We’re taking lessons from South African Cassie Snelgar on what it means to discover and share beautiful things

Cassie Snelgar is a trained architect turned influencer and digital entrepreneur. Her idea for a new type of digital platform that offered an original and engaging ‘virtual vacay’ went beyond the mundane ‘catalogue-y’ vibe that had become the default for so many digital publications or e-commerce sites. 

We chat with Cassie about the journey that led her to where she is now, how travel has shaped the way she’s thought about mental health and her hometown in South Africa. Photo Credit: @cassiesnelgar 

Where in South Africa are you from?

I grew up in Johannesburg and moved to Cape Town to study Architecture when I was 18 so I know both cities well. They are such inspiring places, totally different in so many ways but both beautiful melting pots of culture with the most unique sights, sounds, and people.

What are some of the things that remind you of being back home?

More than anything, it is whenever I hear the crack of lighting that I am immediately transported back to dreamy days spent looking over lush gardens in Johannesburg, where the summers are famous for afternoon thundershowers and the balmy evenings that follow. Also, whenever I make Malva pudding, a sweet and sticky baked sponge pudding with apricot jam and served smothered in a hot cream sauce.

You’re an architect by trade, turned influencer and digital entrepreneur. What was that journey like to get to where you are now?

I have always had a massive passion for travel, so the minute I finished my architecture degree I invested in an around the world ticket which finished up in Australia. There, I completed my Master’s in Fine Arts and began freelancing as a textile designer for Australian fashion labels. Before long, I had put together a small collection of resort wear (CASLAZUR) which suited the beach-to-bar lifestyle of Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. It was a rather impulsive decision which played a pretty major part in my life when it (somewhat unexpectedly) took off and forced me to dive right into the then rather new world of social media and Instagram.

Instagram lends itself so nicely to sharing beautiful travel photos and you’ve done such a great job with growing your community in an authentic way. How do you think you’ve done this over the years?

Funnily enough, I’m actually pretty shy and incredibly private so it has not always been easy for me to strike the right balance.

 

The key is to really understand your audience, to be authentic and to never take it too seriously. When I really saw my audience for the community of like-minded pleasure-seekers that they are, it became easier to work out the type of content they were eager to see. My accounts are very much focussed on aspirational escapism. I am totally driven and passionate about discovering and sharing beautiful things, delicious foods, and amazing places. And I think people see and appreciate that passion.

Can you show us some of your favourite photos?

Of course. This first photo was taken by my little brother on the Sabi Sands River bed in 2017.  The light is so incredibly beautiful at that time of day, and the idea that you can be sipping on tea and eating a rusk with lions and elephants roaming nearby is my idea of heaven.

Jacques Weyers, one of my favourite photographers to work with, took the one on the left.  It is another image which captures the magic of the misty mornings on Cape Town’s most beautiful beach, Clifton 4th. I love this picture because it is how I imagine my favourite days in Cape Town – on the beach, bright and early, before it gets busy.

On the right is another photo by Jacques Weyers, this time in Cape Town at sunset. As the sun dips behind the horizon, the cool air contrasts so magically with the warm sand. It brings back such happy memories of getting lost in my thoughts as the sound of ice clinking in sundowners starts up in the background.

In three sentences, describe your ideal trip in South Africa.

I would check into the idyllic andBeyond Tengile River Lodge in The Sabi Sand Game Reserve in Kruger National Park to indulge in a bit of R&R and safari. In my mind, I am channelling a hybrid of Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in Out Of Africa with some high waisted khaki trousers, a white linen shirt, an Akubra and a truckload of sunscreen.

 

Mental health is definitely something that we think travel can help with, especially with trips like Get Lost that we launched last year. What led you to become a youth ambassador at SADAG last year?

It was after a talk I gave at the One Young World summit in The Hague which addressed issues like the stigma around mental health, and the impact that social media and connectivity, in general, was having on me, and my community of followers.

I truly believe that travel has an incredible power to give you a fresh perspective and take you out of your own bubble. Travel offers us all the opportunity to reassess our priorities and values by forcing us out of our comfort zones and into challenging and stimulating environments. And hopefully into a more present state of mind, rather than focussing on whatever #blessed moment we feel pressured to snap, filter and post.

We could not be more aligned with this topic. It’s something that our own employees talk about on a weekly basis. Do you have any tips that you could give someone that would change the ways that they travel?

  • Put down your phones! To really appreciate the value of travel you need to be present, focus on your senses and on creating memories.
  • Find a unique way to get around. One of my favourite things to do when I travel is to hire a bike (preferably electric as you can cover more ground). It is the best way to explore new places at a speed which isn’t too slow and tedious but still allows you the freedom to enjoy everything a place has to offer, and to go a bit ‘off-piste’.

 

  • Get involved in the local culture. Nothing is worse than going somewhere and relying on home comforts. The best experiences are new and often a bit scary. I always try something new whenever I go somewhere, whether that is eating grasshoppers in the bush, or grasshoppers in my guac. I have actually eaten a lot of grasshoppers come to think of it.

Favourite Architect is:

If I have to pick one, Richard Neutra for his contribution to the iconic laid back 1950’s California cool aesthetic which I still love.

What’s the one thing that you would never travel without?

My chunky bose noise-cancelling headphones.

Top 3 destination (s) that you have on your bucket list?

Baja, Mexico in 2020 for the opening of Amanvari.

Cherry Blossoming in Japan

The Masai Mara in Kenya to experience the Great Migration.

What are you currently reading?

At the moment I am reading The Source and two books about the magic of the brain and the potential it has to improve our lives. Since starting my work with SADAG, I am more fascinated than ever with the way the brain works.