Bri Lee quit her cushy job and left her home in North Dakota to become an expat—and she couldn’t be happier.
You know those photos that just jump off your feed on Instagram? That’s the kind you’ll find on Bri Lee’s feed. She’s is a self-taught photographer and world traveler from Minnesota. She first got the chance to go abroad to Scotland her freshman year of college and has made travel a priority ever since. Her love of adventure definitely shines through in her work. We were first captivated by her ability to capture her experiences when her Instagram account, @bri.lee.co caught our eye. Lee’s feed features magical moments in South Africa, Colombia, Italy, Iceland, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, and beyond. This year she took her wanderlust to the next level when she left her practical job in Fargo-Moorhead to move to the foreign city that had been calling her name ever since her first visit. We sat down with Bri to learn about her expat life and her evolving relationship with travel and photography.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you decide to move from North Dakota to Dublin and how did you make it happen?
“I first visited Dublin after studying in Florence. At this point I had traveled quite a bit, and Dublin just made me feel so at home in a way no other city had. I knew I’d be back. After college I ended up taking a graphic design job in Fargo that was exactly what I studied in college. It was great, but I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that I should be in Dublin. So I thought I could visit Ireland again, just for fun. I took a trip and realized I would never feel content or settled until I moved there. So I did it.
“I ended up finding this hotel called the Dean. I don’t have any experience in hospitality, but the way they talked about their mission and their atmosphere on their website just felt right. I used my graphic design degree and photos from my trips to Dublin to make my résumé into a book. In it I explained who I was and why I knew that Dublin and the Dean would be a great fit. It got their attention. I remember actually crying when they offered me the job because my dream of living and working abroad came true the day that I got that call.”
How has your dream played out in reality?
“It’s a little bit like starting over, which is not a bad thing. But it’s a lot of effort because you really have to get out of your comfort zone. When I got here I realized that I’m in this situation where I have all of the support of my family and friends back home, but I am physically here in this country alone. I knew I had to put myself out there right away, or this would be a really long year. And it’s been fun to watch myself grow in that way.”
How does photography play a part in your travels?
“Travel and photography go hand in hand for me so much. I find that the photography is sometimes what pushes me to do things like go to the Faroe Islands alone. When I see photos of incredible places, it drives me to experience and capture those moments myself. Photography has definitely made me more of an adventurous, go-getter person.”
How did photography inspire you to go to the Faroe Islands?
“I actually found the Faroes through Instagram. I came across some of these really beautiful, strange landscapes that I had never seen before. When I clicked on it and saw the location, I was like, ‘What are the Faroe Islands?’ I looked at a map, and I just saw this tiny little island in between Iceland, Norway, and Scotland, and I was hooked. I started following a bunch of different accounts of different photographers who were traveling there. I started following Faroe Islands pages, and I just became obsessed with it.”
How was it traveling to such a remote destination alone?
“It was my first solo trip, and to do it in a place where there are very few people, it was very humbling. I spent a lot time on my own, and I loved it. There was this one hike that I really wanted to do. It was unmarked and was a trail that would go on the sides of cliffs, so I almost didn’t do it because I thought, ‘If I fall and get hurt, no one is going to know.’ But I pushed through it, and everything about it was just very empowering and rewarding.”
What kind of relationship do you have with your camera while you travel?
“When I was starting out, I had the camera jammed in my face the entire time. But now I’ve matured as a photographer, and I can trust my gut to know when to shoot. I’ve gotten to the point where I just have a really good balance of knowing when something will make a great photo, and knowing when to say, ‘You know what, I’m not going to be able to capture this the way I want, so I’m just going to sit back and just see it for myself.’ I try to be more present and not just take the photo I feel like I’m supposed to.”
Do you have any advice for fellow travelers or people who want to travel?
“One of the main things travel has taught me is that you have so much power to do what you want. Moving to Dublin was a big dream for a long time, and now that I’ve done it, I’ve realized that I can make these things happen and take on more than I thought I could. We all have so much power to create the lives we want to live.”