Once in a blue moon you meet someone you instantly click with and wonder if you were separated at birth. Nastasia Yakoub is one of those people for me. I photographed her for Quest for Beauty in Brooklyn a few weeks back and felt like she could easily be my twin sister: beside being both very petite with very long hair we share the same love for travel, the same mission of empowering women all over the world and the same obsession with Anthony Bourdain’s shows!
Positive energy radiates all through her and her beautiful smile and genuine kindness are rare things to come across these days. She’s a truthful example of real Beauty.
Nastasia is the founder of Dame Traveler a women travel blog and incredibly successful Instagram account meant to inspire girls all over the planet to travel more and experience life at its fullest. She grew up in Michigan in a strict yet loving Middle Eastern catholic family. Instead of taking the commonly traveled road to arranged marriage many people in her culture choose, she instead decided to move to Chicago on her own and enrolled in nursing school. She didn’t know anyone there, she knew it was going to be very hard, yet she also knew she had to follow her heart and just go. She fell in love with the city and after she took her first trip to Ireland the wanderlust gene in her was triggered!
A few years down the road unfortunately a back injury forced her to spend almost a whole year in bed. But instead of giving in to depression Nastasia used her passion for travel and her burning desire to explore and see the world for good and created Dame Traveler, turning it into her life’s work and pioneering a female travel centered community. More than 20 countries later, the rest is history!
What is Beauty?
Simplicity is beauty. Love is beauty. Inspiration and light is beauty. Diversity is beauty. Passionate old souls are beautiful. The list goes on and on but I can assure you, the last place you will find genuine beauty is in a fashion magazine. Beauty manifests itself in so many forms but it shines the brightest when one genuinely opens their heart to the world and its people.
What’s the most beautiful thing in the world to you?
Genuine kindness. I’m a people watcher and am alone a lot so whenever I’m waiting or walking around, I observe people’s emotions and interactions with one another. People are most beautiful when they give a little piece of themselves to the world through something as simple as a smile.
What makes a woman beautiful?
It’s all in how a woman carries herself. In the way she treats others, in the way she loves, her passions, her hopes, her dreams. You become beautiful the moment you decide to be unapologetically yourself.
What makes a woman unbeautiful?
Ironic but all of the “stuff” that women think they need to accumulate (beauty products, expensive designer clothes, plastic surgery, etc.) is really working against what it’s supposed to do. In fact, the more we accumulate and buy, the more “unbeautiful” we become because the focus is on the pressure to be like everyone else, hence robbing ourselves of the very essence of who we are. Define your own self, don’t allow anyone else to define who you are. Less is more.
Do you feel beautiful?
I do. There are days when I don’t, just like everyone else but I remind myself of all the things that I should be grateful for and that helps me gain perspective. I had major back surgery when I was 12 resulting in a giant scar and protrusion on the left side of my back. I used to hate it and felt hideous. It still bothers me sometimes but I’ve learned to embrace it for the most part. I look at it as a symbol of resilience and strength. I’ve endured pain but I’ve also overcome it.
What is the most beautiful place you’ve visited?
Santorini. It’s like heaven on earth. The pastel blue church tops, powder pink doors, white buildings and crystal blue water against the most stunning sunset you’ll ever see. Santorini is purity and effortlessly beautiful. Not to mention how beautiful the people are. A destination makes a lasting impression to me when the culture is warm and the Greek people are full of life, love, laughter and warmth.7. Why do you love to travel? What’s most beautiful side of travel?
I believe that the more people travel, the more connected the world becomes. Travel allows you to drop your society defined identity and you just become one with the culture in the places you visit. You become an observer but if you go deeper and connect with the locals, you become one.
What was one of the most beautiful moments you’ve lived on a trip?
I visited Cuba and got severely sick with food poisoning and since I was traveling alone with a tour company, I didn’t have anyone in the hotel room with me while I was sick. The next day, the tour guides heard the news that I was ill and that I couldn’t join the group on the adventures for the day. One of the tour guides thought it would be a good idea to take me to a local home where I met the beautiful Maira. She immediately saw how sick I was and took me into her home, comforted me and prepared soup and tea. She treated me as if I was her own daughter and although there was a language barrier, we immediately became family. I’ll never forget her genuine kindness and concern for a stranger that she had never even met before. This is a perfect example of what beauty is to me.
Anything beautiful you are working on right now?
I’d like to take Dame Traveler to the next level in digging deeper and discovering just what it is that sparks the desire to travel in the courageous woman of my female travel community. I want to celebrate these woman and all of the beautiful women of this world.
Any advice advice for girls that would like to travel more but are scared of it?
Fear is a waste of life. If something bad is going to happen, it’ll happen whether you’re in the comfort of your own neighborhood or across the globe. You’ll find that once you drop your fears and go out into the world, people are incredibly kind and they care. Start small and work your way up to that far away adventure you’ve been dreaming of. Once you take the leap, there will be no stopping you from there.