Unlike many travelers in the Instagram sphere, Anne Cui is not a professional plane-hopper or photographer. But if you take a look at her feed, filled with hauntingly beautiful snaps from cities all over the world, you might find that hard to believe. In reality, she’s an adventurous explorer with a day job she loves, as well as an eye for unusual detail. We chatted with her about her visual inspirations, and why everyone should face their fears and book the ticket.
Tell us about your handle.
@anneparavion, inspired by old-school Avion mailing labels.
It seems like you’re constantly on the go. Have you always had wanderlust?
I’ve always had the urge to travel, but it really grew in 2006, when I took an Arabic language immersion program in Beirut, Lebanon. I can’t say my parents were thrilled about it, but at the time the country was starting to stabilize. It was the first time I had been to a country that was so negatively portrayed by the media—but going there, meeting locals, and diving headfirst into the cuisine and culture was incredible and inspiring.
Why did you start Instagramming your travel experiences?
I started using Instagram as a social tool, but to me it quickly became more than that. Years ago, I would bring home a lot of tchotchkes that I didn’t need every time I traveled. But now I’ve really pared down in order to have more experiences, rather than things. It’s nice to be able to look back on my Instagram and have a curated visual feed of these memories that I’d love to bring home with me. Of course, it’s usually a wall or something, so I can’t physically bring it home. But I can definitely capture it, share it, and hope that other people appreciate it too.
Your feed is filled with so many eclectic images. What are your favorite things to photograph?
I studied art history in college, and I took an Islamic art and architecture class that really stuck with me. I love the Middle East and am constantly inspired by the intricate designs and floral patterns within its art. Also, it’s kind of cliché, but I’m really drawn to doors! And colors—I love a bright pop of anything.
Any advice for other travelers?
A lot of people avoid off-beat travel destinations because they fear the unknown, but I think it’s so important to break through that barrier. That’s why I love sharing experiences on Instagram—it helps to make the world feel a little bit smaller. It might seem things are falling apart right now, but people forget that that are so many commonalities between us, all around the world.
Where to next?
My dream trip is Uzbekistan. I’ve never ventured into the Silk Road before, and I think that would be a great place to start.