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How To “Treat Yourself” While Exploring (Without Breaking The Bank)

How To “Treat Yourself” While Exploring Without Breaking The Bank

Travel is definitely one of the biggest “treat yourself” expenses out there. More and more people are spending their income on experiences over things – a statistic we love dearly! While on a trip of a lifetime, there are a lot of expenses that seem to pop up along the way. No matter what type of traveler you are, it’s important to invest in moments (and maybe even a thing or two) that bring you joy. Today, we’re sharing some simple ways you can treat yourself while exploring the world – without breaking the bank. 

Invest In Simple Memories 

Be it having a glass of wine on the riverfront of Porto, or a slow walk through the bamboo forests of Kyoto – investing in simple, important memories is the ultimate treat. Sometimes indulgence isn’t a new handbag, or a pair of shoes (although, those are really nice too!). Sometimes, investing in simple memories and truly making them special is the ultimate treat. When exploring, decide what memories you want to leave with. Take the time out of your itinerary to do them, but with a twist. That may mean splurging a little more on a fancy cafe to write in while in Paris, or buying a ticket to a special exhibition to see your favorite artist. But if you take the time to intentionally realize the things and memories you want to leave with – they’re worth it. 

Practice Self Care

We often forget that self care doesn’t stop once we’re on the road. And certainly you may not have the time or energy to take part in a bubble bath every night – but that’s not really what self care is all the time. Self care as a traveler is a treat to your well being. That can look like a variety of options – from taking an afternoon off from sightseeing for yourself, to buying a book to read in the park, or even going to the pharmacy for a cult-favorite beauty product. You can read more about our traveler self care methods here!

How To “Treat Yourself” While Exploring Without Breaking The Bank

Hunt For Thrifted Souvenirs

By all means, if you have the budget to splurge while on a shopping spree – go for it! Not all shopping needs to be expensive. One of my favorite souvenirs to collect are vintage, thrifted finds. They’re not only totally unique, but affordable! Seeing them scattered throughout my apartment brings me so much happiness and nostalgia. 

Really Consider What Makes You Feel Good

When it comes down to it, “treat yo’self” doesn’t come down to how much you spend – its the mindful practice of acknowledging the things that make you feel good. Consider your love language. Do you love physical gifts? Buy yourself a momento that’s special to your destination. Are you more of quality time fan? Spend some time just for yourself. Words of affirmation? Share your ins and outs on Instagram for friends and family at home. Every one’s different and every one’s ways of receiving/giving love (and treats) is unique. Be yourself, treat yourself. You deserve it.

How do you “treat yourself” while exploring the world? What has been the best thing you’ve treated yourself with (…besides an amazing trip)?

Interviews Travel Planning

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

We’re beyond excited to spotlight an interesting twist to your typical city guides found on the internet… created by none other than a fellow Dame Traveler! Virginia Duran is the author and founder of Architectour Guide, a series of city guides that have no photographs, only sketches. As an architect, she is passionate about urban planning, buildings and the unexpectedly beautiful stories behind them. Over the past ten years, she has visited more than 40 countries and created 35 guides – which can be downloaded for free on her blog

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Virginia, and I am an architect from Madrid, Spain. About three years ago I decided to give myself the opportunity to work full time on a crazy little dream of mine called Architectour and it’s been the best decision of my life. Every couple of years I relocate to write and illustrate a new city guide. I’m currently in London and my next project is New York.

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide
Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

Why do you travel? What do you seek each time you hop on a plane?

I’ve always been very passionate about travelling because it meant I could study in person the buildings I was researching. You can hear a thousand things about a place but it’s not until you visit in person that you can truly appreciate the details for yourself; and this is especially true with buildings. Every time I travel, I map the city’s architecture and this means I’m a bit biased towards destinations. My preference is to visit places with an interesting built history. My mission is to map the world’s architecture and traveling is the means to accurately do this with Architectour Guides.

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

What inspired you most about architecture? Were you always interested in it?

Buildings are everywhere. Humanity needs shelter to survive and we have more than 10,000 years of built history. Yet, we build based on profit and aesthetics. This fact has always fascinated me, since I was a child. Architecture, like Medicine, is a vital discipline to our well-being and what inspires me the most is the huge potential it has to cure, improve and give hope to people. When done right, buildings can have such a positive impact on its citizens. Next time you wander the streets of a delightful city, try to figure out why it feels so great.

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

What are some things you think most people do not know about architecture? Are there any misconceptions we should know about?

One funny thing about architecture and non architects is that everybody knows when a building is good, regardless of formal education on the subject. You might have an opinion on what it looks like (is it charming? Pretentious? Too modern?) but you definitely know whether it feels right or wrong to be in it, because you’ll choose to spend time around it or not. Why is Rome such a nice walkable city? Why is London Eye always packed despite being considered an ugly landmark? You might not know the technical details about it but you know for sure which places or buildings are great contributions to a city. People might not be aware about it but everybody has a little architect in them.

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide
Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

When and how did you fall in love with travel?

During my university years, I was very privileged to have studied in Madrid, Chicago, Rome and Shanghai. One day, as I was walking towards the Colosseum (Roma Tre’s faculty of architecture is just behind), when I realized that I was living and traveling simultaneously. “What is the definition of travel?” I thought to myself, “Are there multiple definitions?” At that point I realized that for me the concept was broadening up, I was able to see the city I was living in as both a place where I was living and  discovering every day too. And then I fell in love with traveling and seeing where we live as an exciting and stimulating new background.

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

Tell us more about your Google Map project!

While I was living in Chicago I created my first Google Map. It was meant to be private, for my friends and family when they visited. Somebody at a party said to me “Ah, you are Virginia of the Maps” and it didn’t stop there “Your maps could be better,” he added. I didn’t take it personally and I included photos, a description, opening times and exact location. The Google Map project continued growing with every city I visited, I also uploaded a PDF with that information to the blog so anyone could print it and sometimes it even featured addresses in English and the local language (in China this was so helpful). ​​​​​​​Thirty maps later and more than 100,000 downloads I decided to take the maps to the next level. A small community of travelers and me started figuring it out through my blog what could be done with these maps. Julius, a traveling app, was born and I was accepted with this idea in a startup school. Long story short, people who have a true passion for traveling prefer books over apps. And thus Architectour Guide came to life. The project became a successfully funded idea through Kickstarter on June 2017 and the first book of the collection, London, was published in January 2019. I’m very excited about the next Architectour Guides: New York and Paris.

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

As an artist, what sort of scenes, landscapes or architectural styles do you love the most to illustrate?

Imagine a chaotic city with that one skyscraper pinching the sky, their rooftop bar and stylish signature drinks. Sketching those stunning panoramic views with a cocktail and good company is a personal favourite. Here in London, I tend to bring my Moleskine for dinner as there’s always a nice skyline to draw from a new angle. Black and white is my favourite. 

All that said, my guilty pleasure is to draw churches. There’s something soothing in sketching classical façades of religious architecture – order, symmetry, predictability. I love it. 

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

Where have you traveled to thus far?

Europe, North America, South America, Africa and Asia have shown me some of their best rooftops, foods and people. I’ve enjoyed every second in Shanghai’s busy streets. Visited every Frank Lloyd Building in Chicago. And Illinois. I’ve marveled at Thailand’s natural landscapes, Chile’s highest mountains and breath-taking Norwegian fjords. Every time I discover a new city and country I open my eyes and ears and slowly listen to what these places have to tell me. Surprisingly, similarities appear and even the most remote places on the planet could learn from another on their antipodes. Hopefully, we’ll be able to transfer skills and knowledge from one place to another and use this traveling for making the best connections.

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

Where is your favorite place in the whole wide world?

Can I choose more than one? Is that cheating? Three places immediately come to mind with this question: The Signature Lounge at the Hancock Tower in Chicago, the side that overlooks the piano restaurant downstairs and Chicago’s best skyline views. The little courtyard of the ABC Museum of Illustration in Madrid, a superb refurbishment of an old beer factory by Aranguren and Gallegos. And last but not least, an inspiring building by Richard Rogers whose beauty can’t be appreciated by everyone: Lloyd’s Building.

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

What inspires you most when you travel?

Being able to see in person how people behave in their built environment is inspiring. Especially when people customize public spaces. Southbank Centre has recently opened a new area for the skaters that occupied their basement. At the beginning, they tried to kick them out. But it didn’t work. Fast forward more than a decade and a reputed architect was appointed to create the extended wonderful space where they can spend more time. When I travel, I seek these projects because they not only tell me everything about a city, they also teach me valuable lessons on what can be achieved. #Architectureandpeople is my thing. They heavily inspire what I’ve created for Architectour.

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

How has a life of travel changed you?

Traveling has taught me to listen more and talk less, in the broad sense of the word. I seek the stories of others, their opinion about places and the history of the city. My trips have changed the way I perceive myself too. My problems have shrunk by learning more about the struggles and aspirations of other people. This is very positive as I’ve learn to relativize my worries and always put things into context. On the other hand, travel gives me hope. By seeing with my own eyes how societies can be respectful, rebuilt and connected, I have become a lot more hopeful than what I used to be in the past.

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

What is your “hidden gem” you’d only want other Dame Travelers to know about?

I have many hidden gems in each Architectour map but I’ll share one of my favorite places in London with you: The Great Conservatory at Syon House. It was the first conservatory to be built of metal and glass in such a scale and it was completed in 1827. The architect, Charles Fowler, went on to construct great things after this successful and pioneering design such as the present Covent Garden (1830). If you can, visit it during a sunny day, the place is really special.

Meet The Woman Behind Architectour, An Illustrated Architecture City Guide

Thank you Virginia for sharing your story and your incredibly inspiring project! Be sure to follow Architectour Guide and Virginia on Instagram and Twitter to see her newest city guides when they go live!

Advice Instagrammer's Guides Travel Planning

This Instagram Hack Will Make Planning Your Next Trip Totally Easy

Instagram has released a small yet mighty update to its platform that is perfect for travelers looking for the best hidden gems around the world. As we’ve written before, Instagram is our favorite itinerary planning tool. Today, I’m sharing the Instagram hack that will make planning your next trip totally easy. Let’s go!

Saved Locations

When a tagged location is shared on Instagram, clicking the link will take you to a page filled with other shared photos from that same place. I love skimming through image after image, finding inspiration in every snap! Should I happen to find a unique twist or vantage point, I’ll save that photo into my “saved” section (which looks like a little flag or book mark on the right side). Previously, this was as good as it got! But not anymore.

Now you can directly click the linked location. Why is this such a win? Well, these links will directly take you to your favorite mapping application. (I happen to love Google Maps to save locations and sights when I’m adventuring.) This is probably the greatest Instagram hack because it makes planning an absolute breeze. Simply click a location link, open your map, save the location. Boom. There you go!

This Instagram Hack Will Make Planning Your Next Trip Totally Easy
This Instagram Hack Will Make Planning Your Next Trip Totally Easy
This Instagram Hack Will Make Planning Your Next Trip Totally Easy
This Instagram Hack Will Make Planning Your Next Trip Totally Easy

Now, I can directly save that cool cafe or unique perspective of a famous sight onto my maps… making my experience ten times more personalized and picturesque! I love seeing the saved locations pop up as I’m meandering through a new city. There’s nothing better than having your must-see sights, restaurants and more at your fingertips!

Instagram has completely changed the way we plan and experience our travels! Whats your go-to Instagram hack other travelers will love?

Advice Insider Tips Travel Planning

9 Foolproof Ways To Save Money While Exploring Europe

As a budget-conscious traveler, I’m always hunting for ways to save money while exploring. While Europe is a constant adventurer’s delight, there’s no denying that expenses really pile up while soaking it all in. That being said, there are some easy tricks to help alleviate costs without missing out on the best of Europe’s delights! Here are 9 foolproof ways to save money while exploring Europe.

Cook In Now & Then

Living slow is one of the most delicious things about the European lifestyle. Kick back, breathe, soak in the good stuff – because the best things in life are moments of pure simplicity. A great way to save some pennies while in Europe is deciding to cook in now and then. Certainly don’t miss out on the restaurants and cafes (I would NEVER dare to stop you from delicious eateries)… but that being said, it’s a nice change of pace to collect ingredients and make a meal of your own. You’ll save on expenses and feed the soul (and stomach)! 

“Invest” In Public Transport

Research public transportation options wherever you’re departing to. You’ll save major cash if you buy prepaid metro cards in major cities instead of opting for ride sharing options. Many times, cities offer a “max” amount you can spend on in 24 hours… meaning you’re expenses are capped at a certain point – saving you money for longer trips! 

Indulge Mindfully

Of course, saving money doesn’t always come down to saying no! When shopping, indulge mindfully. Always practice the art of asking yourself “do I love this, will I love this in 20 years?” Meaning, being hyper aware of your love, passion and interests results in spending on things that really, really matter to you. Should you find a unique gift you know you’ll treasure for life – go for it! If you don’t have a resounding desire to have it, say no to whatever it is. 

Research Lunch Deals

Do a quick Google search for best lunch deals for your destination. You’ll find a lot of amazing restaurants offer a discounted midday meal, giving you a sample of their best dishes at a cheaper rate.

Find Alternative Housing Options

Always look into the various housing options available for travelers! We assume that hostels are the cheapest housing, but that may not always be the case (especially if you’re traveling with a friend). 

Choose Destinations With Free Admissions & Activities

Love art and culture? Research destinations with free admission to museums and galleries. Music lover? Look into destinations with music festivals throughout the year. When planning your trip, take some extra time to find free or cheap activities that align with your passions! You’ll be saving a ton of money if you decide to explore regions that offer discounted rates, and you’ll be feeding your soul at the same time.

Use The Local Grocer For Wine, Beer & Spirits

Wine for 2 Euros? Yeah, count me in. Using the local grocer to stock up on pre-gaming/aperitivo is a great way to cut costs. Alcohol really adds up on a bill, so only needing to order one (or none!) during a meal is a great alternative for save money while exploring Europe

What are some ways you’ve pinched pennies while exploring destinations – specifically in Europe?

Advice Outdoors Travel Health & Wellness Travel Planning

9 Dreamy Destinations For Forest Bathing

Have you heard about forest bathing? The Japanese tradition of “shinrin-yoku” is a mindful practice of feeling a sense of peace while in nature. Forest bathing is a soothing practice to feel our connection to the earth and ourselves, simply from the act of a slow walk in the woods. 

Sound dreamy? This restorative, simple tradition for the soul has boasted many wellness benefits – from improving mood, energy, focus and immune functioning and reducing stress and blood pressure. 

As forest bathing grows in popularity, it’s important to remember that any green space is an excellent setting to practice this tradition. But, for the dreamers out there, we’ve curated a list of some of our favorite worldwide destinations we’d love to practice shinrin-yoku. Here are 9 dreamy destinations for forest bathing from around the globe.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Japan

The western district of Kyoto’s dense bamboo forests house many zen Buddhist temples in their quarters. Sound like a dream? That’s because it pretty much is. The sunlight trickles through the long, stemmed bamboo trees and the sound of the clinking woods as the wind flows is otherworldly. Be sure to come early in the morning to find some peace and solitude. 

Black Forest, Germany

The mystery and intrigue of the Black Forest is reason enough to book a trip to Germany – but adding the element of forest bathing is a perfect excuse to wander through the beloved, baffling forest.

Humbolt Redwoods State Park, California

The great, giant Redwoods would make any person feel small – but there’s a real sense of peacefulness that comes from dwelling in their presence. Sometimes, all you need is some perspective to realize just how metaphorically and physically small your problems are. 

Olympic National Park, Washington

The tall fir trees that dot Olympic National Park tower over forest bathers basking in the dappled light from above. Washington’s only temperate rainforest is home to some incredible greenery – from ferns, moss, spruces, maples, and lots of moisture from its many inches of rain it collects. 

The Highlands, Scotland

The mountains and pine forests of Scotland’s wild Highlands are a mysterious landscape, perfect for mindful practice. 

Crooked Forest, Poland

Poland’s Krzywy Las forest is a mystery. No one really knows the real reason behind the curvy trunks of the trees. No matter what caused their strange growth patterns, the Crooked Forest is unlike any forest in the world. Find yourself exploring the strange phenomenon and be transformed by its oddity. 

Na Pali Coast State Park, Hawaii

The clifftop trails of Na Pali Coast State Park are the perfect place for island goers to escape to. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee 

The 816 square miles of trees and rivers, rolling fields and dense forests that encompass the Great Smoky Mountains are a delight for hikers and forest bathers alike. A morning walk within the national park will reveal incredible wildlife and peace of mind.

Giant Forest Sequoia National Park, California

Named after John Muir, Giant Forest in California has the largest collection of enormous sequoia trees in the world. To walk through them is like a homage to the epic beauty of this world. Travelers who take part in forest bathing here should not miss the General Sherman, the largest living being on earth by volume. 

Where do you dream of taking part in forest bathing? What are some of the most beautiful forests you’ve walked through?