Woman in front of a mountain in Costa Rica
Influencers + Tastemakers

Q+A with Jaci Marie Smith (@jacimariesmith)

There's no question Costa Rica made a beautiful backdrop for Jetsetter's first #LikeAJetsetter trip, but it was the tastemakers we traveled with that helped bring the place to life. While on the road, we caught up with Arizona-born, LA-based Instagram influencer @jacimariesmith, whose work has taken her from Hawaii to Greece and everywhere in between.

Tell us about you!

I’m a creator and influencer from sunny Phoenix, Arizona. I met my husband Leif on a blind date in 2015 and we were married less than a year later. In 2016, after having lived in Arizona our whole lives, we were ready for a change and moved to California to pursue our passions of photography and filmmaking. It was a total risk and we had no idea if we’d “make it” in LA, but we absolutely love living there!

Woman in the jungle in Costa RIca

When did you decide to pursue Instagram full-time?

I have been obsessed with photography ever since I was young. When I was 14, I saved up all my babysitting money to buy my own camera—I still remember that day like yesterday! My mom drove me in her minivan to buy a used Canon Rebel Xti, and I have taken photos almost every day since. I was known as “the photographer” all through high school because I was constantly shooting weddings, engagement photos, etc.  In 2016, I started realizing people were really engaging with the photos I posted on Instagram of me and Leif on our travels, so I decided to make a new account for my photography and keep the one I had already built up as a personal page. In 2017, when I started making more money from social media influencing than I was with client photography, Leif and I decided to make it full time. We created a Youtube channel and started putting out workshops and from there things really started taking off.

I love how light and romantic your Instagram aesthetic is—so many pinks, oranges, and pastel hues. What inspires you and your work?

Thank you! Truthfully, keeping up my “aesthetic” isn’t challenging because it’s just an expression of who I am. Whenever I’m at a clothing store, my eyes go right to the pink sweaters. If I’m out driving, I’ll pull over when I see an orange wall because I want to take a picture by it. My friends went on a trip to Africa recently and texted me: “We keep seeing pink walls and thinking of you!”

What is your favorite part about what you do?

Getting to connect with so many talented, inspiring people. I’ve met some of my very best friends through Instagram. (In fact, three of my bridesmaids were girls I met through social media!) Sometimes, I get emotional thinking about how much this app has changed my life. It’s allowed me to be myself and use my creativity as a job, which is a dream come true, as well as influence others for good. I am a deep feeler/over-thinker and have realized over the years that posting pretty photos feels meaningless if I’m not impacting others in a positive way.

Woman on a bridge in Costa RIca

We were so excited to host you in Costa Rica! What was the biggest highlight?

Costa Rica is such a beautiful place and, honestly, the group we traveled with is what made it the best! I am so grateful to have been surrounded by so many kind, hardworking people. The locals were so funny and kind to us, especially our tour guide Edwin. I especially loved zip-lining through the jungle. The extent of my zip-lining experience is going down a 30-foot zip-line in Leif’s parents’ backyard, so this was a whole new experience for me. I almost couldn’t bring myself to go because I am pretty terrified of heights, but I am so happy I did.

View of Puglia Italy
Couple sitting on a building in front of the Eiffel Tower

Where else have you traveled recently?

Leif and I went to Puglia, Italy, this summer and it’s one of my favorite places we’ve ever visited. I was so inspired by the people, architecture, and food. It felt like after every corner we turned, there was another perfect photo opportunity. Everything was THAT pretty, it was so surreal. One day, we beach-hopped along the coast, cliff jumped, and swam in the sea. It was a perfect summer vacation.

Being an influencer requires wearing many outfits! Any packing tips?

After years of traveling, I have learned that I absolutely have to plan out my outfits (even down to accessories and jewelry) before I leave. I used to just throw in a bunch of tops and bottoms to pair together but ended up wasting space in my suitcase because I didn’t wear half the stuff I brought. After calculating how many days I’ll be in a destination, I try each outfit on and then accessorize before packing. Ultimately, I used to be against checking a bag because I’m terrified my luggage will get lost, but I have come to terms with the fact that I have to if I want to pack a bunch of awesome outfits!

Woman swimming in Costa Rica

Tell us about your weekly podcast, “What We Said.”

My best friend Chelsey and I have been BFF’s since high school and were always told that we needed a TV show together. (Probably because we were the life of the party on our high school dance team!) We started “What We Said” about six months ago on a whim. We both love listening to podcasts, so we figured, why not start our own? Chelsey is a certified health coach and with my photography/social media experience, it makes for a good mix of conversation. We talk about everything from health, business, and relationships to embarrassing date stories. Our goal is to inspire and entertain and have people finish the episode feeling better than when they started.

Where are you headed to, or dreaming of, next?

For once, I don’t have any trips booked at the moment, which feels good because the possibilities are endless! I want to go somewhere snowy this winter so I am looking into visiting Canada or maybe the East Coast. I also really want to go back to Australia—I’ve only been able to experience Sydney but want to explore more of the Gold Coast.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Traveling is so important—it teaches you patience, love, and appreciation for the world we live in. It has made  realize that home is wherever good people are. Even if it is just a quick road trip a few hours away, it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. There are endless places to be explored.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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