What’s it Like to Travel to Antigua and Barbuda?

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Kate sitting on a short wall in a long gauzy yellow and black gown. In the background is a view over the White Sea down below, and mountains in the distance.

Traveling to Antigua and Barbuda has been one of the biggest highlights of my year. One of my biggest priorities of late has been to explore more of the Caribbean — and I ended up in one of the Caribbean’s best islands as a guest of Traverse Events. If you can choose to visit any of the islands in the Caribbean, Antigua is about as solid as you can get.

The thing is, while a lot of people know that Antigua is a Caribbean island, it doesn’t have a lot of signature fame beyond that. But I found out lots of things that make Antigua worth the trip.

Kate is in a yellow "water hammock" -- a round hammock-like device in the middle of the turquoise Caribbean Sea underneath a blue sky with a few clouds. Kate is wearing sunglasses and is on her elbows with her legs playfully in the air.

Why travel to Antigua instead of another Caribbean island?

Plenty of people looking for a Caribbean vacation simply want to find a decently priced flight and resort, fly down, and spend the next week drinking piña coladas on the beach. If that’s all you want, you’ll be happy on most Caribbean islands. Probably Florida, too.

But most people want more than that. So why should you make the effort to travel to Antigua and Barbuda?

Antigua excels at being a solid all-around island. It’s got beautiful beaches, it’s got great resorts, it’s got an interesting weekly market, it’s got some outstanding scenic views, it’s got a lot of interesting adventure activities, the travel infrastructure is pretty good, and the island is large enough to have variety but small enough to get around in one day.

(Quick geography note: Saying Antigua alone refers to its main island, while Barbuda is its small sister island. Barbuda was severely damaged in Hurricane Irma in 2017 and became uninhabited for the first time in centuries; people are just beginning to move back to Barbuda now.)

Plus, there’s the ease factor. The island revolves around tourism. There are tons of flights from the US, including flights on multiple airlines from New York. English is the main language here, part of Antigua’s history as a former British colony. This Britishness is why you pronounce it like an-TEE-gah, not an-TEE-gwah like the city in Guatemala.

I didn’t find Antigua stood out strongly on any one element — the way the Cayman Islands stand out for diving or Jamaica stands out for music. And that’s fine — sometimes the best option for everyone is a strong all-around performer. But there were two areas where Antigua stands out for me: its outrageously delicious pineapple and the fact that I experienced pretty much zero street harassment.

Kate holds a tiny Antigua black pineapple in her hand. It is the size of her fist. She holds it next to her mouth and pretends to eat the whole thing, a smile on her face. In the background are displays of fruit, including limes and oranges.

Antigua Black Pineapple: the Best Pineapple in the World

Is it audacious to claim that Antigua has the best pineapple in the world? Maybe it is. They are famous for their black pineapple and I fell in love with it immediately.

Antigua black pineapple is a sweeter variety of pineapple with golden fruit and lower acidity than many other pineapples. Honestly, it’s the best pineapple that I’ve ever tasted and I just wish I had easy access to it at home!

Several pineapples piled up on top of each other in a weathered turquoise wooden container in front of a yellow clapboard wall.Palms on the side of the road in Antigua. Tiny growing pineapples are springing up from each bush.

You’ll see pineapples growing on the side of the road in Antigua (!!) but never pick one that’s growing. Instead, stop at virtually any roadside stand and you’ll find someone selling pineapple. If not, they’ll direct you to someone who is.

Fruits and vegetables piled up in purple crates in Antigua. Bananas, ginger, onions, and some unrecognizable green and yellow vegetables.

Visiting St. John’s, Antigua, the capital of the city

I’m not the kind of person who will land on a beach and stay there for the duration of a trip. I need to get out and see how local people live — even in places where the locals warn you that there’s nothing to do.

For me, that meant a trip to St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda for their Saturday morning market. A few friends and I hired a taxi to take us from the resort to the center of the city.

Giant colored of the first president of Antigua, from the chest up in a suit coming out of a piece of rock in the center of townDozens of bottled drinks on a table in a market in St. John's, AntiguaA cracked wall on a sidewalk reads "To God Be the Glory" in St. John's Antigua

Like many Caribbean cities, St. John’s isn’t pretty to look at and most would dismiss it as low tourism value. For me, I appreciated just getting to walk around, try some “conch water” (more like a conch chowder), chat with locals, and understand the country in the part where they don’t cater to tourists. You should definitely go if this is the kind of thing that interests you.

There is a small corner in town that seems designed for tourists — it’s where the cruise ships dock. Beyond that, we were entirely surrounded by locals.

The back of a brightly painted blue bus with orange palm trees painted on the back in Antigua

Open Side Safari

Another opportunity to see more of the island was going on an Open Side Safari. We rode around the island, stopped for delicious pineapple, posed in front of a pretty pink church, checked out some cool beaches, and got to see a lot more of the island than we would have ordinarily.

A small pink church is perched on a hill in Antigua with a soft blue and white sky in the background.The Devil's Bridge, a rocky formation jutting out into the violent sea in Antigua. Waves are coming high, the sea and sky are both slate gray.View from a cliff in Antigua: a peninsula rises out into the bright teal sea on the right, while a grove of cacti grows on the left.A woman in a red bandana slices a pineapple into a plastic bag in Antigua.

I appreciated the conversations I had with local Antiguan women. Like most Caribbeans, Antiguans are open and friendly. One woman was telling me how hard it was to get a visa to the US or Canada — not only because it’s so hard to get a visa on an Antiguan passport, but because they have to fly all the way to Trinidad to apply for a visa there! It’s like paying for a second trip, she told me, and most people can’t afford that expense.

Two women green each other when walking down the street in St. John's Antigua.

Almost Zero Street Harassment in Antigua (!!!)

My least favorite thing about traveling in the Caribbean is the incessant street harassment. While street harassment happens to women all over the world, it is particularly rampant and insidious in the Caribbean.

Which is why it was remarkable that I experienced almost none in Antigua.

ALMOST NONE. I am 100% serious.

Really, the closest thing to street harassment was a man who started singing “Pretty Woman” to me, Cailin, and Ayngelina as we walked down the street. And that cracked us up.

Please note that this is my anecdotal experience: I’m not saying that street harassment does not exist here, only that I didn’t experience any in a full week here. Your experience may be very different. However, this is such a contrast to the rest of my travels in Caribbean destinations that I thought it was worth mentioning.

Kate wearing a long yellow and black-spotted gauzy gown over an overlook in Shirley Heights, Antigua. Kate is holding the gauzy outer layer open and smiling. In the background is a view over the White Sea down below, and mountains in the distance.

Shirley Heights: The Best Instagram Spot in Antigua

If you’ve seen one scenic photo of Antigua, it was probably at Shirley Heights — this is one of the most beautiful photo spots on the island. Which means that when you send a group of 40 travel content creators there at once, we’re going to lose our minds.

Oh, and did we ever.

21 photos of different bloggers doing the same pose in front of a sunset at Shirley Heights, Antigua.

Shirley Heights has a band playing Caribbean versions of pop songs and food and drinks for sale. My advice? Wear your best outfit and take a ton of photos up here!

As you can see, we didn’t have the best weather at first — it was a bit cloudy, and I had been hoping for bright blue skies. But it eventually turned into an amazing purple sunset.

View over the English Harbor from above at Shirley Heights -- pieces of land jutting together and several sailboats in the water.Kate wearing a long yellow and black-spotted gauzy gown over an overlook in Shirley Heights, Antigua. Kate is holding the gauzy outer layer open and smiling. In the background is a view over the White Sea down below, and mountains in the distance.View over the English Harbor from above at Shirley Heights -- pieces of land jutting together and several sailboats in the water.Sunset over the overlook at Shirley Heights, pieces of land jutting out. The sunset is purple and pink with lots of clouds.

While we visited during the week, I’ve heard that Sunday is the best night to go to Shirley Heights because that’s when the locals go. If I went back, I would absolutely go on a Sunday.

If there is any must-do activity in Antigua, Shirley Heights is it. Make sure you go for sure.

Kate paddles herself on a stand-up paddle board over turquoise water in Antigua. The board is bright blue and she wears a life vest over a bathing suit with a straw hat and aviator sunglasses.

Adventure Activities in Antigua

I was actually fairly sedate on this Antigua trip — far more than usual. Throw me on a paddle board, though, and I was thrilled! I loved how calm the water was at the Verandah Resort — I was able to keep perfect balance and paddle out super-far, checking out the new resort being built in the distance. Quite a few non-motorized sports are included for free at the resort in addition to paddle boarding: kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing, Hobie Cat sailing.

But if you want a little more adventure, here are a few of the activities my friends got in:

Scooter Snorkeling in Antigua — image via Travel Yourself

Scooter snorkeling with Skylork. Snorkeling is fun enough on its own, but you’ll probably be moving slowly. With a scooter that you hold in front of yourself, you can zoom super-fast and super-deep! Honestly, this is the one I most regret not doing…

Biking in Antigua — via Where in the World is Nina

Biking, hiking, and kayaking with Triflexcursion. If you want to pack a ton of adventure into a single trip, do a bike/hike/kayak combination! Do know that the word “hike” is used loosely here — it’s more of a light stroll, but the biking and kayaking are more involved.

Signal Hill in Antigua -- several green pointy hills in front of a blue-gray ocean horizon.

Signal Hill, Antigua via Jessie on a Journey

Hiking Signal Hill. One of the great hikes on the island is to hike to Signal Hill, where you can see 360-degree views of the island. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Barbuda.

Patrick standing on the edge of a cliff, looking on to the English Harbour in Antigua.

Hiking the Middle Ground Trail — via German Backpacker

Hiking the Middle Ground Trail. If you want to check out some great views on your hike, the Middle Ground Trail has some of the best views near the English Harbour (a.k.a. the bottom of what you see at Shirley Heights).

In a drone shot, a few dozen people, some wearing bright pink t-shirts, pose with their arms in the air on a large catamaran in Antigua. The sea surrounding them is turquoise.

Antigua Catamaran Ride — via Brendan van Son

An Antigua Catamaran Cruise to Remember

One activity that I love to do whenever I’m in a tropical seaside destination is to take a catamaran cruise. I absolutely love being out on the water, and letting the wind fly through your hair as you feel the mist from the water is the absolute best feeling. It’s even better when you’ve got a ton of friends and Caribbean dance music.

Tom and Kate Titanic-ing in Antigua — via TravelTomTom.

After surviving my shipwreck in Indonesia, it took several years before I was able to take a boat ride without panicking. You know what finally did the trick for me? Catamarans. Specifically, this one in Belize. I love how stable they are. I love that they have nets for lounging. And I love that they often come with a generous supply of rum punch!

Kate lying down on a net on the end of a catamaran, wearing an off the shoulder white and blue patterned dress, hair long and curly, leaning on her elbows, holding a plastic cup of rum punch in one hand, and staring off into the distance -- turquoise sea and green land in the distance.Three girls in floral patterned dresses sitting on the net of the catamaran, looking off to the side and making goofy kissy faces.Kate and a group of several friends posing and smiling on a catamaran in AntiguaA pink sunset with lots of fluffy purple clouds in Antigua. At the bottom is the sea, a black silhouette of a boat, and a tiny yellow sun.

This, far and away, was the best closing to a week in Antigua. If you’re going, you need to book a catamaran cruise!

Looking down toward the beach at the Verandah Resort Antigua. You se e a turquoise ocean, white sand, a windsurfing board on the beach, palm trees on one side, and green and red plants on the other.

Reliable Sunshine, Heat and Fun

And finally…Antigua brings the goods when it comes to sunshine and fun. Want to lie out all day on the beach? Go right ahead.

I needed that on this trip. More than I let on publicly.

I had been going through a bit of melancholy period this spring. Without going into great detail, let’s just say that sometimes the shit hits the fan several times in a row. And sometimes you go through that and think, “Wow, I did it, I survived!” but the universe says, “Not done yet!” and it’s followed by one especially spectacular drop.

I came to Antigua in need of sunshine. And the sunshine worked its magic.

Kate wearing a hot pink romper and holding a glass of champagne, standing on a pinkish-white beach at sunset.

Let me be clear — travel alone will not solve your problems. If you go on a trip because you’re having relationship troubles or you hate your job or you’re struggling with mental illness or you don’t know what you want to do with your life, those problems are not going to end just because you went away.

Know that going in.

But. BUT. If you’re feeling a little down lately, some sunshine could be what you need to pick yourself up again.

And honestly, by the time I left Antigua, I hadn’t made any major changes in my life — yet I was feeling happier than I had felt in months. And that feeling has STAYED WITH ME since.

For that reason, I will always be grateful to Antigua.

Kate plays on a giant chess board in Antigua, holding a white bishop in one hand and a black pawn in another. She is wearing a short green and white patterned dress. Above her are palm trees and a blue and white streaky sky.

Kate Tries an All-Inclusive Resort in Antigua…And Actually Enjoys It

On this trip our whole group stayed at the Verandah Resort — an all-inclusive family resort. I had never done an all-inclusive in my life before this trip. As appealing as it sounded to eat and drink whatever you wanted without thinking about the price, I had heard that all-inclusives tend to slash costs however they can and have an overall lower food quality than higher-end resorts. I tend to prefer small boutique resorts with great restaurants where you order à la carte.

But I’ve always been curious. Here was an opportunity to try an all-inclusive, and a nice one. What would it be like, anyway?

A view over the turquoise Caribbean Sea with white hotel rooms on a piece of rocky land to the right. There are palm trees in one corner.A small White House with picket fencing along the staircase leading upward, surrounded by palm trees underneath a blue sky.Several yellow and red kayaks resting on a white sand beach in front of a turquoise ocean.A long turquoise beach with beach chairs underneath umbrellas lined along the beach. The water is nearly clear.

In a word: all-inclusives are EASY. You don’t have to think about it; everything is handled for you. The property is huge, but you can hop on one of the golf carts that circulate around the resort and take you where you need to go.

The rooms at the Verandah Resort are little cottages, two divided rooms in each cottage — I loved the look of the property. Much prettier and homier than endless buildings with hotel rooms stacked on top of each other.

The main beach is FANTASTIC — so calm and lovely. Perfect for taking out a stand-up paddleboard! And I could have relaxed in those water hammocks all day. Only the risk of sunburn got me out of them!

One of the first things I learned is that when you order a drink at an all-inclusive, you’ll probably be in line behind some dude ordering six different complicated cocktails for him and his friends. That can quickly get annoying, especially when all you need is a pour from the champagne bottle.

But soon it becomes so freeing when you realize you can order whatever you want and there will be no extra charges on your bill. And this is how I learned I can drink champagne all night long without getting hungover.

It’s amazing how an all-inclusive changes your mindset. I got used to having a “big night out” with all my friends seven nights in a row. Once I got off the resort it hit me that I actually had to spend money again.

Oh, and speaking of cocktails, Cailin, Ayngelina, and I decided one morning to try all of them at once. Key word: TRY.

A wooden table topped with 13 various brightly colored cocktails in water goblets, some of them more finished than others.

That was a fun morning.

There was entertainment every night — different kinds of bands or performers. Not my usual thing, I couldn’t help smiling. Is it cheesy? Yes. But it’s a lot of fun. It turns out that all I needed to do was loosen up a bit.

The main benefit of going to an all-inclusive is turning off your brain and getting to relax. I’m so glad I did that.

I wouldn’t ordinarily choose to stay at a place like the Verandah — as much as I love kids, if I’m doing a resort vacation, I’m going somewhere adults-only. That said, it wasn’t nearly as kid-crazy as I feared. I think part of this is that we visited in May, when most parents are averse to taking their kids out of school.

Plus, there’s an adults-only pool at the Verandah. It’s got its own bar and some of the breeziest, most lovely tables on the whole property.

A pink sunset over a beach with white hotel rooms and palm trees in the background.

Not only that — staying at the Verandah means you have access to their sister property across the street, Pineapple Beach Club, which is a similar caliber of resort that is adults-only. Go for the day, go for the beach, go for the drinks, and you can enjoy that kid-free environment.

The Pineapple Beach Club puts on cool concerts and events and I got to see an acoustic set by British star Fleur East, which was SO cool.

And if you compare this particular all-inclusive to, say, big ship cruising, it feels different. On the one big ship Caribbean cruise I did, the crowd felt very “MAGA At Sea.” Here in Antigua, there were lots of Brits, lots of black travelers, and it didn’t feel like a Trump-loving crowd at all. I met a lot of awesome people at the Verandah. In fact, I didn’t meet anyone I didn’t like, which is very unusual.

Were some of my all-inclusive fears realized? Well, a bit. The food was decent, but nothing to write home about. Imagine average wedding buffet food. Coming off my second Whole30, I attempted to eat well but struggled when even most meats seemed to be smothered in sugary barbecue sauce. I did not enjoy the coffee and kept wishing I had brought my own.

Breakfast was great, though — I enjoyed having a veggie omelet and blueberry-strawberry-cucumber smoothie for breakfast every morning. And the nacho bar by the beach (complete with fake cheese) was fun.

Most places at the Verandah felt slightly understaffed. The line for the drinks was always long, there were always unfilled trays at the food stations, and one night at the Pineapple Beach Club the lines were horrendously long for food. It felt like these issues could have been solved by having more staff, but again, it seems like a cost-slashing opportunity.

So yes — a few cons, but overall a very positive experience and I enjoyed myself immensely. I would absolutely go back to the Verandah.

Kate posing in front of a cottage on the stairs leading up. The cottage has two doors in front and several palm trees around. Kate is holding onto the railing and arching her back so she's falling backward. She wears a straw hat, aviators, and a tropical-patterned bathing suit top that matches her genie-style pants.

The Takeaway

I had the best time in Antigua — and I would absolutely go back! This dose of sunshine, adventure, and good people was exactly what I needed this spring. It could be what you need, too.

There’s only one thing I would do differently — this time I would go to Shirley Heights on Sunday night to party with the locals.

Pinterest graphic: What it's like to travel Antigua and Barbuda?

Essential Info: I stayed at the Verandah Resort and Spa, which I enjoyed immensely. Low-season all-inclusive rates from $298 per night based on two people sharing one room.

You can book an Open Side Safari by emailing [email protected] Prices upon request.

Scooter snorkeling is available from Skylork. Half-day tours from $85.

Triflexcursion has combination hike-bike-kayak tours from $60.

Our catamaran cruise was with Tropical Adventures. The sunset cruise costs $85.

Be sure to get travel insurance for your trip to Antigua. If you trip and break an ankle while hiking, or if you get appendicitis while at your resort, 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 Antigua.

This post is brought to you by Traverse Events and the Antigua and Barbuda Tourist Board, who hosted me in full on this trip, including airfare. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Have you been to Antigua? Does it look like your kind of place?

The post What’s it Like to Travel to Antigua and Barbuda? appeared first on Adventurous Kate.


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Solo Female Travel in San Francisco — Is it Safe?

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Kate in a red and blue striped dress with a black leather jacket and black sunglasses perched on her head, standing in front of Russian Hill in San Francisco, a leafy green garden in the foreground, a view of the Financial District in the background. The sky is gray and the city is so foggy that the tops of the buildings are enveloped in clouds.

Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in San Francisco? Absolutely! I think San Francisco is one of the best cities for solo female travel in the United States! While many people think that San Francisco is a destination best visited with a partner, or friends, or family, it works just as well as a destination to enjoy solo.

I’ve been traveling to San Francisco since I was a teenager and traveling solo here since I was in my twenties. It’s a city with a lot to offer, it’s constantly changing, and I always have a fantastic time here.

The Golden Gate Bridge rises up from the Sausalito side. It's bright red and extends into the distance, set against green cliffs, above a bright blue ocean, and underneath a streaky blue and white sky. San Francisco is misty in the background.

What’s it like to traveling alone in San Francisco?

San Francisco is a destination that works well for all kinds of solo travelers. No matter what kind of traveler you are, you can find what you’re looking for in San Francisco.

First off, San Francisco is an excellent destination for first-time solo female travelers. It’s easy, there are tons of things to do, it’s safe, and there’s no language barrier. If you’re curious about traveling solo but have never done so, I think a weekend trip to San Francisco is the perfect way to get your feet wet and see how you handle it.

But even experienced solo female travelers can enjoy San Francisco. You’ll probably recoil at touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, but you’ll probably be more willing to explore neighborhoods like the Mission that are a lot of fun but a little overwhelming for newbie tourists.

Are you a hardcore sightseer? San Francisco has the sights, from the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz to museums like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Oakland’s Museum of California.

Are you into food? San Francisco has incredibly good food, from low-end to high-end, including some of the best Chinese food in the nation. And if you’re into wine, you’re a stone’s throw from Napa and Sonoma counties.

Do you love the outdoors? San Francisco has easy access to forests, beaches, bike trails, and more.

Are you looking for good Instagram photos? San Francisco is full of iconic spots that will get you likes, from the Painted Ladies houses to curvy, crooked Lombard Street, and of course the famous cable cars.

Are you queer? San Francisco is one of the most queer-friendly cities in the world for people all over the gender and sexuality spectrums.

As for me, I love to spend lots of time walking through interesting neighborhoods, taking photos, and sitting in cool coffeeshops. San Francisco is a great place to do all of those things.

Above all, San Francisco is a city where women live and work — it’s not just for travelers. Being a solo traveler won’t brand you as an outsider here; you’ll just be one of the people in the city. If you’re lucky, you might even be mistaken for a local!

Kate wearing a blue-and-red-striped dress with a leather jacket in front of a mural with a pug wearing a tiny birthday hat and eating a purple frosted cupcake in San Francisco.

Kate’s 10 Favorite Things to Do in San Francisco

I’ve been visiting San Francisco for years and have carved out my little slice of the city. While many of my beloved spots have sadly closed over the years, here are some of my favorite things to do in the city.

Take a food tour through North Beach. North Beach was once home to San Francisco’s Italian-American community, and many Italian spots remain to this day. I had one of the best food tours of my life with Tastes of the City, and tour guide Tom is a character and a half.

Explore the Haight-Ashbury. This colorful neighborhood was historically home to the counterculture movement in the 1960s, as well as home to artists like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and the hippie spirit has never left the neighborhood. It’s a great place to explore and there are lots of cool cafes, boutiques, and record shops.

Attend a singalong at the Castro Theatre. Castro was once the epicenter of the gay community in the United States, and it remains a colorful and welcoming destination to all. The theater does all kinds of special events, but if you’re in town during one of their singalongs, like for Grease or Moana or Annie, you don’t want to miss it!

Go for a walk early in the morning. If you’re flying in from the east, you’ll likely be waking up early from jet-lag anyway, so take advantage and go for an early walk while Karl the Fog is rolling in! The city looks so different at this time of day and it’s a lot of fun to photograph.

Visit the Oakland Museum of California. Yep, Oakland is worth a visit — and while I’m not ordinarily a museum person, this is one of my favorite museums in the United States, highlighting so many cultural aspects of California, from the history of the Black Panthers to the ecological environment of the Coachella Valley.

Take the ferry to Alcatraz. I didn’t think I’d be into this infamous prison island, but I had a blast! It’s one of the super-touristy activities in San Francisco that you simply must do. If you’re into cheesy Nicolas Cage movies, I recommend pairing it with a viewing of The Rock.

Dive deep into Chinatown. San Francisco has a long history of Chinese settlers, and today San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest in America. You can browse the shops and markets, people-watch in Portsmouth Square, go tea tasting at Vital Tea Leaf, check out the Chinese Historical Society, and of course, eat at restaurants from regions all over China.

Check out Sausalito. This town across the Golden Gate Bridge is a gorgeous little spot and so different from San Francisco. You can get there from San Francisco on a ferry, but if you’re up for something more active, join a bike tour!

Eat at In & Out Burger. Granted, this is a west coast thing, not San Francisco-specific, but In & Out is INSANELY good. There’s a reason why your California friends pine for them when they’re away from home. Read up on their “secret” menu here before you go.

Have a margarita with a salt cloud at Calavera in Oakland. Are you used to enjoying a margarita with a salted rim? Calavera makes margaritas with a floating salt cloud on top. I love them a million times more than regular margaritas. Salt clouds are the perfect margarita topping!

READ MORE: Why You Should Travel to Oakland Too

Gray morning in Russian hill, San Francisco, houses descending down steep hills in San Francisco.
Is San Francisco Safe?

San Francisco, generally speaking, is a safe destination for travelers. It’s comparable to most other U.S. cities, but the violent crime rate is much lower than other popular tourist hotspots like New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC.

That said, San Francisco is a very touristy city, and any destination full of naive tourists is a target for scammers. You should especially be vigilant in tourist-dense destinations like Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and the ferries to and from Alcatraz. Additionally, the homelessness problem in San Francisco is severe, and it can be jarring if you’re not prepared. Read more on that further down.

Even so, anything can happen anywhere and you should be prepared for the worst with safety tips and travel insurance. Read on for specific safety tips for San Francisco.

Kate wearing a navy-and-burgundy striped Jason Wu dress, holding a camera in her hand and standing in a gray street in San Francisco early in the morning, houses on both sides.

San Francisco Travel and Safety Tips

San Francisco is not the kind of place where you need to take on hyper-specific travel safety tips beyond basic caution and common sense — but there are some things you should know. Here are some tips that will result in a better solo trip to San Francisco for you:

Know the context of gentrification, Big Tech, and spiraling housing prices in San Francisco. The Bay Area is the most expensive place to live in America, and San Francisco’s housing prices are even higher than New York City’s. This is due in part to San Francisco’s limited geography, being surrounded on three sides by water, and exacerbated by the tech industry’s headquarters in nearby Silicon Valley.

At this point, the city is turning into a playground for the rich, with many tech companies providing shuttles from San Francisco to their offices. It’s nearly impossible for a low-wage worker to live in the city unless he or she lives in a rent-controlled apartment with family, commutes long-distance, or lives dorm-style with several roommates. Income inequality in America is severe enough as is, but in San Francisco it’s even more so.

Why is it important to know this? It means you’ll have a deeper understanding of San Francisco and its current issues. But more importantly, you’ll be able to emphasize with the people you’re visiting, particularly those who are serving you coffee, cleaning the sidewalks, or ringing up your order at the drugstore.

San Francisco has a major homelessness problem. If you’re not from a major city, you’ll probably find it jarring, and even as a New Yorker, I’m shocked at the level of homelessness in San Francisco. This has been a major problem for the city for quite some time, and as a tourist, it can be difficult to see so many people in pain.

Other than panhandlers asking for change, homeless people will not approach you. It’s perfectly fine to keep your distance or ignore them; if you want to give them money, that’s your choice, or you could make a donation to the Coalition for the Homeless San Francisco. If you see a confrontation or someone making a commotion, keep your distance. If you witness an emergency situation, call 911.

There is no way to avoid homeless people entirely in San Francisco, but there are some areas where it is particularly dense, like in the Tenderloin neighborhood. I encourage you to view San Francisco’s homeless with compassion rather than feeling inconvenienced by their existence.

San Francisco is very hilly, which makes accessibility a challenge. Quite a few of San Francisco’s hills are extremely steep, which can be challenging if you have difficulties walking. I wore sandals for most of my visit, but there were times when I wished I had sneakers for navigating the steepest hills.

Car break-ins are common in San Francisco. While violent crime in San Francisco is low, car break-ins are a major crime issue. There’s no reason to bring your car to San Francisco — you can get around the city easily without one.

I recommend getting around San Francisco using a combination of public transportation — the BART (subway), streetcars, trams, and buses — and taxis/Uber/Lyft. These will cover the majority of your travels within San Francisco and the area. If you’re interested in doing a day trip by car, just rent a car for that day.

San Francisco’s weather changes constantly and you’ll need to dress for multiple seasons. Most mornings, Karl the fog rolls in, and it’s gray and cool as clouds envelope the city hills. Later that fog might burn off into sunshine, or you might get some rain, or it might just stay overcast all day.

For this reason, San Franciscans dress in layers year-round. I recommend bringing a sweater or light jacket no matter what time of year it is. Bring a small, strong umbrella or you’ll end up having to buy a low-quality umbrella when it rains.

Consider bringing a Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. These beautiful scarves are designed and sewed by my friend and have a hidden passport pocket in them. I love these scarves (I even designed my own!) and they are so good at keeping your valuables hidden. They’re also extremely chic, enough to work in a fashion-conscious city like San Francisco.

While pickpocketing in general isn’t as common in the US as in Europe, pickpockets operate in the touristy areas of San Francisco. You should always keep your belongings close, but be especially cautious in and around Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, the Alcatraz ferries, and on public transportation.

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 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 at most places in San Francisco, and carrying lots of cash leaves you vulnerable to theft. Don’t be the traveler who gets her wallet stolen with 500 dollars in it.

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.

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 — I recommend Lonely Planet San Francisco or Lonely Planet California if you’re exploring further afield.

Spend extra money on staying safe. If you’re not comfortable walking home at night, spend money on a cab or 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.

Be careful about your drinking. Drink less in San Francisco 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. If you choose to go wine tasting, it’s acceptable (and encouraged) to only consume a small amount and use the spittoon.

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 San Francisco. If anyone is making you feel uncomfortable, just leave. Trust me — you won’t be the rudest person they meet that day. And so what if you were? You’re never going to see them again.

READ MORE:
Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

Two sets of four glasses of wine arranged across from each other at Bottega restaurant in Yountville, California. Each setting has three glasses of red and one glass of white and they are filled generously.

Wine Tasting in San Francisco as a Solo Traveler

If you’re a wine fan in the least, you should take the opportunity to explore wine country outside San Francisco. Napa and Sonoma counties are within a short driving distance of San Francisco and either region is doable as a day trip or multi-day getaway.

However, wine tasting is not often recommended for solo travelers because it’s logistically difficult — most of the time wineries are far apart and you need to drive, and drinking and driving do not mix.

Option 1: Do a wine tasting day trip from San Francisco. This is my top recommendation. You’ll have transportation provided, you won’t have to worry about logistics, and you might make some new friends, too! Here are some options:

Napa and Sonoma Tour Full Day Tour from San Francisco — Three wineries in a day plus time for lunch in Sonoma.
Painted Ladies Wine Country Tour — includes lunch, three wineries, and takes place in a vintage VW bus!
Half Day Wine Country Tour — If you’re short on time, spend less time and check out one winery in Sonoma.

Option 2: Spend a night or two in wine country. Book accommodation in Napa. If you’re planning on doing a lot of wine tasting, this is an efficient way to spend your time and minimizing your transportation.

If you do this, be sure to take advantage of the fantastic restaurants in this region. I had one of the best meals of my life at Bottega in Yountville, and if you can manage to get a reservation, The French Laundry is there, too.

Option 3: Go wine tasting without leaving San Francisco. You can taste plenty of local wines without leaving the confines of the city, as several wineries have shops in the city. I recommend Wattle Creek Winery and William Cross Wine Merchants and Wine Bar in San Francisco and Campovida in Oakland.

Whatever you choose to do, be vigilant about your drinking and try not to drink too much. Just because you’re wine tasting, it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to get drunk. It’s perfectly acceptable to only taste the wine and spittoons are always provided.

Kate lounges on a big white bed with a cream-colored headboard at the Fairmont San Francisco. She has long straight brown hair and is wearing a bright red short-sleeved top by Milly and black and white patterned pants by Trina Turk. She is holding her phone in her hand and is posed lying on her stomach with her hand underneath her chin and smiling.

Kate at the Fairmont San Francisco

Where to Stay in San Francisco: Best Accommodation for Solo Female Travelers

There are plenty of safe choices of neighborhoods in San Francisco. I’ve stayed in so many places that I can recommend you an excellent option at every price tier. Here are there of my favorites:

Best San Francisco luxury hotel: Fairmont San Francisco. This is one of the most stunning hotels I’ve ever stayed in, and the luxury level is on point. Service is excellent and it’s in a great location above Nob Hill.

Best San Francisco boutique hotel: Hotel Zelos. This Union Square hotel has chic rooms, giant bathtubs, and a very cool cocktail bar called Dirty Habit.

Best San Francisco budget hotel: The Green Tortoise. Now, don’t get turned off because it’s a hostel — this is my favorite hostel in the United States, and they have a separate building filled with private rooms. The location in North Beach is ideal, the free breakfast is insane, and they have a lot of cool activities taking place throughout the week.

Kate in a red-and-navy-striped dress arm and arm with her friend Paroma, wearing a white button-up shirt, standing in a coffeeshop in San Francisco in front of a display case with a giant Illy coffee cup on top.

How to Meet People in San Francisco

San Franciscans, and Californians in general, are friendly and laid-back. While people tend to be wrapped up in their own lives, you can absolutely meet people just by being open and friendly. Here are some specific ways to make new friends in San Francisco:

Consider staying at a social hostel. If you’re willing to stay at a social at this stage in your life, I highly recommend The Green Tortoise in North Beach. You can get a private room, and I stayed in a private room there (with a shared bath). The Green Hostel fosters community by putting on all kinds of fun activities, like comedy shows, pub crawls, $5 dinners, and live music. They also one of the best free breakfasts I’ve seen in a hostel and you can meet people while enjoying bagels.

Join tours and activities. Tours are a great way to meet new people! Whether you’re doing a day trip to the Muir Woods and wine country or taking a pastry baking class, you’ll meet people excited to explore the local region.

Look for Couchsurfing meetup events in San Francisco. Couchsurfing isn’t just for free accommodation — they also put on meetup events where everyone is welcome. San Francisco puts on regular 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 in San Francisco who will offer to meet you for coffee, just so you know someone. Take advantage of this if you can. This is what I did — I asked for San Francisco photography advice in one of my blogger groups, and a local girl named Paroma (pictured with me above) offered to meet me and take photos! We had a great morning and it was so nice to make a new friend.

Tinder. If you’re looking to date or hook up, have fun!

Yosemite National Park has huge looming mountains in the background underneath a blue and white streaky sky. There are bright green evergreen trees and water on the ground amongst the brown land.

Yosemite National Park (via Pixabay)

Where to Go After San Francisco

You could just come to San Francisco for the weekend and have a great time — or you could spend months in California and barely scrape the surface.

If you’re staying 3 days or less, I recommend staying in San Francisco. If you’re staying 4-6 days, I recommend adding in a few days trips from San Francisco. If you’re staying a week or longer, I encourage you to flesh out your California trip with some visitors to other areas.

Visit wineries in Napa and Sonoma County. If you want to explore the wine and culinary scene, this is one of the best regions on the planet. You could spend weeks there alone. You can get there within an hour or two of San Francisco.

Go to Yosemite National Park. It’s one of the most famous national parks in the United States, and for good reason — it’s one of the best and most beautiful. Yosemite is three hours from San Francisco.

Check out Monterey. Monterey is a beautiful seaside town and home to an outstanding aquarium. It’s also the setting for Big Little Lies (the HBO version, not the book version). Monterey is two hours from San Francisco.

Road trip down the California coast. Head south toward Los Angeles or San Diego and stop at gorgeous places along the way — or even north and head up toward Oregon!

The San Francisco neighborhoods of Russian Hill and North Beach have square-shaped buildings stacked on top of each other, ascending and descending down the hills with occasional trees. In the background is San Francisco Bay and you can see Oakland through the haze in the distance.

Travel Insurance for San Francisco

Even if you’re visiting San Francisco from within the United States, it’s smart to get travel insurance. You might not be able to find a healthcare provider on your plan here, and travel insurance will often cover you anywhere that is 100+ miles away.

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. And tragically, if you plan a stay at a winery that’s destroyed by a wildfire, which has happened in California in recent years, they will refund you your costs. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to San Francisco.

Travel insurance is the kind of thing that seems like a waste until the moment you need it desperately. Don’t underestimate its importance — be sure to protect yourself.

View over Chinatown in San Francisco, lots of store signs jutting out at angles, leading to a bridge underneath a blue sky.

San Francisco is waiting for you!

You are about to have one of the best trips of your life! I hope you have an amazing time in San Francisco. Then come back and tell me all about it.

READ NEXT: The Best Things I Ate in San Francisco

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11 Things I Learned on My Latest Trip to Italy

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Kate wears a long red short-sleeved dress covered with white polka dots of various sizes and black sandals. She wears black sunglasses and poses as if about to take them off with one hand. She is standing in front of Milan's Duomo and in the background you can see pigeons and people taking pictures in front of it.

There are few countries that I know better or more intimately than Italy. I visit Italy as often as I can, and while this country is forever in my top five favorite countries, it just might be my favorite (!).

It’s easy to put Italy in a box, to treat it all the same. To say that Italy is nothing but people talking with their hands and gelato on every corner.

I’ve learned a lot over the years. That the best (and cheapest) way to consume coffee is standing at a counter. That Italians spend money on quality clothing and accessories. That the sign of a good gelato shop is muted colors in metal tins. That you cover your shoulders and knees in churches. That “permesso” is the snobbiest way of saying “excuse me.” That aperitivos give you an unlimited buffet for the cost of a drink.

But I’m always learning more. And this is what I learned on my latest trip.

Scene from Alto Adige (South Tyrol), Italy: A wooden mountain hut, looking like a cabin, is on the left side of the screen, perched on grass; in the background, blue mountains rise up beneath a blue sky streaked with white clouds.

Sicily is not the most different region in Italy — Alto Adige is.

When I first visited Sicily in 2015, it felt like I was a different world. Sicily was like Italy turned upside down — a place where the local dialect was indecipherable and the act of driving was like taking your life in your own hands.

READ MORE:
The Joys and Challenges of Traveling in Sicily

But Alto Adige is truly another world.

Also known as South Tyrol, Alto Adige is a region in northeast Italy that has been volleyed back and forth between Italy and Austria over the centuries. Today, every town has both an Italian and German name — Bolzano is Bozen, Bressanone is Brixen, La Vila is Stern (?!). Even so, neither Italian nor German is the local language: Ladin is, and today it’s spoken by about 20,000 people, though each valley has its own dialect and accent!

Drive around Alto Adige and you’ll think you’re in the Swiss or Austrian Alps. The cuisine reflects this too — you won’t be served bufala mozzarella here. Expect hearty dishes like pressknödel, bread and cheese dumplings, the kind of fare that will keep you warm through mountain winters. And the speck, a soft smoky prosciutto, is beyond scrumptious.

Driving through Alto Adige, you just might forget you’re in Italy.

Viewing from a point above, a city of brown terra-cotta rooftops spreads over the expanse. In the distance, green mountains rise up against a blue and white-streaked sky. Riva del Garda, Italy

Looking for untouristed Italy? Head to Trentino.

So many people visit Italy for the first time and hit up Rome, Florence, Venice, and either Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast, then get home and exclaim that Italy would have been perfect if it wasn’t just so damn crowded.

Yeah — it was super-crowded because you went to the most touristy spots. But the vast majority of Italy is not like that. There are so many undertouristed parts where you can enjoy the best of Italy without the crowds.

When I heard last year that Visit Trentino was sponsoring the Traverse conference, I was equally thrilled (yay, a conference somewhere other than Germany or the UK!) and intrigued. I knew tons about Italy but nothing about Trentino.

Well, I should have. As we drove into the region, mountains rose up all around us and vineyards spilled out beneath them. We based in the city of Trento, full of pastel buildings covered with frescoes. And just a short drive from the city you can climb those mountains, check out an art museum in Rovereto, or take in the lakeside at Riva del Garda. Oh, and the local TrentoDOC wine is fantastic.

Trentino is one of the most scenic parts of Italy that I’ve seen — and I’m stunned that more people don’t visit. You should head there soon.

Milan street scene: On a block that juts out triangularly into the street, several people wait for the walk signal at a stoplight. The surrounding buildings are gray with ornate balconies for each window. On the ground floor is a cafe with white awnings.

Italian cities vary more than you think.

It’s easy to paint all Italian cities with the same brush — to say that they’re all filled with impossibly fashionable people with perfect hair and clothes. But the longer you travel in Italy, the more you realize that there is a lot of nuance to that.

Take two of the cities I visited on this trip: Milan and Trento. Milan is arguably the most cosmopolitan city in Italy; only Rome can compare. And even though I live in New York, a very fashionable city, I felt ridiculously unfashionable in Milan! One night I went out for an aperitivo on Corso Garibadi, a trendy area, and I was nearly knocked sideways by how well everyone was dressed. Especially the men. So many perfectly tailored suits and haircuts without a strand out of place.

Trento, by contrast, is a much smaller city — it felt a lot more like southern Italy to me. Not a lot of people dressed up; it felt more casual by comparison. Rather than perfect haircuts, there were a lot of mullets in town. It felt a lot like comparing Trento to Milan was like comparing a small southern or midwestern city to New York.

At one point, a friend who grew up in Bologna told me that when he first moved to Milan, he was stunned that there were Chinese people speaking Italian with a Milanese accent. That was close-minded of him, he pointed out, but that was just how he grew up. Even in a city as large as Bologna, it had nowhere near the diversity of Milan.

One of the villages of Cinque Terre, Italy: a village of brightly colored houses, stacked on top of each other, built on a cliff leading down into the sea.

Cinque Terre (via Pixabay)

I still have zero desire to visit Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre is probably my biggest oversight in Italy. It seems like everyone has visited this collection of beautiful seaside cities. Somehow I missed it over the years, starting when all eight of my roommates went one weekend in Florence — but I honestly don’t care.

Cinque Terre is being strongly impacted by overtourism at the moment. The villages are precariously perched on the edge of the sea, they’ve faced damage due to adverse weather in the past, and the last thing they need is more foot traffic than they can handle.

Can I live without going to Cinque Terre? Sure. I’m sure I’ll go someday, but for now, I’m perfectly happy to visit other places in Italy. (Plus, I’ve heard of villages in Liguria that are just as pretty but only get a fraction of Cinque Terre’s tourists. I think I’ll start there.)

A terrace overlooks a blue and gray misty Lake Orta in the distance, mountains rising up over the lake. In the foreground there is a weathered wooden table. On it is a plate covered with prosciutto and a ball of burrata cheese; behind it are a bottle of Franciacorta sparkling white wine and two goblets filled with the wine.

There are more than two kinds of prosciutto.

If you’re familiar with prosciutto, that most lovely meat from Italy, you’re probably most familiar with prosciutto di Parma from the Parma region in Emilia-Romagna. If you’re a connoisseur, you’ve probably heard of prosciutto di San Daniele from the Friuli region, the second most popular kind of prosciutto.

But did you know that there are all kinds of local prosciutto wherever you go? When I was in Piemonte, I picked up some local Piemontese prosciutto, and it was some of the best I have had, EVER. But you’re never going to find it anywhere for the same region it’s hard to pick up a bottle of Moldovan red wine in America — because they’re small producers. They can’t export their products on a large scale, even to surrounding regions.

My advice? If you can, go with the local option. It gives you a connection to the local culture, its production has a smaller ecological footprint, and you will discover something you can’t find anywhere else.

Do the same thing with wine, too. Many travelers are nervous to order Italian wines and just end up ordering Chianti because it’s the only one they’ve ever heard of. Chianti is great — if you’re in Tuscany and eating a bistecca fiorentina. Just ask your server for something local. Italians are very opinionated and will help you select the perfect vino.

Tagliata di Manzo -- thin slices of filet mignon, topped with dill and served medium rare, sitting on a clear glass plate and a white tablecloth.

Luxury is relative — and quite affordable in Italy.

What does luxury travel mean to you? Most people would define it as staying in the fanciest hotel possible. For me, it’s less about the amenities of a hotel and more about the experiences you have. And luckily a lot of these luxury-like experiences are incredibly affordable in Italy.

This was most exemplified in a dinner I had at an agriturismo on Lake Orta called Il Cucchiaio di Legno. I adore agriturismi (farms where you can stay or eat) and they are a very popular way for Italians to travel. You stay in the rooms, which can vary from simple to high-end, and you eat on-site. The food is usually all local produce from the farm, making it an environmentally friendly option as well.

Il Cucchiaio di Legno requires reservations and only a tasting menu is served, though you can choose from an encyclopedia-sized wine list. We were served ten glorious courses — some of the standouts were river trout risotto, tagliata di manzo (beef tenderloin) topped with fresh dill, and a coffee semifreddo.

Total cost? 32 euros ($36) for the food per person. 23 euros ($26) for three glasses of wine per person, two cheap and one pricey Barolo. Not an everyday splurge by far, but you know what you would pay for food of that quality in the United States? Three or four times more, easily. Hell, in New York, a lot of entrees cost $36.

To me, that meal was the epitome of luxury. Every course was so delicious that we were making borderline inappropriate yummy noises. I still can’t believe that it only cost $62.

A piazza in Trento, Italy, gives way to green mountains in the background. The buildings are cream, white, and pale orange and a group of women walks together in the foreground.

ATMs are surprisingly hard to find.

It’s weird — but on all of my past Italy trips, I don’t recall having to work hard to find an ATM. On this trip, it seemed like I was constantly struggling to track them down. And Italy isn’t like Finland, a country that loves using credit card so much that they can barely find out where ATMs exist. They were just that hard to find. Or maybe I’m crazy.

Kate wears a long black sleeveless dress and is facing her body away from the camera but turning back toward it with her face, smiling with her eyes closed. Behind her is the Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge of Florence covered with jewelry stores, bathed in golden light.

I’ve outgrown Florence, and that’s okay.

My semester abroad in Florence in 2004 was one of the most meaningful times of my life. When we arrived and first drove through the city, it was so beautiful I nearly cried. I spent four months getting to know the city intimately. When it was time to leave, my roommates and I held each other on the street outside our apartment, sobbing.

I went back to Florence twice in 2006 — once for the glee club Italy trip and once as a post-graduation trip with my sister. Both times, I visited my old haunts and felt wistful at the memories.

This time, it was different. I did a day trip from Bologna and was smacked in the face by how different the city was.

It was ALL tourists, all the time. Florence always has tons of tourists, especially in June, but it honestly felt like there wasn’t a single local on the streets. Just hordes of people from somewhere else, trying to take selfies with the fake David in Piazza della Signoria. People were actually being driven around on golf carts. I winced. And the Roberto Cavalli shop where I always stopped and admired the clothes had been replaced with an Armani.

The only familiarity that brought a smile to my face was seeing the awful Irish bars my friends and I used to frequent — J.J. Cathedral, right in front of the Duomo, and The Old Stove, which had Irish car bomb-chugging contests. I pray that the vomit-soaked bar Faces is gone.

I went to my old apartment. It’s a bed and breakfast now. Seems appropriate.

I have no doubt that tourism has increased in Florence in the past 15 years. But more importantly, I’ve changed so much since I was 20, since traveling to more than 75 countries, building a business, starting a kind of life that wasn’t even possible 15 years ago. Florence worked for me at 20; it’s not working at nearly 35.

I had some good moments, though. I did a photo shoot with local photographer Alexandra Jitariuc in Santo Spirito, across the river, a neighborhood where I almost never ventured during my semester (except to the aforementioned Faces). It was quiet, still, and actually felt local. Posing for photos there, 15 years after my semester in Florence, felt appropriate.

I don’t know if I’ll return to Florence. I probably will if I have a good reason, but I don’t see myself visiting casually again. It had its time.

READ MORE:
Ten Years Since Florence: A Retrospective on Study Abroad

A woman in workout gear runs with her black medium-sized dog on a leash. They run past a pinkish-red wall covered with graffiti in Bologna, Italy.
Bologna is still my favorite city in Italy.

I fell hard for Bologna when I first visited in 2011. This was a city that had the beauty of Florence but felt far more real, far less touristed, with the best culinary traditions in Italy. You could blend in with the locals, browsing the food markets and hanging out in the street for aperitivo.

Bologna was my first destination on this latest trip, and my heart swelled as I walked through the city. Bologna is warmth personified, radiating from its walls of red, terra-cotta, and yellow. Joy emanates from every brick in the city. Yes, without a doubt, Bologna is still my place.

On this trip, I planned trips to Milan and Torino, wondering if they would capture my heart in the same way and perhaps be I-could-totally-live-there destinations. And I could live in either city…if I had to. Both were decent fits for me on paper, Milan a bit more so than Torino. But neither would make me as happy as Bologna.

On a white plat rests two pieces of fish -- the tail and the torso -- piled on top of each other, tiny fried fish surrounding them.

…but Piemonte may be my new favorite food region.

SHOTS FIRED. I am an evangelist for all things food in Emilia-Romagna, and say regularly that it’s the best culinary destination on the planet. It’s the home of prosciutto, of parmigiano, of tagliatelle ragu, of traditional balsamic vinegar.

I love Tuscan food too, and Umbrian food, and pretty much any traditional Italian food anywhere…

But this time, I went to Piemonte (Piedmont). And they have many rich culinary traditions — with a twist. The food felt more refined here. More high-end. More creative. In comparison, Emilia-Romagna cuisine feels very…basic and traditional.

YIKES. I can’t believe I wrote that. Forgive me, Emilia-Romagna.

Piemontese cuisine is influenced by its close proximity to France. The region has white truffles from Alba, rich hazelnuts and chocolate (yes, Nutella is produced here), Lavazza coffee, Toma cheese, duck-stuffed pasta in butter, vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce). And so many fantastic wines, including the lush, full-bodied Barolo.

I only got to see a bit of Piemonte — Lake Orta, Lake Maggiore, and Torino — but one of my big Italian priorities is to go back to Piemonte for a culinary road trip, staying at various vineyards and agriturismi.

Pastel-colored houses are sitting right on Lake Orta, with boats in front of them in the water. A large green hill rises behind them underneath a bright blue sky.

I will always, always, always go back to Italy. And I’m going back soon.

After visiting every country in Europe in 2018, I decided that I had no desire to travel to every country in the world. The hunger just wasn’t there. But I did have the desire to continue achieving travel goals. A few months ago, I decided that one of my new travel goals would be to visit all 20 of Italy’s regions.

At the time, I had visited 10: Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, Campania, Liguria, Lombardia, and the Veneto, all in 2004, followed by Emilia-Romagna in 2011, Puglia in 2014, and Sicily in 2015.

This 2019 trip introduced me to two new regions — Trentino-Alto Adige and Piemonte — bringing my total to 12 out of 20. (I especially appreciated visiting both Trentino and Alto Adige separately, as they’re very different, even though together they constitute one administrative region.)

My next trip to Italy will be in September! I’ll be attending the Social Travel Summit in Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna, a city that I’ve already visited for its extraordinary mosaics. But attending this event gives me reason to explore even more — I’ll be starting down in Puglia, the heel of the boot, and heading north along the eastern part of the country.

That will bring me some new regions. Basilicata. Molise. Abruzzo. Le Marche. Friuli-Venezia Giulia. And I’m especially excited to explore Puglia more deeply — I only had a short visit back in 2015, and what I saw left me yearning for more. On the list are Monopoli, Lecce, Locorotondo, the Tremiti islands, and more.

Italy is part of my life, now and forever. I can’t wait to see what I discover there next.

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

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11 Things I Learned on My Latest Trip to Italy

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Kate wears a long red short-sleeved dress covered with white polka dots of various sizes and black sandals. She wears black sunglasses and poses as if about to take them off with one hand. She is standing in front of Milan's Duomo and in the background you can see pigeons and people taking pictures in front of it.

There are few countries that I know better or more intimately than Italy. I visit Italy as often as I can, and while this country is forever in my top five favorite countries, it just might be my favorite (!).

It’s easy to put Italy in a box, to treat it all the same. To say that Italy is nothing but people talking with their hands and gelato on every corner.

I’ve learned a lot over the years. That the best (and cheapest) way to consume coffee is standing at a counter. That Italians spend money on quality clothing and accessories. That the sign of a good gelato shop is muted colors in metal tins. That you cover your shoulders and knees in churches. That “permesso” is the snobbiest way of saying “excuse me.” That aperitivos give you an unlimited buffet for the cost of a drink.

But I’m always learning more. And this is what I learned on my latest trip.

Scene from Alto Adige (South Tyrol), Italy: A wooden mountain hut, looking like a cabin, is on the left side of the screen, perched on grass; in the background, blue mountains rise up beneath a blue sky streaked with white clouds.

Sicily is not the most different region in Italy — Alto Adige is.

When I first visited Sicily in 2015, it felt like I was a different world. Sicily was like Italy turned upside down — a place where the local dialect was indecipherable and the act of driving was like taking your life in your own hands.

READ MORE:
The Joys and Challenges of Traveling in Sicily

But Alto Adige is truly another world.

Also known as South Tyrol, Alto Adige is a region in northeast Italy that has been volleyed back and forth between Italy and Austria over the centuries. Today, every town has both an Italian and German name — Bolzano is Bozen, Bressanone is Brixen, La Vila is Stern (?!). Even so, neither Italian nor German is the local language: Ladin is, and today it’s spoken by about 20,000 people, though each valley has its own dialect and accent!

Drive around Alto Adige and you’ll think you’re in the Swiss or Austrian Alps. The cuisine reflects this too — you won’t be served bufala mozzarella here. Expect hearty dishes like pressknödel, bread and cheese dumplings, the kind of fare that will keep you warm through mountain winters. And the speck, a soft smoky prosciutto, is beyond scrumptious.

Driving through Alto Adige, you just might forget you’re in Italy.

Viewing from a point above, a city of brown terra-cotta rooftops spreads over the expanse. In the distance, green mountains rise up against a blue and white-streaked sky. Riva del Garda, Italy

Looking for untouristed Italy? Head to Trentino.

So many people visit Italy for the first time and hit up Rome, Florence, Venice, and either Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast, then get home and exclaim that Italy would have been perfect if it wasn’t just so damn crowded.

Yeah — it was super-crowded because you went to the most touristy spots. But the vast majority of Italy is not like that. There are so many undertouristed parts where you can enjoy the best of Italy without the crowds.

When I heard last year that Visit Trentino was sponsoring the Traverse conference, I was equally thrilled (yay, a conference somewhere other than Germany or the UK!) and intrigued. I knew tons about Italy but nothing about Trentino.

Well, I should have. As we drove into the region, mountains rose up all around us and vineyards spilled out beneath them. We based in the city of Trento, full of pastel buildings covered with frescoes. And just a short drive from the city you can climb those mountains, check out an art museum in Rovereto, or take in the lakeside at Riva del Garda. Oh, and the local TrentoDOC wine is fantastic.

Trentino is one of the most scenic parts of Italy that I’ve seen — and I’m stunned that more people don’t visit. You should head there soon.

Milan street scene: On a block that juts out triangularly into the street, several people wait for the walk signal at a stoplight. The surrounding buildings are gray with ornate balconies for each window. On the ground floor is a cafe with white awnings.

Italian cities vary more than you think.

It’s easy to paint all Italian cities with the same brush — to say that they’re all filled with impossibly fashionable people with perfect hair and clothes. But the longer you travel in Italy, the more you realize that there is a lot of nuance to that.

Take two of the cities I visited on this trip: Milan and Trento. Milan is arguably the most cosmopolitan city in Italy; only Rome can compare. And even though I live in New York, a very fashionable city, I felt ridiculously unfashionable in Milan! One night I went out for an aperitivo on Corso Garibadi, a trendy area, and I was nearly knocked sideways by how well everyone was dressed. Especially the men. So many perfectly tailored suits and haircuts without a strand out of place.

Trento, by contrast, is a much smaller city — it felt a lot more like southern Italy to me. Not a lot of people dressed up; it felt more casual by comparison. Rather than perfect haircuts, there were a lot of mullets in town. It felt a lot like comparing Trento to Milan was like comparing a small southern or midwestern city to New York.

At one point, a friend who grew up in Bologna told me that when he first moved to Milan, he was stunned that there were Chinese people speaking Italian with a Milanese accent. That was close-minded of him, he pointed out, but that was just how he grew up. Even in a city as large as Bologna, it had nowhere near the diversity of Milan.

One of the villages of Cinque Terre, Italy: a village of brightly colored houses, stacked on top of each other, built on a cliff leading down into the sea.

Cinque Terre (via Pixabay)

I still have zero desire to visit Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre is probably my biggest oversight in Italy. It seems like everyone has visited this collection of beautiful seaside cities. Somehow I missed it over the years, starting when all eight of my roommates went one weekend in Florence — but I honestly don’t care.

Cinque Terre is being strongly impacted by overtourism at the moment. The villages are precariously perched on the edge of the sea, they’ve faced damage due to adverse weather in the past, and the last thing they need is more foot traffic than they can handle.

Can I live without going to Cinque Terre? Sure. I’m sure I’ll go someday, but for now, I’m perfectly happy to visit other places in Italy. (Plus, I’ve heard of villages in Liguria that are just as pretty but only get a fraction of Cinque Terre’s tourists. I think I’ll start there.)

A terrace overlooks a blue and gray misty Lake Orta in the distance, mountains rising up over the lake. In the foreground there is a weathered wooden table. On it is a plate covered with prosciutto and a ball of burrata cheese; behind it are a bottle of Franciacorta sparkling white wine and two goblets filled with the wine.

There are more than two kinds of prosciutto.

If you’re familiar with prosciutto, that most lovely meat from Italy, you’re probably most familiar with prosciutto di Parma from the Parma region in Emilia-Romagna. If you’re a connoisseur, you’ve probably heard of prosciutto di San Daniele from the Friuli region, the second most popular kind of prosciutto.

But did you know that there are all kinds of local prosciutto wherever you go? When I was in Piemonte, I picked up some local Piemontese prosciutto, and it was some of the best I have had, EVER. But you’re never going to find it anywhere for the same region it’s hard to pick up a bottle of Moldovan red wine in America — because they’re small producers. They can’t export their products on a large scale, even to surrounding regions.

My advice? If you can, go with the local option. It gives you a connection to the local culture, its production has a smaller ecological footprint, and you will discover something you can’t find anywhere else.

Do the same thing with wine, too. Many travelers are nervous to order Italian wines and just end up ordering Chianti because it’s the only one they’ve ever heard of. Chianti is great — if you’re in Tuscany and eating a bistecca fiorentina. Just ask your server for something local. Italians are very opinionated and will help you select the perfect vino.

Tagliata di Manzo -- thin slices of filet mignon, topped with dill and served medium rare, sitting on a clear glass plate and a white tablecloth.

Luxury is relative — and quite affordable in Italy.

What does luxury travel mean to you? Most people would define it as staying in the fanciest hotel possible. For me, it’s less about the amenities of a hotel and more about the experiences you have. And luckily a lot of these luxury-like experiences are incredibly affordable in Italy.

This was most exemplified in a dinner I had at an agriturismo on Lake Orta called Il Cucchiaio di Legno. I adore agriturismi (farms where you can stay or eat) and they are a very popular way for Italians to travel. You stay in the rooms, which can vary from simple to high-end, and you eat on-site. The food is usually all local produce from the farm, making it an environmentally friendly option as well.

Il Cucchiaio di Legno requires reservations and only a tasting menu is served, though you can choose from an encyclopedia-sized wine list. We were served ten glorious courses — some of the standouts were river trout risotto, tagliata di manzo (beef tenderloin) topped with fresh dill, and a coffee semifreddo.

Total cost? 32 euros ($36) for the food per person. 23 euros ($26) for three glasses of wine per person, two cheap and one pricey Barolo. Not an everyday splurge by far, but you know what you would pay for food of that quality in the United States? Three or four times more, easily. Hell, in New York, a lot of entrees cost $36.

To me, that meal was the epitome of luxury. Every course was so delicious that we were making borderline inappropriate yummy noises. I still can’t believe that it only cost $62.

A piazza in Trento, Italy, gives way to green mountains in the background. The buildings are cream, white, and pale orange and a group of women walks together in the foreground.

ATMs are surprisingly hard to find.

It’s weird — but on all of my past Italy trips, I don’t recall having to work hard to find an ATM. On this trip, it seemed like I was constantly struggling to track them down. And Italy isn’t like Finland, a country that loves using credit card so much that they can barely find out where ATMs exist. They were just that hard to find. Or maybe I’m crazy.

Kate wears a long black sleeveless dress and is facing her body away from the camera but turning back toward it with her face, smiling with her eyes closed. Behind her is the Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge of Florence covered with jewelry stores, bathed in golden light.

I’ve outgrown Florence, and that’s okay.

My semester abroad in Florence in 2004 was one of the most meaningful times of my life. When we arrived and first drove through the city, it was so beautiful I nearly cried. I spent four months getting to know the city intimately. When it was time to leave, my roommates and I held each other on the street outside our apartment, sobbing.

I went back to Florence twice in 2006 — once for the glee club Italy trip and once as a post-graduation trip with my sister. Both times, I visited my old haunts and felt wistful at the memories.

This time, it was different. I did a day trip from Bologna and was smacked in the face by how different the city was.

It was ALL tourists, all the time. Florence always has tons of tourists, especially in June, but it honestly felt like there wasn’t a single local on the streets. Just hoards of people from somewhere else, trying to take selfies with the fake David in Piazza della Signoria. People were actually being driven around on golf carts. I winced. And the Roberto Cavalli shop where I always stopped and admired the clothes had been replaced with an Armani.

The only familiarity that brought a smile to my face was seeing the awful Irish bars my friends and I used to frequent — J.J. Cathedral, right in front of the Duomo, and The Old Stove, which had Irish car bomb-chugging contests. I pray that the vomit-soaked bar Faces is gone.

I went to my old apartment. It’s a bed and breakfast now. Seems appropriate.

I have no doubt that tourism has increased in Florence in the past 15 years. But more importantly, I’ve changed so much since I was 20, since traveling to more than 75 countries, building a business, starting a kind of life that wasn’t even possible 15 years ago. Florence worked for me at 20; it’s not working at nearly 35.

I had some good moments, though. I did a photo shoot with local photographer Alexandra Jitariuc in Santo Spirito, across the river, a neighborhood where I almost never ventured during my semester (except to the aforementioned Faces). It was quiet, still, and actually felt local. Posing for photos there, 15 years after my semester in Florence, felt appropriate.

I don’t know if I’ll return to Florence. I probably will if I have a good reason, but I don’t see myself visiting casually again. It had its time.

READ MORE:
Ten Years Since Florence: A Retrospective on Study Abroad

A woman in workout gear runs with her black medium-sized dog on a leash. They run past a pinkish-red wall covered with graffiti in Bologna, Italy.
Bologna is still my favorite city in Italy.

I fell hard for Bologna when I first visited in 2011. This was a city that had the beauty of Florence but felt far more real, far less touristed, with the best culinary traditions in Italy. You could blend in with the locals, browsing the food markets and hanging out in the street for aperitivo.

Bologna was my first destination on this latest trip, and my heart swelled as I walked through the city. Bologna is warmth personified, radiating from its walls of red, terra-cotta, and yellow. Joy emanates from every brick in the city. Yes, without a doubt, Bologna is still my place.

On this trip, I planned trips to Milan and Torino, wondering if they would capture my heart in the same way and perhaps be I-could-totally-live-there destinations. And I could live in either city…if I had to. Both were decent fits for me on paper, Milan a bit more so than Torino. But neither would make me as happy as Bologna.

On a white plat rests two pieces of fish -- the tail and the torso -- piled on top of each other, tiny fried fish surrounding them.

…but Piemonte may be my new favorite food region.

SHOTS FIRED. I am an evangelist for all things food in Emilia-Romagna, and say regularly that it’s the best culinary destination on the planet. It’s the home of prosciutto, of parmigiano, of tagliatelle ragu, of traditional balsamic vinegar.

I love Tuscan food too, and Umbrian food, and pretty much any traditional Italian food anywhere…

But this time, I went to Piemonte (Piedmont). And they have many rich culinary traditions — with a twist. The food felt more refined here. More high-end. More creative. In comparison, Emilia-Romagna cuisine feels very…basic and traditional.

YIKES. I can’t believe I wrote that. Forgive me, Emilia-Romagna.

Piemontese cuisine is influenced by its close proximity to France. The region has white truffles from Alba, rich hazelnuts and chocolate (yes, Nutella is produced here), Lavazza coffee, Toma cheese, duck-stuffed pasta in butter, vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce). And so many fantastic wines, including the lush, full-bodied Barolo.

I only got to see a bit of Piemonte — Lake Orta, Lake Maggiore, and Torino — but one of my big Italian priorities is to go back to Piemonte for a culinary road trip, staying at various vineyards and agriturismi.

Pastel-colored houses are sitting right on Lake Orta, with boats in front of them in the water. A large green hill rises behind them underneath a bright blue sky.

I will always, always, always go back to Italy. And I’m going back soon.

After visiting every country in Europe in 2018, I decided that I had no desire to travel to every country in the world. The hunger just wasn’t there. But I did have the desire to continue achieving travel goals. A few months ago, I decided that one of my new travel goals would be to visit all 20 of Italy’s regions.

At the time, I had visited 10: Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, Campania, Liguria, Lombardia, and the Veneto, all in 2004, followed by Emilia-Romagna in 2011, Puglia in 2014, and Sicily in 2015.

This 2019 trip introduced me to two new regions — Trentino-Alto Adige and Piemonte — bringing my total to 12 out of 20. (I especially appreciated visiting both Trentino and Alto Adige separately, as they’re very different, even though together they constitute one administrative region.)

My next trip to Italy will be in September! I’ll be attending the Social Travel Summit in Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna, a city that I’ve already visited for its extraordinary mosaics. But attending this event gives me reason to explore even more — I’ll be starting down in Puglia, the heel of the boot, and heading north along the eastern part of the country.

That will bring me some new regions. Basilicata. Molise. Abruzzo. Le Marche. Friuli-Venezia Giulia. And I’m especially excited to explore Puglia more deeply — I only had a short visit back in 2015, and what I saw left me yearning for more. On the list are Monopoli, Lecce, Locorotondo, the Tremiti islands, and more.

Italy is part of my life, now and forever. I can’t wait to see what I discover there next.

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

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Solo Female Travel in San Francisco — Is it Safe?

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Kate in a red and blue striped dress with a black leather jacket and black sunglasses perched on her head, standing in front of Russian Hill in San Francisco, a leafy green garden in the foreground, a view of the Financial District in the background. The sky is gray and the city is so foggy that the tops of the buildings are enveloped in clouds.

Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in San Francisco? Absolutely! I think San Francisco is one of the best cities for solo female travel in the United States! While many people think that San Francisco is a destination best visited with a partner, or friends, or family, it works just as well as a destination to enjoy solo.

I’ve been traveling to San Francisco since I was a teenager and traveling solo here since I was in my twenties. It’s a city with a lot to offer, it’s constantly changing, and I always have a fantastic time here.

The Golden Gate Bridge rises up from the Sausalito side. It's bright red and extends into the distance, set against green cliffs, above a bright blue ocean, and underneath a streaky blue and white sky. San Francisco is misty in the background.

What’s it like to traveling alone in San Francisco?

San Francisco is a destination that works well for all kinds of solo travelers. No matter what kind of traveler you are, you can find what you’re looking for in San Francisco.

First off, San Francisco is an excellent destination for first-time solo female travelers. It’s easy, there are tons of things to do, it’s safe, and there’s no language barrier. If you’re curious about traveling solo but have never done so, I think a weekend trip to San Francisco is the perfect way to get your feet wet and see how you handle it.

But even experienced solo female travelers can enjoy San Francisco. You’ll probably recoil at touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, but you’ll probably be more willing to explore neighborhoods like the Mission that are a lot of fun but a little overwhelming for newbie tourists.

Are you a hardcore sightseer? San Francisco has the sights, from the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz to museums like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Oakland’s Museum of California.

Are you into food? San Francisco has incredibly good food, from low-end to high-end, including some of the best Chinese food in the nation. And if you’re into wine, you’re a stone’s throw from Napa and Sonoma counties.

Do you love the outdoors? San Francisco has easy access to forests, beaches, bike trails, and more.

Are you looking for good Instagram photos? San Francisco is full of iconic spots that will get you likes, from the Painted Ladies houses to curvy, crooked Lombard Street, and of course the famous cable cars.

Are you queer? San Francisco is one of the most queer-friendly cities in the world for people all over the gender and sexuality spectrums.

As for me, I love to spend lots of time walking through interesting neighborhoods, taking photos, and sitting in cool coffeeshops. San Francisco is a great place to do all of those things.

Above all, San Francisco is a city where women live and work — it’s not just for travelers. Being a solo traveler won’t brand you as an outsider here; you’ll just be one of the people in the city. If you’re lucky, you might even be mistaken for a local!

Kate wearing a blue-and-red-striped dress with a leather jacket in front of a mural with a pug wearing a tiny birthday hat and eating a purple frosted cupcake in San Francisco.

Kate’s 10 Favorite Things to Do in San Francisco

I’ve been visiting San Francisco for years and have carved out my little slice of the city. While many of my beloved spots have sadly closed over the years, here are some of my favorite things to do in the city.

Take a food tour through North Beach. North Beach was once home to San Francisco’s Italian-American community, and many Italian spots remain to this day. I had one of the best food tours of my life with Tastes of the City, and tour guide Tom is a character and a half.

Explore the Haight-Ashbury. This colorful neighborhood was historically home to the counterculture movement in the 1960s, as well as home to artists like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and the hippie spirit has never left the neighborhood. It’s a great place to explore and there are lots of cool cafes, boutiques, and record shops.

Attend a singalong at the Castro Theatre. Castro was once the epicenter of the gay community in the United States, and it remains a colorful and welcoming destination to all. The theater does all kinds of special events, but if you’re in town during one of their singalongs, like for Grease or Moana or Annie, you don’t want to miss it!

Go for a walk early in the morning. If you’re flying in from the east, you’ll likely be waking up early from jet-lag anyway, so take advantage and go for an early walk while Karl the Fog is rolling in! The city looks so different at this time of day and it’s a lot of fun to photograph.

Visit the Oakland Museum of California. Yep, Oakland is worth a visit — and while I’m not ordinarily a museum person, this is one of my favorite museums in the United States, highlighting so many cultural aspects of California, from the history of the Black Panthers to the ecological environment of the Coachella Valley.

Take the ferry to Alcatraz. I didn’t think I’d be into this infamous prison island, but I had a blast! It’s one of the super-touristy activities in San Francisco that you simply must do. If you’re into cheesy Nicolas Cage movies, I recommend pairing it with a viewing of The Rock.

Dive deep into Chinatown. San Francisco has a long history of Chinese settlers, and today San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest in America. You can browse the shops and markets, people-watch in Portsmouth Square, go tea tasting at Vital Tea Leaf, check out the Chinese Historical Society, and of course, eat at restaurants from regions all over China.

Check out Sausalito. This town across the Golden Gate Bridge is a gorgeous little spot and so different from San Francisco. You can get there from San Francisco on a ferry, but if you’re up for something more active, join a bike tour!

Eat at In & Out Burger. Granted, this is a west coast thing, not San Francisco-specific, but In & Out is INSANELY good. There’s a reason why your California friends pine for them when they’re away from home. Read up on their “secret” menu here before you go.

Have a margarita with a salt cloud at Calavera in Oakland. Are you used to enjoying a margarita with a salted rim? Calavera makes margaritas with a floating salt cloud on top. I love them a million times more than regular margaritas. Salt clouds are the perfect margarita topping!

READ MORE: Why You Should Travel to Oakland Too

Gray morning in Russian hill, San Francisco, houses descending down steep hills in San Francisco.
Is San Francisco Safe?

San Francisco, generally speaking, is a safe destination for travelers. It’s comparable to most other U.S. cities, but the violent crime rate is much lower than other popular tourist hotspots like New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC.

That said, San Francisco is a very touristy city, and any destination full of naive tourists is a target for scammers. You should especially be vigilant in tourist-dense destinations like Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and the ferries to and from Alcatraz. Additionally, the homelessness problem in San Francisco is severe, and it can be jarring if you’re not prepared. Read more on that further down.

Even so, anything can happen anywhere and you should be prepared for the worst with safety tips and travel insurance. Read on for specific safety tips for San Francisco.

Kate wearing a navy-and-burgundy striped Jason Wu dress, holding a camera in her hand and standing in a gray street in San Francisco early in the morning, houses on both sides.

San Francisco Travel and Safety Tips

San Francisco is not the kind of place where you need to take on hyper-specific travel safety tips beyond basic caution and common sense — but there are some things you should know. Here are some tips that will result in a better solo trip to San Francisco for you:

Know the context of gentrification, Big Tech, and spiraling housing prices in San Francisco. The Bay Area is the most expensive place to live in America, and San Francisco’s housing prices are even higher than New York City’s. This is due in part to San Francisco’s limited geography, being surrounded on three sides by water, and exacerbated by the tech industry’s headquarters in nearby Silicon Valley.

At this point, the city is turning into a playground for the rich, with many tech companies providing shuttles from San Francisco to their offices. It’s nearly impossible for a low-wage worker to live in the city unless he or she lives in a rent-controlled apartment with family, commutes long-distance, or lives dorm-style with several roommates. Income inequality in America is severe enough as is, but in San Francisco it’s even more so.

Why is it important to know this? It means you’ll have a deeper understanding of San Francisco and its current issues. But more importantly, you’ll be able to emphasize with the people you’re visiting, particularly those who are serving you coffee, cleaning the sidewalks, or ringing up your order at the drugstore.

San Francisco has a major homelessness problem. If you’re not from a major city, you’ll probably find it jarring, and even as a New Yorker, I’m shocked at the level of homelessness in San Francisco. This has been a major problem for the city for quite some time, and as a tourist, it can be difficult to see so many people in pain.

Other than panhandlers asking for change, homeless people will not approach you. It’s perfectly fine to keep your distance or ignore them; if you want to give them money, that’s your choice, or you could make a donation to the Coalition for the Homeless San Francisco. If you see a confrontation or someone making a commotion, keep your distance. If you witness an emergency situation, call 911.

There is no way to avoid homeless people entirely in San Francisco, but there are some areas where it is particularly dense, like in the Tenderloin neighborhood. I encourage you to view San Francisco’s homeless with compassion rather than feeling inconvenienced by their existence.

San Francisco is very hilly, which makes accessibility a challenge. Quite a few of San Francisco’s hills are extremely steep, which can be challenging if you have difficulties walking. I wore sandals for most of my visit, but there were times when I wished I had sneakers for navigating the steepest hills.

Car break-ins are common in San Francisco. While violent crime in San Francisco is low, car break-ins are a major crime issue. There’s no reason to bring your car to San Francisco — you can get around the city easily without one.

I recommend getting around San Francisco using a combination of public transportation — the BART (subway), streetcars, trams, and buses — and taxis/Uber/Lyft. These will cover the majority of your travels within San Francisco and the area. If you’re interested in doing a day trip by car, just rent a car for that day.

San Francisco’s weather changes constantly and you’ll need to dress for multiple seasons. Most mornings, Karl the fog rolls in, and it’s gray and cool as clouds envelope the city hills. Later that fog might burn off into sunshine, or you might get some rain, or it might just stay overcast all day.

For this reason, San Franciscans dress in layers year-round. I recommend bringing a sweater or light jacket no matter what time of year it is. Bring a small, strong umbrella or you’ll end up having to buy a low-quality umbrella when it rains.

Consider bringing a Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. These beautiful scarves are designed and sewed by my friend and have a hidden passport pocket in them. I love these scarves (I even designed my own!) and they are so good at keeping your valuables hidden. They’re also extremely chic, enough to work in a fashion-conscious city like San Francisco.

While pickpocketing in general isn’t as common in the US as in Europe, pickpockets operate in the touristy areas of San Francisco. You should always keep your belongings close, but be especially cautious in and around Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, the Alcatraz ferries, and on public transportation.

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 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 at most places in San Francisco, and carrying lots of cash leaves you vulnerable to theft. Don’t be the traveler who gets her wallet stolen with 500 dollars in it.

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.

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 — I recommend Lonely Planet San Francisco or Lonely Planet California if you’re exploring further afield.

Spend extra money on staying safe. If you’re not comfortable walking home at night, spend money on a cab or 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.

Be careful about your drinking. Drink less in San Francisco 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. If you choose to go wine tasting, it’s acceptable (and encouraged) to only consume a small amount and use the spittoon.

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 San Francisco. If anyone is making you feel uncomfortable, just leave. Trust me — you won’t be the rudest person they meet that day. And so what if you were? You’re never going to see them again.

READ MORE:
Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

Two sets of four glasses of wine arranged across from each other at Bottega restaurant in Yountville, California. Each setting has three glasses of red and one glass of white and they are filled generously.

Wine Tasting in San Francisco as a Solo Traveler

If you’re a wine fan in the least, you should take the opportunity to explore wine country outside San Francisco. Napa and Sonoma counties are within a short driving distance of San Francisco and either region is doable as a day trip or multi-day getaway.

However, wine tasting is not often recommended for solo travelers because it’s logistically difficult — most of the time wineries are far apart and you need to drive, and drinking and driving do not mix.

Option 1: Do a wine tasting day trip from San Francisco. This is my top recommendation. You’ll have transportation provided, you won’t have to worry about logistics, and you might make some new friends, too! Here are some options:

Napa and Sonoma Tour Full Day Tour from San Francisco — Three wineries in a day plus time for lunch in Sonoma.
Painted Ladies Wine Country Tour — includes lunch, three wineries, and takes place in a vintage VW bus!
Half Day Wine Country Tour — If you’re short on time, spend less time and check out one winery in Sonoma.

Option 2: Spend a night or two in wine country. Book accommodation in Napa. If you’re planning on doing a lot of wine tasting, this is an efficient way to spend your time and minimizing your transportation.

If you do this, be sure to take advantage of the fantastic restaurants in this region. I had one of the best meals of my life at Bottega in Yountville, and if you can manage to get a reservation, The French Laundry is there, too.

Option 3: Go wine tasting without leaving San Francisco. You can taste plenty of local wines without leaving the confines of the city, as several wineries have shops in the city. I recommend Wattle Creek Winery and William Cross Wine Merchants and Wine Bar in San Francisco and Campovida in Oakland.

Whatever you choose to do, be vigilant about your drinking and try not to drink too much. Just because you’re wine tasting, it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to get drunk. It’s perfectly acceptable to only taste the wine and spittoons are always provided.

Kate lounges on a big white bed with a cream-colored headboard at the Fairmont San Francisco. She has long straight brown hair and is wearing a bright red short-sleeved top by Milly and black and white patterned pants by Trina Turk. She is holding her phone in her hand and is posed lying on her stomach with her hand underneath her chin and smiling.

Kate at the Fairmont San Francisco

Where to Stay in San Francisco: Best Accommodation for Solo Female Travelers

There are plenty of safe choices of neighborhoods in San Francisco. I’ve stayed in so many places that I can recommend you an excellent option at every price tier. Here are there of my favorites:

Best San Francisco luxury hotel: Fairmont San Francisco. This is one of the most stunning hotels I’ve ever stayed in, and the luxury level is on point. Service is excellent and it’s in a great location above Nob Hill.

Best San Francisco boutique hotel: Hotel Zelos. This Union Square hotel has chic rooms, giant bathtubs, and a very cool cocktail bar called Dirty Habit.

Best San Francisco budget hotel: The Green Tortoise. Now, don’t get turned off because it’s a hostel — this is my favorite hostel in the United States, and they have a separate building filled with private rooms. The location in North Beach is ideal, the free breakfast is insane, and they have a lot of cool activities taking place throughout the week.

Kate in a red-and-navy-striped dress arm and arm with her friend Paroma, wearing a white button-up shirt, standing in a coffeeshop in San Francisco in front of a display case with a giant Illy coffee cup on top.

How to Meet People in San Francisco

San Franciscans, and Californians in general, are friendly and laid-back. While people tend to be wrapped up in their own lives, you can absolutely meet people just by being open and friendly. Here are some specific ways to make new friends in San Francisco:

Consider staying at a social hostel. If you’re willing to stay at a social at this stage in your life, I highly recommend The Green Tortoise in North Beach. You can get a private room, and I stayed in a private room there (with a shared bath). The Green Hostel fosters community by putting on all kinds of fun activities, like comedy shows, pub crawls, $5 dinners, and live music. They also one of the best free breakfasts I’ve seen in a hostel and you can meet people while enjoying bagels.

Join tours and activities. Tours are a great way to meet new people! Whether you’re doing a day trip to the Muir Woods and wine country or taking a pastry baking class, you’ll meet people excited to explore the local region.

Look for Couchsurfing meetup events in San Francisco. Couchsurfing isn’t just for free accommodation — they also put on meetup events where everyone is welcome. San Francisco puts on regular 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 in San Francisco who will offer to meet you for coffee, just so you know someone. Take advantage of this if you can. This is what I did — I asked for San Francisco photography advice in one of my blogger groups, and a local girl named Paroma (pictured with me above) offered to meet me and take photos! We had a great morning and it was so nice to make a new friend.

Tinder. If you’re looking to date or hook up, have fun!

Yosemite National Park has huge looming mountains in the background underneath a blue and white streaky sky. There are bright green evergreen trees and water on the ground amongst the brown land.

Yosemite National Park (via Pixabay)

Where to Go After San Francisco

You could just come to San Francisco for the weekend and have a great time — or you could spend months in California and barely scrape the surface.

If you’re staying 3 days or less, I recommend staying in San Francisco. If you’re staying 4-6 days, I recommend adding in a few days trips from San Francisco. If you’re staying a week or longer, I encourage you to flesh out your California trip with some visitors to other areas.

Visit wineries in Napa and Sonoma County. If you want to explore the wine and culinary scene, this is one of the best regions on the planet. You could spend weeks there alone. You can get there within an hour or two of San Francisco.

Go to Yosemite National Park. It’s one of the most famous national parks in the United States, and for good reason — it’s one of the best and most beautiful. Yosemite is three hours from San Francisco.

Check out Monterey. Monterey is a beautiful seaside town and home to an outstanding aquarium. It’s also the setting for Big Little Lies (the HBO version, not the book version). Monterey is two hours from San Francisco.

Road trip down the California coast. Head south toward Los Angeles or San Diego and stop at gorgeous places along the way — or even north and head up toward Oregon!

The San Francisco neighborhoods of Russian Hill and North Beach have square-shaped buildings stacked on top of each other, ascending and descending down the hills with occasional trees. In the background is San Francisco Bay and you can see Oakland through the haze in the distance.

Travel Insurance for San Francisco

Even if you’re visiting San Francisco from within the United States, it’s smart to get travel insurance. You might not be able to find a healthcare provider on your plan here, and travel insurance will often cover you anywhere that is 100+ miles away.

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. And tragically, if you plan a stay at a winery that’s destroyed by a wildfire, which has happened in California in recent years, they will refund you your costs. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to San Francisco.

Travel insurance is the kind of thing that seems like a waste until the moment you need it desperately. Don’t underestimate its importance — be sure to protect yourself.

View over Chinatown in San Francisco, lots of store signs jutting out at angles, leading to a bridge underneath a blue sky.

San Francisco is waiting for you!

You are about to have one of the best trips of your life! I hope you have an amazing time in San Francisco. Then come back and tell me all about it.

READ NEXT: The Best Things I Ate in San Francisco

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AK Monthly Recap: May 2019

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So much good happened this month — but I’m going to open with a story.

I needed to buy a new strapless bra before the Antigua trip, so I went to Victoria’s Secret. I tried on my usual size, 36B, along with some 34Bs and 34Cs and 36Cs just to cover the bases, and nothing fit me right. I sighed and decided to call in the saleswoman to get measured. Most women wear the wrong bra size; I was probably off, too.

“I’ve been wearing a 36B forever,” I told her as she wound the tape around me. “34B before that. But my body has changed since I started working out — maybe I’m actually a C?”

“No, honey. You’re a 32DD.”

I blanched. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“No. This is your real size.”

32DD. The pinnacle. Literally the best size that exists on the planet. Have I seriously had Double D’s my entire adult life WITHOUT HAVING A CLUE?! Apparently.

I spent the next hour trying on a few dozen bras — all kinds of shapes and styles. Turns out her measurement wasn’t a fluke. 32DD fit me PERFECTLY. And now I have to buy a completely new bra collection because I’ve realized how poorly the old ones have been fitting me. You’re not supposed to poke out of the tops like a soufflé.

In the grand of scheme, does your bra size really matter? No. Of course not. But I’m screaming it from the rooftops anyway because it was such a good surprise.

I feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. All my life I’ve been living like a perfectly average B-cup, and who knew that I had Double D’s all this time?!

Destinations Visited

New York, NY

Long Bay, English Harbour, St. John’s, and Turner Beach, Antigua

Ansonia, CT

Image: Brendan van Son

Highlights

An incredible trip to Antigua. This is one of the best trips that I’ve had in a very long time and I can’t wait to share all the stories with you. Traverse put on a mini-conference for travel content creators on this wonderful little island. We all stayed at the same all-inclusive resort, The Verandah, we chose the activities we wanted to do, and we basically had an open bar for seven days straight.

Antigua is a gorgeous little Caribbean island — and so easy to get to from New York, with nonstop flights on multiple airlines! Sprawling out in water hammocks was glorious, as was checking out the markets and eating the sweetest black pineapple, Antigua’s signature fruit. Riding on a catamaran, taking in the sunset, as well as gallivanting over the view of Shirley Heights — just pure magic. And I get inspired when I spend so much time with my creative colleagues! Expect more on Antigua soon.

Raising more than $1,000 for NARAL Pro-Choice America. In the wake of attacks on reproductive rights in the United States, I started a fundraiser on the Adventurous Kate Facebook page — and so many of you chipped in. I love that I can count on you to stand up to injustice and put your money behind it. THANK YOU.

Seeing BLKS, a new off-Broadway play. I got comped tickets to this show at the brand new MCC Theater in Hell’s Kitchen.  This play was SO funny, I couldn’t stop laughing! It’s branded as “Like Broad City or Girls, but with black women,” and that’s pretty on the nose — though much more like Broad City. The show is about three twenty-something black women living in Brooklyn and dealing with their lives, loves, and the fuckery that New York presents. I loved it and you should go see it.

Spotting a K train in the wild. The other night I was waiting for an A train at Canal Street and a K train pulled up on the local track! This is crazy because THE K TRAIN HASN’T BEEN IN SERVICE SINCE 1988. As in when Reagan was president. Somehow the trains still have these old signs and with a hex key some pranksters were able to turn them to the K train. Bizarre.

I posted it to the NYC subreddit and it went viral. It’s always trippy when your readers recognize you on Reddit!

Getting professional photos taken in SoHo. I really loved the yellow dress I got for Antigua, so I hired a photographer from Airbnb Experiences to do a photoshoot. It’s nice to finally have some good professional photos based in New York!

Spending time with two of my little loves. Two of the little babies in my life have recently turned into adorably rambunctious toddlers. I love getting to spend time with them. And I melted into pieces when one little boy took two steps toward me for the first time ever. And now he loves to stab me with a sword and giggle as I shriek and pretend I’m hurt.

Lots of fun times in New York. New eats, new drinks, fun times with friends.

Challenges

Losing a friend. See the “In Memoriam” at the bottom of this post for more. And honestly, whenever someone dies, it feels ridiculous complaining about anything else that happened this month.

Two of my close friends moved away. And I had to say goodbye to them on the same day! One home to Sydney, one off to a new adventure in Austin. I’ll miss them both and I wish New York weren’t such a transient city.

Nearly missing my flight to Italy. My flight to Italy was on an airline I’ve never heard of — Air Italy — and when I went to check in, there was no record of my flight to Milan, only home from Milan. And JFK had no record of the flight. It took 30 minutes to get through on the phone to customer servic,e but they said both the flight and my ticket existed, so I headed to the airport.

But that wasn’t all. I usually take an Uber to JFK, but because I would have to leave during rush hour on a summer Friday, I elected to take the subway. I took the LIRR out to Jamaica and found out THE AIRTRAIN WAS NOT RUNNING TO JFK. I initially waited in line for a shuttle bus transfer, but after a few minutes, I realized that nobody was gong to make their flights on time and I summoned an Uber. Even with that Uber, I only barely made it through security in time.

General New York transit madness. One day I had to take five trains — D, F, A, C, and S, in that order, to get from Harlem to Crown Heights on a Sunday, and to make things worse, the D train went local and was full of Yankee fans. The next weekend, I had to wait 28 minutes for the L train — in the middle of the day. The subway is a mess and it’s unconscionable how our leaders are failing us.

Getting caught in a rainstorm in open-toed shoes…in Alphabet City. Alphabet City is not close to public transportation, and due to general fuckery the F train wasn’t even running when I needed it. The streets of New York can be gross to begin with, and even worse when it’s rain and you have to walk nearly a mile.

Quote of the Month:

Will: “I’m going to be 22 soon. I’M SO OLD!”

Me: “You are not old! I’m 34.”

Will: “What were you like when you were 22?”

Me: “Let’s see. I lived in Boston, I would go to clubs constantly, and I would grind on a different guy to ‘Return of the Mack’ every weekend.”

Will: “Cool. What’s ‘Return of the Mack’?”


Most Popular Post

Solo Female Travel in Australia — Is it Safe? — Australia is a fantastic country to travel solo — as long as you’re sufficiently prepared for driving and wildlife!

Other Posts

Moving from Boston to New York — 25 Things You Need to Know — I feel like I am the utmost expert on this subject, so I was thrilled to finally write about the cultural differences between these similar-seeming cities.

Where to Stay in Seattle — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation — A complete guide to the best neighborhoods and hotels for all kinds of travelers.

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

If there’s a yellow and blue wall somewhere, shouldn’t you pose in front of it? Well, that’s certainly what our group in Antigua thought, because EVERYONE was taking photos in front of this wall! For more updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

What I Wore This Month

I had a VERY good month for fashion — I’m really happy with the dresses I chose for Antigua! The one in the popular Instagram photo above is by Amanda Uprichard, which I rented via Rent the Runway. It was the PERFECT dress to wear on a boat. My friend Will told me I looked like a privileged pirate, and my friend Tom told me I looked like Dutch pottery.

I was obsessed with this yellow Derek Lam dress from Rent the Runway. My whole life, my mom has been telling me I can’t wear yellow, so it was amazing to hear so many people (including my mom!) telling me how good the color looked on me. I felt like royalty!

I had actually rented this hot pink Hutch romper last year, and I wore it so much that I decided to buy it from Rent the Runway this year. I love how it can be dressed up or down and be either sporty or dressy. It was just as good on the beach in Antigua as it was at the US Open last year.

And finally, I bought a pair of gorgeous overalls from Unique Vintage. I haven’t worn overalls since middle school but I am OBSESSED with this cropped fitted pair by Voodoo Vixen.

What I Listened To This Month

I’ve been hearing so much about Lizzo, and this month I finally bit the bullet and checked out her new album Cuz I Love You. Well, Lizzo is worth every bit of hype. She infuses her songs with so much humor and self-love — and on top of that, the songs are pretty danceable! My two favorites are “Juice” and “Tempo,” the latter of which is the greatest twerking song of the last few years.

What I Watched This Month

This month, I rewatched Sex and the City for the first time in my thirties and the first time since moving to New York. I wanted to see how their experiences of thirty-something dating in New York in the late 90s and early 2000s matched up to the late 2010s — and boy, was it interesting.

I’m actually looking forward to writing about this. People who rewatch Sex and the City tend to complain about the same issues over and over — that the show had no diversity, that Carrie couldn’t afford her lifestyle, that Mr. Big never would have changed. But I want what I write to be different. For starters, I couldn’t relate to anything until Petrovsky showed up, and then the hairs on the back of my neck stood up with familiarity. That’s because I’ve mainly dated foreign guys in NYC, often incomprehensible and fascinating foreign guys.

Also, the clip I attached above is the funniest clip in the series — when Miranda finally figures out how to dirty talk. I laughed until I cried. The expression on her face…

What I Read This Month

Well, I kind of fell off the reading wagon this month. I went from averaging around 10 books per month to only reading three. I’m at 46 books for the year so far and still hope I can meet my goal of 100!

Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future by Pete Buttigieg (2019) — If you’ve been paying attention to the 2020 race, you’ve heard of Pete Buttigieg’s run for president by now. He has the most fascinating biography of anyone running — elected the mayor of South Bend, Indiana at age 29; went to Harvard; was a Rhodes Scholar; joined the Navy reserve and served in Afghanistan; speaks seven languages, and is gay and happily married to a social media darling named Chasten.

This book lays out Buttigieg’s biography beautifully, as well as showcasing the good work he’s done in South Bend. I’ve been supporting Mayor Pete for president since the beginning of the year, and this book strongly communicates his values and what he would bring to the presidency. I love his style of writing, too — it’s so calm. It reminds me a lot of Murakami, but without the creepiness.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby (2017) — Samantha is a writer, comedian who lays her whole life bare. This collection of essays is about life, love, failed and successful romances, awkward sexual encounters, and what happens when you scatter your dead parent’s ashes in the wrong direction.

This was my book club’s selection for the month and it was a fun read, often laugh-out-loud funny. That so, there was a little bit of melancholy to it — I feel like most women memoirists have a lot of sadness infused in their comedy. It was a great read and I’m so glad to hear that Samantha found love and got married!

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (2013) — If you’ve ever read a collection of David Sedaris essays, you know what this one is going to be like. This latest collection of stories discusses everything from his first colonoscopy, his adventures picking up trash on the side of the road in the British countryside, and his yearning for a friendship with his Parisian periodontist, along with stories from his childhood that he has somehow held off on telling until now.

I’ve always loved reading David Sedaris’s essays, but this was the first collection where I felt a bit uncomfortable at times — particularly when he was discussing race. I don’t think that he’s changed over time (and I do maintain that “Six to Eight Black Men,” a story about a remarkably racist Dutch Christmas tradition, is one of his best essays of all time), I think it’s more of a sign of how I have changed over time. That said, most of this book was a funny read. I listened to it as an audiobook and it made a great background for when I was taking walks around the reservoir in Central Park.

Coming Up in June 2019

As this publishes, I’ll be in Italy! One of my absolute favorite countries in the world — FOR THREE WHOLE WEEKS. Cailin and I will be traveling together the whole time.

We are starting in Bologna, my favorite Italian city, staying with our friends Steph and Mike and their adorable two-year-old daughter. Next we head up to Trento in the Trentino region for Traverse 2019, where I will be speaking about the most important things I learned in nine years of professional blogging. After that, we head to the Dolomites for a few days, staying at the culinary resort Ciasa Salares, then we head down to Lake Como for two days, then spend a week in Milan while exploring the surrounding region. I plan to visit Verona and Torino for the first time and return to Florence for the first time since 2006. This fall will be 15 years since my life-changing semester abroad, and I plan to commemorate it.

What I’m looking forward to the most is seeing my friends. After that, learning new things at the conference. After THAT, I just want to drink a million espressos while standing at the counter. Va bene. God, I love Italy.


In Memoriam

We experienced two tremendous losses in the travel blogging community this month. The first was Evelyn Hannon of Journeywoman, who passed away after a three-year battle with cancer at the age of 79.

Evelyn was our fairy godmother — I can think of no better term for her. She began blogging in the mid-1990s, when truly nobody else was blogging about women’s travel. Her resources were the light in the darkness for so many women at the time. As time went on, Evelyn became a symbol of traveling at any age. She graciously contributed to my Solo Female Travelers Over 40 post and was the oldest woman featured at age 75.

Rest in peace, Evelyn, and thank you for doing your part to help women achieve their dreams.

And then there was Rachel. Rachel Jones of Hippie in Heels died suddenly at the age of 29. You can read her obituary here.

While Rachel and I were never close, we had been online friends for years, and had seen each other last in December in New York. What I admired about her was how generous and humble she was — far more than most people I’ve known. She cared deeply for animals and adopted two street dogs. She demystified travel in India for women and made the country more accessible to travelers, especially nervous and uneasy women travelers.

Rachel was going to get married this year. I’m heartbroken that a life can end so suddenly without any warning. I still can’t believe she’s gone; it doesn’t feel real. We’ve lost so much.

Rest in peace, Rachel.

What’s coming up for you in June? Share away!

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