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AK Monthly Recap: August 2019

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Kate stands in front of a panorama of Trinity, Newfoundland: green hills with brightly colored cottages next to the sea.

Can I breathe yet? This month, I visited six countries and slept in 19 different beds. NINETEEN DIFFERENT BEDS. I have been hitting the road hard this summer, but this is my craziest month of all.

When I moved to New York in 2016, I made the decision to cap my travels at 25% of the time. That would allow me to actually have a life in New York and build relationships and establish routines.

So why the big change? I got some interesting opportunities and didn’t see a reason to say no. That 25% number is arbitrary at best. And there weren’t any pressing duties that required me to be in New York constantly.

It’s been weird being away so much this summer, but it’s been exhilarating too. I think that no matter what my travel schedule is, it will always be a challenge to balance work and travel, so why not travel a little bit more?

Two mountains: a green one with a tiny white church perched on it, in front of a taller, jagged gray mountain in Svaneti, Georgia.

Destinations Visited

Baku, Azerbaijan

Tbilisi, Chiatura, Baghdati, Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Potskho Etseri, Mestia, Ushguli, Mtskheta, and Gori, Georgia

Yerevan, Khor Virap, Areni, Noravank, Geghard, Garni, Sevan, and Dilijan, Armenia

Harrow, Watford, Leatherhead, Chaldon, Coulsdon, and Horley, England

New York, New York, USA

St. John’s, Dildo, Port Rexton, Trinity, Champney’s West, Port Union, Elliston, Bonavista, Amherst Cove, King’s Cove, Duntara, Plate Cove West, Twillingate, Crow Head, Durrell, Gander, and Charlottetown, Newfoundland, Canada

Kate wears a red dress and stands in the Cascade of Lebanon, a pyramid-shaped structure with staircases on each side.
Favorite Destinations

This month I visited 42 new destinations (!!). Here are my favorites:

Yerevan, for its sleek and modern cityscape and cafe scene.

Tbilisi, for its chaotic beauty, architecture, and food scene.

Mestia, for its adorable village set against the spectacular Caucasus mountain range.

Trinity, for its incredible beauty, bright houses, and the clouds that hang around the surrounding cliffs.

Twillingate, for feeling like the edge of the world, and its friendly people and experiences.

Several people toasting glasses of orange wine on a darkened rooftop at sunset.

Highlights

Turning 35 surrounded by friends in Tbilisi. Being an August baby, I’m used to not having friends around on my birthday. I often won’t even have a celebration because I don’t want to deal with the disappointment of so many people being out of town. But this year was SO GOOD.

I arrived in Tbilisi on my birthday and we celebrated with a special dinner at Bina 37, where we drank qvevri wine on a rooftop and ate the most incredible tomato walnut cucumber salad in the country. We then went out to a wine bar called the Wine Factory, where they sell you wine bottles at store value and a sommelier picked out a bottle based on my tastes and gave it to me for FREE because it was my birthday! It was a special night and I’m glad I got to be surrounded by so many friends as I turned 35.

One more scintillating day in Azerbaijan. I spent the first day of August in Baku, explored the area surrounding the old city, posed for Instagram photos at the modern Heydar Aliyev Center, and had tea while watching the Flame Towers dance.

An incredible trip to Georgia with friends. Georgia has been one of the countries I’ve wanted to visit the most — so you could say the stakes were high. Well, I had a fantastic time. Tbilisi in all of its beautiful chaos, the mountains of Svaneti and the treacherous journey to Ushguli, the monasteries and wineries and restaurants. Such great people, and GEORGIA IS INSANELY CHEAP. I think it’s going to be one of the next big destinations and I can’t wait to write about it.

A surprising trip to Armenia. I keep using the word “surprising” to describe Armenia because it delighted me on a constant basis. Yerevan is such a cool city, so modern and so clean with tons of cool restaurants and cafes. I could actually see myself living there for a summer. After that, I explored several of the monasteries and explore the many different landscapes of Armenia, which has so much diversity in a small space. Red canyons, forested mountains, freshwater lakes, deserts — Armenia has so much to offer! And I LOVED eating their bread with cheese and fresh herbs.

A quick getaway to the UK. I attended a lovely wedding, met some wonderful people, and dove into a burger and a ginger beer after two and a half weeks of eating nothing but Georgian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani food.

A whirlwind fun time in New York. Two days wasn’t that long, but I got to enjoy Harlem Restaurant Week, get my nails done, and spend time with four of my favorite New Yorkers, ranging from age 1 to 35.

A beautiful solo road trip around Newfoundland. Newfoundland is a beautiful and fascinating destination — I can’t believe it took me this long to visit. It’s so special. And road-tripping is the best way to discover all this island has to offer. After starting in St. John’s I drove up to Dildo (hehehe) and the beautiful small towns around Trinity, then visited art installations along the Bonavista peninsula, then drove through Gander (the Come From Away town!) and up to Twillingate, where I had a seafood dinner cooked on the beach.

And then I came back to St. John’s and got to be on the local news! I also got to spend a lot of quality time with my friend Candice and make a ton of new friends. While I’ve visited a lot of great new destinations this year, I think Newfoundland touched my heart the most.

Starting the Curly Girl Method on my hair. Ever since I gave up the keratin, I’ve been wanting to embrace my natural curls more. A few of my fellow curly girls have been swearing by the Curly Girl Method, so I’ve given it a try. Basically, you stop using any products with sulfates or bad stuff in them, you stop shampooing your hair (!!) and just use a non-lathering cleanser, then condition, and you dry your curls with gel and scrunch them.

It’s a bit of a learning curve (the oil slick, MY GOD, the oil slick!) but the longer you do it, the better it gets. Now I only need to wash my hair every five days or so. And my curls are INSANE. So springy and spirally. Let’s see how it continues!

Close-up on medieval stone towers and other buildings in Ushguli, Georgia.

Challenges

I quit my beloved gym for ethical reasons. You may have heard that the chairman of the board of Equinox and Soulcycle threw a fundraiser for Trump’s 2020 campaign in the Hamptons. Upon hearing that, people began quitting en masse. I have been a member of Equinox West 92nd St. for nearly three years and I consider it my second home. I was horrified, but I didn’t want to quit impulsively without thinking it through.

Equinox put out a statement saying how committed they were to diversity. Which I believe. But then the chairman released a statement about how HE was committed to diversity — and I was furious. It was so transparently false. Even if he only wants Trump reelected to keep his taxes low, that’s a man who already has more money than he will ever need, yet wants more money so badly that he’s willing to overlook the Latinx children being held in inhumane conditions along the border, torn from their parents, trapped in cages, girls bleeding through their underwear, traumatized for life. Just typing this makes my blood boil.

That made it clear — I would no longer financially support Equinox. I realize it’s impossible to completely avoid businesses that financially support Trump. But for me, quitting Equinox seemed like the right move to make. This was one place where I was spending a ton of money each month, and there are hundreds if not thousands of fitness centers in New York that DO NOT give money to Donald Trump.

My site went mostly down for a few days. And what pisses me off is that I had no idea — my site was showing up fine for me, my host didn’t know, Pingdom didn’t send me any “site down” updates. I was busy traveling and only found out when I checked my Google Analytics and Mediavine income. GRAH. It was a miscommunication between my host and the protection service I’ve been using ever since Russian bots started attacking my site in 2016, and thankfully it’s been resolved now.

One of my flights getting cancelled — then uncancelled after I rebooked it. Next month I’m flying from London to Bari, Italy, and I had a nice evening flight from Gatwick booked. Then I got an email that it was most likely going to be cancelled, so I got my refund and booked the only other option: a WizzAir flight from Luton (ew) to Bari at 6:00 AM the next morning (double ew), necessitating a hotel stay in Luton.

Then I got an email from British Airways saying “No need to worry — the flight’s still on!” And now I couldn’t cancel the WizzAir flight. Grrr…

A Lyft ride from hell. When I arrive at JFK too tired to get home by AirTrain/train/subway, I usually book a shared Lyft Line because it’s cheaper than my own Lyft ($35 as opposed to $55-85+) and 90% of the time it ends up being a solo journey.

Well. This time in routed me through LaGuardia, which is a construction hellhole, picking up a person who was having his Lyft booked for him by a friend, had no idea that you can’t just wait in the baggage claim when getting a Lyft at the airport, his friend who booked it was being the communication intermediary, and my driver spoke so little English that I had to take over and do all the communication. All this while the guards were forcing the car out into traffic and the woman on the phone was yelling at me. Far from ideal.

In the bottom right corner, Noravank monastery; in the rest of the background, a hazy blue view of Mount Ararat.

Most Popular Blog Post

Turning 35 and Letting Go of Fear — THE post of the year. What does it mean when you’re 35 and you haven’t had a baby yet? What does it mean when you’re not even sure that you want one??

Other Blog Posts

Solo Female Travel in Croatia — Is it Safe? — One of my favorite countries, Croatia is a fabulous choice for solo female travelers — even first-time solo female travelers.

Solo Female Travel in India — Is it Safe? — India requires a lot of extra precautions, but it’s a magnificent, transformational destination for solo female travelers. This guest post is written by India travel expert Mariellen Ward and she’s the person I refer women to when they’re looking to travel to India.

Kate in a bubble bath holding a glass of champagne with her hair up and smiling.

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Happy birthday, here’s Kate in a bathtub! On my birthday I stayed at a sensational design hotel, Communal Sololaki in Tbilisi. I absolutely loved this hotel, especially the bathtub in the middle of the bedroom with mirrored tiles behind it! The perfect photo to celebrate my 35th birthday. For more live updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

Kate stands in front of a modern building shaped like a sideways S, standing in a red dress.

What I Wore This Month

I haven’t been renting clothes lately, but I did buy this wine-colored Trouvé dress that I LOVE. It’s a perfect travel dress — it can be dressed up or down, it doesn’t wrinkle, and it’s a classic silhouette and flattering color with a cute asymmetrical hemline to make it a bit offbeat.

I would link to it, but it’s been sold out everywhere! I hope they release more soon, because I would totally buy this in more colors…

What I Watched This Month

Instant Hotel is my new Netflix obsession. It’s an Australian reality show where different pairs compete to see who has the best vacation rental. They travel all over Australia, critique each other, and learn what guests really need in a property.

I accidentally watched the show out of order, starting with Season 2 and then watching Season 1, which I think was actually better — Season 1 is filled with SO much drama and Season 2 is much nicer, focusing more on the properties than the fiery personalities. This show is so fun and so addicting. Also, a big tip: DON’T LOOK THE PROPERTIES UP ON AIRBNB UNTIL THE SHOW IS OVER or it will spoil the results for you!

Kate stands underneath the green-and-white-patterned Peace Bridge in Tbilisi, Georgia, giving a peace sign and wearing a dress that has a very similar green and white geometric pattern.

What I Read This Month

I got a lot of reading done this month, thanks in part to heavy audiobook consumption. When we were traveling rough roads in Georgia and Armenia, listening to audiobooks and watching the road kept me from feeling overly nauseous. I did a TON of solo driving in Newfoundland, and audiobooks got me through the longest stretches of boring highway. I am now up to 60 books read in 2019.

I also want to give a shout-out to the 1619 Project in the New York Times magazine. This month is the 400th anniversary of when the first enslaved Africans were brought to America, one of the moments that has shaped our nation the most. The 1619 Project is a collection of essays. It’s excellent reading and I highly recommend taking a deep dive.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (2019) — Stephanie Land escaped an abusive relationship shortly after her daughter was born and since she had no money, they lived in a homeless shelter. What got her on her feet again was working as a maid. Even working a lot, she was barely able to scrape by financially and had numerous close calls that almost put them back in a shelter. This is a memoir of several of those years.

This book is often compared to Matthew Desmond’s superb book Evicted, but not quite fairly — that book is a well-researched work of journalism while this is a memoir of one person’s experiences. That being said, this is an incredibly valuable read for showing the indignity of living in poverty, the challenges of applying for government programs for the poor, and the impossibility of climbing out of the cycle of poverty, especially when you have a child. Land’s dream to become a writer is what propelled her forward. And while she often made questionable decisions, it shows a very human look at being poor, albeit from the point of view of an educated white woman, while most cleaners in the US are poor women of color.

One last note — I don’t recommend listening to this as an audiobook. Land has a robotic voice and it detracted from the experience.

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is More Than You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders (2018) — After getting sober and climbing out of debt, Cait Flanders decided to give herself another challenge: a year without shopping. She would simply live on what she already had and she would give away tons of her possessions. Over the course of a year, she saved a ton of money, learned she needed far less than she thought to survive, and was able to take a career leap because of her new financial prudence.

I so wanted to like this book. I appreciated parts of it — like how she tied in her financial consumption to her years of alcoholism — but I kept feeling like I was waiting for the book to start and it never quite did. She chronicles her financial and non-shopping habits, but halfway through the book, her parents decide to divorce and the book becomes all about that instead, which isn’t what I signed up to read. I have the feeling that this book was meant to be read in tandem with her blog, because a lot was missing from it. I do hope to implement some of the consume-less habits in the next year, though.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (2001) — We always say that intuition is a powerful thing, but just how powerful is it? That’s what Malcolm Gladwell explains in this book — that intuition can often be more powerful and accurate than years of research and deliberation. One of the examples that stuck with me was when art historians were trying to figure out if a newly discovered statue was authentic. Every expert felt that something was “off” when they first saw it but couldn’t explain; but all the research pointed to it being authentic. It turned out to be a fake.

I am a latecomer to the Malcolm Gladwell wagon (I first read Outliers earlier this year), and his books are so interesting. I especially related to how your intuition becomes better if you spend years working in the field. I remember reading submissions for the literary journal I worked on in college and lighting up after reading, like, three lines from a new piece. You just know. I felt the same way when I ran the Bloghouse back in 2012 and read a paragraph from the girl who went on to become Flora the Explorer. “We need her. She’s got that ‘it’ quality,” I told my friends. That one paragraph showed me everything I needed to know — and her success today shows that.

Three red flowers placed in front of there eternal flame at the Armenian Genocide Memorial.

The Colossus of New York by Colson Whitehead (2004) — Colson Whitehead has written a love letter to New York in a series of essays that cover different topics of life in the city. Central Park. The subway. The Brooklyn Bridge. Each of them is a dizzying jazz riff on the chaos yet community that you get from living in New York.

Colson Whitehead is one of my favorite authors and I had this to tide me over while I wait for The Nickel Boys to become available from the library. One common topic amongst New Yorkers is the threshold that it takes to become a New Yorker. I really love the way Whitehead puts it: “You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now.” As soon as you start to miss the things that used to be there before, you become a New Yorker. We are all wandering around our own New York universe, missing the things that used to be there.

As for me, I miss the old skyline from Central Park when “La Frite” was the only gross skyscraper.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (2018) — For the past 20 years, Ruth Jefferson has been an accomplished labor and delivery nurse. Soon, she finds out she’s banned from caring for one of the newborns — because his parents are white supremacists and Ruth is black. When the baby goes into cardiac arrest and dies, Ruth is blamed for the death and stripped of her nursing license. The ensuing trial examines whether Ruth did everything she could to save that baby.

First things first: this is a book explaining white supremacy to white people who don’t think they’re racist. That was the point of the book. It’s a bit of a primer on “You benefit from white supremacy every day of your life and you have a ton of biases that you know nothing about.” That’s Jodi Picoult’s audience, and those are the people who need to read this book. If you’re a person of color, you’ll probably roll your eyes at the white characters who claim not to see color.

That said — this book is engrossing. I read Jodi Picoult’s books every now and then because of how they suck you in, even though they’re SO formulaic, from the monologue from the blue collar guy talking about how much he loves his wife even though she’s gained weight since he met her to the M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist at the end. I kind of hate myself for getting into them so much. But this was so good to listen to while driving through Newfoundland — it was riveting and I couldn’t stop listening. I think it’s one of her better books.

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx (1994) — After living a life of mediocrity and suffering some devastating losses, a man named Quoyle decides to move back to his ancestral homeland, Newfoundland, with his newfound aunt and his young daughters. In Newfoundland he gets hired to write “The Shipping News,” or news about the boats that come into port. Quoyle meets a variety of characters, finds a romantic interest, discovers family secrets, and finds himself at home in this strange but fascinating destination. This book won the Pulitzer Prize.

I often like to read books set in the destinations I visit, and this was a great choice for Newfoundland. It was so atmospheric to be driving around Newfoundland and seeing those cottages and craggy coves as the audiobook described similar landscapes. That said, I wasn’t quite as into it as I thought I would be — the book tended to be something I drifted into and out of. Perhaps listening to it after a gripping Jodi Picoult book was a mistake; my expectations were too high. But I did enjoy this book and I really want to see the movie now.

A Beautiful Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal by Jen Waite (2017) — When Jen met Marco, she thought she had fallen into a fairy tale. She was an aspiring actress and waitress in New York, he was the Argentine bartender who charmed his way into her life. They fell in love, got married, started a business, and welcomed a daughter. But when her daughter was only a few weeks old, she discovered an email that led down a rabbit hole — her husband had been living a double life.

Did I enjoy listening to this audiobook? Yep, definitely. At the same time, I’m not sure why anyone published it. Yes, her husband was an asshole and he put her through the wringer, and nobody deserved what she got. But at the end of the day…it was basic infidelity with a younger woman. Nothing revolutionary. And throughout the book, it seemed like both Jen and Marco were incredibly immature and infantilized by her overbearing parents. Plus, she believes that Marco is a sociopath, but it’s hard to read that from someone who isn’t a professional (even if her therapist agreed with her). An entertaining read, but one I rolled my eyes at a bit too much.

White conical "Trulli" homes in Alberobello, Italy. Several homes are stuck together with gray shingled pointy roofs. A tree grows alongside a wall. Several doors have gift shops and two women are taking pictures of the houses.

Coming Up in September 2019

If June, July, and August weren’t crazy enough, here comes another travel-heavy month! I fly back to New York from Newfoundland for a few days, then I fly to London for Borderless Live on September 6 and 7, where I’ll be speaking about professional blogging.

Next I fly to Bari, Italy, to spend two weeks in Puglia, the heel of the boot. I’ve been to Puglia before, but I’ll be exploring lots of new places: Monopoli, Lecce, and the Tremiti Islands, plus a side trip to Matera in Basilicata.

Next I’ll be driving all the way up Italy’s east coast, stopping in Termoli in Molise, Grand Sasso in Abruzzo, and Urbino in Le Marche, before arriving in Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna, for the Social Travel Summit. Emilia-Romagna is a region I love dearly and I’m excited to return to Ravenna and do a culinary post-conference trip to Reggio Emilia and Parma.

After that I’ll continue the drive through the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, stopping in Trieste (which I SO wanted to visit in June but couldn’t make work) and then heading further north…

Any suggestions for Puglia or elsewhere on Italy’s Adriatic coast? Share away!

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


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