12 Countries in 12 Months

Happy 2016 everyone!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen how hectic 2015 has been. It’s been a year of travels, dreams and challenges. As a personal exercise of review and self-meditation, I want to share with you my journey through this past 2015 and my hopes and goals for this exciting 2016 that we are just beginning.

Where am I now?

I’m at the beginning of the life I always wanted to have. I had a year to do what I love most: traveling. With a full-time job, it seemed impossible to travel as much as I wanted to, but hey, despite de odds, I made it. I organized the holidays, my vacation days and sticked to a budget. People often ask if I am rich or somebody is paying for my trips. The answer is no to both. I worked an average of 17 h per day, every day that I wasn’t traveling and this allowed me to have the life I dreamed. When I finished work at 7pm, my second job as a freelance started. If you texted me at 2 am on a Saturday night, you’ll likely find me working. Not many people can work as hard, but not many people can travel as much either.

What were my biggest challenges of 2015?

We often don’t realize how much we’ve accomplished because in the moment we get what we want we forget how much it took us to achieve it. In order not to forget, here are the 5 things that made my 2015 so special:

  • I became an architect: I will never forget that 30th of January 2015 when my sister drove me to university to submit my thesis and she said “That’s it, sit back and relax.” I couldn’t help laughing nervously and crying for a while.
  • I became a full-time employee: working at one of the top 10 Spanish companies with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. We still have a great team despite two of my favorite colleagues left the company recently. Wish you all the best at your startups!
  • I mapped 1,320 new buildings around the world and did 6 more architecture guides.
  • I envisioned a great year of travels and I committed to visiting 12 different countries.
  • I managed to read 11 books: The 4-Hour Work Week (Tim Ferris)Founders at Work (Jessica Livingston), Historias De Nueva York (Enric González)Historias De Roma (Enric González)Historias De Londres (Enric González), How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie), Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill), How to Get Rich (Felix Dennis), What I wish I knew when I was 20 (Tina Seelig), Difficult Conversations (Douglas Stone) and The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking (Edward Burger)

What did I learn this past year?

Sometimes we learn the most basic things in the hardest way. These may not be the deepest learnings to you, but as basic as they may seem, it took me a while to figure them out.

  • Courage is the most important thing in the world: It’s easy to dream but it takes courage to make shit happen. When your gut tells you to man up and do the right thing, that’s exactly what you need to do.
  • Question everything: I was surprised to see how much of what we do and feel in an automatic way it’s completely wrong. There’s no life recipe suitable for everyone, we are so different that successful formulas are never right. We need to question everything and only get the parts that fit in our life.
  • Our bodies are wise: If your body is telling you to sleep more, eat better and do sport more, it’s because you really need to. Yet, I don’t seem to realize how important this is. One of my priorities this year is to have a healthier life.
  • Hard work always, ALWAYS pays off: 90% of life problems can be solved investing more time. This belief gives me a lot of hope. If I have a problem, I may be able to solve it just by spending more time designing a solution.

What do I expect from 2016?

I recently read that the key to having an amazing year is to set goals that make us shake in excitement. Goals so big that will make you upgrade double even if you achieved just half of them. If I just achieved the first two, it would be amazing:

  • Be strong enough to consolidate my own company: I will start making money out of my traveling passion, in many ways. I will have to learn (since I suck at making business) and build a plan. But I will try as hard as I can and probably fail, and fail again and again. But by December 2016, I will have made some profit of that I’m sure.
  • Sell 100 copies of my first paper guide: Madrid
  • Be more ambitious and visit 12 countries to which I’ve never been before. Some of these, by myself. Being a solo traveler scares the hell out of me but I need to be independent from other people’s agenda.
  • Achieve a healthier lifestyle: I will start taking up pilates classes to correct my back problems and will learn to cook.
  • Work as hard, get double the results: Productivity is key to a balanced life.
  • Learn a new language: こんにちは
  • Commit more of my time to volunteering and giving back to the community: I spent most of my summers as a student volunteering around the world. I want to help those around me now, people who are not in third world countries but who are in need too.

Time to be ambitious. Time to be strong. Time to dream and build, to make and give, to work and enjoy!

May 2016 be as good as 2015. My best wishes for you in this new upcoming year. Hope you join me on my mission 🙂

Virginia Duran Blog-12 countries in 12 months-Lisbon

1. Lisbon, Portugal
My first travel moment of 2015 took place a few weeks before submitting my thesis and it felt like honey to a bee. A bunch of friends and I spent the New Year’s Eve holidays watching sunsets like this one and planning what would be a great 2015. Cheers to all the dreams which became true!

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Lisbon


Virginia Duran Blog-12 countries in 12 months-Spain2. Madrid, Spain
You may think including Madrid in this list is cheating since I lived here in 2015, but it isn’t. Sometimes when we are used to something we forget how beautiful it is. I may say I discovered my own city this year and the truth is I had never seen Madrid as colorful and beautiful before. Some of my most precious moments in this city are in a Dropbox folder called “Paseos con Virginia”.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Madrid


Virginia Duran Blog-12 countries in 12 months-Chicago3. Chicago, USA
Round trip ticket in business class to the city of my dreams. The city I spent my happiest years with my favorite people. Below zero temperatures, ouch! Luckily, lots love to keep me warm. O’Hare has become the saddest airport in the world. Flying over Chicago’s skyline back to Europe can be beautifully painful.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Chicago


Virginia Duran Blog-12 countries in 12 months-London

4. London, UK
London’s hustle and bustle is one of a kind. Yet everyone, including me, likes it. This time in London I was visiting my sister who lived there for her Master’s degree. She took me to Columbia’s Road beautiful Flower Market, we went to a dancing performance at the Tate Modern and explored some hidden spots together. A full week of sunshine in London, almost unbelievable.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of London


Virginia Duran Blog-12 countries in 12 months-Paris5. Paris, France
People say Paris is the city of lovers, but I would never go to Paris with a lover to be honest. Paris is a city one should visit with good friends and do all the clichés one is supposed to do with lovers. Such as eating Nutella crêpes at Le Ptit Grec (seriously the best place in town) or watching how the sun sets from Pont Neuf while drinking wine. Two of my best pals from Chicago were French and Paris seemed a good spot for a reunion.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Paris


6. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
I am the luckiest person in the world to have these two people in my life. We never happen to be at the same continent at the same time. However, we always manage to see each other in person at least once per year- and a thousand times via Skype. This year I wish both of them finally move with their respective partners and have the happy life they deserve. Also, I will never forget the promise I made about not buying an Apple watch ever. When did we agree you were getting me a Patek Philippe?

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Amsterdam


Virginia Duran Blog-12 countries in 12 months-Tokyo7. Tokyo, Japan
There’s a special charm in Asiatic cities. Life seems like a video game from their tallest towers. Somehow, feeling so small within their concrete and steel skylines makes me feel alive. Like if life from here wasn’t real so I could dream anything I wanted. All my big ideas happen in front of scenarios like this one.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Tokyo


Virginia Duran Blog-12 countries in 12 months-Marrakech-Mayorelle8. Marrakech, Morocco
The last time I was in Marrakech I had a big fight with my best friend, with whom I was traveling. We stopped speaking to each other since then. I though going back and creating nicer memories will make me like the city again, and it worked. By the way, my best friend and I live under the same roof now.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Marrakech


Virginia Duran Blog-12 countries in 12 months-Puerto Rico9. San Juan, Puerto Rico
I had a brief love affair with Puerto Rico, in November 2015. Sometimes one happens to be at the right place at the wrong time, however, with the right people. That’s my best girlfriend, the one who is always there when one needs her. In this picture we were under a massive tropical storm, one of the highlights of this year by the way. Also, this day we thought we were going to die trying to get to shore with our tiny kayak under the rain.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of San Juan

Virginia Duran Blog-12 countries in 12 months-Bucharest10. Bucharest, Romania
I visited my sister for the second time in December 2015. Any city I had to visit with her, would just be amazing. I loved the decadent atmosphere of Bucharest. Neoclassical architecture proudly standing next to Communist buildings. Massive governmental structures which have been finished in the wrong period. Long avenues, vintage cafés and buildings with high risk for a collapse. A lot of personality within an emerging city of which I have high hopes. Will love to visit it again in 30 years time and see what a responsible generation has done with it.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Bucharest


Virginia Duran Blog-12 countries in 12 months-Abu Dhabi11. Abu Dhabi, UAE
Visiting any city after 17863483 hours of flight is never a good idea. However, Abu Dhabi seemed to have this one thing any architect wouldn’t refuse visiting despite the tiredness: Sheikh Zayed Mosque. This is one of the most impressive religious buildings I got to visit in my life.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Abu Dhabi (under construction)


Virginia Duran Blog-12 countries in 12 months-Thailand12. Koh Phak Bia, Thailand
If paradise exists, it may be somewhere in Thailand. I was in awe of these Asian landscapes, completely shocked at how little I knew about the colorful beauty of this country. We spent our days swimming in crystal clear waters and discovering hidden beaches. Many interesting conversations and some interesting project ideas happened within these sunny landscapes. Couldn’t imagine a better way to start 2016!

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Bangkok

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53 thoughts on “12 Countries in 12 Months

  1. What an interest summary of your year. I like your thoughts on what you have learned and what your goals are for the future. 🙂
    Not all of us are able or want to do what you have accomplished. But it is still important and wise to reflect back on what we have done and be proud and happy of those things. Too often we compare ourselves to others and then get disappointed because we think we should have the same achievements. Setting goals even if they are small is good. I even put a check mark beside each blog post I make and say “Well done”. lol
    Best wishes for 2016.


    • Thanks for your kind words, for reading and for leaving a comment! I used to compare my goals with other people’s until I realized that those goals didn’t really matter to me. I also put a check mark beside each post haha! Any blogging goals for this year?

      Best wishes to you too!


    • Hello Rebecca! So happy to share my positive thoughts with you. The truth is we are on a big adventure as you say, let’s enjoy every single day of this upcoming year. My best wishes for you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I’d like to make it to the next New Year’s day, and a few more beyond that one.

      Also, keeping fit, keeping safe and healthy, moving, getting published, and concentrate on enjoying life as the world goes to heck and beyond. Nothing as ambitious as yours.


      • haha the beginning made me laugh! Wish you health, happiness and lots of publishing 😉 you may achieve it sooner than you think!


    • Can’t wait to make all these thing happen during this year! Thanks so much for your kind words, as always! Hope winter is going well 🙂


    • Hey Javi, thanks for stopping by! If I had to choose only two books out of the list they’d be The 4-Hour Work Week and How To Win Friends and Influence People. Have you read any of them? Also, would you recommend other good books to me?


  2. Virginia, I wish you much success and happiness following your dreams in 2016, and look forward to going along for the ride on some of your travel adventures. All the best, Melissa


    • Hello Melissa, hope you are enjoying Sunday! I am extremely grateful for all your encouraging comments and all your support. Thanks so much and hope you enjoy my upcoming adventures 🙂


  3. Feliz año artista! Eres todo un ejemplo a seguir 🙂
    Los objetivos de vida más sana los he llevado a cabo este año pasado y liándome hice un triatlón! jajaja pero en efecto el pilares es estupendo para la espalda (yo también la sufro!)
    El cocinar se va cogiendo el gusto, a mí me encanta! y tenías que haberme visto hace unos años.

    Una de las 100 ya la tienes vendida, así que sólo te quedan 99.
    y oye, un viaje por Alemania tiene que caer, no? 🙂

    Mucho éxito en todos tus proyectos.


    • Martaaaa! Feliz 2016. Menudo comentario motivante, me has hecho volver a tener confianza en algún día poder cocinar cosas comestibles hahah, soy un desastre en serio. Vivo a base del microondas. No creo que llegue a tu triatlón hahah pero bueno, algún día quizá.

      Me has hecho sonreír con lo de las 100 guías. Un abrazo gigante 🙂


        • Actually it is, for Christmas I got a plane ticket to Australia, so I will be disappointed if I didn’t visit NZ. I’m planning a trip next December but will love your advice on when to visit these two.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Really! that is fabulous! I don’t know how much time you will have but I expect you have already identified architectural must-sees, and natural ones, too, so will be able to squeeze in as much as possible. Would love to see you in Christchurch anytime, and you are welcome to stay with me. 🙂


        • Thanks for all your kindness! Need to plan the trip in detail, I am so excited to go so far away. Will definitely add Christchurch to the itinerary. We could visit the famous church together too 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi virginia
    It was a beautiful post u shared with us.
    I dont know you but happened to somehow get ur email. Well, it was quite a worth. Im looking forward to ur visits in 2016 to all the countries u plan for. I love the energy u have to make ur dreams alive…keep it up….May Allah help u succeed in all ur goals in life ahead.
    Best wishes.


    • Hello Henna, nice to meet you 🙂

      You got my last email regarding the format? Hopefully you voted an option! I will be sending more emails so you guys can share with me your opinion about traveling documents and ways to explore cities. I will create the most beautiful and practical architecture guide created and would love to have you in the process 😀

      All the best, Virginia


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  6. Eres una puta crak!! Por fin me lo puedo leer tranquilamente, me ha encantado!

    Estoy segura de que vas a ir paso a paso consiguiendo todo lo que te propones, eres un ejemplo a seguir!!!


    2016-01-12 13:19 GMT+01:00 Virginia Duran Blog :

    > Virginia Duran posted: “Happy 2016 everyone! If you follow me on > Instagram, you may have seen how hectic 2015 has been. It’s been a year of > travels, dreams and challenges. As a personal exercise of review and > self-meditation, I want to share with you my journey through this p” >


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