essentials for long flights? Because coming out to here, I know it was a very long flight.
TE: Yeah, it was about 15 hours so it was pretty long. Some of my top essentials I have for flights, I get dried out so quickly so lotion for me is key. I lather lotion as much as I possibly can. Some Chapstick, too. Leggings or pajamas that are super, super comfortable. Chargers to keep everything charged so I can work, I could edit photos, I could do what I want to do. I edit on my phone, I edit on my laptop. So I just want to make sure that everything's charged up and I have my backup chargers and magazines and books.
IS: I bought a book with the intention of reading it on coming out this way. But I ended up getting distracted with work and with Netflix and everything else. I was like, oh we'll save the book or the trip back. We have another 15, 16 hours.
What's been like the longest flight you've ever been on? Or like what's been the hardest place to get to I should say?
TE: I think Australia, yeah. I went to Australia really a very long time ago, way before the essential days. So unfortunately I don't have the best photos from there, but it was I think the farthest I've ever gone. Yeah.
IS: So what was before the essential list days? Like what did you, what did you do before you started creating full time? Because you, you are a creator full time.
TE: Yes. I do this full time and before this I was a full time nurse, registered nurse.
IS: We have three on this trip. there's three.
TE: Great. Which is crazy. I've never met so many nurses at one time that are now full time recruiters. Right.
IS: I felt like that definitely added a special touch to the trip. You guys all got along super well. You all knew each other pretty much coming into this, right? All friends on Instagram.
TE: Yeah, absolutely, which is really neat. Meeting some of them in person that I haven't before.
IS: Absolutely. When was the point for you where you're like, you know what, I can't balance the two. I'm just gonna throw everything into creating and hope that this works.
TE: Yeah. I think I was getting a lot of opportunities to earn my way that I had to be turning down and as much as I love nursing for the fact that I got to spend a lot of time with people and I got to really connect with them, I also find ways to connect with people when I travel as well and it just stung a little too much when I had opportunities that I could go and see the rest of the world, but I had to turn them down because I had a job that I had to commit to.
And I felt kind of bad too. Here I'm a nurse and I'm promising that I'm going to be able to take care of people and I didn't want to take time off because I didn't find that it was fair so I just decided to give it a shot one day. Went for it and have been full time ever since.
IS: Were you super nervous to kind of make that jump?
IS: Did you like consult for advice or was there like a defining moment where you were just like sitting there like I'm going to do this full time?
TE: I think my boyfriend, yeah, Ben, he's been really great. He pushed me just, he said, "Just do it. If it doesn't work, you always have a backup, you're smart, you can figure it out. We'll do it."
IS: And a supportive boyfriend, you have to support your women's goals.
TE: Yes. You have to. He is a strong support system.
IS: How long have you and Ben been together?
TE: Seven years.
IS: Seven years. So you guys have done, I mean you travel very often. Like how much would you say you travel during the year?
TE: I think about, it keeps growing every single year now but about maybe a couple months out of the year I would say.
IS: So I mean you guys aren't long distance or-
TE: We started off long distance for five years and then when now we finally live together.
IS: Such a trooper.
TE: I loved it actually.
IS: Do you have any advice for people who are currently in long distance relationships or like how did you manage that five years of being apart from one another?
TE: Yeah, I do. It's really being creative. So trying to find little cute ways to stay in touch and try to feel like you're not however many miles away from each other. So we would Skype, we would do FaceTime dates. We would literally watch movies on, I don't even watch it anymore, on iTunes. We'd rent movies on iTunes together and then watch them at the same time. We'd be like, okay, three, two, one, hit play.
IS: Literally me and Jennifer do this.
TE: Do you really?
IS: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.
TE: And then we'd have like our little phone off to the side so we could like walk or talk to each other and then watch it at the same time.
IS: A commentary about the film as if they were there. I told you we used to fall asleep on Skype together. I'd be like, I'm just going to set it up and then it's going to, my computer's going to die, but I'm just gonna go to bed now. But then radiation scared me. I was like, I don't want to sleep with my laptop by my head. I can't do this.
TE: Right. You'd wake up with headaches, it'd be awful.
IS: You said you woke up with headaches and you were like, you blamed the laptop.
TE: That's true. But always just trying to stay close and trying to find creative ways to update each other and feel really close.
IS: I love it. I know when you meet somebody who means so much, the distance is so like insignificant. But okay. Awesome. Speaking of your Instagram though, in your travels, you are probably the only creator on this trip who, I mean when we had reached out, you were top priority on the list because I've been personally following you. I told you this.
TE: Aw, thank you.
IS: I had discovered your account through, I don't even know ,it was months ago, months and months ago, but I loved the colors that you pretty much stick to. I'm a big fan of pastels. Always has been. And your colors are pretty much blue, pink. So how, when you're traveling, like do you look up places beforehand, you scout them or how do you compose a photo that you know is going to fit well within your feed?
TE: Yeah, I do a lot of research before any destination that I go to. So I have a bunch of saved spots. I even look up photos on Google, Pinterest, even Instagram, just to get ideas of different angles because a lot of times I don't have as much time as I would love to try to scout every single angle of every location. So I look up things as much as I possibly can. Try to find the destination, try to find different poses in my head of things and outfits too, what would look good with every destination.
IS: So there's a lot of research that goes into it.
TE: There's a lot of research. There's a lot of mental processing that goes with it.
IS: A lot of planning. Who shoots your photos? Do you travel with a photographer? Is it Ben? Is it you want a tripod? How do you do it?
TE: A combination. So Ben and I try to travel with each other and he is my photographer when we do. I do use a tripod when I'm by myself and then sometimes I meet up with other bloggers or photographers and we do them together.
IS: Amazing. Is there anybody that you have yet to meet, whether it be an influencer or a celebrity, like someone you would just love to meet, have dinner with, get to know?
TE: Yeah, I'm huge, huge fan of ohhcouture or now she goes by Leonie Hanne. I think her page is beautiful. I think she was my biggest inspiration when I first started out, so I'd love to pick her head and here her journey.
IS: That's amazing. Have you ever encountered anyone on your travels that have been like, oh my goodness, you're the essentialist-
IS: Like, oh my goodness, you're the essentialist. It's so nice to meet you in person.
TE: Yeah, I get a little envious sometimes. I see people posting videos in their stories, talking about how people [recognized] them and went up to them and it's never happened to me. So maybe one day.
IS: Maybe one day. If you guys ever see this lovely woman in person, come say hi, she's so sweet.
TE: I would love that.
IS: The sweetest.
TE: Thank you.
IS: Okay. So I guess in closing, so I don't tie you up for too much longer, what is like a message that you want to convey through the content that you post. When people come and visit your page for the first time, what is something you'd like for them to take away.
TE: That even though the world is such a big place, once you start seeing it, once you get out there, it feels so much smaller and there's so many beautiful people and so many different angles of the world and so many untouched areas that it's just, once you start doing it, it's gets a little intoxicating and it gets, I just can't get enough of it, so I would really encourage people to try and see as much of it as possible.
IS: You are so inspiring. I'm so touched. What's next on your list? What's after this?
TE: Ah, I'm going to go to Canada and then the Dominican Republic and then Europe for the summer.
IS: Amazing. The entire summer.
IS: Living the dream.
IS: Well, Joanna, thank you so much for sitting down and chatting with us.
TE: Thank you so much.