We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Miller and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Melissa, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I grew up in a creative home. My mother is an artist, doing graphic design, photography, wedding cake design and more, and my father is a musician. I feel like creativity was unavoidable for me in this environment, but I was encouraged to go into healthcare because of the financial struggle my parents faced as artists. So, I ignored my desire to chase a creative career and spent 6 years pursuing a Masters degree in occupational therapy. It didn’t take long for the desire to chase creativity came back and ultimately made me leave healthcare to pursue travel photography and writing. I’ve learned through this that I’d rather be working so hard everyday doing something I love than continuing a career that provides financial stability with no passion. I feel so fortunate to be in privileged situation to do so.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art has evolved so much over the years, beginning with a small point and shoot camera that I took with me on my travels. It was only in the last year that I truly embraced the title of artist. My art combines storytelling and photography that evokes a sense of nostalgia for the road and outdoors. My work as a social media influencer is much different than the work I truly consider my art. My art is mostly film photography and experimenting with old historic ways of producing images. It was not easy! I would work my 9-5 job in healthcare and then come home and edit photos and watch youtube tutorials until midnight, repeat. It took consistency, and maybe a little bit of stubbornness. I think the hardest challenge to overcome was imposter syndrome. The attention economy makes it really easy to constantly compare your journey to that of others. And the online world can be harsh. I have received many comments and messages along the way from people stating that I should just stick to modeling and stay in front of the camera. And as a woman, that just fueled my passion to create and prove people wrong even more. I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned recently is that an artist is creating art through their own perspective, and that might not resonate with everyone, but that does not mean it is not art. This mindset has really helped me learn to love and embrace my own art, even when social media may not validate my feelings.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My friends always know when they visit wherever I’m currently living to expect a full itinerary. Pro or con to being friends with a travel blogger, depending on your style of travel! In my current area, they would get a full week of redwood and coastal destinations. I’d tell them to pack for a week on the road and we’d head up the coast in my 1999 chevy express. I love any excuse to spend time outside, so most of our dining would be cooking at a campsite or picnics on the coast. Although I do make exceptions frequently to try out local breweries when traveling through a destination. I’d save Jedediah Smith State Park and Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor as my last cards to really blow their mind!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh gosh, there are so many people that have helped me get where I am, and it took a lot of self growth to realize it’s not a weakness to ask for help and lean on others that are offering support. I would love to recognize my friend Rachel Booth. She introduced me to backpacking and National Parks, which has fueled most of my creativity and love of photography since. I feel so grateful to have had someone to walk me through my first backpacking trip and we even road tripped across the entire USA together. Getting outdoors and adventurous activities can have many barriers to access, and I will never forget how this introduction to the outdoors changed my life forever.

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.