Tell us a little bit about yourself and what Dame Traveler is?
I was born and raised by a Chaldean family in Michigan, moved to Chicago when I was 21 and am currently based in New York City.
I graduated from nursing school back in 2013 and suffered from a severe work related injury while I was working as a Labor and Delivery nurse. I fell into bed rest for 6 months and started Dame Traveler as a hobby and it distracted me from the pain. The idea quickly became super popular, especially on Instagram. Since I was on bed rest, I had all the time in the world and took advantage of the time to teach myself how to build a blog and community and later learned how to monetize the brand until I turned it into the business that it is today. It’s still quite surreal to me but when I first started the blog, I had a good feeling that it would turn into something big and inspiring. It makes me happy to know that Dame Traveler is the first women’s travel community on Instagram and that I’ve created a space for so many to connect with and inspire one another.
What are some pros and cons of having such a huge following?
While the pros outweigh the cons, there are definitely downsides. It's tough to distinguish who genuinely wants to be friends between who just wants to be featured / gain connections and exposure. This can be a bit exhausting because I am a giver and I value authenticity above all else. Instagram has also become sort of a popularity contest amongst the "influencers". I've chosen to stay out of it and I focus on my own thing while working hard to produce authentic, high quality content for my brand. Popularity isn't what's important to me- making a powerful impact is.
On the bright side: having a large following has opened doors and opportunities for me that I never even dreamed of before I started. Granted, it hasn't come without tons of hard work but it has been worth it to share these experiences with the people that I love and to inspire others to do more than just settle for an ordinary life.
Through my eagerness to push boundaries, I've also inspired many females from my strict Middle Eastern community back home in Michigan to find the courage to follow their dreams, despite criticism.
How much time do you spend behind the scenes planning, preparing for Dametraveler?
I honestly don't have a great answer for this question because I literally live and breathe Dame Traveler, lol. It's actually something on working on because I’ve realized that I spend 99% of my time on this business and my body has been telling me that I need to slow down and balance life. However, I'm a huge believer in hard work and persistence. I gain more satisfaction as a result of hard work over things just being handed to me.
Who has been your most influential dametraveler so far and why?
Emily of @helloemilie. She's one of the few popular Instagrammers that has stayed grounded, humble and continues to inspire through her timeless and tasteful work. I also love Jamie Beck of @annstreetstudio. Her work is so beautiful and romantic to the point where it almost brings me to tears!
What captivates your attention most about a travel brand/photo?
There are over 2 million photos under the #dametraveler hashtag so it's quite tough to sift through all of the content and I've been noticing that many of the travel photos out there are starting to look the same so I'm always looking for a creative spin.
I'm now focusing more on authentic and intimate moments via the #dametravelerconnection hashtag.
How do you curate what is posted on DameTraveler and what advice would you give to someone on the importance of brand curation?
You can learn more about what I look for by visiting our #dametraveler features page here.
High image quality is very important. I also pay close attention to what the gallery looks like since this is essentially the first impression when a potential follower finds your page.
Social media has changed the way people view traveling, and sometimes they forget to experience it because they are so caught up on documenting. What advice would you give to someone who's about to travel in hopes of being reposted?
Quality over quantity. Of course it's hard to resist taking photos of every inch of a beautiful and new place but one of my favorite phrases is "remember to remember" to take a moment to pause and take in the present moment through gratitude.
How can people connect with you?
My personal Instagram over at @nastasiaspassport