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11 Things I Learned on My Latest Trip to Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:
The Joys and Challenges of Traveling in Sicily

But Alto Adige is truly another world.

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

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

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

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

Looking for untouristed Italy? Head to Trentino.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italian cities vary more than you think.

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

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

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

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

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

Cinque Terre (via Pixabay)

I still have zero desire to visit Cinque Terre.

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

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

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

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

There are more than two kinds of prosciutto.

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

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

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

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

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

Luxury is relative — and quite affordable in Italy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ATMs are surprisingly hard to find.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…but Piemonte may be my new favorite food region.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 Things I Learned in Italy -- Pinterest Graphic
Have you been to Italy? What did you enjoy most about it? Share away!

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Solo Female Travel in San Francisco — Is it Safe?

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How are you? fellow traveler, Happy Travel Day! We are always in search of brand-new info to show to you. Check out this information we located for you. Here is something you might find to be intriguing. Look at this post that we’ve came across. Pay attention to this gem we were able to find, hope you will enjoy this info that I’ve dug up. We believed that you to may appreciate this material

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate’s 10 Favorite Things to Do in San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE: Why You Should Travel to Oakland Too

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

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

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

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

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

San Francisco Travel and Safety Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never leave your bags anywhere unattended. Take your belongings with you. If you’re keeping your bag under the table or otherwise out of sight, keep it between your feet or hook the strap around one of the chair legs.

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

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

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

Only use ATMs at banks if possible. If your card gets eaten, it’s a lot easier to retrieve it from a real bank’s ATM. If you can’t find a bank and it’s at night, use an ATM indoors, in a vestibule or in a shopping mall.

Get a digital guidebook and keep it on your phone. Even today, I always keep a guidebook PDF on my phone — it’s great for calculating approximate time of journeys, knowing what days places are closed, and it lists medical centers you should go to in case of emergency. I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks — I recommend Lonely Planet San Francisco or Lonely Planet California if you’re exploring further afield.

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

Be careful about your drinking. Drink less in San Francisco than you ordinarily would at home — two drinks is a good limit. Only take drinks from bartenders, never take a drink from a stranger, and always keep it with you and keep an eye on it. If you choose to go wine tasting, it’s acceptable (and encouraged) to only consume a small amount and use the spittoon.

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

READ MORE:
Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

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

Wine Tasting in San Francisco as a Solo Traveler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate at the Fairmont San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Meet People in San Francisco

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

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

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

Look for Couchsurfing meetup events in San Francisco. Couchsurfing isn’t just for free accommodation — they also put on meetup events where everyone is welcome. San Francisco puts on regular meetups and they always draw a great crowd.

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

Put out feelers on social media. Often a friend of yours will have a cousin or friend living in San Francisco who will offer to meet you for coffee, just so you know someone. Take advantage of this if you can. This is what I did — I asked for San Francisco photography advice in one of my blogger groups, and a local girl named Paroma (pictured with me above) offered to meet me and take photos! We had a great morning and it was so nice to make a new friend.

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

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

Yosemite National Park (via Pixabay)

Where to Go After San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel Insurance for San Francisco

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

If you get sick or injured on your trip, if you get robbed, or even if you have to be flown home, travel insurance will protect you from financial ruin. And tragically, if you plan a stay at a winery that’s destroyed by a wildfire, which has happened in California in recent years, they will refund you your costs. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to San Francisco.

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

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

San Francisco is waiting for you!

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

READ NEXT: The Best Things I Ate in San Francisco

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AK Monthly Recap: May 2019

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

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

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

“No, honey. You’re a 32DD.”

I blanched. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“No. This is your real size.”

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

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

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

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

Destinations Visited

New York, NY

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

Ansonia, CT

Image: Brendan van Son

Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote of the Month:

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

Me: “You are not old! I’m 34.”

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

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

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


Most Popular Post

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

Other Posts

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

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

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

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

What I Wore This Month

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

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

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

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

What I Listened To This Month

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

What I Watched This Month

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

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

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

What I Read This Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming Up in June 2019

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

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

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


In Memoriam

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest in peace, Rachel.

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

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Where to Stay in Seattle — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation

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Seattle Skyline (via Pixabay)

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

Take it away, Richelle!

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

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

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

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

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

Best Neighborhood Overall: Seattle’s Downtown and Waterfront

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

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

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

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

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

Best Hotels in Seattle’s Downtown and Waterfront:

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

Find deals on all Downtown Seattle hotels here.

Lower Queen Anne, Seattle, via Harold Hollingsworth on Flickr

Best Neighborhood for Sightseeing and Culture: Queen Anne

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Queen Anne Hotels:

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

Find deals on all Queen Anne hotels here.

Safeco Field near Pioneer Square (via Pixabay)

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

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

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

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

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

Best Pioneer Square Hotels

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

Find deals on all Pioneer Square hotels here.

Capitol Hill, Seattle (via Eric Fredericks on Flickr)

Best Neighborhood for Music and LGBTQ Visitors: Capitol Hill

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

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

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

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

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

Best Capitol Hill Hotels

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

Find deals on all Capitol Hill hotels here.

Belltown, Seattle, via David Baron

Best Value for Money Neighborhood: Belltown

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

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

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

Best Belltown Hotels

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

Find deals on all Belltown hotels here.


Best Neighborhood for Foodies: Chinatown/International District

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

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

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

Best International District Hotels

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

Find deals on all Chinatown/International District hotels here.

The Ave at UW Campus, via Dmitry Alexeenko on Flickr

Best Neighborhood for Students and Young Travelers: U District

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

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

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

Best U District Hotels

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

Find deals on all U District hotels here.

Pie in Fremont, via Joe Wolf on Flickr

Best Neighborhood for Creative Types: Fremont

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

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

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

Best Fremont Hotels

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

Find deals on all Fremont hotels here.

 

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Best Luxury Hotel in Seattle: The Edgewater

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

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

Find the lowest rates at The Edgewater here.

 

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Best Boutique Hotel in Seattle: Hotel Max

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

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

Find the lowest rates at Hotel Max here.

 

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Best Midrange Hotel in Seattle: The Maxwell Hotel by Staypineapple

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

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

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

 

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Best Hostel in Seattle: HotelHotel Hostel

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

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

Find the lowest rates at HotelHotel Hostel here.

Seattle Travel Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle (via Pixabay)

Don’t Visit Seattle Without Travel Insurance 

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle is Waiting For You!

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s just the superficial stuff, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–E.B. White, Here is New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Most New York apartments charge a broker fee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:
Why I Moved to Harlem Instead of Brooklyn


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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Bodegas are lifelines in New York.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12. The subway runs all night in New York.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:
124 Things to Do in Harlem: A Guide

14. Happy Hour is a thing in New York.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:
I Saw Hamilton and Yes, It Really Is That Great

17. Everything seems to happen in New York.

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:
Black Tap and the Craziest Milkshakes in New York City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:
Inside Bushwick, New York’s Weirdest Neighborhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ NEXT:
The Biggest Mistakes New York Tourists Make

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Why Travel to the UK?

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

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

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

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

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

There’s More to England than London!!!

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

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

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

Is Britain Good for First-Time Solo Female Travelers?

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

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

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

Is Britain Good for Experienced Solo Female Travelers?

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:
Scenes from England’s Lake District

 
Getting Around the UK as a Solo Traveler

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel and Safety Tips for England, Scotland, and Wales

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be careful about your drinking. Drink less than you ordinarily would at home — two drinks is a good limit. Only take drinks from bartenders, never take a drink from a stranger, and always keep it with you and keep an eye on it.

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

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

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

Never leave your bags anywhere unattended. Take them with you. While in cities and touristy areas in the UK, if you’re keeping your bag under the table or otherwise out of sight, keep it between your feet or hook the strap around one of the chair legs.

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

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

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

Only use ATMs at banks if possible. If your card gets eaten, it’s a lot easier to retrieve it from a real bank’s ATM. If you can’t find a bank and it’s at night, use an ATM indoors, in a vestibule or in a shopping mall.

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

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

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

READ MORE:
Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

How will Brexit affect travelers?

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

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

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

The Best Travel Experiences in the UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solo Female Travel in England: Where to Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:
Scenes from the Cotswolds

Solo Female Travel in Scotland: Where to Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:
My Love Affair with Scotland

Solo Female Travel in Wales: Where to Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:
A Dreamy Trip to South Wales


How to Meet People in England, Scotland, and Wales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Wear in England, Scotland, and Wales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel Insurance for the UK

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

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

Britain is waiting for you!

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

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

READ NEXT:
Solo Female Travel in Europe — The Best Destinations

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

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




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How I Became a Successful Travel Blogger — My Smartest Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had awesome hair when I was born.

A Privileged Position from Birth (1984-present)

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

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

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

Girl reading book (via Pixabay)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Up a Dreamer (1989-2002)

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

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

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

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

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

A Technology-Filled Childhood (1990-2002)

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

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

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

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

Building Websites in the Early Days (1998-2002)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My First Trip Overseas Trip to France (2001)

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

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

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

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

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

A Professor Who Saw a Spark (2002)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laptop (via Pixabay)

Starting a Blog in the Earliest Days (2002)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Studying Abroad in Florence, Italy (2004)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering the Concept of Long-Term Travel (2006)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Grammar Vandal (via Boston Globe)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Career from a Blogging Friend (2008)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Specialty: Social Media (2009)

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

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

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

Dipping My Toe Into Freelance Destination Writing (2009)

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

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

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

Laptop Image via Pixabay

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

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

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

It was the easiest decision of my life.

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

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

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

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

This started it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My going-away party in Boston

Planning an Escape — and a Trip (2010)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking a Leap to Continue Indefinitely (2011)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving to Affiliates at the Right Time (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving to New York (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Replicate My Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ NEXT:
How to Start a Travel Blog in Six Easy Steps

What moves led you to success in your own life?

The post How I Became a Successful Travel Blogger — My Smartest Decisions appeared first on Adventurous Kate.




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What’s It Really Like to Travel Guyana?

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

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

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

There’s nothing there. Quite the endorsement!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will eat well in Georgetown — and everywhere.

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

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

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

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

Would we like a beer? Why not?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll Have to Pack Light

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

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

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

What to Pack for Guyana’s Interior

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

The Rupununi is Isolated and Breathtaking

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

This is where the magic begins in Guyana.

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

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

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

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

Guyana’s Wildlife Will Thrill You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will have moments of discomfort.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate in the creek. Drone image by David DiGregorio.

You will have the best time ever in the creek.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will gawk at Kaieteur Falls.

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

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

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

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

Mount Roraima from Air. Image by David DiGregorio.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Must Know Before Traveling to Guyana

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

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

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

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

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

Solo Female Travel in Guyana

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:
Top Ten Travel Safety Tips for Women 


Planning a Guyana Travel Itinerary

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saddle Mountain Ranch in the South Rupununi doesn’t have a website. They have an all-inclusive rate starting at $68 that includes three meals a day and activities including horseback riding, hiking, and ATV riding.

Properties in the Rupununi charge for transfers from Lethem and other airstrips, and these fees can be quite costly. Contact the properties for a quote.

Evergreen Adventures offers day trips to Kaieteur Falls from Georgetown. The trip to the falls including a scenic flight to Orinduik Falls is $285. Roraima is so difficult to see ordinarily that most scenic flights will not include it.

If you’re looking for a private guide in Guyana, I highly recommend our guide, Leon Moore. If you’re interested in wildlife or photography, he’s the guide for you, and if you’re interested in birds, his knowledge and enthusiasm is unparalleled. You can contact him through his Facebook page.

Guyana requires evidence of a yellow fever vaccine, though I was never asked for proof. I recommend getting the vaccine anyway even if you don’t have travel plans, as it’s good for life and a requirement for visiting many countries. Malaria is present in parts of Guyana. Speak to your doctor about whether or not you should take anti-malarial pills.

Travel insurance is necessary for Guyana. If you trip and break an ankle in the Rupununi, or if you get appendicitis while in Georgetown, or if you have a death in the family and need to return home immediately, travel insurance can save your life and finances. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Guyana.

This post is brought to you by the Guyana Tourism Authority, who invited me on a media visit and covered all expenses. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Does Guyana look like your kind of destination? Share away!

The post What’s It Really Like to Travel Guyana? appeared first on Adventurous Kate.




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