Last month I had the privilege of writing a piece for Villa 88 Magazine (@villa88magazine) on some of my greatest travels and potential winter destinations I’d recommend and never got around to sharing! A 6 page spread which had me geeking out and in awe of how good it looked haha

A little about Villa 88, “conceived by leading businesswoman Asma Al Fahim, Villa 88 answers the demands of Emirati ladies for the highest quality inside information on the finest luxury fashion, jewellery, beauty and spa, home and travel in the Middle East and beyond. One of the region’s most exclusive lifestyle magazine, beautifully produced and hand-delivered to an elite target group, consisting of the Emirates’ most discerning and prominent women.” 

Super proud and honoured and can’t wait to get my hands on a hard copy so mama can see and feel proud too lolol you know how this story goes x magazine images below followed by the actual piece so you can have a read!

Enjoy! xx

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Vienna, Austria

Vienna during the holidays is just as magical and enchanting as it feels during the rest of the year. Truly a quintessential European feel to the city with beautiful architecture and culture around every corner, Vienna for me was slightly more elegant in nature than any other European city I’ve traveled to. It’s also very accessible on foot or by metro which makes life a little bit easier. Visiting the museum and National Library even just to see the gorgeous interiors is worth the visit; the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (Art History Museum) is home to the most beautiful café I have ever come across. St. Stephens Cathedral is open to the public and in the middle of the town square so you can’t miss it. Schonbrunn Palace was once the imperial summer residence and requires at least half a day to tour the beautiful grounds and envision what life for Empress Elizabeth must have looked like once upon a time. Don’t miss out on the stunning Karlskirche Church both during the day and evening for a mesmerising reflection which will leave you in awe!

Kigali, Rwanda

When most people think of Rwanda, the genocide of 1994 is what immediately comes to mind; questions of safety and how developed the infrastructure might be cloud your judgement and you end up dismissing it as a potential destination. Don’t be one of those people! Rwanda has been named the safest country in Africa and known for its breathtaking scenery. Often called ‘land of a thousand hills’, it stays true to its name. To best experience this for yourself, why not walk across the largest canopy walk in all of East Africa, 200 meters long and165 feet high over the lush greenery of Nyungwe Forest National Park; if you’re lucky you might even get a glimpse of the beautiful wildlife soaring between the trees. Scared of heights but love animals?! Gorilla trekking at Volcano National Park is most definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you can visit these beautiful animals in their natural habitat. Home to approximately 17 different groups of mountain gorillas, conservation efforts of the park are truly to be commended in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the gorillas. With tea being the largest export of Rwanda, a visit to Gisakura tea estate is a must. Learn about the history and process behind our nations favorite drink and help pick out the perfect leaf! Remember, 3-leaves is key!

Karachi, Pakistan

As my trip to Karachi was a short one, I wanted to experience as much of the country and culture as possible! From beautiful clothing, to trying fresh samosas on the side of the road, to riding camels on Clifton Beach, I have to say we did well! The food in Karachi was amazing but there’s definitely a risk of you getting ill if you eat from some of the roadside stalls – this is obviously something recurrent regardless of where you travel, but you have been forewarned! I got a bit of a stomach bug from eating anything and everything, but would do it all over again because it was THAT good! I recommend trying the Haleem (lamb and lentil stew), samosas, jalebi, paratha, tea; try it all and I promise you won’t regret it! For more of a sit down meal, Kolachi is the place to go; traditional Pakistani cuisine in an open air restaurant right by the beach is a perfect way to end any night.

Kathmandu, Nepal

Nepal was my very first solo-travel destination and a forever favorite. Perfect for backpackers, a group of friends wanting to do some trekking, or anyone interested in going off-the-beaten path. After being hit by an earthquake in 2015, many historical monuments and temples were destroyed and much of the city continues to be under reconstruction, however there is still so much to discover and experience from this country so rich in culture! Start off in Kathmandu, the capital city, for a taste of the hustle bustle on crowded streets amongst street vendors, cows, tourists, and the never ending honking of cars. Visit Patan Durbar Square where you’ll find the freshest (and best) samosas and fried cabbage fritters wrapped in newspaper. Swayambhu Temple and the Boudhanath Stupa are an uphill climb, but the view from up top is completely worth it. Views of the Himalayas and Everest can be seen from Nagarkot, and be sure to catch sunrise from the roof of Peaceful Cottage Hotel for the best view! No trip to Nepal would be complete without a 7hour bus ride through the winding hills, (on a dual-carriageway which should really only be a single road) to Pokhara which is usually the starting point for Everest base camp. Pokhara is much quieter and calmer than Kathmandu and is a great place to perhaps wind down near the end of your trip. Take a canoe ride on Lake Pewa, or paraglide over the Annapurna Valley, the choice is yours!

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul is ‘Seoul’ cool! The city had all my favorite things at once, street food, fashion, vintage clothing shops, endless Korean skincare, and cute socks, what more could you ask for?! The metro is extremely convenient and the ticket machines easily translate to English which is great! Culturally, the city boasts a little bit of something for everyone. Whether you want to stroll through the traditional houses of Bukchon Hanok Village, rent a Hanbok (Korean Traditional Dress) and step back in time at Gyeoungbokgung Palace marvelling at the intricate architecture and sternness of the palace guards, or stop by a food truck at Common Grounds as you watch a break-dancing show, there is always something new to experience. My absolute favorite is the Myeongdong district, best known for its shopping, nightlife, and food. Neon lights and shopfronts shine brightly bringing the street to life, the smell of various street delicacies wafting through the air. Octopus anyone?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • #noregrets
  • all you need is Mama and God.
  • buy the plane ticket my girl.
  • pray.
  • smile, its worth the wrinkles.
  • money isn’t the be-all-end-all. It’s a blessing which comes and goes. Be grateful for it but don’t let it ever define who you are as a person.
  • instagram is not always real life.
  • eat the cake.
  • don’t take life too seriously.
  • exfoliate before masking. Mask once a week.
  • don’t ever treat someone more than or less than because of who they are or what they have. [Smiles are the same, laughter is the same, pain and tears are the same. Whoever you are, wherever you are, wherever you will be. *from one of my fave children’s books ‘Whoever you are’ by Mem Fox.]
  • we plan and he plans.
  • cry. It’s all about balance.
  • look for the blessings. Always be on the hunt for god points.
  • listen to other people.
  • everyone knows something you don’t.
  • ask people if they’re okay. How their day was. Genuinely care about people other than yourself.
  • stay in touch with your friends. Its okay if they suck at it, you be the one who checks in every so often.
  • everyone has a story. Be kind.
  • spend time with children. Read childrens books.
  • believe people. Believe in people. Believe in the world. If they lie or are unfaithful that’s a reflection of them and has nothing to do with you.
  • comparison is the thief of joy.
  • men aint shit.
  • what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.
  • you’re not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay.
  • 6-packs and a pretty face sometimes have not so nice hearts.
  • step out of your comfort zone from time to time. It’s a good way to remind yourself you’re brave and can do anything you set your mind to. You are your own worst enemy sometimes.
  • always try to look at the good in everything and in everyone; everything happens for a reason and we cross paths with people for a reason. Nothing is a coincidence.
  • trust the process. It will all make sense in the end.

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Hola!

I wanted to share my most used apps whenever I’m abroad as they help make life a little easier when I’m on the go and you might find them useful too!

  1. Xe Currency

Easiest currency app I’ve found so far! You can load up to 10 different currencies at a time and can still use it without data; obviously it won’t be spot on without the data, rather with the most updated rate from when you were last connected, but definitely a close enough idea of what you’re spending!

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  1. Google Maps

Such a lifesaver sometimes! Pro-tip, download an offline map of whatever area you’ll be in (custom map) so you can still use the map without data; even if you do get a local sim, you won’t have to waste precious data on google maps because it’ll still work! I was skeptical of this at first, but you have my word it works lol

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  1. Uber

Uber is definitely my preferred option when you’ve got flights at random hours of the night and in some places people actually recommend you catch an uber versus a local taxi. The fact that its trackable and you can see the drivers rating beforehand gives me peace of mind, especially if I’m on my own. You also have an approximate idea of what the ride will cost and if your card is already connected to the app, no cash needs to be exchanged which is sometimes a safe thing!

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  1. Google Translate

I lowkey like the struggle of miming and hand signals to understand people lol but sometimes that doesn’t quite cut it lol this lets you speak English (or whatever language you speak) into your phone and you can choose what language you want it to be translated into. It’s not always 100% accurate and I personally feel like its more time consuming lol but it does work sometimes! There’s also a feature which let’s you hole the phone over signs for an instant translation which is kinda sorta cool!

Another communication tip would be using emojis to describe whatever you’re talking about (show someone a fish emoji if you’re looking to eat fish lol) as pictures/visuals to aid understanding tend to always work. Or screenshot a blank Instagram/snapchat page and use the pen to draw whatever you’re trying to get across lol this also works great for drawing directions! (I used this the other day to draw what nail shape I wanted at the salon lellllll)

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5. VSCO

Although this is a photo editing app, it’s honestly one of the easiest to work with while you’re on the go and need a quick edit or change the lighting etc. on a photo you want to post. I use this loads whether it’s on my stories or posts, and it’s a fave! If you’re waiting for food or have an 8 hour bus journey and can’t sleep, it allows you to ‘work’ on the go lol and not have to always wait to get behind a laptop to edit!

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Hola from Mexico!

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We’re en-route again, this time from a new part of the world which I haven’t ventured to yet and quite excited to experience. If you follow me on instagram you’ll know we just left Cancun a couple days ago and spent a day in Mexico City as we haven’t really got to our final destination..!

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My sister in-law is joining me this time around which is grand as we’ve traveled together before so know what to expect from each other (fact: you can’t travel with just anyone regardless of how close they are to you)

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We had decided beforehand that this wasn’t going to be a luxury, wine-and-dine trip, as we just wanted to experience the countries/cities ‘as-is’ without a hefty price tag and to kinda sorta prove to ourselves that you don’t need X amount of money to see the world.

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I know for a fact every time I’ve gone someplace, I get at least a handful of DMs asking how I fund my trips and what I do for work to afford travelling etc. and honestly friends, you can do it too! Not going to go into a long rant about how we all choose our own priorities in life and are conscious of decisions/life choices we make and the potential consequences and repercussions of those choices in the future etc etc etc., but yes, it’s completely realistic and reasonable to travel and experience the world without spending an arm an a leg if you don’t want to! Alhamdulillah I’m forever grateful for the travel opportunities I’ve got over the years with certain brands/charities/tourism boards, but I started off traveling solo to step out of my comfort zone and to try something new for myself, on my own dime, and still do, AND I’m the absolute worst with money, so if I can kinda sorta do it, I think you can too!

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Slightly gone off on a tangent, but yes, back to this trip.

We decided we would only stay in hostels as that’s the most economical option for us – you’ve also got couchsurfing and air-bnb options which are relatively less than hotels, but this worked for us (if it’s the first time you’re hearing about hostels or interested in more info, check out this blogpost here); we decided the most we would spend per night would be $20. This is still relatively ‘a lot’, but again, considering the type of room/location/reviews etc. it’s up to you what you’re okay compromising on. We’ve seen rooms at $5 a night but didn’t feel comfortable with the photos, so this just works for us; the range so far has been between $11-$18 which is in budget so yay!

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In terms of daily expenses, we’ve planned to stick to between $80-$100 USD per day for the both of us (altogether); so about $40-$50 each. This should cover food, transit, souvenirs?, and certain activities we might want to do. Granted, depending on the specific activity/tour etc. we’re willing to be flexible within reason, but obviously not a stupid amount if that makes sense..!

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We’ve been keeping track of our daily spendings and trying to stay within budget, so thought it would be great to share what and how we’re spending to kinda sorta show you that travel doesn’t always need to be super expensive. Promise my intention isn’t in any way to mock or normalize or flaunt the aforementioned budget-range because I know that’s not the case for a lot of people, but it’s one which works for us at this particular moment in time without going into debt for the sake of going on a trip.

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First up is Cancun and Mexico City. These actually worked out to be layovers en route to where we’re headed, and quite long ones at that. 19 hours in Cancun and 23 hours in Mexico City, so of course we wanted to take advantage and explore a little with whatever time we had.

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Make Up Shop Order Process Timeline Infographic

We were slightly over the 50 but under 60 in Cancun (blaming it on the excitement of it being ‘day1’ plus were super hungry after the trek hence the biggest expense being lunch lol but under is still under!) Mexico City made us both proud as we felt it was the day we did the most walking, most touristing, most eating, and still managed to be way under so yay!!

Apprehensive about the next couple days as I have a feeling we might give up on the budget and pull a yolo lol but we’ll see what happens!

 

 

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Earlier this summer we were in Vienna with the Vienna Tourist Board to learn more abut the city and experience why Vienna is a must-visit destination! We had a grand time with our lovely host Rebecca and discovered beautiful parts of the culture and history. In comparison to a few other cities I’ve visited in Europe, I have to say Vienna definitely stood out in terms of its cleanliness, culture, overall chilled out and calm atmosphere (people, streets, everyone was so relaxed), and friendliness!

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In 2019, Vienna was chosen to be the world’s number 1 most livable city for 10 consecutive years and is the leading destination in the Economist Intelligence Unit Livable Cities report.

Why?! Well Vienna has more green space than virtually any other capital city in Europe. It’s a place where visitors can enjoy both the city’s lifestyle and relax at the same time in parks and at waterfronts.

Sharing some tips and highlights of our trip which I’d recommend you visit if you’re ever in the city!

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Vienna City Card

We used our card a couple times and based on those times the metro itself is quite easy to navigate. Would recommend looking into the card if you’re visiting as it offers you full mobility throughout the city: buses and metro alongside discounts on museums, theaters, shopping, restaurants, and sightseeing tours. Accompanying children also travel free which is grand! Depending on how long you’re visiting for, you can get a card for 24h, 48h, or 72h, the price point staying under 30 Euros. You can also purchase your card online prior to your arrival which makes life a little easier!

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Grand Hotel Wien

This was home during our time in Vienna. An extremely central location within walking distance to town, the metro, and these great shawarma/doner (halal) joints right across the street.

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Grand Hotel Wien is internationally renowned for its exquisite hospitality and refined luxury. Incepted in 1870 and a longtime hub for Viennese high society and discerning international guests, the Grand Hotel Wien offers a superb range of luxury rooms and suites, unrivalled gourmet dining and world leading customer service. One of the finest luxury hotels in Vienna, the Grand always guarantees an experience to remember.

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Walking tour

 I don’t know which tour exactly we did, but there are definitely plenty to choose from via a quick google search. Almost always they are free or on a donation basis, they’re a great way to see the city on foot whilst learning about what you’re seeing, historical context etc.

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St. Stephens Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the symbol of Vienna and located center-ish in town; you can’t miss it! Construction of the church commenced in the 12th century and  today it’s known as one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria. Guided tour are available but you’re more than welcome to enter and have a look inside, take photos, walk around etc. A beautiful place to worship x

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 Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (Art History Museum)

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Alongside the most beautiful library I have ever been to, this is the most beautiful art museum I have ever been to! The Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) was built in 1891 near the Imperial Palace to house the extensive collections of the imperial family. With its vast array of eminent works and the largest Bruegel collection in the world, it is considered one of the most eminent museums in the world. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll remember the random lady approaching me on the metro asking if she could ‘paint me’?! This was our ‘studio’ lol and definitely an experience for the books! Not too sure how similar the final product looks to me lol but again, an experience! Was super err skeptical about following a stranger to get her supplies in the museum and being aware of my surroundings more so than taking pictures of interiors but trust me, unbelievably stunning! Also, café of dreams! The Café-Restaurant at the first floor of the museum is literally interior, café, photoshoot, everything goals! So much so I didn’t get ‘the shot’ lol but ugh, breathtaking!

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Prater

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Prater is the world’s oldest amusement park and a green park twice the size of Central Park New York. The Vienna Prater is entertaining and exciting, but can also be relaxing and quiet. One part of it contains charming attractions ranging from a nostalgic merry-go-round to an ultra modern roller coaster and Vienna’s landmark, the Giant Ferris Wheel. This part of Prater is the oldest amusement park in the world and celebrated its’ 250th birthday in 2016. In the other area, known as the “Green Prater,” you can find meadows to lie on, shady trees, and quiet paths for an ickle stroll. It was raining and quite chilly this day so we didn’t get a chance to walk around as much, but did take a ride on the Ferris Wheel which gave the most beautiful view of the entire city. Definitely kid friendly too!

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Palmenhaus 

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The Palmenhaus is a large greenhouse featuring plants from around the world. It’s the most prominent of the four greenhouses in Schönbrunn Palace Park, and among the largest botanical exhibits of its kind in the world, with around 4,500 plant species. It’s also the prettiest botanical bar/lounge/restaurant unlike any I’ve seen and a must visit! Besides the food being amazing, the interiors are to die for and a perfect backdrop for photos. Kitchen goals, dining room goals, everything goals!

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Swarovski Kristallwelten

Seeing as I had recently done a collaboration with Swarovski for their #NoRegrets Summer collection, the tourist board set up an organized tour of the Swarovski Kristallwelten store on Vienna’s upscale shopping street, Kärntner Straße which was super lovely of them to do, thank you! It was such an informative experience learning about the history behind the brand and I think my favorite part was seeing the beautiful tiaras which are designed each year by a new designer and then debuted at the annual Austrian ball (total Anastasia vibes even though she wasn’t Austrian but you get me!)

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The store has brought together sparkling shopping experiences and spectacular art installations for ten years which were gorgeous! Its glass cubes and the art space are “windows into a world of dreams” that have served as a prominent stage for over 50 installations by more than 20 artists to date, including renowned personalities such as Philip Treacy, Susanne Bisovsky, Jean Paul Gaultier, and currently by Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen.

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National Library

We were told this was of the most beautiful libraries in the world and jeez was it ever! Belle herself would be head over heels over the beauty of this place!  The impressive state hall of the library is almost 80 m long and 20 m high and crowned by a dome that is magnificently decorated with frescoes by the court painter Daniel Gran. More than 200,000 volumes are exhibited here, among them two exquisite Venetian baroque globes: one for the earth and one for the sky, each with a diameter of more than one meter.

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 Boat ride on Old Danube

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The contrast between the skyscraper skyline and the calm waters of the Old Danube is quite the sight. The Old Danube draws about 1 million visitors per year; surrounded by gardens, lawns, restaurants with terraces on the water, promenades with pedestrian and bicycle paths, the Old Danube is a hotspot for swimmers, sailors, rowers, and surfers. You can rent a boat and sail the river; the cutest houses ever along the bank bringing back Noddy vibes!

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Schonbrunn Palace

Based on my mediocre google searches, I wasn’t as excited about this palace as I should have been. The minute you enter the grounds, to seeing the vintage horse-and-carriage rides, to the unbelievable garden round the back, ugh, you’ve fallen in love x if you’re ever searching for someplace to take your wedding photos, this would be the place. Felt like something out of Alice and wonderland tbh, so enchantingly beautiful and lowkey makes you wish it was your grandparent’s summer house lol the palace itself was built around 300 years ago. It was the imperial summer residence and beautiful Empress Elisabeth, the legendary Sisi, spent her first years of marriage with Franz Josef there. Apart from the palace (which you can go into), the park on it own is definitely worth a visit. The palace and the romantic gardens form a unit and reflect each other, in accordance with the Baroque notion of the princely palace.

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Karlskirche Church

Karlskirche Church is a stunning baroque church located on the south side of Karlsplatz in Vienna, also walking distance from Hotel Wien. It’s considered to be the most outstanding baroque church in Vienna, as well as one of the city’s greatest buildings. Worth seeing both in the day and night for the stunning reflection you get in the pond across!

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and there we have it! Little pocket guide above for you to screenshot and keep in your phone as an easy go-to next time you’re in Vienna! Check out my highlights on instagram for more videos and visuals of the city and as always feel free to send a message or email if you’ve got any question/comments/concerns! love you miss you bye xoxo