Where to Stay in Seattle — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation

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Seattle Skyline (via Pixabay)

Where’s the best neighborhood to stay in Seattle? I’ve got you covered! While I’ve traveled to Seattle, I’m nowhere near an expert on the city. So this month I’ve hired Seattle native and expert Richelle Gamlam to write about the best places to stay in Seattle, Washington. Richelle knows Seattle backwards and forwards and she knows the best hotels and neighborhoods for all kinds of travelers.

Take it away, Richelle!

Seattle is one of the coolest up and coming cities in the US. With a diverse community, rich coffee culture, vibrant music history, and booming tech scene, what’s not to love about this Pacific Northwest gem?

I grew up in the Seattle area and watched as it gained popularity over the years. Long gone are the days when people made fun of us for our rain (okay, well, they still do). But now it seems like everyone is dying to move here or at least plan a visit. While I no longer live in Seattle full-time, I do spend at least a few weeks here every year, and I’ve definitely done my fair share of playing tour guide.

Seattle is home to many vibrant neighborhoods and it can be really difficult to decide which one to pick. Do you stay downtown near all the tourist attractions, or try the cool hipster neighborhood your Seattle friend raves about?

Thankfully, I’m extremely familiar with all the Seattle neighborhoods and the ins and outs of our many steep hills, intricate bus network, and our embarrassingly new light rail system (better late than never, right?).

Wherever you end up staying in Seattle, be sure to take a visit to each neighborhood to sample everything Seattle has to offer. From the gorgeous upscale downtown waterfront, to the gritty, artsy “center of the universe” Fremont, there’s so much of Seattle worth exploring.

Best Neighborhood Overall: Seattle’s Downtown and Waterfront

If you’re a first time visitor to Seattle, the best place to stay is Seattle’s Downtown and Waterfront. Downtown Seattle really is the heart of Seattle and it’s extremely easy to get to any of Seattle’s attractions from here.

Not only are you walking distance to Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market and the original Starbucks, you also have easy access to the light rail, as well as major bus and ferry lines. From here, you can even take a short monorail ride to Queen Anne to see the Space Needle.

Downtown Seattle is home to the Central Library, Paramount Theater, Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Art Museum, and of course, the Pike Place Market, the oldest continuously running farmers market in the US. Here you can buy amazing fresh produce, find incredible souvenirs (fresh lavender or smoked salmon, anyone?), the original Starbucks, Seattle’s gum wall, the “flying fish” sellers, and some pretty fantastic seafood.

Just up the hill from Seattle’s waterfront and Elliot Bay, you’ll find fantastic shopping and restaurants. If you’re looking to splurge on a nice dinner or a brand new outfit, this is the place to visit. Pacific Place Shopping Center is also a huge hit with both international and local shoppers, and is home to both designer and budget brands.

Hotels in Seattle’s Downtown and Waterfront Area are popular for good reason. You’ll find families on vacation, business travelers, and in the summer, Alaskan cruise vacationers. If you are planning on visiting Seattle in the summer high season, be sure to book accommodation early because this area is always in demand!

Best Hotels in Seattle’s Downtown and Waterfront:

Luxury: The Edgewater
Midrange: Hotel Max
Budget: The Green Tortoise

Find deals on all Downtown Seattle hotels here.

Lower Queen Anne, Seattle, via Harold Hollingsworth on Flickr

Best Neighborhood for Sightseeing and Culture: Queen Anne

If you want to see Seattle’s sights, why not stay in Queen Anne, right near the Space Needle? Here you’ll be walking distance to Seattle Center, the Museum of Pop Culture, the Seattle Children’s Museum, the Chihuly Glass Gardens, and, of course, the Space Needle.

Queen Anne sits on a very large hill, and is split into two smaller neighborhoods: upper and lower. As a visitor, you’ll probably want to stay in lower Queen Anne, which is where most of the major attractions are. From here, you can also easily walk or take the monorail downtown to the Pike Place Market!

In Queen Anne you’ll definitely want to spend time at the Chihuly Gardens, which showcase the incredible glass art from Dale Chihuly. Even if you’re not into art, this glass sculpture garden is worth a look. You also might be interested in the Museum of Pop Culture, formerly known as the EMP (Experience Music Project) famous for its exhibits on Prince, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam.

Queen Anne is also home to many events, concerts and festivals. Here you’ll find Seattle’s Bumbershoot Music Festival, the Bite of Seattle, and the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival.

Finally, you can’t go to Queen Anne without a visit to Kerry Park, the ultimate Instagram spot with a perfect view of downtown Seattle. Sure, you can pay $35 to go to the top of the Space Needle, or you could drive up the hill to Kerry Park for an incredible view of Downtown Seattle and get a photo of Seattle with the Space Needle actually in it.

(Note from Kate: I agree with Richelle — go to Kerry Park to get a good photo with the Space Needle in it! This is the same reason why I encourage people not to only go up the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building. You need to have the iconic building in your photos.)

Best Queen Anne Hotels:

Luxury: Homewood Suites by Hilton 
Midrange: Staypineapple at the Maxwell Hotel
Budget: Inn at Queen Anne

Find deals on all Queen Anne hotels here.

Safeco Field near Pioneer Square (via Pixabay)

Best Neighborhood for History, Nightlife, and Sports: Pioneer Square

Whether you want to party the night away in one of Seattle’s coolest bars or cheer for one of Seattle’s sports teams, historic Pioneer Square is the place to be. Originally the old downtown center of Seattle, Pioneer Square is lined with historic red brick buildings and cobblestone streets, and is home to the Seattle Underground Tour. Yes, due to extreme flooding, current day Seattle is actually built on top of itself, and you can actually explore the entire old city underground!

Pioneer Square is also the birthplace of Seattle’s grunge movement, where Seattle’s oldest bar, Central Saloon, used to host Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Pioneer Square keeps that magic alive today, and is the center of Seattle’s incredible nightlife. Here you’ll find everything from breweries and pubs to fancy cocktail bars and clubs that keep the music going all night.

Finally, Pioneer Square is the place you want to be if you’re a major football or baseball fan. Watch the Seattle Seahawks play football at CenturyLink Field, or catch a Mariners baseball game at Safeco Field. Seattleites are crazy for their sports teams, and the entire city gets decked out in navy and green during football season!

Just don’t talk about the Seattle Sonics, who moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. We’re still upset about that.

Best Pioneer Square Hotels

Luxury: The Arctic Club Seattle
Midrange: Embassy Suites by Hilton Downtown Pioneer Square
Budget: Courtyard Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square

Find deals on all Pioneer Square hotels here.

Capitol Hill, Seattle (via Eric Fredericks on Flickr)

Best Neighborhood for Music and LGBTQ Visitors: Capitol Hill

Youthful and vibrant Capitol Hill is definitely the best place for live music and is known for being especially LGBTQ-friendly.With hip cafés, independent shops, local boutiques, and the next up and coming live music, Capitol Hill is by far the coolest neighborhood in Seattle.

Considered the heart of Seattle’s LGBTQ community, Capitol Hill is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Seattle. There’s a very large young and urban population here, with plenty of fantastic nightlife options. Once frequented by musicians like Kurt Cobain, Capitol Hill is the best place to catch live music. Here you’ll find everything: grunge, pop, trance, alternative, and more!

Capitol Hill is also the best place to be if you want to be surrounded by independent, locally owned businesses. Every block has a local café (did I mention Seattle is obsessed with coffee?). You’ll find local designers, jewelry, bookstores, restaurants, and microbreweries.

On Capitol Hill you’ll also find the Jimi Hendrix statue, as well as a Starbucks Reserve Roastery, where you can taste various craft coffees or enjoy a nice cocktail!

Just note that parking on Capitol Hill is notoriously awful, so be sure to take advantage of Uber or the light rail if you decide to stay here. This is not the place you want to take your car!

Best Capitol Hill Hotels

Luxury: Seattle Pike and Pine Luxury Suites by Nspire
Midrange: Gaslight Inn
Budget: Roy Street Commons

Find deals on all Capitol Hill hotels here.

Belltown, Seattle, via David Baron

Best Value for Money Neighborhood: Belltown

If you’re looking for great shopping and nightlife while traveling on a budget, young hip Belltown is the place for you. Sandwiched between Downtown and Queen Anne, Belltown is packed with trendy restaurants, boutiques, and bars. Belltown is known for glamorous nightlife and being incredibly walkable.

You’d think that such a trendy area would be extremely expensive, however, Belltown is actually a great place to stay if you’re on a budget due to the wide selection of backpacker hostels and affordable boutique hotels. Belltown is also famous for its fun young crowd, which means it’s packed with affordable bars and clubs, too.

During the day head to Olympic Sculpture Park for fantastic views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. If you’re in South Belltown, you’re also within easy walking distance of Pike Place Market and the Waterfront! While in Belltown you’ll also want to check out 1st Ave., the main strip full of shops and restaurants, as well as Cinema, a vintage movie theater that serves wine and beer!

Best Belltown Hotels

Luxury: Grand Hyatt Seattle
Midrange: Hotel Andra
Budget: City Hostel Seattle

Find deals on all Belltown hotels here.

Best Neighborhood for Foodies: Chinatown/International District

If you want fantastic Asian cuisine while also staying somewhere super central, you’ll love Seattle’s International District. Also known as Chinatown, the International District is where you want to go for incredible food and a multicultural vibe.

Sample handmade dumpling soup at Mike’s Noodle House, or sip a bubble tea on your way to a karaoke bar. While here, you’ll definitely want to visit Uwajimaya, a giant building full of sushi spots, Japanese snack stores, imported goods, and a giant food court. Inside Uwajimaya you’ll find Kinokuniya, the cutest Japanese bookstore filled with manga, anime, school and office supplies, and other random Japanese amazingness.

Whether you’re looking for pho, dim sum, sushi, noodles, or sake, Seattle’s International District is sure to impress any foodie. Here you’re also walking distance to Capitol Hill as well as a light rail stop to visit downtown and Queen Anne.

Best International District Hotels

Luxury: Embassy Suites by Hilton Downtown Pioneer Square
Midrange: Panama Hotel
Budget: Hosteling International at the American Hotel

Find deals on all Chinatown/International District hotels here.

The Ave at UW Campus, via Dmitry Alexeenko on Flickr

Best Neighborhood for Students and Young Travelers: U District

Seattle’s U District is by far the best place for students and a younger crowd. Whether you’re visiting a friend at the University of Washington, or you’re just looking to get out of downtown Seattle, the U District (also known as University District) is the place to be for young 20-somethings.

Located in North Seattle at the end of the light rail, the U District is like a mini city all its own, filled with shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes. While here, you’ll definitely want to check out “The Ave,” otherwise known as University Way NE, where all the UW students spend their spare time. This street is so cool it even has its own song.

If you’re looking for some nice shopping, you may also want to head to the University Village shopping center, which is a beautiful outdoor mall. You’ll also want to have a wander around the University of Washington Campus to enjoy the stunning architecture and red brick square. If you come in May, definitely don’t miss the U District Street Fair with live bands, food stalls, crafts and more.

Best U District Hotels

Luxury: Residence Inn by Marriott Seattle University District
Midrange: Staypineapple at Watertown
Budget: University Motel Suites

Find deals on all U District hotels here.

Pie in Fremont, via Joe Wolf on Flickr

Best Neighborhood for Creative Types: Fremont

If you want to stay somewhere off the beaten path with a relaxed alternative hippie vibe, you’ll love Fremont. Famous for the Fremont Troll and the annual naked bicycle race (which you will remember if you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy), Fremont is known for its radical creativity.

Stop by Gas Works Park, where Kat and Patrick play paintball in 10 Things I Hate About You. Take a photo with the Fremont Troll who lives under Aurora Avenue Bridge (not the Fremont Bridge, because that would be too easy), or take a visit to Fremont’s Sunday street market.

While Fremont isn’t the most centrally located, it’s a perfect place for diving deep into Seattle’s bohemian side. Fremont also doesn’t have many major hotels, which is perfect for those who want to really immerse themselves into local Seattle culture. Just be sure to rent or bring a car, otherwise you’ll be relying heavily on Uber and the bus to get you where you need to go.

Best Fremont Hotels

Luxury: Chelsea Station Inn
Midrange: Staybridge Suites Seattle – Fremont
Budget: HotelHotel Hostel

Find deals on all Fremont hotels here.


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Best Luxury Hotel in Seattle: The Edgewater

Directly on the Seattle Waterfront, the Edgewater is the complete luxury Seattle experience. Decorated like a luxury mountain lodge, the Edgewater has hosted huge celebrities like the Beatles. There’s even a photo of the Beatles dangling a fishing rod off their balcony!

Built right on the pier for the World’s Fair, not only are you in arguably the best location for sightseeing, you’ll also have a cozy room with your own river rock fireplace when you get home. Be sure to grab a waterfront room for a perfect view of the breathtaking sunset over Elliot Bay and Olympic Mountains. If you’re lucky you’ll even see seals swim by!

Find the lowest rates at The Edgewater here.


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Best Boutique Hotel in Seattle: Hotel Max

Located downtown just 10 minutes from Pike Place Market, Hotel Max is a fun modern hotel with an artsy edgy vibe. They have an extensive pop art collection and even have hand-assembled Shinola bicycles for getting around the city.

Hotel Max even has a complimentary craft beer hour, as well as locally brewed coffee and original art in each of the rooms. The hallway of each floor is dedicated to a different Seattle photographer, and the hotel also hosts original works of art from Warhol and Kiki Smith. The best part? Hotel Max is dog-friendly.

Find the lowest rates at Hotel Max here.


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Best Midrange Hotel in Seattle: The Maxwell Hotel by Staypineapple

One of Seattle’s funkiest hotels, The Maxwell by Staypineapple is located in Queen Anne right near the Space Needle and the monorail. Maxwell, just like most of Pineapple Hospitality hotels, features bright colors and fun touches like stuffed animals on the beds. They even have an indoor pool complete with inflatable flamingos!

The Maxwell also offers complimentary bicycles, and in the afternoon you can grab free coffee and pineapple cupcakes at the espresso bar! The Maxwell is kid-friendly, dog-friendly, and has free on-site parking. What more could you want?

Find the lowest rates at The Maxwell Hotel by Staypineapple here.


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Best Hostel in Seattle: HotelHotel Hostel

Why would you name your hostel HotelHotel? Who knows! But this hostel is definitely the best in Seattle. Located in artsy hipster Fremont, this hostel is a great place to relax and meet new people.

HotelHotel has free breakfast, a fantastic shared kitchen, and is surrounded by plenty of restaurants and bars. Enjoy the industrial decor in one of their hostel dorms or private rooms! Clean, comfortable, and filled with friendly staff, HotelHotel is the best place to stay in Seattle on a budget.

Find the lowest rates at HotelHotel Hostel here.

Seattle Travel Tips

Don’t stay in the suburbs. While West Seattle, South Seattle, and North Seattle are all fantastic places to live, they’re not where you want to be as a visitor. The main reason people live out this way is for affordable property costs. These areas are not walkable, and aren’t meant to be, since most Seattleites have a car. Do yourself a favor and stick to the neighborhoods in this article!

Save money by booking tickets in bundles. Sure, this might mean a bit of extra planning, but you can save so much money by booking tickets to attractions together. The Seattle City Pass is a great one to grab because it covers admission to the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, an Argosy Harbor Tour and your choice between the Museum of Pop Culture OR Woodland Park Zoo AND another choice between the Chihuly Gardens OR the Pacific Science Center all for just $99. Considering it costs $35 just to go up to the top of the Space Needle, this is a crazy deal. If you visit all five places, you’re literally paying half price.

Get a digital Seattle guidebook and keep it on your phone. Even today, guidebooks are valuable and can point you to lots of cool places you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Lonely Planet has a great Seattle guidebook as well as a Pacific Northwest guidebook. I recommend buying a digital copy and storing it on your phone.

Take the monorail. The monorail was made for exploring Seattle in a short time frame. Visit the Space Needle and Chihuly Gardens, then hop on the monorail which will take you within walking distance of Pike Place Market, the Gum Wall, and the original Starbucks. I do this every time I show people around Seattle for a day of touring.

Avoid Pike Place Market at lunchtime in the summer. I love Pike Place Market and I always recommend visiting — however, summer is high season in Seattle because the weather is gorgeous and there are tons of Alaska cruises coming through. Pike Place Market in the summer afternoons is a madhouse, so be sure to wake up early if you’re here during the warmer months.

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

Bring a Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. These beautiful scarves are have a hidden passport pocket in them that no thief will know exists. Kate love these scarves (and even designed her own!) and they are so good at keeping your valuables hidden.

Take the ferry. I’m from Edmonds, Washington (30 minutes north of Seattle), which has a ferry to Kingston; however, Downtown Seattle also has a few incredible ferry rides across the sound. Instead of paying for a cruise, just hop on a local ferry to catch some incredible views. The Seattle to Bainbridge ride takes around 40 minutes and runs very consistently until after midnight. If you walk on, the ferry only costs $8.50 round-trip!

Take in the view from Kerry Park. Why spend $35 to go to the top of the Space Needle when you can drive up the hill to Kerry Park for an incredible view of Downtown Seattle? Here you’ll actually get the Space Needle in your perfect photo, and it’s free. You’re welcome.

Plan an outdoor adventure day trip. Seattle is famous for its proximity to both mountains and the ocean. While you’re here why not kayak and snorkel with seals or explore Mount Rainier, an active volcano! Near Seattle you’ll find temperate rainforests, glaciers, and rugged beaches.

Come in the summer. Seattle is notorious for its grey skies and rainy weather. While we don’t necessarily get a lot of rain in inches, we have a lot of misty, gloomy, miserable days. Avoid booking your trip in the winter, when the sun sets at 4:00 PM and it rains every day, and come in the middle of summer for fantastic, beautiful weather. Seattle summers are downright gorgeous. The city is warm with a nice cool breeze, the water sparkles, and the greenery really pops in the sunlight. Did I mention the sun can set as late as 11:00 PM? Yeah, summer is by far the best time to be in Seattle. Just avoid the crazy tourist crowds at Pike Place and you’ll be fine!

Seattle (via Pixabay)

Don’t Visit Seattle Without Travel Insurance 

A lot of people think travel insurance is an unnecessary expense, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Travel insurance is vital. It’s saved Kate hundreds of dollars and for two of her friends who broke bones while traveling, one quite severely, it saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The healthcare system in the US is notoriously expensive. It can cost an uninsured person hundreds of dollars just to see a doctor if something goes wrong. This is especially true for those of you outside the United States who don’t have US healthcare.

If you crash your bike on one of Seattle’s many steep hills, travel insurance has you covered. If your wallet is stolen at one of Seattle’s many crazy bars, travel insurance will help refund what you’ve lost. If an immediate family member dies and you have to fly home, travel insurance will help cover the costs of getting there.

This is scary stuff to think about, but important. You need to be covered in case of an emergency, and travel insurance will help ease your mind on your trip.

Kate and I both use and recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance. They’re a great fit for almost every traveler. Take a look at their policies before you buy to make sure they’re right for you.

Seattle is Waiting For You!

So there you have it — everything you need to know in order to set yourself up for the best trip to Seattle!  You really can’t go wrong with any of the neighborhoods listed here, so just pick the one that best suits you and your travel style and have an amazing trip!

About the Author

Richelle Gamlam is a travel blogger and Seattle native who has spent the last five years living in China. Founder of the Teach Abroad Squad, a course and community for people who want to rock their first year teaching abroad in China, Richelle also writes about Asia off the beaten path on her blog Adventures Around Asia.

You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!

All photos in the post are Richelle’s unless otherwise specified.

Have you been to Seattle? Which neighborhood was your favorite? Share away!

The post Where to Stay in Seattle — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation appeared first on Adventurous Kate.

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Moving from Boston to New York — 25 Tips You Need to Know

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Moving from Boston to New York was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I made the leap after several years of running my own business while traveling the world, and I haven’t regretted it for one second.

I grew up in Reading, 20 minutes north of Boston. After college, I lived in Boston for four years: first in Davis Square, Somerville, for two years, then Fenway for another two years. While I contemplated moving to New York in early 2010 (not coincidentally, shortly after Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat went to a Republican), I decided to travel the world instead.

Five years after traveling, I decided to move back to the States and immediately set my eyes on New York. I moved to Hamilton Heights, Harlem, in 2016, and I have lived here for more than three years.

Having gone through the process of living in both these cities, I’ve put together a guide that will make your move as smooth as possible. Whatever the reason for your move from Boston to New York — for a job, for a partner, for an adventure — here are 25 key tips you need to know before you pack.

1. Boston and New York appear very culturally similar — until you get there.

Boston and New York have a lot in common on the surface. In both cities you can walk everywhere, live without a car, and get by using public transportation. Both cities are liberal enclaves in reliably blue states and have cold winters and hot, humid summers. Both are filled with fast-moving, fast-talking people. Both have strong tech and healthcare industries and world-class universities. I’d argue that Boston and New York far more in common with each other than with Los Angeles, Chicago or San Francisco.

That’s just the superficial stuff, though.

The differences become clearer after you spend a longer amount of time there. Boston has a more homogenous feel among its residents, and while it looks diverse on paper, people live very segregated lives.

Boston has a more provincial feel and ends up feeling more like a large town than a major city. I constantly run into people I know from high school in Boston.

And Boston’s sports culture is what ties the city together, which is great if you’re a fan and frustrating if you’re not.

New York has a much freer feel. This is a city for everyone and everything. It feels like there are no limits. It’s big enough to satisfy everyone. Part of the bliss of living in New York is that there will always be far more of it than you could ever discover on your own. There will always be people smarter than you, better looking than you, more brilliant than you.

At the same time, New York seems like it’s making life as hard as humanly possible for you. Hard to get an apartment. Hard to get by financially. Hard to date. Hard to meet people when everyone has such busy lives. Living in a city that constantly grinds you down can be tough to deal with.

Most of all, the people who move to New York are a special breed. When you’re the kind of person who upends your life to travel to a thrilling and difficult city, you’re probably an interesting person yourself.

“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.”

–E.B. White, Here is New York

2. New York’s sports culture is VERY different from Boston’s.

New York does not live and die by sports, an enormous difference from Boston. When I lived in Boston, I was used to seeing every man on the street in a Red Sox hat, from custodians to CEOs and everyone in between. At work, every conversation revolves around whatever sports team is currently playing. And whenever I went to a bar, I had to wait for the game to end before I could strike up a conversation with a guy.

Growing up in New England, I thought this was normal — that every state was as crazy about its local sports teams as Boston. My travels have shown me this isn’t the case at all, and it’s especially not the case in New York.

The single biggest surprise after I moved to New York was how seldom you see Yankees hats in Manhattan. In Boston, if you see a crowd, half of them will be in Red Sox hats. In Manhattan, you’ll see a Yankees hat every now and then, but they are definitely not standard.

And as for the games, outside of designated sports bars, areas around the stadium, and commuter-heavy areas like midtown with game specials, you’d have no idea the Yankees, or the Jets, or the Knicks, or any of the other teams, were even playing.

The parts of New York that tend to be more sports-oriented tend to be the areas that don’t get as many transplants — the outer boroughs (The Bronx, Staten Island, deeper and less-gentrified parts of Brooklyn and Queens). New Jersey and Long Island tend to be this way, too.

3. Don’t be mad, but…the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is fairly one-way.

I used to live a 30-second walk from Fenway Park in Boston, right on the corner of Ipswich and Charlesgate East. I’m used to hearing “Yankees suck!” chants when the Red Sox beat the Tigers and Five-Dollar Hat Man setting up shop outside my window after each game. (My sister and I used to joke about leaning out the window and selling four-dollar hats to see how he’d react.)

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is one of the biggest sports rivalries in the United States. And Red Sox fans take it seriously. Supporting the Yankees is anathema in New England. Wear a Yankees hat in the Boston area and you’ll get dirty looks at the bare minimum, possibly insults or worse.

But in New York? Nobody notices or cares. Wear a Red Sox hat in New York and nobody will give you a second glance unless you happen to be in the South Bronx on game day. New York is a city of transplants and people support all kinds of teams.

These days, when the Red Sox and Yankees are in the playoffs, my dad asks me how the atmosphere is in New York…and honestly, in Manhattan, you’d have no idea any playoffs were even taking place.

4. Don’t worry, you can watch Boston sports games with Boston fans in New York!

If you want to watch the Red Sox or Patriots game while surrounded by like-minded folks, you can absolutely do that. I recommend Professor Thom’s in the East Village.

That’s one of the nicest things about New York — people here come from everywhere, so you can find sports bars for all kinds of professional teams and even bars for college teams!

5. New York has a rule about how much of your income you can spend on rent.

Your annual pre-tax income must be at least 40 times your monthly rent. This is a fairly strict rule in New York and almost every landlord follows it. How much is 40x? If you make $60,000, you can spend up to $1,500 per month in rent; if you make $100,000, you can spend up to $2,500 per month in rent. If you make $800,000 per year, I have no idea why you’re reading this post, but call me if you ever want help spending your cashola.

Applying for an apartment in New York is a challenging task. Apartments move EXTREMELY quickly and most don’t open up until within a month of their availability.

Before looking for an apartment, you need to be ready with a letter from your employer confirming your salary, pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, photo ID, and recommendations from prior landlords. If you get the apartment, you’ll need to race to your bank for a cashier’s check.

6. Most New York apartments charge a broker fee.

While some Boston apartments charge broker fees, it’s a much more common practice in New York. Most, though not all apartments, charge a broker fee of 15% of the annual rent (just under two months’ rent). Occasionally a broker might charge one month’s rent for a broker fee.

You can search for no-fee apartments on StreetEasy or other apartment booking sites. But you will be searching a much smaller selection. Personally, my first New York apartment had a one-month broker fee (which the broker said they did as a favor); for my second apartment, there was no broker fee because the previous tenants broke their lease and paid the broker fee.

7. There are a few ways around the apartment difficulties.

If you’re struggling to find a place under these circumstances, or if you have a low credit score, there are ways to get an apartment. Most landlords will be fairly lenient if you have a guarantor (someone who makes 80x the rent and legally agrees to pay the rent if you can’t), or if you pay several months’ rent in advance. You’re especially in the clear if you can pay a full year’s rent in advance, and some of my friends have done that.

Otherwise, consider subletting a room or apartment instead. New York’s housing laws tend to favor the tenants, which is why they make it so difficult to get an apartment in the first place. But once you’ve been living there for 30 days, even if you’re not on the lease, it’s extremely difficult to evict you — so once you’re in, if you’re a decent tenant, you’ll probably be able to stay.

8. New York’s  housing and roommate culture is different.

In New York City, it’s normal to have roommates into your forties and beyond. This is an expensive city. You are not a loser if you live with roommates. In fact, high-earning people often choose to live with roommates to live in a luxurious apartment with killer amenities.

And along the same lines, it’s okay to live in a studio apartment into your forties and beyond. If you like your studio, there’s no shame in it! The city is your meeting space, and apartments are tiny in New York. (Well, until you get above 110th St. And now you know one of the reasons why I live in Harlem.)

Why I Moved to Harlem Instead of Brooklyn

9. Try to get a job before moving to New York.

Many people assume that they’ll simply save up money, move, and search for a job once they get to New York. This is actually a very difficult approach. You won’t be able to rent an apartment of your own without a job unless you can pay a year’s rent in advance. So it’s best to have a job waiting for you with a confirmed salary before you make the move.

The catch-22 is that many companies will ignore your resume if it says you live outside New York. I recommend asking a local friend if you can use his or her address for your resume, just to get it seen.

If you choose to move to New York without a job, you’ll need to have a LOT of money saved up — I’d recommend a minimum of $10,000 if you plan to live with roommates, $15,000 if you don’t.

When I moved to New York as a self-employed person, it cost me nearly $10,000 just to move into my apartment. (My rent in my one-bedroom apartment in Harlem was $2,100 — first and last month’s rent, plus six weeks’ security and one month’s rent broker fee came to $9,450 altogether.) And did I mention that I had spent the last five years traveling and owned zero furniture?!

The best case scenario is to work for a company that allows you to transfer to the New York office. Back when I lived in Boston, I worked for a company whose parent company had offices in New York. As much as I hated that job — MAN, did I hate that job — knowing what I know now, the smartest thing would have been to get a job offer at one of their New York companies. You can always do it for a few months and look for a new job.

10. Bodegas are lifelines in New York.

Bodegas, or independent delis, are located on most blocks and open all night long. They sell everything you need and they make sandwiches and other food as well. Need condoms at midnight? Running to meet someone, hungry, and need to grab a banana? Have a headache and need just two Advil? Feel like a baconeggandcheesesaltpepperketchuponaroll? You hit up a bodega.

Part of the joy of living in New York is finding “your” bodega. And you will inevitably show off your bodega with pride to friends visiting from other neighborhoods. (I love my bodega. They know I love a chicken cutlet sandwich with pepperjack cheese, mustard, extra pickles, and banana peppers.)

This is a far cry from Boston, where there are some 24-hour shops (I was a regular at Symphony Mart when I lived in Fenway) but nothing on the level of a New York bodega.

Intimidated? Don’t be. I’ve always loved this post from AskNYC on Reddit — Can You Teach Me How To Bodega? And remember to respect the cat.

11. New York is much larger than Boston in size and scale.

When I moved from Boston to New York, I knew I would be living in a much larger city. But knowing something intellectually is very different from dealing with it first-hand. It can take you so long to get from one end of New York to the other, especially between boroughs.

I live in Harlem and occasionally go out to parties in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Under ideal circumstances, this journey will take around an hour and 20 minutes via subway. But making that journey late at night with the slower, seldom-running trains, as well as weekend closures, can take twice as long.

Uber and Lyft will cost you a lot more in New York than you’re used to paying in Boston, too. Once in Boston I got from Central Square in Cambridge to the South End, a decent distance, for just $10. That will not happen in New York. I can spend more than $10 without even leaving Harlem!

When choosing an apartment in New York, it’s helpful to be located on an express train. Many New Yorkers think Harlem is far from everything, but the express A train from 42nd St. to 145th St. only takes 14 minutes and 3 stops!

12. The subway runs all night in New York.

I have so many memories of downing my final Sam Summer at Beacon Hill Pub and sprinting to Park Street to grab the last red line to Davis. Those were the days before Uber and if you missed that train, you had to hail a cab and pay for an expensive ride all by yourself.

This makes getting home much easier and cheaper — you don’t have to leap out of the bar to make the last train. But just because the train runs all night, it doesn’t mean they run often all night. Many express trains run locally late at night. Sometimes there might be 20 minutes or longer between trains. Homeless people often sleep on the subway at night, especially the E train, as it’s a long line that stays underground.

Frankly, the subway is in a very tough state at the moment. The MTA (yes, just like the train Charlie couldn’t get off in Boston) is chronically underfunded and understaffed, which leads to crowded trains in poor condition. Weekend service is an absolute mess. For awhile, they were going to shut down the L train completely for two years; instead, they just decided to reduce L service on nights and weekends (I had to wait 28 minutes for an L train this past weekend). It’s a pain, and Governor Cuomo is the one responsible for it, but the only thing you can do is suck it up.

Another tip — don’t refer to trains by their colors in New York. Refer to them by their letter or number.

13. Everything is open so much later in New York.

In Boston, last call is at 1:45 AM and if you want drinks after that, your best option is to head to Chinatown and ask for the “cold tea,” whereupon you will be given an illegal teapot full of beer. In New York, many places are open until 4:00 AM. As a result, not only can you stay out later, but nightlife starts and peaks later than in Boston.

People tend to work a later schedule in New York, too. Most of my 9-5 friends in New York tend to work 10:00 AM-7:00 PM or so.

When I lived in Boston, once a month I would stay out until 4:00 AM on a weeknight, then go to work at 9:00 AM the next day. (Ah, my twenties, when I could bounce back from literally anything.) Looking back, I have no idea what the hell I did. RISE, the after-hours club that only sold Red Bull? The South Street Diner? One night, Flash’s let me and my friend drink until 3:00 AM as long as they turned off the lights. Who knows?!

124 Things to Do in Harlem: A Guide

14. Happy Hour is a thing in New York.

It took me so long to realize that Boston’s lack of happy hour is not a normal thing. Massachusetts is one of a handful of states to prohibit happy hour drink specials. Then again, when living in Boston, I went to Kitty’s in the Financial District with its creative work-around — they would serve “Kitty Brew” (a.k.a. Miller Light) at low prices, but the “Kitty Brew” keg happened to be empty whenever it wasn’t happy hour.

It’s pretty rare to find a bar in New York that doesn’t have happy hour drink specials. Enjoy!

15. Beer is not sold in liquor stores in New York.

First off, Bostonians, don’t call a liquor store a package store or a packie. That’s Boston vernacular and nobody in New York will know what you’re talking about. Plus, in this state, beer is sold separately from liquor and wine.

If you want beer, buy it at a grocery store. Bodegas, drugstores, and convenience stores also sell single servings of beer.

If you want liquor or wine, buy it at a liquor store. Some wines are for sale in grocery stores, but it’s more like “wine product” and not real wine.

To this day, I still do a double-take when I see beer for sale at CVS.

16. People dress up in New York much more than in Boston.

Dressing up for casual events is the norm in New York City, especially Manhattan. See that picture above? That was just a few friends meeting for a casual tour with The Black Gotham Experience. Some of us had worked at home that day; we just dressed up because it’s what you do here. Had this taken place in Boston, everyone would have been in jeans.

Part of that is that clothing featuring your favorite sports teams isn’t as common or accepted as everyday wear in much of New York. If you’re wearing a t-shirt with a team name on it and you’re not working out, you’re probably visiting from out of town. That’s a big difference from Boston, where EVERYONE wears sportswear. I’ll never forget the time I went to Legal Sea Foods in Boston on Easter Sunday and saw a woman waiting in front of me wearing a Red Sox jersey — but it was her formal Red Sox jersey.

When I go out in New York, even if it’s just for casual drinks, I often dress up in a dress and heels and look at myself, wondering if I dressed up too much. And no matter what I wear, the answer is always no. There is ALWAYS someone more dressed up than me.

In Boston, I would often wear jeans and a t-shirt when going out to a cool bar with friends. In New York, I would only do that if it were at the last minute and I were going out to one of the casual bars in my neighborhood.

Do note that this is a bit more pronounced in Manhattan; the outer boroughs are more casual and the cooler parts of Brooklyn tend to have a more casual but still fashion-conscious style.

I Saw Hamilton and Yes, It Really Is That Great

17. Everything seems to happen in New York.

Boston feels like a city where everything happens — but it’s nowhere on the scale of New York. I met Gloria Steinem at an event for Dr. Willie Parker. I attended an LGBT charity fundraiser thrown by Tituss Burgess and got to hang out with him. I regularly go to book events and meet authors I love.

And even though New York is a safe blue state, politicians always come through here for fundraising and media opportunities. In the past year alone, I’ve gone to events for Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Stacey Abrams. (And I got to meet three out of the four of them, and even have a long conversation with Julián!)

And then there are the food trends. We are home to the cronut, Black Tap milkshakes, rainbow bagels, the sushi donut.

Recently, I saw several of my Boston friends waiting in line for hours to try Taiyaki, a new place serving crazy ice cream creations in fish cones. I’ve been to Taiyaki in New York. There has never been a line. We take this stuff for granted.

Broadway happens here. The US Open happens here. Cool dating apps like Bounce exist here and here alone. There’s so much to do here, the FOMO can stress you out!

Black Tap and the Craziest Milkshakes in New York City

18. The Hamptons are like the Cape…kind of.

The Hamptons are mythologized in New York culture — isn’t this the place where New York’s most moneyed and fashionable people go to escape the city? Well, sort of. The South Fork of Long Island is home to several gorgeous beach towns where New Yorkers flock each summer. It’s the closest thing to going down the Cape, especially the pricier Cape towns.

I dig the Hamptons. It’s a lot of fun, and the beaches are lovely but it’s also insanely expensive — arguably the worst value for money place I’ve ever been. And like the Cape, the traffic there is awful (take the train over the jitney if you can).

The Jersey Shore is another good beach option for New Yorkers. There’s a huge variety of beaches for a variety of price points. You can even take ferries there from Manhattan! And Fire Island, particularly the Pines and Cherry Grove, are the LGBT hangout equivalent to P-Town in Massachusetts.

And if you really miss your Massachusetts beach spots, you can fly direct to Hyannis, Nantucket, or the Vineyard from New York City on a few different airlines.

19. New York has different immigrant communities than Boston — and thus different food.

In Boston, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to Salvadoran food in East Boston, Haitian food in Cambridge, or Vietnamese food in Dorchester. And that doesn’t include the amazing Portuguese and Brazilian food in the suburbs.

But New York has almost every kind of food you can imagine — but it has different immigrant communities and thus different strengths. New York’s largest immigrant community is the Dominican community, and Dominicans primarily live in upper Manhattan (including my own neighborhood of Hamilton Heights). Come here for the mofongo and patacon — and the music.

Moving to New York is the perfect opportunity to try Guyanese food in Richmond Hill, Ukrainian food in the East Village, Filipino food in Woodside, Ecuadorian food in Corona, Greek food in Astoria, Sri Lankan food in Staten Island. And while Manhattan has a Chinatown, there’s a much larger Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, with people and food reflecting China’s rich diversity.

20. New York is a lot less Catholic than Boston — and a lot more Jewish.

Growing up in Massachusetts, there were only a few Jewish kids in my grade — maybe 10 or so. I’ve never been to a bar or bat mitzvah in my life. Tell that to someone from the New York metro area and they’ll laugh. So much of New York’s unique culture comes from the Jewish community, from food to slang to business!

New York City is home to the largest Jewish population outside Israel (1.1 million), and Jews consist of roughly 13% of the city’s population. Once I walked down Broadway on the Upper West Side in the springtime and overheard three conversations about Passover in a row! There are Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York as well, mostly concentrated in Brooklyn.

It’s a huge shift from Boston, where Catholicism dominates. Moving to New York makes you realize just how dominant a single denomination is in the Boston area, while New York is home to many. Did you know that New York public schools not only give the Jewish holidays off, but Eid and the Lunar New Year as well?

Take advantage of the culture by enjoying New York’s amazing Jewish food. Head to Barney Greengrass for fish (I love their scrambled eggs with Nova) and Katz Delicatessen for meat (I love their pastrami). And don’t forget the bagels!

21. You can get your chowda fix in New York.

New England clam chowder is probably the food I miss the most from Massachusetts. While we have no Legal Sea Foods, Littleneck in Brooklyn makes excellent New England clam chowder, as well as New England seafood dishes like Ipswich clam rolls, steamers, and Portuguese stew. They have locations in Gowanus and Greenpoint.

And do NOT fucking ask me about that tomato-laden abomination known as “Manhattan Clam Chowder.” As far as I’m concerned, it does not exist.

22. New York is transient and residents are always coming and going.

A lot of people come to New York with the mindset that they’ll only be here for a few years, or until they have kids, or until they settle down, whatever that means. That can be tough if you put down roots here — it means you always need to be making more friends, just in case everyone ends up leaving.

I’m particularly feeling this right now because I just said goodbye to two of my close New York friends on the same day — one leaving for Austin, one leaving for Sydney.

Things are different in Boston — people tend to set down roots there for life, especially if they’re originally from the area. And if your friends decamp to the suburbs, it’s generally easier to visit them than it is in New York.

23. Some Boston neighborhoods have New York equivalents, and some do not.

If you’re looking to find a neighborhood similar to where you lived in Boston, you’ve got options. Not every neighborhood has a direct equivalent, but many have something somewhat close. And because New York is so much bigger than Boston, there are several options for each Boston neighborhood.

If you like Brookline, consider Park Slope in Brooklyn. This is probably the closest neighborhood analogy between Boston and New York. Like Brookline, Park Slope is removed from the craziness of the city; has good public transport links, nice parks, excellent public schools, and is a beautiful and highly desirable place to live. Other similar neighborhoods with a similar vibe and great schools are the Upper West Side and Brooklyn Heights.

If you like the South End, consider Hell’s Kitchen or Chelsea. Both of these neighborhoods are home to excellent gay nightlife (gay men’s nightlife, specifically) and excellent restaurants, while being centrally located in Manhattan.

While New York is very queer-friendly, some especially queer neighborhoods are Park Slope (particularly for queer women), Windsor Terrace, Bushwick, Williamsburg, the West Village, and Jackson Heights. My own neighborhood, Hamilton Heights in Harlem, has become an emerging queer neighborhood in the last few years.

If you like Back Bay, consider Greenwich Village and the West Village. These neighborhoods are centrally located, have beautiful brownstone-filled streets, are home to a ton of shopping and nightlife, and have both very expensive areas for the wealthy and slightly cheaper areas popular with students.

If you like Allston/Brighton, consider the East Village. New York isn’t dominated by universities the way Boston is, but Allston/Brighton is home to lots of BU students — and the East Village is home to lots of NYU students. Both neighborhoods are home to interesting restaurants and nightlife and have a youthful feel. Another popular option for recent grads is the Upper East Side, particularly the cheaper parts east of Second Ave. and north of 86th St.

If you like Jamaica Plain, consider Prospect Heights or Crown Heights. These two neighborhoods, next to each other in Brooklyn, are a bit offbeat but have been gentrifying in recent years, are popular with families, and have a variety of creative activities taking place.

If you like Cambridge and Somerville, there are lots of cool neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. If you enjoy being in creative, liberal, youthful neighborhoods a bit outside the city, consider Bushwick (similar to Inman Square), Williamsburg (similar to Harvard Square), Bed-Stuy (similar to Union Square), Astoria (similar to Davis Square), or Long Island City (similar to Kendall Square).

Keep in mind that comparing neighborhoods is highly subjective. I know plenty of Boston/NYC locals will disagree with me! Feel free to share in the comments what you think equivalent neighborhoods are.

Inside Bushwick, New York’s Weirdest Neighborhood

24. In New York, you can be whomever you want to be.

This is my favorite thing about living in New York. Whatever you want to do, there is a community where you will be welcomed. And the best part is that nobody gives a fuck. Are you weird? Nobody cares. At all. People have probably seen three or four people weirder than you already. And that just doesn’t happen in Boston.

Maybe you’re into costume parties at warehouses in Bushwick. Or maybe you just want a nice book club. Or you want to join a local kickball team. Or you want to coordinate political campaigns. Best of all, YOU CAN BE ALL OF THOSE THINGS AT ONCE.

Meetup and NYC Meetups on Reddit are great resources for meeting people who share your interests.

25. You can love New York and love Boston — and it’s okay.

Maybe your move from Boston to New York is temporary — or maybe it will turn into something permanent. Maybe you’ll take Megabus after Megabus journey going back and forth each weekend. Or maybe after a few years you’ll pack up and head to somewhere else entirely.

Whatever path you choose, you can still love both cities. New York is a much better fit for me than Boston ever was, but I still love Boston and will defend it until my dying day. And who knows what the future holds? As long as I don’t chuck it all in and move to Los Angeles! You have to drive there.

There are limits to loving New York, though. I will never have a New York accent. I will never say that I will wait “on line.” And I will never, ever, ever cheer for the Yankees.

The Biggest Mistakes New York Tourists Make

Have you lived in Boston and New York? What differences have you noticed?

The post Moving from Boston to New York — 25 Tips You Need to Know appeared first on Adventurous Kate.

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Solo Female Travel in England, Scotland, and Wales — A UK Guide

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I have spent a LOT of time traveling alone in England, Scotland, and Wales. Much more than I originally intended. I went to Europe without a plan, ended up living for months at a time in two different cities in England, and used them as a base to explore the country.

I never thought the UK would become one of my most extensively traveled countries. At the time, I was more interested in warmer, sexier, more exotic travel destinations — the UK seemed so boring compared to Thailand or Italy or South Africa. And yet I completely fell under its spell.

Traveling in the UK is seen as an “easy” option. I can’t deny that — it’s one of the easiest possible countries for newbie travelers. But that doesn’t mean more experienced travelers can’t enjoy it. I think Britain is one of the most interesting countries I’ve visited! Speaking the local language and being in a similar culture allows you to get in deeper to the nuances that make the culture unique.

If you’re looking to travel solo in England, or Scotland, or Wales — or all three! — you’ve come to the right place. This guide lists everything you need to know.

Why Travel to the UK?

First things first: let’s talk about what terms are best to use. The UK, or Britain, consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Great Britain consists of England, Scotland, and Wales — not Northern Ireland. The British Isles include all of the UK plus Ireland. Oh, and don’t get me started on the Channel Islands, which are parts of some of these groups but not others…

For the ease of this post, I will be focusing solely on England, Scotland, and Wales. I’ll be rolling Northern Ireland into the future Ireland travel guide. There’s no political reasoning behind that; it’s just for geographical reasons.

People travel to the UK because it’s a destination of which they already have an idea in their mind. Everyone knows that London, at the very least, is foggy and has bridges. Scotland has kilts and bagpipes. All of the UK is covered in castles and villages. And they love tea and they have a queen.

Plenty of people grow up as Anglophiles, dreaming of one day experiencing the culture for themselves. People come to the UK for history. Quite a few North Americans come to the UK for ancestry-related reasons, to see their family roots. And some just want to learn what it’s like to drive on the left.

But I think the true charms of Britain involve getting to know the people and the culture on a deeper level. You can do that by spending time in a pub, or joining a meetup with lots of locals. You can absolutely get there by attending a festival! This will show you that Britain is far beyond its stereotypes.

There’s More to England than London!!!

This is my biggest tip of all. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say they want to go to “London and Ireland” or “London and Scotland” while ignoring the rest of England. Or maybe, maybe they’ll add in a quick trip to Stonehenge before leaving English territory.

I used to be one of those people, actually. I met four friends from the north of England (which is culturally very different from the south of England) while traveling in Vietnam, they told me where they were from Chester and Oldham, I asked, “Oh, is that close to London?” and all four of them visibly cringed.

Believe me, there is SO much more to England than London. If you come to England and only visit London, you’re missing out on some truly wonderful destinations. See more below on exactly where to go in England.

Is Britain Good for First-Time Solo Female Travelers?

Absolutely — it’s one of the BEST destinations for first-time solo female travelers. English is the local language, there’s excellent travel infrastructure, it’s easy to get around, and there are plenty of travelers doing the same thing you are.

If you’ve never traveled solo in your life, England, Scotland, or Wales would be a terrific choice. If you’ve never been to Europe in your life, any of the three would be a great choice, too, with or without a partner.

Beyond that, locals in the UK — particularly in London and Edinburgh — are used to dealing with less experienced travelers and know how to cater to their needs. That said, new travelers don’t get scammed or targeted here nearly as much as in Paris or Barcelona. For that reason, if you’re set on Paris or Barcelona for your first solo trip ever, I recommend spending a few days in London or Edinburgh first to get your solo travel bearings in an easy and safe place.

Is Britain Good for Experienced Solo Female Travelers?

Hell yes, Britain is good for experienced solo female travelers! It might seem “too easy” if you’re used to traveling in the developing world, but sometimes you’re in the mood for somewhere a bit easier. And there are plenty of places to get off the beaten path.

And that doesn’t mean going into rural areas — it could mean visiting a fun but not-as-famous city like Glasgow or Leeds. It could mean renting a car and stopping at every adorable pub you see in one particular region. It could mean doing an extended hike like the Dales Way or Hadrian’s Wall Path. It could mean climbing the Three Peaks — Ben Nevis in Scotland, Mt. Scafell in England, and Mount Snowden in Wales (some crazy people do all three within 24 hours!).

As someone who has already traveled extensively in the UK, here are the places still high on my list: Cornwall, the Scilly Islands, Bristol, Brighton, and Newcastle in England; the Outer Hebrides, Orkney Islands, and St. Kilda in Scotland; and Anglesey and much more of the Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales.

Consider traveling to destinations that are popular getaways for Brits but fairly unknown to foreigners. For people who live further south, Cornwall and Devon are popular coastal destinations. When I was based in Chester, lots of people went for weekends away in the Lake District (which is so beautiful!) or the coast of Wales.

Scenes from England’s Lake District

Getting Around the UK as a Solo Traveler

There are lots of ways to travel around the UK. If you want to travel solely on public transportation, it’s possible! But if you want maximum flexibility in rural areas, a car is your best option.

My favorite way to travel in the UK is by train. The train system extends throughout the country and trains run fast and often. Trains are extremely comfortable and in a country as small as the UK it doesn’t take super-long to cross the country — you can even cover super-long journeys like from Inverness to Penzance in just 15 hours. For long distances, however, it can sometimes be cheaper to take a budget flight.

Traveling by flight is fast and efficient. Sometimes it can be cheaper than trains. It does make more of an environmental impact, so consider traveling by train if you can — especially since when you add time traveling to and waiting at the airport, it can be a faster door-to-door journey by train. If you’re using miles, it usually costs the same to fly to or from anywhere in the UK as it would from London.

Traveling by coach is slower and cheaper. Brits refer to long-distance buses as coaches and the biggest network is National Express. These coaches are very comfortable and cost less than trains. Some other lines like Megabus have cheaper but less comfortable coaches.

Ferries exist as well. There are short ferries to nearby islands, especially island-dotted Scotland, and longer ferries for further afield journeys. I took the overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland — a wild, tumultuous journey across the North Sea but a lot of fun!

Renting a car is possible. This is especially useful if you want to explore a remote, beautiful region like the Cornwall coast, the Cotswolds, or the North Coast 500 drive in Scotland. Keep in mind that they drive on the left in the UK, cars tend to be manual (make sure you specify renting an automatic car if you need one), and the cars are much smaller than their American counterparts.

Travel and Safety Tips for England, Scotland, and Wales

Britain isn’t the kind of place where you need lots of detailed, unusual safety tips — it’s an easy place to travel and crime is fairly low. You can stick to the usual travel safety tips you’d follow anywhere else, but I thought I’d include a few things I’ve learned about British culture. It’s much more complicated and nuanced than “They drink tea!” and “They have a queen!”

So much of British culture is understanding how Brits interact with each other. British people tend to be a lot more pulled in than Americans. They’re far less likely to strike up conversations with strangers. They tend to want to avoid confrontation and awkward conversations at all costs, and will often be polite to people for the sake of keeping the peace.

How to explain this? Here are some Very British Problems: “Asking to sample an ale, disliking it and ordering a whole pint so as not to waste the barman’s time.” “Not quite catching someone’s name, meaning you can never speak to them again.” “Assuring your hairdresser the temperature is fine, despite a strong suspicion your scalp is beginning to melt.”

English people tend to be the quietest; Scottish people tend to be warmer and more welcoming.


“You all right?” doesn’t mean “What’s wrong?” — it means “How are you?” Embarrassingly, it took me six months of replying, “Yeah, why?” to my British friends before I realized this. Now you know!

Brits tend to mock people they love and be icily polite to people they hate. It took me a long time to realize that the people who often made fun of me were doing so out of great affection. I wish I had realized that at the time.

Brits often sign emails or texts with an X, even if it’s a platonic conversation. Don’t read too much into this (as I may have once or twice). They’re not saying that they want to kiss you or they have a crush on you; it’s just a common thing to do.

Brits drive on the left, walk on the left, and stand on the left. Look both ways when crossing the street! Most crosswalks say LOOK LEFT, especially in London, or otherwise show you where to look.

Know that some British terms are different from American English. Three that are particularly important: Pissed means drunk, not angry; pants means underwear and trousers is what you’d say for pants; and fanny means vagina, not butt.

“Shouting” beers can lead to drinking too much. In Britain, it’s common to take turns paying for each other’s drinks — one person will pay for a round for the whole table, then another person will buy the next round. If you’re drinking with men or heavy drinkers, you may feel pressured to keep pace to avoid any awkward moments (see, that’s British culture seeping into you!), and this is a fast way to get drunker than you want to. Four beers may be fine for a larger guy, but that can be a LOT for a woman, especially if they’re strong beers.

The best thing to do is to tell the group early that you only want to have two drinks that night. That way people won’t think you’re trying to weasel your way out of paying for others.

Some of London’s airports are far outside the city. You could argue that all of them are far out except for London City — and London City is usually an expensive place to fly into (but easy to do with points!). Luton and Stansted are especially far out. Keep this in mind if you have an early departing flight, since trains often won’t run early enough and you’ll need to book a cab.

I encourage you not to switch airports on a layover in London if you can help it — it adds a ton of transfer time and hassle, especially if you hit traffic. Paying a bit more to have a layover in the same airport is worth the money.

Scotland has its own currency. The Scottish pound has the same value as the British pound and they use both currencies interchangeably in Scotland. Try to use it up before you leave Scotland, however, because places outside Scotland don’t like to accept it, even though it’s legal tender.

Get a SIM card. SIM cards are good for helping you navigate your way around, as well as summoning Ubers. There are lots of different companies in Britain, and they are all much cheaper than US plans. Three, GiffGaff, O2, and TescoMobile are some of the companies that do short-term SIM cards with data.

SIM card coverage is spotty on highways throughout the UK and in rural areas, especially rural Scotland. Don’t rely on a SIM card to get you around the Scottish Highlands.

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.

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.

Never leave your bags anywhere unattended. Take them with you. While in cities and touristy areas in the UK, 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.

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.

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

Don’t carry tons of cash around with you. You can use credit cards almost everywhere in the UK, 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 if possible. 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 and it’s at night, use an ATM indoors, in a vestibule or in a shopping mall.

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 Great Britain.

Spend extra money on staying safe. If you’re not comfortable walking home at night, spend money on an Uber. If you’re hesitant on spending money on a not-as-nice-looking hostel, pay for a nicer place. It’s worth the peace of mind. Don’t pinch pennies on your safety.

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 the UK, where acquiescing to other people’s needs is part of the culture. 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.

Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

How will Brexit affect travelers?

As of the time of publication (March 2019), there isn’t a clear answer on what the next step is for Brexit. That said, as a foreigner visiting the UK, Brexit is unlikely to affect your travels in any meaningful way other than a slightly better exchange rate.

Britain has always been located outside the Schengen Area of Europe, which means that flights to Europe are treated as international flights, not domestic. Nothing about Brexit will change this.

One major Brexit factor is that the currently open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland may close in the future. When anything is announced about this, I will include an update here.

The Best Travel Experiences in the UK

Walking in the steps of the Beatles in Liverpool. Take a bus ride to Strawberry Fields, see a show at the Cavern Club, check out the Beatles Experience. You can even visit John’s and Paul’s houses! Seeing Liverpool through their eyes gives you a special context that you’ll always remember when you listen to them in the future.

Treating yourself to high tea at one of the hotels in London. Afternoon tea can be a pleasure anywhere in the country, but high tea is fancy, sophisticated, and refined. Be sure to dress up if you go to one of the luxury hotels. For something wacky, choose a high tea with an unusual theme!

Getting into British food. British food is SO much better than its reputation! My favorite way to experience the food is to have a farm-to-table meal and glass of wine in a high-end pub. Other faves? Arbroath smokies (smoked whole fish for breakfast) in Scotland, fresh Welsh cakes off the griddle in Wales, and tucking into a perfect sticky toffee pudding in England.

Geeking out at the Harry Potter locations. At the very least, go to King’s Cross Station in London and pose at Platform 9 3/4, where you can be photographed pushing a disappearing luggage cart into the wall! If you’re an even bigger fan, head to more obscure sites like Alnwick Castle, where Harry took his first Quidditch lesson, and Christ Church College in Oxford, which was used for some Hogwarts scenes.

Catching shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This theater festival takes place every August and you’ll find hundreds of shows taking place all over the city! From stand-up comedy to dark dramas to musicals involving taxidermied animals, this festival has something for everyone. And they’re all cheap — some are free.

Throwing yourself off cliffs in North Wales. Ever heard of coasteering? This adventure sport was invented in Wales! Clad in a wetsuit and helmet, you climb up boulders along the coast, then throw yourself into the cold water below. Worth the chill for the adrenaline rush.

Tasting Britain’s handcrafted spirits. Britain is in the middle of a spirit revolution! Most people start with whiskey tasting in Scotland, from the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh to visiting distilleries on different islands. Brits are making interesting gin, too! I went on a gin-hopping trip in England and had a wonderful time at all the distilleries.

Dancing all night long with torch-bearing vikings in Shetland. Up Helly Aa is not only the best festival I’ve attended, it’s one of the best things I’ve done on my travels, period. If you can get yourself to this festival (and into an after-party), it’s something you will remember FOREVER.

Up Helly Aa in Shetland: Possibly My Best Adventure Yet!

Solo Female Travel in England: Where to Go

London is great — but it’s not all England has to offer. Remember that. Also, keep in mind that northern England is culturally very different from southern England — it’s nice to experience both regions within your trip.

Okay, start in London. Spend a lot of time in London, if you will. It truly is one of the world’s greatest cities with outstanding free museums, incredible food and markets, and perhaps one of the most international communities on the planet.

Liverpool. England has so many interesting cities that aren’t named London, and Liverpool is my favorite, with cool architecture, delicious gin, nice museums, and Beatlemania. Some other big cities are Bristol, Newcastle, Manchester, and Leeds.

The Lake District. This national park in northwest England is home to outstanding scenery, all lush and green. While England’s natural areas don’t get the attention they deserve, If you want to visit more scenic areas, consider exploring the coastline and gorges of Cornwell and Devon.

Brighton. This colorful seaside city is just one hour from London, making it an easy day trip and fun getaway. For other easy day trips from London, check out Oxford, Cambridge, and Stonehenge (the latter easily paired with Bath).

York. This small city in Yorkshire is so adorable that it’s shopping street, The Shambles, served as inspiration for Harry Potter! Come to York to get lost in the storybook-like streets and hear the choir sing in the York Minster. If you like picture-perfect towns, consider exploring Chester, Bath, and the Cotswolds.

Scenes from the Cotswolds

Solo Female Travel in Scotland: Where to Go

I won’t lie — Scotland is my favorite part of Britain, and it’s hard not to fall under its spell. You could easily spend months in Scotland and see something new every day. Here are some of the best places to visit:

Edinburgh. One of my favorite cities on the planet. It’s like a fairy tale come to life, complete with a castle on a hill. It’s incredibly beautiful and endlessly interesting, and people are so nice. It’s very Scottish while having a good international feel at the same time.

The Scottish Highlands. Most people who visit Scotland have the Highlands in mind, and for good reason. Be sure to check out Glencoe, Culloden Battlefield, Loch Ness, and Loch Lomond.

Isle of Skye. This island may technically be part of the Scottish Highlands, but it deserves its own spot for its beauty and sights, like Kilt Rock’s waterfall. If you love islands, some other lovely ones are Islay, Mull, Arran, and Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides.

Dunnottar Castle. This half-ruined castle is my favorite castle in Scotland — such a gorgeous place to photograph. Some other great castles are Urqhardt Castle, Stirling Castle, and of course Edinburgh Castle.

Glasgow. This city doesn’t get as much love as Edinburgh, and the accent might be incomprehensible, but it’s a really wonderful place to visit — especially if you’re fed up with tourist crowds. Glasgow has excellent museums, shops, and food. Another nice city to check out is St. Andrews, where William and Kate went to university and fell in love!

The Shetland Islands. Known locally known as Shetland, these stunning, carved out islands are located between Scotland and Norway. Shetlanders are very independent, claiming little allegiance to Scotland, and they throw two of UK’s best festivals (Up Helly Aa and the Shetland Folk Festival). If you’re heading this far north, you might as well check out the Orkney Islands with their interesting landscapes and archaeological sites.

My Love Affair with Scotland

Solo Female Travel in Wales: Where to Go

If you’re going to Wales, you’ll likely want to focus on either the north or the south, unless you’re planning a much longer trip to Wales. Both of these areas have a lot to offer — it’s all about what you’re into!

Snowdonia National Park. This gem of North Wales is one of the best national parks in all of Britain, and it’s full of endless beauty. If you’re here, you should consider climbing Mount Snowden — it’s very doable if you’re at an average level of fitness!

Conwy. This northern town is home to some UNESCO World Heritage-listed ruins, like Conwy Castle, and the smallest house in Britain. If you’re here, be sure to check out Llangollen or Betws-y-Coed as well.

Anglesey. This island off the coast of northwest Wales is a peaceful place known for its beaches and ruins, as well as the longest place name in the world, Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch. William and Kate made their first home here.

Cardiff. This city in the south is pretty, green a good launching base for exploring the south of Wales. Be sure to take a food tour, take a ferry to the waterfront, and eat all the Welsh cakes.

Hay-on-Wye. This small town is my favorite place in Wales — it’s filled with used bookstores and home to a literary festival! Another nice small towns to visit in the south of Wales is Laugherne, home of Dylan Thomas.

The Pembrokeshire Coast is one of the most beautiful parts of the UK — you’ll be shocked at its beauty. Places like Tenby could be straight out of the Mediterranean. Some other places to check out in Pembrokeshire include Pwll Deri, Fishguard, and Carmarthern.

A Dreamy Trip to South Wales

How to Meet People in England, Scotland, and Wales

If you’re looking to meet people in the UK, you can definitely do that! Britain may have a standoffish culture in general, but when people loosen up, they become very friendly. Plus, the whole country is full of travelers looking for people to meet. Here are some ways to meet people:

Consider staying at a social hostel. There are tons of great hostels all over the UK, from country hideaways in rural Wales to modern chains in London. Many of these hostels offer private rooms, if dorms aren’t your thing, and quite a few of them offer tours and other activities. If there is a bar in the hostel, it will be a very social place.

Join tours. Tours are a great way to meet new people! Whether you’re doing a food tour through London’s East End or learning about York’s spookiest spirits on a ghost tour, you’ll meet people excited to explore the local region.

Look for Couchsurfing meetup events throughout the UK. Couchsurfing isn’t just for free accommodation — they also put on meetup events where everyone is welcome. Many major cities have weekly meetups, and they always draw a great crowd.

Join a meetup on Meetup.com. Whether you’re into travel, running, movies, board games, or just want to meet a group of nice people, there’s a Meetup for that.

Put out feelers on social media. Often a friend of yours will have a cousin or friend living somewhere in the UK who will offer to meet you for coffee, just so you know someone. Take advantage of this if you can.

Tinder. If you’re looking to date or hook up, have fun! If you’ve always wanted to date a guy or girl with a swoon-worthy accent, this is your chance!

What to Wear in England, Scotland, and Wales

Britain is one place where you don’t need to be super-conscious of how you pack. You don’t need to dress conservatively for any reason; you don’t need dress a level above usual like you would in Italy. If you need something, just go buy something. That said, here are some tips for what to wear in Britain and how to pack:

British women tend to dress up more. I found this was especially true in England, even in smaller towns. On many occasions I would get invited to a bar, would put on jeans and a nice top, and would find my friends wearing dresses, heels, and heavy makeup. This is just something to keep in mind. It’s a bit more relaxed in Scotland and Wales, especially in rural areas.

Be prepared for rain. The UK is well-known for its mild, overcast, often rainy weather. You should absolutely have an umbrella at all times, as weather can change on a dime here. Lifetek makes a great, strong travel umbrella.

Sunglasses. I forgot to bring sunglasses on my first trip to Scotland, it turned out to be unusually hot and sunny, and I was shocked that I couldn’t find any sunglasses to purchase from H&M or Zara! It’s not sunny as often here, so stores don’t keep sunglasses in stock as much.

Comfortable shoes. I have bad arches so almost everything I own is from The Walking Company. Depending on where you go in the UK, I highly recommend their orthotic flip-flops (yes, orthotic flip-flops exist and they are a GAME-CHANGER!), black ABEO flats (this brand is outstanding and they have excellent arch support) or a pair of boots. If you plan on hiking, you’ll want to bring hiking boots.

Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. These beautiful scarves are designed and sewn by my friend and have a hidden passport pocket in them that no thief will know exists. I love these scarves (I even designed my own!) and they are so good at keeping your valuables hidden.

Crossbody purse. I recommend using a crossbody purse, made out of a tough material like leather or fake leather, that zips shut. This is the kind of purse that is much harder for thieves to snatch. I recommend many purses in this post.

Light jacket. You’ll need a heavy jacket for the winter months, but for spring, fall, and summer, a light jacket will do well. I found my little leather moto jacket to be ideal for Britain’s warmer months — warm enough when paired with a scarf. For cooler temperatures, I preferred my Uniqlo down puffer jacket. But if you’re going to Scotland in the winter, you’ll want a full-on heavy winter coat.

If you need to buy clothes, you have plenty of options. If your luggage is lost and you need to buy some new things, check out Primark or H&M for cheap clothes. Marks & Spencer is a few rungs up — nicer and a bit pricier.

When my luggage was lost on my trip to Inverness a few years ago, I bought a few things from Marks & Spencer to hold me over — including a dress for a formal event I had to attend. It worked out great and I still wear my M&S shirt all the time!

Travel Insurance for the UK

Travel insurance is vital for trips to Britain — or any other country. If you get appendicitis while in Edinburgh or break your ankle while hiking up Mount Snowden, travel insurance will help you in your time of need and protect you from financial ruin. If you need to be flown home, it could save you well over $100,000.

And it’s not just about injury. If you get robbed, travel insurance can refund you for what was stolen from you. If your flights are cancelled due to weather, travel insurance can refund you. And if you have a death in the family and need to get home immediately, travel insurance will help you get home fast. I use and recommend World Nomads travel insurance for trips to the UK.

Britain is waiting for you!

No matter where you end up traveling, you are going to LOVE the UK. It’s beautiful and peculiar, it’s amusing and spectacular. And yeah, they drink tea and they have a queen, but by now you know it’s MUCH more than that.

Go have the time of your life! Then get back and tell me all about it.

Solo Female Travel in Europe — The Best Destinations

Have you traveled solo in England, Scotland, or Wales? Have any tips? Share away!

The post Solo Female Travel in England, Scotland, and Wales — A UK Guide appeared first on Adventurous Kate.

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How I Became a Successful Travel Blogger — My Smartest Decisions

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How did I become a successful travel blogger? It sure wasn’t intentional from the start! Back when I started Adventurous Kate in 2010, I had no idea it was even possible to make money with a blog.

Recently I read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, which explains how certain individuals became successful. People tend to believe that genius leads to success — for example, that Bill Gates became successful because he was so smart.

But that’s not all of it. Intelligence is a huge factor. So is hard work. But so is opportunity — whether it’s being born at the right time, having the right background, or spending years on a new hobby that eventually becomes a viable career.

Bill Gates was smart and worked hard, but he also had unlimited access to a computer lab as a teenager — something so unusual at the time it was almost unprecedented. This allowed him to get in far more computing practice than his peers, giving him nearly unmatched experience by the time he founded Microsoft.

After reading this, I began thinking of every event in my life that put me in a position to become a successful travel blogger. After a bit of thinking, it came into clear focus. It was being obsessed with an early social network that taught you how to build your own website. It was a professor identifying my potential during my first semester in college. It was getting one of the earliest jobs in social media for a travel company. It was moving to Europe at a time when the travel blogging industry was strongest in Europe. And far, FAR more.

When all of this information added up at once, I was flabbergasted.

When you look at my life, from my birth to today, not only is it unsurprising that I ended up in this career — it seems inevitable that I would eventually become a professional travel blogger.

I had awesome hair when I was born.

A Privileged Position from Birth (1984-present)

You can’t begin to examine my life without first acknowledging my privilege. I grew up white and Catholic in a middle-class community in Massachusetts with a good school system. I didn’t grow up anywhere close to wealthy, and my childhood was difficult in some ways, but I was overall in a very privileged position.

My life was never made more difficult due to my race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, economic background, or nationality. As a result, opportunities came more easily and frequently to me and I didn’t have to work as hard as most people.

It didn’t feel like it at the time, especially when I went to college and was surrounded by kids from obscenely wealthy families, but I now realize how my privilege set me up for success.

Girl reading book (via Pixabay)

An Intellectual Upbringing with a Geography Obsession (1989-1995)

From the moment I began school, I was expected to excel. This translated into being pushed to work as hard as possible and supplement my schoolwork with other activities, like piano lessons and constant reading. Drama and music were my main interests; I did sports but was never a skilled or enthusiastic athlete.

I couldn’t tell you when my geography fascination began — I can’t remember it ever not being there. All I know is that whenever I got my hands on a map, I would get lost in it. As soon as we were allowed to check out nonfiction books in school, I would make a beeline to the 900s section and choose a book about a different country every week.

I had a placemat with a world map on it. I was obsessed with it and my family would quiz me on countries every night. (My mom took a picture of me with the placemat the day I left to travel.)

What kind of kid was I? I was the kid who got in trouble for leaving her Ethiopia library book at her after-school Math Magic class. (God, I hated that class. I was the youngest kid and the only girl.)

Being pushed academically is what gave me my lifelong work ethic, and my love for geography eventually grew into a love for travel.

Growing Up a Dreamer (1989-2002)

There’s a Jack Donaghy quote from 30 Rock that I love: “The first generation comes to this country and works their fingers to the bone. The second generation goes to college and creates new innovations…the third generation snowboards and takes improv classes.”

My family has been in the US for a long time, but I was a classic third generation kid. Both of my parents were the first people in their families to go to college. And both of them lost their fathers when they were teenagers, which meant that their mothers had to go to work, money was tight, and they had to pay for college themselves. They both commuted to state schools, chose “smart” career paths — business for Dad, teaching for Mom — and eventually earned graduate degrees.

My parents wanted me to have a childhood without constantly worrying about money. To be able to go to the best college for me and live on campus. To eventually have a career I loved.

This translated into a freedom to dream in a way that many of my friends couldn’t. My friends who grew up with immigrant families, or in conservative cultures, were more or less forced into medicine, law, or engineering from a young age, spending their time on extracurriculars that could lead to a better future.

I was told I could do anything, study anything, be anyone I wanted to be. I wholeheartedly believe that growing up with this mindset led me to quit my job, travel solo, start a business in a brand new industry, and live unconventionally.

A Technology-Filled Childhood (1990-2002)

My dad has always been interested in computers and technology; he passed on this excitement to me. On Christmas when I was six years old in 1990, I was led downstairs to see the latest addition to the family and I squealed, “It’s a computer! And it’s a Macintosh!”

That small, square, early 90s computer was the beginning of my love for technology. I was only playing games and creating art as a kid, but I was hooked. The computer was a million times more fun than anything else.

I grew up in the nascence of the internet and was immersed in its early days. My dad went on to train his colleagues in how to use the internet. Around the same time, we brought the 1990 computer to my fifth-grade classroom and I taught my teacher and classmates how to use it.

I was never interested in coding or the engineering side of computing. But growing up with computers, being comfortable with them, and constantly learning what they could do gave me an edge that came to fruition in high school.

Building Websites in the Early Days (1998-2002)

When I was around 13 in 1998 or so, I spent my time on a website called Bolt — it was one of the early social networks predating MySpace. They had message boards, quizzes, badges, private messaging. There were different sections for music, movies, sports, astrology. I was obsessed with Bolt and spent so much of my internet time on there.

And one thing you could do on Bolt was create your own website. I was fascinated and decided to build an astrology website.

It was simple — a home page with twelve links linking to separate pages for each astrological sign. On each sign’s page, I posted a description of the sign’s qualities. I copied and pasted the description from another site (holy plagiarism!).

I kept that simple site immaculate, though. It was neat and clean. Each page had a “go back home” link at the bottom. I spent time targeting the colors to each sign. It wasn’t overloaded with counters or 90s clipart.

But then Bolt featured the site on its astrology homepage. I was thrilled to high heaven. People were visiting a site I made!

For my second website, when I was 14, I turned to Angelfire and decided to build a fan site for my favorite Backstreet Boy, A.J. McLean. (Amusingly, 15 years later, I would learn that we are actually cousins.) I was already an expert on all things A.J. — this site would be a place to put it all together. I created pages with his biography, his favorite things, pictures of A.J., videos of A.J., his songwriting credits.

Angelfire was where I began teaching myself rudimentary HTML. I wasn’t hardcore coding or anything like that, but I loved learning the basics. More importantly, though, I was learning how to structure content in a way that would entertain readers.

My third site, also created at age 14, was definitely my most embarrassing site: a Backstreet Boys humor site called Out the Dizzo. Yes, a Backstreet Boys humor site. Around 1999, they were a thing and there were tons of them.

I would constantly create new content for the site: funny alternate lyrics to Backstreet Boys songs, funny quotes for Backstreet Boys pictures, links to the funniest Backstreet Boys fan fiction, and of course, commentary on “All I Have to Give: The Conversation Mix.” The name Out the Dizzo came from a random quote Kevin Richardson once gave in an interview that was an ongoing joke in our community.

My fourth site was my most professional site yet, and it served a purpose: it was called “Who’s Going Where” and I built it my senior year of high school as a directory showing where everyone was going to college. There were headings, there were colors, it was laid out professionally, and I was proud of it.

These days of building websites were absolutely blissful — I fell in love with it. But more importantly, when it became time to build a professional time, I wasn’t slowed down by learning HTML and how to structure content. I already had years of experience.

My First Trip Overseas Trip to France (2001)

From an early age, I was a hardcore francophile, thanks to the influence of my French Canadian grandmother. She taught me basic French, gave me French books, and made me proud of my French heritage. I signed up to take French in the eighth grade; the vast majority of my classmates took Spanish.

Every other year, my high school did an exchange with a school in Rouen, France. Their students would come visit for two weeks in the fall and stay with our families, then we’d visit them in the spring. By the time I was a junior, I had been dreaming of this trip for years.

WHAT A TRIP. I felt such freedom traveling with my friends. I felt electrified when I spoke French and was understood. I got to know French culture while staying with a family in the countryside. My language skills improved rapidly thanks to the immersive environment. I took more photos than any normal human would. I saw so much of Normandy, from Etretat to Caen to Giverny. And I fell madly in love with Paris, a love that remains to this day.

I look back at that trip with fondness — but also with embarrassment. I got roped into paying for shitty portraits and bracelets woven on my wrist without my consent by men who approached me at Montmartre. (Looking back, I find it absurd that our teachers didn’t warn us about the Montmartre scam artists but made a big deal about the word “bagel” being code for pickpocket.) And our behavior at the Normandy battlefields was appalling — we called it “Teletubby land” and took goofy pictures.

But that first trip began everything. For the first time, my love of reading travel books and studying maps had grown into something more real. I was a traveler — and I was good at it.

A Professor Who Saw a Spark (2002)

When I started college at Fairfield University, I planned to double-major in psychology and French — then I decided to keep my options open and go in undeclared. I’d chosen a Jesuit university because they force you to study so many different areas in depth; I wanted to learn about as many subjects as I could.

During my first semester of college, I took the introductory writing class required for all freshmen. Papers were due every week and I wrote them in a way I thought college writing was supposed to be: intellectual, distant, emotionless.

Then one week I was bored and decided to write an essay about how I loved to take on dares when I was in middle and high school. If someone dared me to do something crazy, I would do it. I had a blast writing about all the adventures resulting from my dares. If my professor hated the essay, I’d do something more normal the next week.

I got my paper back and the entire back page was covered in red pen. My professor had LOVED it. He himself loved to do silly things to make people laugh. “SEE ME!” It read at the bottom of the paper.

I went to see him after class and he raved about my paper, telling me how much he loved it and what a talented writer I was. He was expecting to see more great things from me in the English program.

“Do you think…I should major in English?” I said, dumbfounded. I had never considered majoring in English; it sounded like such a boring major.

“If you didn’t, I would be disappointed,” he told me, his face suddenly serious.

Though I didn’t declare for another year, I ended up majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. It wasn’t remotely boring. I overloaded on the electives, from poetry writing and journalism to literature of the Irish Famine, and I felt so intellectually fulfilled.

My whole life, I had taken my love for writing for granted — I assumed it was easy and fun for everyone. That professor helped me see that my writing was exceptional, and while I never had him as a professor again, he set me on a path to making writing my career.

Laptop (via Pixabay)

Starting a Blog in the Earliest Days (2002)

Early during my freshman fall semester in 2002, I discovered the concept of an “online diary.” You could write anything you wanted and it would be put online for anyone to read. How cool would that be?

I wrote my first blog post on Diary-X one afternoon — and I loved it so much that I immediately wrote two more! I was hooked on blogging (though keep in mind that the word “blog” was barely used back then). From then on it was a near-daily habit that continued for the rest of college and beyond.

Oh, and I had no filter back then. I got in trouble for writing about who was hooking up with whom and which girls on my floor were feuding with each other!

During my spring semester of senior year, Diary-X’s server failed. Every online diary had disappeared, and all my years of writings were lost.

Well, it was time to start something new. I started a new blog on the much more reliable platform of Blogger. I called it “Adventurous Kate” — the first emergence of that name — and continued writing constantly.

Sometime during college, I was asked what my true dream job would be. “Getting paid to blog about my life,” I replied, laughing at the concept.

Studying Abroad in Florence, Italy (2004)

For years I had dreamed of studying abroad in Paris. But at the last minute, I decided to apply to be an RA my junior year instead — a resident advisor in a dorm. RAs had to commit to a full year, so I wouldn’t be able to study abroad at all.

Then the tables turned — I didn’t make the cut to be an RA. As I reeled in shock, I decided in that moment that having the year free meant I HAD to study abroad. But the Paris program was through another school, and it was too late to apply for the fall semester. If I had any chance of going abroad in the fall, it would need to be through one of Fairfield’s own programs.

At the time, Fairfield had study abroad programs in Galway, London, and Brisbane — but the most popular one was in Florence. Of those four, Florence was easily the most exciting and the most exotic to me. ITALY! I had to do it.

I ran around campus, securing transcripts and begging for recommendations, and applied the same day. I was accepted less than 24 hours later.

Florence was an incredible, life-changing experience. I wrote a 10-year retrospective about it here; it’s a great read. I lived in a huge apartment with eight other girls. We spent our weeks eating and partying in Florence and spent our weekends traveling to different places. Budapest, Interlaken, and Capri were some of my favorite spots.

And I did go to Paris after all — as part of my fall break with my friends. I was their navigator, translator, and tour guide.

While I was away, I kept a meticulous diary and wrote long, detailed emails to my friends about my adventures in Europe. People began looking forward to my weekly emails, and I began sharing them as blog posts.

I had no idea of its significance at the time, but I was in my first days of travel blogging — something that would become my full-time career six years later.

Discovering the Concept of Long-Term Travel (2006)

After graduating college, I got a job at a company in Boston. While my interviewer described the company as a marketing firm with celebrity clients, it turned out to be more of a call center (yes, with a few celebrity clients). We were a high-end concierge service for rich people; I was hired as a research assistant for the extra tough requests.

It was possible to have a lot of free time at this job if you did your tasks quickly, and I was a speed demon. I’d browse the web when I could, and I can’t remember how this happened, but I came across a website called Gone Walkabout. It was a collection of journals by a guy named Sean who had gone backpacking around the world for a year.

This guy spent a year traveling the world alone. Just because he wanted to.

My heart raced. I’d heard of entire families traveling together for a year, but a single person, alone? THE THOUGHT HAD NEVER EVEN CROSSED MY MIND. Keep in mind this was 2006. The internet was nothing like what it is today.

Right then and there, I knew I was going to do exactly what he did. I would save up for a year around the world.

Every day at work, I would go in, get my work done, and sneakily read more of Gone Walkabout, nearly jumping out of my seat with excitement. I vowed to do a similar route to his, starting in New Zealand and heading westward. I knew I had to visit Railay in Thailand, just like him.

At the same time, I became active on another travel site: BootsnAll. In those very early pre-travel blogging days, I hung out on the message boards with people like Beth of Beers and Beans, who went on to create the Speakeasy Travel Supply scarves that I share with you often, and Brooke from Her Packing List and Anne-Sophie from Sophie’s World. We talked about our favorite places, planned our future trips, and gave each other travel tips.

In the early 2000s, long-term solo travel was so uncommon among Americans that I had no idea it was even possible. That revelation broke my world open so wide that I knew immediately I would do the same.

The Grammar Vandal (via Boston Globe)

Starting a Famous Blog A Little Too Quickly (2007-2009)

In 2007, Reebok ads appeared all over Boston reading, “RUN EASY BOSTON.” The lack of a comma drove me crazy and I decided to take a comma sticker and put it after the EASY.

I blogged about it, of course. I blogged about everything back then. But this seemed like such a good idea, it could be its own blog. The Grammar Vandal became my newest website.

Almost immediately, The Boston Globe contacted me, wanting to do a feature about me. I couldn’t believe it. After it was published, The Grammar Vandal went viral and I instantly had tons and tons of visitors.

I had no idea what to do with this fame except create more and more content. Every day would be a new post — I’d be changing grammar on signs, or musing about grammar rules, or ranting about something a celebrity said poorly.

After the Boston Globe interview, I was interviewed on NPR and for MSNBC.com (now NBC News). The blog got even bigger.

I knew I had a huge opportunity with this instant fame. But monetization didn’t even cross my mind, and something darker was happening — the fan mail was terrible. Almost every day, people would send me examples of bad grammar and would add, “That editor should be shot.”

“That editor should be shot”?! Are you actually advocating murder?

Suddenly I had built a successful blog with an audience I couldn’t stand.

I kept The Grammar Vandal up for a few years, but my heart wasn’t in it. As much as I enjoyed writing about grammar, I couldn’t deal with the mean, rude emails from my readers. Eventually, I stopped.

This taught me that I couldn’t blog about something I wasn’t genuinely passionate about. I began to entertain the idea of writing a blog about a subject I actually loved.

A New Career from a Blogging Friend (2008)

In the early post-college years in Boston, I kept up my blogging — still as Adventurous Kate on Blogger — and discovered several blogs by locals. One was called The Missus and was run by a woman a few years older than me. We commented on each other’s blogs and developed an online friendship.

The Missus worked in search engine marketing at a travel booking site. When it became time  to hire an assistant, she reached out to me to see if I wanted to interview. “Anyone can learn SEO, but I need someone who can write, and I already know you can write.”

Yes. I was interested. I had been trying to get out of the call center job for months without success. And a travel company? How perfect!

I got the job, and a 25% salary bump. I was ecstatic — then because I had heard never to take the first offer, I emailed them asking for $5,000 more. (They offered $3,000 more and I couldn’t believe my luck.)

Those early days at the travel booking site were idyllic. It was a respectful professional environment with amazing coworkers and a fun, social atmosphere. I enjoyed my work and was eager to learn more. I even got to go out to business dinners at fancy restaurants like No. 9 Park.

In the early days, I did a lot of travel SEO content writing and was a natural at it. Later on, the job changed and became more about paid search, which I found incredibly tedious and boring.

My years of blogging for fun became my greatest professional asset, getting me noticed by a connection who gave me a great job. Learning the art of SEO content writing gave me one of the most important skills I used to build my career as a professional travel blogger.

A New Specialty: Social Media (2009)

Soon, my responsibilities at the travel booking site grew and I was put in charge of the company’s first social media accounts. Back then, social media was just Twitter and Facebook, there were almost no analytics, and their feeds were based on content curation more than anything else.

But this gave me an early opportunity to get to know the people on travel Twitter. Back in 2009, the entire conversation was happening on Twitter. As the human behind the accounts, I got to know who the big players were — and I used my knowledge to befriend them with my own profile, where I talked travel with them as well. When I eventually left that job, I messaged several of them privately and told them to head over to my personal profile.

This job gave me a reason to spend hours on social media and get to know the main players in the travel space, and those relationships I built with them led to them sharing my travel blog’s posts in the future.

Dipping My Toe Into Freelance Destination Writing (2009)

I wanted to try my hand at freelance travel writing, and I combed Craiglook (a site that crawled all Craigslist sites) for writing gigs I thought I could do. One was for Boston nightlife. As a girl who hit the clubs every weekend, it was a perfect fit.

For $20 an article (they were just a few paragraphs long!), I’d write about Boston’s nightlife for sites like AOL Travel and TripVine. It wasn’t much, but eventually I started getting invited to different parties and events around the city.

Starting my freelance writing career while I worked a full-time job gave me a leg up when I eventually quit, giving me the connections and portfolio to earn a writing income once I started traveling.

Laptop Image via Pixabay

Starting Adventurous Kate — A More Professional Travel Blog (2009-2010)

By this point, I had been blogging almost daily for seven years. Blogging wasn’t just a hobby — it was a major part of my life. I was ready to do something bigger.

After the success of The Grammar Vandal followed by my ambivalence for writing about grammar, I decided the next logical step was to start a new, more professional blog centered on my absolute favorite interest: travel.

It was the easiest decision of my life.

I began laying the groundwork in fall 2009 and AdventurousKate.com went live in late January 2010. I wasn’t one of the very first bloggers, but I was part of the earliest travel blogging community.

My plan was to write about my past travels and, when the time came, eventually write about my dream trip around the world. Thanks to Twitter and blogging, I made tons of new friends in the industry. People like Cailin, Stephanie, Michael, Lillie, Ayngelina, and Michael. Nearly a decade later, we’ve accumulated marriages, babies, breakups, career changes, and trans-continental moves, but I’m still friends with all of them.

Back then I blogged short posts daily. Monetization didn’t cross my mind. I wanted only one thing — to be one of the most popular travel blogs in the world. I wrote constantly; I networked with my travel blogger friends on Twitter; I became obsessed with this new and interesting community.

My old personal blog, the version of Adventurous Kate on Blogger (and then WordPress.com), became a relic of the past as I focused exclusively on the new self-hosted AdventurousKate.com.

This started it all.

An Exit, A New Job, and a Revelation (2010)

The travel booking site was so wonderful in the early days — until the founders changed their strategy and decided that we needed to “get to 10X.” That day, they let go several longtime employees. Starting with some people I liked very much, including my blogging friend who had hired me.

Every few months, there would be another purge — two or three more people would be let go (we had something like 24 people in our office) — but bizarrely, they would be replaced with two or three new people doing essentially the same jobs. As you can imagine, it was terrible for morale.

I began searching for another job and landed one at an agency in the suburbs. I’d be doing paid search work for a variety of clients.

BOY was that fortuitous timing, as days later, I was told I no longer had a job. (I called the agency and asked if I could start a week early. They said sure.)

While I lucked out in missing only three days of unpaid work (who fires someone on a Tuesday?!), I soon learned that taking the job at the agency was a mistake. I hadn’t enjoyed paid search work at the travel booking site, but I loved the people — and now I was doing exclusively paid search work in a company with no social atmosphere whatsoever.

I was miserable at the agency. I hated every minute in the building and would spend my lunch hour listening to D’Angelo and Maxwell and Robin Thicke while walking all over the neighborhood.

So why didn’t I leave? I was terrified that if I went for a new career, I’d have to start over with an entry-level salary. I had moved into a more expensive apartment in downtown Boston and couldn’t afford that. I was terrified that I was stuck forever in an industry I hated.

That awful job was a blessing in disguise — it would be the push I needed to go after my dreams.

My going-away party in Boston

Planning an Escape — and a Trip (2010)

Around this time, I was tired of Boston and began weighing a move to New York. The logistics would be complicated if I moved without a job. I could transfer to one of the agency’s New York offices, but why would I want to continue in an industry I hated?

Day and night, I kept dreaming of traveling the world long-term. Soon enough, I realized that living in New York wasn’t my dream — traveling was my dream. I needed to move my travel date up a lot sooner.

But I wouldn’t have enough money for my dream trip, starting in New Zealand and moving on to Australia, Southeast Asia, India and Nepal, and westward to Europe. So what else could I do?

I could move to Korea, teach English for a year, and save a ton of money for my dream trip. But I had a close friend’s wedding to attend, and I knew that teaching in Korea would make it difficult to take the time off to come home. Not to mention all the other wedding activities.

Then it hit me. I didn’t have to do my dream trip — I could do a shorter trip in a cheaper destination.

Like Southeast Asia. For seven months. Southeast Asia was the place I wanted to visit the most anyway.

I would leave October 21, I decided, and I planned to work until October 15. I saved up $13,000 in seven months. I booked a round-trip ticket to Bangkok. My lease ended on August 31 and I moved into my mom’s house for the last few weeks.

I gritted my teeth through the workday. October 15 was too torturous; I decided to stick it out until October 1. I didn’t last. On September 14, 2010 — a day I celebrate each year — I picked up my belongings and walked out with my belongings, never to return.

These months were among the hardest of my life — not only was I working a job I hated, I was blogging in my free time and doing a ton of freelance work, only sleeping four hours on weeknights. I was also barely eating and lost 20 pounds in a very unhealthy way. I spent as little money as possible. Living this way made the coming trip even sweeter.

Specializing in Solo Female Travel and Southeast Asia (2010-2011)

It sounds crazy now, but back in 2010, few people were blogging about Southeast Asia exclusively and few women were specializing in solo female travel. By focusing on these two areas in this time, I was able to differentiate myself from other travel bloggers, who were mostly doing RTW trips on a budget or traveling part-time.

Blogging was SO different back then. I miss it. Blogs were narrative-driven, people commented like crazy, you didn’t have to worry about Instagram and Pinterest because they didn’t exist. And if you were making money from your travel blog, you were selling text links.

I remember those early days in Southeast Asia so clearly. I didn’t sleep a wink the first night — I got up at dawn, went to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, and came back to my hostel to write about them. Writing about real-time travel felt so unnatural at first, but soon I found my groove.

This was the ideal way to start my travels — I was experiencing an interesting, cheap region and educating women on what it was like to travel Southeast Asia solo.

Taking a Leap to Continue Indefinitely (2011)

Most people think quitting my job to travel the world was a ballsy move — but I think what I did the following year was even more terrifying.

After coming home from my seven-month trip and being present for my friend’s wedding, I had found myself in an unexpected situation: with a new English boyfriend I had met in Vietnam.

He was coming to visit Boston in July, so it made no sense to get a job before then. I got offered trips to Sayulita, Mexico, and San Antonio, Texas. I hung out at home and continued to blog; he visited; all seemed good. Shortly after that, I was invited to a travel blogging conference in Austria in late August, and it seemed like a great way to tie in a visit to my boyfriend.

I went to England. I went to the conference in Austria, and visited Germany and Liechtenstein for the first time (the latter as their hosted guest). I got invited on two sweet press trips: Emilia-Romagna, Italy, and Jordan. I added a side trip to Turkey after Jordan and planned for Portugal and Spain in the winter.

It made no sense to go home. Europe was great. I had a community of travel blogger friends. Things were good with my boyfriend. I stayed.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that Europe was the best place I could have been — the travel blogging industry was far more advanced here than anywhere else. There were more press trips, more conferences, and more PRs that took blogging seriously. I had put myself in a very strategic relationship-building position.

Moving to Affiliates at the Right Time (2014)

Those early years were tough. I was in love with my work and addicted to the freedom, but I was barely getting by financially. My income came from text links, poorly paid freelance writing, and the occasional odd writing or editing gig. I lived off press trips and generosity.

I hit a breaking point during Chinese New Year in 2014, while I was in Boracay. That day, my most lucrative writing gig, a steady $1500 per month, disappeared. In the coming weeks, I wrote a post called How to Start a Travel Blog, linked to some affiliates for web hosting, and forgot about it.

Google updated and I suddenly started getting tons of web hosting commissions. By the spring, I was making thousands of dollars per month off that one post alone. I did so well that my highest-earning affiliate massively increased my commission.

Somehow I had cracked the code. Finally I had the job I loved — and money as well.

It didn’t last. Within a few months, virtually every other travel blogger copied my post, and in a few years I was pushed out of the top rankings. But I had laid the groundwork for other successful posts. Plus, at this time, I started getting paid campaigns on a regular basis.

I should have gotten into affiliates years earlier — but I was still ahead of the game. Building a passive income took a lot of pressure off me and allowed me to continue creating content that made me happy.

Moving to New York (2016)

In early 2016, I moved to New York. This decision was crazy in so many ways — if you can work from anywhere, why move to a cold, expensive city that makes life so hard for you?

I did it because I wanted to. After moving abroad twice for relationships, finally I was choosing a place for me alone. And also because my sister and best friend were here, among other friends. But despite the high cost of living, being a travel blogger in New York provided lots of other advantages.

I got some opportunities in part because of my location. My campaigns with Austrian Airlines, ANA, Kenya Airways/Fairmont Kenya, and Guyana Tourism, as well as several influencer opportunities, would not have happened if I hadn’t been based in New York. Brands will always fly you from New York because it’s so well-connected.

New York is the center of the travel industry, and it’s amazing that I can meet for coffee with different PR agencies whenever I feel like it. New York has industry events like Travel Massive, IMM, and the New York Times Travel Show, where I’ve spoken annually since 2015. There are always events being thrown by different tourism organizations. I get offers for free Broadway shows, restaurant openings, and all kinds of events.

But the most important thing is the city’s work culture. People in New York work extremely hard and it encourages you to work even harder. I wouldn’t have had that same kind of motivation if I had moved to a digital nomad hotspot where people work only enough to get by.


What does success as a travel blogger look like today, in 2019? Everyone’s definition is different. For me, I live in Manhattan and have a large apartment all to myself. My sister lives a short walk away, my best friend lives a subway ride away, and I have lots of friends in the city. My family and friends in Massachusetts are a short train ride away, and I’m a loving auntie to two sweet little boys, one in New York, one in Massachusetts.

I’m in New York about 75% of the time and I travel the other 25%. I have friends around the world. I work out in the mornings and work in the afternoons and evenings. I love exploring New York, going to literary events, obsessing over politics, Zumba classes, taking long walks in Central Park, and spending time with friends. I don’t work while traveling anymore; I prefer separating those aspects of my life these days.

Is my life perfect? HELL NO. There are LOTS of things I’d like to improve; I have worries that keep me up at night. But it’s a good life, and it’s a life that I built for myself. It’s worlds away from when I was on a sweatbox of a train in Bulgaria, down to my last $200 and owed $9,000 from late-paying vendors, and sobbing my eyes out. Or working in that terrible office in suburban Boston, marking a line whenever 15 minutes had passed.

I think when you look at the events of my life, themes begin to emerge. Three major things:

1. I had a privileged upbringing that put me on a much higher footing than many of my peers in terms of education, work ethic, and opportunity.

2. I grew my lifelong loves of writing, geography, and technology into obsessive storytelling, travel, and website-building.

3. I made a lot of smart decisions at the right time, even when I didn’t realize it at the time.

I also think it’s equally important to examine what I didn’t do. Today, most people start travel blogging because they want to make money and get travel comps. I was never in that position because making money and travel blogging comps didn’t exist in 2010. Hell, when I started my travel blog, I thought the only way to make money was to get a book deal or TV deal.

I didn’t look to replicate the success of others because I was one of the originals. Almost everything I did was based on instinct, and I had already developed my voice from seven years of near-daily blogging.

I started this career because it was my favorite hobby. I’ve kept it going since because I still love it. That is my greatest motivation — work that I greatly enjoy, and knowing I can help women along the way.

How to Replicate My Success

Unfortunately, you can’t do it exactly the way I did. So much of my success comes down to timing, from being a teenager when Angelfire was at its height to being a college student when blogging was in its infancy to starting a travel blog among the first generation.

But I do have advice for parents or teenagers or college students who are looking to glean lessons from my life:

Cultivate your interests and lean into them. I grew a career that I’m passionate about because I had been spending years and years preparing for it — without even knowing it. My obsessions with writing, travel, and technology eventually knit together into travel blogging. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a subject, and I had definitely been blogging for 10,000 hours for fun before I even started Adventurous Kate.

Get involved in technology from a young age. Learn to code. Learn to build websites. Master a social network and content creation. Learn cutting-edge techniques of photography and video production. When you put in hours developing these skills, you’ll be in a better position than your peers. Of course, be sure to have a healthy amount of time away from technology, too. It’s good for your brain.

Forcing yourself to take a leap can be the greatest motivation. I wouldn’t have worked nearly as hard to succeed at blogging if I hadn’t quit my job, or moved to Europe when I was broke, or lost my plum freelance writing gig, or moved to expensive New York. Had I taken the easy way out, I could still be making $2,000 per month, drinking every night in an expat hangout, and wondering why my blog was getting less and less popular.

I know that my life will continue to evolve — I might not always be a blogger, but I know that travel and storytelling will always be part of my life. I’m looking forward to the next step, and the step after that, and the step after that.

How to Start a Travel Blog in Six Easy Steps

What moves led you to success in your own life?

The post How I Became a Successful Travel Blogger — My Smartest Decisions 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.

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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Montreal's best eats – Lonely Planet travel video

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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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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.


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.


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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AK Monthly Recap — April 2019

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I used to freak out whenever I spent a month without leaving the confines of New York City. It brings to mind that episode of Sex and the City when Miranda briefly dates the guy who hasn’t left Manhattan in a decade.

These days, it happens about once a year, but I don’t mind anymore. It’s nice to have that respite from trips and concentrate on the things that mean most to me — spending time with friends and family, working out, and enjoying my routines.

And of all months to spend ensconced in New York, April is one of the best. It’s cherry blossom season!

Destinations Visited

New York, New York


Meeting Julián Castro and Stacey Abrams and attending a fundraiser with Pete and Chasten Buttigieg. What an awesome month for meeting the future of the Democratic Party!

Julián Castro appeared for a speech at 92Y, where I love attending lectures. I just wanted to hear him speak, then I was elated to learn that he was doing a meet and greet afterward! I took that time to tell him I was a donor, to tell him my favorite part of his book, An Unlikely Journey, and to talk to him about what it’s like to run a small business today.

I told him about my site and all the people I know who have quit their jobs to run small digital businesses, often boot-strapped businesses. People often talk about the gig economy, Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts, but not as much about digital entrepreneurs. As exhilarating as the freedom is to run your own business, we almost no protections if things go south. And as more and more people choose this method of employment, we need our leaders to prioritize our care. You shouldn’t have to be independently wealthy to run a small business and survive a trip to the hospital. Julián agreed wholeheartedly with me and said that we need to have a safety net — good healthcare, childcare, and more.

Julián has always fought for the rights of the most vulnerable. I respect him enormously and we would be well served with him as president. He is also JUST short of the 65,000 unique donors he needs to qualify for the debates — if you’ve got an extra $5, please consider sending it his way. He’s an important voice and we need him in the debates.

Stacey Abrams was incredible. She also spoke at 92Y. And I say this without exaggeration — I haven’t been this electrified in a theater since the first time I saw Hamilton. I was buzzing with excitement. Stacey is hilarious — she was cracking us up nonstop — and heartfelt, and so incredibly smart. She has got that magical quality. We would be so well served with her and it’s a tragedy that voter suppression kept her out of the Georgia governor’s office.

I met Stacey briefly for a book signing. She was a lot more personal than the other signings I’ve been to, like John Kerry’s and Cecile Richards’s. We chatted for a minute and I told her, “Anything you decide to do, you’ve got my money and you’ve got my volunteer hours.”

I was thrilled to snag tickets to Pete Buttigieg’s fundraiser in Brooklyn. And even more thrilled when I realized that his husband Chasten would be speaking there too!

The fundraiser, held at the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, was pretty basic — Pete took questions from the audience (including mine, on behalf of my friend Beth, about paid family leave!) and the answers lined up with pretty much anything you’d expect.

But it was great to be there surrounded by Pete fans and enjoy the phenomenon of his unlikely candidacy. I was only 15 feet from him. And I loved when he and Chasten bickered over loading and unloading the dishwasher. I never thought that in 2019 that we would have a viable gay candidate for president and have his relationship with his husband be not only a prominent part of the campaign, but so beautifully normal.

Spending a month on Whole30. I really enjoyed Whole30 the first time I did it, and I felt the need to do it again this year because I had a free month with no travel plans and I could tell my eating habits had gotten a lot worse over the winter. It’s been great to get myself back into positive eating habits. I did it for 35 days in total, from March 29 until May 1.

My first boxing classes. I’ve really upped my workouts this month, from four times per week to six times per week, and I’ve added a new class: boxing! And I really like it! It’s higher-intensity than the classes I usually do and I sweat absolute buckets, especially when doing the rounds of push-ups and burpees in between. And it’s awesome going to town on a giant sandbag and pretending it’s Mitch McConnell.

Celebrating the first birthday of a special little boy. Just a year ago, I was telling you in my recap that I became an auntie for the first time ever! Since then, two more babies have become part of my life, and this month my first practically-a-nephew turned one as he ate a cupcake, clapped for everyone, pointed at dogs while yelling, “Da,” and tried to stick his hand in the burning candle.

Seeing two great Broadway shows: Oklahoma! and Beetlejuice. Lately I’ve been getting complimentary tickets to Broadway shows and these two shows were comped. First I saw a new and offbeat version of Oklahoma! at the Circle in the Square theater.

I always thought Oklahoma! was a cheesy show, which isn’t my thing, but I appreciated how much they modernized the musical. There were some absolutely CRAZY moments in the show — like a Tarantino-esque moment that sent me to Wikipedia because surely that could not be in the original Oklahoma! The lights are on and everyone faces each other; it feels like a community meeting in a barn. The dream sequence dance is different from anything you’ve ever seen. They even serve chili and cornbread at intermission!

The highlight of the cast was Ali Stroker, who played Ado Annie — and Ali uses a wheelchair. In fact, she was the first Broadway actor who uses a wheelchair to be cast in a Broadway show (she debuted in Spring Awakening). She was the most hilarious one in a show that, frankly, is very dated, and the fact that she made us laugh uproariously from those 1943 lines is a testament to how good she is. Most importantly, her wheelchair was never played for laughs. She was just herself. And yes, she danced — on her own and with the whole cast.

Secondly, I saw Beetlejuice and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS SHOW. It was so hilarious! I had actually never seen the movie, so I got in a quick viewing (it’s on Amazon Prime for free) and was delighted to see that the show improved upon the movie in every way possible! It’s totally updated for 2019 and they break the fourth wall frequently to make fun of other shows and say how different it is from the movie.

One thing I especially appreciated was how they updated Beetlejuice’s marriage to Lydia, who is a CHILD. In the movie, it’s extremely creepy; in the show, Beetlejuice points out how creepy it is and says that it’s like a green card thing!

Best of all? Beetlejuice is queer as hell. Seriously. Yes, this Beetlejuice loves the ladies but he loves the dudes (and one dude in particular) even more, and that just makes perfect sense. Go see this show. You’ll laugh hard.

Enjoying cherry blossom season. It’s one of my favorite times of year in New York.

Getting my passport renewed. It was time — I only had a few spots left. It’s unnerving to have a brand new, unblemished passport. My old passport was the one I had been using since mid-2010.


Seeing Notre-Dame burn. It broke my heart and I know it broke a lot of yours, too.

When I was a high school sophomore, my drama club wrote our own version of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. We called it Le Bossu and performed it at Dramafest in 2000. I played a gypsy (I wince at the use of the word today and also the fact that my school was so white that I was one of the darkest people in the cast).

That was my play. I was such a francophile and I lived for drama club — Le Bossu was my favorite play we did in all four years. I attempted to read it in the original French and gave up each time. And the following year, I went on my first trip overseas, the school trip to France. At that time, the French musical Notre-Dame de Paris was popular and it became my soundtrack for the rest of high school. Seeing Notre-Dame in person moved me so much.

One of my friends on the trip, Chris, had been in Le Bossu as well. We decided to climb the towers of Notre-Dame, even though we knew we didn’t have enough time. We called it “Chez Quasi” and squealed with delight when we got to the top. It was one of my favorite moments of that pivotal trip.

Chris and I got back — and our teachers were PISSED. We nearly made everyone late getting our train back to Rouen. We were reamed out in front of the whole group. It was absolutely worth it. Looking back, though, I’m so glad we didn’t miss our train!

Blog Posts of the Month

What’s it Really Like to Travel Guyana? — Not surprisingly, everyone wants to know!

Solo Female Travel in Central America — Is it Safe? — I unravel the truth about this misunderstood region.

How to Survive #Whole30 — 20 Best Tips to Changing Your Eating Habits — Required reading before you attempt 30 days of eating clean!

Quote of the Month

Six-year-old girl: “Kate, do you like Friends?”

Me: “I LOVE Friends.”

Six-year-old girl: “Paper! Snow! A ghost!”

What I Watched This Month

I mostly stayed off TV and movies this month. Wake me up when The Handmaid’s Tale comes back.

I’ll give you a few tidbits from what I searched for on YouTube this month: “snake juice,” “how to clean a cast iron skillet,” “kevin covais part time lover,” “how to wrap hands for boxing,” “aoc green new deal.”

What I Listened to This Month

Lots of podcasts! I really enjoyed To Live and Die in LA, a story about a missing woman in Los Angeles that goes in a lot of directions you wouldn’t predict.

Blackout is really interesting — it’s an episodic drama starring Rami Malek about what happens when the United States loses all electrical power. It takes place in a far northern New Hampshire town and as you would expect, mayhem breaks out. The sound quality is gorgeous and the New England accents are atrociously authentic. I say that with affection. And I could listen to Rami Malek talk about anything for hours. Also, I was listening to the credits and was surprised to hear that my dad’s friend, a voice actor, plays the mayor!

Another one I enjoyed was Rachel Maddow’s Bag Man, about Nixon’s criminal vice president, Spiro Agnew. What a story!! I didn’t know anything about Spiro Agnew, in part because as soon as my AP US History class got to the sixties, it became time to drill for the AP exam. This guy was insanely corrupt and there are so many parallels to Trump today. It’s an entertaining listen.

What I Read This Month

I’m continuing to read up a storm, and this month, I started borrowing audiobooks from the library. Why haven’t I been doing this all along?! I can get through so many books this way! I listen to them while I cook and clean, while I commute, and even when doing cardio at the gym!

So far I have read 42 books in 2019, which blows my mind. My record is 72 within a year and at the end of April I’m already more than halfway there. That’s what joining a library will do for you.

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (2017) — Comedian Tiffany Haddish burst onto the national scene in 2017 when she debuted in Girls Trip and stole every scene she was in. Shortly after, she became one of the funniest guests on late night shows, telling such insane stories that Trevor Noah and Jimmy Kimmel lost it, repeatedly. This book is a collection of the funniest, strangest, and most unbelievable stories of her life, from her childhood as a foster kid to her high school years as a team mascot to when she decided to work in comedy — and lots of tales along the way.

THIS IS ONE OF THE FUNNIEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ. And I implore you to listen to the Audiobook version, because Tiffany’s voice is hilarious and she adds SO much to her stories. The story about Roscoe in particular has received a lot of press, and justifiably so — there is no book like Tiffany’s out there because there is nobody like HER out there!! I am SO happy for her success because SHE DESERVES IT, and I hope she is starring in films for decades to come. Also, interestingly, her co-writer for this book was Tucker Max. I LOVED Tucker Max back in the day, though looking back he was so problematic, so if you loved his crazy stories, you will love these ones too. Listen to this book!!!

Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010) — When Patti Smith moved to New York City, she was young, broke, and had nowhere to go. Again and again, she ran into an equally young and broke artist named Robert Mapplethorpe. They became friends, and lovers, and soulmates who acted as muse and artist, inspiring each other to create the best work possible while living in the most rundown conditions. This is the story of their relationship — an unconventional relationship, but one of two true soulmates.

This is one of the best books about New York City I have ever read. And it was so beautifully written. I love Patti Smith’s gentle, ethereal words — it reminds me a lot of Steve Martin’s writing, actually. I love a memoir that is centered on nostalgia, and this is pure nostalgia. It made me cry a few times from the very beginning. They were so young. They were so poor. They cared about nothing but art and each other. They lived in a New York that existed for a moment in time, a New York that we will never get back. New York is a playground for the rich these days, and I wonder if art will ever be able to flourish here the way it once did.

Atomic Habits by James Clear (2018) — We all have habits that we want to develop. But what allows us to start habits that we will actually keep up? We all fail at developing positive habits because we are focused on our goal, when really we should be focusing on our systems. The best habits are developed just a tiny bit each day — you could call it the atomic level.

This is one of the most useful books I’ve read in a very long time. It’s dense and packed with so many thoughtful tips — like stacking habits, where you make sure you do a set of things in a specific order, ending with a reward. And sometimes just starting is the best thing you can do. (It reminds me of Terry Crews’s tip that when you join a gym, if there’s a lounge or cafe, just go and hang out there for a few days without working out. It will get you in the habit.) Especially helpful was learning how to design your environment to let you achieve your goals. This is a great book, it really helped me, and I bet it will help you too.

Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs by Dave Holmes (2016) — Most people know Dave Holmes from when he came in second in MTV’s Wanna Be a VJ contest in 1998. That was the golden age of MTV, when the Backstreet Boys, N Sync and Korn were duking it out for the #1 spot on TRL. Dave was the smart, knowledgeable music geek and this memoir tells the story of being a perpetual outsider who found happiness in music, pop culture, and life.

I LOVED this book, and not just because I was MTV-crazed in those days. Dave is so smart and has a wonderful way of looking back at his life. I love that he basically talked and networked his way into an MTV job. I love how he wrote about the difficulties of coming out as a student at Holy Cross. I love that he blazed his own trail, was sometimes disgusted by the culture at MTV, and eventually carved out a life that fulfilled what was important to him. And I love that the book ends with revelations from a day doing San Pedro in a canyon! I listened to this book as an audiobook, which I highly recommend. As a fellow perpetual outsider who nodded my head more or less constantly while listening to him talk, I feel like Dave and I would be friends if we knew each other in real life.

The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People by Dan Buettner (2015) — There are places in the world where people tend to live to an extraordinarily old age, often while staying very healthy — places like Okinawa, Japan; the hills of Sardinia; Ikaria, Greece; the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California. This book calls them the Blue Zones and finds out what connects them: a mostly vegan diet with lots of beans and very little fish, meat, and dairy; constant, moderate physical activity; and a strong family and community. The book also tries to turn American communities into healthier zones.

This was a fascinating read and it gave me a lot to think about nutrition-wise, especially while doing a Whole30, which is very different from the diet prescribed in this book. What they do have in common is that sugar is almost never consumed — only for very special occasions. Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are EXTREMELY important. I was surprised that fish isn’t eaten that often. I think the most important takeaways from this book are that we need to start doing things the hard way — like mixing things by hand rather than using a mixer — to get used to being physically active all the time. And having a close community matters. In Okinawa, groups of five, called “moais,” stay close friends their entire lives and visit each other almost daily. I wonder if my constant text message chat with my three best friends from home has a similar effect.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (2018) — This young adult novel, written in verse, won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2018. Xiomara is a teenager living in a Dominican community in Harlem. She hates being catcalled by the men in her neighborhood — but she channels her frustrations into writing poetry. When Xiomara falls for a boy at her school — something forbidden by her devoutly Catholic mother — she is forced to choose what kind of life she wants to have, and what kind of person she wants to be.

I was so excited to read this book because I live in the Dominican part of Harlem. These are my neighbors! This is a beautifully told story, and I love how it’s written in verse — every word, every beat, is thoughtfully chosen. This is a fantastic coming-of-age novel told from a point of view that isn’t heard often enough in America. The book also had a very satisfying ending, going in a direction that I didn’t think could even be possible. I highly recommend this book, especially for the teenagers in your life.

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy (2017) — When Ariel Levy left for a writing assignment in Mongolia, she was married, five months pregnant, and financially secure. By the time she returned home, she was no longer any of those things. While that event is the center of this book, this is also a memoir that tells the story about how a girl found her escape in writing, and ended up turning it into a career. It’s the story of marriage and infidelity and addiction and choosing an unconventional life.

I’m conflicted about this book. It’s extremely well-written and I appreciate it for what it is. As David Sedaris pointed out, this book turns grief into art. But at the same time, it’s just so sad. It’s not just about losing her baby; everything in this book has an undercurrent of sadness to it. I like having someone I can root for, and it wasn’t that she wasn’t likable (though at times she certainly wasn’t likable), but things just kept getting bad over and over again. I wish the book had more of a narrative arc and built to something; it seemed quite flat.

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller (2013) — When it comes to their businesses and their lives, people are often too unfocused, trying to manage several things at once. This book recommends choosing your ONE THING instead and focusing exclusively on that to get your results. Make your focus narrow instead of broad. Eliminate all other things from your life.

Have you ever had a meeting that could have been an email? Well, this is a book that could have been a blog post. It boggles my mind that it sold so many copies. It’s a good concept, yes, and I did find some tips from this book that I can use in my business. But so much of the book is filled with fluff (and it’s only 133 pages) that I would have gotten much more out of this had it been a meaty blog post. Prioritize the most important thing. Lesson learned.

Antigua (Image via Pixabay)

Coming Up in May 2019

I’m going to Antigua! I’m so excited — I vowed to see more of the Caribbean in 2019 and Antigua and Barbuda will be my 79th country! I’m attending the weeklong Traverse event, which is part conference and part unstructured press trip.

In addition to be spending a week at an all-inclusive with 40 of my friends, and learning new skills, I’m excited to check out the island. I’ve heard from many people that Antigua is one of the best Caribbean islands — it has so much beauty and variety. I especially hope to take a trip to Barbuda, which has been uninhabited since Hurricane Irma annihilated it in 2017, and report on what it’s like today.

That is my only trip for May, unless something springs up at the last minute. June will be very busy so I doubt I’ll do much more in May.

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

The post AK Monthly Recap — April 2019 appeared first on Adventurous Kate.

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