A couple of summers ago in Los Angeles, I was just an unpaid intern at a small music startup. Comprised of like-minded music geeks, my boss, colleagues and I would often attend concerts, drink and dance our butts off. At almost every concert we attended, a beautiful bleached blonde surfer dude always popped up everywhere we went. Charmed by his beauty, it was hard for me to not resist looking at him. When he introduced himself as Nick Wehrli, little did I know that he was also a fellow intern.
Outside from our internship, I couldn’t shake off the memories of listening to old Blink-182 hits and NBF in his car alongside with other colleagues. If there was one thing that Nick couldn’t be separated with, it’s his trusty digital camera. Years after our internship ended, he moved to Bali, picked up a new language skill (seriously, who doesn’t love a man that can speak Bahasa?!) and as of now, he’s currently trotting around the globe as a photographer.
The luscious Libra and I catch up over e-mail to talk about his passion for photography, the biggest culture shock he’s ever experienced, what it means to live the Instagram dream, why he’s cool with being Instagram official (SPOILER ALERT: he ain’t single!) and the one country where he never wants to leave.
I remember that when both of us used to live in SoCal, you’d commute from Asuza, L.A. and Newport Beach. Like, anytime we’d hang out, I remember that you were never without your camera! What made you fall in love with photography?
Nick Wehrli: I think what made me fall in love with photography was the creativity behind it. I found it addicting being able to create unique things with the combination of the right lighting and a decent camera. Growing up, I had always loved going to concerts, and I had always wanted some sort of involvement in the music industry dealing with artists and live shows, so when I realized I could do this with my camera as a college kid, the addiction grew. I started shooting any bands I could for free just to get better at the craft while enjoying some live music at the same time.
When I found out that you moved to Bali a few years ago, I was so surprised because I never thought that you’d move out from Cali. What made you move there? Also, what was the biggest culture shock you’ve experienced?
NW: What made me move to Bali was my Australian friends, Beau and Riley Tonkin. They were living in Bali at the time, and Riley wanted to throw his brother (Beau) a surprise 30th birthday party – so[,] he invited me to come from America. At the time he invited me, I was working a boring and draining desk job in Anaheim, and I had just broken up with my girlfriend at the time, so it was an easy yes from me.
I only spent about 10 days in Bali before I had this realization that there is so much more to life and so much more out there to experience than just the state I grew up and lived in my entire life. I had this sudden longing for adventure and change. Riley and Beau had a spare bedroom in the villa they were living in and told me to move in with them. I took a couple months to really consider this big decision before putting in my two weeks notice in 2017. I was nervous, and constantly second guessed my decision until I arrived in Bali… It ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I’d say the biggest culture shock is the differences in roads/traffic laws. It is utter chaos out here to say it simply.
Based on your Instagram, it seems like you’re living that dream life. You live in a villa, have a hot girlfriend, wake up to beautiful views of the beach and travel non-stop. Given that all of us aspire to have that lifestyle, how do you feel about living the Instagram dream?
NW: I think the “[I]nstagram dream” these days portrays a falsehood in how certain lives really are. Yeah, my photos and Instagram definitely portray that I live that “lavish lifestyle” sometimes, but that’s because Instagram is where a good portion of my income is generated given the environment I live in. I don’t really like claiming the “[I]nstagram dream” hype, but I play the game in order to stay up with work and so that I can keep using my camera and creativity as my tools to live the way I want to. (:
You’ve been so a handful of countries this year! If you have to pick a place, which one is your favorite and why?
NW: 2018 was an insane year. One of my favorite years I’d say.. I traveled to 16 countries, made some lifelong friendships and met a great girl. If I had to choose a favorite place I’ve traveled to in 2018, I’d have to say Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a country that is full of deep culture, beautiful nature and wildlife, vast terrain, and there’s so much to see and experience there. Sri Lanka is also great for surfing, and it’s so cheap! I was in Sri Lanka for two weeks and didn’t get to see half of the places I wanted to because it’s so big.
Although your photos always look so picture-perfect, what really captivates me are the captions where you talk about the heart-wrenching stuff behind the scenes. Not many people dare to break out of their shell to share stories that express a vulnerable side of themselves. When did you realize that you had to share the stories behind each photo?
NW: I actually have been lacking in sharing stories behind my photos lately. However, when I was sharing them, I felt that stories were important to read and also more interesting to read than just a witty caption or something lacking much depth. I’m going to make an effort to share more stories going forward. (:
Social media is obviously not an easy territory to express yourself authentically because I have friends who get anxious or feel uncomfortable about showing their life on Instagram whether their page is public or private. For anyone who is struggling with using Instagram (or any type of social media platform), how can they overcome it?
NW: Yeah[,] I feel the same way all the time. It can be very hard to share your own personal stuff on social media because a good amount of people online are so full of judgement and criticism these days. I think that if something is important for you to share, then it shouldn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks. Especially if you’re expressing yourself. No one should rob you of being able or wanting to express yourself.
Nowadays, it’s hard for me to not think about this, but I realize that so many people seek to project themselves on social media, especially when it comes to relationships. Since you often tend to post pics of your girlfriend, how do you feel about flaunting your relationship on Instagram?
NW: I think if someone wants to post their significant other on their socials, more power to them. A lot of people like to show their love for someone else that way. I think it makes the other person feel special knowing that their significant other is showing them off to their own world.
It seems like it’s becoming the trend to just drop the news of a wedding, engagement or a new surname on Instagram. What do you think about this phenomenon? Do you consider doing it sometime in the future?
NW: I think it’s cool. Love is never the same. Some people don’t need a big wedding and just want to keep things simple. As for me, I haven’t really thought about that, but I reckon I would have a big party with all my friends there to celebrate with me if I ever do get married.
In contrast, there are a lot of single thirsty dudes out on this planet who basically communicate via photos and sadly, I’ve seen too many cheesy poorly-lit bathroom selfies on Tinder. What’s the #1 trick for the perfect thirst trap shot?
NW: Oh man, I’m not sure I can help out with that one! I’d recommend at least two quality photos of yourself though.
Lastly, if you are to unplug from Instagram forever and live in a different country, where will it be?
NW: I’d have to go with Indonesia. There is something beautiful about Indonesia that pulls me in so hard. It has everything I love all in one place… Great food, unreal surf, perfect weather, affordable living, beautiful culture and people… What more could I really ask for[?]