Inspiring Women to Travel More, Do More and Be More: The Story of Dame Traveler Creator, Nastasia Wong

Written By Kaitlyn Showalter

Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Roma 

Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Roma 

 One of our favorite things here at Travel Italian Style is being able to inspire other travelers through our stories, adventures, and snapshots. When we are able to cross paths with other travelers who hope to inspire others in the same ways, it’s simply magical.

Allow me to introduce you to one of those enchanting people—Nastasia Wong.

Known to you as Dame TravelerLove Letter to Italy and Nastasia Passport, Nastasia is an inspiring soul. Her dream is to give travel a meaning, a story that brings hope and drive to other women around the world. 

Having already visited over 40 countries, she has learned that with each destination, her mind would expand and become more open to the experiences and adventures that were awaiting her.

What we love about Nastasia is even after traveling worldwide, Italy is still her favorite destination. Which is why, naturally, our CEO, Cassandra and Nastasia have connected. 

 Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Nastasia on the road from atrani to amalfi with friends 

 Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Nastasia on the road from atrani to amalfi with friends 

However, Italy was not her first destination. Her wanderlust started unplanned and it was her husband, Johnny, who introduced her to travel. He immediately showed her all the amazing possibilities that lie within the world.

"I discovered my love for travel when I met my now husband, Johnny. He took me on my first international trip to Dublin as a surprise after I revealed on our first date that I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland."

Johnny's surprise has now left Nastasia with a wanderlust soul forever. Just a few years later, Nastasia and Johnny would travel internationally once more, this time for their wedding on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. 

Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Amalfi Coast 

Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Amalfi Coast 

To an industry outsider,  a career in travel always seems straightforward.  For Natasia, and many others, it was heartbreak that morphed her into the person she is today.

When she was 12 years old Nastasia was diagnosed with an 80-degree Scoliosis curvature and was in desperate need of a spinal fusion. However, her real turning point came much later in her life.

After 4 years of challenging nursing school, studying, and taking her boards, she ultimately found a job as a Labor & Delivery nurse in Chicago.

Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Amalfi Italy

Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Amalfi Italy

While in an emergency C-Section surgery, she injured her already fragile back, stopping her from her newfound career for a nine-month bed rest. Unfortunately, her injury permanently ended her nursing career.

Her life was in shambles because she had worked so hard to get to that point in hercareer, only to discover that she had to find a new path.

With this injury, Nastasia found a blessing in disguise. She discovered her real passion emerged in finding the beauty that the world has to offer and inspiring women all over the world to feel empowered through her experiences.

"It wasn’t a specific a travel experience that inspired me to make travel my career in life, but more so a life experience."

While on bed rest, she realized that there was a real lack of female travel communities, so she decided to create one using her skills to blog and develop her own website. This is now the blog we know today as Dame Traveler!



After learning to start over again, Nastasia knew she could inspire others. And what better way to do that than through beautiful photos and writing?

She realized that what started as a simple way to focus on the outside world during a tough period in her life, turned into a way documenting her own trips and dreams to build a career. Now, she is also helping to shape other women's lives by inspiring them to travel!

While it is not always easy, she is grateful for everyday and loves the ability to see unforgettable sights, document her journey through photography, and then inspire others through her words. It is especially rewarding to see the following and love that others in the community share with the Dame Traveler platforms.

Dame Traveler Feature | Photo courtsey of @sara.bez | Puglia 

Dame Traveler Feature | Photo courtsey of @sara.bez | Puglia 

Whether it is solo or on the road with her mother or a good friend, Nastasia's goal in life is to travel, to enjoy life and to bring strength and joy to others. She is passionate about her work and showing the hope and beauty that travel can bring across the world. 

What's next for Dame Traveler? Nastasia shares that she is working to expand her brand beyond just blogging and social media. She already has some great projects in development—we can’t wait to see what she cooks up!

One thing we know for sure, is that whatever she does, it will be filled with love, light and inspiration.

Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Florence 

Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Florence 

The message Nastasia would like to leave us with is one she learned from our Bella Italia.

"Italians live a simple, beautiful life that is full of passion"

Italy has taught her that when in doubt, to always choose love and to  remember, "May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears."

There is an amazing world out there and if we give it a chance and get on a plane, something magical may just happen. 

Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Positano  

Photo Courtesy of Dame Traveler | Positano  

Meet Nastasia Wong:

40 countries into her journey, her passion for the world has led her to create a sizeable community of female travelers where her mission is to empower them to travel more, do more and be more. Whether sipping on chai in Istanbul or volunteering abroad in South Africa, Nastasia continues to find and share the beauty of this world, thus inspiring people to change the way they see and experience life.

Keep up with all of her newest adventures on Instagram:


What is it about photos and blogs that inspire you to travel? Tell us below or share your travel dreams with us and let us make it into a reality through our Custom Travel Planning or one of our small group Women Tours. 


Kaitlyn Showalter is the Public Relations and Media Marketing Strategist for Travel Italian Style. She is a junior at James Madison University, where she is majoring in Communications focusing on Public Relations and also minoring in Creative Writing. Kaitlyn’s passion for traveling emerged when she took a month long trip abroad to Italy with her entire family to discover her roots.

She instantly fell in love with the warm Italian culture, beautiful landscape, and incredible food. Since this eye opening trip Kaitlyn has continued to travel as much as possible and loves finding herself while being immersed in other cultures. She also has a passion for using social media in order to share experiences and effectively communicate travel stories to friends, family, and anyone who also loves to explore the world. She aspires to bring others the same joy she feels while visiting new cultures and hopes to give travelers the most authentic view of the culture they are experiencing. Kaitlyn cannot wait to continue to gain an even better worldly perspective through genuine travel opportunities like Travel Italian Style has to offer!

Traveling to the Fullest with Jennifer from Sidewalk Safari

Interview and Written by Francesca Panzariello 

Making the most out of every opportunity is an essential quality to have for travelers. It’s a skill that travel blogger, Jennifer (aka Dr. J), has perfected throughout her many worldly adventures. Through her blog, Sidewalk Safari, she helps encourage readers to take advantage of any opportunity or free moment to explore the world – even if it’s the world right outside their doorstep. 

Jennifer caught the travel bug after finishing graduate school, but she sure has made up for lost time. After realizing her life goal was to live abroad, Jennifer set her mind to it, devised a plan, and made it happen. Without ever traveling to Ireland before, Jennifer and her husband were off to Dublin on a year-long assignment working for a popular tech company. 

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer (Sidewalk Safari) 

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer (Sidewalk Safari) 

Thinking they were only living in Dublin for a year, Jennifer wanted to make the most of their precious time abroad. The couple took 23 overnight trips during that first year alone. Whether it was extending business trips or checking off places from their personal list, they were exploring in any way possible. Fast forward six years, Jennifer and her husband are still living in Dublin as if they only have a year abroad, still traveling to the fullest. Exploring places like India for work, jetting off to South Africa on vacation, or just coming across quirky places around Dublin. It almost seems as if they’ve been just about everywhere you’d ever want to go. 

“Turn everyday into a vacation day – even if you’re traveling for work. So many people traveling for business only see their hotel, office, and the airport. If you’re in a new place, there’s always something interesting to see or do”

Originally, Sidewalk Safari was created as a way for Jennifer to look back on her travel memories. Since then the blog has evolved into much more. It has evolved into a model to show people that it is possible combine business with leisure travel. Sidewalk Safari inspires people to make the best of those business travel opportunities. As Jennifer puts it, “Vacation is a state of mind.”  So why not turn your next business trip into a time to explore? 

It doesn’t have to be a big undertaking, start small. Have to travel for a meeting Monday morning? Leave Sunday and explore the city instead. Wake up an hour early Monday, grab a coffee and blend in with the locals. Above all, Jennifer offers this advice: WALK, WALK, WALK! She believes the best way to experience and really see a place is on foot. On your next trip, if it’s walkable, forget public transportation and hit the sidewalk. 

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer (Sidewalk Safari) 

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer (Sidewalk Safari) 

Everyone knows traveling can sometimes be overwhelming. Jennifer has the answers to all your travel stresses. Known for her organizational prowess, Jennifer brings those valuable life skills into planning her next trip with her husband. Planning a trip is like planning a project. Break things down into easy to manage pieces.

Keep a checklist, write everything out, and create reminders for yourself. It’s these simple and easy changes that can make all the difference when planning your next trip. As a result, Jennifer is able to live a balanced life, juggling a full time job, traveling and maintaining Sidewalk Safari successfully. 

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer (Sidewalk Safari) 

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer (Sidewalk Safari) 

“You only live once, make the most of the time you have and do the things you love. Travel is a big part of what makes me happy.”

Jennifer inspires us here at Travel Italian Style because she proves that anything is possible when it comes to travel. Very often as women we feel there is a lack of time for ourselves due to family and work obligations. We have trouble finding that balance-- Sidewalk Safari proves the contrary.

While balancing a married life and full-time job, Jennifer has still taken over 80 trips around the globe during the past four years. She proves that staying organized is the key to a balanced and fulfilling life!

 To read more about Jennifer, her travels (especially this post we love during her recent visit to Sicily) and to learn more tips for taking that dream trip, follow along on the Sidewalk Safari blog or on Twitter.

You may also want to check out  Vacation Counts which is written by her husband Scott who blogs about how to keep a healthy work-life balance.

What tips do you use to stay organized to promote a healthy travel-work balance? What advice can Jennifer or the TIS team share with you to help you get on the next plane to Italia?

Meet Francesca

Francesca is an Assistant Travel and Media Coordinator for Travel Italian Style. As an International Relations guru, she brought her studies to After studying in Perugia, Italy this past spring. Here, Francesca developed a better appreciation of the Italian way of life (especially the food). Through her passion for travel, she wants to help others get inspired to start their own adventure.

Francesca joined Travel Italian Style to be part of a company that gives people the chance to experience an authentic Italian lifestyle and to spread the travel bug. 


"Always Remember Where You Come From"

My Sunday dinners as a kid were filled with pasta, the smell of fresh basil and smiles  from my 'nonno' and father as they were enjoying their evening espresso together. 

At that moment I had no idea there would only be a few more precious years to savor a moment such as this one. I never could of imagined that by the age of 19 I would of have lost them both to cancer.

Did you ever notice in life that we often think "it will never happen to me." It is SO crazy that we have this mentality.

This post is not intended to be depressing by any means but I did just want to start out by saying: I no longer believe this "it will never happen to me" theory. Instead I try to the best of my ability to live each day as it was my last! 

My family during my high school graduation

My family during my high school graduation

Today my father would of been turning another year older but just 56 years young. Unfortunately, cancer took his life in his early 40's.

The reason I am sharing this personal story is because the loss of my father brought me to life.


Sounds crazy, right? But really it has. His death inspired me to rediscover where I came from (my Italian heritage), where I am going (towards my dream no matter how may challenges come my way) and where I want to be (a business owner with a fulfilling happy life).

 The crazy part is I had no idea I would end up where I am today. After his death I began to travel. Which eventually led me to following my heart and intuition. Now here I am at Travel Italian Style.

The cool thing is he didn't just inspire me! My father Joey was an average guy who was into sports, weight lifting and music but actually he has had a lasting effect on others (whether he realized it or not). When I talk to his friends and family they remember him smiling even through difficult times, talking and joking with strangers and even discussing motivational speeches such as the ESPN video that we are sharing below by the legendary Italian-American Jimmy Valvano.

just a one summer after my high school graduation  I would enjoy my very last dance ever with my father. He passed away the following October

just a one summer after my high school graduation  I would enjoy my very last dance ever with my father. He passed away the following October

 Since you personally never got to meet my father, I thought to honor him today I would share this video. My hopes is that you too will be inspired!

I always loved this speech. Especially when Jimmy V shares what he believes are the 3 most important things we should do everyday & why we must know "where we started, where we are and where we want to be."

Sadly Jimmy Valvano passed away just a few short months after this ceremony. 

However, both him and my fathers legacy lives on! Today I will be saluting my father and Jimmy V for being a reminder to me and all of you to keep our dreams alive! 

 I am sure if you are reading this right now there is something that you have always wanted to do. Whether it be travel to Italy, start a business, study a language or maybe even skydive. Whatever it is, do it today! Honor your dreams and follow through with the commit. I am not saying it will be easy but it sure will be worth it.

I promise you will be truly amazed to see the outcome once you take that first step!

"How do you go from where you are to where you want to be. I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. And you have to be to willing to work for it."
-Jimmy Valvano
Mr. Joe Cool Santoro January 20th, 1960-October 25th, 2002

Mr. Joe Cool Santoro January 20th, 1960-October 25th, 2002

Meet Cassandra

Cassandra Santoro is the CEO and Founder of Travel Italian Style. As a personal trip planner and luxury small group tour operator, Cassandra is an expert in slow-travel and authentic and inspiring experiences throughout Italy. She also leads motivational talks and can most recently be found at
TEDx DHWBMannheim. Cassandra is currently writing her first book and lives between NY & Florence. Follow her adventures in Italy on Instagram.