AK Monthly Recap: October 2019

October is one of my favorite months of the year, and this year I got to enjoy it in three countries. I do enjoy drinking pumpkin spice lattes while draped in layers of flannel and tall boots as much as the next basic bitch, but it’s more than that.

October is a time for growth — there’s something about fall that always makes me want to buckle down and work. Maybe that’s a remnant from my school days.

Right now, I’m focused on getting EVERYTHING out before the end of the year. More posts on the Caucasus; more posts on Canada. Surveying my readers. Getting my annual gift guide ready for the 2019 onslaught. A LOT of tech stuff behind the scenes.

Because for me, the year ends at the beginning of December. Early to mid-December is always filled with my “Best of the Year” posts, then I go offline until after New Year’s. And this year I’ll be in Cuba until January 4 so I’m planning to not be online at all until then.

In other words, we now have hit the hardcore work season. And it feels good.

A statue in front of a church tower and crenellated building on Old Town Square in Prague.

Destinations Visited

Prague, Únětice, and Olomouc, Czech Republic

Portegrandi, Aquileia, Grado, Aurisina, Monfalcone, Sgonico, Trieste, Grignano, Repen, Ferrara, and Bologna, Italy

New York, NY

The UNESCO Column in Olomouc, Czech Republic, rising high in the middle of a square surrounded by pastel-colored buildings.

Highlights

Relaxing in Prague. After such a busy summer of travel, it was nice getting to just relax, eat good food, hang out with friends, and get work done.

Some of my favorite Prague highlights were visiting Sapa, a collection of Vietnamese stores on the outskirts of Prague that looks EXACTLY like Vietnam; having a “beer bath” while drinking from your own beer tap at a beer spa; hosting a meetup with some readers; a mini-hike through the woods into the town of Únětice and back; and Dinner Off the Bone at Kantyna, a fabulous high-end dinner featuring fantastic and unusual meat cuts.

A little getaway to Olomouc. This small city in eastern Czech Republic, close to the Polish border, is the perfect size for a 24-hour getaway. There’s not a lot to do, but it’s pretty, has good food, and there are some nice places to chill out.

Visiting Italian region #17 — Friuli-Venezia Giulia! I especially appreciated getting to spend time in Trieste, site of a family mystery. My mother’s father was stationed in Trieste during the early 1950s, and during that time he lived with an Italian woman and her family (!). This was before he met my grandmother. We’ve never known if he was married or if she was ever pregnant. I have to say that it was interesting walking the streets and thinking about his time there.

I’ll be honest — Friuli was nice, but it isn’t my favorite region and I don’t feel compelled to return. I did see a few cool things. We visited the UNESCO World Heritage-listed ruins and cathedral in Aquileia, had a brief visit to the cute little town of Grado, checked out the ostentatious Castello Miramare outside Trieste, and did a special osmiza tour in the town of Repen.

Did you know that in Trieste province, the city is Italian but the surrounding villages are all Slovenian? Farms in these villages occasionally do “osmiza,” where they open to the public and show off their products. This would have been a bit hard to find on our own so we signed up for an Osmiza tour. A local woman named Martina took us to a farm, brought us meat, cheese, and wine, and told us all about their local culture.

One perfect last day in Italy. I spent a gorgeous fall day in Ferrara and Bologna with my buds Katie, Steph, Mike, and their awesome daughters. Pasta, wine, and enjoying the fall colors. I lamented that it will be at least six months before I return to Italy.

Surveying my readers and learning a LOT from them. What a great survey this was. I really need to be doing this annually, at least.

I offered my 18-month-old practically-a-nephew a piece of cupcake and he took it, looked me in the eye, and said, “Thank…you.” And my heart melted. This kid is so polite! I had fun taking him trick-or-treating, too!

Being back in New York. After three months away, it’s been good to be back. Mostly. Spending lots of time with friends and doing cool things.

A white building with columns behind a canal, underneath a cloudy gray sky in Trieste, Italy.

Challenges

Losing a friend. And everything else pales in comparison. More on that in the “In Memoriam” at the end of the post.

A trip to the Italian hospital. My boyfriend went from a slightly sore throat to having a fever and being unable to swallow, so we went to the hospital in Monfalcone. The diagnosis? Tonsillitis.

He recovered quickly with antibiotics, but it was another reminder of how sane healthcare is outside the US. As an EU resident with an EU health card, he paid 25 euros ($28) for an ER visit.

Neck and back and arm issues. I started feeling pain behind my shoulder at the end of September, and assumed it was from sleeping weird, but then it grew into pain shooting down my arm. It was horrible.

I saw a physiotherapist in Prague (did you know that physiotherapy was invented by the Czechs?) and after a few sessions, it’s back to normal. Turns out these months away from the gym have not been good for me. I was urged to do 10 minutes of yoga twice a day at the very least.

Poor packing. I really packed for summer on this trip — since I was out of my apartment for three months, I didn’t have a chance to go back and swap things out. In Prague I basically wore jeans and the same three shirts over and over.

Also, I brought exactly two pairs of jeans with me — my two favorite pairs of jeans — and they both got crotch holes AT THE SAME EXACT TIME. I had to throw them both away and get a survival pair at H&M.

A narrow street with yellow and light red walls in Ferrara, Italy

Most Popular Blog Post

Travel to Newfoundland, Canada, and You’ll Never Want to Leave — Not only was this my most popular post of the month, it was the most popular post of the year. It was shared off my original Facebook post more than 600 times!!

Other Blog Posts

24 Reasons Why You Should Travel to Georgia in 2020 — Georgia is a FANTASTIC country, and it’s about to explode on the tourism scene. Here’s what you need to know before you go.

Why You Should Travel to Parma, Italy — Parma is one of the prettiest cities in Italy, but it doesn’t get nearly as much tourism as nearby Milan and Florence. Here’s why you should go and what to do once you’re there!

Survey Results: Who are Adventurous Kate’s Readers, Anyway? — The results of the survey! Really interesting stuff. I was impressed. Hope you enjoy.

A young-looking 26-year-old Kate stands on Khao San Road in Bangkok, filled with neon signs and crowds. She has a huge smile.

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

This month marked nine years since I started traveling in October 2010. I decided to reshare this photo from my first day on the road in Bangkok. LOOK HOW YOUNG I LOOK! As always, you can follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

What I Watched This Month

This month I finally caught up on seasons six and seven of Orange is the New Black. The single best thing this series did was show the reality of the American prison system and especially private prisons. It’s horrific. And season seven is even worse, once they go into ICE immigration detention centers, which have virtually no rules and regulations.

They wrapped the series up well. Some tragedy, some triumph, like the rest of the show. I’ll miss those characters.

I saw El Camino, the Breaking Bad movie on Netflix, about what happened to Jesse at the end of the series. When I heard they were making it, my reaction was, “Why?! Breaking Bad had a perfect ending!”

But you know what? This was great. Truly a love letter to the fans in every way possible. If you were a Breaking Bad fan, you’ll love it!

I also saw Joker in Prague, which…didn’t seem to know what kind of movie it wanted to be. Though it was beautifully shot. It reminded me a lot of Drive, which I think is a far superior movie.

Oh, and can we get love for the Grouch parody of Joker on SNL? SO GOOD!!! Best sketch of the season so far!

I saw Booksmart as well, which I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED. It’s about two nerdy high-achieving high school girls who decide to finally go out and party for the first time ever the night before graduation.

My three best friends and I didn’t party in high school, and I related to SO much to the characters. (The scene when they order a Lyft and the driver was their principal…the awkwardness…I could EASILY imagine that happening to us!) But even if that doesn’t describe you, this movie is SO FUNNY. Watch it!! More comedies by women writers and directors, please!

A fancy crenellated building in Prague with a bright pink and purple sunset behind it.

What I Read This Month

One thing I realized in Prague was that being in a small city majorly reduced my reading time. I was never on a tram for longer than 15 minutes at the very most. In New York, I’m regularly on the subway for 30+ minutes and use that time to read. At this point, I’m up to 68 books read in 2019.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (2019) — Finally, it’s here — the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, written 35 years later. The TV show extends far beyond the original novel, and this sequel is more-or-less in the same world as the TV show. Offred, the narrator of the first book, has almost no presence, though it mentions that Gilead now considers her a terrorist and she’s survived two assassination attempts; the book is narrated by her daughters Hannah and Nicole, and Aunt Lydia.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I loved it when I read it — I love the comprehensive world-building Atwood did, and Aunt Lydia’s sections were outstanding. I devoured the whole thing in about 24 hours. BUT. As soon as I started reading other criticism and reviews, I noticed its shortcomings. There were several major plot holes and it seemed unnecessarily tailored to the “teenage girl saves the world in a dystopian future” genre.

I see this book as more of a love letter to fans than an outstanding standalone novel. And it especially bothers me that the Booker Prize was recently jointly awarded for the first time ever: to Atwood for this book and Bernadine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other. Evaristo is the first black woman to ever win this literary prize, and it sucks that she didn’t get to enjoy it on her own but had to share it with an established white author who already has tons of other awards.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (2014) — When Bryan Stevenson was studying at Harvard Law, he felt called to serve those in need of legal help. An internship brought him to death row in Alabama, working to save inmates from execution, and he established a foundation called the Equal Justice Initiative. The memoir covers several areas of his criminal justice work today but focuses primarily on the struggle to free Walter McMillian, a man falsely accused of murder and condemned to death.

This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for years, and I’m glad I finally did (not least because the movie is coming out in December). I don’t see how anyone can support the death penalty after reading this. It’s applied cavalierly, very often to innocent or mentally ill people. Children as young as 13 are sometimes tried as adults and sentenced to life in prison (the Supreme Court overturned this a few years ago thanks in part to Stevenson’s work).

This, along with Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, is one of the most important and powerful books I’ve read about race, class, and inequality in America.

The cathedral in Aquileia, Italy, a small church with an orange roof with tall cypress trees in front.

The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang (2018) — Entrepreneur Andrew Yang is campaigning for president on being a business leader future — most significantly, by promoting a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $1000 per month to each American. This book shines a magnifying glass on how we’re on the cusp of an automation revolution, and we need to have a solution for when there aren’t enough jobs for people anymore.

First off — I’m not going to vote for Yang, but I’m glad he’s bringing a lot of these issues into the spotlight, particularly UBI, though I strongly disagree with him that UBI recipients should give up food stamps and other government-subsidized programs for the poor. The book is pretty frightening. I’ve always felt like working in a creative industry protected me from automation — but YOU’D BE SURPRISED at what can be automated. I fully expect us to go through another industrial revolution in 20 years or so.

That said — one thing that irked me a bit was that there was no intersectionality in this book, aside from a few well-known statistics pointing out that women and people of color make less money than white men. It seems like a major oversight. I can see why some Yang supporters have a libertarian streak and others are Bernie fans — many of them detest “identity politics,” think economic issues affect everyone the same way, and thus aim for one-size-fits-all solutions. But that’s not enough. It’s one thing to say, “If we create more jobs overall, there will be more jobs for black people,” but what do you do about institutional racism preventing black people from being hired and promoted in the first place?

I was surprised that Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton, California, wasn’t included in the book, as he’s done really interesting work with UBI — then I learned that Tubbs isn’t a fan of Yang because if you receive the $1,000/month, it guts all social benefits, like food stamps and Medicaid. Tubbs doesn’t do this in Stockton. Read more about that here.

Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of Stars by Scotty Bowers (2012) — This is one of the juiciest books about Old Hollywood you’ll ever read. After serving in World War II, Scotty Bowers moved to Los Angeles and worked at a gas station. With his wide circle of friends, soon the gas station became “the” place to hang out. And soon men starting asking Scotty to set them up with his friends for paid sex. Soon he was pimping constantly, for free (he claims), and became the guy who would hook you up with someone for whatever you were into. EVERYONE in Hollywood knew him.

Long story short, almost everyone in Hollywood was gay or at least bi. That I do believe. Some of the other stuff strains credulity — like the fact that Bowers never took money for his decades of specialized pimping. (I think he said that for legal reasons.) There’s also the fact that most of the subjects in the book are now dead; Bowers published this book at age 88. But was it an entertaining read? Yeah. It definitely was. Lots of people were into some weird shit.

One major thing, though — Bowers was sexually abused as a child. He talks about these experiences and maintains that he enjoyed them. And while I think people have the right to do whatever brings them peace with their abuse, I do think it’s dangerous to publish a book without labeling child sexual abuse as cruel, inhumane, and criminal.

Yellow Leaves behind a lamppost in Central Park, NYC.

Coming Up in November 2019

Moving out of New York. I’ve only mentioned a bit of this publicly on social media, but a few months ago, I decided to leave New York. There are lots of reasons behind it and I’ll be writing my own “Goodbye to All That” essay at a later date, probably when I’m in Mexico this winter.

But in the meantime…moving sucks!

The move is happening right before Thanksgiving, and I’ll be spending that holiday at home in Massachusetts. After that? Traveling for a few months, then committing to a new home in mid-2020.

I’m not going to be checking off a bucket list of things I’ve always wanted to do in New York. I’ll be back all the time and I plan on spending at least a month here each year. I think my lifestyle is better suited to living part-time in New York rather than full-time.

In Memoriam

Whenever I’ve written an “In Memoriam” in these posts, it’s been about a travel blogger friend who passed away. Wes. Billie. Meruschka. Evelyn. Rachel.

This time, it’s a friend I made on my travels. This lovely redheaded guy is Ashley. We traveled together on our Croatia cruise in 2012.

Ash was a sweet, kind, quiet guy. He and I were the only two who refused to jump off the top of the boat — but we had a blast dressing up like pirates, climbing the mountain at Omiš, doing shots of god-knows-what in Hvar, swimming in the saltwater lake on Mljet. Years after the Croatia trip, we stayed in touch on Facebook and swapped travel tips.

It’s hard to find a silver lining when you lose someone so young — but it made me smile to see well-wishes and condolences pour in from all over the world. Ash made travel a major priority in his life. Between that and opening a beloved coffeeshop in Brisbane, he made so many friends who cared for him.

I will miss him. I extend my deepest condolences to his partner, mother, and loved ones, and wish them comfort in the days ahead.

What did you get up to this month? Share away!

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