If you’re active on social media it’s close to impossible to have missed Ellie. If you haven’t stumbled upon her bright colored plant based recipes, chances are that you will have seen breath taking travel photos of her and twin sister Lauren. Ever since Ellie started sharing her food photography online a bit over two years ago, everything she touches turns into gold. This girlboss is only 24 years young, earns her money mostly through Instagram and recently launched her own cook book named after her blog: Elsa's Wholesome Life.

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I started following Ellie a bit over a year ago, and she has stunned me with her work ever since. Recently, I noticed that Ellie had moved from Australia to Bali. Since I would be traveling to Bali too, this offered me the perfect opportunity to meet with her for an interview.

I meet with Ellie at her favorite food spot in Canggu, The Shady Shack. Do you ever follow people online only to discover that they don’t look anything alike in real life? Ellie is definitely not one of those people. As soon as she enters the cafe, I immediately recognize her by her friendly face and beachy blonde hair. Ellie orders a smoothie and I start sipping on my glass of water while we sit down and begin to talk..

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Q: So Ellie, I actually thought your name was Elsa because of your blog and social media branding. Now that I know it’s not, can you tell me how you came up with Elsa?
A: "Back when I was younger, my friends used to give me quite a few different nicknames. My name is Ellie, but they would call me Elsie or Elsa. You know that feeling when you’re not really into your own name? I had that. I started using Elsie for my personal account, and when I was thinking about a name for my wholesome food page I really liked the sound of Elsa in Elsa’s Wholesome Life. I never thought it would become such a crucial part of my branding though. Now it just feels right to have my page connected to Elsa. Although, I do have to say it can get quite confusing for people sometimes."

Q: Why did you decide to move to Bali?
A: "Moving to Bali after my studies felt like the right thing to do because of several reasons. One of them was my sister (Lauren Bullen aka Gypsea Lust) who moved to Bali last October. She asked me to come and visit her, and once I did I fell in love with the island. My plant based lifestyle is very easy and affordable to pursue here in Bali. There are so many amazing fruits and veggies to choose from, and they’re sold for really good prices. Lastly, Bali is a lot more central than the part of Australia where I used to live. You can easily fly to other parts of Asia. With me and my partner planning on traveling more often this year, that makes total sense."

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Q: In an older interview with you I read you have joined the army for a year after high school. How did that happen?
A: "When I was in my final year, the army gave presentations at our school telling us what a cool opportunity it would be to join the army. At that stage I didn’t have any specific plans for my studies, so I thought why not? The selection process was quite difficult so I never thought I would get in. When I got accepted I was very surprised, but I decided to just go for it. I always was this kind of loner who was inseparable from her twin sister. I wanted to grow and break free from that, which is mainly why I decided to go. Looking back on this year I realize it really gave me the confidence I needed, and it worked like a stepping stone to get me where I’m standing now."

'It worked like a stepping stone to get me where I'm standing now.'

Q: Did you always have in mind that you wanted to work with food, even when you initially joined the army?
A: "No not really. I actually thought about studying fashion, but when I was in the army and meals were forced upon me I started to realize how much I appreciated good food. I was used to eating anything I liked; make some fresh fruits, get some granola. Now that I couldn’t, I craved to make these decisions for myself and that’s when I decided I wanted to study nutrition."

Q: Looking back on this process of finding out what you want in life, do you have any tips to share with our community?
A: "Try something new! If you don’t try, you won’t find out if you like to do it. If there are interesting opportunities coming your way, take them so you can find out what sparks your interest. Read books and blogs, do workshops to find out what you like and what your good at, and built from there. Also, don’t think you necessarily need to go to university. There are also so many career options out there that don’t necessarily require a degree."

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Q: Going back to your social media presence and blog: would you say you really used a strategy to get where you are, or was it mainly luck?
A: “I’m not sure if luck is the right word, I rather call it passion. Many people in my industry start projects only to stop again if it’s not giving the expected results quickly enough. They want to succeed instantly, but it doesn’t work that way. I was doing uni, working jobs and then also had my blog part time. It was really my passion - I wanted to put a lot of time in this. Important to add is that it’s harder to break through in the current market because it is so saturated. You really need to create something different and be unique.”

Q: I can imagine that being highly creative on a daily basis can get exhausting sometimes. How do you keep yourself inspired?
A: “It gets more difficult when you go, and sometimes I can feel very flat in my creativity. However, I also experience moments where I can get extremely inspired and excited by places I go or things I see. Traveling inspires me most. Going to new places, seeing new things and learning from new cultures. This especially helps with the food part of my job. If I see something at a cafe, I can be like: ‘Hey that is so cool! Let me try a variation on that.’”

'It’s harder to break through in the current market because it is so saturated.'

Q: As a Digital Nomad you don’t have a lot of direct colleagues. Does that ever get lonely?
A: “I actually prefer working on my own. However, my partner came over to Bali with me and, I would hate to call him my assistant, but he basically helps me out with everything I do. He helps me with my photography or in the kitchen when I’m working on a recipe. Since I also live with my sister and her partner we are hanging out a lot as well. We’re all doing the same thing, which makes it easy to bounce off ideas and discuss our pages. It actually feels like we’re a small community. I also have a lot of friends I met online, friends from home and people I met while traveling. Now that I’m thinking about it I actually never feel lonely.”

Q: Your following has been growing very rapidly. How do you connect with your audience?
A: “I get a lot of messages - especially e-mails and DMs - and I try to respond to as many as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t reply to all of them. Some of my followers send me really long e-mails with lots of questions seeking for advise. In those cases I usually refer to dietitians or other professionals. I think the most frequently asked question is ‘How can I do what you do?’, ‘What is your job?’ and last but not least ‘How do you edit your photos and grow your following?’

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Q: Does your work ever get exhausting?
A: "Yes, definitely. Sometimes I can get really stressed out and write all these paper lists of things I need to do. But then I also realize that if it doesn’t get done, it’s not the end of the world. If I can’t make the deadline, I'll reschedule. People that are not working in this field don't seem to understand that it’s harder than just taking a few pictures. You’re not working a 9-5 job and you easily work for 12 hours straight. Many people seem to think you're only on your phone scrolling Instagram, but it’s e-mailing, replying to comments: work! However, working like this enables me to be very flexible. If I want to go to the beach, I can just go and finish my work later."

Q: How do you deal with negativity?
A: "I occasionally get negativity, but my page has a very positive vibe which doesn’t often lead to negativity. As soon as I get negative comments I try not to take it personal and reply with something like 'I appreciate if you don’t leave negative comments here.'. If they are really rude I block them, or ignore it. I think receiving loads of negative comments would definitely take its toll on you, but also give you a thicker skin. If people are being rude, just keep in your mind that they don’t know you at all."

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Q: I commonly hear influencers say that they can get stressed out sometimes because they’re afraid their career has an expiry date. How is that for you?
A: "I guess that’s in the back of your mind a lot because in my field, social media is where your career is. That’s why I always try to think about new ways and ideas to keep a loyal following outside social platforms. It can be difficult because it costs a lot of time and it doesn’t directly pay bills, but it can be very valuable down the track. Getting a loyal follower base would make sure that if - for example - Instagram stopped existing, I could continue on my blog or anywhere else. I'm also fantasizing a lot about having my own brand. Right now I don’t have the time to work on another business on the side, but it could be a bigger picture idea."

Q: Ellie, you are a role model for our community. It unfortunately happens often that young adults get discouraged and insecure through social media. What would you like to stay to them?
A: "Have fun! Enjoy school first and don’t worry too much about adult life; you have such a long life ahead of you. Don’t stress about it too much, you’ll find your things and you can be successful at any age. Success is not measured by how many followers you have, how much money you make or how much you’ve done. It’s about how happy you are. When you're in your teens and twenties, I believe that these are your best years. Don’t spend these years worrying about your career or working yourself to exhaustion. Explore, travel, meet new people and have fun! That will open opportunities in itself."

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Q: How does it feel to have your own book?
A: "Pretty cool! When I started my blog a few years ago, I was writing my bio in which I included my ultimate dream: bringing out a cook book. Back then I was just starting to blog and looked up to so many bloggers and chefs that had their own cook books. That dream now became true and still blows me away! Every time someone sends me a photo of the book I still get very excited. I still need to realize that I have my very own book. Right now it’s only sold in Australia and New Zealand. The plan is to hopefully sell it overseas as well. The vegan trend is growing rapidly so I think there should be a great market there."

Q: What is the main thing you want to communicate with this book?
A: "Eat more plants (my mantra!) and inspire people to eat more plant based food. It’s not like I want to force a plant based diet down everyone's throat. I would like to keep it positive and focus on getting people to incorporate more plant based recipes in their daily routine, and help them make healthier choices."

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Q: Now you can tick off your first dream: what's next?
A: "I indeed love how I can now tick of this first big dream of mine. It would be awesome if my book would do really well internationally, and then I could maybe get another contract for a new book in a year of two. A side from that, I would love to start my own health food brand or my own health food chain. I wouldn’t want to work on the shop floor, but be responsible for the branding, concept and marketing. However, right now I don’t see myself do that short term, but who knows! Long, long term bigger picture!"

Check out Ellie's blog here: http://www.elsaswholesomelife.com/
And if you want to get her cook book, click here: http://www.elsaswholesomelife.com/shop/

Interviewed by Niny Ezinga, in collaboration with Naomi Kok Luis.