Browsing Category


Journal Lifestyle

Black is Beautiful: Following Your Dreams and Finding Your Passion

Our Journey from Travel Book Idea to Landing a Collection at Nordstrom

A few years ago, shortly after I became a mother, I got itchy feet. I could remain where I was, with a comfortable life enjoying new parenthood, or go on an adventure, living and traveling around the world, as I’d long desired to do. After much planning and preparation, my husband and I decided to leave the United States and travel full time with our daughter Asha, who was just shy of turning two years old. I was uncertain of where we would land, or the long-term professional outcome, but I was open to the journey and the excitement of doing something different.

Over the next two years, we lived in four different countries, across three continents and traveled with Asha to over 20 countries, including Ethiopia, Indonesia, Singapore, Turkey, Iceland, Greece, Oman, Tanzania, and Senegal. In the course of our travels, I saw how much the world has to teach young people and how open the world is to children.

At a very young age, Asha, now with her baby brother, has seen so much of the world. They have met children all over the globe, heard the languages they speak, learned the games they play, the songs they sing, and tasted the foods they eat. These experiences led us to create our children’s story book collection, The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete, which shares some of what we’ve seen and learned with other children and their families.

The idea behind our books was to share with children the little things we learn in new places, like what languages are spoken in France or England, what are some foods you could find there, what kinds of currency they use, and what are the key landmarks. But we also wanted to convey the intangible elements of travel, like compassion, understanding of cultural differences and appreciation of our shared humanity. Even if children can’t travel themselves, they could still experience the magic and wonder of exploring and learning about other places through a beautiful book. Plus, there is something truly magical about seeing the world through the eyes of a child!

Our journey to creating Aya & Pete started with an outline for the books, and the lead characters. Aya is inspired by our daughter, and Pete by her favorite stuffed animal at that time, a toy monkey named Frenchie. We wanted our books to be informational, but also fun, so we created character-driven narratives with a good dose of adventure and cheeky banter between Aya and her stuffed sloth, Pete.

We published our first book, the Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete in Paris in December 2017 under our publishing company, Ashima. Since so much of our story is inspired by Asha’s lived experiences, it was important that she be the co-author, and co-owner of our publishing business. This was an opportunity for her to learn how to create something, how to build a business, when to pivot if necessary and to get back up if you stumbled. Most importantly, I wanted her to have ownership of her story.

While the first two years of this project were one fledgling step after the other, we realized we had something interesting when we launched our second book, The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete in London, in the spring of 2019. We organized a five-city “book tour” and in each stop, bookstores and libraries welcomed us and readers and supporters showed up! The day after Asha turned six, we hosted a reading at our local bookstore, and a roomful of nearly 100 people sang her Happy Birthday. That was a very special moment.

In the fall of 2020, we launched our third book, The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete in New York! One of the keys to succeeding in whatever it is you want to do, is to be passionate about it. Sometimes you’re in a full sprint, and it’s easy to keep going. Other times it’s a slow crawl and you question whether it makes sense to continue. But we never stopped, and our tenacity eventually caught the attention of Nordstrom, which started carrying our line of books and products last fall. With a national platform, more children have access to Aya & Pete and imagery that shows a little girl who looks like them, or perhaps who doesn’t look like them, boldly exploring, trying new things and just being herself – a kid having fun!

At a time when we cannot travel as freely as we wish and it seems like all of our vacation plans are on extended pause, we believe these books are more relevant than ever. We hope our books can inspire excitement for little ones to see new places, and spark their imaginations with adventures that lay just around the corner. But our story and our books are really not about the act or art of traveling. It’s about our core belief that you cannot dream what you cannot see, and we want all children to know, whether they are traveling, or simply traveling in their imaginations, there’s a big world out there, there’s a place for them, and they belong in it as much as anyone else.

Featured Insider Tips Journal Solo Travel Stories

Check Out Our Hardcover Book, Dame Traveler: Live the Spirit of Adventure

It’s finally here! Our very first, Dame Traveler photography / coffee table book published with Ten Speed Press of Penguin Random House – “Dame Traveler: Live The Spirit Of Adventure.

This book has been the ultimate goal (and absolute dream) since Dame Traveler’s creation many years ago. Seeing it come to life in print is a feeling BEYOND words can say. We simply cannot wait to see it in your hands and in your homes. It’s a dream to imagine seeing copies of it out in the world, creased and filled with bookmarks and notes, loved and worn, passed on and gifted to fellow female traveler friends.

The time for armchair travel is now. Without a doubt, the world has greatly shifted in the wake of Covid-19. Travel restrictions and the gravity of potentially putting others at risk or overwhelming local healthcare systems are serious, complicated and heart wrenching considerations for those of us who long (and live) to explore.

Our dream is that the #dametravelerbook transports you to every corner of our beautiful planet. We hope you sift through each page and imagine yourself there, soaking in cultural experiences, scaling mountaintops, learning from locals, discovering new, untouched European towns or road tripping through America.

Even if your travel plans have halted and you’re Social Distancing to help Flatten the Curve, the world is still your oyster. And we hope each and every page keeps that fire to adventure glowing until the right time comes to hop on that plane.

Today, we’re thrilled to give you an inside sneak peak into our premiere hardback book, which you can order here!

At A Glance

Combining breathtaking collection of the unseen images of the women within the Dame Traveler community, empowering messages and planning tips for female travelers and secret recommendations – “Dame Traveler: Live The Spirit Of Adventure” is a coffee table photo book you’ll love to sift through to collect stories, inspiration and more. Each page is filled with some of the most thrilling, awe-inspiring photos made by women boldly traveling the world and sharing their stories. It’s a collection and celebration of the diversity and bravery of women who are not afraid to think (and live) outside the box.

Featured inside:

  • All female contributors – With a serious focus on diversity, you’ll find women of all abilities, races, religions, sizes and identities inside each chapter. Each woman included into the book showcase their discoveries, artistry and inside knowledge acquired through their individual experiences.
  • Over 200 breathtaking, full color images – 80% of the photographs included inside are never before seen on Dame Traveler’s Instagram.
  • “DT Insider Tips” – A resource list of recommendations  straight from Dame Travelers’ experiences, including favorite neighborhoods, specific locations of photo vantage points, hotel recommendations and historical tidbits.
  • History of Dame Traveler’s creation – An in-depth backstory of the brand’s creation, as well as the triumphant story of Nastasia Yakoub, founder and author.
  • Safety tips for women – A curated list of our best and often overlooked safety tips specifically for women traveling solo.

Chapter Preview

When planning the structure of the book, we wanted to bring to life the four core themes of  travel experiences- architecture, nature, culture and water. Each category features travel information, plus tips, resources, advice, unique solo-travel experiences, and wisdom from contributing Dame Traveler found on each page. It’s glance into the stunning beauty and discoveries made around the world, organized by the four desires most of us set to find when we depart on our next trip. Here’s a quick preview of what you’ll find in each chapter!


Ranging from the ancient tombs of royalty of the past, to the intricately designed spaces of the French Nouveau, to the minimalist, futuristic buildings in today’s metropolises… our Architecture chapter features some of the world’s most storied and mind-blowing spaces around the world. Explore the world through its ancient and modern spaces alike through the lenses of women who have uncovered some of the coolest spaces with the most legendary pasts.

A Special Look Into Our Upcoming Dame Traveler Book


The sparse and open spaces of the driest deserts juxtaposed next to dense, lush jungles… when creating our Nature chapter, we set out to feature the astounding beauty of the natural world. Inside, you’ll find the best inside knowledge outdoor enthusiast Dame Travelers have learned from their many treks around the globe.

A Special Look Into Our Upcoming Dame Traveler Book


If it’s connection you are seeking in your travels, our Culture chapter is sure to enthrall you. Expect purpose-driven explorations, hallowed spaces, stories from friendships made with locals and thoughtful itineraries that educate just as much as they excite.

A Special Look Into Our Upcoming Dame Traveler Book


There’s nothing more peaceful and rejuvenating than the beauty of water, is there? Inside our Water chapter, we delve into the world’s fascinating forms of water. From refreshing, undiscovered swimming pools, to the pristine beaches of far off islands, to the natural hot springs used for restoration… this chapter is a deep dive into the power and the peace that water brings.

A Special Look Into Our Upcoming Dame Traveler Book

Thank you so much for supporting our biggest and wildest dream! It goes without saying that this would not have come into life without the amazing community of women within Dame Traveler. We thank you so much and hope you love the book as much as we do!




Read This If Your 2020 Resolution Is To See The World

Dear Dame Traveler, on the eve of 2020, I write this… heart filled with memories, gratitude and a few lessons learned. I know many of you sit and read this with the same thoughts. As a new year approaches, we often sit and reflect on our hopes for a new year. New goals, new horizons, new adventures ahead… I write this to you, dear reader, if your 2020 resolution is to see the world this year.

This is your time. This is your year to go see the world. This is your wake up call to write your intentions down (…after all, a resolution or goal without a plan is just a dream)…. and plan to go collect those passport stamps and lose yourself in a new, foreign place. Consider these next few paragraphs your pep-talk.

To travel is to learn the art of observation. To travel is to invest in and humble yourself all at the same time. Truly, to travel is to witness the world’s diversity, it’s beauty and its age… and to recognize your small, small place in it. Travel the perfect algorithm of empowering and humbling. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

What passports and pictures don’t show you about travel is the intentional, reflective time it brings. We stop, we ponder, we observe, we push ourselves, we rest our heads in unfamiliar homes. We’re endlessly on edge and the dance and the balance of it all is the most strengthening thing a woman can afford herself – the opportunity to grow.

Travel challenges as much as it delights. It presses on our nerves and our anxieties, it channels us towards tests of the mind and of the spirit. Travel will make you question every little thing. And through all of this, we are able to realize our privilege, our biases, our false assumptions.

To the woman reading this needing this pep talk, to the woman reading this who’s heard a thousands reasons not to go get on that plane, to the woman reading this wondering what a new decade and a new chapter 2020 will bring – go further, seek more, see new horizons. It’s your time, dear heart.

Advice Journal

How Travel Transformed My Love For History

Years ago, you could find me daydreaming during my early morning classes. Quite like many high schoolers out there, I particularly found history courses boring. Foolishly, I’d call these classes old, antiquated, unimportant. “Why study the past? We should be looking into the future!” (Oh how much I regret those days!) No matter how engaging the professor was, or the relevancy to modern politics… I was jaded.

Flash forward 10 years later, and I’m studying to become a world history teacher. Yep, you read that right! This former history-hater is en route to becoming a teacher of the world’s past. What brought about this complete change of heart? I’ll tell you – travel.

First-Hand History

Travel completely transformed my love and admiration for history. It wasn’t until I saw the world’s ancient relics, its weather-worn battle fields, its monuments and temples with my very own eyes… that I realized just how crucially important historical education is.

I never realized the impact of war until I had heard the stories of locals, sharing their parent’s plight. It wasn’t until I witnessed a tea ceremony first hand to find beauty in its ancient practice. I’d never considered my own privilege or freedom until I walked through another form of life.

You can sit in lecture upon lecture discussing The Great Wall of China or the Taj Mahal – but until you see their grandeur, it’s all a game of imagination. You can read books on Vikings and seafarers – but until you see their massive ships and epic, native fjord lands, it’s all a figment of your imagination.

It’s a selfish and ignorant thing, isn’t it? It wasn’t until I gained my own experiences out there in the world… then I found importance in historical events. But, I think it’s important to acknowledge that in order for some people to grasp history – they need to observe, soak in and explore. And guess what provides all of those experiences? Travel does.

Classes Today Include A Traveler’s Perspective

What excites me about becoming a history teacher one day is the idea that I can bring experiential moments to students. Virtual reality, 3D glasses, Google Earth, explorations via immersive maps. 21st century history education is changing. And it’s becoming more immersive. It’s an exciting time to be teaching the world’s history because we can finally have students experience the world right in the classroom. (Even though, as travelers, we know that seeing something up close and personal is complete and utter magic! Baby steps, right?)

It’s my hope to create curious, compassionate, open minded, educated travelers of tomorrow. In my wildest dreams, I hope that my students leave my classroom eager to see the world. It’s my hope that they leave my doors knowing that the world is a wondrous, ancient place – an open book to read and learn from. They just have to go out and see it.

Has travel transformed your perspective on history? Or have your interest in history driven you to see ancient sights? I’d love to know!

Journal Travel Planning

A Book Lover’s Guide To The World

A book lover’s outlook is a special one. There are thousands of books set in locations around the world. All inspire a sense of wanderlust and wonder to those who read about their fascinating landscapes through their pages. It’s a very special thing when a place exactly inspires an author with a narrative. These places almost serve as a soul to these stories.

Today, we’re spotlighting some destinations that directly inspired some incredible literature. There are so many to cover, we’re sure to miss some of your favorites… so please be sure to comment with your favorite book and the destination that inspired it!

Edinburgh – “The Harry Potter Series”

It’s hard to imagine J.K. Rowling not creating the beloved Harry Potter series when you explore old Edinburgh. The city’s many castles atop steep hills, the eery and old graveyards, the cobble stoned streets! Be sure to explore Greyfrier’s Kirkyard to find some familiar names from the book series… more Edinburgh recs right here too)!

Paris – “Les Miserables”

The French Revolution’s relics are scattered throughout the City Of Light. “Les Miserables” author Victor Hugo lived in Paris for many years. In fact, visitors can see his home and the many places within the city where he wrote the worldwide read novel.

St. Petersburg – “Crime & Punishment”

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s psychological novels is one of the best ever written. However, not many people know that its inspiration stemmed from crimes he learned about while living in St. Petersburg. “Crime & Punishment” fans will find snippets and slivers of the story’s inspiration through the city’s alleys and details.

Missouri – “The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer”

Mark Twain’s classic American novel takes direct inspiration from the surrounding areas of Missouri and the Mississippi River. The adventures of the young boys can be clearly imagined when exploring the area’s wildlife, caverns and caves.

Pamplona, Spain – “The Sun Also Rises”

Hemingway, an avid traveler, was extremely inspired by his time in Pamplona, Spain when writing his best selling novel. The city’s bull festivals are still celebrated to this day.

Stockholm – “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”

Steig Larsson’s “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” highlighted a hidden, darker side to Stockholm. Larsson’s lived in Söder, where he lived for many, many years living locally and working as a journalist. His experiences in the city gave him great inspiration for the series settings and darker underbelly.

New York – “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”

The American Novelist, Truman Capote was once the most well-known author of NYC. His lavish time in Brooklyn Heights inspired Holly Golighty’s storyline.

Birmingham, England – “The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy”

Tolkien was a man who drew direct inspiration from nature, most of which he recalls fondly from his childhood. His notoriously detailed writings about flora and fauna has a direct correlation to where he grew up – Birmingham’s fields and mills.

Big Sur – “Big Sur”

Jack Kerouac’s “Big Sur” was written during his meaningful time along the California coastline. The area’s inspiration is so present in his descriptive writing about the rugged beaches and stunning landscapes.

London – Shakespeare’s Work

No trip (for a Shakespeare fan) to London would be fulfilled with a trip to the Globe Theater.

The Swiss Alps – “Heidi”

The dramatic and lush Swiss Alps inspired Johanna Spyri’s picturesque setting of “Heidi.” It’s said that the book also inspired many travelers to experience its beauty for themselves too, boosting the area’s tourism by leaps and bounds after its release.

Tokyo – “Norwegian Wood”

Murakami’s masterpiece was directly inspired from his collegiate experience in Tokyo’s Waseda University. His time and love for the bustling city is evident through the pages of his many books, especially Norwegian Wood.

Be sure to check out our other book-inspired destination guides here on the blog!