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How to Survive #Whole30 — 20 Best Tips to Changing Your Eating Habits

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Have you ever thought of doing Whole 30, or wondering what your friends doing Whole30 are talking about? I’ve done Whole30 twice — and loved it both times.

My body feels better than it ever has when I’ve been on Whole30. I have so much energy, my joints feel so empty, and my skin is outstandingly clear. And it’s also a good way to drop a lot of weight.

Committing to 30 days of giving up all your favorite foods can be challenging — but I have 20 tips here to help you get through it!

What is Whole30?

Whole30 is a 30-day eating plan designed to change your worst food habits. For 30 days, you don’t consume dairy, grains (including gluten-free grains like rice and quinoa), legumes, soy, sugar, alcohol, processed foods, or artificial flavors.

Whole30 is a stricter version of the paleo diet. Some of the differences are that you’re not allowed to consume any natural sweeteners like raw honey, coconut sugar, or maple syrup.

Additionally, you don’t count calories, you don’t weigh yourself, you don’t snack, you don’t make “technically” approved junk food made of Whole30-compliant ingredients, and most importantly, YOU DO NOT CHEAT. EVER. If you mess up, you’re supposed to start over again.

It’s intimidating — but can you do that for 30 days? A lot of people can. A lot of those people didn’t think they could.

But if you give all those foods up, what do you actually eat?!

Short version: meat, eggs, and fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. It’s pretty basic. You can build a delicious, filling meal from meat or fish and vegetables.

BUT I CAN’T DRINK MY COFFEE BLACK!! I’D NEVER SURVIVE.

Order Nutpods from Amazon for your coffee. These nut creamers are Whole30-approved and I hear they’re delicious. (Most commercially processed nut milks contain ingredients that are not Whole30-approved.)

You could also try to ease yourself into drinking your coffee black, like me.

This isn’t a healthy diet, though. Isn’t it better to be vegan, or keto, or follow the Mediterranean diet?

Whole30 is not claiming to be the healthiest diet in the world, nor is the paleo diet the be-all and end-all of nutrition. Lots of foods that are forbidden on Whole30 have tremendous health benefits — sprouted whole grains, red wine, certain kinds of honey, and especially beans, chickpeas, and lentils.

However, Whole30 is a million times healthier than the Standard American Diet.

You know by now that the Standard American Diet is terrible for you — way too much sugar, processed foods, and high-calorie dishes. Eating this way has caused an obesity epidemic in America, leading to increased levels of cancer, diabetes, and other weight-related illnesses.

At its core, Whole30 is a diet that eliminates most of the foods that cause inflammation, and most of the foods to which most people have latent insensitivities. Doing Whole30 can make you feel amazing. It makes ME feel amazing.

You will probably lose weight. You might lose a ton of weight. But the point isn’t to lose weight — the point is to improve your relationship with food.

Simply cutting sugar out of your diet will lead to a massive reduction in your caloric intake, which will lead to losing weight. The vast majority of people who do Whole30, do it honestly, and keep it up for 30 days end up losing several pounds.

As someone who usually hovers between a size 6 and size 8, I lose around two pounds of fat per week when on Whole30. Some people who have more to lose actually lose more.

There are WAY more health benefits from Whole30 than losing weight.

While losing weight might be at the forefront of your mind, there are much more important benefits.

Clear, perfect skin. Before I did my first Whole30, I was 32 and was still nursing a giant zit somewhere on my chin at all times. Whole30 cleared it up — and miraculously, it has STAYED clear since.

Reduced inflammation. I didn’t know I even carried inflammation in my body until I realized that after a week on Whole30, my knees and hips felt SO clear and wonderful.

Incredible energy. I no longer get up slowly — I bounce up like Tigger.

Better sleep. Giving up booze alone makes sleep much better.

Pain-free periods. Every woman is different, but you may have reduced pain or PMS symptoms during your period.

Just feeling great. It’s crazy how a poor diet can get you into feeling general malaise — and you don’t even realize until it goes away.

Tip #1: Schedule your Whole30 for when you don’t have food-related obligations.

I’ve only done two Whole30s in the past year and a half because of my travel schedule. Yes, I could make it work if I absolutely had to, but part of my work is writing about local restaurants so it’s a non-starter. It’s hard for me to have a month with no obligations — which is why I jumped on it when I realized I had a free April.

Christmas and Thanksgiving can be hard, especially if you’re planning to attend holiday parties and are looking forward to a family member’s signature dishes and lots of pie. But if you can withstand a lot of holiday season temptation, go for it. It’s easy to plan a Whole30-compliant Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.

My biggest tip is not to plan Whole30 during a month when you have a wedding to attend. It’s hard to go to a wedding and say no to all that free food and booze, and you don’t want to make things hard on the people hosting you.

On the other hand, planning Whole30 over a holiday can save you from excess sugar consumption! I did one Whole30 over Halloween and one over Easter, and I felt proud of myself for completely avoiding candy on both occasions!

Tip #2: Meal prep, meal prep, meal prep.

You are going to be doing a LOT of cooking while on Whole30. Why make it harder on yourself by making three unique dishes every single day? The answer is to meal prep instead.

I have never meal prepped in my LIFE until this month. Now, once a week I make eight salmon burgers and an egg/sausage/veggie bake. I roast sweet potatoes to go with the egg bake for breakfast and I roast whatever vegetables are on hand to go with the salmon burgers for lunch. It is amazing and convenient to always have a fridge full of ready-to-go meals!

When I make dinner, I usually make four portions, freeze one, and eat the rest over the next few days. That habit has always served me well, especially when I come home tired and don’t want to cook anything.

r/MealPrepSunday on Reddit is a great resource for meal prep.

Tip #3: You will be spending a lot of time and money on grocery shopping, but you might actually be saving.

Your grocery bills are going to go way up. It’s inevitable. But you’re going to be saving more in the long run because you won’t be going out to eat, you won’t be ordering takeout — and especially because you won’t be drinking.

Lately I’ve been treating myself to an eight-pack of the fancy new Pellegrino Essenza waters. They’re delicious fancy seltzers with flavors like tangerine and wild strawberry and morello cherry and pomegranate. And you know what? That eight-pack costs $7.29 at my grocery store…but a single large beer at my local bar on the next block costs $8. And how often are you going to stop at one beer?

If you’re looking to do Whole30 on the cheap, it’s tough when you can’t turn to staples like rice, beans, and pasta. I recommend looking for specials at your local grocery stores. Some cheaper items are bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (they’re cheap and tasty, and you can cut the bone out easily with kitchen shears), potatoes (and sweet potatoes), and frozen vegetables.

Tip #4: Shop smart, and often, at the grocery store.

Here are the most important things that I buy at the grocery store:

All kinds of vegetables: I especially eat a lot of spinach, kale, zucchini, green beans, and broccoli
Fruits: Berries, clementines, or whatever’s in season
Sweet potatoes, for breakfast each day
Canned tomatoes
Canned wild Alaskan salmon, for salmon burgers
Organic, pastured eggs
The best meat I can afford: grass-fed beef if possible, organic pork, and ALWAYS antibiotic-free chicken (usually thighs)
Nitrate-free chicken sausage without added sugar (Trader Joe’s has a compliant brand)
Fish: usually salmon, tilapia, or whatever is available and easy
Cooking fats: olive oil for most cooking, and ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil, and/or avocado oil for high-heat cooking. Coconut milk irritates my stomach but most Whole30-ers rely on it.
Capers, lemons, onions, garlic, coconut aminos, Red Boat fish sauce, spices, and fresh herbs for flavoring everything
Superfine almond flour
Beverages: coffee (not flavored!), various herbal teas, various seltzers
Snacks and protein supplementation (for fitness reasons): Chomps grass-fed beef sticks, roasted salted almonds, grass-fed bone broth, boneless skinless sardines, RXBARs (for emergency hunger only as they’re made with dates and are considered “candy” on the Whole30 plan)
If you want to stock your fridge with condiments, check out Tessemae’s ketchup or their eight-sauce starter pack, which includes barbecue sauce, Caesar dressing, and more, all Whole30-compliant. You can buy compliant mayonnaise — but I suggest you make your own! It’s fun!

When I’m on Whole30, I usually grocery shop twice a week and stop in a few other times for random ingredients. This is actually the way we should all be shopping, buying the freshest ingredients and cooking them immediately.

As far as supplies go, there are a few I highly value: a lemon squeezer changed my life; heavy-duty kitchen shears are vital if you’re regularly buying chicken thighs (to cut out the bone); I love this meat pounder.

And I am perhaps the only New Yorker who has a toaster oven in her kitchen but it is the BEST for roasting vegetables for one. I use mine at least twice a day.

Tip #5: Get podcasts and audiobooks for your cooking and dishwashing.

You are going to be spending a LOT of time in the kitchen, both cooking and cleaning. And if you’re like me and you don’t have a dishwasher, you’ll be spending a lot of time scrubbing dishes.

So get a portable speaker (this one is mine), bring it into your kitchen, and listen to some podcasts! It makes the work go by so much faster. Here are some of my favorite podcasts:

For current politics: Pod Save America, The Wilderness, NPR Politics
For true crime: Dirty John, The Drop Out, To Live and Die in Los Angeles, Broken Harts
For history: Slow Burn, Bag Man
For episodic fiction: Blackout
For fun: Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, The Baby-Sitters Club Club

Looking for audiobooks? Even better! I borrow all of mine for free from the library. Generally I prefer lighter reads and especially memoirs read by the author. Here are a few recent faves:

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs by Dave Holmes

Another habit I’ve picked up? I drink a lot of herbal tea during the day, and whenever I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, I spend those two minutes cleaning up the kitchen.

Tip #6: Use Whole30 as a chance to try out new recipes.

Whole30 is an AWESOME opportunity to learn how to make new recipes! If you’re looking for recipes, Pinterest is a great resource.

My favorite Whole30 recipe site is Nom Nom Paleo. While it’s primarily paleo, all of the recipes point out how to make them Whole 30-compliant, and there are even 90 days of Whole30 recipes. Plus, they don’t go overboard on ads, which I appreciate as a consumer.

Here are some Whole30 recipes I enjoy:

Egg Sausage Veggie Bake (via 40 Aprons) — I prep this every week and have it for breakfast with roasted sweet potatoes each day.
Salmon Burgers (via The Real Food Dietitians) — I prep eight burgers every week and have them every day for lunch with Trader Joe’s Green Goddess Dressing. You can easily customize the recipe; I add capers.
Cracklin’ Chicken (via Nom Nom Paleo) — This recipe looks so boringly basic BUT THIS CHICKEN IS SO GOOD IT’S UNREAL. It reminds me of “the great chicken place” everyone loved off Nimman Road in Chiang Mai.
Potsticker Stir-Fry (via Nom Nom Paleo) — What a genius idea — make the filling for potstickers and supplement it with vegetables! I recommend using only half a Napa cabbage and using the other half for taco shells.
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala (via Tasty Thin) — Serve it over cauliflower rice.
Perfect Tomato Sauce (via Chrissy Teigen) — This is how I make my marinara and it’s perfect.
Italian Meatballs (via Tastes Lovely) — These meatballs are made of pork and beef and are bound with eggs and almond flour. Add a bit more salt than the recipe calls for.


Tip #7: If you’re hungry, ask yourself, “Am I hungry enough to eat a bowl of steamed broccoli?”

If the answer is yes, you’re hungry. If the answer is no, you’re looking to fulfill a craving. Learn to recognize that distinction.

Sometimes it helps to drink a full glass of water when you’re hungry. Much of the time when we think we’re hungry we’re actually just thirsty.

Tip #8: Keep lots of Whole30-compliant beverages on hand.

If you’re used to drinking at home, and especially if you’re trying to kick a soda addiction, you’ll need to be prepared.

For me, I love all kinds of herbal teas. I especially love super-fruity teas like Celestial Seasonings Tangerine Orange Zinger and Cranberry Apple Zinger (I buy them both in bulk from Amazon).

Seltzer is another big one. I drink a ton of seltzer — Polar is my fave (and Trader Joe’s, which is literally repackaged Polar), as well as Spindrift, and I love those new fancy Pellegrino Essenza seltzers. Just one thing: make sure it’s made with natural flavors only. There are lots of store brands that are made with artificial flavors and aspartame. Gross.

An added bonus? By the time you’ve been off sugar for a few weeks, non-sugary foods start to taste sweeter. By that point, Polar Orange Vanilla Seltzer tastes exactly like a Stewart’s Orange and Cream Soda to me!

Tip #9: Keep forbidden foods out of sight.

For me, just seeing a delicious forbidden food is tempting, but if it’s out of sight, I don’t think about it.

When I’m on Whole30, I keep noncompliant foods in my pantry instead of in my kitchen cabinets. It helps a lot.

Tip #10: Eating out is a challenge while on Whole30, but it can be done.

During my first Whole30, I was terrified to eat anywhere but Sweetgreen, where the Guacamole Greens salad (my favorite!) is Whole30-compliant if you omit the chips. On my second Whole30, I’ve relaxed a lot more, though I still eat a ton of Sweetgreen.

Make-your-own-salad spots, like Just Salad or Hale and Hearty, work well when you can choose the ingredients individually. Just top them with oil and vinegar.

Chipotle now has a Whole30-compliant bowl! You can only order it through the app, but you can get it at the counter by asking for a bowl with romaine lettuce, carnitas, fajita veggies, tomato salsa, and guacamole. (Chipotle used to cook their fajita veggies in bran oil but they now cook them in Whole30-compliant sunflower oil.)

When I go out to a nicer restaurant, I’ll usually get a salad topped with plain chicken, shrimp, or smoked salmon. It definitely got boring by the end of Whole30, but at least I could eat something. You can also ask for a plain piece of meat or fish and some vegetable sides, but make sure they’re not cooked in butter. If you’re going out for breakfast, get a vegetable omelet and double-check that butter or milk will not be used.

Sashimi is a good option at Japanese restaurants. You can make your own compliant soy sauce by mixing coconut aminos and Red Boat fish sauce, or just have it with lemon juice if you’re in a pinch.

And at Harlem Public, my local burger brewpub, I had a plain burger with avocado, tomato, and no bun and a side salad instead of fries. (I had to send back the salad twice because first they topped it with beans, then they slathered it in dressing, but I made it work!).

Tip #11: The early days are HARD for lots of people.

Lots of people have a great first day on Whole30, then fall into hangover-like symptoms. Headaches, fatigue, irritability, general misery.

I lucked out in this respect — the first round of Whole30, I had one brief afternoon of irritability; the second round, I had one afternoon where pizza and Levain cookies danced in my head — but it was smooth sailing afterward.

But it’s smart to be prepared for this moment. There is a timeline of Whole30 symptoms — it’s good to refer to it.

Tip #12: You will have crazy dreams about food.

Almost everyone who does Whole30 has dreams about eating forbidden foods at some point. And it’s often something that you don’t even eat ordinarily, like Three Musketeers bars or Flaming Hot Cheetos!

This recent cycle, I dreamed I was shoving Twix in my mouth and then suddenly panicked that I had ruined my Whole30. Another night I dreamed I was mauling the hell out of a chocolate Santa. In April.

At least you wake up and feel relieved that it was just a dream! (And I’ll take these dreams over my usual “oh my God I have to take an exam and I forgot to go to that class all semester” dreams.)

Tip #13: Keep in mind that “good” foods can be problematic.

I fucking love cashew butter. I am OBSESSED with cashew butter. Give me the opportunity and I’ll happily stand at my kitchen counter with a jar of cashew butter and a spoon. Every spoonful I eat, I’m dreaming of the next spoonful. (Yes, don’t eat the cashew butter at my house, I double dip like crazy.)

And Trader Joe’s cashew butter, made with cashews, salt, and safflower oil, is technically Whole30-compliant.

Here’s the thing — I do NOT have good eating habits with cashew butter. Eating nonstop is not healthy. Dreaming about the next spoonful while you’re still enjoying a spoonful is not healthy. Eating for entertainment, not hunger, is not healthy.

I tried to be better. I bought some cashew butter last week and measured it out carefully, only eating one tablespoon at a time. And honestly, it didn’t work. I couldn’t kick my addiction. I would eat it when I wasn’t hungry.

After a day and a half I put the cashew butter in the freezer.

There are lots of foods that are technically compliant but problematic if consumed in excess. I struggle with macadamia nuts as well. Those “just mango” slices from Trader Joe’s are FULL of sugar, even though it’s natural sugar. And if you’re eating steak for every meal, that’s slightly less than ideal.

Tip #14: SEX WITH YOUR PANTS ON IS FORBIDDEN!

Whole30 refers to SWYPO, or Sex With Your Pants On, to re-creating junk foods using Whole30-approved ingredients. Some examples of that: making paleo brownies and cookies, making your own potato chips or French fries from scratch, or blending coffee, pureed dates, and coconut cream to create a Frappuccino-like beverage.

(They call it “sex with your pants on” because it will never be as good a the real thing.)

Why does this matter? The point of Whole30 is to get yourself into better eating habits. You’re not in good eating habits if you’re using junk food as a crutch. The point is to choose healthy foods instead.

Get yourself through the 30 days of Whole30 — then you can make all the “technically Whole30” treats you’d like. I have to admit that after finishing Whole30 I’ve enjoyed blending unsweetened coconut flakes, almonds, dates, and a little bit of water and rolling them into balls.

Tip #15: Get used to peer pressure from your friends, family, and coworkers.

I guarantee that you’ll have people in your life that won’t understand why you’re doing Whole30. Navigating these relationships is going to be one of the hardest tests.

I can’t tell you how many of my friends have said to me, “When you’re done with Whole30, let’s go out drinking!” or “We’ll have to get some Levain cookies/gelato/go for afternoon tea once your Whole30 is over!” or “But Kate, we’re going to an ALL-INCLUSIVE in 10 days!” I love my friends and I know they mean well, but I don’t want to slide back into my old habits.

And even worse are the people who say, “Just have one drink. Just one munchkin. You’ve been good for so long, does one tiny bite even matter?” YES! IT MATTERS!! Not slipping up is the point!

And if you have a partner, especially a live-in partner, he or she needs to be supportive. There is a world of difference between a partner who encourages you and a partner who complains the whole time. Whole30 can be a litmus test for your relationship.

Sometimes your gentle refusals of, “No, thanks,” have to turn into a more firm, “I’m not interested in eating that. Please stop asking.”

However, Whole30 can also show you how people can be respectful to your needs. One friend brought me a banana at her kid’s birthday celebration when everyone else was eating cupcakes. When a dinner I ordered came unexpectedly covered in barbecue sauce, another friend offered to eat it the next day for lunch and walked with me to pick up sashimi instead.

Tip #16: Whole30 is a lot easier when you have accountability.

It can be helpful to do Whole30 with a friend — just having someone in there with you will give you strength on the hardest days. You can cook together, you can trade recipes, you can grumble about coworkers throwing donuts in your face. (You do want that someone to be reliable, though — if they quit a few days in, that could make you quit a few days in.)

If you don’t have someone, I recommend joining a group on social media. The Whole30 subreddit is a bit quiet, but a nice community, and there are plenty of Facebook groups, too. They’re a great place to get positive feedback when you need it most.

Tip #17: If you REALLY want to kick things up, increase your workouts.

If you’re already in a health-oriented mindset, you should take that and run with it. Use this as an opportunity to go to the gym more often, or increase the intensity of your workouts, or try a class you’ve always wanted to try.

This month, I upped my weekly gym sessions from four to six (I’m not scared of you anymore, Wednesday Zumba!) and added high-intensity boxing to my repertoire.

Just keep in mind that you might be miserable the first week when your body is detoxing from sugar. Once you get over that hump, get to work.

Tip #18: Know that Whole30 doesn’t work for everyone.

I’ve had a few friends who did Whole30 who were absolutely miserable the whole time. Some didn’t lose any weight; others had hangover symptoms for all 30 days. Anecdotally, some of those friends have autoimmune disorders and were already somewhat restricted in what they could eat. And a lot of people have sensitivities to Whole30-approved foods like eggs, nuts, or nightshades.

If you’re a vegan, this challenge is going to be all but impossible, unless you eat a freaking truckload of nuts and seeds each day. Vegan staples like soy and legumes are forbidden during Whole30.

Additionally, if you’ve struggled with disordered eating in the past, this kind of restricted eating may bring you back into unhealthy habits. If you want to do Whole30, you should discuss it with your doctor.

If Whole30 doesn’t work for you, don’t let it get you down. Everyone’s body is different.

Tip #19: There’s a case for breaking some of the rules.

Whole30 is very strict about following the rules. I recommend following all the rules to a T for your first round, but once you’ve had a successful Whole30 under your belt, feel free to bend where it fits your lifestyle.

On my second round, I decided to track everything — my weight, body composition, and everything I ate. I did it for science reasons — I was genuinely interested to see how my body reacted to tweaks in my diet, especially when it came to fitness. Plus, it’s important for me to be eating at least 100 grams of protein each day.

Additionally, snacks are strongly discouraged while on Whole30, but if you’re an athlete, it’s stupid not to snack for the sake of a rule. My strength workouts are meaningless if I don’t consume protein afterward. (There are lots of protein-rich Whole30 post-workout snacks. I usually had a combination of Chomps grass-feed beef sticks, roasted almonds, and boneless skinless sardines.)

Some of my friends had one cheat — like a wedding meal, or special occasion, or just one drink, and they were at peace with their decisions.

As for me, during my first Whole30, I was in a tough situation already by being at a writing group at a sports bar. There was nothing on the menu I could eat, and the coffee machine wasn’t working. So I opted to get a cup of tea. I later looked at the label and saw that teabag contained soy lechitin, which was forbidden! According to Whole30, I should have started over again after 27 perfect days — but COME ONE. One teabag. I chose to ignore it and continue.

A word to the wise — if you ask in any of the online communities, whether on Facebook or Reddit, if it’s okay if you break a rule, everyone is going to jump on you and say you need to start over again. Know that going in.

Tip #20: Consider doing a reintroduction after Whole30.

The worst thing you can do is dive back into your old habits, starting with a giant pizza followed by an ice cream sundae. The point of this challenge is to change your worst food habits. What’s the point if you’re going to immediately give it up?

Whole30 recommends doing a slow reintroduction of your foods, ideally over the course of 15 days (waaaaah!). I totally get if you refuse to do that. You’ve worked hard for 30 days already. But if you’re trying to figure out if your body has a problem with certain foods, this can be invaluable.

I didn’t do a reintroduction on my first round. This round, I’m going to be reintroducing dairy first, then gluten, just to see how my body reacts. Those are the two most common sensitivities anyway.

What I Learned from Whole30

I learned that I reward myself with food far too often. That is going to be the toughest habit to break, and it’s going to take longer than 30 days. At least I recognize it for what it is, and I’ll be able to keep an eye out for it.

My daily coffee break is something I look forward to each day, and over time, it has snowballed into me having a large latte and a pastry. A s’mores cookie or a Brooklyn Blackout donut or three of those iced mini vanilla bean scones from Starbucks.

Today I reward myself with a black coffee, or herbal tea, or a cool flavor of seltzer. But I know that’s a crutch — I should be rewarding myself with something that ISN’T food. I’ll have to figure out what that can be.

I learned that if I want to lose weight, a Whole30 or paleo diet will do it quickly and safely. Right before I started traveling long-term, I essentially starved myself while working 18-hour days and lost a ton of weight. Being on a paleo diet, working out, and making sure I eat more calories than my TDEE every day is a healthy and safe way to drop pounds. I lose about two pounds per week while on Whole30.

I learned that I’m not an asshole if I go to a bar and don’t order alcohol. Plenty of people don’t order alcohol at bars for various reasons and the bartender will not hate you for not boozing it up. Tip nicely and you’re officially a good customer.

I learned that I crash if I don’t have slow carbs in the morning. I eat a cup of roasted sweet potatoes every morning with my breakfast. The one day I didn’t, and had a double portion of my egg bake instead, I was so exhausted that I had to take multiple breaks sitting on a bench while walking in Central Park!

I learned that sugar is in literally EVERYTHING. Sugar is dangerously addictive, and it’s in everything processed. For decades, the government tried to scare us into thinking that fat was the problem, but all along, they sold us on low-fat foods that were full of sugar as everyone kept getting fatter. This makes me furious.

I learned that my body is sensitive to coconut milk — and perhaps even coconut as a whole. I don’t notice this when I’m eating normally, but when I eat clean, if I eat something with coconut milk in it, my stomach aches hard. It even hurts a bit when I have a Coconut Chocolate RXBAR, which I love. It’s too bad that coconut milk is the basis of so many paleo recipes.

I learned that I can rewire my mind in 30 days. After 30 days, I don’t even dream of sweets anymore. It’s natural to eat this way.

Life After Whole30

The biggest challenge of Whole30 is learning to stick with your habits afterward. After my first Whole30, I went straight to Vegas — I tried to be good, but it was SO hard at times. And while I kept up a lot of my better habits, eventually most of them collapsed in a year.

Here is what I’m doing going forward:

Meal prep is here to stay. If I have my egg bake and sweet potatoes for breakfast and my salmon burgers with roasted vegetables for lunch, that takes care of most of my food for the day. And I enjoy doing the prep once per week.

Keep up my six days a week workout schedule. Now that I’m used to it, I want to keep it up.

Make an effort not to combine food binges and booze binges. Some of my most indulgent nights involve going to At the Wallace, my local weird bar, for a hot dog, waffle fries, dinosaur chicken nuggets, and a few beers. Or sharing a huge pizza at Rubirosa with a friend after having several rosés at a PR event in SoHo. It seems reasonable to choose to splurge on one or the other but not both.

Try to eat clean five days per week and splurge for two. This seems to be reasonable. I’ll see how it works in practice.

Continue trying new Whole30 recipes. I want to make pho and kimchi soon!

Have you done Whole30? What tips do you suggest?

The post How to Survive #Whole30 — 20 Best Tips to Changing Your Eating Habits appeared first on Adventurous Kate.


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Solo Female Travel in Central America — Is it Safe?

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Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in Central America? Absolutely. With the right research and preparation, almost every destination in the world can be traveled safely by women on their own.

Central America has so much to offer — and it’s so much safer than many people think.

The closest I’ve ever been to having an “Eat, Pray, Love” trip was when I went to Central America for several months. I had been struggling through one of the worst times in my life and what got me through it was telling myself, “You’re going to survive, you’re going to get out, and then you’re going to spend the winter backpacking through Central America alone.”

I always thought I was more of an Asia and Europe person, but Central America changed that. I loved that music blasted out from every direction. I loved how easy it was to get to know locals, and how warm and friendly they were. I swam in the turquoise Caribbean waters surrounding Caye Caulker and Little Corn Island. I hiked up a volcano in Nicaragua and slid all the way down it in an orange jumpsuit. I made so many more friends than I dared to hope for.

Central America was great for me as a solo traveler. I want it to be great for you, too.

Why Travel to Central America Solo?

Central America is a fantastic destination for different kinds of travelers. But what makes it particularly good for solo travelers?

Central America has a great backpacker scene. If you want to meet people while on your travels, you will meet SO many people in Central America. To this day I’ve kept up friendships with people I met while watching the sunset on a dock in Ometepe, Nicaragua; while hanging out in the hostel pool in El Tunco, El Salvador; while sailing down the coast of Belize for three days; and while drinking at a bar in San Pedro, Guatemala!

Central America is great for being active and learning new skills. If you’re looking to become a certified scuba diver, Utila and Roatán in Honduras are home to gorgeous coral reefs and excellent diving schools. If you’re looking to learn to surf, the Pacific coast is full of surf camps, especially in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. If your tastes tend more toward dance, you can take salsa lessons in cities all over the region. And if you’re interested in trekking, Central America is filled with volcanoes to climb, rainforests to explore, and tour companies that will take you there.

Central America is ideal for learning Spanish. The best way to learn Spanish is through immersion while living with a family — and traveling solo can relieve you of the temptation to speak English with a companion. Some of the best immersion programs are in Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela) in Guatemala. If that’s too intense, you can take more relaxed classes and stay at your own accommodation, too.

Central America has gorgeous souvenirs. You could bring home a suitcase full of Mayan or Kuna textiles alone. If you’re looking for leather products, jewelry, or artwork, Central America has so much to offer.

Central America is cheap. Belize and Costa Rica tend to be the most expensive countries while Guatemala and Nicaragua tend to be the cheapest. As always, cities, beaches, islands, and tourism hotspots tend to be much more expensive than small towns and rural areas.

And if you’re flying from the US or Canada, it can be cheap to get there, too. Unlike the cheap countries of Southeast Asia, if you’re visiting from the United States, you can get a very cheap flight. Very often the cheapest (though often inconveniently timed) flights are on Spirit Airlines.

Central America is filled with constant delights. From the brightly painted chicken buses to the pulsating salsa clubs, from the deliciousness of pupasas to the thrill of sandboarding down a volcano, from the beauty of Mayan textiles to the shimmers of a sparkling Belizean cave, Central America will delight you again and again.

Is Central America Good for First-Time Solo Female Travelers?

I believe one Central American country is ideal for first-time solo female travelers: Costa Rica. Costa Rica has the most developed tourism scene of all the Central American countries. Costa Rica caters to first-time backpackers as well as resort travelers who just want to lie on the beach. In Costa Rica you can find five-star hotels and hostels, surf camps and eco-lodges. It has everything and they are very used to dealing with newbie tourists.

Belize is easy to navigate, has high-end resorts, and English is the language, so in some aspects it makes an easy choice. However, the street harassment in Belize is incessant, particularly on the islands. I wouldn’t send a first-time solo female traveler there unless she was already experienced in fending off street harassment (i.e. someone who lives in a big city would do much better than someone who has only lived in small towns).

As for the other countries of Central America, I don’t think they’re ideal for first-time solo female travelers. I might make an exception for someone who speaks Spanish and already has extensive experience traveling in Latin America with other people.

If you want to travel to Central America and you’ve never traveled solo before, I suggest you look into a group tour, anywhere you’d like, or a group retreat, fitness-oriented or not.

Group Tours in Central America

G Adventures, a tour company I recommend, offers several tours to Central America. Here are a few of their tours:

Costa Rica Adventure — 16 days all over Costa Rica.
Classic Belize and Tikal — 9 days in Belize and Guatemala.
Backroads of Central America — 18 days in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica.
Panama Experience — 14 days in Panama and Costa Rica.
See all their Central America tours here.


Is Central America Good for Experienced Solo Female Travelers?

Absolutely! Central America is a fantastic destination for experienced solo female travelers. I was 30 years old and had traveled to 50+ countries before arriving in Central America and I found it beautifully calibrated to my travel expertise.

When you’re an experienced solo traveler, your senses are more finely attuned to what’s going on around you. This is especially helpful in a region were petty crime isn’t uncommon. If you’re experienced, you’re (hopefully) not going to leave your passport under your pillow or walk around a city with a wide-open purse.

One thing I relished was that the backpacking scene was so different from Southeast Asia. People traveling in Central America tend to be older (late twenties and up), more experienced, and North Americans are far more prevalent. For this reason, I was grateful that I had spent my twenties backpacking Southeast Asia and Europe and had held off on Central America until I was in my thirties.

And if you’re sick of the backpacking trail, you can easily get off it. Some emerging destinations include the Rio Dulce region in Guatemala, the Miskito Keys in Nicaragua, and the Caribbean coast of Honduras.

READ MORE:
Backpacking Southeast Asia vs. Central America


Is Central America Safe?

Central America doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to crime. There is some truth to this. There are parts of Central America that are rife with violence — but the experience of a traveler is very different from a local who grew up in an impoverished neighborhood under gang control.

Many people who travel to Central America are concerned by gun violence, especially in cities like San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and San Salvador, El Salvador. The same truth holds anywhere in the world: most gun violence is gang-oriented and concentrated in areas where no sane tourist would ever go. Tourists are not the target.

To be honest, Central America’s major cities are not what make the region special. A lot of travelers dig the vibe of smaller, more tourism-driven cities like Antigua, Guatemala, and León, Nicaragua, but most steer clear of the major cities like Tegucigalpa, Belize City, and Managua. There is one exception: Panama City is major city that is safe, fun, and has a beautiful old town and lots of attractions for tourists.

While gun violence is rare, a far more realistic risk for travelers in Central America is petty crime. Robbery is common, whether on the road or in your accommodation, and you should be more conscientious than you would be in your home country.

To guard against petty crime, I recommend locking up your valuables in a portable safe in your accommodation, use a camera bag or day bag that locks, and keep your valuables on you in transit. See the Travel and Safety Tips for more details on how to stay safe.

The other major consideration for women traveling in Central America is the prevalence of street harassment. See the Street Harassment section for more information on how to deal with it.

Please keep in mind that the vast majority of travelers to Central America travel safely and without incident. Additionally, the vast majority of Central Americans are warm, welcoming, and will bend over backwards to help you. But even so, I’ve known very experienced travelers who have been robbed in Central America. The most important thing is to get travel insurance (I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Central America), as they will help you out in your time of need.

Street Harassment in Central America

Street harassment is part of life. If you’re a woman, you know that already. Street harassment happens all over the world, but it’s particularly prevalent and incessant in Latin America, where machismo reigns.

In my travels throughout Central America, I found street harassment to be most common in cities. Personally, I found street harassment to be the absolute worst in Nicaragua, specifically in the cities of Granada and León, and not quite as bad but still a major annoyance in San Juan del Sur. It was also significant in Antigua, Guatemala, especially at night.

It’s so ingrained in the culture. Here’s an example: in Granada, a group of little boys around seven years old were playing soccer and lost their ball. I grabbed the ball and gave it back to them. Immediately, the boys started chanting, “Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!” in English. That’s what they’ve learned from watching men. If you see a woman, treat her as a sex object first.

In Belize, particularly on Caye Caulker, the street harassment was a bit different, but nonetheless incessant — the men would often start a normal conversation, then get into, “Have you ever been with a black man before?” and laugh at however you reacted.

To avoid the worst of the street harassment, I wouldn’t walk alone at night — ever — in cities like León, Granada, and Antigua. Many times in Granada I would take a taxi on a four-block ride rather than walk home alone. Does that seem excessively cautious? Yes. And I did not regret it once.

Dressing like a local woman made a huge difference. In Central America and much of Latin America, women tend to wear long pants, even when it’s boiling hot outside, though they don’t cover up as much on top. Most casually dressed women tend to wear jeans, a tank top, and flip-flops. When I wore jeans or a long dress, I wouldn’t get nearly as much harassment as when I wore a knee-length dress.

In some cities, I chose guesthouses that had a restaurant so I would not have to go out at night. This was especially helpful in León because literally the moment I stepped outside my guesthouse at night, men on the street would be yelling at me. (This did not happen during the day.) This was on a relatively touristy street home to several guesthouses and hostels. Having a restaurant on-site gave me the option of avoiding that harassment.

However, there is one place in Central America where street harassment is almost nonexistent: Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. This is because Lake Atitlán is dominated by Mayans. It’s forbidden for Mayans to have relationships with non-Mayans, and they take this very seriously, so you don’t see any kind of sexual harassment on the streets.

Beyond that, I found that there was significantly less street harassment in smaller, more rural destinations. (“Significantly less” does not mean “nonexistent” — street harassment can happen anywhere.) I experienced no street harassment on the rural island of Ometepe, Nicaragua, or in the small town of Monteverde, Costa Rica, or even in the beach community of El Tunco, El Salvador.

Travel and Safety Tips for Central America

Most of staying safe in Central America comes down to using common sense. Don’t get blackout drunk, keep an eye on your belongings, be careful who you trust.

Double-check your passport stamps when you enter the country, especially if you’ve been in Central America for awhile. Sometimes immigration will give you fewer days in the country than you are allotted. This happened to me in Guatemala: I was allotted 13 days rather than the standard 90 and I didn’t realize until I was on my way out. They had written a “13” on the stamp; I still don’t know why this happened. I had to pay a fine of about $1.30 per day, which wasn’t severe, but it was a hassle to deal with.

Get a day bag that locks. Before I went to Central America, this was my biggest priority as I was concerned about petty crime. I ended up buying a Pacsafe bag and some padlocks; Pacsafe makes an excellent selection of bags that lock.

Be prepared for transportation scams. Once my friends and I booked a direct shuttle from San Pedro to Lanquín in Guatemala and the driver insisted on stopping in Antigua, which would add hours to an already long journey. The driver refused to go direct unless we paid him more, so we coughed up the cash.

Dress like the local women — and for all kinds of weather. Latin American women tend to cover their legs but be more liberal on top; I found that jeans and a tank top was a common uniform for local women. If you dress this way, you will be harassed less. If you’re in a resort town full of tourists, you can get away with more skimpy dressing.

Be sure to pack some warm clothing, too! I always bundle up before taking public transportation in Central America because buses LOVE to jack up the AC. Additionally, Central America is warm year-round, but there are some cooler regions. At 5,000 feet (1,500 meters), Lake Atitlán in Guatemala is at a high altitude, and it can get quite chilly, especially at night. You’ll spot travelers clad in colorful Mayan hoodies, pants, and hats because they didn’t think to bring anything warm.

Don’t flash your valuables or wear expensive jewelry. If you’re out taking photos with an expensive-looking camera, be extra cautious. Only take out your camera and phone when you need them — don’t walk around absentmindedly with them in your hand.

Pickpocketing happens in Central American destinations, especially on public transportation. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times.

If you carry a purse, hold it close to you. I recommend a crossbody purse, made out of a tough material like leather or fake leather, that zips shut. I recommend many purses in this post. Never let it hang behind you — always keep it in a place where you can see it, and keep your hand on it if you’re in a crowd.

If you carry a wallet without a purse, don’t keep it in your back pocket. This is obvious to thieves and they will grab it and run.

If you use a small backpack, lock it. I use a Pacsafe backpack where you can lock the compartments shut.

Keep your valuables locked up in your accommodation and only take with you what you need that day. I do this with my Pacsafe Travelsafe and I consider it the most important thing I pack. Keep an extra debit card and at least $100 hidden in obscure parts of your luggage.

Never leave your bags anywhere unattended. Even if you’re used to asking someone to watch your things while you use the bathroom in a coffeeshop at home, don’t do that in Central America. Take your belongings with you. If you’re keeping your bag under the table or otherwise out of sight, keep it between your feet or hook the strap around one of the chair legs.

Don’t carry tons of cash around with you. You can use credit cards in cities in Central America, and carrying lots of cash leaves you vulnerable to theft. Don’t be the traveler who loses her wallet and the $500 in it.

Only use ATMs at banks during the day, indoors. Don’t use standalone ATMs in convenience stores. Not only do they leave you susceptible to robbery, if your card gets eaten, it’s a lot easier to retrieve it from a real bank’s ATM. If you can’t find a bank, use an ATM in a shopping mall.

If someone robs you, GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT. Nothing is worth your life.

Haggling is the way to purchase at markets. Never accept the first price — people are expecting you to lowball them. Have fun with it, but don’t get so caught up in it that you’re arguing for five minutes over the value of 25 cents.

Protect yourself from the sun. Being in the sun so much leaves you vulnerable to skin damage. Be sure to cover up and use sunscreen as often as possible. If you’re snorkeling, you may want to wear a rash guard or shirt to keep your back from burning.

Use reef-safe sunscreen when snorkeling, diving, or swimming near coral reefs. In fact, there’s no reason not to use reef-safe sunscreen everywhere.

Hydrate — but be cautious about the water. The water is not safe to drink in most places in Central America. While most travelers rely on bottled water, it creates a major waste issue. For this reason, I recommend you bring a reusable bottle and invest in a SteriPen water purifier (much better and faster than tablets). Alternatively, you can bring a LifeStraw, a bottle that purifies water as you drink it through its straw.

See a travel doctor beforehand and be prepared on what to do if you get sick. On the Central America tours that I led in 2015, I was shocked that roughly half of my attendees got sick. Your doctor may advise you to take antibiotics that are easily available at pharmacies throughout Central America. That’s a conversation that you and your doctor should have.

Malaria is present in parts of Central America. This is the Costa Rica malaria map from the Center for Disease Control in the US. Some travelers choose to take malaria pills and some choose not to. I’m not going to tell you what to do because that’s a conversation you and a medical professional should have. I recommend seeing a travel doctor.

The zika virus is also present in Central America. Here is a map. Zika should be a concern of pregnant women, partners of pregnant women, and women who intend to become pregnant soon, but if you’re none of those things, you don’t need to worry. Again, this is a conversation to have with your doctor.

Bring motion sickness medication. You will probably be driving through some mountainous areas. I recommend meclizine (the generic version of non-drowsy Dramamine).

Be careful about your drinking. Drink less than you ordinarily would at home — two drinks is a good limit. Only take drinks from bartenders, never take a drink from a stranger, and always keep it with you and keep an eye on it. Be especially cautious in places like El Tunco where ladies basically drink for free during the week.

Spend extra money on staying safe. If it costs you money to take a taxi rather than walk, or to stay in a guesthouse in a nicer neighborhood, do it. It’s worth the peace of mind. Don’t pinch pennies on your safety.

Don’t flush your toilet paper. The plumbing in Central America can’t handle it. There is a wastebasket next to the toilet for this purpose. And absolutely DO NOT flush tampons or sanitary products!! (You should be using a reusable DivaCup or menstrual cup anyway.)

Get a digital guidebook and keep it on your phone. Even today, I always keep a guidebook PDF on my phone — it’s great for calculating approximate time of journeys, knowing what days places are closed, and it lists medical centers you should go to in case of emergency. I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks — get the digital version of Lonely Planet Central America on a Shoestring. You can buy individual country chapters if you’d like, or you can buy whole guidebooks for Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, or Panama.

Most importantly, you have no obligation to be nice to anyone. Women often feel the need to be nice and please people at all costs. You don’t have to anywhere — especially so in Central America. If anyone is making you feel uncomfortable, just leave. Trust me — you won’t be the rudest person they meet that day. And so what if you were? You’re never going to see them again.

READ MORE:
Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

How to Get Around Central America

Central America is easy to travel in some ways and harder in others. Here are the top ways to travel:

Flying internationally within Central America tends to be very expensive, especially considering the short distances. If you’re looking to hop from Panama to Honduras to Belize quickly, it will cost you a lot more than it would to go from Germany to Spain to Italy.

Some domestic flight routes, however, are logical and decently priced — like from Managua to Big Corn Island in Nicaragua, or from Guatemala City to Flores.

If you’re looking to travel in the cheapest way possible, take the bus. “Chicken buses” are popular throughout the region — they’re named because these buses could be transporting anything from sacks of grain to cages filled with live chickens. People are squished into any space possible. While it’s the cheapest option and a hell of an experience, it can be uncomfortable on long journeys.

Tourist shuttles are a pricier, more comfortable option than the bus. You buy these tickets from travel agencies in town; they will openly advertise them. These shuttles, often minivans, give you far more space than the chicken buses and usually have air conditioning. An added bonus is they take you direct from tourist spot to tourist spot.

Tourist shuttles are especially helpful when going to more random spots that are not transportation hubs. When I traveled from Lanquín to Flores in Guatemala, it was a direct eight-hour ride in a modern, air-conditioned minivan. I met some Swedes traveling on a budget who took four different cramped chicken buses for the same journey.

Taxis are a good option for both short and long distances. Sometimes it’s a short distance within a city; sometimes you can hire a taxi driver to take you on long distance rides for a set fee (I did this from Managua Airport to León). Before getting in a long-distance taxi, I recommend faking a call to a friend where you clearly read out the license plate number, letting the driver see you.

Traveling by boat is an option. The quality of boats varies enormously — you could be taking sleek passenger boats from Belize City to Caye Caulker, or a rickety wooden boat across Lake Nicaragua, or a simple “lancha” between the towns on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. There’s also a famous sailing trip from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia, via the San Blas Islands. I personally enjoyed the hell out of a catamaran sailing trip in Belize.

But Central America is the developing world, and I urge you to take extra precautions when traveling by boat. First off, learn to swim. Yes, it might be awkward to take lessons as an adult, but it could save your life. Second, if the choice is between a larger ferry and a smaller boat, choose the larger ferry (this was a good decision when crossing from Rivas to Ometepe in Nicaragua). Third, grab a life jacket and hold onto it or sit on it, even if you don’t need it. Finally, don’t travel by boat at night, ever. You’re safest when you travel by day.

The vast majority of boat journeys in Central America are safe, but occasionally there will be an accident that makes international headlines. You should be prepared.

RELATED:
Adventurous Kate Gets Shipwrecked in Indonesia

Renting a car is an option. Depending on where you want to go, it might make more sense for you to rent a car — like visiting the villages of the Ruta de las Flores in El Salvador, or beach hopping in Costa Rica with your surfboard in tow.

Trains barely exist in Central America. There is a passenger train line from Panama City to Colón, and that’s it. Other trains exist only for cargo, not passengers.

How did I travel? I did a little bit of everything. For longer distances, I mostly did tourist shuttles, including some very long distances like from León, Nicaragua, to El Tunco, El Salvador. I took local buses and chicken buses sometimes, like in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I took some boats, like from Belize City to Caye Caulker and from Rivas to Ometepe in Nicaragua. I flew from Managua to Big Corn Island and back. I took taxis in cities at night and once from Managua Airport to León.

Kate’s Picks: 10 Things You MUST Do in Central America

Go out dancing with locals. One of the best things about Latin America is that it’s easy to get to know locals. Head out to a club, enjoy the music, and soon everyone will be asking you to dance! If you really want to up your game, you can take some salsa classes while you’re at it.

Go sailing on the endless blue sea. Whether you choose a day trip or multi-day trip, a journey along the Pacific Ocean or Caribbean Sea, there’s no feeling like being out on the ocean. I loved sailing Belize for three days; another epic trip takes you from Panama through the San Blas Islands all the way to Colombia.

Do Central American activities you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Two major ones stand out: volcano boarding, where you slide down a volcano outside León, Nicaragua; and the ATM caves outside San Ignacio, Belize, which are filled with the remains of human sacrifices and everything has calcified into sparkles.

Learn Spanish. You can survive in Central America with very little Spanish — it’s far easier than, say, Colombia — but learning Spanish will add a deeper richness to your trip. Spanish schools are everywhere (except English-speaking Belize), but many people choose Guatemala for cheap immersion programs.

Hike a volcano…or just enjoy the view. Central America is covered with volcanoes, and some of them are within short distances of cities. Masaya is a short drive from Granada; Pacaya is a stone’s throw from Antigua; the two volcanoes of Ometepe formed the whole island! You can do a day trek, overnight trek, or just drive up and take a look.

Have an epic party night out. The biggest backpacker party in Central America is Sunday Funday, a pool party crawl in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. You’ll see Sunday Funday shirts on backpackers throughout Central America. If not there, two other party places are San Pedro on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala and Bocas del Toro in Panama.

RELATED:
How to Travel Solo to a Party Destination

Learn to surf. If you’ve never surfed before, Central America is a great place to learn. Most of the great surf destinations are dotted along the west coast — Santa Catalina in Panama, Tamarindo and Jaco in Costa Rica, Las Peñitas and the beaches surrounding San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, El Tunco in El Salvador.

Find a relaxed place and chill all day long with no agenda. Drink if you want — or don’t. Make new friends — or stay solo. Some of my favorite spots for chilling out? The Split in Caye Caulker, Belize; Laguna de Apoyo near Granada in Nicaragua; and the pool at Club Ven Aca in Jaibalito, Guatemala.

Zip-line through the canopy. If you’ve ever dreamed of flying through the trees like a bird — or maybe a monkey — Central America is the place to do it! Every country has at least one zip line, and in Costa Rica, there are several dozen if not hundreds.

Eat pupusas. These Salvadoran stuffed tortillas are perhaps my favorite food I’ve discovered on my travels. They are everywhere in El Salvador and cost about $1 each — I love them with cheese, beans, and pork. If you’re not going to El Salvador, you may be able to find them in Guatemala.

Solo Female Travel in Belize

Belize was never a place I had dreamed of visiting, but it ended up being one of the highlights of Central America for me. Belize is so different from the rest of the region — English is the primary language, it’s much more developed, it has a ton of high-end resorts, and it’s far more expensive than you’d expect a Central American country to be.

It’s the price factor that keeps many budget travelers away from Belize — but that’s a shame. Belize has so much to offer.

Most travelers to Belize come for the beaches and islands. Caye Caulker is the small, calm, backpacker-oriented island, while Ambergris Caye is more upmarket and caters to a more luxurious clientele. Other beach towns like Hopkins and Placencia fall somewhere in the middle.

One of the best things I’ve done in my travels was the sailing trip from Caye Caulker to Placencia. That three-day trip on a catamaran was a total blast from start to finish, and I’ve sent more than 20 readers on that trip.

Another popular town is San Ignacio, which gives you easy access to Mayan ruins, jungle trekking, and one of the most spellbinding sights in Central America: the ATM caves, filled with human skeletons, all covered with sparkles. It’s a place unlike anywhere else in the world. You can also day trip to Tikal and Flores in Guatemala from San Ignacio.

READ MORE ABOUT BELIZE:
Caye Caulker: A Good Place to Go Slow
Sailing Down the Coast of Belize
Snorkeling with Sharks in Belize

Solo Female Travel in Guatemala

I love Guatemala — it packs so much beauty and diversity into a relatively small country. Guatemala may not always be in the news for positive reasons (violence and volcano eruptions tend to take precedence), but the real country is so different from what you see in headlines.

In terms of ease of travel, Guatemala is a bit of a mix — there is a well-established tourist trail throughout the country that goes from Antigua to Lake Atitlán and Quetzaltenango (Xela) in one direction and Semuc Champey, Flores, and Tikal in the other. If you are traveling this route, you’ll have an easy time getting from place to place, especially if you rely on tourist shuttles rather than public transportation.

Step off that tourist trail, though, and you’ll find Guatemala more challenging. A bonus: Guatemala is one of the cheapest countries to travel. You can spend twice as long here as you could in Belize or Costa Rica, which is why many travelers take a Spanish immersion course here before traveling elsewhere.

Most travelers skip Guatemala City and head straight to Antigua, filled with colonial architecture and terrific restaurants. In my opinion, Guatemala’s greatest gem is Lake Atitlán, which is filled with so many interesting Mayan towns that you’re best off spending several days on the lake and exploring as much of it as you can. Semuc Champey is filled with bright green waterfalls, rivers, and caves, while Flores is a lakeside town and gateway to Tikal, perhaps the best ruins in all of Central America.

Some other emerging destinations in Guatemala are the Rio Dulce region, home to beautiful nature and waterfalls, and Monterrico, a Pacific coast beach where you can see sea turtles hatch.

One major tip for solo women travelers — I found Antigua to be lovely during the day but horrific at night because the street harassment was so vile. Even the guesthouse security wouldn’t let me walk outside, saying it was poquito peligroso. I urge you not to walk alone at night, or even walk with a group of women. Take a taxi instead.

READ MORE ABOUT GUATEMALA:
The Towns of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
I Still Don’t Know How I Feel About Antigua
Semuc Champey: My Favorite Day in Central America
Visiting Tikal at Sunset

Solo Female Travel in El Salvador

El Salvador conjures up images of war and poverty — but there is so much more to this country than that. Look beyond that and you’ll find a country filled with warmth, color, and killer volcanoes.

El Salvador is also home to perhaps my favorite food I have ever discovered on my travels: pupasas. They’re tortillas stuffed with cheese, beans, pork, vegetables, or any combination thereof — and they are so delicious. Best of all, they cost about $1 each.

Some travelers choose to check out the capital of San Salvador, but most give it a pass and head down to the beach. La Libertad is the main beach town along the coast, but backpackers mostly congregate in Playa El Tunco and the calmer, sleepier Playa El Cuco. A popular road trip is the Ruta de las Flores, taking in several colorful small towns with blooming flowers. Suchitoto is another popular city. And if you love scenery, check out El Salvador’s volcanoes and turquoise lakes at Cerro Verde National Park.

El Salvador is one of the lesser developed countries in Central America, which makes it tougher to travel. Unless you’re popping into El Tunco and leaving, you’ll have to navigate public transportation and towns that don’t cater to tourists directly. If you’re up for an adventure, it’s a great option. Be prepared to constantly email your parents that you’re safe.

READ MORE ABOUT EL SALVADOR:
A Perfect Day in Playa El Tunco, El Salvador

Roatan, Honduras (Image via Pixabay)

Solo Female Travel in Honduras

Most solo female travelers who travel to Honduras have one thing in mind: diving. The islands of Roatán and Utila are home to gorgeous coral reefs along with dozens of excellent dive schools. Roatán is larger, more upscale, has better beaches, and hosts cruise ships, while Utila is a smaller, sleepier, cheaper island perfect for divers and backpackers.

Other spots to visit in Honduras include Copán Ruinas, the best archaeological site in the country; Lake Yojoa, a volcanic lake home to lots of adventurous activities; and the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve, home to some to the best wildlife in the country. Most travelers skip the two major cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

Outside the two main islands, Honduras isn’t nearly as developed. That said, there are backpacker routes, an increasing number of interesting places to stay, and lots of new spots that will be “discovered” by the masses. If Nicaragua is being heralded as the next Costa Rica, Honduras is the next Nicaragua. I fully anticipate that Honduras will be upping its ecotourism game, especially on the mainland, in the next decade or so.

Solo Female Travel in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is my favorite country in Central America. I spent a full month of the country and explored a variety of destinations, from cities to islands to small towns.

Nicaragua is colorful and welcoming but rough around the edges, making it more of a challenge to travel than Costa Rica, Panama, or Belize. An added bonus is that Nicaragua is one of the cheapest countries in Central America, especially in the rural areas.

Most travelers start in the colonial town of Granada, close to Managua then proceed to either the island of Ometepe or the youthful, rebellious city of León (and volcano boarding nearby). If you’re coming from Costa Rica, your first stop will likely be San Juan del Sur or one of the surrounding surf towns. There are lots of other surfing beaches along the Pacific coast. But my favorite spot of all is Little Corn Island, located far off the mainland in the Caribbean Sea. This island is gorgeous, magical, and perfectly low-key.

My only problem with Nicaragua is that the street harassment is so incessant, especially in Granada, León, and San Juan del Sur. Even so, Nicaragua is still at the top of my list, which tells you how great it is.

However — and this is a BIG however — Nicaragua has been facing civil unrest since April 2018. I have not traveled to Nicaragua since the unrest erupted. Many tour companies, including G Adventures and Intrepid Travel, have suspended trips to Nicaragua at this time.

Since the conflict began, six friends of mine have chosen to travel to Nicaragua. Their experiences were mixed. Two who traveled during the earlier days of the conflict didn’t feel safe, were the only tourists in León, were trapped by roadblocks, and chose to leave the country early. More recently, another traveler went to a surf lodge and was the only guest, but felt safe the whole time. Also recently, another traveler visited much-quieter-than-usual Little Corn Island and enjoyed it.

The choice to travel to Nicaragua is yours — I can’t make it for you. The situation can change instantly, so I urge you to constantly check the current situation. If you choose to travel to Nicaragua, double-check that your travel insurance will cover you.

READ MORE ABOUT NICARAGUA:
Escaping to Laguna de Apoyo
Ometepe, Nicaragua’s Volcanic Island
The Colorful City of San Juan del Sur
The Best Things to Do in San Juan Del Sur
Rocking Out on Little Corn Island
León, Nicaragua, the City of Revolution

Solo Female Travel in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is the ideal choice for first-timers in Central America, including first-time solo female travelers. Costa Rica is the easiest landing pad. You’ll find accommodation at every tier here, from backpacker hostels to five-star resorts, and you’ll find an incredible variety of things to do.

Many travelers choose to focus on the Arenal-Monteverde-Manuel Antonio route. Arenal is great for Lake Fortuna, a volcano, hot springs resorts, and jungle; Monteverde is great for exploring the cloud forest, ziplining, and trekking; and Manual Antonio has gorgeous beaches pushed up against the jungle. This volcano/cloud forest/beach combination packs a lot in!

The Nicoya peninsula is home to tons of beach towns, many of them prime surfing destinations. Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side is a major backpacker party town; Tamarindo on the Pacific coast is a much more developed touristy town. Corcovado National Park is home to some of the best wildlife in the country. And while the capital San Jose isn’t often on Costa Rica itineraries, it has some nice museums.

Fun fact — I suggested Costa Rica to my best friend and her husband for their honeymoon since they wanted a relaxing vacation but didn’t want to be out in the sun all day, every day. They went and loved it!

READ MORE ABOUT COSTA RICA:
The Perfect Beach Town of Sámara, Costa Rica
Into the Cloud Forest of Monteverde

Hummingbird in Panama (via Pixabay)

Solo Female Travel in Panama

Like Costa Rica, Panama is another easier choice for Central America. While not quite as developed and tourism-driven as neighboring Costa Rica, Panama is fairly easy to navigate and has accommodation at a variety of price points.

Panama City is the only major city in Central America that comes highly recommended for travelers. The San Blas islands are worth visiting for their beauty and experiencing indigenous Kuna culture. The archipelago of Bocas del Toro, just over the border from Costa Rica, is one of the biggest backpacker party towns in Central America. The colonial town of Boquete is a beautiful launching pad for trekking and enjoying the mountains.

Panama’s Pacific coast is full of prime surfing destinations, like Santa Catalina. And Coiba Island off the Pacific coast is home to some of the best diving and underwater life in Central America. And if you’re very adventurous — and have a trusted guide — you can venture a bit into the Darién Gap, though please go back before you arrive in Colombia.

What about Mexico?

I didn’t include Mexico in this guide because it’s technically not part of Central America and I already wrote an extensive guide to solo female travel in Mexico. However, lots of travelers to Central America include Mexico in part of their plans, as it’s often easier or cheaper to fly to Mexican hubs and travel overland to Central America from there.

One popular route is to fly into Cancún and explore the Yucatán region before heading south to Belize and traveling onward to the islands or San Ignacio. (If you plan on visiting this part of Mexico, I happen to love the island of Holbox.) I took the boat from Caye Caulker to Belize City, then the bus to the border at Chetumal and another bus onward to Tulum in Mexico.

Another popular route is to travel between Guatemala and San Cristóbal de las Casas in the Chiapas region of Mexico. There are lots of tourist shuttles that connect San Cristóbal to Guatemalan destinations like Quetzaltenango (Xela) and the towns of Lake Atitlán.

Culturally, Mexico is very similar to Central America, and it has enormous variety. Some places are incredibly easy for newbie travelers and first-time solo female travelers, and other places are better for more skilled solo female travelers. Some places are incredibly cheap and others are quite expensive. You’ve got cities and beaches, jungles and ruins. The food scene is one of the best on the planet. Simply put, Mexico rocks.

READ MORE:
Solo Female Travel in Mexico: Is it Safe?

Travel Insurance for Central America

One last note — it’s absolutely vital to have travel insurance before traveling to Central America. If you get sick or injured on your trip, if you get robbed, or even if you have to be flown home, travel insurance will protect you from financial ruin. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Central America.

I had one instance where I almost had to use my travel insurance in Central America — my flight to Costa Rica was scheduled on a day when a major snowstorm was about to hit New York City. JetBlue offered me the chance to move my flight a day early before the storm hit, but most airlines won’t do that. If I hadn’t, I would have been stuck paying for a new, more expensive flight booked at the last minute — and travel insurance would have covered the difference.

Note: Nicaragua is currently experiencing civil unrest and some travel insurance policies will not cover you in countries with civil unrest. If you plan to visit Nicaragua, I recommend calling your potential travel insurance policy and see if they are currently covering Nicaragua. This can change on a dime so I recommend calling before you book and before your trip begins.

Central America is waiting for you!

When I look back at my happiest moments of travel, so many of them took place when I was traveling solo in Central America. It was a trip that I dreamed about in my darkest hours, and perhaps that’s why my long-term Central America trip became one of the best trips of my life.

I want the same for you. Start planning your trip to Central America. Hell, start planning your first two trips to Central America! Then come back and tell me all about it.

READ NEXT:
Solo Female Travel in Mexico: Is it Safe?

Have you been to Central America? What advice would you give to solo female travelers?

The post Solo Female Travel in Central America — Is it Safe? appeared first on Adventurous Kate.


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What’s It Really Like to Travel Guyana?

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When I knew I was traveling to Guyana, I had no idea what to expect. Even for the girl who grew up constantly reading about other countries, I knew very little about Guyana and never really had a desire to visit.

Then in November, I received an opportunity to visit Guyana on one of the Guyana Tourism Authority’s very first press trips. At the time, I was in Kenya on another press trip. One of the writers with me was Guyanese-American, and I excitedly told her I got invited to her home country.

“Why?” she said. “There’s nothing there.”

There’s nothing there. Quite the endorsement!

The trip was an instant yes for me, though. Lately I’ve been craving trips to lesser-known destinations. My mission this year and beyond is to visit and write about emerging destinations that don’t get a lot of tourism yet. Even when I go to Italy, I’m planning to visit cities that don’t get a lot of attention.

Guyana, I learned, would be all about waterfalls and wildlife and traveling in a way. It would be an adventure.

And BOY, did Guyana deliver. There is QUITE a bit there.

I know nothing about Guyana. What’s it like?

When I said I was traveling to Guyana, I was surprised at how many of my friends — even some very well-traveled friends — told me, “Have fun in Africa!”

Not quite! It’s Guyana — not Ghana or Guinea or Gabon — and it’s located in the northeast of South America, bordering Brazil, Venezuela, and Suriname.

Guyana is unique among South American countries in that it’s an anglophone country, thanks to its years as a British colony. Guyana gained independence in 1966. Guyanese tend to consider themselves a Caribbean country rather than a Latin American country and they’re part of CARICOM, the Caribbean country organization. The interior is defined by its Amerindian culture. English is the primary language, but Guyanese Creole is spoken on the coast and a variety of Amerindian languages are spoken in the interior.

Guyana has six distinct ethnic groups. As of 2012, 40% are of East Indian descent, 30% are of African descent, 20% are of mixed ethnicity, 10.5% are Amerindian, 0.3% are white, and 0.2% are Chinese. The East Indians came to Guyana as indentured laborers; the Africans came to Guyana as slaves. After multiple slave rebellions, slavery was abolished in 1838.

East Indian culture dominates. Even when out in the most isolated parts of Guyana, Amerindian families listen to Hindi music as their children throw colored powders at each other to celebrate Holi (called Phagwa in Guyana).

I was surprised to learn that the Guyanese are the fifth largest immigrant group in New York City. The heart of the Guyanese community is in Richmond Hill, Queens. I once ended up in the neighborhood by accident and assumed I was in an Indian neighborhood — little did I know it was actually Indo-Caribbean!

In Guyana, you’ll be traveling extremely off the beaten path.

When I traveled in Guyana, I felt like I was experiencing travel in a way I hadn’t for years. Zero reliance on technology, because there was none. Few countries having flights to Guyana added to the feeling of being cut off from the world (though you can fly direct from New York and Miami). One of the properties where I stayed, Saddle Mountain Ranch, was so remote that it didn’t even have a website.

Guyana is, without a doubt, the most off the beaten path destination I’ve ever visited. While Antarctica or Hawaii or Easter Island may technically be more geographically isolated, each receives loads of tourists — far more than what Guyana gets. (It’s hard to isolate tourism numbers because most Guyana visitors are business travelers.)

Anecdotally, among my travel blogger friends, I can name well over two dozen who have been to Antarctica or Hawaii or Easter Island. I can name only two who have been to Guyana — neither of whom have been to the Rupununi.

I saw very few tourists in Guyana — less than half a dozen in the interior and about a dozen at Kaieteur Falls. At this point in time, many of Guyana’s tourists come for wildlife and birdwatching in particular. According to Brian Mullis, Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority, Guyana’s tourists tend to be affluent, North American or European, and age 35-60.

This utter lack of tourism added to Guyana’s charm for me. Multiple times I heard people in the Rupununi say something along the lines of, “We don’t care if you come to our lodge or another lodge, we’re just happy people are coming here.” Imagine hearing that in Venice or Barcelona.

You will eat well in Georgetown — and everywhere.

I’ll be honest — the capital of Georgetown is a necessary landing pad, and that’s about it. It’s not a terrible city, but it has little in terms of attractions, and the true beauty of Guyana is in the interior. That being said, you’ll probably arrive early on an overnight flight, and it’s smart to give yourself a little buffer of time before your plans begin, just in case your flight is delayed or canceled.

The vast majority of Guyanese live in Georgetown and its environs. This city is a crash course on contemporary Guyanese culture.

And so there is one activity that I highly recommend in Georgetown: a food tour with Backyard Cafe. Run by Delven Adams and Mailini Jaikarran, this is quite literally a backyard cafe in the heart of a residential neighborhood in Georgetown. They run market tours where they take you around the market, then bring you back to the cafe to cook lunch with the food you picked out!

Bourda Market is colorful, organized chaos. Delven weaves us in and out of the stalls, treating us to samples of fruits. Delven spent most of his life in New York but felt the pull to come home to Guyana. At one point he beckons for us to follow and we’re in a rum shop — a bar — at 9:30 in the morning, surrounded by locals in various levels of intoxication.

Would we like a beer? Why not?!

After securing our provisions, we go back to the Backyard Cafe itself, hidden within a residential neighborhood. We drink passionfruit juice and sit back, listening to the music, and it’s hard to think of a place that could be more chilled out than this.

The piece de resistance is a giant fish called a snook — enormous and impossibly delicious. When the fish is that fresh and delicious, all you need to do is put some garlic and salt on it and let it cook away. One of the best fish I have ever tasted.

With it we had those long green beans, called bora, beef curry, and bitter melon.

While that was just the first showcase of Guyanese food, plenty more awaited over the next week.

Guyanese food is delicious. It has a lot of Indian, Chinese, British, and Caribbean influences. And the Guyanese love their hot sauces, ranging from roughly “Wow, that’s got a kick to it” to “This could strip the paint off a car.”

Some of the most popular dishes? Curry is the standard home cooking dish. Chow Mein is surprisingly popular — you’ll find it on tons of menus. Pepper pot is a delicious Amerindian dish of stewed meat with spices. I couldn’t get enough of bakes — the giant fried pieces of bread.

Most of the nicer hotels in Guyana tend to favor international cuisine over Guyanese specialties; I suspect this is related to Guyana catering to business travelers rather than leisure travelers.

You’ll Have to Pack Light

If you’re flying domestically within Guyana, you will be flying on a tiny plane and limited to 20 lbs/9 kg of luggage per person. That’s a REALLY small amount of luggage, especially if you’re carrying photography equipment.

You’ll have to pack extremely light — and forget hard-sided bags, which add a lot of weight. You’ll have to pack only the essentials. (You also have the option of leaving your excess luggage at your hotel in Georgetown while you fly into the interior.)

Alternatively, it’s possible to travel from Georgetown to Lethem by bus. The journey takes about 13 hours and costs around $75 USD.

What to Pack for Guyana’s Interior

Sun protection — sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, light long-sleeved shirts and long pants
Insect repellent (ideally insect repellent for clothing) — especially when you’re near water
Closed-toe shoes for the outdoors. A hiking shoe/sneaker hybrid is ideal.
Photography equipment, including long lenses if you’re photographing wildlife
Portable charger and power strip (you might be sharing a single outlet with everyone at the lodge)
Kindle Paperwhite (you’ll have downtime for reading in the afternoons, and this is much lighter than bringing books)
All the toiletries you’ll need, including menstrual products (I recommend a DivaCup)
Extra underwear, because you will sweat A LOT
Bathing suit, just in case there’s a creek to swim in!

The Rupununi is Isolated and Breathtaking

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’ve never heard of the Rupununi before. This part of southwest Guyana is home to savannah — endless plains mixed in with forested areas called bush islands, mountains in the distance, the Rupununi River winding throughout the region.

This is where the magic begins in Guyana.

We arrived on a dirt airstrip near Karanambu. Waiting there to pick us up were three aged SUVs caked in dirt. They took us on a dirt road — and occasionally drove through burning sections of forest!

By the time we arrived in Yupukari, my phone, my luggage, and I were covered in dirt that didn’t leave for days.

The people who come to the Rupununi tend to be “the generation that grew up with David Attenborough,” according to Melanie McTurk, Director of Karanambu Lodge. Attenborough wrote extensively about Guyana and Karanambu Lodge featured heavily in his books.

One of the nice things about staying at Caiman House is that it’s right in the town of Yupukari — you get to experience Amerindian life here in a way you don’t at more isolated lodges. I loved getting to visit the school, seeing the local library (with a HUGE collection of Baby-Sitters Club books!!) and learn about how locals are building a local enterprise where they design housewares for IKEA!

Guyana’s Wildlife Will Thrill You

Forget lions, elephants and giraffes — you can see those all over Africa. You come to Guyana to see the weird wildlife.

Ever heard of the Giants of Guyana? Guyana is home to several giant species. Giant river otters, giant anteaters, giant lilies, and the world’s largest spider, the South American Goliath Birdeater (BOY, AM I GLAD I MISSED THAT GUY).

At Caiman House, they’ve been running a long-term scientific study about the black caimans that dwell in the nearby Rupununi River. For nearly a decade, they’ve been capturing the lizards, recording their measurements, and releasing them.

In fact, if you stay at Caiman House, you can join in the project! Just before sunset, you head down to the river, and you spend the next few hours cruising along as the naturalists look for the lizards. It can be a bit tedious (it took us a few hours to see anything), but once they captured them, it was worth every minute of waiting.

This black caiman, which looked much more like a crocodile, was about six feet long — but he was considered rather puny as far as caimans go! The team measured it, weighed it, checked for the sex (“It’s a boy!”) and tagged it before letting it run back into the river.

And then there are the giant otters. This is the major project of Karanambu Lodge. The late Diane McTurk, affectionately known as “Auntie D” by locals, was known as the Jane Goodall of giant river otters. She devoted her life to the conservation of these creatures in the Rupununi and earned international recognition for her efforts.

See that picture above? Those are Sandy and Dwayne, two six-month old river otters. The adults can grow to be over six feet long!

You can join the otters for their noon feeding. It’s remarkable how much like dogs they are — they get out of their pen and trot along down to the water in excitement, flashing their teeth and awaiting that delicious fish! Never has something so adorable been so ferocious.

The babies don’t live in confinement forever — they are eventually released.

I got to see a few full-sized giant river otters, albeit from a great distance.

For me, one of the biggest highlights was seeing an anteater. Anteaters are so funny — not only do they look completely ridiculous, from their long nose to their bushy tail, but when they run they bounce up and down!

Jaguars can often be seen in Guyana, sometimes near Karanambu and often in the Iwokrama Rainforest; capybara are more elusive. Sadly, I didn’t get to see either on our trip.

And believe it or not, one of the craziest wildlife sightings was in Georgetown! There’s a national park in the middle of the city, and they have a little lake that’s home to manatees. If you grab some of the nearby straw and put it on the surface, the manatees will come up to nibble it.

You will be cut off from the internet — and that’s a good thing.

The internet is fine in Georgetown, if not at the excellent speeds of Romania or Hong Kong. But once you get into the interior, most places are subsisting on satellite wifi, which is both painfully slow and expensive. Other places have no internet at all, the nearest connection a 90-minute drive away.

How slow is satellite internet? It took me 15 minutes and five attempts to send my sister a single text. (The message? “This internet isn’t worth it. Tell Mom and Dad I’m alive and I’ll email them Sunday night.”)

However, some lodges including Caiman House and Karanambu Lodge offer faster wifi from 11:00 PM until 5:00 AM. While it’s not fast, my friend described it as “night and day” compared to the daytime wifi.

My advice? Plan to be completely offline. Don’t plan to do work. Tell your office you’ll be unreachable. Tell your family you’ll email them as soon as you get back to Georgetown.

And the added bonus is that a digital detox is SO good for your brain. When I go completely offline, I realize that I have a constant tic directing me to my phone. That tic is gone within 24 hours.

You will have moments of discomfort.

When you’re traveling as far off the beaten path as Guyana, you’ve got to be ready for discomforting moments. Traveling in Guyana’s interior is extremely basic. Sometimes the water will stop running and you’ll need to tell the staff so they can pump from a well. You might be dealing with toilets that refuse to flush or showers where the shutters don’t completely close (I had to wedge my toiletries underneath it to keep the whole lodge from seeing me naked).

One time, we got on our tiny plane and an alarm kept sounding as we began to taxi, so we had to get off and wait for the crew to fix it. “We’d get you another plane, but there is no other plane, so we’ll just fix it,” one of the employees told us with a smile. Not exactly reassuring when you’re already nervous about flying in tiny planes in developing countries. (It turned out to be fine. The flights were excellent and the pilots were incredibly professional.)

But the worst instance happened in the Rupununi. On our last night at Caiman House, I came back to my room and spotted a small spider on the toilet seat and a tiny frog on the shower curtain. I giggled at the frog and swept the spider away. Then I got to the sink and saw a three-inch cockroach inside it.

Gross. But not the worst. I swept it aside, smiling at the memory of doing the same thing in Laos eight years ago. So many of my friends would freak out at that. Not me.

But then it got worse. I suddenly realized that part of the bathroom was COVERED in mouse droppings — droppings that surely I would have noticed the day before. Then a mouse dropping suddenly fell onto my foot from above. I looked up and saw a mouse on one of the beams, sticking its tiny foot out and KICKING ITS TINY POOPS ONTO ME FROM ABOVE.

And that moment, my friends, was when I nearly lost my temper. I’m usually easygoing on my travels (yo, I took my first steps in a tent!) but that just set me off.

Luckily, the bathroom and the bedroom had different kinds of ceilings, and there were no beams where the mice could push their droppings onto me while I was sleeping. Plus, the beds had mosquito nets. You could hear the mice scurrying in the roof, but there was no risk of droppings falling onto you in the middle of the night.

I slept fine — but the next morning, I lifted up my jeans and realized a cockroach had hatched her babies underneath them. GROSS, GROSS, GROSS.

Is this indicative of what Guyana is like? Not necessarily; I think I had bad luck. Additionally, Saddle Mountain Ranch was immaculate and had no pest issues; though I didn’t stay overnight at Karanambu Lodge, it seemed to be a few levels nicer than Caiman House.

The important thing is that you shouldn’t travel to Guyana unless you can handle a little discomfort now and then. I look back now and laugh, but at the time, it wasn’t funny.

You will be even more cut off in the South Rupununi.

The Rupununi is isolated and fairly new to tourism — but most lodges are in the northern part of the region, including Karanambu Lodge and Caiman House. If you want to be even more isolated, head to the South Rupununi.

Saddle Mountain Ranch was an intriguing stop in the South Rupununi — and for me, it ended up being one of the highlights of the whole trip. This lodge was a mystery to us all — it was extremely isolated, it didn’t have a website, and even our well-traveled guide Leon had never been there.

On the journey from Lethem, we had to stop as the engines overheated. That Rupununi crust of sweat and dirt settled over us again as the men worked to get the cars working. Soon enough, we were on the road again, and a little oasis appeared in the savannah. Two green creeks. Blue mountains in the background. Golden plains as far as the eye could see.

Saddle Mountain is a working ranch. You can watch the cowboys carry out their duties, including the branding of cattle (difficult to watch, but a legal requirement in Guyana). We were offered the chance to watch castrations done by knife and all of the guys promptly noped out of there.

Here we were free to do whatever we wanted. Ride an ATV? Sure. Climb a mountain? Yep, but you’ll be scooting down on your butt for much of it. Horseback riding? Of course!

This was the most basic place of all. There were two lightbulbs hanging in the building, one in the kitchen and one in the main room, and the bedrooms were in darkness. There was a single electrical outlet for guests. (Thankfully, our guide Leon wisely packed a power strip.) Absolutely no internet, not even slow satellite internet. And doing a supply run meant a three-hour round-trip journey to Lethem.

Life was simple and beautiful here. We slept with the doors wide open to catch the breeze. We played Scrabble by the light of that single bulb. And we spent a glorious afternoon in the creek.

Kate in the creek. Drone image by David DiGregorio.

You will have the best time ever in the creek.

With its equatorial location, Guyana is sweltering year-round. It’s wise to do your activities in the Rupununi just after sunrise and before sunset, when temperatures are milder.

So at Saddle Mountain, that means horseback riding and ATV-riding just before sunset, when the colors turn shades of violet. And that means going on an anteater safari and climbing Saddle Mountain in the early hours when the landscape reverberates in shades of gold.

That leaves a lot of extra time in the afternoon, though. And so we went to the creek.

The creek is near the entrance to the property — green and glassy, filled with tiny fish, and surrounded by slabs of rock.

The water was warm, but it was SO nice that we got in and stayed in for two hours nonstop, pruniness be damned.

The staff drove by us on their return from the Lethem supply run, and we started yelling, “Beeeeeeer!” as a joke. Well, our guy heard us and stopped to give us beers to drink in the creek.

Oh, except that nobody has a bottle opener. Nor anything that could do the trick.

“Wait a second,” I tell my friends. “Didn’t Leon open beers with a plastic water bottle?”

He did. The guys tried their hand at his method and sure enough, it worked!

And back into the creek we went, now with Banks beers in hand. A perfect afternoon.

You will gawk at Kaieteur Falls.

Kaieteur Falls should be up there with Niagara and Victoria and Iguazu — but Guyana is so untouristed, few people have heard of it. It’s the highest single-drop waterfall in the world and the surrounding scenery is gorgeous.

Kaieteur Falls is incredibly isolated — you need to arrive by plane directly at the falls, and that’s literally all that is around — no hotel or anything, just a simple lodge with bathrooms and a shop. (You can also do a seven-day jungle trek to the falls.)

I marveled at the fact that there was nothing around. Most national parks are chock full of tours, trails, and places where you can spend your money. Not here. There are a few different viewing platforms…and that’s literally it. In a twisted way, Kaieteur Falls is functioning like an Instagram hotspot!

Keep in mind that we visited during the dry season, when the waterfall is at its weakest. In the rainy season, the falls will be much bigger and more robust.

Mount Roraima from Air. Image by David DiGregorio.

If you’re EXTREMELY lucky, you’ll see Roraima on a scenic flight.

I’ve heard of Mount Roraima before — but I thought it was part of Venezuela and it never occurred to me that I’d be able to see it on this trip. Well, Roraima is actually on the Venezuela-Guyana border, though if you’re hiking it, you’ll need to start in Venezuela.

I’ve seen so many images of Roraima online — the table mountain rising above layers of clouds — and thought I knew what to expect. And then as we flew closer and closer, Roraima began to take shape.

My jaw fell open. It was so much more beautiful than I ever imagined. Nothing I had seen online was even close.

Does this image above compare to seeing it in real life? HELL NO. I feel bad that this picture doesn’t show you JUST HOW AMAZING it is.

How special was this? The pilot was literally taking photos to send to his pilot friends. “You’re very lucky,” he told us. “Most Guyanese pilots fly across the country for decades and never get the opportunity to see Roraima.”

Hearing that from him, I knew we were incredibly fortunate.

Things You Must Know Before Traveling to Guyana

Guyana is not a place where you can book a last-minute flight and wing it. You can get away with that in Colombia or Brazil, but a trip to Guyana should be planned meticulously in advance if you want to avoid disappointment.

First off, do not even think of visiting during the rainy season of May through July. Rainy season in Guyana doesn’t simply mean it will be rainier — it means key roads will be impassible, lodges will shut down, and you won’t be able to do many of the things that make Guyana special.

Secondly, Guyana is very tough for planning a DIY trip; you need to rely on tourism companies here. Even eating at the Backyard Cafe must be booked in advance. While in most destinations you can just rent a car and drive if you want to, you can’t do that in Guyana because there isn’t a single agency renting cars that are outfitted to drive the road from Georgetown to Lethem, the center of the Rupununi. The cars literally don’t exist. Your only options are to fly or take the bus.

Additionally, keep in mind that lodges in the Rupununi and isolated parts of Guyana have extremely poor satellite internet. Others have no internet at all. You won’t receive timely responses to your inquiries — some places wait several days between checking emails. For that reason I recommend reserving your accommodation as far in advance as possible.

Finally, there are so few lodges and they have limited capacity. Saddle Mountain Ranch barely had enough room to sleep eight of us, and we all doubled up. Book early to make sure there will be a spot for you.

Solo Female Travel in Guyana

Women can absolutely travel solo in Guyana and stay safe. I did not travel solo on this trip to Guyana, but I did keep my eyes out for what I would look for as a solo traveler and how I would evaluate the destination.

There are no special precautions that women need to take in Guyana beyond the precautions you would take elsewhere. I would recommend not walking around Georgetown at night.

So is Guyana a good destination for solo female travelers? It depends what kind of traveler you are. Frankly, I don’t think I would rank it highly for solo female travelers in general, only the kinds of travelers who enjoy doing isolated wildlife trips solo. For me personally, this is the kind of trip I’d prefer to do with others rather than by myself. But that’s just me.

Another issue — once you get into the Rupununi, the pricey transfers between lodges and the airport in Lethem can quickly drive up the cost of a trip for a solo traveler. Costs can vary quite a bit, so contact the lodge and make sure you have accurate pricing information.

But if everything you’ve read in this post so far has excited you about doing this alone, it sounds like solo female travel in Guyana could be right for you! In fact, I would recommend Karanambu Lodge in particular. Speaking to Director Melanie McTurk, she told me that they love hosting solo female travelers, they’ll make sure you always have a member of the senior team with you, and all meals are communal, so you’ll get to know the other guests.

If you’re interested in traveling Guyana with a guide, I highly recommend my guide, Leon Moore. You can see more about him in the “Essential Info” section at the bottom.

READ MORE:
Top Ten Travel Safety Tips for Women 


Planning a Guyana Travel Itinerary

I felt like my Guyana itinerary was excellent — a weeklong stay bookended with nights in Georgetown, and two-night stays both in the North Rupununi (Caiman House with a day trip to Karanambu Lodge) and the South Rupununi (Saddle Mountain Ranch) with a scenic flight over Roraima and several waterfalls, plus two hours on the ground at Kaieteur Falls.

I do wish that I had had the chance to see more rainforest, especially since Guyana is 80% rainforest. I’ve heard that Rewa Lodge is a great place to experience the rainforest in the Rupununi, and it’s not obscenely far from Lethem and the other Rupununi lodges. If I went back to Guyana, I would definitely stay there.

I’ve never said this for any other country, but the Guyana Tourism Authority’s website is an excellent place for researching and booking your trip. So many vendors in Guyana are offline that the GTA acts as a travel agent.

The Takeaway

I had a blast in Guyana and highly recommend it for adventure travelers who can go with the flow, function without internet, and tolerate a little discomfort now and then. If you’re able to put up with the challenges from traveling in a country new to tourism, you’ll find it extremely rewarding.

Guyana is on the verge of exploding in recognition. Everyone is always looking for the next big thing in travel, and I think Guyana is going to be it. In fact, I would bet my monthly rent that Guyana is going to be on many of the major publications’ “Where to Go in 2020” posts at the end of this year. Guyana Tourism is investing in bloggers and writers, and that’s what happens — we create the initial buzz that snowballs into wide-ranging coverage.

So what do I say? The same thing I always say — go now. It’s not always going to be like this. It’s not always going to be so beautiful, so remote, so cut off from mainstream tourism. Once money and investment finds its way to tourism in Guyana, the best interests of the Guyanese and their environment will no longer be prioritized.

Go now, and enjoy a truly special and unusual destination.

Essential Info: The Guyana Tourism Authority’s website is a good place to book accommodation and packages, especially places that have little to no internet.

In Georgetown I stayed in three different hotels: King’s Hotel (rates from $145), Duke Lodge (rates from $120), and Cara Lodge (rates from $142). All are good hotels and you’d be fine staying in any of them — they’re all fairly equal. I found King’s Hotel had the best internet and food, Duke Lodge had the nicest rooms, and Cara Lodge had a gorgeous courtyard that was perfect for working.

The Backyard Cafe does market tours and serves meals, but they’re open by appointment only. Contact them through their Facebook page.

Caiman House in Yupukari in the North Rupununi has an all-inclusive rate of $115 that includes three meals a day and activities including joining the caiman research team in the river at night.

Karanambu Lodge in the North Rupununi has an all-inclusive rate of $200 that includes three meals a day and activities including otter feeding, wildlife safaris, and hikes.

Caiman House and Karanambu Lodge are very friendly with each other and happy to send you to do activities at the other place — for example, if you’re staying at Caiman House but want to see the otters, or if you’re staying at Karanambu Lodge but want to go on the caiman tagging excursion.

Saddle Mountain Ranch in the South Rupununi doesn’t have a website. They have an all-inclusive rate starting at $68 that includes three meals a day and activities including horseback riding, hiking, and ATV riding.

Properties in the Rupununi charge for transfers from Lethem and other airstrips, and these fees can be quite costly. Contact the properties for a quote.

Evergreen Adventures offers day trips to Kaieteur Falls from Georgetown. The trip to the falls including a scenic flight to Orinduik Falls is $285. Roraima is so difficult to see ordinarily that most scenic flights will not include it.

If you’re looking for a private guide in Guyana, I highly recommend our guide, Leon Moore. If you’re interested in wildlife or photography, he’s the guide for you, and if you’re interested in birds, his knowledge and enthusiasm is unparalleled. You can contact him through his Facebook page.

Guyana requires evidence of a yellow fever vaccine, though I was never asked for proof. I recommend getting the vaccine anyway even if you don’t have travel plans, as it’s good for life and a requirement for visiting many countries. Malaria is present in parts of Guyana. Speak to your doctor about whether or not you should take anti-malarial pills.

Travel insurance is necessary for Guyana. If you trip and break an ankle in the Rupununi, or if you get appendicitis while in Georgetown, or if you have a death in the family and need to return home immediately, travel insurance can save your life and finances. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Guyana.

This post is brought to you by the Guyana Tourism Authority, who invited me on a media visit and covered all expenses. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Does Guyana look like your kind of destination? Share away!

The post What’s It Really Like to Travel Guyana? appeared first on Adventurous Kate.


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AK Monthly Recap: March 2019

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March brought me to Guyana. That, far and away, was what dominated the month — my weeklong trip to the little-visited country in South America. It was an unbelievable trip and I can’t wait to start writing about it for you.

Honestly, this month was so dominated by work that I didn’t get up to much else. I was working like crazy to write all kinds of solo female travel guides, and I still have quite a few. But even though I was crazy busy this month, I still got a TON of books in. Behold: March 2019!

Destinations Visited

New York, NY

Georgetown, Yupukari, Karanambu, Lethem, Saddle Mountain Ranch, and Kaiteur National Park, Guyana

Highlights

My trip to Guyana was absolutely FANTASTIC. One of the best press trips I’ve ever done, with one of the best groups of people with whom I’ve traveled. I don’t want to write too much about Guyana here because I’m preparing a huge post on it, but it was so special to be in a place SO untouristed, with natural beauty and insane wildlife and warm, welcoming people. It reminded me of how travel used to be.

Enjoying a digital detox. There was practically no internet outside Georgetown in Guyana, so for five days I enjoyed the bliss of being completely offline, my first proper detox since Antarctica a year ago. It is so good for your brain — the ticks you have toward checking your phone completely disappear. I need to make an effort to do this more often.

Speaking at an event for solo female travelers in Harlem. I loved giving out travel tips, chatting with cool travel people, and discovering a brand-new venue — Callie’s, a cool bar that opened recently.

Great times in New York. I attended a book event for Laurie Halse Anderson’s new book Shout with my friend Anna. It was a great reading and we got to meet Mara Wilson afterward (yep, the little girl from Mrs. Doubtfire)! She was cool; she liked my nails.

Celebrating my bud Jessie‘s engagement party was a lot of fun. I hung out with my book group and went to some Drag Race watch parties and comedy shows. And on my quest to try all the best pizza in New York, I finally tried the famous spicy slice from Prince St. Pizzeria in SoHo. The verdict? It was all right. I didn’t see anything life-changing about it.

Challenges

Helping a friend through her grief. I was with a friend when she got the worst news of her life. I helped her and comforted her throughout that horrible day, but she was in so much pain that it destroyed me knowing there was nothing I could do to make things better.

Saying goodbye to a furry friend. My friends said goodbye to their dog, a Very Good Boy who loved his family so much. He was a sweet and protective pup who loved my coffee breath and wouldn’t leave my friend’s side while she was pregnant. He was adopted from a shelter in Brooklyn. Seeing how much love my friends’ rescue dogs have brought to their lives, if you’re thinking of getting a dog, I encourage you to adopt one from a shelter, rather than going to a breeder.

My building was on fire and I found out through an app. I use the Citizen app to get updates of nearby crimes close to wherever I am, whether it’s a robbery or a stabbing or a fight (though my favorite was “AGGRESSIVE CHIHUAHUA” when I was on the Upper West Side).

Boy, was I surprised when I was at home working and got a notification that said “Fire at [Kate’s address]”!! I freaked out, grabbed my valuables and coat and closed the doors, and went out into the hallway. Lots of my neighbors were there talking as the FDNY went up and down the stairs.

It turns out that an apartment on the floor beneath mine had a kitchen fire. They called the fire department but kept the door closed so the smoke wouldn’t go into the hallway — that’s why the alarms didn’t go off. There was no danger to anyone — it was just a scary experience to go through!

Most Popular Blog Post

Solo Female Travel in Paris — Is it Safe? — How did it take me so many years to write this post? I’m delighted you all enjoyed it! Paris is VERY different from what first-time visitors think it’s going to be, and it’s important to protect yourself.

Other Blog Posts

How I Became a Successful Travel Blogger — My Smartest Decisions — One of my favorite posts I’ve EVER written, and that’s saying a lot.

Solo Female Travel in Colombia — Is it Safe? — Everyone warns you against going to Colombia, but I was determined to uncover what it was really like for solo women.

The Best Things to Do in Ushuaia, Argentina — I wasn’t super excited for my mandatory stop in Ushuaia before Antarctica, but I discovered an absolutely gorgeous place!

Solo Female Travel in South Africa — Is it Safe? — South Africa is one destination where you need to take precautions you wouldn’t take anywhere else. I think it’s great for women who already have a lot of solo travel experience under their belt.

Solo Female Travel in England, Scotland, and Wales — On the other end of the spectrum, Britain is a very easy country in which to travel solo, and a great spot for first-time solo travelers. I share a lot of my favorite things about British culture here.

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

A selfie, an elephant, a leopard-print scarf — what’s not to love? This shot was from Kenya back in November. For more photos from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

What I Wore This Month

I rented this awesome Yumi Kim dress from Rent the Runway. We had severe luggage restrictions for Guyana (only 20 lbs each, including tech and photography gear!!), so we were told to keep it EXTREMELY simple, but I couldn’t resist bringing one outlandish dress for our day in Georgetown. I love how tall it makes me look.

What I Listened To This Month

This month, I have a music recommendation rather than a podcast — Solange’s new album When I Get Home. SUCH a good album — dreamlike, ethereal, and a long meditation on what it is to be a black woman in 2019. The album was released at midnight between Black History Month and Women’s History Month for that reason.

This album is great to listen to on its own, but it also makes good background music for working. (Not an insult; it’s just that kind of album.) I’ve listened to it a million times this month.

Strangely, I realized this month that I’ve always liked Solange’s music more than her sister Beyonce’s. She has done her own thing from the very beginning, without worrying about playing to the needs of the masses. (Don’t come for me, Beyhive!!!)

What I Watched This Month

Everyone, you need to watch Shrill on Hulu. This show is amazing — based on the memoir by Lindy West (whom I love), and starring Aidy Bryant (whom I also love), it’s a sweet, six-episode comedy about a woman who finds her voice.

Annie has a good life, but it could be better — she’s got a regular hookup but he won’t let her be seen with him publicly, she’s got loving parents but her mom needles her about her weight, and she has a job with potential but a boss who fat-shames her constantly. Annie learns to rise up and blossom — not by losing weight, but finally allowing herself the self-love she’s denied herself her entire life.

It’s not an after-school special — it’s funny, and sweet, and gorgeously diverse, and the fashion is amazing. Also, Daniel Stern plays her dad, and how AMAZING would it be to not only get your own show, but have Marv from Home Alone play your dad?!

Queer Eye has a new season this month as well, and it’s SO good. I bawled my eyes out for the whole widower episode.

What I Read This Month

This month I read 10 books, and I’ve now read 34 in 2019. And I finished the BookRiot ReadHarder challenge! It feels amazing to finish a yearlong challenge in MARCH, but you know me — I’m crazy competitive with myself. Books that fulfilled the categories are listed at the end of the review.

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham (2015) — After the unexpected death of her husband, Darlene spins out of control and becomes addicted to crack cocaine. One night, she is picked up in a van by people promising her a good job and she winds up at Delicious Foods, a farm that uses drug addicts for labor and holds debt over their heads, effectively keeping them as slaves. Darlene’s 11-year-old son, Eddie, sets out to look for her, and he eventually ends up at Delicious Foods himself.

This may be the single best book I’ve read in 2019. What makes it extraordinary is that it’s narrated by crack itself, in a sexy, seductive tone that makes you just want to party. I was horrified and fascinated by the human trafficking operation that welcomes drug addicts, and gladly provides them with crack if they want it, but charges them for every little thing and has them amass a debt they’ll never be able to repay. It turns out that this premise is sadly based in reality — there have been farms in Florida targeting Latinx undocumented immigrants for slave labor. I loved each of the characters and wanted to spend time with them. Category: a book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (2008) — Why is it that some people are able to break through and be phenomenally successful? Talent and effort play major roles, but there are also thousands of tiny factors that create success. This book explains why most Canadian professional hockey players were born in the first three months of the year, why certain nationalities of pilots were more likely to crash, why so many children of Jewish garment-makers went on to become the most powerful lawyers in New York, and why Bill Gates succeeded when other similarly intelligent men did not.

I adored this book so much that I actually wrote a whole post about how I was an outlier. After reading The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis earlier this year, I resolved to read more books about data, and this was a hardcore data book. I was fascinated by it. This was actually my first time reading a Malcolm Gladwell book, and I know I’ll be reading a lot more by him in the future. Just one thing — this is not the best book to be reading on a plane, as you suddenly get to a chapter all about plane crashes. Oops.

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum (2019) — This book tells the stories of three Palestinian-American women living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. In 1990, a seventeen-year-old Palestinian girl named Isra is married off to a man living in America. She bears him a daughter, which earns her scorn from her mother-in-law Fareeda, and then she bears three more daughters — each earning her more anger than the last. The book skips forward to 2008, when Isra and her husband are dead, and Fareeda is now pressuring Isra’s seventeen-year-old Deya to marry as soon as possible. Deya has doubts over marrying so soon and it leads her to investigate what happened to her family so many years ago.

This is a great addition to the books about immigrants living in contemporary New York, like Lisa Ko’s The Leavers and Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers. I felt so hard for the characters in this book, especially Isra — imagine being taken to a new country, never being allowed to leave your house, and getting constantly degraded for giving birth to girls, something that’s completely out of your control. I was also surprised when the book jumped to 2008 and the girls were still living in Bay Ridge, going to an Islamic school, never having ridden the subway or gone anywhere on their own but getting ready to get married. I had no idea communities like that existed in New York today, but I shouldn’t be surprised — everything’s here.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh (2018) — Sarah Smarsh grew up poor and white in rural Kansas, coming from a long line of farmers on her father’s side and a long line of teen mothers on her mother’s side. This book is a memoir examining her own life and those of her mother and grandmother, and the specific difficulties poor white people face in rural areas. Smarsh was eventually able to escape and go on to college and become a journalist; she ties in her memories with research making interesting observations about the sociology, economics, and politics of being poor.

This is the book that Hillbilly Elegy wishes it was. Plain and simple. A million times better — much better researched, much more compassionate, and much more intelligent. This book and Matthew Desmond’s Evicted have been the two most important books I’ve read about poverty in America. You think you can understand it when you learn and research from a distance, but when you read a book like this, you realize that there are so many layers to being poor and that they’re nearly impossible to escape. While at times it was hard to keep all the characters straight, I found this to be a fascinating and sad book with moments of genuine joy. I think everyone should read it.

The Black Coats by Colleen Oakes (2019) — Months after her beloved cousin Natalie was murdered, sixteen-year-old Thea is recruited into a mysterious organization. Run entirely by women, the Black Coats serve as vigilantes, seeking out to hurt men who hurt women. Thea and the girls on her team are trained in combat and eventually take part in “balancings,” or justice-based assignments, but as their assignments become increasingly violent, she worries that the organization is on the wrong side of history.

This is my cousin’s latest book! She’s an amazingly prolific writer. What she does best, and what you’ll notice across all her books, is how she builds beautiful, intricate, fantasy-like worlds. They’re the kinds of worlds you’d want to see directed by Tim Burton, and that especially goes for the Black Coats’ headquarters. Also amazingly, she finished this book in mid-2016, before #MeToo became a movement. I loved the idea of this secret society and how women were supporting each other as they took down truly evil men. And once the organization began to crumble, I loved the moral dilemma over who is truly served by vigilantism. This isn’t the kind of book I’d pick up on my own, but it was a fun, exciting read and an excellent choice for a teen girl in your life.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2019) — In the late 1970s, Daisy Jones and the Six were the hottest band in the world — huge tours, a critically acclaimed album, and two stars in lead singers Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne. A year later, the band disbanded. Nobody ever knew why. This book is told in the form of an oral history — all of the band’s members, plus some outsiders, each tell their side of the story.

Reid wrote The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, one of my favorite books from 2017, which is why I was so eager to read this book. And honestly, it’s not QUITE as good, but I enjoyed it enormously anyways. Reid is so good at building worlds in the Los Angeles of decades past. The characters were hard to keep straight at the beginning, especially since there were two sets of brothers, but eventually I figured it out. Eventually I was so into the story that I couldn’t put it down. It’s bubbly and frothy in all the right ways. I could relate so much to having that insane chemistry with someone — but having nowhere to put it. (In fact, that’s a relationship I’ve been exploring in a piece of fiction I’ve been writing.) This is a fun, great read.

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson (2019) — Laurie Halse Anderson came to fame when she published Speak, a book giving a voice to survivors of sexual assault. For her follow-up, she wrote an autobiography in the form of poetry — an idea, she joked, that her editors were NOT thrilled about. Who buys an autobiography in verse these days? But this book is a gorgeous, eloquent look at the most important events in Anderson’s life, from her own sexual assault to her months as an exchange student in Denmark to her work as an activist.

I went to the launch event for this book at HousingWorks in SoHo. This isn’t the kind of book I’d pick up ordinarily, especially without having read any of Anderson’s previous work — but I loved the book. SO much. Most of the poetry I’ve read in the past few years has been hit or miss, but this one was hit after hit. I feel like I know her so well now, and I enjoyed reading a very different book from what I usually read.

An Unlikely Journey: Waking Up From My American Dream by Julián Castro (2018) — Julián Castro served as the Mayor of San Antonio and Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Today, he’s running for president. This memoir tells the story of his life, beginning with his grandmother’s arrival in America as an immigrant from Mexico, who spent her life working for other people. Castro and his twin brother, Joaquin, grew up economically disadvantaged, but they worked hard — the graduated high school a year early, both got into Stanford, both got into Harvard, and returned to San Antonio, becoming political workers and always working for justice in their communities.

Castro is one of my favorite candidates running for president. I know that candidates’ books can err on the side of cheesy, but this book was so engrossing. More than anything, I was struck by how service has always been the priority for both Castro brothers. While their mother had them involved in local politics from an early age, they didn’t come out of the standard privileged political background, and it shows in their priorities. My favorite moment was when they got on the flight to Stanford, the first time away from their family, and they looked at each other and sobbed for the entire flight. Reading this, I have no doubt that Castro would be a president who would care for the most vulnerable.

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss (2016) — Tim Ferriss became famous with The Four-Hour Workweek; today, he’s best known for his eponymous podcast, where he interviews successful people to learn about their habits. This giant book (which I got on Kindle from the library) is a collection of the absolute best tips, sorted by category.

Now. This book. I got a lot out of it — I think it’s significant that 70% of his interviewees have a meditation/mindfulness routine, and I wrote down all kinds of book recommendations and tips — but it was clear that this was a book about white men written for white men. It was a shock when I added it up and found out 86 of the 106 people profiled in the book are white men. YIKES. Exactly one woman of color is profiled in the 707-page book: Margaret Cho, and she has a profile of less than two pages. To me, it seems that when Ferriss prioritized interviewing high performers from all kinds of businesses on his podcast, it didn’t cross his mind to feature people who were different from him. And it shows.

One other note: I read this and Julián Castro’s An Unlikely Journey simultaneously. The difference blew my mind. Castro’s book kept hammering home the theme of, “How can I best serve others?” and Ferriss’s book kept hammering home the theme of, “How can I best serve myself?” There’s nothing wrong with self-improvement, but when you’re reading a book about white men trying to hack their lifestyles versus a man of color who grew up in poverty trying to serve the disadvantaged as best he can, it’s a jarring contrast. Category: a business book.

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (1987) — In a Maori village in New Zealand in the mid-20th century, eight-year-old Kahu is desperate for affection from her great-grandfather, but he rebuffs her because she’s a girl. A grandson was supposed to be born and take over his duties as the Whale Rider, the one person who can communicate with whales. But when no grandson is born, Kahu steps up and shows that the abilities were living in her all along.

I’m not familiar with Maori culture and I’ve never been to New Zealand, so this was a new culture to me. I had to read an #ownvoices author from Oceania, meaning an author from a culture that is overlooked in western literature. I loved learning about the Maori families and their traditions. Like A Woman is No Man, it was sad to hear a girl be punished over and over and over, just because she wasn’t a boy. While the book was nice, I have the feeling that it’s better as a movie, and I might try to see it when I can. Category: an #ownvoices author from Oceania.

Coming Up in April 2019

A quiet April looms ahead, and for good reason — it’s going to be a health-focused month. I have started my second round of Whole30, as well as entering a fitness challenge run by my friend. I loved doing Whole30 a year and a half ago (30 days of no grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, alcohol, or processed or artificial foods, ZERO slip-ups allowed), and now that I’ve done it once successfully, I think I can do it even better this time.

It’s funny how your eating habits can slip. First you’re eating mostly healthy, then you decide to grab yourself a treat, then your once-in-a-while treat becomes a three-times-a-week treat. You used to know that you could choose a drink or an unhealthy food but not both at once, and a few months later you’re at your local bar having two beers, a hot dog topped with Fritos, and half an order of waffle fries.

This seems like a good opportunity to right the ship, so to speak, and get me into a healthier place going into the summer. Food is just one part of it. I work out a lot as is, but I plan to kick it into gear even more this month. And now that the weather’s much warmer, I’m eager to take lots of long walks through Central Park again!

What did you get up to in March? Share away!

The post AK Monthly Recap: March 2019 appeared first on Adventurous Kate.




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The ultimate Florentine steak, Italy – Lonely Planet travel videos

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