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Advice Giving Back Journal

5 Simple Ways To Deepen Your Travel Experiences

“Be a traveler, not a tourist.” It’s an overused quote in the travel world, but one that we wholeheartedly abide by. A constant theme here at Dame Traveler is the important lessons and empowerment travel can bring to those that experience it. Every trip, every adventure has limitless lessons to take in. Choosing to dive in and deepen your travel experiences is a decision adventurers will never regret. Here are some of our tried and true ways to intensify your explorations. 

Invest Your Time In Conversation

It can be a bit intimidating, but extending ourselves to conversing with the people we encounter in our travel experiences is the only way to really make a connection. So say “hello” to the person at the cafe next to you. Ask the owner of a shop if they’re from the area, or the story of their business. If you’re staying in an AirBnb, ask your host for their recommendations or if you can buy them a drink. Taking the small steps toward communication (even if the conversation is stunted by language barriers) elevates your travel experience ten fold. Be a student of this world. Ask questions. Adopt a mindset of true curiosity. Take the time to listen. You might not make a BFF through each conversation, but even the briefest encounters will teach you something. 

Go Local

Go local in all shapes and forms. Avoid restaurants that tout “tourist favorite” in its descriptions and choose a more authentic one instead. Go where the locals go. Eat where the locals eat. Live how the locals eat. You’ll deepen your understanding of the place, and you’ll have the unique opportunity to connect with the people who call your destination home. 

Your biggest power as a traveler is where you spend your time and your money. If you’re spending your hours enjoying the environment of a family owned boutique, book store, or cafe, buy yourself a little souvenir to remember it by. That little token of joy you’ll bring home will feel special and will support the well-being of the local economy. 

Spend A Few Days “Off The Beaten Path”

If you have the time in your itinerary, take a day or two away from the larger cities. Drive into the countryside or take the train to a more remote village. The act of getting off of the well beaten path will deepen your understanding of where you are. Not all life is city life. Not all locals look or dress like what you’ve seen in the metropolis you’ve flown into. What do the people’s lives look like outside of what your guidebooks have told you? There’s only one way of knowing, and it’s to get out there and find out for yourself. 

Unplug

You don’t necessarily have to experience your whole trip truly unplugged (although, here are some ideas if that sounds like heaven to you). But, instead of being careless with your devices – be mindful of how much of your time is in front of a screen. Be present. Choose to experience your destination with open eyes. Notice the little details that are romantic and go unnoticed. Write them down in a journal. Keep a diary of your daily excursions. Collect moments. Find balance in documenting and being aware and present. 

Go With No Plan

Get wonderfully lost in the charming neighborhoods of your destination. Not every minute of your trip should be timed and planned. (If you’re a super planner, just dedicate a whole morning or afternoon to “wandering time.”) It’s during this unstructured time that we learn the most about ourselves and the place we wander through.

No matter what you do during your travels – taking the effort and initiative to deepen your travel experiences will elevate your entire trip. You’ll be shown more and you’ll leave with more gratitude and understanding. What do you do to get more out of your travels?

Advice Giving Back Journal North America Stories Trips

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

  When the word “travel” comes to mind – many of us think exploring, relaxing, or even cool content for the ‘Gram. Recently I had an opportunity to give travel a new meaning, helping others, and it changed my life in ways that I never imagined. I joined a three-day weekend with The Greatness Foundation and Baja Bound in Manaedero, Mexico to help build two homes for working poor families, visit local orphanages, and deliver supplies to a Migrant Camp.

  I learned the experience was like Adult Camp paired with helping others and thought, “Where do I sign up?”. The former Girl Scout in me was more excited for this type of travel than any vacation. Today I’m sharing life-changing experiences that may occur when traveling for the purpose of helping others.

1. Perspective

  We arrived to the neighborhood in Manaedero, Mexico and as we met the two families we were building homes for – I tried to process what my eyes were witnessing. Although I work for a non-profit, helping the homeless in the U.S., this was my first time ever witnessing this level of poverty. It was a beautiful sunny day with mountains nearby, but many families were living in a shacks made of tarp, scrap metal, and wood. There were dirt roads, famished dogs, and the home conditions were inconceivable. Most of the homes had no access to clean water, dirt floors, no bathrooms and barely had four walls. We were advised to not drink out of water bottles in front of the families so that they didn’t feel uncomfortable. Until seen firsthand, we can easily forget that majority of humans on earth live in these conditions. It gave me a new perspective of how extremely blessed we are to live in the U.S.

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

2. Unexpected Joy

  Unbeknownst, while building the homes we were able to get to know the neighbors. The absolute highlight of my trip was getting to know five playful and sweet sisters next door. While living a lifestyle we may not be able to imagine – they had constant smiles on their faces. On the first day while on the construction sight the oldest sister walk over to us. I noticed her look at my bracelet that I bought from a woman selling them down the street. I quickly realized that a $2 bracelet that meant nothing to me, was so desirable to them. I put a few on each of their wrists and loved seeing their faces light-up. This moment was an honor for me to bring dignity to the sisters and hopefully a reminder that they’re beautiful princesses.

  Each day we got to know each other more and I had fun teaching them English. They were proud to show me the inside of their home, which had conditions that would be considered extreme poverty in the U.S. It dawned on me that although we were seeing their home, they have never seen how we live and may not know that it’s different.  Lastly, I asked them in Spanish, “What do you think about Americans?” The oldest said, “They care about people”. I’ll never forget the time spent with the joyful five sisters and their simple yet quite rich lifestyle. 

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

3. Sense Of Community

  The morning of the first day fifty strangers gathered in a parking lot as we embarked on this life-changing journey. It was unique to be in a circle of people all with the same purpose that weekend – to help families in need. We assembled in a circle to introduce ourselves and shortly after caravanned from San Diego to Maneadero, Mexico.

  As we traveled in a van over the weekend, we were quick to share deep life experiences – travel, relationships, death, after-life, you name it. It was amazing to me that some volunteers traveled from all over the U.S. to spend their weekend helping the underpriveleged families. Quickly with traveling together, building the homes, sharing jokes, and singing songs, we became close-knit friends. I was shocked that I felt like I knew these humans for a lifetime and they felt the same.

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

4. Heart Expansion

  The light-hearted aspect of the trip is that the children of Manaedero, Mexico were extremely playful. Every day we were able to play, hug, and hang out with children. Unbeknownst to me, we had the chance to visit a local all girls orphanage. This orphanage was mostly girls whose parents aren’t able to care for them right now due to addiction but they’re also not up for adoption. I’ll never forget is when this beautiful little girl realized I was leaving and wouldn’t let me go. She clung to me for awhile and joked for the van to leave without me. My friends noted that I was “beaming” on this trip and I wouldn’t disagree.

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

5. Responsibility

  Reality slapped me in the face when we visited a Migrant Camp, which is basically families living in storage units in exchange for working on a farm. As I was delivering supplies to one of the units, I opened it, and inside was a 12-year-old boy. He seemed pretty jaded whereas the other children were playful. He allowed me into the tiny unit which was had a dirt floor with no bed. His parents work on the farm and he doesn’t attend school. I stood across from this weary boy and I realized there was nothing I could do to help him. I asked in Spanish what he wanted, and was shocked to hear him say “pistola” – a gun.

I felt horrible that night thinking about the boy and his family sleeping in the storage unit. I realized that life is a mere lottery and that they could’ve been born in my shoes, and I could have been born in theirs. Yeah, it was a rude awakening that there are hundreds of thousands of people that live in these conditions. 

   Witnessing the reality of people living in poverty is confirmation that we, the fortunate, are the ones responsible to help those who need it most. Poverty is a direct result of the fortunate not taking full responsibility in helping others. Responsibility is the biggest lesson that I learned over the weekend.

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your LifeHow Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

How Traveling for Philanthropy Will Change Your Life

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Advice Journal Solo Travel

Little Victories: How Solo Travel Gave Me Self Confidence

Little Victories: How Solo Travel Gave Me Self Confidence

In 2018, my overarching resolution was to be more brave. Rather than write out a list of often unyielding resolutions year after year, I instead choose an intention that’s malleable enough to account for life’s ever-changing nature. In my mind, being more brave could manifest in a variety of ways: speaking up at work, setting boundaries within my relationships with family members, and simply being more comfortable with the idea of taking up space in the world. Professionally, I consciously strive to present myself as a confident leader, but at my most natural core, I am slightly fearful of the unknown, and prefer the comfort of routine and my partner by my side.

However, I’ve been through it enough times to know that true growth is really ignited when we step outside our comfort zones, and so, I made one of my more concrete goals on my list of bravery to travel alone for my first time.

I had started seeing a lot online about female solo travel and felt inspired by these incredible images I’d see and stories I’d read from strangers on social media.

Thus, I dreamt big. I proposed to my husband that maybe we take a trip to Japan, and he could do this workshop he was interested in while I traveled around by myself. I’d take pictures, meet strangers, meditate, drink juice, exercise, journal, and fully embrace the solo travel lifestyle. And while my husband found it a little humorous that I’d never even eaten dinner at a restaurant by myself let alone venture into a foreign country on my own, I had his full support.

The year went on and life filled up as it often does, leaving very little room for my very big dreams. As Fall turned to Winter, I surprised even myself by making the bravest choice I could by quitting my job of 5 years, with loose plans to freelance as a social media strategist while simultaneously pursuing photography more seriously. It was a huge leap of faith that occupied most of my time and energy, and so, needless to say, solo travel was pushed further and further to the bottom of my to-do’s and I didn’t quite make it to Japan.

As this year started, I still couldn’t shake the urge to see what all the solo travel hype was about. With much more time, though much less income, I planned a trip to visit a friend in Santa Cruz, regularly only a half day’s drive from where I live in Los Angeles. I decided against the boring straight shot drive and chose instead to take the long way; I arranged to stop one night on the coast in Cambria, and then take the iconic Highway 1 winding up the coast through Big Sur and Monterey the next day. Two days spent driving alone with spotty cell service in unfamiliar terrain, just me and my podcasts. Yikes.

Admittedly, I knew it was a vastly far cry from the wild, weeks-long Bali adventures I had seen many women take online. But still, the night before I was meant to leave, suddenly my mini road trip felt mega daunting. Why take the long way? Why go alone? Why not just cancel altogether? It felt absurd to get in my car all by myself for absolutely no reason and just start driving. The more thought I gave it, I realized a lot of my concerns were fear-based, and most of my fear came from an expectation I put on myself based on the overwhelming message about female solo travel I was absorbing on the internet.

The message was clear: independent, audacious, successful women enjoy solo travel. Not only do they enjoy it, they seek it out because it fuels their creative fire. I wanted to be all of those things too – independent, audacious, and successful – but what if I don’t like it? What does that say about me?

I came up with a little mantra to relieve some of the pressure. “You don’t have to like it for it to be important.” Grammatically, I’m not sure it’s a slam dunk, but to me it meant that regardless of whether or not I enjoy it, it can still hold significance, and it’s important that I at least try. I would try it with an open mind, but I could forgive myself if I didn’t like it. In fact, I told myself that I didn’t even have to feel happy while doing it. I could simultaneously hate solo travel and be independent, audacious, and successful. My identity is not defined by comparing myself to what other women do, don’t do, like, or dislike. And so, I got in my car, and I drove. Two days spent driving alone with spotty cell service in unfamiliar terrain, just me and my mantra.

Spoiler alert: I ended up loving it.

A mentor once taught me to see the significance in small battles. Each little victory would build upon the last, softening the steep path on the mountain to success. Isolated, little victories can feel inconsequential, but compounded consistently over time, they can be highly impactful. So while I didn’t go to Bali, and I didn’t meditate, journal, exercise or drink juice, I did get a little more comfortable being alone. I asked locals for tips on photography, chatted with the front desk at my motel for dinner recs, and even ate at a restaurant alone.

My newfound confidence has started rolling over into other areas of life as well – such as writing and sharing this story publicly. And so even though “BRAVE” may have been my word of 2018, I’m proud to say it’s here to stay.

Journal Photography

We’re Changing Our Perspective: Introducing #DTBehindTheLens

Many years ago, Dame Traveler began as the first female travel community on Instagram. Our mission was simple – to spotlight the bold, badass women traveling the world. And, as years have gone by, we’ve realized that what we originally set out to do has become something of a cliche. A small, yet dreamy female figure staring off into the skyline in juxtaposition of the grand landscape that surrounds her. It’s a repeated image that we love dearly, but we’ve found ourselves struggling with. That’s why we’re shifting our perspective (physically and philosophically). Introducing our newest series #DTBehindTheLens.

We want to celebrate the women behind the lens just as much as the women in front of them. And even more importantly in terms of this new series, we want to showcase the photographic work and imagery created by these women!

The idea of #DTBehindTheLens came from our frustration of seeing hundreds of male photographers’ work being shared across social media… and only seeing a smattering of female photographers being shared. Sad, right? With the many women traversing the world and capturing its beauty, we want to highlight the work of female travel photographers out there. And that’s why we’re shifting our perspective and celebrating the women behind the lens too.

#DTBehindTheLens will celebrate the artistry of female travel photographers around the world. Our goal is to elevate the incredible craftsmanship of female image-creators traveling the globe. You’ll see incredible landscapes and the stories of women who captured the essence of their environment with artistry and intentionality. So, yes, you’ll still see our beloved Dame-Traveler-esque images with a woman in the frame, but you’ll also see epic landscapes captured by badass female photographers.

Let’s celebrate women’s work. Let’s spotlight their artistry. Let’s prove that beauty comes from so, so much more than the perfect dress and flowing hair. Let’s show the world through the lens of the women who explore it. Join us on this journey.

As we start this new series, we’d love to know the female travel photographers that inspire you. Let us know your favorites in a comment below. We’d love to share their work!

Journal

Wander Woman – Lost and Found

In a world where everything happens so fast, where there are so many voices shouting in my ears, there is nothing more important than developing the muscle needed to listen to the still, small voice within. The art of self-discovery is a muscle; the more you work it, the better it gets. That is why once every year, I allow myself to get uncharacteristically lost in a place I have never been before.

It was how this Wander Woman series came to be, actually. Little did I know, getting lost was the beginning of an incredible journey of finding myself.

I have travelled solo several times now and upon returning, I learned no one actually wants to see your souvenirs – they want to hear your stories. Especially the ones where everything went horrifically wrong (that time in Macao when I flagged a taxi, mistakenly gave the glowering driver the wrong address in my barely-there Cantonese, and almost missed the last ferry back to Hong Kong), somewhat dangerous (when I carelessly slipped, hit my chest against the bath tub, and proceeded to go rock climbing and zip lining the very next day in Yogyakarta), or hilariously gross (like seeing an elephant live-poop in Chiang Mai, whilst I was waist-deep in the same river).

Stories that matter are rarely perfect, neatly wrapped with a symmetrical, coiffed bow. They are usually a little bit messy and rough around the edges; the hallmark of a fully lived life (which, as we well know, is full of bumps and bobs, tosses and turns).

Three years ago, I learned to say Yes to things which challenged and (sometimes) scared me. Since then, I have found that introducing a shuffle in my surroundings every so often – like waking up in a new city and eavesdropping on conversations in a language I can barely comprehend – renews my will.

The constant challenge of simply being in a new place injected brio back to my busy and structured life. I revelled in the charm of the unfamiliar, like a toddler discovering the world around her for the first time.

Here’s the thing – the very discomfort we work so diligently to shield ourselves from when we are at home will ultimately become the experiences that transform our thinking, if we only choose to lean in and embrace the discomfort.

Pilar Guzmán puts it brilliantly,

“Consciously or not, what we travellers are seeking nearly every time we board a plane is the feeling of foreignness. We travel for the thrilling (and sometimes uncomfortable) disorientation of losing ourselves in a new culture where things look, taste, and sound different, and to understand ourselves freed from all of our familiar constructs.”

In a different country, on a different continent, surrounded by people who spoke and interacted differently than I did, I realised I was still just me and it was not a necessarily bad thing. I was still the girl who stayed up too late and laughed too loud at cheesy jokes, funny memes, and bad puns. I was still the girl who tried too hard and cared too much. I was still the girl who got too gleeful about unicorns, travel tales, and food-ventures. 

While sitting on a park bench during a particularly wintry evening in Budapest, I learned I still thought, valued, and believed all I had before. But now I knew, for certain, those principles are completely my own. I was not a product of my environment, although it had enabled me to know more of who I was.

Never would I have imagined that on my journey of bringing my childhood dreams to life, I would discover more of who I am.

T.S. Eliot wrote,

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

I had to go halfway around the world (5712 miles, to be exact) to get lost and find myself, and here I was – the same girl I was back home, only a little wiser, probably from having ventured so far beyond my comfort zone. As it turns out, I like that girl more than I thought I would.

Adventure is equal parts beautiful and terrifying, and you will know yourself better when you brave it. So, go out there. Get lost. And, find yourself. I promise, it is worth it.

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