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Driving the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia: The Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary

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In the rearview mirror, you see Kate taking a photo with her DSLR camera. In the distance is a rock formation in the ocean.

Looking for one of the most beautiful road trips in the world? Consider driving the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. While this is one of the best known road trips in Canada, I hadn’t heard of it until recently — and I was stunned at just how special it was.

This summer I’ve been spending a lot of time in Atlantic Canada, which is one of the better decisions I’ve made lately. This is one of my new favorite parts of the world. But one of the biggest highlights of Atlantic Canada has been driving the Cabot Trail and discovering the Cape Breton region of Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia was in the works for awhile. Earlier this year, I met representatives from Visit Nova Scotia and we decided to do a campaign together. I did my research on the province, trying to figure out where to go, and landed on Cape Breton, the rural, beautiful island in the northeast part of the province, and driving the Cabot Trail. I’m always down for a road trip. And I had great company — my frequent travel buddy Cailin, who herself is from Nova Scotia!

This was my first time in Nova Scotia (well, I also went when I was a fetus, my parents are quick to point out), but it reminded me so much of where I grew up. The Halifax area and its surroundings reminded me so much of Massachusetts — but once you get into Cape Breton, everything spreads out and countrifies. It feels more like New Hampshire or Maine!

I loved Nova Scotia because of its beauty, because of its friendliness, because of how relaxed it was. And on top of that, it had a quality I’m having trouble defining. It was special.

And if you’re from the New York City area or New England — and I know many of my US-based readers are — Nova Scotia is a very easy trip. Hop on a short nonstop flight to Halifax from New York or Boston. It’s a two-hour flight from either city!

What is the Cabot Trail?

The Cabot Trail is a scenic driving route on the island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. Cape Breton is the large island in the northeast of Nova Scotia, home to 18% of the province’s land and 14% of the population. Cape Breton is known for being a slow-paced and beautiful corner of Nova Scotia.

The Cabot Trail is well-marked, easy to drive, and filled with tons of attractions. At 298 kilometers (185 miles), it’s ideal for a four-day road trip.

A curvy road surrounded by forest in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Reasons to Travel the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia

There are so many reasons to travel the Cabot Trail. Here are some of my favorites:

The most beautiful winding roads. Driving through Cape Breton Highlands National Park is like driving in a cartoon. The roads are so windingly photogenic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful roads as I did in Cape Breton!

If you want to get photos like I did, have the person in the passenger seat turn their camera to a super-fast shutter speed and shoot as you drive along. Be sure to periodically clean your windshield.

A pot full of bright red lobsters.

The freshest, most succulent, most delicious lobster. For years Cailin has been telling me that Nova Scotia has the best lobster in the world (or, more often, yelling, “THAT’S NOT LOBSTER!” whenever I eat lobster in the Caribbean). To be honest, I rolled my eyes at her exultations — but then I tried it and WOW. I’m used to Maine lobster, but Nova Scotia lobster is on another level. And it’s available everywhere on the Cabot Trail.

A bright pink and purple sunset over purple mountains. Evergreen trees in the foreground.

Endless changing landscapes. At times, like in White Point, I felt like I was in Normandy. At other times, driving through the lusher parts of the highlands, I almost felt like I was in Hawaii! And when the sun dipped behind the mountains, I was reminded of Colorado.

The Canadian, Nova Scotian, and Acadian flags set against a blue sky.

Three interesting cultures in one place, shared proudly with visitors. You can explore indigenous Mi’kmaq culture, Acadian culture, and Gaelic culture all on this same island. And they’re all respected as being essential parts of Canadian culture. It really hits you when you walk into the visitors’ center at the national park and it reads, “Welcome. Bienvenue. Pjila’si. Fáilte.”

A small cabin covered with wooden art and brightly painted signs, surrounded by a fence overgrown with grass.

A slow, country pace. When you live in a city (especially New York City), you notice how much slower it is in the country. Things move at a slow pace. People take their time to enjoy themselves. It’s a nice break for your brain.

The mountains and winding roads of Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

One incredible national park. Cape Breton Highlands National Park is the one national park on the island, and the Cabot Trail drives right through it. It’s a sensational park. The best known activity on the Cabot Trail is the Skyline Trail, a hike in the park best done at sunset.

A small village next to the sea with several houses illuminated by the setting sun.

Wonderful and welcoming people. So many memories from Cape Breton are tied up in the wonderful people we met. The Acadian ladies who invited us to come back and stay in their homes for the Mi-Carême celebration in winter. The Mi’kmaq educator at Eskasoni Cultural Journeys who told us about their natural cancer-fighting remedies that Westerners may be on the verge of exploiting. The artist who worried about the impact of Airbnb on young Cape Bretoners being unable to afford homes. The smart, thoughtful guides at Parks Canada who were bubbling over with their love for the outdoors.

Kate and Cailin pose for a selfie on the Skyline Trail.

How Many Days Do You Need on the Cabot Trail?

I think you can travel the Cabot Trail in a minimum of three days — but I would recommend stretching to four days if you can. You can travel the Cabot Trail for longer if you’d like, having a more leisurely trip than we did, and traveling for longer gives you a bit of insurance in case you have some rainy days.

If you only have one or two days, I recommend staying in the Chéticamp area rather than trying to do the whole trail. Most of my favorite experiences on the Cabot Trail were in or around Chéticamp: hiking the Skyline Trail and the Learn to Lobster Boil experience in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the Mi-Carême Centre, Aucoin Bakery, and L’abri restaurant.

It’s best to rent your car in either Sydney or Halifax and drive to the trail. Sydney is the largest city in Cape Breton and it has a small airport and several car rental locations. It’s about a 45-minute drive from the Cabot Trail and you enter at Englishtown, near Baddeck.

Halifax is a bigger city and major air hub and it’s on the mainland of Nova Scotia. It’s about a 3.5-hour drive from the Cabot Trail and you enter at Hunters Point, also near Baddeck. You can rent a car one-way from Sydney to Halifax, as we did, but one-way rentals can be very expensive in Nova Scotia.

A road leading straight ahead, surrounded by pine trees. Two cyclists are riding along the road.

Cape Breton Road Trip Four-Day Itinerary

Driving the Cabot Trail for four days will give you enough time to enjoy the best of this gorgeous part of Nova Scotia. This itinerary gives you an extra day in what I think is the nicest part — Chéticamp — but gives you enough time to enjoy some of the other lovely places, like Ingonish, Baddeck, and of course Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

A lot of people ask whether you should drive the Cabot Trail clockwise or counterclockwise. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. It would matter if you only drove in one direction and never backtracked whatsoever. Cailin and I ended up driving back and forth several times in the most photogenic part of the national park because the weather kept changing and we wanted better photos!

We ended up driving the bulk of the trail clockwise and we felt happy with it. Here is our full itinerary:

A rocky coastline falls into the sea. On the top is grass, two yellow cottages, benches, and picnic tables.

Day One on the Cabot Trail: Sydney to Chéticamp

Cailin and I began our Cape Breton road trip immediately after our OneOcean cruise docked in Sydney. Sydney is close to the Cabot Trail at Englishtown, but I had wanted to explore indigenous culture in Nova Scotia, so we headed south and started slightly off the trail in Eskasoni.

Kate gets smoke "smudged" on her in a Mi'kmaq ceremony with a local man.

Eskasoni Cultural Experiences is where you can learn about Mi’kmaq indigenous culture and traditions from Mi’kmaq people. You take part in a smudging ceremony, learn about hunting and weapons, learn some dancing, and even cook some bread over the fire, Mi’kmaq-style.

A Mi'kmaq man plays a drum and sings.Bread dough wrapped around an iron poker and cooked over a fire.A traditional Mi'kmaq drum made from woven sinew, and a woman's hand on top.A long line of knives and weapons made from bone.

It is a bit field trip-y — you can tell that groups of students are their bread and butter. But I loved learning about Mi’kmaq culture and I especially loved learning from so many Mi’kmaq folks directly. Learning from actual indigenous people is all too rare these days, and it should be cherished.

I loved how the guides weaved in traditions and how they use them today, like medicinal plants that are used to treat cancer. One of the guides, Steve, even offered to smudge my passport to give me protection on my travels.

Next, if you have the time, visit the Highland Village. Just off the trail in Iona is a village that re-creates life among Gaelic settlers in Cape Breton from centuries ago, complete with costumes, set beautifully on Bras d’Or lake. While we didn’t have time to do this due to a late start, this is absolutely worth the beautiful setting alone.

Giant letters reading L'abri in front of a one-story restaurant

Spend the afternoon driving to Chéticamp and get an early dinner. You are now officially on the Cabot Trail! The drive to Chéticamp is lovely, especially once you hit the water. For an early dinner, I recommend L’abri — a relatively new, very queer-friendly restaurant that the locals can’t stop raving about. They do a great lobster roll. Cailin and I loved L’abri so much that we went multiple times!

Kate standing in front of the mountains wearing a "Canada 2019" tank top in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

In the evening, hike the Skyline Trail, the most famous hike in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This is an easy, even hike with a gorgeous view at the end, even better at sunset. I think it’s the best Instagram spot on the Cabot Trail. While you can do this hike on your own, Parks Canada offers a guided sunset hike that takes about three hours altogether.

The Skyline Trail is the best place on the Cabot Trail to see moose, so keep your eyes open! There is even a moose “exclosure” (first time I had ever heard that word) where you have a moose-free zone and can climb a platform to see if you can spot them outside.

A staircase descending the hills at dusk in Cape Breton Highlands National ParkA mother and daughter walking along a forested path in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.A path through the woods underneath a cloudy purple sky at Cape Breton Highlands National Park.People walking down a staircase built into the hills at Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

The Skyline Trail seems mostly even, but you don’t realize until you turn around and head back that the path had been slowly sloping downward the whole time. You can definitely do this hike with kids but it helps to bring a light source for the walk back, even if that light source is the flashlight on your phone.

Keep in mind the hike starts two hours before sunset, but you also have to pick up your park pass at the entrance and the start of the hike is about a 20-minute drive from the entrance. This is why you get an early dinner!

A one-story white motel underneath a blue and white spotted sky.

Where to Stay in Chéticamp: Silver Linings Inn

In Chéticamp we stayed at Silver Linings Inn, a midrange guesthouse and motel that I highly recommend. We were the first guests to stay in a new suite above the main guesthouse: a loft with two incredibly comfortable queen beds, tons of excellent pillows, and an ensuite bathroom. Rates from $149 CAD ($112 USD).

Two queen beds in white bedding with lots of pillows in Silver Linings Inn, Cheticamp, Nova Scotia.A counter with drawers filled with jams and several kinds of bread at Silver Linings Inn in Nova Scotia

The guesthouse also has the best continental breakfast I’ve ever seen anywhere. Tons of muffins, bread from nearby Aucoin Bakery, cereals, fruit, drawers filled with peanut butter and all kinds of jellies and jams, even a designated gluten-free zone. They really make an effort to do a simple breakfast well, and the breakfast room is airy and beautiful.

The internet wasn’t great and only worked decently in the public areas of the guesthouse, which were closed at night, but this is standard for Cape Breton. (See more on internet in Cape Breton in the “Cabot Trail Travel Tips” section below.)

One qualm: there is a doorstop right in the middle of the bathroom floor and it blends into the tiles, so Cailin and I stubbed our toes on it multiple times. (I would yelp from the bathroom and Cailin would yell, “Did you step on it again?”) However, we brought it up with the manager and since we were the first people to stay there, they had no idea and said they’d look into removing it.

Check out more hotels in Chéticamp here.

A red and blue Cheticamp sign shaped like a lighthouse.

Day Two on the Cabot Trail: In and Around Chéticamp

Chéticamp was my favorite part of the Cabot Trail because there are so many cool things to do nearby. It’s absolutely worth spending an extra night in Chéticamp to get the most out of this part of Cape Breton. Start your day with breakfast, then plan to hit up a lot of sights.

A recreation of an Acadian home at Les Trois Pignons with a china cabinet, wooden dining table, iron stove, and braided rug on the ground.

Learn about Acadian culture at Les Trois Pignons. This museum and cultural center is a great place to learn about the Acadians who lived in Cape Breton centuries ago. While you can see recreated living quarters for Acadian families, the coolest part is seeing the hooked rugs.

A woman's hand hooks wool through the backing to make a rug.Three hooked rugs featuring Canadian landscapes. A hooked rug with a white Persian cat on it.

The hooked rugs were so interesting. Artist Elizabeth LeFort was one of the most gifted hooked rug artists, and she was particularly talented with hooked rug portraiture. In the 1960s, she did portraits of all the Apollo astronauts — as well as JFK, Jackie Kennedy and Pope John Paul II!

But for me and Cailin, our favorite portrait was of a white Persian cat. It actually used long mohair strings that were pulled through, making a very fluffy cat — and had a very necessary DO NOT TOUCH sign beneath it. So tempting.

Two wooden buildings side by side: an espresso bar and an art gallery. A man orders a coffee with his pit bull.

Stop for coffee at the Frog Pond Cafe and check out folk art at Sunset Art Gallery. These two establishments are located side by side in Chéticamp. Artist William Roach has been carving and painting works of art for decades, and the gallery is now home to works by 15 Cape Breton folk artists. This is a great spot to stop for a coffee and a browse.

Next, paint your own masks at the Mi-Carême Interpretive Centre. When I saw “paint traditional masks” on my itinerary, I wasn’t too excited — but this ended up being one of the highlights of the trip. It was definitely my favorite indoor activity, too!

Mi-Carême is a traditional French celebration that brings joy to a dark time — the name means “middle of Lent” and it’s a leap of fun in the midst of a month of austerity. People dress up in elaborate costumes to conceal their identities — seriously, people wear full masks, gloves, wigs, and stilts to fully disguise themselves — and go around from place to place, having people guess who they are.

Mi-Carême was celebrated as early as the Middle Ages, but sadly it has died out everywhere but a few communities in French Canada. It has similarities to Mardi Gras in Louisiana (where the Acadians migrated from Canada), Mummering in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Carnival all over the world.

Cailin paints a lobster on her mask at the Mi-Careme Centre Kate holds her painted Mi-Careme mask -- pink and purple stripes with a black and white checked design running diagonally across the side, with silvery glitter lips.Paintbrushes on a table at the Mi-Careme Centre.Costumed mannequins in full identify-concealing masks and hats at the Mi-Careme CentreKate wears a pink and black and white mask with a silver Egyptian-style head covering and black and white spotted top. Cailin wears her Nova Scotia seascape painted mask with a spiky light blue wig while wearing a red lobster costume.

This was SO MUCH FUN! Cailin and I chose masks and began painting. She painted a full Nova Scotia seascape with a lighthouse and a lobster. I did a black and white and pink design. The whole time we painted and chatted with resident artist Diane Bourgeois about Cape Breton and how it’s changed over the last several years.

After that we actually put on costumes that matched our masks and took some photos! There is a full museum at the Mi-Carême Centre that shares the history of the event.

“I so want to come back for Mi-Carême!” I exclaimed to the staff. “We should do it next year.”

“Yes! You can stay at my house!” one of the women offered. I OFFICIALLY LOVE CAPE BRETON.

Kate sits in a red chair and has her arms up giving double thumbs ups. In front of her are hills, winding roads, and the ocean at Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Explore Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It depends how much time you have at this point before dinner, but this is a great opportunity to explore the western part of the park and take lots of photos!

Kate holds a live lobster by the claws and smiles nervously. Tents are behind her.

Get ready for the best meal of your trip in the evening — you’re going to Learn to Lobster Boil in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. You enjoy a lobster boil on the beach with Parks Canada guides, including Robert, who is the authority on cooking and eating lobster.

This is a great activity for people who are lobster aficionados like me and especially Cailin, but it’s extra special for people who live inland or have no idea how to eat a whole lobster. We were joined by a family of six from Alberta who had never eaten whole lobster before and were delighted. There’s no better introduction to eating lobster than cooking your own on the beach and being instructed by an expert!

Kate pulls the rubber bands off her lobster's claws and grimaces while her guide pulls them off more expertly.Parks Canada guide Robert holds a bowl of cooked lobsters in one hand and fishes them out of the pot with tongs.A pot full of bright red lobsters, steam rising up.

There were a few differences in the lobster-cooking process here: they only use a few inches of water instead of filling the whole pot with water, and they GENEROUSLY salt the water. It basically has to be like cooking the lobster in the ocean.

And it paid off. This is the best lobster I have ever had. It was so incredibly fresh and succulent. And sharing it with an interesting group of travelers and Parks Canada guides made it even better.

This is usually done on the beach, but it was a rainy night, so they moved our group to an indoor/outdoor shelter. Don’t despair if rain is in the forecast!

Stay at Silver Linings Inn one more night.

Cars driving along a curvy road on tree-covered mountains.

Day Three on the Cabot Trail: Chéticamp to Dingwall

Before you hit the road, know that today will be the most rural part of your Cabot Trail road trip. Phone service will be its weakest along this part of the route, and there won’t be a lot of dining options. It’s best to plan ahead and double-check for opening days — don’t leave anything until the last minute! You may want to make your dinner reservation in advance.

Red, white, and blue Aucoin Bakery with flags waving in the air above it.

In the morning, stop at Aucoin Bakery. Aucoin Bakery is a huge source of local pride for Chéticamp! Everyone raves about it. Silver Linings Inn uses Aucoin Bakery bread for their breakfast. Learn to Lobster Boil uses Aucoin Bakery rolls for their dinners. Nearly every local we met recommended that we stop here.

Pastries in a basket in front of two bakers putting orders together at Aucoin Bakery.

We grabbed some cinnamon buns and oatcakes — both delicious. Cailin was sampling oatcakes, a Nova Scotian delicacy, throughout Cape Breton, and we found that Aucoin Bakery had the largest and softest oatcakes of all.

Aucoin Bakery is small — there is almost no seating. It’s a better spot for picking up pastries and taking back to wherever you’re staying — or even on a picnic in the national park!

Kate wears large sunglasses and takes a selfie in front of hills and oceans at Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Next, drive through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This is a beautiful day of driving, and the Cabot Trail will take you through most of the park. There are lots of viewpoints and hiking trails just off the highway, but it’s nice just for driving through.

A wooden fisherman holds up lobster outside the Rusty Anchor restaurant in front of a sign that reads Fresh Local Mussels and Oysters.

Have lunch at the Rusty Anchor in Pleasant Bay. With its jaunty fisherman waving you in with a lobster, the Rusty Anchor is a quintessential road trip stop! They’re especially known for their mussels and oysters. I sampled both and they were terrific!

White limestone cliffs topped with grass plunging into the ocean in Cape Breton.

Drive around and explore the local area. We checked into our accommodation at the Blue Bayou (see more on that below) and had lots of time to explore. This is a great area for getting off the Cabot Trail and exploring. If you have time, you can drive all the way to hilariously named Meat Cove, near the northern tip of Cape Breton. It’s about a 45-minute drive each way. We stayed close by and checked out White Point, including the Normandy-esque white cliffs above. There is a hiking trail here too.

A lobster placed on a plate head up, looking like he's going to eat YOU.

Have dinner at The Markland. The Markland is one of the more upscale hotels in the area. We were originally supposed to eat at at restaurant that was closed, and this was one of few options in the area. They were booked up and we had to wait about an hour, but it was worth it to have YET ANOTHER DELICIOUS WHOLE LOBSTER and some lovely strawberry rhubarb pie.

Kate poses hanging out the door in a Blue Bayou Geodesic Dome

Where to Stay in Dingwall: Blue Bayou Geodesic Domes

Ever wanted to sleep in a dome? Here’s your chance! The Blue Bayou Resort is a campground near Dingwall on the eastern shore of Cape Breton, right on the ocean. Rather than tents, this campground is filled with geodesic domes (as well as three tipis). Each dome has electricity, hot water, and a private bathroom with a toilet, sink, and shower. Each contains two queen beds or a king bed. Domes from $180 CAD ($135 USD).

Two beds side by side in front of the triangular windows of the Blue Bayou Geodesic DomesTwo beds side by side with a wooden wall blinds them in the Blue Bayou Geodesic DomesKate's feet leaning off a bed in the Blue Bayou Geodesic Domes with the windows behind her feet and trees behind them.Kayaks at Blue Bayou Geodesic Domes

After I posted this, the most popular question I got asked was “Does it get hot?” During the day, it gets quite warm inside and smells a bit of plastic — but opening the screened-in windows makes a big difference. At night, it’s much cooler, and you’ll be ready to bundle underneath the covers. There is plenty of hot water, and you can easily get privacy by pulling down the curtains.

Do note that this is not a luxury glamping experience — it’s cool-looking, but simple. As someone who grew up camping and took her first steps in a tent, I thought it was a fun place to stay for a night; if you require a higher level of luxury, this place is going to be too basic for you. I loved waking up to the sound of raindrops the next day.

Check out more hotels near Dingwall here.

A Scottish-looking gray house in front of purple flowers in Cape Breton.

Day Four on the Cabot Trail: Dingwall to Baddeck

On this day, everything changes. You’ve left the Acadian, French-flavored part of Cape Breton and have entered the Celtic part of the island, complete with tartans and bagpipes and kilts. It feels so different from where you’ve been, but that’s the magic of the Cabot Trail. On this day we dealt with a lot of rain, but still managed to have a great time.

Kate wears a pink coat and smiles while holding a cup of coffee at a table beneath a blackboard detailing the restaurant's specials.

Get breakfast at Danena’s Bakery and Bistro. Danena’s is a small diner that doubles as a thrift shop. You can even eat amidst the piles of stuff for sale! We enjoyed a hearty Canadian breakfast here, perfect on a rainy day.

Several goats and a cow feeding on a bale of hay together in Cape Breton.

Explore the shops, cafes, and sights along the Cabot Trail. Since it was a rainy day, it seemed like a good opportunity to check out some of the local businesses! Luckily, the town of Ingonish was filled with lots of places to see, and we had been given suggestions from our new friends in Cape Breton.

A bathtub filled with soaps made from goat milk in Cape Breton.

Groovy Goat is a goat farm and soap company. Their products are made from goat milk, which makes them a good option for sensitive skin. You can buy all kinds of bath and skincare products here, and they operate a petting zoo when the weather is nicer.

A light-filled room filled with local prints and jewelry in Cape Breton.

Salty Rose’s is a beautiful shop featuring work by Nova Scotia artists. If I had been in a souvenir-buying mood (or house-furnishing mood), I would have bought everything from here. While you see a lot of folk art on the Cabot Trail, the selection here is more refined and modern.

A latte topped with lavender seeds (which are not tasty).

Attached to Salty Rose’s is the Periwinkle Cafe. A great place to relax with a hot beverage. They actually had lavender lattes and lavender London Fogs on the menu! I had a lavender latte, but be forewarned — they serve it with lavender seeds on top. I recommend removing the seeds or asking for no seeds on top — they taste too much like soap to me.

White cottages on top of red-brown cliffs among green vegetation, looking mysterious in the mist.

Stop at Keltic Lodge for lunch. The Keltic Lodge is home to some of the most high-end accommodation in the region and the best golf course in Cape Breton. It’s also one of the best Instagram spots on the Cabot Trail.

The restaurant features classic Canadian and American dishes — nothing too culturally significant, but a nice solid option.

Go whale watching with Ingonish Whale Tours. We were supposed to go whale watching, but it ended up being too rainy. But if you’re eager to see whales, Ingonish is one of the best spots for whale watching in Nova Scotia.

Kate wears a hot pink coat and dances on a platform at Ingonish Beach, surrounded by rocks.

Check out Ingonish Beach. This beach is rocky until you get to the shoreline, where it’s filled with soft sand. It’s great on a beautiful day, but a moody day will get you some ethereal photos! What I really liked was the sound the water made as it ran over the rocks — such a gentle whisper. Time your visit during high tide if you want to hear it.

A modern triangular church-shaped building with a Canadian flag flying in front.

Head to Baddeck and visit the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. While I didn’t get to this museum on our trip, I’ve heard so many good things, including from Cailin — and small, tightly focused museums are my favorites!

A spruce tree-shaped beer tray holding four small glasses of different beers.

Try some beers at Big Spruce Brewing. Breweries are popping up all over Nova Scotia, and Big Spruce is a nice one to visit if you’re in Baddeck. It’s a cozy setting and they have board games. My favorite, not surprisingly, was the fruity strawberry beer…

Explore Baddeck. Or leave your exploring to the next morning, if you’d like. It’s a small but very pretty town.

Kate smiles and holds up two lobster claws while wearing a lobster bib.

Have dinner at Lobster Suppers Baddeck. This fun, friendly, and casual restaurant featured the best deal of our trip. You can choose between whole lobster (obviously), Atlantic salmon, Cape Breton snow crab, or strip loin steak, and you get that, plus unlimited mussels, plus unlimited seafood chowder, plus a dessert, plus a nonalcoholic beverage, plus tea or coffee, for $50 CAD ($38 USD).

Hell yeah, I jumped in. Then I quickly realized that they give you so many mussels that you probably won’t want to order a second serving!

A navy blue house with white trim, porches in front, and two red chairs sitting on the ground in front of the house.

Where to Stay in Baddeck: Inverary Resort

Our final accommodation, the Inverary Resort, was beautiful to look at — all dark wood with white trim and pops of color with Canada’s symbolic red chairs out in the sitting areas. We had a room with two queens for our final night. Rates from $159 CAD ($120 USD).

Two queen beds with plain blankets at the foot.Three red chairs sitting in front of a blue boat a lake on an overcast day in Nova Scotia.

We had a comfortable sleep and a nice hot breakfast the next morning. And the grounds are absolutely beautiful — so peaceful. I wish I had more time to relax in one of those chairs with a book.

One caveat: originally we were given a room on the same floor as the pool and sauna, and the room reeked of mold and had a ground-floor window that didn’t close or lock. The staff moved us to another room, but if you want to stay here, I would request a room not on the floor with the pool and sauna.

Check out more hotels in Baddeck here.

A yellow "Brake for Moose" sign with a moose in the middle of it, o the side road in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Tips for Driving the Cabot Trail

Brake for moose. Keep an eye out for wildlife constantly, and if you see a moose, hit the breaks. Hitting a moose will likely kill you, as they are tall, weigh a ton, and will fall onto your windshield and crush you. It’s much more dangerous than hitting a deer.

I grew up in Massachusetts and camped in New Hampshire every summer, so “Brake for Moose” has been driven into my head since birth. (Even some guys at my theater camp were in a band called Brake for Moose.) This isn’t common knowledge if you’re not from an area with moose, so please take it seriously. Moose tend to congregate around the Skyline Trail.

Keep an eye out for cyclists and motorcyclists. Especially be cautious when going around those hairpin turns in the eastern part of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The Cabot Trail is a very popular spot for motorcyclists especially (and from what I noticed, French-speaking motorcyclists).

Get a Canadian SIM card. Having a phone signal will make your Cape Breton road trip much easier, especially when you’re navigating with Google Maps. I got a SIM card and data plan from Lucky Mobile. Signal is good in the larger towns but often drops out in more rural areas.

Internet is poor in this part of Nova Scotia. Phone signal is weak and often nonexistent, especially in the national park; some places (and hotels) have wifi with very limited reach. Basically, if you’re not within 20 feet of the router, the wifi probably won’t reach you.

If you’re working from the road, I recommend taking time off from work while you’re in Cape Breton. If you must work, I recommend bringing a wifi extender.

Prepare for rain — and don’t let it ruin your trip. You could luck out and have a perfectly sunny Cabot Trail road trip — or you could get a lot of rain. If you’re like us, you could have a mix of sunshine and rain.

But rain isn’t a deal-breaker. Cailin and I used rain as an opportunity to check out cool local businesses in the area — like the Salty Rose in Ingonish. You’ll always find interesting places to explore.

Get travel insurance. Travel insurance is vital for every trip, even in a country that has great healthcare like Canada. If you get injured while hiking, if you get robbed, or even if you have to be flown home, travel insurance will protect you from financial ruin. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Canada.

Kate standing in front of the mountains wearing a "Canada 2019" tank top in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Best Instagram Spots on the Cabot Trail

So much of the Cabot Trail is beautiful — there are hundreds if not thousands of places where you can take beautiful shots. But if you’re looking for the VERY best spots for Instagram photos, here are my recommendations:

1. The Skyline Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. My pick for the absolute best Instagram spot on the Cabot Trail, if not Cape Breton. There are so many interesting shots you can get at the end of the trail, overlooking the mountains. Get the best light by going at sunset.

2. Curvy roads in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Most of the cartoon-like curvy roads are along the 30-minute drive between the entrance at Chéticamp and the Skyline Trail. Don’t pull over unless it’s in a designated parking area where you can pull over safely.

3. Keltic Lodge in Ingonish. The white cottages perched atop the red-brown cliffs are spectacular, whether it’s sunny or rainy. You can get them from another angle (albeit from a distance) at Ingonish Beach.

4. Between the rocks at Ingonish Beach. There is a boardwalk that leads to the beach through high piles of rocks. The symmetry makes for a great Moses-in-the-Red-Sea pose. The rocks make a great texture, too.

5. The moose ears in Englishtown. Just for laughs! They’re right outside The Clucking Hen Cafe and Bakery.

Kate poses in front of a diorama where you can pretend to have giant moose ears.

What to Pack for a Cape Breton Road Trip

If you’re traveling to Nova Scotia during the summer, pack for warm days and cool nights, with extra layers like fleeces and leggings. The weather can change frequently, and almost every day I wore some kind of cardigan, long-sleeved shirt or fleece on top.

Cape Breton is a very casual destination. I needed exactly ZERO nice pieces of clothing. While you might want to bring something nice to wear out in Halifax, you won’t need anything upscale here.

A light hooded rain jacket. A simple windbreaker like this one is easy enough to stash in your backpack and throw on when you need it. Much better than carrying an umbrella.

Hiking gear. I usually hike in workout clothes; if you prefer something more specialized like zip-off pants, pack them. If you hike with poles, bring them. You’ll want the good stuff if you’re doing challenging hikes.

Hiking shoes. If you’re doing the Skyline Trail, which is pretty level, you can get away with sneakers or athletic sandals; if you’re doing anything more intense, you’ll want hiking boots. I wore my Merrill Siren Edge Q2 Waterproof Trail Runners, which are a great hybrid between sneakers and hiking boots.

Consider a Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. These beautiful scarves have a hidden pocket in them, which is great for holding onto valuables or cash without carrying a purse. I love these scarves (I even designed my own!) and they come in a variety of weights that work for Cape Breton.

Bathing suit. It might be a little too cold to swim in Cape Breton — or not! You never know when you’ll need it, and you never know if there will be a jacuzzi somewhere.

A portable safe. This is a great way to lock up your valuables in your accommodation and I consider it the most important thing I pack.

A reusable water bottle. The water is safe to drink throughout Cape Breton and this cuts down on waste.

Insect repellant. Some of the areas get buggy, and you’ll be glad to have the protection.

A stone wall has a red wooden gate open. There is a yellow building in the background underneath a blue sky streaked with white clouds. Louisberg, Nova Scotia.

Where Else to Go in Nova Scotia?

Once you finish your road trip in Cape Breton, where do you go next? There are plenty of options!

Louisburg. Louisburg is home to a historic village in the south of Cape Breton. Historic villages aren’t usually my thing, but I had a great time here (don’t miss the rum tasting!) and it’s definitely worth a stop if you love history.

Peace by Chocolate in Antigonish. If you’re driving back to Halifax, Antigonish is an easy stop right off the highway. You may have heard of Peace by Chocolate — it’s a chocolate shop run by Syrian refugees who were chocolatiers before they were forced to flee their home country. They’ve built a new business in their new home of Canada. Justin Trudeau even brings their chocolate as gifts to other world leaders.

I loved stopping in and getting to chat with the lovely women. The Gold Bar in particular is SO decadently good! I bought a bunch of chocolate, thanked them in Arabic, and they were delighted and insisted on giving me even more chocolate.

Halifax and the surrounding area. Halifax is a fun city and worth a full day in its right. Ride the ferry to Dartmouth, sample ciders at Lake City Cider, and have afternoon tea at Tartan Tea House (you can even borrow a fancy hat to wear!). The waterfront is an EXCELLENT place to hang out with a beer and some poutine. And you must try the infamous “donair” — a Halifax invention, a doner kebab with a sweet white sauce.

I recommend spending a day doing a loop around the Halifax area. In a day you can visit Peggys Cove, one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world and home to a beautiful village; Mahone Bay, a quintessential Nova Scotian village; and Lunenberg, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed town that is a lovely place to explore.

A white lighthouse with a red top on a tiny island filled with pine trees in a calm bay. In the foreground is a sailboat.

The Takeaway

When I was younger, I felt like the only destinations worth visiting were the most “exotic” ones. That’s why I originally went off to Southeast Asia for six months and why I spent years racking up far-flung destinations. Why would I waste my time going somewhere like Canada?

I’m so glad I got over that. The older I get, the more I appreciate the beauty of more familiar places. Canada may not have scorching hot summers or street food meals for a dollar, but Canada is beautiful and entertaining and safe and full of surprises. As for Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail, it reminded me so much of my New England upbringing, then dazzled me with the most spectacular views and lobster.

Nova Scotia is waiting for you. It’s close by. And it’s fantastic.

READ NEXT:
My Favorite Experiences Cruising Eastern Canada

Essential Info: Visits at Eskasoni Cultural Journeys are Monday to Friday only and must be booked in advance. Sometimes special arrangements can be made on weekends. $40 CAD ($30 USD) per adult and $20 CAD ($15 USD) per child under 10.

Admission to the Highland Village is $11 CAD ($8 USD) per adult, $9 CAD ($7 USD) per senior and $5 CAD ($4 USD) per child.

Admission to Cape Breton Highlands National Park is $7.80 CAD ($6 USD) per adult and $6.80 ($5 CAD) per senior per day, and free for kids. You can also get an annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass to all the parks for $67.70 CAD ($51 USD) per adult,  $57.90 CAD ($44 USD) per senior, and $136.40 CAD ($103 USD) per family.

In the park, the guided Skyline Trail sunset hike is $14.70 CAD ($11 USD) per participant. The Learn to Lobster Boil is $58.70 CAD ($44) per person, $22 CAD ($17) for people who don’t want to eat lobster.

Visiting Les Trois Pignons is free of charge!

Entry to the Mi-Carême Interpretive Centre is $5 CAD ($4 USD) per adult and $4 CAD ($3 USD) per senior or student. Painting a mask is $25 CAD ($19 USD) for a preformed mask and $80 CAD ($60 USD) for a papier-mâché mask.

Ingonish Whale Watching has fishing boat tours from $40 CAD ($30 USD) per person and zodiac tours from $45 CAD ($34 USD) per person.

Admission to the Alexander Graham Bell Historic Site is $7.80 CAD ($6 USD) per adult, $6.55 CAD ($5 USD) per senior, and free for youths.

Rates at Silver Linings Inn in Chéticamp start at $149 CAD ($112 USD).

Rates for domes at the Blue Bayou Resort in Dingwall start at $180 CAD ($135 USD)

Rates at Inverary Resort in Baddeck start at $159 CAD ($120 USD).

Travel insurance is vital for every trip, even in a country that has great healthcare like Canada. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Canada.

This campaign is brought to you by Tourism Nova Scotia and Discover Cape Breton, who covered most of the costs during my time in Cape Breton. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Have you been to Nova Scotia? Would you like to do this road trip? Share away!

The post Driving the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia: The Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary appeared first on Adventurous Kate.


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Solo Female Travel in India — Is it Safe?

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Solo female travel to India is much more popular than you might think. In some ways, India is actually a very good destination for solo female travel, despite all the warnings and dire media reports. I’ve spent many years traveling solo in India, and I now live there – in Rishikesh, which is an ideal destination for a solo female traveler interested in Yoga. (It’s called the Yoga capital of the world!)

Having said that, I know that as much as I love India, and the adventure of traveling there, it’s not for everyone. People tend to either love India (me!) or hate it. For those of us who love it, India is the most exciting destination on earth. Every moment is an adventure, a sensory overload, and a crash course in learning to live in the moment.

To be in India, you really need to learn to surrender and go with the flow. Otherwise, it’s an exercise in frustration. I always say that India is in charge, and India always wins. So if you are willing to keep your ego in check, and open yourself up to the full-on experience of being in India, you may discover the magic that keeps us Indophiles hooked.

This guest post is written by Mariellen Ward, owner of India travel site BreatheDreamGo.com and an expert on India travel, particularly traveling in India as a Western woman. An earlier version of this post featured an interview with Mariellen; you can now find that here. All photos in this post are hers unless otherwise specified. See more on Mariellen at the end of the post.

Orange temples nestled into green hills on a turquoise lake in Rishikesh, India.
Reasons to Travel to India

1. Transformation. The main reason to go to India is the one that people – including me – have the hardest time explaining, or putting into words. India is different. There’s nowhere else like it. Some describe it as the soul of the world. It knocks you wide open, and can transform you and your life.

As cliché as that may sound, it’s absolutely true. Many travelers will tell you that India was the best, and worst, place they ever went. They loved it, hated it, miss it like crazy, and can’t wait to go back. India gets under your skin like nowhere else, and I cannot tell you exactly why this is true. I can only tell you that my first six-month trip to India, in 2005, completely changed me and my life.

2. Food. Indian food is a magical phrase to many people. The New York Times even did an investigation on what makes it so damn good. Something about the unexpected and counter-intuitive combination of flavours. And not only is the food in India amazing, it changes completely from region to region. The rich curries and thick breads of the north are absolutely nothing like the spicy dosas and steaming idlis of the south.

3. Color. India is colorful, in every sense of the word. The clothes are colorful, the festivals are colorful, the temples are colorful. Most foreigners experience extreme sensory overload in India, which is part of the reason it’s so exciting to travel there. The culture shock does eventually wear off, but never completely. Color is also the reason the clothes shopping in India is so spectacular!

4. History. India is unique because the culture is unbroken. Though it is a fast-changing and modern society in many ways, it is unchanged culturally and spiritually since ancient times. India never experienced anything like the Cultural Revolution in China, which all but wiped out the past. You can visit an astonishing number of ancient monuments all over the country; you can take part in spiritual rituals that have been performed in the same place and in the same way for thousands of years; you can watch classical dance performances at thousand-year-old temples.

5. People. I’ve spent years travelling solo from one end of India to the other, and probably the number one reason I’ve had such an amazing time is the people. Indians are warm, friendly, and helpful and are often driven by an intrinsic philosophy known as Atithi Devo Bhava. This translates to Guest is God. When hospitality is good in India – whether in a simple homestay or a five-star hotel – it cannot be beat.

6. Festivals. There’s a festival just about every day in India. In fact, the atmosphere in many markets and temples is festival-like all the time. Indians like to celebrate and have fun, they feel joy easily and never hesitate to express it. Some of the bigger festivals of India are well-known and many people travel to India to experience them, especially Holi and Diwali.

7. Yoga and wellness. There are many places in India to go for Yoga and wellness retreats. You can stay in an ashram, take a Yoga teacher training course, or simply do a Yoga vacation on the beach. Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga, designed for the health of the body, and Wellness programs are often in the Ayurvedic tradition. To find out more, check out my guide to Yoga in India.

8. Nature. You might not think of nature when you think of India. So many images are of the bustling cities. However, there are many remote parts of India that are spectacularly beautiful, such as the Himalayas of North India and the jungles of Madhya Pradesh in the centre of the country. Trekking, wildlife and tiger safari, and whitewater rafting are just some of the options.

Blonde woman riding a bicycle against a painted wall with a blue door in Kochi, India.

Is India Safe?

India is a challenging destination for a wide variety of reasons that include the population density, extreme weather, lack of infrastructure, transportation delays, complex bureaucratic procedures, corruption, proliferation of scammers, Delhi belly, and culture shock. It is not, however, a particularly challenging destination due to crime. Crimes against tourists, including female tourists, do happen, but they are relatively rare. Probably rarer than you think, given the onslaught of negative media attention.

The main reasons you need to be on your toes while traveling in India are water, mosquitoes, and con artists. Travelers’ diarrhea, aka Delhi belly, is the single biggest problem travelers to India face. Bad water is the biggest cause of Delhi belly – much more so than food poisoning. Watch out for water in ice cubes and sauces.

The second biggest problem is con artists, touts, and scammers. They are masterful, and unfortunately plentiful, and prey on newbies to India at airports, train stations, popular destinations, travelers’ haunts, and backpacker neighborhoods. I’ve heard some unbelievable stories about these guys (they are almost always guys), telling newly arrived tourists their hotel burned down, their train was cancelled – and the biggest doozy of all – that Delhi was closed down due to pollution. Do NOT believe random strangers in busy tourist places!

The third biggest problem is mosquitoes. You need to be very careful of mosquitoes all across India, largely because of dengue fever, which is not preventable. There is no vaccine, so try not to get bitten. Malaria is less of a risk in India. In the 5+ years I’ve spent in India, I have never taken an anti-malarial pill, and have never had malaria or dengue fever. I liberally use mosquito repellant with DEET, though. (Note from Kate: if you have questions about malaria or dengue, make an appointment at a travel clinic before your trip and speak to a medical professional.)

Those are the biggest problems. But there are others, of course. Women need to be careful with regards to the opposite sex in India, just as they do everywhere else. I’ve had some creepy encounters with men in India, but I’ve never felt threatened or unsafe. I was groped once in crowded Old Delhi, I’ve been followed several times on the street, and stared at countless times.

In India, the men can be more pervasive, persistent, and annoying than other places, but they rarely cross the line. The worst things I’ve heard from other travelers are usually stories about public masturbation. While that is not good – yuck! – it is not life-threatening.

Mostly, you need to be careful at night: ensure that someone reliable is picking you up at the airport or train station, for example. And all women need to realize that India is not the west; the genders relate differently. What might be perceived in the west as an innocent flirtation could be taken for an open invitation in India. Western women have the added disadvantage of being perceived as “easy.”

Do your parents or friends say that India isn’t safe?
Consider the source.

Mariellen Ward in a green and blue dress holding a blue shawl behind her, sitting on a rock in the Ganga river.

Solo Female Travel in India

As I mentioned already, India is not for everyone, so before deciding to travel there, have an honest conversation with yourself. It’s an exciting travel destination, but not an easy one. Think of it this way: if you decided to take up mountaineering, you would not start with Everest. You would start with a smaller mountain and work your way up. India is like Everest.

Even seasoned travelers, people who proclaim, “Nah, I’ve traveled for months in Southeast Asia, I’ll be fine,” get their socks knocked off by India. It is not like Nepal, or Vietnam, or Thailand. There is nowhere else like India. So be prepared for a long learning curve, unless you start with a small group tour or a custom tour.

This is the reason I started India for Beginners tours. To give travelers the hand-holding they need – whether they just need help with some bookings, itinerary development, or a full custom tour with guides.

You also need to do some research to learn about the popular tourist destinations and better neighbourhoods. I recommend sticking to the well-traveled tourist hotspots when first in India. These places can be annoying because tourists also attract con men, touts, and scammers. But they are safer than wandering alone into a remote or sketchy area.

I also recommend reading blogs, books, and guides to learn about the local customs. I wrote a lengthy post on my top tips for women traveling in India to cover many of the basic things you need to know.

(Note from Kate: I always keep a guidebook PDF on my phone — it’s filled with critical information, like locations of medical centers and how to get between cities, and it adds zero weight. I recommend the PDF version of Lonely Planet India.)

Mariellen Ward wearing a white and red top and black hat and posing in front of a scalloped window opening in a temple in Mind, India.

Tips for Women Traveling Alone in India

Dress modestly. Bollywood movies can be very racy, and there are many modern and westernized areas of the country where young Indian women wear short dresses, jeans, and sleeveless tops. But as a foreigner who stands out, and who isn’t likely to know exactly what’s acceptable and what isn’t, it’s wise to err on the side of modest. This is especially true when you’re travelling in remote or traditional areas of the country, including Rajasthan, even though it’s a popular tourist destination. Here’s more detailed information on what to wear for travel in India.

(Note from Kate: Consider getting a Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. These beautiful scarves 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 and they work in India as well as they work in Paris.)

Get a local SIM card. The first thing you should do when you land in India is get a SIM card at the airport. Having a local number will not only be extremely convenient, it can help keep you safe. Everything is done by WhatsApp or text message in India – everyone has a mobile phone and they use them for everything.

Use taxi apps. Download some taxi apps like Uber and Ola for use in the big cities. Traveling by GPS taxi is very safe in India, and also very inexpensive. You can use your local SIM and taxi app to arrange pickup at airports and train stations, for example – places that are notorious for scammers, touts, and drivers who overcharge foreigners.

(Note from Kate: I recommend locking up your valuables in a portable safe in your hotel room. I do this with my Pacsafe Travelsafe and I consider it the most important thing I pack.)

Pack light. India presents lots of travel challenges like transportation delays and infrastructure fails. If you pack light, it’s much easier to deal with the unexpected. You can just pick up your bag and “adjust a little,” as they say in India.

Don’t slum it. In some countries, it’s fun to travel as cheaply as possible, stay in cheap hotels, take local buses, etc. This can be true for India, too, but as a solo female traveler, or someone new to India, I don’t advise it. Spend a bit more for 2AC class on the train (though 3AC is often fine as well), a decent guest house in an upscale part of town, and a taxi rather than a bus. There are also some good “luxury hostels” in India, too, especially in the major tourist centers like Delhi and Jaipur.

READ MORE:
Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

A mural in Delhi featuring a woman in a red dress holding a long cigarette holder.

Best Destinations for Solo Female Travelers in India

The best destinations for female solo travelers in India are those that are already popular, and where you’re lucky to meet other like-minded travelers. You can get an overview of India (and more resources) in my India Travel Guide.

Delhi

Delhi is the capital of the country, a huge, sprawling city with an illustrious past. Most people arrive and leave from Delhi, and there’s a huge expat community (largely due to all the embassies), so there’s lots of available for visitors in terms of hotels, hostels, hip neighbourhoods, tourist attractions, great shopping and much more. Delhi is the cultural and culinary capital of India, so you can spend weeks here exploring and never run out of things to do, see, and eat.

My top tip for Delhi is to stay in leafy South Delhi, the most prosperous area of the city. Avoid the touristy areas of Paharganj, Karol Bagh and Connaught Place: though you can find cheap accommodation in these places, they’re crawling with scammers and con artists. I lived in Delhi for several years. You can read more about the city in my guide to Delhi.

Where to Stay in Delhi

Luxury: ITC Maurya or The Imperial
Mid-range: Shanti Home
Budget: Prakash Kutir

Hotels in Delhi and Mumbai (especially Mumbai) are pricier than just about anywhere else in the country. You can get a cheap hotel in a place like Paharganj OR Karol Bagh, but I don’t recommend these areas for solo female travelers (though it can be fun to go and visit, and the market in Karol Bagh is the biggest in Delhi).

If you want a luxury hotel: ITC Maurya is one of the top hotels in Delhi – it’s where heads of state stay, including the President of the United States. It also features a couple of the top restaurants in the country. This hotel was a pioneer in providing female travelers with a floor to themselves. I’ve stayed here several times, and always enjoy it.

Additionally, The Imperial is my favorite hotel in Delhi due to its historical significance, location, incredible art collection, and because just walking in the lobby makes me feel like a movie star. The Imperial has lovely rooms, and a floor just for women travelers with extra security and amenities that include a silk bathrobe and a box of very high-end toiletries.

If you want a mid-range hotel: Shanti Home is a reasonably priced boutique hotel in South Delhi, a residential neighbourhood, that gets a lot of positive reviews. It features a rooftop restaurant, lounges on each floor, and sophisticated Indian decor. Shanti Home is on the TripAdvisor list of safe hotels in Delhi.

If you’re on a budget: Prakash Kutir is a B&B is the trendy Hauz Khas neighborhood of South Delhi. It has a home-like feel, pleasant rooms, a great location in South Delhi, and will give you an authentic experience of staying in an Indian home. This is my home-away-from-home in Delhi now, I feel like a member of the family.

Check out more hotels in Delhi here.

The golden city of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India, rests on the blue river at dusk.
Rajasthan

Close to Delhi, the desert state of Rajasthan is one of the most tourist-friendly areas of India. It’s also very beautiful, historical, and fascinating. In spite of my many years of travelling all over India, I still love Rajasthan, and I don’t think its popularity with tourists has diminished its charms.

You can follow the well-traveled route: Jaipur, Ranthambhore, Pushkar, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Jaisalmer. Or you can get off the beaten path and go to Shekhawati, Bundi, Bikaner, Mount Abu, Bharatpur…and all the small villages, fort hotels, and desert camps in between. All of it is worth experiencing.

Where to Stay in Rajasthan

Luxury: Oberoi Udaivilas Hotel in Udaipur, Taj Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, Suryagarh near Jaisalmer
Mid-range: Shahpura House in Jaipur
Budget: Inn Seventh Heaven in Pushkar

If you want a luxury hotel: You can really splash out in Rajasthan’s incredible palace hotels, but it will cost you. The Oberoi Udaivilas Hotel in Udaipur was voted the best hotel in the world by Travel+Leisure, for example. The Taj Lake Palace Hotel, also in Udaipur, is apparently one of the most photographed in the world. And the most incredible place I’ve ever stayed is Suryagarh near Jaisalmer. Here are a couple of options than are a bit more affordable.

If you want a mid-range hotel: Shahpura House, a great choice in Jaipur, has the traditional Rajashtani architecture and décor that you want and it’s affordable safe, and located in Bani Park, an upscale and residential area. Lots of women’s groups stay here.

If you’re on a budget: Inn Seventh Heaven, a haveli-style hotel, is a personal favourite. The rooms are full of authentic Rajashtani character, there are tinkling founatins in the open-air courtyard, and the rooftop lounge and restaurant is a great place to chill. The haveli has a thick, wooden door with spikes: no one gets in here without the staff knowing. I felt very safe!

Check out more hotels in Rajasthan here.

Mariellen Ward wears a white Indian top and pink trousers and poses on the banks of the Ganga river in Rishikesh, mountains behind her.

Rishikesh

If you’re into Yoga, you can’t miss Rishikesh. It’s a great destination for solo female travelers. Rishikesh is a sacred city, located where the holy Ganges River leaves the mountains to begin its journey along the plains. It’s in a very picturesque location as the river runs through a valley, with the foothills of the lower Himalayas rising on either side. The small town is chock-a-block with temples, ashrams, and Yoga schools – as well as guesthouses, cafes, organic food stores, and the ubiquitous hippie market full of elephant-print harem pants, embroidered pillow covers, and jute bags.

Lots of solo female travelers head to Rishikesh to take Yoga courses and soak up the vibe in this chilled-out town. It’s also easy to get to. Just about a five- or six-hour drive north from Delhi, you can also get there easily by train to Haridwar (and then taxi) or by flight to Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport, just 18 kilometers (11 miles) away.

Do note that as Rishikesh is a sacred town, meat, eggs, and alcohol are illegal, though the smell of marijuana (ganja) wafts through the streets. Marijuana is illegal in India so I would highly recommend that you don’t get involved with it, or the people who use it.

Where to Stay in Rishikesh

Mid-range: Divine Resort or Yog Niketan by Sanskriti
Budget: Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram

The place to stay in Rishikesh is a Yoga ashram, and there are many to choose from. But for those who want a hotel stay, there are lots of guest houses and a few higher-end places, too, such as Divine Resort or Yog Niketan by Sanskriti – both with great views of the Ganga River. But my advice is to try an ashram stay.

Anand Prakash Yoga Ashram is right in the heart of Tapovan, the trendy part of Rishikesh, and it’s run by a husband-and-wife team: He’s a highly revered Indian yogi and she’s Canadian, so here you get the best of both worlds: authentic Yoga and a well-maintained ashram. I call this place the Canadian Embassy – literally all of the students are from western countries with a high proportion from Canada.

Check out more hotels in Rishikesh here.

A line of brightly painted beach shacks beneath palm trees on the sand in Goa, India.

Beach shacks in Goa — via Pixabay

Goa

Goa needs no introduction! Most people are aware of this tiny, tropical state – famous for full moon beach parties, night markets, and hippies. It’s a very touristy area, and most westerners feel right at home.

North Goa is where the action is. If you want to party, this is the place. Be aware however, that it’s not what it used to be. The government has brought in some strict laws against partying on the beach. It’s also probably one of the least safe places in India for foreigners because of the drug scene. There have been several murders over the last few years.

I much prefer South Goa, which is quieter, more remote, much more naturally beautiful, and probably safer. South Goa attracts a slightly older, less party-hardy crowd.

Where to Stay in Goa

There are so many places to stay in Goa, it’s hard to know where to start! You can find everything from the simplest beach shacks at a few dollars a night to luxury five-star resorts. There’s also Yoga retreats, heritage mansions, homestays and Airbnb. Most people pick the area and/or beach first, and then find their accommodation. I found my favorite place (no, I am NOT telling), by walking on a beach in South Goa.

Ashiyana Yoga Retreat is located in one of the parts of North Goa that is still quite peaceful, on Mandrem Beach. It’s a lush property, back from the beach behind a beautiful lagoon that has a wide range of accommodation from simple huts to gorgeous themed rooms (I stayed in a fairy-tale-like room named after Jaisalmer) at various price points. They also provide lots of Yoga and wellness options.

Check out more hotels in Goa here.

A cafe in Mumbai filled with pictures from India and Britain.

Mumbai

Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is perhaps the most westernized city in India, and many consider it to be the safest. It’s definitely the most fun, with lots of cool neighborhoods, hip cafes, creative co-working spaces, and the best nightlife in the country. It’s also a densely packed and expensive city, and affordable accommodation options are hard to find. I prefer to stay in Bandra, a trendy suburb. Here, Airbnb is definitely your best bet.

Where to Stay in Mumbai

Luxury: Taj Mahal Mumbai Palace Hotel
Mid-range: Abode Boutique Hotel

If you want a luxury hotel: splash out on the iconic Taj Mahal Mumbai Palace Hotel near the Gateway of India in Colaba.

If you’re looking for a mid-range hotel: Abode Boutique Hotel is one of the hippest hotels in Mumbai. The location near the Gateway of India in Colaba can’t be beat (it’s behind the Taj Mahal Mumbai Palace Hotel). If you can’t afford their private rooms, there is an option to choose a room with a shared bathroom.

Check out more hotels in Goa here.

Cliffs and beach leading into the ocean in Varkala, Kerala, India, palm trees rising from the hills.
Kerala

Kerala is a tropical state in the very south of India known for having beautiful beaches, a rich and unique culture, and a gentler, more laid-back vibe than many other parts of India. I often advise people to start their India travels in Kerala because it provides a soft landing. Also, there’s so much to see and do, aside from the obvious attraction of great beaches and some fun beach towns like Varkala (my favorite) and Kovalam.

Cochin, also known as Kochi, is a fascinating historical trading port that is well worth a visit – it has a small but lively café and arts scene – and it’s also quite near the backwaters, one of the most famous regions of the state. I recommend a day cruise on the backwaters, but would avoid an overnight journey.

You can also venture up in the hills, the Western Ghats to see tea gardens and spice plantations, plus there are a couple of national parks and biosphere reserves. I believe virtually all of Kerala seems like a good option for a woman traveling alone in India. Here’s an overview of some of the best places in Kerala to visit.

Where to Stay in Kerala

Luxury: Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom
Mid-range: Malabar House in Cochin/Kochi
Budget: Kaiya House in Varkala

If you want a luxury hotel: Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom, a luxury property in the backwaters, is one of the most elegant, unique, and special places I have ever stayed. It is also considered one of the world’s leading responsible/sustainable hotels.

If you want a mid-range hotel: Malabar House in Cochin/Kochi is a very special place, owned by a French woman with a discerning eye. It’s romantic, unique, and well-located in the heart of the historic part of town. The food is sensational, too.

If you’re on a budget: In Varkala, I prefer to stay away from the “scene” on the North Clifftop – it’s fun but very busy. I like Kaiya House even though it’s on the main road and about a 15-minute walk to the beach. A small, intimate, and beautifully designed guesthouse, it’s a good place for a solo female traveler because it’s run by Deborah, an American woman, who is incredibly helpful.

Check out more hotels in Kerala here.

A tiger safari in Madya Pradesh, India, with a safari vehicle driving through trees on golden grass.

Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh is a big state in the center of India and it doesn’t get a lot of tourists. The main reasons to visit MP are Khajuraho – a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the tiger reserves. MP has the best tiger reserves in the country. But if you can only go to one, and stay in only one of the many fabulous jungle lodges it has to be Kanha National Park, one of my favorite places on this planet.

The premier lodge of Pugdundee Safaris – my favorite tiger safari company in India – Kanha Earth Lodge is architecturally stunning, constructed of natural materials like wood and stone, and blends beautifully into the environment. It’s in a rural location, far from the busy area that surrounds the park gate, and has won many awards for sustainable and responsible practices. But the best reason to stay here is to go into the park on safari with their excellent naturalists.

Check out more hotels in Madhya Pradesh here.

The golden buildings of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, perched on the blue lake at dusk.

Travel Insurance for India

Travel insurance is vital for trips to India — or any other country. If you get Delhi belly so bad that you need to go to the hospital, or trip and break your ankle while climbing down a temple, travel insurance will help you in your time of need and protect you from financial ruin. If you need to be flown home, it could save you well over $100,000.

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

Mariellen Ward in a navy top and bright green skirt in a temple opening in Lucknow, India.

My #1 India Travel Tip

India may not be for everyone, but if it’s calling you don’t hesitate. Go with an open mind and heart…but make sure you do your research ahead of time!

Mariellen Ward wearing a white top and tan trousers, posing in a temple in Khajuraho, India.

About the Author

Mariellen Ward is a Canadian travel journalist who publishes the award-winning travel site Breathedreamgo.com, based on her extensive travels in India. She has a BA in Journalism, has been published in leading media outlets around the world, and lives up in the clouds in Rishikesh, India. Through her company India for Beginners, she offers itinerary planning, travel services, and custom tours.

READ NEXT:
Mariellen Ward on Women Traveling Alone in India

Have you been to India? What tips do you have? Share away!

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


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Solo Female Travel in Croatia — Is it Safe?

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Of all the best countries for a woman to travel solo, Croatia is one of my absolute favorites. After traveling to more than 80 countries, Croatia is forever in my list of top five favorites, often battling for the #1 slot with Italy.

I love traveling in Croatia. It’s one of the world’s most beautiful countries, it’s filled with so many interesting places to explore, the food and wine are excellent, and it’s one of my favorite places for photography.

But many women feel like Croatia is a “harder” destination, best reserved for a later trip. Why? Well, the local language is incomprehensible. It’s more “exotic” than most traditional Mediterranean destinations. It’s Eastern Europe (though really, don’t say that, it’s Central Europe). There were bombs falling on Dubrovnik as recently as the 90s. Don’t those qualities make Croatia a tough destination? Wouldn’t it be easier to travel solo in Spain, perhaps, or Greece?

Not at all. In fact, I’d argue that Croatia is a much easier destination to travel than Spain or Greece, and arguably easier than most of the countries in Europe.

Kate poses in front of a sunset in Zadar, Croatia.

Why Travel Solo to Croatia?

Solo travel in Croatia lets you go at your own pace. Spend an entire afternoon in the Museum of Broken Relationships if you want. Breeze through Dubrovnik in half a day if you want. Eat the black truffle pizza at Jupiter Pizzeria in Pula there nights in a row if you want. This is your trip and when you travel solo, you can do whatever you want.

Croatia is a very easy country to travel. English is widely spoken, there is very good travel infrastructure, and you’ll find hotels, restaurants, and tours for every price range. The roads are easy to drive, there is public transportation everywhere, and you’ll find plenty of information online, too.

Croatia is filled with so much beauty. The natural beauty, from the mountains and waterfalls to the cliffs of the coast, has inspired artists for centuries. But there’s so much beauty built by humans, too, from the old towns of Rovinj and Dubrovnik to the sprawling cathedrals and hill towns that seem perched far above the planet.

In most places in Croatia, you get excellent value for money, which is especially important when you’re paying for everything on your own. While historically Croatia has been an affordable alternative to places like Italy and France, prices are steadily creeping up, especially in Dubrovnik, Rovinj, and other popular resort destinations. You’ll get the most value in small beach or inland towns, which will be cheaper than small beach or inland towns in much of Western Europe.

Croatia is the kind of destination that will make your friends jealous. You are going to get the most killer Instagram photos of all time.

Kate wears a navy blue dress and sunglasses and poses in front of the old port of Dubrovnik, several boats in the water and the old city behind her.

Is Croatia Good for First-Time Solo Female Travelers?

Yes, Croatia is a great choice for first-time solo female travelers. Usually, I recommend that first-time solo travelers do their first trip in a place where English is the local language, but Croatia works just as well because everyone speaks it! (Unlike France or Spain, Croatians realize that the average foreign tourist will not speak Croatian and adjust accordingly.)

You will find occasional people who don’t speak English — taxi drivers, bus station employees, shop owners — but 95% of the time it’s easy to get your point across. If you stick to the tourist trail, you be able to get along just fine.

Croatia also has very good travel infrastructure. There are hotels at a variety of price levels all over the country. There are bus and ferry connections all over the place (the train is limited in Croatia but good for a few routes). If you choose to drive, the roads are in excellent condition. There are restaurants and tours all over Croatia that cater to tourists from a variety of countries.

Taking a group tour can be a great way to get to know Croatia. I recommend taking group tours by land, and I recommend small ship cruises, like sailing cruises or small ocean cruises.

I do not recommend taking a large ship cruise in Croatia. These are major contributors to overtourism, they’re terrible for the environment, and they ensure that you will only visit destinations when they are at their most packed. Large ship cruises in the Adriatic tend to visit small ports that are not built for thousands of tourists at once, like Venice and Kotor. If you’re set on cruising, consider a small ship or sailing trip instead.

G Adventures offers more than a dozen tours to Croatia. I have traveled with G before and recommend them, as they employ local guides, focus on sustainability, and keep their tour sizes small. Here are some of their Croatia tours:

Sailing Croatia: Split to Dubrovnik (8 days, Split to Dubrovnik)
Croatia Adventure: Zagreb to Dubrovnik (7 days, Zagreb to Dubrovnik)
Dalmatian Coast and Montenegro Sailing (15 days, Split to Dubrovnik)
Sailing Croatia to Italy (10 days, Zadar to Venice)

Is Croatia Good for Experienced Solo Female Travelers?

Absolutely, Croatia is wonderful for more experienced solo travelers! Croatia is just as interesting and beautiful even if you’ve traveled extensively. Even after all my years of traveling the world solo, Croatia remains one of my favorites.

There is one caveat — you will probably hate being in the thick of tourist crowds, and the crowds are their worst at Dubrovnik during the day in high season. It’s one of the most touristy places on the planet. But that’s just one place and keep reading this post for how to avoid the worst of the crowds.

If you’re an experienced solo traveler, you may enjoy getting off the beaten path more than others. You might prefer beaches and islands that draw a more Balkan crowd, like Pag or Makarska. I would definitely recommend renting a car. And if you want to get really off the beaten path, head to Slavonia, the northeast region of Croatia that gets a tiny fraction of tourists compared to the rest of the country!

Where to Go in Croatia

There are so many different options! Most travelers will start their trips in one of the four major air hubs: Dubrovnik, Split, Pula, or Zagreb. From there you can explore in different directions.

Dubrovnik is the most visited place in Croatia, and for good reason. It’s a stunning city along the ocean with an old town so beautiful and perfect that it was the setting for King’s Landing on Game of Thrones. With its popularity comes the tourist crowds, but Dubrovnik is best in the late afternoon and evening.

Zagreb is a cute and underrated capital city. It has a beautiful old town, lots of interesting restaurants, and a cafe scene that rivals the rest of the Balkans. If you’re visiting during December, Zagreb is known for its Christmas markets.

Split is another popular city to visit. Much of the pretty old town is the remains of Diocletian’s Palace, giving you a chance to say you’ve slept in a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Split is a major transportation hub but busy and beachless — it’s better for a daylong visit than a longer stay.

Zadar is my personal favorite place in Croatia. I adore this small city! It’s low-key, covered in pastels, not very touristy, and home to Roman ruins and two quirky attractions: the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation. Hitchcock once said it was home to the best sunset in the world; see if you agree!

READ MORE:
A Place Like Zadar

The Plitvice Lakes and Krka National Park are home to the most beautiful natural scenery in Croatia. The Plitvice Lakes are filled with waterfalls in every direction and have a well-earned UNESCO World Heritage designation. Krka National Park actually lets you swim in their lakes and has fewer but larger waterfalls.

Rovinj is another of my favorite places. This pastel-perfect town on the western coast of Istria looks like part of Italy (in fact, it was once part of Venice). The old town is filled with swirling streets that build to a hill. Come here to sip a coffee while bathed in sunshine.

The Istria region is a unique Italian-flavored part of Croatia. This heart-shaped peninsula is home to hill towns, wineries, and olive groves. Some people refer to Istria as “Italy on a budget” — and you can’t argue with $10 truffle pasta dishes. A great place to explore by car.

Croatia’s islands are justifiably popular places. Each island has its own personality and character, and here are some of the more popular islands:

Hvar is known as a stop for the moneyed and party-loving set, but also has some quiet areas for getting away from it all.
Brač is home to Croatia’s major sandy beach, Zlatni Rat, and gleaming white stone villages like Pučišća.
Korčula claims to be the home of Marco Polo and has a tiny but lovely old town, including a bar built atop the crumbling pillar of the city walls.
Vis is a tiny but welcoming island that is often not on travelers’ itineraries. It’s home to its own blue grotto.
Mljet is within striking distance from Dubrovnik and it’s home to a national park filled with bright turquoise saltwater lakes.

Slavonia is Croatia way off the beaten path. This northeast section of Croatia, south of Hungary, is culturally different from the rest of the country. You’ll find wildlife and vegetation in Kopacki Rit, Europe’s largest wetland area, and you’ll see very few tourists.

This is just a taste of Croatia — there are plenty more destinations. I loved the low-key city of Šibenik, and loved listening to the musicians in Groznjan, and hung out on the beach in Makarska, and even dropped by Hum, “the smallest town in the world.” Go find your special place.

Is Croatia Safe?

Croatia is a very safe country — no less safe than your hometown or the vast majority of Europe. The major things you need to be cautious about are petty theft and pickpocketing, especially in tourist-filled areas like the city centers of Split and Dubrovnik.

For many people, Croatia will evoke images of turmoil as Yugoslavia dissolved, or of bombs falling on Dubrovnik in the early 1990s. Those days were terrible for Croatians — but they’ve been over for a LONG time.

I find that 90s conflicts cast a long shadow, particularly to people from the United States. If you mention that you’re traveling to South Africa, or Cambodia, or Kosovo, Americans will often ask if you’ll be dealing with the fallout from the end of Apartheid, or Pol Pot’s regime, or ethnic cleansing by the Serbs. Those conflicts are so far in the past, yet they stay on people’s mind. Croatia often evokes the same reaction. But travel to Croatia today and you would have no idea anything ever happened in the first place.

Today, most of staying safe in Croatia is down to common sense. Keep your valuables on you while in transit. Lock up your valuables in your accommodation. Be cautious of your drinking. Don’t trust people too quickly. Give your itinerary to someone at home and check in with them.

READ MORE:
Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

Pucisca, Croatia. A white stone beach leads into clear turquoise water; in the background are white buildings with orange roofs in front of green hills.

Travel and Safety Tips for Croatia

Time your visit to Croatia carefully. High season along the coast is from June through the end of August, and this is when prices are at their highest and the places are most crowded — however, for many people, this is the only time they have free to travel. If you’re able to, I recommend traveling to Croatia in September. The weather in September is wonderful and the water is at its warmest, but the kids are back in school and it’s significantly less crowded. June is a solid choice, too, especially early June.

May and October are good shoulder seasons — the weather will not be super hot, but it will be warm, especially the further south you go. July and August are peak season and I recommend avoiding Croatia’s coast then if you can. Some travelers like to visit in the off-season, especially Zagreb for its Christmas markets in December, but keep in mind that much of the coast will be closed for the season then.

Croatia can be tough to fly to from the US. Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest options. If you’re having trouble finding a logical route, consider pricing out a return flight to a hub like London, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt, then finding separate return flights to and from Croatia. Keep in mind that you’ll need to pick up your luggage when you arrive and check in again, so give yourself a good layover in both directions.

Many flight routes to Croatia only operate during the summer. Particularly flights to Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, and Pula. Keep this in mind when planning your trip.

Croatia is part of the EU, but not part of the Schengen Area. If you’re starting to run out of time in the Schengen Area (they permit you 90 days within six months) Croatia is a great place to spend time. There are no open borders between Croatia and any other country, including the little bit of Bosnia that bisects the coast.

Consider getting a SIM card in Croatia. Having the internet on your phone is great for finding your way around and hailing Ubers when you need them. Getting a local SIM card is usually much cheaper than putting your home phone on an international plan. T-Hrvatski Telekom is one phone company with good packages for travelers in Croatia.

Dive into Croatian cuisine. Keep in mind that much of Croatian cuisine is regional and you can’t find everything in every part of the country. Some of my favorites: Pag cheese from the island of Pag, which is the perfect starter to any meal; all the cheap truffle dishes in Istria; and kremšnita, or cream cake, in the Zagreb area. The seafood on the coast is plentiful and glorious. And if you’re a picky eater, don’t worry — you can find pizza everywhere.

Know that most of Croatia’s beaches are rocky, not sandy. This doesn’t make them any less beautiful, but it does make them less comfortable. Most beaches in Croatia have options for renting chairs. Most Croatian beaches are pebbly; some, like in Rt. Kamenjak in Istria, are more like giant slabs of rock. One of the most famous sandy beaches is Zlatni Rat, or Golden Horn, on the island of Brač.

Stay out of the Old City of Dubrovnik during the day. Why? Because it gets incredibly crowded, everyone else will be there, especially if there are a few cruise ships in town at once. You can follow the cruise ship schedule here. My advice is to spend the day on the beach, or kayaking, or exploring outside of town, then go into the Old City right before sunset and into the night.

Use Split to break up your trip. While Split is a major flight hub, I don’t recommend spending your whole trip there. It’s a nice old city but there is no beach and it’s very touristy, particularly with young tourists looking to get drunk for cheap. Instead, I recommend using Split as a stopover point. The first time I went to Split, I dropped off the car I had rented from Pula, spent a night there, and hopped on a boat to explore the islands.

You can day trip to Montenegro or Bosnia, but the immigration lines are LONG during high season. If you’re visiting during the summer, I recommend visiting Kotor in Montenegro or Mostar in Bosnia as part of a multi-day getaway, or you’ll spend too much of a single day waiting in line at immigration.

It’s okay to sunbathe topless in Croatia. This isn’t a taboo like in other countries. Croatia also has a number of nude beaches if you’re interested in trying that out.

Dress to blend in with Croatian women. In Croatia as well as Europe as a whole, women rarely wear shorts or athletic sneakers. Instead of shorts, they tend to wear skirts, dresses, or pants. Women tend to dress neatly and be well put-together. In the summertime, it helps to pack light fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily.

It’s polite to cover up (shoulders to knees) if you’re visiting a church. Only wear swimwear at the beach. Clothing rules are relaxed in and around beach areas.

For shoes for Croatia, The Walking Company is my go-to for comfortable shoes that are cute. I strongly recommend black ABEO flats, which have fantastic arch support. I own and love these tasteful, comfortable black sandals. If you want to wear sneakers, go for something more fashionable than athletic. I own these white sneakers from Cole Haan and they are perfect for Croatia.

Consider bringing a Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. These beautiful scarves have a hidden passport pocket in them, which is great for when you’re on public transit (or traveling to Montenegro or Bosnia for the day). I love these scarves (I even designed my own!) and they are so good at keeping your valuables hidden. They’re also extremely chic and they come in different fabrics for all kinds of climates.

Pickpocketing in Croatia doesn’t happen as often as it does in Paris or Barcelona. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times and especially be cautious on public transportation and in the city centers of Dubrovnik and Split.

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

If you carry a wallet without a purse, don’t keep it in your back pocket. This is obvious to thieves and they will grab it and run.If you use a small backpack, lock it. I use a Pacsafe backpack where you can lock the compartments shut.

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

Never leave your bags anywhere unattended. Even if you’re used to asking someone to watch your things while you use the bathroom in a coffeeshop at home, be cautious about doing that in Croatia. 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 throughout Croatia, and carrying lots of cash leaves you vulnerable to theft. You don’t want to be the traveler who loses her wallet and the $500 in it.

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

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

Be cautious of the heat in Croatia. It’s easy to discount just how hot it gets in Croatia, especially if you’re feeling cool in the wind on a sailboat. Use sunscreen, hydrate continuously, stay in the shade when you can, and be careful not to drink too much.

It’s safe to drink tap water in Croatia. I recommend you bring a reusable bottle and filling up as you go instead of constantly buying plastic bottles.

Bring motion sickness medication. You might need it for the boat rides or for driving through winding roads in the mountains. Be sure to take it before you start feeling super sick, ideally before a boat ride if you get seasick. I recommend meclizine (the generic version of non-drowsy Dramamine).

Be careful about your drinking. Drink less than you ordinarily would at home — two drinks is a good limit. Only take drinks from bartenders, never take a drink from a stranger, and always keep it with you and keep an eye on it. Be especially cautious in tourist-driven party zones like Hvar town.

Spend extra money on staying safe. If it costs you money to take an Uber rather than walk, or to stay in a guesthouse in a nicer neighborhood, do it. The peace of mind is always worth the extra money spent.

Get a digital guidebook and keep it on your phone. Even today, I always keep a guidebook PDF on my phone, saved to the iBooks app — it’s great for calculating approximate time of journeys, knowing what days places are closed, and it lists medical centers you should go to in case of emergency. I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks — get the digital version of Lonely Planet Croatia.

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 Croatia. If anyone is making you feel uncomfortable, just leave. Trust me — you won’t be the rudest person they meet that day, and this isn’t unheard-of behavior in Croatia.

Sandy cliffs in Croatia leading into blue water, with a bridge in the distance.

How to Get Around Croatia Solo

My top recommendation for traveling around Croatia is renting a car. Seriously. Croatia is ideally explored by car — the roads are in excellent condition, the drivers aren’t too aggressive, and there are so many places to explore. One of the charms of exploring Croatia is enjoying tiny little villages, and with a car you can visit four or five in a single day.

Be sure to double-check that you’re renting a car with an automatic transmission. Automatics are not as common in Croatia as in the United States, and they cost significantly more. If you can drive a stick (and enjoy it), feel free to rent a manual vehicle!

One thing to keep in mind when driving to Dubrovnik is that a tiny bit of the coast, home to the town of Neum, is actually part of Bosnia. You’ll need to go through immigration along that highway — there’s no way around it. It’s brief and you won’t need to get out of your car, but you should have your passport ready.

The best ways to travel Croatia by public transportation are by bus and ferry. Buses will take you to the most of the major destinations in the country, and they will usually take you direct. Sometimes they have convenient stops along the route: for example, the bus from Zagreb to Zadar has a stop just along the Plitvice Lakes. Check out bus schedules here.

Ferries are the only way to get to the islands by public transit. You can also take them for a more scenic route along the mainland, but this will be slower and less direct than traveling by bus. Check out Jadrolinija for information on ferries in Croatia.

Trains don’t go to lots of destinations in Croatia. Most notably, TRAINS DO NOT GO TO DUBROVNIK. At all. While you can find trains along certain journeys — like from Zagreb to Pula or Zagreb to Split — often the buses are faster, easier, and run more often. If I were traveling in Croatia by public transportation, I probably wouldn’t take trains at all. Seat61 is a good resource for trains in Croatia.

Uber exists in several Croatian regions, including Zagreb and much of the Croatian coast. This is especially a good option for getting around a city with heavy luggage or getting back late at night.

Kate and several friends surround a wooden picnic table in a vineyard, glasses of red wine in their hands.

How to Meet People in Croatia

You can easily meet people in Croatia! Croatians aren’t known for being the warmest or friendliest people in Europe, but you will meet lovely people through your stay, either organically or through meet-ups.

Visit Croatia on a group tour. I went on a sailing cruise with Busabout back when I was 27 and it was one of the most fun trips I have ever taken! If you’re still at the backpack-and-party stage of life, it’s a great way to explore Croatia. These days, you can find sailing cruises with companies like G Adventures.

Join tours and activities. Day tours are a great way to meet new people! Whether you’re doing — yelling, “Shame!” on the Game of Thrones tour in Dubrovnik, or enjoying snacks on a food tour in Zagreb, or a catamaran cruise from Split to Brač with unlimited drinks, you’ll meet people excited to explore the local region.

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

Consider staying at a social hostel. There are tons of great hostels all over Croatia, from Fresh Sheets in the heart of Dubrovnik’s Old City to Boutique Forum Hostel in Zadar, which looks more like a hotel. Many of these hostels offer private rooms, if dorms aren’t your thing, and quite a few of them offer tours and other activities. If there is a bar in the hostel, it will be a very social place.

Join 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. Check out what’s on offer in Croatia.

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

Tinder. If you’re looking to date or hook up, have fun! If you’ve always wanted to date a guy or girl with dark hair and intense eyes, this is your chance. You might even find your own Dr. Luka Kovač from ER!

Kate’s Picks: 10 Things You Must Do in Croatia

Go swimming in the waterfall-fed lake in Krka National Park. The Plitvice Lakes may be more famous — and more waterfall-y — but you can’t swim in them. Krka is where you can pose for Instagram shots in front of the waterfall, then take that luscious dip you’ve been craving. Get a ticket here.

Go wine-tasting. Croatia is home to several wine regions, and you’ll find vineyards to explore in Istria, on the Dalmatian coast, and even in the towns surrounding Zagreb. You can do a wine tasting day trip from Dubrovnik or from Zagreb, or head to D’Vino Wine Bar in Dubrovnik to taste a selection without leaving town.

Listen to the Sea Organ in Zadar. Zadar has two unique attractions in the city center: the Sea Organ and Sun Salutation. The Sea Organ is a natural organ that plays soothing music generated by the ocean waves; the Sun Salutation lights up the waterfront with a solar-powered disc of bright lights at night. These are two of the things that make Zadar so special to me.

See the sights from Game of Thrones. Dubrovnik is where many scenes from King’s Landing were filmed, and you can learn all about them on a Game of Thrones tour! The best part is when the guide holds up screen shots from the show and you can see exactly where they filmed. If you’re lucky, your guide might even have been an extra.

Feast on the black truffle pizza at Jupiter Pizzeria in Pula. I am a girl who knows her pizza and the black truffle pizza at Jupiter Pizzeria is one of my favorite pizzas on the planet. Make sure they use tomato sauce; though it lists the sauce on the menu, sometimes they have brought it to me without sauce.

Swim in the bright teal lakes of Mljet. Mljet is an island not far from Dubrovnik. It’s home to a national park with the brightest, most intense neon saltwater lakes. Swimming in these lakes is a far cry from swimming in the Adriatic — you’ll marvel at the silkiness and warmth of these waters. It’s even better when you do a day trip to Mljet from Dubrovnik by catamaran.

Visit the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb. This is one of my favorite museums in the world. It began as a little collection of artifacts from people’s past relationships, complete with stories about them — and now the museum has traveling exhibits are all over the world, from New York to Tbilisi. Come here to laugh, marvel, and be deeply moved by these stories about love.

Party in Hvar. Beyoncé and Jay-Z go to Hvar. Ellen and Portia go to Hvar. And Hvar has some of the biggest beach clubs in all of Croatia! If you’re up for the crazy party-all-night experience, head to one of the clubs on off-shore islands; you can also have a fun party night at the bars in Hvar Town.

Go on a sailboat — somewhere, somehow. Whether or not you choose to spend a week sailing down the coast or just do a day trip to a pretty island, there is nothing like watching the gray-green Croatian coast go by as the wind flies through your hair.

Drive around Istria and explore cute little towns. Istria is so different from the rest of Croatia — it feels more like Italy. Enjoy it by renting a car and spending several days exploring the villages. Motovun is a city perched precariously on a hill; Groznjan is filled with student musicians during the summer; Labin is a rainbow of colors; Bale has cool cafes.

READ MORE:
Istria: The Best Kept Secret in Croatia

A sunrise over the Bay of Kotor, a fjord with green hills jutting into the glassy bay, buildings with orange roofs in the foreground.

Where to Travel After Croatia

Another advantage of Croatia is that it’s surrounded by several other fantastic countries. If you want to add on one or more countries to your Croatia trip, you absolutely can. Here’s where you should go next:

Montenegro. Montenegro is a fantastic place to travel — in fact, I consider it the most beautiful country in Europe. And it’s perfectly situated right next door to Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian coast. Many people day trip from Dubrovnik to Kotor, but I recommend you spend a few days based in Montenegro instead. It’s an incredible place, and you’ll be able to explore Durmitor National Park, going whitewater rafting, or even hitting up the Sea Dance festival in Budva if you’re visiting in July. I make no secret of how much I love Montenegro and it would far and away be my top choice for adding onto a Croatia trip.

Bosnia. Like Kotor, many people do a day trip to Mostar, Bosnia, to see the bridge and enjoy its beauty and history. If you have the time, head to Bosnia for several days and add in Sarajevo and a trip to Kravice Falls as well. Bosnia is a very underrated destination with incredible nature and so much history and culture.

Slovenia. Zagreb is a 2.5-hour train or bus ride from Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. You could day trip there if you really want to, but Slovenia is very different from the rest of the Balkans and deserves more than just a day. It looks and feels like Austria with alpine villages and window boxes filled with geraniums. Enjoy the cafe scene in Ljubljana, one of my favorite capitals in Europe, or explore the bright blue lakes of Bled and Bohinj, or go underground in the Skocjan Caves. Here’s my Slovenia road trip itinerary.

Italy. If you’re traveling in the Istria region, Italy is a quick overland hop away; if you’re further south, there are ferries you could take across the Adriatic: to Bari in Puglia, Ancona in Le Marche, Cesenatico in Romagna, or Venice in the Veneto. I adore Italy and have traveled to most of its regions — there is SO much to explore. If you’re traveling to Italy, check out my solo female travel guide to Italy here.

Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. The other countries of the Western Balkans are fascinating and some of my favorite places to visit, especially Macedonia and Albania. They’re beautiful but rough around the edges, and while they’re cheaper than Croatia, they have poorer infrastructure. If you’re a more experienced traveler and up for a bit of a challenge, they are awesome places to visit.

READ MORE:
What’s it like to travel in Albania?
Briefly, Belgrade
Kosovo: A Warm Welcome to a Newborn Country
Magnificent Macedonia Will Surprise You

Boys swimming in the waves off a dock in Zadar, Croatia

Travel Insurance for Croatia

A lot of people don’t think it’s necessary to get travel insurance for Croatia — after all, it’s a safe country with decent healthcare. But you need it. If you get sick or injured on your trip, if you get robbed, or even if you have to be flown home, travel insurance will protect you from financial ruin. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Croatia.

I have thankfully never needed to call my travel insurance for help while in Croatia — but I do have a friend who had to visit the hospital after being stung by a wasp in Split, one who sprained her ankle after falling down the steps in Dubrovnik, and one who got her wallet stolen and needed to go to the police station.

While Croatia’s hospital prices aren’t anywhere near what the US would charge you, you could end up paying a lot of money for a serious medical issue. But travel insurance protects you and refunds you for your costs. It’s the kind of thing you don’t know you need until you need it.

Street cafe scene in front of a yellow building in Zadar, Croatia.

My #1 Travel Tip for Croatia

Learn how to avoid the worst of the tourist crowds. There are parts of Croatia that are extremely overcrowded and parts of Croatia that are blissfully free of tourists. You’ll be much happier if you avoid the busy parts of major cities when they’re at their most packed. Here are four ways to do that:

1. Don’t take a large ship cruise in Croatia. I can’t say this often enough. Large cruise ships are one of the major causes of overtourism in Europe, particularly the Mediterranean. Many of the ports of the Adriatic are just too small to handle thousands of tourists pouring in at once, and you’ll only experience the destinations when they’re at their most packed and sweaty.

If you’re set on exploring Croatia by cruise (meaning that you only want to unpack once), consider doing a small ship or sailing cruise instead. You’ll be able to visit more offbeat destinations, you can stay in destinations like Dubrovnik overnight, and there’s nothing like the feeling of being on a small boat in the Adriatic.

2. Mix popular destinations with lesser-known destinations. If you’re in Zadar, check out Paklenica National Park; if you’re in Zagreb, check out Plešivica; if you’re in Split, check out Šibenik. If you’re visiting islands for some beach time, consider booking accommodation away from the city center.

3. Consider visiting in the shoulder season. September is my top recommendation for when to visit Croatia, and much of Europe — the weather is summery, the water is at its warmest, the kids are back in school, and most tourists have gone home. June is great and late May and early October are warm in the south and a bit cooler up north. Avoid July and August if you can — it’s crazy.

4. Stay out of Dubrovnik during cruise ship hours. Luckily, there is plenty of stuff to do! Go kayaking around Lokrum Island, take a cable car up the hill, do a day trip to Mljet island. As soon as the sun starts to set, that’s when the big ships are leaving and it’s time to head back to town.

READ MORE:
Dubrovnik Survival Guide

Kate wears a raspberry tank top and black skirt and poses with her arms out in front of the port of Split.

Croatia is waiting for you!

Croatia has SO much to offer for solo female travelers. Whether you’re looking to cruise down the islands, drive from village to village, or gawk at the waterfalls, Croatia has something for every kind of traveler. But more than that, it’s a safe country and a smart destination even for women who have never traveled alone before.

Start planning your trip to Croatia and get ready to have the time of your life! Then come back and tell me all about it.

READ NEXT: 100 Travel Tips for Croatia

Solo Female Travel in Croatia Graphic
Have you been to Croatia? What tips do you have to share?

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AK Monthly Recap: July 2019

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Kate relaxes on a lobster-shaped raft in a pool, holding a lobster-flavored beer.

Summer is my favorite season, and New York is one of my favorite cities, but I can’t stand New York in the summer.

Take how I was welcomed back to the city. There were no 1 trains running between 137th and 96th, and I was running a bit late, so I had to pay $15 for an Uber from 145th to 99th.

Then I hopped on the 2 at 96th, then switched to the 1 at 14th…and the 1 train was 15 minutes late. Taking the express downtown had saved me zero time. I got on — and the AC didn’t work. Usually when the AC is off, the entire car is cleared out, but not today — so few trains were running that everyone was crammed in. Sweat dripped off people’s faces and chests.

New York’s subway system is in a state of emergency. Get on that, Cuomo.

It was torturous being flung around in the heat. But as the doors opened at Christopher Street, an uptown train was pulling into the station. Instinctually, everyone by the door leaned out and caught the breeze that ensued.

It was hardly anything — but the entire train seemed to sigh with relief.

That may seem like an odd note on which to begin my latest monthly recap, especially during a month of so much travel. But that’s the epitome of New York. You get punched in the face three times in a row, metaphorically speaking, then share a gorgeous breeze with strangers.

Kate poses with her arms in the air in front of a blue, green and white mural with the word Halifax in front of the Halifax cityscape.

Destinations Visited

New York, New York, USA

Reading, Woburn, Salisbury, and Lynnfield, Massachusetts, USA

Halifax, Black Point, Mahone Bay, Lunenberg, Peggys Cove, Sydney, Louisburg, Sable Island, Ingonish, Eskasoni, Chéticamp, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Grand Étang, Pleasant Bay, Dingwall, White Point, Baddeck, Antigonish, and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

Georgetown and Charlottetown, PEI, Canada

Havre-Aubert, Pointe Basse, L’Étang-du-Nord, Bonaventure Island, Percé, and Anticosti Island, Quebec, Canada

Woody Point, Gros Morne National Park, and Little La Poile Bay, Newfoundland, Canada

St. Pierre and Miquelon, France

Baku and Qobustan, Azerbaijan

Kate and Cailin pose for a selfie in front of the giant fiddle, standing up in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Highlights

Finally visiting Cailin in Nova Scotia. Cailin and I have traveled around the world together, and she’s visited me in New York several times, but this is the first time I got to visit her on her home turf! We had a great time in Halifax, going for afternoon tea at Tartan Tea House (they have fancy hats that you can borrow!), enjoying a beer garden on the waterfront, and checking out nearby spots like Lunenberg and Peggys Cove.

A long overdue return to Canada. I haven’t visited Canada since becoming a travel blogger — well, except the three-hour plane-to-bus layover in downtown Toronto in 2012. There are no excuses for this because Canada is such a fantastic country. I’m glad I made it back for an awesome three-week Maritimes trip, and I sincerely hope there is much more Canada travel in my future!

An amazing cruise through the Canadian Maritimes with OneOcean Expeditions. I’ve already written about my favorite moments of the trip here, and I can’t wait to go more in-depth on other posts. Sable Island, PEI, and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine were my favorite destinations of the trip, but there were so many wonderful moments. The Maritimes have captivated me and I can’t wait to go back and explore more. Hopefully a road trip through PEI next year!

Being on the first cruise ship ever to successfully land on the south shore of Sable Island. That felt really good. I can’t believe I made it somewhere so few people get to visit.

A wonderful road trip through Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We hit the ground running after our cruise docked — Cailin and I headed straight out on a four-day road trip along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton, the northern island of Nova Scotia. This is a gorgeous part of Canada — it reminded me a lot of Maine or New Hampshire. It’s so beautiful, the people are so friendly, there’s a lot of interesting art, I enjoyed the beauty of the roads through the national park, and we ate more lobster than should seem humanly possible. I can’t wait to write about this trip.

Visiting Peace by Chocolate in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I’ve heard a lot about the chocolate shop run by Syrian refugees who were resettled in Canada — Justin Trudeau even brought some of their chocolate to Nancy Pelosi. The chocolate is delicious and we enjoyed getting to talk to the women there.

Spending the Fourth of July at home in Massachusetts. My sister and her partner and I all made the trip and got in some quality time with our dad. We got in some pool time, some beach action in Salisbury, and even hit up the cool Lord Hobo brewery in Woburn (how is there a brewery in Woburn?!). I spent time visiting my five-month-old practically-a-nephew in Massachusetts, who LOVES music. And I maintain that I’d rather watch the Boston Pops on TV than go watch fireworks live.

Getting upgraded on my 11-hour flight to Azerbaijan. That was a birthday gift from someone who knows me VERY well. It was like a level between Premium Economy and Business. So much space that I couldn’t touch the chair in front of me, great service, and tons of food. If it had been a lie-flat seat, it would have been perfect. Definitely worth upgrading to Comfort Class if you’re flying Azerbaijan Airlines!

Enjoying the sights and tastes of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was a bit of a wild card for me — I didn’t know much of what to expect and didn’t have huge expectations. I enjoyed all of the crazy modern architecture, eating dinner with a view over the Flame Towers, and checking out cool sites near the city like the mud volcanoes and petroglyphs of Qobustan and a nearby fire temple.

White cottages sit atop a gray cliff; in the foreground are flowers. A gray day in Nova Scotia.

Challenges

Leaving important stuff in New York and having to go back from Boston. Man, this was one of the dumbest mistakes I’ve made in recent memory. I left a critical hard drive in my desk drawer — one that I desperately needed for my trip to Canada. Turns out the only option was to take a $200 round-trip train ride in a single day — or else brave ten hours on the bus. Sigh. I took thAt least I had time to get my nails done at my favorite salon while I was there.

Not doing laundry…and facing the consequences. I knew laundry on the cruise would be expensive, but I was kind of hope that the laundry price would be reduced after the halfway point of the trip (which has happened on cruises I’ve been on before). It was not. And I just couldn’t bring myself to pay $4 per pair of underwear. So…I kind of pushed the limit on wearing clothes for far too long.

I’m getting scared about politics and the country. It’s been frustrating and awful for YEARS, and so many people are suffering as a result of the Trump Administration, but this month set off a bunch of alarm bells in particular. It’s getting harder to be strong.

Kate gives two thumbs up in front of a pickup truck with a license plate that reads "HEY GOOD" and a sign beneath that says "LOOKIN."

Most Popular Post

Why I Love Traveling to Puglia, Italy — This region of southern Italy is so special to me.

Other Posts

My Favorite Moments Cruising Canada with OneOcean Expeditions — I absolutely loved this trip, and here were my favorite moments.

Three Weeks in Northern Italy: An Itinerary — This was one of my best Italy trips ever, so I’m excited to share all the details so you can plan the same trip!

Three Days in the Dolomites: A South Tyrol Getaway — If you’re traveling to the Dolomites in the summer, this is how to maximize your first visit!

Kate wears a tank top that reads "Canada" with a Canadian flag on it and stands above Cape Breton Highlands National Park, mountains and winding roads behind her.

Most Popular Post on Instagram/What I Wore This Month

It’s so frustrating to be dealing with the constant algorithm challenges on Instagram. I’ve never gotten too angry about it before, but this month the algorithm gave me a big hit before I did my two Canadian campaigns. Awful timing to suddenly have a much smaller reach than usual. That said, this was the most popular post of the month! For more updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

As for what I’m wearing, Cailin gave me a care package of Canadian gifts to welcome me to Nova Scotia — and one gift was this shirt from Old Navy. I love it! (She also included All Dressed Chips, lobster mints, and a Kinder Surprise, because “They’re illegal in America.” Truth.)

Kate stands in the Tablelands of Newfoundland surrounded by orange rocks and grassy hills.

Gear of the Month

This month I bought new shoes for my travels: Merrill Siren Edge Q2 Waterproof Trail Runners. I had been carrying both sneakers and hiking boots, and I decided that it would make way more sense to pack a pair that could work for both purposes, so I headed down to REI (and finally signed up for the co-op). These ones felt the best.

I wore them for the first time in Canada (above, I’m in the Tablelands of Newfoundland), and they are AWESOME — they work equally well for hiking and working out. I should have bought these years ago!

Four horses walking along a lake on sandy Sable Island.

What I Read This Month

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (2019) — It’s 1940 and Vivian Morris has failed out of Vassar College, so her parents send her to live with her Aunt Peg in New York City. Soon Vivian finds herself swept up in the heart of the theater scene — and becoming a wild child. When her recklessness has devastating consequences, it alters the rest of her life and relationships, just as America enters World War II and the world changes.

This is one of my absolute favorite books of the year. Elizabeth Gilbert gets a lot of hate she doesn’t deserve — the reason why Eat, Pray, Love was so successful is because she is a fucking magnificent writer. It would have been utter crap in anyone else’s hands. Everything she’s written is fantastic, and her latest is no exception. I loved all the vibrant characters, but the New York of 1940 is the greatest character in the book — you get swept up in the shows and nightclubs and cocktails. And best of all, this is a coming-of-age book of a very interesting and independent woman in an era when women were expected to be anything but. Vivian grows beautifully, and the book is satisfying as a result.

Feminasty: The Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death by Erin Gibson (2018) — One of the hosts of the podcast Throwing Shade, Erin Gibson knows how to provocatively and hilariously discuss gender equality issues in the present day. This is an comedic essay collection covering topics including equal pay, reproductive rights, telling women how they should dress, women in STEM, and many, many more issues.

I listened to this book as the audiobook version and really enjoyed it. Since Gibson is a podcast host already, she’s got the distinctive voice for it! Though I have to say a lot of it got me so angry I scrubbed my bathtub extra hard. I appreciated how much research and historical context Gibson put into each of her essays. I wouldn’t call this one of my favorites of the year, but it’s a great easy listening book for when you’re cooking, cleaning, or walking.

Bright red cliffs in fall into the ocean.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (1968) — This is perhaps the greatest collection of essays about life in America during the upheaval the 1960s. Didion writes about all kinds of topics — grisly criminal cases, drugs and counterculture in San Francisco, trips to Death Valley and Hawaii and Las Vegas — before wrapping it up with “Goodbye to All That,” her gorgeous essay about making the decision to leave New York City.

I had never read anything by Joan Didion before, believe it or not, but after reading the essay collection Goodbye to All That last month, based on her essay of the same name, I decided this would be a good way to jump in. Honestly, it was the best essay in the book, far and beyond everything else — but I enjoyed the whole book. Everything in this book is so descriptive — I could feel the Santa Ana breezes on my arms as I read about the Inland Empire. I especially like that Didion eventually moved back to New York City.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant (2016) — Why do some people take chances and succeed, and others take chances and fail? That’s what this book tries to answer. There are lots of interesting examples profiled in the book — like an Apple employee who challenged Steve Jobs and won, and a CIA employee who knew she was right by the timing was too early, so she waited and got herself into the prime position before launching her idea. It also talked about Seinfeld and how it seemed like the opposite of a hit, but worked out everything.

I really enjoyed reading this book — but as I sit down to recap it, I barely remember it! (I read it on the beach on the Fourth of July.) If you like Malcolm Gladwell’s books, I found this to be very similar and loved the examples in it. It’s a great beach or travel read for this summer.

Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern (2019) — Few people have pivoted more than Howard Stern. He came up as a shock jock who had no qualms about insulting people to their faces — but over time he realized he wanted to tell more in-depth stories, and became one of the most skilled interviewers around. This book is a collection of his most memorable interviews — people from Jay-Z to Ellen DeGeneres to Gwyneth Paltrow, and many Trump interviews as well.

Few things fascinate me more than growth, especially when it’s tinged with maturity. I absolutely love the 180 that Howard Stern has done in recent years, and as a result, I find his interviews are fascinating. What he wrote about his friendship with Rosie O’Donnell was deeply touching. He also makes a good point that doing extensive research makes for better interviews. That said, if you’re a regular listener of the show, you will have heard most if not all of these interviews before. This is probably a better read for people who are newcomers or who don’t listen to him at all.

Svaneti, Georgia, via Pixabay

Coming Up in August 2019

I’m beginning the month in Azerbaijan, then traveling to Georgia and Armenia! FINALLY, after years and years of telling you guys I how much I want to visit the Caucasus, it’s happening!!! I’m going to be exploring this region with JayWay Travel, an excellent travel agency specializing in custom Central and Eastern Europe tours. (You may recall I traveled with JayWay to Ukraine in 2017 and loved it.)

I’m especially excited to be visiting the Svaneti region of Georgia. This mountainous region is gorgeous, tough to get to, and home to a unique language and culture. I always said that when I went to Georgia I wanted to go to Svaneti, so I’m so glad it’s happening. I’ll be spending time in the capital of Tbilisi as well, and checking out Kutaisi, Mtshketa, and the Imereti wine region too. This portion of the trip will be a group trip with several of my blogger buddies, which will be a lot of fun.

In Armenia I’m looking forward to exploring the city of Yerevan, seeing tons of monasteries, and getting into the countryside at Dilijan and Lake Sevan. I need to do some more reading up on the Armenian Genocide — my friend Alexa is of Armenian descent and recommended some good books.

Later in the month I head to London briefly for a wedding, then back to New York. After that I’m heading BACK to Atlantic Canada (yes, right after my epic trip) — to Newfoundland! After I saw the Broadway musical Come From Away last summer, I was so enchanted, I nearly booked a ticket to Newfoundland on the spot! On this trip I’m going to be exploring the central and eastern regions of Newfoundland — none of which I explored on my OneOcean cruise, so this is all new to me.

I’m spending a few extra days in St. John’s at the end of the trip to hang out with friends, catch up on work, and live like a local before heading back to New York.

Any suggestions for the Caucasus or Newfoundland? Share away!

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




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AK Monthly Recap: July 2019

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Kate relaxes on a lobster-shaped raft in a pool, holding a lobster-flavored beer.

Summer is my favorite season, and New York is one of my favorite cities, but I can’t stand New York in the summer.

Take how I was welcomed back to the city. There were no 1 trains running between 137th and 96th, and I was running a bit late, so I had to pay $15 for an Uber from 145th to 99th.

Then I hopped on the 2 at 96th, then switched to the 1 at 14th…and the 1 train was 15 minutes late. Taking the express downtown had saved me zero time. I got on — and the AC didn’t work. Usually when the AC is off, the entire car is cleared out, but not today — so few trains were running that everyone was crammed in. Sweat dripped off people’s faces and chests.

New York’s subway system is in a state of emergency. Get on that, Cuomo.

It was torturous being flung around in the heat. But as the doors opened at Christopher Street, an uptown train was pulling into the station. Instinctually, everyone by the door leaned out and caught the breeze that ensued.

It was hardly anything — but the entire train seemed to sigh with relief.

That may seem like an odd note on which to begin my latest monthly recap, especially during a month of so much travel. But that’s the epitome of New York. You get punched in the face three times in a row, metaphorically speaking, then share a gorgeous breeze with strangers.

Kate poses with her arms in the air in front of a blue, green and white mural with the word Halifax in front of the Halifax cityscape.

Destinations Visited

New York, New York, USA

Reading, Woburn, Salisbury, and Lynnfield, Massachusetts, USA

Halifax, Black Point, Mahone Bay, Lunenberg, Peggys Cove, Sydney, Louisburg, Sable Island, Ingonish, Eskasoni, Chéticamp, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Grand Étang, Pleasant Bay, Dingwall, White Point, Baddeck, Antigonish, and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

Georgetown and Charlottetown, PEI, Canada

Havre-Aubert, Pointe Basse, L’Étang-du-Nord, Bonaventure Island, Percé, and Anticosti Island, Quebec, Canada

Woody Point, Gros Morne National Park, and Little La Poile Bay, Newfoundland, Canada

St. Pierre and Miquelon, France

Baku and Qobustan, Azerbaijan

Kate and Cailin pose for a selfie in front of the giant fiddle, standing up in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Highlights

Finally visiting Cailin in Nova Scotia. Cailin and I have traveled around the world together, and she’s visited me in New York several times, but this is the first time I got to visit her on her home turf! We had a great time in Halifax, going for afternoon tea at Tartan Tea House (they have fancy hats that you can borrow!), enjoying a beer garden on the waterfront, and checking out nearby spots like Lunenberg and Peggys Cove.

A long overdue return to Canada. I haven’t visited Canada since becoming a travel blogger — well, except the three-hour plane-to-bus layover in downtown Toronto in 2012. There are no excuses for this because Canada is such a fantastic country. I’m glad I made it back for an awesome three-week Maritimes trip, and I sincerely hope there is much more Canada travel in my future!

An amazing cruise through the Canadian Maritimes with OneOcean Expeditions. I’ve already written about my favorite moments of the trip here, and I can’t wait to go more in-depth on other posts. Sable Island, PEI, and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine were my favorite destinations of the trip, but there were so many wonderful moments. The Maritimes have captivated me and I can’t wait to go back and explore more. Hopefully a road trip through PEI next year!

Being on the first cruise ship ever to successfully land on the south shore of Sable Island. That felt really good. I can’t believe I made it somewhere so few people get to visit.

A wonderful road trip through Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We hit the ground running after our cruise docked — Cailin and I headed straight out on a four-day road trip along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton, the northern island of Nova Scotia. This is a gorgeous part of Canada — it reminded me a lot of Maine or New Hampshire. It’s so beautiful, the people are so friendly, there’s a lot of interesting art, I enjoyed the beauty of the roads through the national park, and we ate more lobster than should seem humanly possible. I can’t wait to write about this trip.

Visiting Peace by Chocolate in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I’ve heard a lot about the chocolate shop run by Syrian refugees who were resettled in Canada — Justin Trudeau even brought some of their chocolate to Nancy Pelosi. The chocolate is delicious and we enjoyed getting to talk to the women there.

Spending the Fourth of July at home in Massachusetts. My sister and her partner and I all made the trip and got in some quality time with our dad. We got in some pool time, some beach action in Salisbury, and even hit up the cool Lord Hobo brewery in Woburn (how is there a brewery in Woburn?!). I spent time visiting my five-month-old practically-a-nephew in Massachusetts, who LOVES music. And I maintain that I’d rather watch the Boston Pops on TV than go watch fireworks live.

Getting upgraded on my 11-hour flight to Azerbaijan. That was a birthday gift from someone who knows me VERY well. It was like a level between Premium Economy and Business. So much space that I couldn’t touch the chair in front of me, great service, and tons of food. If it had been a lie-flat seat, it would have been perfect. Definitely worth upgrading to Comfort Class if you’re flying Azerbaijan Airlines!

Enjoying the sights and tastes of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was a bit of a wild card for me — I didn’t know much of what to expect and didn’t have huge expectations. I enjoyed all of the crazy modern architecture, eating dinner with a view over the Flame Towers, and checking out cool sites near the city like the mud volcanoes and petroglyphs of Qobustan and a nearby fire temple.

White cottages sit atop a gray cliff; in the foreground are flowers. A gray day in Nova Scotia.

Challenges

Leaving important stuff in New York and having to go back from Boston. Man, this was one of the dumbest mistakes I’ve made in recent memory. I left a critical hard drive in my desk drawer — one that I desperately needed for my trip to Canada. Turns out the only option was to take a $200 round-trip train ride in a single day — or else brave ten hours on the bus. Sigh. I took thAt least I had time to get my nails done at my favorite salon while I was there.

Not doing laundry…and facing the consequences. I knew laundry on the cruise would be expensive, but I was kind of hope that the laundry price would be reduced after the halfway point of the trip (which has happened on cruises I’ve been on before). It was not. And I just couldn’t bring myself to pay $4 per pair of underwear. So…I kind of pushed the limit on wearing clothes for far too long.

I’m getting scared about politics and the country. It’s been frustrating and awful for YEARS, and so many people are suffering as a result of the Trump Administration, but this month set off a bunch of alarm bells in particular. It’s getting harder to be strong.

Kate gives two thumbs up in front of a pickup truck with a license plate that reads "HEY GOOD" and a sign beneath that says "LOOKIN."

Most Popular Post

Why I Love Traveling to Puglia, Italy — This region of southern Italy is so special to me.

Other Posts

My Favorite Moments Cruising Canada with OneOcean Expeditions — I absolutely loved this trip, and here were my favorite moments.

Three Weeks in Northern Italy: An Itinerary — This was one of my best Italy trips ever, so I’m excited to share all the details so you can plan the same trip!

Three Days in the Dolomites: A South Tyrol Getaway — If you’re traveling to the Dolomites in the summer, this is how to maximize your first visit!

Kate wears a tank top that reads "Canada" with a Canadian flag on it and stands above Cape Breton Highlands National Park, mountains and winding roads behind her.

Most Popular Post on Instagram/What I Wore This Month

It’s so frustrating to be dealing with the constant algorithm challenges on Instagram. I’ve never gotten too angry about it before, but this month the algorithm gave me a big hit before I did my two Canadian campaigns. Awful timing to suddenly have a much smaller reach than usual. That said, this was the most popular post of the month! For more updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

As for what I’m wearing, Cailin gave me a care package of Canadian gifts to welcome me to Nova Scotia — and one gift was this shirt from Old Navy. I love it! (She also included All Dressed Chips, lobster mints, and a Kinder Surprise, because “They’re illegal in America.” Truth.)

Kate stands in the Tablelands of Newfoundland surrounded by orange rocks and grassy hills.

Gear of the Month

This month I bought new shoes for my travels: Merrill Siren Edge Q2 Waterproof Trail Runners. I had been carrying both sneakers and hiking boots, and I decided that it would make way more sense to pack a pair that could work for both purposes, so I headed down to REI (and finally signed up for the co-op). These ones felt the best.

I wore them for the first time in Canada (above, I’m in the Tablelands of Newfoundland), and they are AWESOME — they work equally well for hiking and working out. I should have bought these years ago!

Four horses walking along a lake on sandy Sable Island.

What I Read This Month

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (2019) — It’s 1940 and Vivian Morris has failed out of Vassar College, so her parents send her to live with her Aunt Peg in New York City. Soon Vivian finds herself swept up in the heart of the theater scene — and becoming a wild child. When her recklessness has devastating consequences, it alters the rest of her life and relationships, just as America enters World War II and the world changes.

This is one of my absolute favorite books of the year. Elizabeth Gilbert gets a lot of hate she doesn’t deserve — the reason why Eat, Pray, Love was so successful is because she is a fucking magnificent writer. It would have been utter crap in anyone else’s hands. Everything she’s written is fantastic, and her latest is no exception. I loved all the vibrant characters, but the New York of 1940 is the greatest character in the book — you get swept up in the shows and nightclubs and cocktails. And best of all, this is a coming-of-age book of a very interesting and independent woman in an era when women were expected to be anything but. Vivian grows beautifully, and the book is satisfying as a result.

Feminasty: The Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death by Erin Gibson (2018) — One of the hosts of the podcast Throwing Shade, Erin Gibson knows how to provocatively and hilariously discuss gender equality issues in the present day. This is an comedic essay collection covering topics including equal pay, reproductive rights, telling women how they should dress, women in STEM, and many, many more issues.

I listened to this book as the audiobook version and really enjoyed it. Since Gibson is a podcast host already, she’s got the distinctive voice for it! Though I have to say a lot of it got me so angry I scrubbed my bathtub extra hard. I appreciated how much research and historical context Gibson put into each of her essays. I wouldn’t call this one of my favorites of the year, but it’s a great easy listening book for when you’re cooking, cleaning, or walking.

Bright red cliffs in fall into the ocean.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (1968) — This is perhaps the greatest collection of essays about life in America during the upheaval the 1960s. Didion writes about all kinds of topics — grisly criminal cases, drugs and counterculture in San Francisco, trips to Death Valley and Hawaii and Las Vegas — before wrapping it up with “Goodbye to All That,” her gorgeous essay about making the decision to leave New York City.

I had never read anything by Joan Didion before, believe it or not, but after reading the essay collection Goodbye to All That last month, based on her essay of the same name, I decided this would be a good way to jump in. Honestly, it was the best essay in the book, far and beyond everything else — but I enjoyed the whole book. Everything in this book is so descriptive — I could feel the Santa Ana breezes on my arms as I read about the Inland Empire. I especially like that Didion eventually moved back to New York City.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant (2016) — Why do some people take chances and succeed, and others take chances and fail? That’s what this book tries to answer. There are lots of interesting examples profiled in the book — like an Apple employee who challenged Steve Jobs and won, and a CIA employee who knew she was right by the timing was too early, so she waited and got herself into the prime position before launching her idea. It also talked about Seinfeld and how it seemed like the opposite of a hit, but worked out everything.

I really enjoyed reading this book — but as I sit down to recap it, I barely remember it! (I read it on the beach on the Fourth of July.) If you like Malcolm Gladwell’s books, I found this to be very similar and loved the examples in it. It’s a great beach or travel read for this summer.

Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern (2019) — Few people have pivoted more than Howard Stern. He came up as a shock jock who had no qualms about insulting people to their faces — but over time he realized he wanted to tell more in-depth stories, and became one of the most skilled interviewers around. This book is a collection of his most memorable interviews — people from Jay-Z to Ellen DeGeneres to Gwyneth Paltrow, and many Trump interviews as well.

Few things fascinate me more than growth, especially when it’s tinged with maturity. I absolutely love the 180 that Howard Stern has done in recent years, and as a result, I find his interviews are fascinating. What he wrote about his friendship with Rosie O’Donnell was deeply touching. He also makes a good point that doing extensive research makes for better interviews. That said, if you’re a regular listener of the show, you will have heard most if not all of these interviews before. This is probably a better read for people who are newcomers or who don’t listen to him at all.

Svaneti, Georgia, via Pixabay

Coming Up in August 2019

I’m beginning the month in Azerbaijan, then traveling to Georgia and Armenia! FINALLY, after years and years of telling you guys I how much I want to visit the Caucasus, it’s happening!!! I’m going to be exploring this region with JayWay Travel, an excellent travel agency specializing in custom Central and Eastern Europe tours. (You may recall I traveled with JayWay to Ukraine in 2017 and loved it.)

I’m especially excited to be visiting the Svaneti region of Georgia. This mountainous region is gorgeous, tough to get to, and home to a unique language and culture. I always said that when I went to Georgia I wanted to go to Svaneti, so I’m so glad it’s happening. I’ll be spending time in the capital of Tbilisi as well, and checking out Kutaisi, Mtshketa, and the Imereti wine region too. This portion of the trip will be a group trip with several of my blogger buddies, which will be a lot of fun.

In Armenia I’m looking forward to exploring the city of Yerevan, seeing tons of monasteries, and getting into the countryside at Dilijan and Lake Sevan. I need to do some more reading up on the Armenian Genocide — my friend Alexa is of Armenian descent and recommended some good books.

Later in the month I head to London briefly for a wedding, then back to New York. After that I’m heading BACK to Atlantic Canada (yes, right after my epic trip) — to Newfoundland! After I saw the Broadway musical Come From Away last summer, I was so enchanted, I nearly booked a ticket to Newfoundland on the spot! On this trip I’m going to be exploring the central and eastern regions of Newfoundland — none of which I explored on my OneOcean cruise, so this is all new to me.

I’m spending a few extra days in St. John’s at the end of the trip to hang out with friends, catch up on work, and live like a local before heading back to New York.

Any suggestions for the Caucasus or Newfoundland? Share away!

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


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Turning 35 and Letting Go of Fear

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Today is my thirty-fifth birthday. Every year, I look back and reflect at the changes in my life over the past year. How I’ve grown and learned from the past year’s lessons.

The biggest change this year? How I’ve handled a big question that has dominated my life for the past few years, often relentlessly.

I’m turning 35. Shouldn’t I know whether I want a baby or not by now?

Readers often privately ask me if I’m planning to have a baby, and I always decline to answer. I get why they ask — I’m a woman they’ve grown to trust over the years. However, I don’t talk about this subject online because no matter what a woman in her mid-thirties without children says, she cannot win. 

Thirty-five and you want kids? Yikes, you’re running out of time!

Thirty-five and you don’t want kids? Wow, you’re a selfish person!

Thirty-five and you’re not sure if you want kids? How can you be so dumb as to not know yet?

I get enough of that already. You will not believe the number of male readers I have who mansplain that maybe I should get started on the kids, because did I know that women’s fertility begins to decline with age? (I roll my eyes and evoke Phoebe from Friends: “THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION!!!”)

Let’s put an end to that here.

First off, the idea that it’s much more difficult for women to conceive after age 35 is massively overstated. Much of that data is based on French birth rates from 1670-1830. Seriously. I couldn’t believe it when I read it, but we are still using statistics that predate electricity and indoor plumbing, let alone modern medicine.

While fertility does decline with age, 40 is a far more significant hurdle than 35. And in spite of that, pregnancies at age 35 and older are labeled “advanced maternal age” or even “geriatric pregnancies.”

So why isn’t this better known? This misinformation too conveniently plays into a narrative that benefits the patriarchy. When women are led to believe that their fertility shuts down at age 35, they’re less likely to achieve in their careers. And when women intentionally hold themselves back from financial success, men are able to consolidate their power further.

“In short, the ‘baby panic’ — which has by no means abated since it hit me personally — is based largely on questionable data. We’ve rearranged our lives, worried endlessly, and forgone countless career opportunities based on a few statistics about women who resided in thatched-roof huts and never saw a lightbulb. In Dunson’s study of modern women, the difference in pregnancy rates at age 28 versus 37 is only about 4 percentage points. Fertility does decrease with age, but the decline is not steep enough to keep the vast majority of women in their late 30s from having a child. And that, after all, is the whole point.” –Jean M. Twenge, The Atlantic

We’ve rearranged our lives, worried endlessly, and forgone countless career opportunities. It took me awhile to realize I had been doing the same thing.

Kate in a yellow dress in front of a Statue of Liberty mural in SoHo, NYC

I moved to New York in 2016 because I was tired of being nomadic and ready for the next step. I had built a cool career and had traveled the world for five years, most of it solo. Now it was time to live in a city I loved, get into a relationship, and eventually have a family. Once moving to Manhattan, I jumped into the dating scene and tried to figure out how to balance my travels and a more settled life in the city.

I dated a lot of men. Mostly finance and tech dudes who ran and cycled in their free time. Mostly foreign-born men who came to New York for work, with a few Americans thrown in; the Europeans considered themselves centrists; the Americans, liberals. Most of them lived somewhere between the Upper East Side and the Lower East Side. All loved to travel. (It’s amazing how a composite of your dating habits forms over time, isn’t it?)

Each time, we would date for roughly three to five months and it would end when one or both of us realized that it was going nowhere. We would be stuck in a stasis of hey-it’s-Friday-so-let’s-go-to-dinner-and-then-back-to-your-place-because-you-don’t-like-to-come-to-Harlem-and-my-Sunday-mornings-belong-to-Zumba.

Let me be clear: these guys were and are lovely people. I had a great time with them and I’m still friendly with most of them. But it was frustrating to date guy after guy who indicated that he was ready for something serious, then a few months later would say that actually, now he was thinking he wanted a few more years before getting serious.

I hear the same thing happen with my single women friends in the city. Is it a New York thing? Is it an over 30 thing? Is it a 2019 thing? Probably a combination of all three. It’s hard to commit when it’s never been easier to look for something better.

As these men came and went, my biological clock grew louder and louder. Soon these thoughts were violently pervasive, stabbing me in the head 20 times a day. YOU FUCKED UP, KATE. YOU WAITED TOO LONG TO HAVE A BABY. YOU ARE CONTINUING TO FUCK IT UP AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW?

Kate sitting outside a restaurant in SoHo, NYC, in black and white.

I started seeing a therapist — something I’ve done on and off over the years. Stress and anxiety were starting to consume my life and I wanted a way to deal with it in a healthy way.

I started my sessions talking about other issues, but inevitably, my screaming biological clock came up. “I worry about this twenty times a day, at least,” I told her. “I can’t escape it.”

“You need to figure out a scenario where you would be happy without children or a relationship,” she told me.

Why was that so hard? I already have a life I love! I travel and I have a beautiful apartment and I built an awesome career from scratch.

I felt lighter after every therapy session, but it was so hard coming up with an image of what my life would look like without children. I could picture it intellectually, but I couldn’t make myself feel happy about it — it felt like no matter what my life would be, it would be filled with regret.

In the meantime, I was cutting my travels way back. Every time I met a guy that I thought had potential to be something serious, I would privately freak out, wondering if my travel schedule would drive us apart.

“If he can’t handle your travels, he’s not the right person for you,” my therapist told me.

“But if you go away for three weeks, you can’t expect someone you’re newly dating to just sit around and wait for you,” I pointed out.

How do you maintain a fledging relationship when you have to keep leaving the city? It was one thing to say I had a campaign or work assignment somewhere and needed the money in order to pay my rent, but what about the trips I did for fun? Was I a terrible person for wanting to travel somewhere for two weeks every other month while the person I was dating was stuck at home in his 9-5 job?

Over time, my travels dropped off more and more. I tried to fill my home life with more routines — more classes at the gym, more walks in Central Park, more podcasts to listen to, more coffees at Birch. I loved my routines, but felt the constant travel itch and wished I was on the road.

Kate sitting on a stoop in front of a red door with a diamond-shaped window in SoHo, NYC.

Around that time, my closest friends began to have kids. They mostly waited until their mid-thirties, making them perhaps a bit outside the norm in America. And while people often follow in their friends’ footsteps, the opposite happened to me. I started feeling doubts over whether parenthood was something I wanted.

Let me be clear — I love my friends’ kids to the moon and back. I adore them. They are some of the funniest, cutest, most special people in my life. I love spending time with them, cuddling them, singing and dancing with them, buying them far too many books. And I love spending time with my parent friends as much as before, even if our habits have changed so much since our twenties.

It was seeing the reality of raising a kid that held me back. There is never, ever any downtime. Your kid takes over every aspect of your life. It’s loud, it’s messy, you never get a decent night’s sleep. You’re expected to sacrifice everything. And my GOD is it expensive. Especially in New York City. And that’s not even getting into the reality of raising kids in America today, starting with active shooter drills in schools.

I would spend an afternoon with a kid — a baby, a toddler, an older kid — and have a blast. It would take me forever to give the kid back at the end of the day! But every single time, I would think to myself, “Man, that kid is amazing, but I’m so glad I don’t have one.”

It’s easy to think that sure, things will be different once it’s your own kid. You get that giant, all-consuming love that overpowers everything else. But that’s if you have a good kid, a healthy kid, a normal kid.

What if you end up with a kid with such severe special needs that he will never be able to take care of himself?

Nobody talks about that. And honestly, I don’t think I’m cut out for being a parent to a child like that. Should that disqualify me from parenthood altogether?

So imagine these two scenarios swirling around in my head at all times. Worrying 20 times a day that my time was running out. Hanging out with my friends’ kids and loving it, then going home and thinking, “I’ve always wanted this, but I don’t know if I can do this.” It was like two storms hitting each other at the same time. It’s bad enough when you need to make a monumental decision; it’s worse while constantly being told that you’re running out of time.

Kate standing in a long gown in SoHo in black and white.

And then something remarkable happened.

I went to Antigua and spent a week surrounded by my travel friends. Nothing out of the ordinary happened — I mean, other than drinking a bottle of champagne every night, as it was an all-inclusive. It was just a damn good time and I don’t think a smile left my face once. I told myself, “I need to do more of this. More trips. More fun. More time with my travel friends.”

I came home, and realized with shock that I no longer cared whether I had a baby or not. The worries that had dominated my thoughts for years had just vanished. I was just so happy with my life as is. I shared this with my therapist; she told me I was glowing.

“It’s weird,” I told her. “It’s like it suddenly clicked into place when I was in Antigua. My brain got to the place it needed to be. If I don’t have kids, I will have an awesome life! The best life.”

“It doesn’t just happen like that,” she told me. “You’ve been doing the work all along. Maybe it took you that long to notice it.”

Maybe it did. Either way, it’s been a few months since then and the feeling hasn’t left me.

Kate standing in front of a column in a yellow dress in SoHo, NYC.

So if anyone were to ask me if I want to have kids or not, the official answer is that I could go either way. My mind isn’t made up, even as I turn 35. Some people will say I’m an idiot for not having decided yet. But that’s okay. The fear is no longer controlling my life. Whatever happens, I know I’ll have a fantastic life either way.

That’s when I met someone.

Someone who moves in my circles, works remotely in a creative job he loves, and lives the same kind of travel lifestyle that I do — in fact, he might travel even more than I do. It’s an enormous relief to be with someone who understands my life without explanation, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of destinations, who suggests we go to Mexico for a few months this winter, and who similarly could go either way when it comes to kids.

And that’s when it hit me — I should have been doing this all along. I thought it was enough to date men who loved to travel, who traveled adventurously, who traveled solo. It wasn’t. I needed to be dating someone who did all those things but also had the flexibility and desire to work from anywhere. It’s too big of a part of my life.

Also, he lives in a very cool city that is NOT New York.

I used to think that would be disqualifying.

So yes, things are going very well right now. Hell, this is the first time I’ve talked about my current romantic life on the internet for the first time in five years.

Kate in a yellow dress beneath the Balmain sign in SoHo, NYC

I remember the episode of Sex and the City when Carrie turns 35. She is set to have a big birthday dinner with lots of friends, but nobody shows up. They all have seemingly valid reasons, but it’s the pre-cell phone era and nobody can reach her.

She spends hours waiting alone in the restaurant. Then the staff apologetically ask her to pay $70 for her fancy birthday cake. Then while walking home, she trips and drops the cake in a construction site and the construction workers yell at her. She is utterly alone.

I almost never have birthday gatherings because most of my friends are away in August. I would rather have no celebration than invite 30 people to a bar and have only four show up.

This year is different, though. I get to have a two-country birthday for the first time ever today, thanks to a morning flight from Azerbaijan to Georgia, and this evening I get to celebrate with several of my blogger friends at the coolest restaurant in Tbilisi. Georgia has been at the top of my list for years, and I’m so happy that I get to enjoy it on my birthday!

I’m entering this new year with a curious mind, an open heart, and a grateful soul. I lost some friends this year, and I have other friends who are struggling. It’s made me all the more determined to live fully today.

We don’t know how much time we get — but we also don’t how many good years, or healthy years, we get. Don’t save that dream trip for retirement. Save up and go this year or next year.

Kate in a yellow dress walking down a street in SoHo, NYC.

And this is a travel blog, so of course we need a travel preview for the coming year! I already have some trips scheduled: Georgia and Armenia, then Newfoundland, in August. (Arriving in Armenia, I will achieve a new milestone — I’ll be eligible for the Travelers’ Century Club, having visited 100 of what they deem “countries and territories.” It’s a weird list. Some of my qualifications are places like Prince Edward Island, Srpska, and the Ionian Islands of Greece. But I’ll take it.)

In September I’ll be speaking at Borderless Live in London and appearing at the Social Travel Summit in Ravenna, Italy, and around those conferences I will be spending time in Puglia, Italy, then driving northward along Italy’s Adriatic coast to Slovenia, Austria, and the Czech Republic.

Other goals? I would like to get to the Arctic in 2020, and I would love to do more expedition cruises. I’d also like to continue working toward visiting 100 countries (Armenia will be #82) and all 20 of Italy’s regions (I’m at 12 now and will probably be at 18 by October).

If I had to guess which new countries I would be likeliest to visit this year, I would put my money on Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Israel and Palestine, Morocco, or Panama. But who knows? This time last year, Kenya and Guyana weren’t on my radar at all, but I made it to both!

I’m so grateful to be here today, surrounded by loved ones, still working in a career I built out of nothing. I’m grateful that you’re still here, my dear readers, and you care enough to hear what I have to say. Thank you for being here, today and every day.

Past Birthday Posts
What’s It Like to Turn 34?
Notes from the Brink of Age 32
30 Things I Didn’t Do Until I Turned 30
Here’s to Being Crazy In Your Twenties
28 Things I’ve Learned About Life, Love, and Happiness
Turning 27: A Leap of Faith
Reflections on Turning 26

What was turning 35 like for you? Share away!

The post Turning 35 and Letting Go of Fear appeared first on Adventurous Kate.




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