Jeryl Tan–better known for his popular Instagram photography account (@SmilewithJeryl) with 38.4K followers–dodges away each time the camera clicks, and we can’t help but laugh away through our session at Hotel Jen.

“I’m not comfortable being in front of the camera,”  he protests self-consciously, much to our amusement– especially given the name of his Instagram account. Boyish and outwardly friendly, the 24-year-old juggles a hectic job as events coordinator with sideline photography for clients such as Singapore Tourism Board. Not bad for a self-taught photographer who completed his National Service barely one year ago and was then struck with a severe case of wanderlust.

First though, we browse through the 24/7 pick-andgo selection at Hotel Jen before settling down with our food and drink.

Between sips of Nutella latte, Jeryl shares his “lame”  start in photography. “Don’t judge, okay? Actually I was inspired watching a running tap of water, and wondered what it would look like if I could stop the motion.”  Jeryl went on to purchase his first professional camera, a Canon 6D, and taught himself the technical skills needed. “At first, it’s all by feelings,”  he laughs, switching to Mandarin mid-sentence. “My favourite subject to capture now is lightning. But it’s so hard, I’ve only captured it twice so far.” 

The conversation drifts back to his Tumblr account, smilewithjeryl.tumblr.com, where he shared his journey of “69 days across Europe. Cost: $5,700”  in a post. Picking the cheapest return flight he could find, he left in June 2015 on a solo backpacking trip that spanned Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, UK, France, Italy, Hungary, Poland and his ultimate favourite, Switzerland. Travels and backpacking expose us to so many situations and experiences, some good, some bad, and others bad that turn out well, he muses. “Not a lot of people will do it, but it’s something nobody can explain, until you experience it yourself.” 

Getting mugged once in Paris had him scared, but undeterred. His advice when travelling solo, and especially for ladies: “I made sure I had all the offline maps in my phone, that’s most important”  and “you must really be aware of your situation” .

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While admiring the playful decor at Jen’s Kitchen On-The-Go, Jeryl reveals he is into architecture and nature–it’s noticeable in his Insta account, which is mostly of angles and urban landscapes. When it comes to food though, he’s a true-blue Singaporean who’s crazy about crabs and seafood. If he were a drink, he would be a cup of tea–rational and down to earth, he summarises.

“I try to maintain my Instagram account by posting a picture a day at exactly 8pm–unless I’m too busy with events, but recently I’m running out of pictures so I think I need to disappear again,”  he grins. So what’s next for Jeryl? A part-time degree in business management later this year, and another trip at the end of the year to see the Northern Lights. Check out #whereisjerylnow to keep up with him.

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