If you were to ask me who's the coolest most inspiring girl of the moment right now, I would without a doubt say Nastasia Yakoub. Her awe inspiring photos and chill inducing feed would make even the most seasoned travelers out there envious of her talent of bringing together an army of Dame Travelers herself. After catching the travel bug, she set out to fill the void of young female travelers out there the opportunity to share their experiences abroad and most importantly discuss how one trip changed their perspective on life. Now, with a recently launched site for lady travelers and an insta account that boasts over 27,000 followers, there's no doubt that she's an #InstaBabe. Meet Nastasia Yakoub!
My name is Nastasia Yakoub and I am the founder of Dame Traveler, a women's travel blog. My love affair with travel began a little over five years ago when my now husband took me on a spur of the moment trip to Ireland after sharing on our first date that I had never really traveled before and that I had always dreamt of visiting Dublin. Since catching the travel bug, I have explored over 15 countries and plan on visiting many more in the near future!
Although I graduated from Loyola University in Chicago with a nursing degree, my heart belongs to traveling the world. Photography, my other passion, introduced me to a community of travel photographers on Instagram where I shared my own travel photos on @NastasiasPassport. I began noticing tons of fashion and beauty blogs/Instagram galleries, yet a lack of women's travel blogs. After experiencing the excitement of my first feature on Travel + Leisure's Instagram account and website, I was inspired to start my own community of lady travelers.
I chose the name Dame Traveler because it takes a lot of courage to travel outside of one's comfort zone, and to become totally immersed in another country's culture. The reality is that a life of travel isn't always as glamorous as it seems. It takes guts to travel, especially as a solo female. Yet, there are tons of lady travelers out there that do this every day! The definition behind the word 'Dame' in the dictionary is:
"the title of a woman who has been awarded of high ranking or of an empire."
And so, I wanted it to exemplify strength, fearlessness and courage.
Describe yourself in 3 words:
NY: Fearless, Caring, Dreamer.
What's your background? Have you always been interested in traveling?
NY: I am Chaldean-American, my parents are from a little village in Northern Iraq called Tel Keppe. They fled the country to escape religious persecution in the Middle East, as we are Iraqi-Christians. I was fortunate enough to be born in America but I take pride in my roots. We speak one of the oldest languages in the world, Chaldean, a dialect of Aramaic!
I've always been fascinated by the world but with having grown up in a strict family, I never ventured out much until I met my now husband, Johnny. When I met him, I was amazed by all of the countries he had traveled to and I began traveling with him in 2010. As soon as I got comfortable traveling with others, I was able to build enough courage to travel solo. My first solo adventure was on a volunteer abroad trip to Africa and Dubai. It was such a life changing experience.
You recently launched a website for the Dame Traveler, what tidbits do we expect to see on there?
NY: You will find tons of moving short stories, travel tips and guides, interviews with lady travel bloggers and most importantly - inspiration from women who take advantage of experiencing the beauty that exists within our wold. They are truly incredible girls and they make the world a more connected place simply by exploring and immersing themselves in it!
How did you fund your traveling in the beginning and now?
NY: I've taken many different approaches to funding my trips but mostly I get creative. I visit friends in different cities, I stay on top of tracking my flight miles and I am conscious of where my money goes in between travels by throwing extra cash that I have into my travel fund instead of spending it.
Write down a goal country you'd like to visit, set a date, and become conscious of that goal on a daily basis. This technique will help to remind you to contribute to your travel fund as often as you can over spending money on meaningless things. If you really want to travel, do believe that a little bit goes a long way as long as you're determined and have a goal set in place!
What's your trip planning process like? How do you decide which countries or cities to see next?
NY: PINTEREST! It's one of the best travel tools, ever. It's the perfect way to organize your bucket list (the OCD in me lol). I try to spread my travels throughout the globe as much as possible so I have a different experience each time I travel.
I also search different hashtags on Instagram before heading to a destination that I have already booked. For example, before heading to London, I searched various hashtags that related to London and clicked on geotagged photo maps to discover really cool coffee shops, restaurants, viewpoints, etc. This is a really efficient trick to help you discover hidden gems to add to your list of must-sees!
If you could only take three items on a trip, what would you take?
NY: Well since life doesn't come equipped with background music, an iPod is one of my absolute necessities. My travel journal to write down little memories during my flights and commutes. And of course, my camera to capture those memories.
Your pictures are more than extraordinary, what camera/gadgets do you use to take pictures?
NY: Thank you! I use a Canon Rebel DSLR and my iPhone most of the time! I think it more so has to do with staying in tune with your surroundings so we can capture that beauty rather than what we use to capture it. Developing a good eye is key.
What apps do you frequent to stay organized when traveling?
TripAdvisor's City Guides - great way to discover all the sights in each city. It even creates recommended itineraries, mapping out all of the sights and is fully equipped with duration and distances.
Uber - great way to secure a ride when landing at the airport if the airport has free wifi.
Google Maps - especially for mapping out walking routes.
Google Translate - to break those language barriers!
Instagram - but that's a given, right.
In what moment in time did you decide that you were destined to continue the Dame Traveler?
NY: In 2013 I had graduated nursing school, passed my state licensure to become an RN, just wrapped up getting married in Italy and there I was, stuck at home in the midst of one of the worst winters Chicago has ever witnessed and was searching for nursing jobs. I kept catching myself drifting off and dreaming of far away places and reminiscing on my past travels. Instagram was always my escape, living vicariously through people currently traveling. And so, I wanted a way to reconnect myself with my true passion and what better way to do this than to connect with travelers around the globe?
I have made so many wonderful friends around the world since starting the blog and if that's all I take away from it, than that is more than enough. I am grateful to live in a time where I am given that opportunity to connect with my fellow global citizens. My blog is not only a way to express my passion but to shine light on those that share the same passion and on those that have enough courage to make it a full-time lifestyle.
What piece of advice would you give to other's aspiring to travel the world?
NY: If it's really something you'd like to do, make it a priority and you will make it happen. If you've never traveled far and have a bit of fear of doing so, start with baby steps like creating little adventures and road trips to nearby places. You'd be amazed by what you'll find nearby if you just do a little digging.
If you've never been on one, I also highly recommend going on at least one solo adventure in your life. It's amazing what you can discover about yourself when you're alone in a foreign place. Stay in tune and listen to what makes your heart happy. It will indeed change your life.
And for seasoned travelers out there, keep on travelin' on ;)