Hans Christian Andersen, the famous author and playwright, once said, “To travel is to live.” It’s a quote that has inspired generations to get out and explore the world. You can obviously survive by just staying in one place and going through the motions every day, but the real question isn’t so much a matter of can you live, but what is the quality of that life. Sure, you may be alive, but are you truly living to your highest potential if you don’t travel, explore and embrace new experiences? If you ask glamorous globetrotter and world traveler Olga Maria, the answer is simple — travel can change your life and help you live life to the fullest.
And she would know.
Olga Maria, the Latina entrepreneur, travel writer and founder of travel blog Dreams in Heels, wasn’t always a citizen of the world, traveling to exotic destinations, exploring indigenous cultures and learning about diverse cultures around the globe. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Olga was not necessarily destined for a life as a professional travel writer and world explorer. On the contrary, it took time to discover her passion for travel, and it took even longer for her to earn the opportunity to turn this personal passion into a professional career.
But wanderlust is a funny thing. Once you get the travel bug it’s a hard habit to break, and Olga Maria has certainly embraced her dream of seeing the world. She believes that people should “invest in experience and add more value to life.” And she is certainly leading by example, soaking up all she can from every adventure and learning from every destination she visits. As she travels, she is growing, writing and sharing her experiences. And perhaps equally important, Olga is inspiring Latinas along the way.
Let’s Get to Know Olga Maria
Olga Maria is not your typical travel blogger. She did not grow up a jet-setter, traveling the world and collecting stamps on her passport like baseball cards. Olga is a self-proclaimed dreamer from Bayamon, Puerto Rico. While she lived in Puerto Rico until she was 18 years old, she always watched with awe and intrigue as tourists came to visit Puerto Rico on vacation. She dreamed of seeing the world, a dream that often made her friends and family members look at her like she was weird for having such a strange desire to travel.
Her mother, a single mom, didn’t even have a passport; so needless to say, travel was not a part of her life growing up. But at 18 years old, Olga took a leap of faith and moved to New York City, alone, speaking no English, ready to chase her dreams. Some may call her crazy, and people back home certainly did, but we call her brave.
While studying in New York City, Olga also juggled several jobs, but it was a scholarship that she won from Barnes and Noble at the age of 19 that actually inspired her future as a travel writer and sparked her irresistible desire to travel, discover and explore the world.
That scholarship awarded Olga the chance to study and live abroad in Spain, her first international trip, and one that changed her life. During that trip, Olga learned a lot about others, but even more impactful, she learned a lot about herself. On her blog, she describes the impact of that adventure, explaining that “this study abroad experience helped me to appreciate other cultures, understand cultural differences, how to handle myself in different situations, to plan small trips and maximize my free time. But it was interacting with others, and making friends of a lifetime (many with whom I am still in contact today 12 years later), that more than anything made me fall in love with travel.”
And so her lifetime love for traveling began. Shortly after that experience, Olga launched her blog Dreams in Heels. At the time it was just a hobby that she juggled while also working full time in a range of jobs (most of which she didn’t love). But ultimately she found her way to travel writing and was able to turn her passion into a full-fledged career that has allowed her to not only share her experiences and travel tips with others, but also inspire the Latina community to travel, get out of their comfort zone, and connect with one another.
Travel is an Essential Part of the Human Experience
Olga believes in her soul something that many of us are still learning or do not yet understand — that travel is an essential part of the human experience, and one of the most valuable ways to spend your time and connect with others. Travel is a way to learn about environments, people, traditions and histories around the world firsthand, and to truly experience those cultures and expand your own mind. It’s a way to connect with others, to make memories and to gain some perspective on your own place in this world. If you can truly immerse yourself in a different environment, your entire way of viewing the world is influenced. “You simply get a different take on things,” Olga explains on her blog.
And while Olga might be a seasoned pro on travel and exploring, among other things, other experts agree with her as well. Various studies on the health benefits of travel prove that exploring the world really is a crucial part of a satisfying human existence.
A joint study from the Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, reports that traveling keeps you healthier. It can reduce your risk of heart disease, reduce stress, enhance creativity, lower your risk of depression, boost happiness and more. Clearly, there is truth to this idea that travel can help you life your best (and healthiest) life. Exploring the world can change how you see the world, and it can also change your life mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Olga Offers Her Best Travel Advice in an Accessible Way
There are a lot of travel magazines and blogs out there that offer aspirational travel tips and incredible destinations you would only dream of visiting. Which is part of the problem — the trips they highlight are a pipe dream. They’re not realistic, and everything from the itinerary to the photos is pretty out of touch for an average traveler. Sort of like how social media makes it seem like all influencers look flawless when they step off a flight. (It’s not real people! No one looks that good after a red eye flight!) Anyway, those unrealistic portrayals of what travel should be are NOT what Dreams In Heels is about. Olga is on a mission to show you what travel can be and to inspire you to get out there and explore but in a very real, very accessible way.
While she might travel to all corners of the earth, and she shows off those adventures on her blog, she’s also showing you how to have a life-changing travel experience without losing your job. She talks about how to travel and make money while you’re abroad, how to travel on a budget, how to find adventure in your own backyard and actually become a tourist in your hometown. Point being, she’s all about finding any way to explore, for any life situation and any budget.
Her Instagram posts are a mix of gorgeous photos in beautiful places around the world, from Kuala Lumpur to Spain to Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, and even New York City. Her captions are encouraging, thoughtful, informative and empowering. She shares what she does when she first arrives at a new place, what she eats, how to make the most of your trip and how she feels exploring that destination. She talks about being a proud Latina traveling the world, and about meeting new people in different indigenous cultures. Clearly, her more than 47K followers are engaged and inspired by her adventures.
On her blog, she offers tips on how to travel even if you’re not rolling in the dough or planning to win the lottery anytime soon. She has an entire section on budget travel and how to save money all around the world. And even if you can’t physically travel to a new place just yet, she offers creative and fun insider tips on what to see and do so you can be a tourist in your hometown.
Inspiring Latinas to Get Out of Their Comfort Zone
One thing that Olga noticed when she first began traveling around the world was that in almost every place she visited, she didn’t come across other Latinas traveling as well. It was a shocking realization that there weren’t many other Latinas like her, getting out and exploring the world. There are many potential reasons why Latinas don’t prioritize travel as much as other cultures do. First and foremost, it’s because of a lack of information. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Olga recalls, she wasn’t educated about travel or the importance of experiencing other countries and traditions. If people did travel, it was to a small handful of places that they frequented, rather than exploring new destinations. And she didn’t have many role models who valued travel, especially role models who looked and sounded like her. All of that, on top of the societal pressures on Latinas to be in the home, impact the way that Hispanic women travel (or don’t travel).
But Olga is on a mission to change all of that.
She launched Latinas Who Travel, an online travel community to help inspire Latinas to get out and see the world, and to get out of their comfort zone. She calls it a “traveling sisterhood,” a community where users can share travel tips, experiences, questions, concerns, dreams, photos and more. Where Latinas can find travel partners and inspire one another.
When asked how she hopes Latinas Who Travel will inspire the Latina community, her answer was clear: “I want them to realize that traveling is possible for anyone. You do not have to win the lotto to travel; that there are always ways to set priorities, save money and be able to travel, even if it is on a budget. Also, there are different ways to travel, by land, on a cruise, by plane and different styles, and that you can always start by exploring your own neighborhood or country.”
And it’s working; Olga already senses a shift in the landscape of the travel world and Latina travel blogs and communities. Building a community is just the beginning and she’s proud to be a part of a growing online presence of Latinas expanding their horizons and exploring the world.
Another goal Olga is proudly working towards encouraging Latina women to get out and travel solo. She believes that traveling, in general, is important because it can enrich your life and can create more opportunities personally and professionally, especially for women. And the traveling solo is a chance to go on a journey of self-discovery and to find beauty in the world and in the people you meet. But there are certain precautions every woman must take before traveling alone. It’s crucial to know the local emergency numbers, safe neighborhoods, local cultures, and to be prepared by doing research on your destination. Luckily, she covers this topic at length on her blog, sharing her own stories, experiences, and must-know tips to digest before you book your next trip.
Travel can change your life, and Olga knows this firsthand. And while her job isn’t always five-star hotels and the glamorous jet-setter life (she’s quick to explain that her job is a lot of work, but it’s work she loves), she does manage to find style, beauty and substance in every culture she visits.
Olga Maria is using her platform to inspire Latinas (and honorary Latinas as she says) to take the first steps to explore the world. And they can do so knowing that they have the support and encouragement of all the Latinas Who Travel members as well as the support of the heart and soul of Dreams In Heels, Olga herself.
Currently, Olga splits her time between her various homes in New York City, Austria, and Portugal, but being the nomad that she is, she truly considers everywhere she visits home, and she’s always on the move. Catch her if you can! You can stay up to date on her adventures on her blog, social media (@dreamsinheels) and her travel community Latinas Who Travel.