Today I turn a year older, a year wiser, and a year more curious and excited for life. I thought that today would be the perfect time to pull back the curtain and tell you all a little more about my own story and how Dame Traveler came to be. Here goes!
My story, like so many others, begins with a childlike wonder and a quiet curiosity for this world.
Growing up in the safe confines of Michigan suburbia, I knew what my family’s expectations were for me – marriage and children. These presumptions of what a woman “should” be never felt right to me, even at an early age, I knew deep down in my heart that I needed to live first. Yet, truthfully, for a while, I aimed to please out of fear. Despite my heart’s resistance to this cookie cutter future planned for me, I strove to exemplify all that my Chaldean immigrant parents dreamed for me. You see, my family’s ancestry stems from the conservative Iraqi lands. My parents, immigrants who came to America seeking asylum from religious persecution in the Middle East, had it within their hearts that my sister and I would have the opportunity to be gentle women, becoming wives and raising a family at an early age.
These high-held, strict expectations set upon me (and the women surrounding me) felt confining, restrictive. I had deeper desires in my heart of hearts – growth, strength, resiliency, ambition, courageousness. Abandoning the restrictive familial structure surrounding me in my young adulthood was a huge leap of faith. But I knew deep down it was the only option for me.
I left behind all that I knew and started a new life in Chicago. Bright and beaming, I entered a new chapter, educated and tenaciously passionate for caring for others. After graduating nursing school, I entered my dream job on the floor of a the Labor & Delivery unit. For a while, it seemed like everything in my life had beautifully fallen into place. I had made progressive decisions of my own, taken the direction of my life into my own hands, earned recognition and professional opportunities in nursing I had only dreamed about before.
But God had other plans. Nine months into working, I suffered from a severe work-related injury that resulted in me being bedridden for six months. So there I was… stuck, depressed, in the midst of an identity crisis during one of the worst winters Chicago has ever witnessed. What was it that I longed to do now that my dreams were dashed aside? Who did I want to be? Where would I go? These questions haunted me during those dull days in bed.
It was during this down-time that I kept catching myself dreaming of far away places. I would spend hours scrolling Instagram’s various travel accounts, seeking a bit of an getaway from my homebound prison. Instagram quickly became my favorite escape because it was the combination of two of my favorite things: photography and travel. It was during those hours exploring other photographer’s snapshots that I was able to briefly live vicariously through their connections with the world. And so I began to pursue my true passion for travel and for empowering women.
During my hours adoring travel photos on social media, I began to realize a gaping hole in the travel space – women’s stories. I began to notice the insane amount of female-based communities in the online space, from makeup to #ootd and everything in between… but no space that celebrated the beautiful and courageous stories of female travelers. And so Dame Traveler came to be… the first female travel community on Instagram.
Now, Dame Traveler is more than an Instagram account filled dream-inducing pictures of women gazing off in far-off places. We are more than a hashtag categorizing women’s travels. Dame Traveler’s mission is to create a movement that inspires and empowers women to travel more, experience more and be more.
From backpackers in Peru, to artists in Berlin, to storytellers in Morocco, we believe in celebrating the diversity and bravery of women from around the world who are not afraid to think (and live) outside of the box. Dame Travelers exemplify the spirit of true adventurers while stumping assumptions that the world is unsafe and unfit for solo female travel. Our curated collection of stories from the road and illustrative, empowering photography allows any woman to travel the world with every snapshot shared. Our mission is not to portray an unimaginable fantasy, but to tell real life stories of female travelers who made their dreams a reality and the tales they’ve collected along the way.
We believe in the incredible power that travel lends to those who experience it. Dame Traveler’s mission is to inspire, but it is also to encourage and embolden the women who follow us. We believe in the women who dare to dream. It is the women who leap into the possibilities of life that lead lives well-lived.
Dame Traveler is yours. It’s your place, it’s your community. It’s your platform to share your stories and lessons learned. Dame Traveler is your hub for inspiration.
A Dame Traveler is any woman who aspires to be and do and see and learn from this world. You.