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Advice Travel Planning What to Pack

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 Travel Planning

Themed Itineraries – A New Twist On Planning Your Ultimate Vacation

We all have passions. From art to reading, stargazing to mountain climbing, movie-going to photography, working out to cooking… there are so many interests a woman can have! And, of course, we all have our absolute favorite movies, books and artists. But have you ever considered centering your adventures around the hobbies and stories you love? Say hello to themed itineraries – the new twist on planning your next trip!

Why Plan A Themed Trip

Simply put – because your interests worth investing in. Our passions, side projects, and off beat curiosities aren’t meant to be stowed away or kept seperate from the lives we lead out there in the world. Dig deep!

Not only will basing your itinerary around something you truly love add so much more meaning to your trip, but it also will propel you forward once you’re home again.

​​​​​​​Plus – How many artists can say that they’ve seen Van Gogh’s gardens first hand? How many writers can say that they’ve explored their novel’s setting in real life to get the true details of a place? How many tea lovers can say that they truly understand the process of sourcing tea leaves in the fields of Vietnam or Japan? You get what we’re saying. Deep memories and intimate experiences with your passions makes you push further into your dreams and passions.

Theme Inspiration

Stumped on how to create a theme for your trip? We’ve got you covered. First, stay true to you! What do you love to do as a hobby? Are you a yoga fanatic, a lover of a book/movie series or novice photographer? Dig into your curiosities. Is there an artist you admire? Why not visit their home country or tour their home? All it takes is an open mind and a willingness to embrace all the quirks and passions you hold dear!

Here are some of our favorite themed itinerary ideas:

  • Ancestry Trip – Visit your ancestors’ towns and retrace their steps
  • Harry Potter Trip / Lord Of The Rings Trip / Game Of Thrones Trip – Explore the filming locations of your favorite fantasy novel (like Scotland, England, New Zealand, Croatia, and more)
  • Coffee / Tea / Whiskey / Beer Lovers Trip – We all have a drink of choice. Why not really learn the ins and outs of the process of making it? Research the best cities in the world to try coffee, or tour a country’s best and brightest breweries, wineries and distilleries.
  • Movie Inspired Trip – Got a favorite movie? Go see its setting in person!
  • Writers Retreat – Take the time to really dig deep into your love for writing while exploring a really peaceful place… or choose to explore a country in the aims of experiencing your novel’s setting first-hand!
  • Photography Workshop – Invest in your love for photos and your up your photography game (… we host these by the way!)
  • Pasta / Pizza / Ramen / Sushi / Your Fave Food Trip – Really embrace your love for your favorite food by attempting to find its absolute best… or learn how to make it yourself by the masters!
  • Van Gogh Trip (or another favorite artist) -Research your favorite artists home country, visit their museums (like Rembrandt’s home in Amsterdam or Van Gogh’s gardens in Arles) or see their masterpieces in person.
  • Yoga / Meditation Retreat – Get your zen on while exploring a new part of the world. There are so many amazing yoga retreats out there! Meet other yogis in an incredible setting.

Have you ever planned a themed itinerary or include specific days of your adventures around a topic, hobby or story? We’d love to know what you did!

Advice Insider Tips Travel Planning

How To Plan Your Travels Around Your Passions

When it comes to planning a trip of a lifetime, it can be overwhelming to make decisions on your itinerary. We’re given lists upon lists of “must do” activities, iconic sights and bucket list items galore. It’s exciting, it’s enthralling, but it’s important to also make travel planning decisions based on you! Thinking outside the box is a key aspect of curating the absolute perfect trip. Here are some awesome passions to plan your travels around!

The Foodie Trip Of A Lifetime

Booking a trip centered around food? Yeah, we’d jump at the chance! If you’re a true foodie, do your research! Italy, France, Japan, India! There are a TON of amazing destinations centered around your taste buds. Say hello to cultural delicacies and newfound flavors. Embrace your love of food and book accordingly.

The Literature Loving Babe’s Dream Location

Have you ever completely lost yourself in a book? Who hasn’t, right? If you’re a literature loving Dame Traveler, follow your passion. Choose a setting of your favorite novel and explore it with your own two feet. Walk through Hemingway’s Paris, see J.K. Rowling’s United Kingdom, or experience you’re own version of Eat Pray Love. The added context of learning the setting of your favorite novel is such a joy.

The Artist & The Muse’s Metropolis

Art lovers – the selection of destinations available are seemingly limitless. Seeing the great masterpieces of the world with your own eyes is a trip of a lifetime. Visit Provence through Van Gogh’s eyes, visit the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel, peruse through Rodin’s gardens. Dream every artist’s dream while trekking the same trails as they did.

The History Buff’s Dream

Should you be a Francophile, Japanophile, Nordo-phile (did I just make that up?), plan a trip to relive a part of history you are enthralled with. For the history buff, travel planning starts with a simple skim through your books. Ancient Greece beckons! Our beginnings in Mesopotamian are calling! Vikings await! All it takes is a passport, some research and a little decision making.

The Athletic, Outdoorsy Destination

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or even obsessed with a certain sport, planning a trip around your active passion is a great idea! Yogis will love a trip to Bali, scuba diving enthusiasts will love a dip in Thailand’s wild oceans, and soccer lovers will love being in Europe during the World Cup. When it comes time to trip planning, focusing on the activities that make your heart (and body) happy is a great idea!

The True Relaxation Trip

How many times have we all said, “I just can’t wait to relax?” and yet we still find ourselves stressed for time and energy on vacation? Making relaxation your number one priority when it’s time to plan your travels, is difficult! After all, we always wants to do it all and see it all! Remember, if your peace of mind is requiring some R&R… maybe you should prioritize relaxation over sightseeing on your next adventure. Doesn’t a mindfulness retreat in upstate New York or a beachside home with no plans sound so dreamy?

The Fashionista’s Dream Come True

Fashion-loving gals, maybe it’s time to do some trip planning around your love of clothing, couture or icons! After all, every fashionista dreams of having her own Carrie Bradshaw’s Manhattan or Audrey Hepburn’s Paris. Embracing your love of clothing is a creative way to plan your itinerary. And don’t forget ladies, get your Pinterest ready. Packing for a trip like this is half the fun!

The Nature Loving Location

Connecting with nature is life changing. City living Dame Travelers who crave some Vitamin C and some time away from the hustle and bustle of city life will love planning a trip around the beauty of nature. Book a lake house disconnected from wifi or a trip to a national park!


Wherever your passions lie, remember that are fantastical, creative outlets for you to plan your travels around what you really and truly love. It’s important to remember that your enthusiasm for whatever you love is worthy of your attention! Say yes to itineraries that focus on what you feel drawn to and are inspired by.

Have you ever done any trip planning centered around your passions? What did you do? 

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How To Plan Your Travels Around Your Passions
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