14 Beautiful Countries in 12 Months

What if you could only have one main goal on this upcoming year? A goal that could be able to change the way you look at things. Which would it be? Mine was to travel 12 countries in 12 months and I managed to visit 14 beautiful countries, but so much more happened along the way. You must not only dream, but also plan, act and believe.

This year I had the courage to quit my job too, jump out of a flying plane and swim naked in the sea– things I thought I’d never do in a million years.

During 2016 I became a nomad and I gave up all my keys (no car, no house, no gym cabinet). By having nothing I finally got to have everything.

2016 has been a year full of travels but mostly of love. I learnt to appreciate and even love things I usually took for granted, such as health. I loved every minute with every person I had the luck to travel with (salud amigos!). I even loved myself enough to believe I could start my own company and will be launching my first guide in a couple of months (hell yeah!).

I risked it all.

I learnt that in those moments that I couldn’t beat fear, I had to do it scared. I moved forward despite the fear, the self doubt and the inner voices wanting me to stay in my confort zone.

“If you can’t beat fear, do it scared.”

I am happy and grateful for everything that has happened in 2016 and as an exercise of self review I’d like to share these moments with you.

Why do I travel?

I see the world as a big pile of books. Each book is a city, waiting to be read and willing to tell its unique story. The more I travel, the more I learn about the world, its history and people but most importantly in each trip I learn more about myself and what the hell I am doing here. Being a nomad has become my lifestyle – always on the move, always learning. Traveling has become my way of understanding history in a different way, it has become my number one source of creative inspiration, my way of staying curious and always seeing things with a fresh view.

Traveling the world is my way of becoming a responsible architect by embracing all the context there is. Researching, observing, drawing and sharing the places I find within my guides is my humble way to leave the world a bit better by giving more exposure and credit to the good architecture that shapes the world.

When I travel I feel full of life, happiness and energy. By traveling, too, I am creating the happiest moments of my life.

Traveling is the means for my ultimate purpose in life: change the world.

What were my biggest challenges of 2016?

As I wrote last year, 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 2016 so special:

  • I mapped 1,600 new buildings around the world and did 10 more architecture guides.
  • I envisioned a great year of travels and I visited 14 different countries, two more than last year. I became a nomad.
  • I quit my job and consolidated my own company: When you have a good job, you work with smart people and enjoy what you do, it’s extremely hard to make a bold move in your life. I had to put a lot of courage into this decision.
  • I didn’t sell 100 copies of my first paper guide, it wasn’t Madrid either: After quitting my job, I moved to London and started doing the guide from scratch. Learning its deepest bits of history, visiting every street, cafe and public parking (what? best views are always from their top floors!). I had to change the plan, adjust the dates and be cold minded to optimize the budget.
  • read 11 great books: Awaken the Giant Within (Tony Robbins), Choose Yourself (James Altucher), The Magic Of Thinking Big (David J. Schwartz), Girl Boss (Sophia Amoruso), Rework (Jason Fried, David Henemeir Hansson), From Good to Great (James C. Collins), Who Gets What _ and Why (Alvin E. Roth), The Art of The Start (Guy Kawasaki), The Science of Happiness (Stefan Klein), The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy), India (John Keay).

What did I learn this past year?

Ironically the first thing that comes to my mind is that carrying a passport which is less that 6 months away from its expiry day is like carrying a white piece of paper. However, there are other learnings which I consider also important.

  • Risk is good: Deep inside we know what we want but risk adversity and resistance to change is biological. Intuition has played a very important role this year. Whatever feels wrong, it’s wrong. Don’t try to deny things to yourself and act quickly and accordingly to your feelings.
  • Learn how to nail backstage work: the basics of every business are less basic than we think. I underestimated the amount of practice I needed to put into things that ended up being key factors. However, when you learn the basics, you are then privileged to play in the next level.
  • Love more: Love is a bitch: If you want to be loved twice, you need to love four times. I used to think that all kids want is being loved. It turns out adults too. You’ll be surprised on how many decisions we take based on fear of not being loved – just like kids. We sometimes measure the love we give away misunderstanding the whole point of loving. Give without expecting anything back, or you won’t get anything at all.
  • Leave your fears and weaknesses at home, please: “I am very bad at _ (fill in the gap)”. How many times do we start a conversation like this? This ruins our abilities and confidence on the matter. No one cares if you are young, about to be broke or I may even dare to say a woman. When you are making business, you are making business. Don’t shoot yourself before starting.
  • Let go: Most go their entire lives with a leech on their necks, monkeys on their back and shackles on their feet and wonder why it is so hard for them to move forward. It’s so damn hard to let go, but we must sometimes.
  • They key is in failure: failure leads to frustration and self blame. I used to feel guilty all the time, for not spending enough time with my loved ones, not writing more, not exercising at all and always being late. Guilt takes up more space in our head than we think. It’s worth analyzing what went wrong and adjusting the to do list, or even making that list smaller and smaller. Try doing just one thing per day and you’ll be amazed by how much more you accomplish.

What do I expect from 2017?

Less is more. This year’s list is half the size:

  • Sell my first 100 copies of my first architecture guide, London.
  • Achieve a healthier lifestyle: I will try this again, hopefully more successfully than this past year.
  • Maintain the 12 new countries in 12 months challenge to which I’ve never been before. All good things will come from these trips.

Thanks for being part of my dreams and aspirations  🙂

Merry Christmas  and wish you a happy 2017 full of health, love and precious moments!

virginia-duran-blog-brussels-belgium-atomium-wallpaper1. Brussels, Belgium
A couple of years ago, while I was living in Rome, I met my friend Alex and I promised I will visit him when he went back to Brussels. Alex just got an amazing job in Malta and it was now or never. Visiting a city with a local makes it all so special. It felt as if I was guided by Tintin himself around the city, getting to know its secret spots and most amazing stories – all covered in the guide.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Brussels

virginia-duran-luxembourg-river-roadtrip-wallpaper2. Luxembourg, Luxembourg
I belong to the concrete jungle so most of the trips I organize have brutal skylines. That’s why I appreciate when friends take me out to nature. We went on a road trip through Luxembourg visiting all its fairy tale castles (now abandoned), almost frozen rivers and Middle Age bridges – all so pleasing to the eye. It’s not very likely that I will ever return to Luxembourg, so will keep this nature memory forever.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Luxembourg

virginia-duran-blog-dubai-burj-khalifa-fashion-blogger-wallpaper3. Dubai, UAE
The first time I traveled by myself it was the day of my birthday. Very few people understood why on such a special day I decided to pay a fortune to be by myself. It was not about paying to be alone, I’d rather be with my best friends, but about being happy despite the circumstances. One of the most important learnings of this year is that one can’t expect people to share our goals and values. When the time arrives – for example our birthday, we might be by ourselves, and still enjoy it. We wait and wait for everything to be perfect, missing opportunities that will never come. May we be strong enough to make the most of our birthdays, and lives no matter if we are alone or in a group.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Dubai

virginia-duran-blog-hong-kong-vitoria-peak-wallpaper4. Hong Kong, China
I had a brief love affair in Asia, in March 2016. Nothing is better than a birthday present which includes a plane ticket and quality time in great company. Hong Kong is one of the most impressive cities I’ve got the chance to visit, I loved its skyline, food and madness. The sweet part of always traveling to a new city is that you get long lasting memories of your first impression on it. It will be hard to forget this sunset, Hong Kong at our feet slowly lighting up.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Hong Kong

virginia-duran-blog-vietnam-amazing-ha-long-bay-wallpaper5. Hanoi, Vietnam
Waking up to this view in Ha Long Bay is one of the most surreal moments of 2016. Words can’t express the beauty of the cliffs, gently covered by fog and water, disappearing in the horizon. Vietnam left me heart broken, just as anyone who reads about its history too. However, the whole country is at an inflection point. New generations don’t know anything about the war and don’t want to hear about it either – there’s only room for change and progress. I have high hopes for this beautiful country and expect to visit it again in the future.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Ho Chi Minh City

virginia-duran-vienna-austria-oldest-church-sister-love6. Vienna, Austria
My family is quite small and my sister represents a big part of it. Being everyone related to the aviation world, it’s quite ironic that we never travel together. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to change that. This trip was the only one which I got to travel with family – a beautiful gift from my sister. Thanks for the laughter, the funny videos and the energizing conversations about how we would change the world.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Vienna

virginia-duran-tunisia-cartague-roman-ruins-wallpaper-red-skirt7. Tunis, Tunisia
What I love most about traveling with friends is that we get to spend big chunks of quality time together. To me, this little moments mean everything. As time goes by, people get engaged or their jobs become more demanding so it’s not always easy to find time to travel. I really appreciate when friends take out the time to do a trip together.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Tunis

3-virginia-duran-golden-gate-bridge-bike-imagine-silicon-valley-20168a. San Francisco, USA
everis, the company I worked for, and Imagine gave me the huge opportunity to become dreamer at Silicon Valley’s 2016 edition. I spent a happy month in San Francisco surrounded by some of the smartest and most creative people I’ve met this year. I will never forget biking the Golden Gate bridge which was all covered by fog and having the stupid feeling of being free. Have you ever felt as if you could do anything? Full of life, full of energy, in love with the world and ready to accomplish anything? That rare feeling of freedom is one of the best. Thanks for the euphoria Xavi, we are all thankful for it.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of San Francisco

virginia-duran-blog-chicago-theater-wallpaper-gopro8b. Chicago, USA
Chicago is my home out of home and favorite city in the world, that’s why I always find an excuse to drop by every year. This city is always changing and it will never fail to surprise you.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Chicago

virginia-duran-new-york-empire-state-skyline-top-of-the-rock-wallpaper8c. New York, USA
I only like New York in summer, going there any other time of the year, even Christmas, means you’ll get the wrong impression. There’s nothing better than waking up at 5 to see sunrise at the Brooklyn Bridge and then enjoy every sunset at the city’s thousand rooftops. I’ll admit this guide is a bit biased by the weather 😛
Thanks Karel for another random city to add to our list.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of New York

virginia-duran-edinburgh-beautiful-scotland9. Edinburgh, Scotland
One of my favorite people in the world turns out to be Scottish. This year she gave me an ultimatum: “You either visit me or I won’t visit Madrid anymore”. So I did and honestly I regret not visiting her before, what a blast. The Fringe Festival was amazing, especially walking through the bar basements (which were connected) to end up appearing in a different part of town. However, my favorite part of this trip was taking the train from Edinburgh to London and enjoying green Scottish landscapes that looked like famous paintings by William Turner.

Download The Free Architecture Guide of Edinburgh

virginia-duran-amazing-london-museum-fashion-blogger-wallpaper10. London, England
Touching my dream with both hands has been one of the most meaningful moments of 2016. During the past months I’ve been living in London to work in my first Architectour Guide, which will soon be ready. Very few people will understand how much work I’ve put behind every visit, drawing and story contained in this guide. The result, of which I am very proud, is the best version of myself. Extremely grateful for everyone involved, the smiles, excitement and support has been my daily motivation. Can’t wait to share with you the result!

Download the Free Architecture Guide of London

11. Cardiff, Wales
Fairy tale castles and beautiful green landscapes make the perfect scenario for a road trip. If I close my eyes I can still feel the wind in my face while driving – not too cold, not too warm. Wales is such a beautiful country, it’s full of nature and impressive pieces of architecture such as this castle. I wonder how beautiful it must look right now all covered in snow.

Coming soon The Free Architecture Guide of Cardiff

virginia-duran-prague-frank-gehry-dancing-house-wallpaper12. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague tastes of apfelstrudel and hot chocolate. And trust me, you’ll need the sugar to climb its thousand stairs and hills. That was our excuse to eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every monument, observatory and church had a cake waiting at the end of its last step which made it all so rewarding. And there’s nothing better than having a warm drink and a snack while it’s cold outside. What a sweet trip.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Prague

virginia-duran-blog-amazing-taj-mahal-wallpaper-yellow-dress13. Agra, India
Step wells that look like Minecraft constructions, Maharaja palaces converted into Taj Hotels, the Ghats, the Mosques and the Taj Mahal. Oh the Taj Mahal, one of the most magical buildings I’ve got the luck to visit and draw in my life. Almost a month of good moments, a wedding, a thousand spicy breakfasts and two non spicy ones. Still, this is one of my favorite moments of this trip and if I close my eyes I can even feel the warm pavement on the back of my feet.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of India

virginia-duran-sri-lanka-cave-temple-wallpaper14. Dambulla, Sri Lanka
My last country of 2016, I was a lucky girl to end the year here. A train from Kandy (the train) to Ella, from Ella to Sigiriya. We chuckled when we realized we had done the itinerary the wrong way. But who cares when you have to go through paradise twice? I would never forget waking up to those mountain views and then rushing to get the perfect shot of the 9.30 morning train on the bridge.

Download the Free Architecture Guide of Sri Lanka

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

32 thoughts on “14 Beautiful Countries in 12 Months

    • So glad to read this. Sometimes we underestimate our feelings when they should be the first thing we pay attention to! Merry Christmas and Happy holidays 🙂
      Any upcoming travels for you?


  1. I was thrilled reading your latest post Virginia. You have come a long way
    since we first met. You recognize your growth and potential. Challenge is
    good and provides more opportunity to test yourself by viewing the horizon.
    Wishing you good luck and good fortune in all your adventures. Eddie


    • Hi Eddie, it’s true we met a long time ago. My blog is a bit of an experiment and I am glad by being open I got to meet people like you (what is your real name by the way?). Thanks for all your positive comments, they do have a positive impact on me. As a blogger, you know how hard it is to create content, or should I even say create? I couldn’t be more grateful to your kind words, it gives me strength to continue doing this mission with motivation. Happy holidays 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow Virginia! What a year you’ve had. Congrats on starting your own business – that’s fantastic! James and I want to wish you a happy and healthy New Year filled with love and adventure. All the very best, Terri


    • Happy 2017, my best wishes to you too 🙂
      Full of energy for what is to come. Oh and a little surprise for you is on its way 😉


  3. Y como siempre, enhorabuena Virginia. Eres todo un ejemplo a seguir, admiro tu motivación y capacidad.
    Como ya te dije el año pasado, una de esas guías ya la tienes vendida. Pero estoy segura que serán muchas más de 100. 🙂

    Yo he querido seguir un poquito tus pasos – ya te he dicho que eres un ejemplo – y visitar muchos países. Han sido “sólo” 8 pero preciosos. Es tan maravilloso viajar. También he pisado Edimburgo por primera vez y volví maravillada.

    Un apunte – en el link de Dubai te lleva a Lisboa.

    Esperando seguir leyendo tus aventuras, un beso gordo.


  4. Pingback: 12 Sites To Take The Best Skyline Pictures in London | Virginia Duran Blog

  5. Pingback: 5-star Hotels Under $200 That Will Make Your Jaws Drop | Virginia Duran Blog

  6. Pingback: The Free Architecture Guide of Ho Chi Minh City (PDF) | Virginia Duran

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s