Месечни архиви: August 2015

The Genealogy Trip: Tracing Our Roots in Latvia, Sicily, and Scotland

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Kate, Mom and Sarah in Taormina

In late July, two special ladies flew across the Atlantic to Latvia. For the first time in my nearly five years of travel, family members were coming to travel with me. My mother, Debbie, and my sister, Sarah.

Wait? When did you mention a big family trip?!

I didn’t mention it, actually. My mom is conservative when it comes to social media and didn’t want to broadcast to the world that she was away from her house, even though she had a house sitter. So I wrote about this trip, but didn’t talk about the family aspect until now.

You see, this year, my mom hit a milestone birthday. She is an avid genealogist and she loves to travel, so I suggested that we celebrate with a genealogy trip visiting the places our family comes from: Latvia, Sicily, and Scotland.

She loved the idea. We quickly put it into motion, organizing a trip that would challenge us, entertain us, and move us deeply. We were going to find our roots.

Here’s how it went down.

Kate, Sarah and Mom in Riga

Part One: Latvia

We kicked off our trip with a few days in Riga (Mom having arrived lugging lingonberry jam from Oslo airport). My mother’s fraternal grandfather immigrated from the city as a child and it’s always been one of the more mysterious sides of our ancestry.

While unfortunately my mom couldn’t get into the national archives to research on her own (they were closed with summer hours), she did get contacts who would be able to research for her in the future. Instead of researching, we spent our time exploring the city and getting to know Latvian history and culture.

Our first discovery? We knew that our relatives were German Latvians, and we learned that German Latvians were the educated elites of Riga, yet faced a lot of persecution and it was hard for them to find work. Our relatives left in the early 1900s, probably so they could use their education freely; many more left during World War II, for obvious reasons.

Second, we were all surprised to learn how Latvian my blonde sister looks! People would speak Latvian to her first, but they wouldn’t to me and my mom. It was nice to know that those Latvian genes presented so strongly in one of us.

Kate, Sarah and Mom in Zafferana

Part Two: Sicily

Sicily was where we had the highest stakes. My mother’s grandfather immigrated from Sicily in 1899 and though she has a varied ethnic background, Sicilian is the dominant culture in her family (think food, religion, language, etc.).

And Sicily is wild. I’ll be going into it in more detail in a later post, but it is the single most challenging destination I’ve faced in years. Despite spending so much time in Italy and speaking Italian, I struggled to get by, to understand and be understood. We all did! And let’s not get started on the driving.

The most moving part was visiting Castanea delle Furie, my great-grandfather’s village. It took a long, curving drive up a mountain to get there and we promptly learned how tiny a place is (and how much tinier it must have been in 1899). Exactly one business in town: a cafe. That was it.

We had information on relative names and we tried to follow a trail. Let’s just say that involved knocking on a door where a naked dude answered; interrupting the town priest’s dinner; me attempting to speak Italian to lots of little old men, them only speaking Sicilian dialect, and neither of us understanding each other; and trying to glean what little information we could.

Our great-grandfather left Sicily for America on his own when he was eleven years old. After seeing Castanea and what a small place it is, we now believe that he ran away. (It especially gives context for the fact that his family eventually came to America to see him, cleaned out his bank account, and went back to Sicily. What awful people. Our great-grandfather stayed in Boston and became a barber.)

After five days in Sicily, Sarah had to fly back to New York and Mom and I moved to Avola, a beach city in southeast Sicily where I’m fairly certain we were the only foreigners. Our Sicilian family research ended there, but we had some fun days exploring Siracusa and Ragusa and relaxing on the beach.

Kate, Sandra and Mom in Edinburgh

Part Three: Scotland

You may remember a few years ago that I rekindled a travel friendship between my mother and her friend Sandra, who lives in Edinburgh. This time we went to stay with Sandra — it was the first time they had seen each other since they met!

Edinburgh wasn’t a major destination for family history — my mom did some research at the National Archives, where she learned that a date had been typed incorrectly into online records. Other than that, it was all about the Fringe Festival. We strolled the city and saw a handful of great shows (and in my case, one godawful show).

I knew my mom would love Edinburgh, and it was clear that this was her favorite place. She can’t wait to come back and see more of Scotland!

Mom and Kate in Iceland

Coda: Iceland

With super-cheap flights from Iceland to Boston on the new-ish airline WOW Air, as well as a cheap Easyjet flight from Edinburgh to Reykjavik, we decided to finish our trip with a few days in Iceland, despite our lack of roots there.

By this point of the trip, both my mom and I were very tired. (Mom: “I don’t know how you do this all the time.” Me: “Me neither.”) We thus spent most of our time in Iceland walking around, shopping, and eating good seafood. We also did a day trip to the Golden Circle, which was new to me as well as her. (And of course we picked the express tour, not the regular tour!)

We finished with a soak in the Blue Lagoon before flying back home.

(Oh, and as soon as we got home, our first stop was Bianchi’s pizza on Revere Beach, one of my favorite pizza places on the planet. Perfect way to come home!)

Kate, Sarah and Mom in Riga

Our Family History Takeaways

Even though we didn’t get to meet up with long-lost relatives or solve impossible-seeming mysteries, we got so much out of this trip. Before we arrived in Riga, I feel like we had no idea what it meant to be Latvian, but as we soaked up the history, culture and food, I felt like we got closer.

“I feel bad for my [Latvian] grandfather,” my mom said as we dug into our dishes at Folkklubs. “He was used to eating like this…and then he my grandmother, who was a terrible cook.”

Later on, in Sicily, as we sat down to a dish of Siracusa-style tuna with tomatoes and onions: “This tastes just like my [Sicilian] grandfather’s cooking!” she exclaimed.

After I shared my Sicilian great-grandfather’s story of jumping on a boat to America at age 11, several people said, “So that’s where you get it!” I never thought of it like that. He was quite an adventurer.

Moments like that happened throughout our trip.

As for Scotland, no stones were newly unturned for me, though Mom noticed striking similarities between some of her Scottish cousins and the Scottish populations. (I did, however, feel a powerful connection when learning about the dark history of the Scottish Highlands a few years ago. Our family comes from there and the Isle of Skye, not Edinburgh.)

And speaking of stones, Mom brought three stones from her garden in Massachusetts. She traded them for one each from Latvia, Sicily, and Scotland.

Our favorite places that we visited as a family?

Riga was amazing. Riga turned out to be a surprisingly cool city with great people, fun nightlife, and far better food than we imagined.

Aci Trezza was off the beaten path and glorious. This tiny seaside town didn’t have much to do except relaxing in a beach club, eating granita, swimming in the Med, gazing at the rock formations, and drinking champagne.

Mount Etna was the coolest tour we did. From the lava tubes to climbing the edge to seeing the most beautiful sunset while drinking wine made from Etna grapes, it gave us so much respect for Sicily’s wild landscape.

Siracusa was the visual stunner. I was madly in love with the decaying beauty of Ortigia Island, it’s old town; Mom was captivated as well.

Edinburgh was pure magic, with or without the Fringe. I have so much love for that city that it’s hard to describe it. It’s just pure happiness overflowing in every direction.

Quick hits: Riga had the best food (I know, we’re shocked too). Iceland had the best fish. Scotland had the best beer. Avola had the best wine (the famed Nero d’Avola). The most special place we stayed was Agriturismo La Rocca della Rosa in Zafferana Etnea. Edinburgh had the best weather (another shock). The Golden Circle had the best scenery. Avola had the best beach but Aci Trezza had the best water. Taormina had the best views.

Kate, Mom and Sarah in Riga

How to Survive Adult Family Travel

Traveling long-term with your family as an adult? It’s a meaningful experience and I highly recommend it, but it also requires extra finesse, particularly if you’re traveling with a mix of more-experienced and less-experienced travelers.

Here’s what I recommend you do:

Discuss your expectations in advance.

How do you see yourselves spending your days? How much money can you afford to spend? What are your must-do activities? What kind of accommodation do you want? If you’re renting a car, who will be doing the driving?

Hash this all out in advance so people don’t get disappointed.

Let the more experienced traveler take the lead.

If one of you is a more experienced traveler, that person will probably be the most skilled at booking the flights and accommodation. Not only will that person know how to find the best deals (and quickly), he or she may be able to point out things the less-frequent travelers wouldn’t notice, like that you’d need to spend more on a taxi if you got a cheaper but late-arriving flight, or that the cool hotel with the pool would be too far to walk to the city center.

One example: when looking for a second place to stay in Sicily, I suggested someplace modern in a city as a contrast to our agriturismo. My mom was hesitant, as she adored our agriturismo, but after five days of the rustic life, I knew she, like me, would be eager for air conditioning and restaurants within walking distance.

If you’re the experienced traveler, don’t get too cocky.

Just because you’re experienced, it doesn’t mean you know everything about everywhere. Pipe down. And yes, this is advice that I would retroactively give myself.

Have each person choose a special event or activity.

For my sister, it was finding cool places to eat and drink in Riga (and she found the best!). For my mom, it was spending time in Castanea delle Furie and talking to the residents. For me, it was having a nice birthday in Riga with a photo walk, cocktails, wine, and Magic Mike XXL.

Get separate rooms.

Trust me on this one. Double up for a few days if it makes sense financially, but have separate rooms for most of your trip. It’s nice to have a place where you can have privacy and it’s especially important if one of you snores or sleep-screams.

Add downtime to your itinerary.

I know how tempting it is to have something scheduled for every day so that you see as much as possible, but believe me, it’s important to have quiet days as well. You’ll be tired at times, and if weather or travel plans get messed up, you’ll have a backup time.

Some of my favorite days were our downtime days, like the day we spent chilling out at Aci Trezza.

Yes, you will be stressed at times. Prepare for it.

We traveled together for THREE WEEKS. If we had made it through those three weeks without any friction, it would have been a miracle! (In retrospect, my mom and I agree that three weeks was too long. Two would have been better.)

My sister and I are both very much introverts, a contrast from our mother, a teacher and extravert. That made us handle situations differently and it was smart to be sensitive to each other’s needs.

Here’s an example: driving in Sicily, more than anything else, was extremely stressful for all three of us. My mom was the driver, I was the navigator, and my sister looked out for rogue drivers (of which there are many in Sicily).

After our long, nerve-wracking journey to Castanea delle Furie, my mom was ready to burst out of the car and start talking to people. My sister and I felt like crawling into a hole for the rest of the day and talking to people was the last thing we wanted to do. But this was the most important part of the trip for Mom. And if we launched right into chasing people, Sarah and I would have been in a shitty mood all day.

I explained this to Mom: we just needed 20 minutes to recover. “Let’s sit down, let’s be quiet, let’s decompress, let’s have a granita or coffee, and then we’ll be ready to go out and talk to people.” And that ended up working for all of us. That’s something we continued to follow throughout our trip. We would park the car and immediately go to a cafe or restaurant before exploring.

The important part: know your personal needs and communicate them. Be sensitive to what others need. Know when you’re getting stressed and be calm.

Alone time is good time.

On a long family trip like this, it’s good to have some time to yourself, even if you’re not a career solo traveler like me. Alone time is its own form of rejuvenation.

That’s why I was happy we visited Edinburgh late in the trip — my mom went off with Sandra and I got to enjoy the city on my own. The first thing I did? I headed straight to one of my favorite pubs: The World’s End on the Royal Mile for a dark stout and bowl of cullen skink (smoky chowder)! I had my Kindle with me. It was bliss.

The memories make it all worth it.

More than anything, I wanted us to have good memories from this trip, and I know we will always cherish them. From our night singing karaoke in Latvia to our evening drinking wine while watching the sunset on Mount Etna, I’m so grateful that we had this time together. Every moment was worth it.

Essential Info: In Riga, we stayed at this three-bedroom Airbnb apartment for $81 per night plus Airbnb fees. It couldn’t possibly have been better situated, right in the center of the Old Town, and it was very comfortable and homey. Our hosts kindly picked us up and dropped us off at the airport for 15 EUR ($17) each way.

Two of our favorite places in Riga were Folkklubs, an underground pub with live music, and Easy Wine, an amazing restaurant where you get self-served wine pourings of all sizes. We also did the free Riga alternative tour, which was fun (remember to tip your guide!). Also, don’t miss trying the Black Balsam liqueur, on its own or in cocktails.

In Zafferana Etnea, Sicily, we stayed in a two-bedroom suite at Agriturismo La Rocca della Rosa, which can also be booked on Airbnb here, for $115 per night plus Airbnb fees. This is a wonderful agriturismo with a pool, great food, and the kindest owners, Maria and Franz. You’ll love it here. It’s in a perfect location for exploring Mount Etna and northeast Sicily; the town of Zafferana is lovely, too (don’t miss Blue Gel gelato!). If you stay there, please tell Maria and Franz that Kate, Deb and Sarah say hi!

We did the Etna Summer Sunset Experience excursion from Etna Experience, and it was a wonderful way to see the volcano up close and hike a small part of it, finishing with wine and snacks at a beautiful sunset spot. 54 EUR ($60) in summer, 44 EUR ($49) in other seasons.

While in Zafferana, we made easy day trips to Taormina and Aci Trezza as well as Etna and our great-grandfather’s village, Castanea delle Furie (the latter of which has zero tourist value and you should not visit). It’s best to have a car in Zafferana and vital if you want to do any day trips.

In Avola, Sicily, we stayed at this two-bedroom Airbnb apartment for $40 per night plus Airbnb fees. The apartment is clean, cool, modern, and located right by the main square downtown. Giovanni, the host, is an osteopath, has his office downstairs, and offers both massages and adjustments for very good prices!

Avola is a bit of an offbeat place, and you’ll be the one of very few non-Italians in town, but it has a great beach. Keep in mind that downtown Avola is dead during the day but comes to life at night. There is a wine bar on Piazza Umberto that makes a FABULOUS cheese and salume plate. Spend your days hanging at the beach or exploring cities nearby like Siracusa, Noto, Modica, and Ragusa; I visited Siracusa and Ragusa and recommend them both.

In Edinburgh, we stayed with our friend Sandra. Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes place during most of August each year. There are other festivals taking place simultaneously, like the Book Festival and International Festival; Edinburgh Festival City is a great resource for planning. Two of my favorite places to eat in Edinburgh are Mums and The World’s End.

In Reykjavik, we stayed at this two-bedroom Airbnb apartment for $184 per night plus Airbnb fees. Tomas was a lovely Viking of a host and he even carried up our bags for us like they weighed nothing (when each weighed 20 kg!). It was in the heart of the coolest part of Reykjavik, surrounded by bars, restaurants, and shops. We had fantastic fish at Fish and I love The Laudromat Cafe.

We did Reykjavik ExcursionsGeysir, Gulfoss and Thingviller tour for 8,900 ISK ($68). I definitely recommend it. It was the express tour (six hours rather than eight) but I don’t feel like we missed out on anything.

Entry to the Blue Lagoon starts at 45/35 EUR ($50/39) per person in summer/winter. We did the comfort pack, which includes a towel, first drink, and skincare pack, for 60/50 EUR ($67/56) in summer/winter. There are more luxurious packages available as well. Transport to and from downtown Reykjavik or the airport is 23 EUR ($26) per person. I recommend doing this before or after your flight, as it’s much closer to the international airport than downtown.

New to Airbnb? Sign up here and get $25 off your first stay!

Have you ever done a trip to trace your family roots? Where did you go?

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Copenhagen in Photos

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Copenhagen

It’s been two months since I visited Copenhagen, and for some reason, I’ve been struggling when trying to put my visit into words. Copenhagen was lovely. But what made this trip so different?

Well, first of all, I failed at tourism.

I planned for only four days in Copenhagen without accounting for how the seven-hour eastward jet lag would affect me. (A very late but very fun night on my first night exacerbated this.) As a result, I couldn’t drag myself out of bed before 11:00 AM and missed a lot of would-be sightseeing time.

I didn’t go to Christiania. I didn’t eat anywhere spectacular (NOMA, I’m coming for you someday!). I barely saw the historic city center. I couldn’t muster up the will to do work until late, so I kept vampire-like hours.

But you know what? It didn’t matter. This was a different kind of visit.

CopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenCopenhagenLittle Mermaid CopenhagenCopenhagen

I’ve changed so much in the past few years. I’m stronger. More secure. More comfortable. More solitary. More wary. More cynical. More wise.

As a result, this is not the Copenhagen I would have experienced if I had first visited in 2010, when I began my long-term travels.

I can tell you exactly how that trip would have gone:

Copenhagen

2010 Kate would have been knocked over in the bike lane at least three times.

2015 Kate knew better and watched the streets and sidewalks like a hawk.

Copenhagen

2010 Kate would have fretted over the chilly June weather.

2015 Kate was thrilled she actually got to wear her leather jacket. (Trust me, leather jacket season in Boston is about three days long.)

Copenhagen

2010 Kate would have scoured the hostel reviews to find the most social, party-heavy hostel.

2015 Kate got a private Airbnb and reveled in her solitude.

Copenhagen

2010 Kate would have gone to all the top sites, followed her guidebook religiously, and taken multiple tours.

2015 Kate strolled a lot with no destination in mind.

Favorite Yellow Building Copenhagen

2010 Kate would have seen a lot of Copenhagen.

2015 Kate saw much less, yet felt much more.

Copenhagen

Copenhagen had that rare ambiance to it — what I used to identify as an “I could totally live here” feeling but what I now recognized as simply being content in the moment. It seems basic, but it’s rare. For 2015 Kate, Copenhagen fit beautifully. And that’s more important than checking the sites off a list.

Copenhagen was like Stockholm, but more informal. Like Helsinki, but more traditional. Like Berlin, but not as crazy.

All my memories of Copenhagen are like these snapshots — fleeting.

Copenhagen

Watching the kids scoot through black square on the Superkilen in Nørrebro.

Copenhagen

Seeing these buildings bashfully peek above the treetops.

Sankt Hans Nyhavn Copenhagen

And finally, watching the bonfire go up on the Nyhavn at Sankt Hans, the feast of St. John.

I liked Copenhagen a lot. And I’m sure I’ll be back soon. Norwegian flights to Copenhagen are one of the cheapest ways to cross the Atlantic, and now they’re adding direct flights from Boston next year.

And when that time comes, I’ll see everything I missed this time around.

Copenhagen in Photos

Essential Info: While in Copenhagen I stayed at this Airbnb rental ($103 per night plus Airbnb fees). It’s a comfortable one-bedroom apartment in the heart of Nørrebro, which is both a great neighborhood and an easy journey to and from the airport. And there’s a juice bar a two-minute walk away. I’d definitely stay there again!

A few other recommendations: don’t miss Papirøen (Paper Island), home to Copenhagen Street Food — a collection of street food vendors from around the world. Also, I drank a ton of coffee in an attempt to beat the jet lag, and the best coffee I had was at Ricco’s.

Sankt Hans takes place on June 23 each year. Celebrations take place in several different spots in Copenhagen, but head to Nyhavn for great pics!

Huge thanks to my bud Alex for showing me around Copenhagen — and, um, teaching me how to classily smoke a pipe. Which was hilarious at 3:00 AM and probably shouldn’t be repeated, ever.

Have you been to Copenhagen? What did you think of the city?

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100 Travel Tips for Paris

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Paris

Visiting Paris is an experience that every traveler should have. Paris is the first city I fell in love with. More than 60 countries later, it’s still my favorite city in the world.

Since my first trip at the age of 16, I’ve returned seven more times, trying to uncover more layers of the city on each visit.

I’ll never succeed in peeling back every layer. Paris, like New York and London, is one of those cities that will have portions of it forever shrouded in mystery, no matter how hard you explore. Nobody could ever get to the core of Paris.

But you don’t need to know everything. You just need to know how to have a great trip to Paris.

I’ve collected 100 travel tips on everything about Paris: things to do, where to eat, how to get off the beaten path, and whether French people are really that rude.

I hope your trip to Paris is the first of many. Enjoy this list!

100 Travel Tips for Paris

General and Etiquette

The French have a reputation for being rude. It’s more accurate to say that they are formal and minimize interaction with strangers. Don’t expect to talk to them like you would with someone in America. To be polite in France is to keep your distance rather than pal up, to keep a neutral expression rather than a wide grin, and to only speak when necessary.

Always say, “Bonjour, monsieur,” or “Bonjour, madame,” whenever you enter a shop or restaurant. In France, this is basic manners and something that children are taught at a young age. Failing to do this may earn you rude treatment in return. Say, “Au revoir,” when you leave, too.

Speak as much French as you can. Making a genuine effort to speak French will almost always get you better treatment than leading with English. At minimum, learn bonjour and au revoir, sil vous plaît and merci, pardon and excusez-moi, numbers 1-10, je voudrais (I would like — use when ordering in restaurants), and parlez-vous anglais?

Paris Marais

Accommodation

There’s no need to stay at a hotel near the airport unless it’s for one night and you have a very early flight the next day. Paris’s airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, are both far outside the city center.

Airbnb has the best selection of apartment rentals in Paris. (New to Airbnb? Click here to get $25 off your first stay!)

Cobblestone Paris Rentals is perfect accommodation for when you want something special. The apartments are so Parisian and beautifully decorated. (Plus: tell them Adventurous Kate sent you and you’ll get a free Seine river cruise!)

If you want to stay in a Paris hotel, compare the best rates here. Paris hotels can be expensive, but there are deals to be had.

For more on where to stay in Paris, check out this comprehensive guide.

Paris Metro Sign

Transportation

The metro is an easy, comprehensive, and safe way to travel through Paris. If you’re up for a bit more of a challenge, consider taking the bus.

If you’re traveling through Paris, it’s often best to buy a carnet — a set of 10 metro tickets. This is often the best value choice for travelers.

Get a free app with a Paris metro map for your phone. There are several of them and they’re all very similar. It’s much easier than lugging around a map with you.

There is absolutely no need for a car in Paris. If you insist on one, know that you’ll be dealing with crazy driving, expensive parking, and a lot of hassle.

Taxis are abundant in Paris and Uber exists as well. Perfect for if you want to get somewhere quickly and privately, though be aware that rush hour traffic can make a journey longer than the metro.

What to Eat in Paris

Parisians tend to eat dinner at 8:00 PM or later. You may not find restaurants open until this time. Unlike other countries, it’s rare to find nicer restaurants open between meal times, but cafes are open all the time.

Try some traditional French dishes that you may not have tried at home. My recommendations? Escargots (snails cooked in garlic and butter), steak tartare (raw beef mixed with spices and an egg), confit de canard (duck cooked in its own fat), cassoulet (a dish with beans, sausage, and confit de canard), quiche lorraine (quiche with cheese and ham), and moules marinières (mussels cooked in white wine, garlic, and spices). And plenty of macarons, baguettes, and pains au chocolat, of course!

The proper French meal ends with cheese. And it’s serious business in a country with a cheese for every day of the year.

For an ultimate steak frites experience, visit Le Relais de L’Entrecôte. You’re served a mini steak frites, and after you’re finished, they bring you another steak and some more frites.

L’as du Falafel has the most famous cheap meal in Paris. Their falafel is outstanding and it’s best eaten on a bench in the nearby Place des Vosges.

Crepes are everywhere, both as street food and in restaurants, but make sure you try the real thing. Head to Breizh Cafe for an authentic buckwheat galette followed by a salted caramel crepe with chantilly cream.

Be sure to visit a traditional boulangerie, or bakery. Pick up some baguettes, some pastries, or whatever mysterious item looks delicious. One that I recommend is Du Pain et Des Idées in the 10th.

Believe it or not, there is a restaurant that is very Parisian, with nice food, not too touristy, and with reasonable prices (for Paris, that is). It’s called Chartier and it’s in the 9th. Prepare to wait in line, as it’s very popular.

Go for a picnic at least once. Pick up some baguettes, some cheeses, some fruits, and a bottle of wine and head to the nearest park. The Champs de Mars, in front of the Eiffel Tower, is a classic place to do this, but Paris has parks all over the city.

Don’t miss out on ethnic dining in Paris. If you’re getting sick of French food, consider going out for Middle Eastern, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian or North African food. These cuisines in particular are found all over the city.

Are you a vegetarian? There are lots of dishes to try in Paris. Crêpes and omelets, which the French eat for lunch or dinner, are always good options. If no vegetarian main dishes are on the menu, meat-free vegetable sides and salads are always available. Also consider the ethnic options listed above.

Are you a vegan? It’s more of a challenge, but not impossible. In addition to considering the ethnic options listed above, some vegetarian restaurants catering to vegans include Pousse-PousseMacéo, Le Potager du Marais, and Le Bar des Artisans.

Gluten-free in Paris? Definitely doable. Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are becoming increasingly understood in Paris. Learn the translation or bring cards (see below). If all else fails, order a plain grilled hunk of protein.

Do you have food allergies or dietary restrictions? Consider traveling with French food allergy cards, which explain what you can and can’t eat in a way the French can understand.

Go on a Paris food tour. Eat your way across the city and learn from a guide. Paris by Mouth, Culinary Tours of Paris, and Flavors of Paris each offer a variety of food tours.

Take a Paris cooking class. Whether you end up making croissants, macarons, or a full meal from produce you picked out at a local market, there’s nothing like learning French cooking techniques in the heart of Paris. La Cuisine, Le Foodist, and Cook’n with Class each offer a variety of classes.

Join a dinner party at a Parisian home. Most famous is Jim Haynes’ epic Sunday dinner parties, which he’s hosted for 30 years. For greater variety, check out EatWith.

Paris 1st

Paris Neighborhoods

Paris is a collection of arrondissements — numbered neighborhoods. The 1st is in the dead center of the city and the neighborhoods spiral outward from there, with 1-12 being the most central. You can tell the arrondissement by the last two digits in an address’s postal code.

The 1st is the geographical center of the city and home to some of central Paris’s top destinations, including the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens, and part of Ile de la Cité. Here you’ll also find Les Halles.

The 3rd/4th (the Marais) is a funky little neighborhood that has historically been home to the city’s Jewish and LGBT populations. Today it’s a ritzy yet funky neighborhood brimming with boutiques and parks. Also here are the Centre Pompidou, Ile Saint-Louis, Place des Vosges, and the Hotel de Ville.

The 5th (The Latin Quarter) is home to the Sorbonne and Pantheon and is popular with students and young people to this day. Parts of it are a joy to visit; parts are absolute tourist traps. Tread lightly.

The 6th (Saint-Germain) is where you’ll find the former haunts of Camus, Sartre, and Hemingway. It’s also filled with a wide variety of boutiques and cafes and the Jardin du Luxembourg. Some cafes of note include Les Deux Magots and Cafe de Flore.

The 7th is home to the Eiffel Tower. This is a ritzy residential neighborhood and there isn’t a lot to do beyond seeing the Tower and Les Invalides, home to Napoleon’s tomb.

The 8th is home to the Champs-Elysées and shopping central. Also here are the Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde.

The 9th is home to the Opéra and it makes a nice uphill neighborhood bridge between the popular shopping areas and Montmartre. This is where I recommend people visit to find a central neighborhood that isn’t as touristy.

Belleville, spanning the 10th and 11th with parts of the 19th and 20th, is the up-and-coming artsy area of Paris. Full of vibrant immigrant communities, art, edgy shops, and lower prices than you’d expect in some of the more traditional neighborhoods, Belleville is well worth a visit.

Montmartre (the 18th) is a hilly neighborhood home to the Sacré-Coeur, the Moulin Rouge, and the artist-filled Place du Tertre. This has historically been a bohemian neighborhood. While areas like Rue Lepic and its offshoots have lots of charm, the Pigalle area is seedier and home to many sex shops.

Notre-Dame, Paris

Things to Do in Paris

The Paris Pass gives you free or reduced admission to lots of attractions, plus transportation. Unfortunately, it’s fairly expensive. Tip? Add up the costs of what you want to do, then compare it to the Paris pass and see if you’re better off buying the pass or buying individual tickets. Another option is the Paris Museum Pass.

Many places let you book tickets ahead of time. The Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Eiffel Tower, among other destinations, allow you to book tickets in advance to cut down on waiting in line. This is a smart option, especially during the busy summer months.

Want the best view of Paris? Go to the top of the Centre Pompidou (Beaubourg), the top of the Montparnasse Tower, the top of Notre-Dame, the top of Sacré-Coeur, or the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower has no Eiffel Tower in it, and isn’t that what you want when taking a photo of Paris?

Climb to the top of Notre-Dame. While the cathedral is worth visiting on its own, it’s even better to climb to the top of the bell towers and take in the view. If you’ve ever wanted the iconic photo of gargoyles looking over Paris, this is where to get it!

Gawk at the stained glass at Sainte-Chappelle. This church isn’t as famous as Notre-Dame, but the detail in the stained glass windows is spellbinding.

Get your portrait drawn at Place du Tertre in Montmartre. If you’ve dreamed of being drawn by a Parisian artist, this is where to come. Ignore the artists who rove the streets and offer to draw you; instead, wander the square and find a sitting artist whose work you like.

Climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It couldn’t be more of a cliché, but you’ve got to do it! Keep in mind that lines can be very long here — this is one of the best places to buy tickets in advance.

Seeing the show at the Moulin Rouge is very expensive — but an incredible spectacle. It may be a tourist trap, but the show features wonderful dancing and is full of surprises.

Visit the Arc de Triomphe. There are wonderful views from the top of the Arc, leading straight to the Louvre on one end and La Défense on the other. The Eiffel Tower is nice and close, too. Added bonus: watching the crazy traffic circle around the Arc is surprisingly entertaining!

Take in a performance at the Opéra-Garnier. Not only is this one of Paris’s most beautiful buildings, there are concerts, ballets, and operas performed throughout the year.

Take a cruise along the Seine. There’s no better way to see Paris! Bateaux-Parisiens offers a variety of cruises.

Centre Pompidou, Paris

Museums in Paris

The Mona Lisa is tiny and underwhelming — but that’s not all there is to see at the Louvre. You could spend days seeing all the brilliant art the Louvre has on display. Don’t be one of the tourists who goes in, photographs the Mona Lisa, and leaves.

The Musée d’Orsay is home to the best Impressionism collection in the world. Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec — many of their best works are here. It’s a beautiful setting, too.

The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays; the Musée d’Orsay is closed on Mondays. If you visit the Louvre on a Monday or the Musée d’Orsay on a Tuesday, you’ll be in a long line with many travelers doing the same thing.

The Centre Pompidou (a.k.a. Beaubourg) has one of the world’s best collections of modern art. You’ll have a thought-provoking day here; also, go to the top floor for a clear view of the Eiffel Tower set against beautiful buildings in the Marais. (That view is the Pinterest image for this post!)

Save the Musée Rodin for a beautiful day. The museum is wonderful, but the sculpture garden is even better.

Don’t forget about Paris’s lesser-known museums. Some to visit include the Musée des Arts Forains (Museum of Fairground Arts), Musée de la Magie (Museum of Magic), Musée de la Chasse et la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature), Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine (Museum of the History of Medicine), and the Musée Edith Piaf.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Cheap and Free Things to Do in Paris

Paris has a multitude of free walking tours available. Discover Walks has free tours through several neighborhoods in Paris; Sandeman’s New Europe has one free tour that takes in the most famous sights. Keep in mind that these are tip-based tours and your guides only receive a small percentage of your tips; the company keeps most of them. 10 euros per person is a good minimum tip; more is welcome.

Père-Lachaise Cemetery is one of Paris’s best free attractions. See the graves of Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Molière, and Frederic Chopin, before seeing the most famous grave in the world: that of Jim Morrison.

If you’re a student, bring your student ID. You can get discounts and freebies on everything from transportation to museum admission. Also consider getting an ISIC (international student identity card).

Go ice skating in the winter, when rinks dot the city. It’s free to skate and skate rentals are cheap.

Paris is filled with beautiful parks. From the vast Bois de Boulogne in the west to the Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th, as well as little treasures like the Parc Monceau and Place Vosges scattered throughout the city.

Bring a book set in Paris and read it on the banks of the Seine. Some recommendations: Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (a.k.a. The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Julia Child’s My Life in France, Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day, Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and my personal favorite book of all time, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.

Place des Vosges, Paris

Off the Beaten Path in Paris

Go on a scavenger hunt at the Louvre. For a museum with a side of adrenaline, THATlou offers scavenger hunts where you work out clues leading you to different works of art. Competitive? This is for you! Both public and private hunts are available.

Go to a hammam for a scrub. Paris is home to several hammams, or Turkish baths, and they’ll get you cleaner than you’ve ever been in your life. Some are O’Kari, Les Bains du Marais, and the hammam at the Grand Mosquée de Paris. For a guide on how to hammam in Paris, read this post.

Visit the Promenade Plantée. Are you familiar with the High Line park in New York City? Paris has long had the Promenade Plantée, its own park built on an elevated railroad track. Note to New York: Paris did it first.

Visit La Cité des Sciences et de L’Industrie. Ever thought you’d come to Paris and see a science museum? Why not? This museum is filled with fascinating exhibits (also in English!) about French science and technology and it’s great for families, too.

Visit the church from Midnight in Paris. Owen Wilson jumped into his time-traveling taxi outside St. Etienne du Mont in the 5th.

Head into the sewers. It sounds disgusting, but the Paris sewer tour is one of the most fascinating looks at the city that you’ll ever see. It’s one of the few places in Paris where you can see thousands of years of history and architecture all at once.

Visit La Pagoda. Believe it or not, there is a Chinese pagoda just steps from the Champs-Elysées. Originally a hotel, today it’s worth visiting for its ornate Chinese architecture and collection of art.

Visit La Défense. Located to the west of the city, La Défense is Paris’s business center, a gleaming neighborhood of glass and chrome. It’s completely different from the rest of Paris and you can get a great view of the city from the Grande Arche.

Creep along the catacombs. This is not for the faint-hearted — Paris’s catacombs are home to the remains of six million people, and you’ll see lots of piles of skulls and bones. Definitely something different.

paris-marais-boulangerie-gallery

Shopping in Paris

Want to hunt for bargains? Paris’s soldes (massive sales throughout the city) are regulated and scheduled by the government, taking place in January and July each year.

Come to Galeries Lafayette for the ultimate department store shopping experience. You’ll find all the designer brands. Visit the one on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th, which is famous for its decorative glass ceiling overlooking several floors.

If you’re looking for eclectic, independent, high-end boutiques, the Marais is the place to go. This is where you look for that where-on-Earth-did-you-buy-that?! accessory.

Shopping on the Champs-Elysées is a famous French experience, but don’t go expecting a paradise. It’s pretty much Paris’s Times Square. Worth seeing? Of course. But it might not be as chic as you expect.

Paris’s flea markets are home to treasures you won’t find anywhere else. The best one is Marché de Puces de Saint-Ouen at Porte de la Clignancourt; some others are Les Puces de Montreuil and Les Puces de Vanves.

If you’re a bibliophile, don’t miss Shakespeare & Company. This cozy bookstore, filled with English language titles, is a Paris landmark and well worth perusing for a few hours.

Chartres

Day Trips from Paris

The Palace of Versailles, just outside the city, is Paris’s most famous day trip. Wander the extensive castle grounds and imagine the decadent life of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.

Chartres is home to a UNESCO World Heritage-listed cathedral and a beautiful country town. It’s on the same train line as Versailles, so you could do both in a single day trip if you wanted to.

You can visit Monet’s home and gardens at Giverny in Normandy. It will feel like you’ve been there before, as you’ve seen it in so many paintings!

Take the train to the Champagne region for a glass of bubbly. The town of Reims is home to tasting centers like Taittinger, G.H. Mumm, and Pommery; if you have time, visit the town of Epernay, too.

If you’re ambitious, you could visit another country for the day. Brussels is one hour and 15 minutes from Paris by train; both London and Luxembourg City are two hours from Paris by train; Amsterdam is three hours from Paris by train.

Jardin Luxembourg

When to Visit Paris

Paris is worth visiting every month of the year. Trust me — a trip to Paris is never a mistake, no matter what time of year.

Your best bet is to visit in the shoulder season. From April to June and September to November is probably the closest thing to a perfect time to visit Paris. The weather is good for the most part and the crowds are much smaller than during the summer.

Christmas in Paris is a wonderful time to visit. You’ll find Christmas markets all over, from Montmartre to La Défense to the Champs-Elysées, and the stores go all out with their decorations.

Summer brings the beach. Paris Plages takes place from roughly mid-July to mid-August each year, when sections of the Seine are filled with sand, deck chairs, and all the amenities you’d expect on a beach.

August is a mixed bag. Traditionally, this is a time when Parisians flee the city and tourists arrive in droves. If you stick to Parisian areas and aim for a local experience, it can be pleasantly quiet; if you’re trying to hit all the major tourist sites, you’ll face long lines and huge crowds. It can be still worth it, but know what you’re in for.

June 21 is Fête de la Musique, a day when musicians take over Paris! You’ll see performers on street corners and in parks all over the city. If you’re coming in June, keep this in mind.

July 14 is Bastille Day, known locally as La Fête Nationale. France’s national holiday arrives with parades, parties, and lots of fireworks!

Ladies in Paris

Packing Tips for Paris

Most Parisians dress in a neat and chic way. If you want to blend in, you’re best off avoiding shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers. Think nice jeans, ballet flats, boots, a nice pashmina or scarf, well-cut dresses, tasteful accessories.

Comfortable shoes are essential, but that doesn’t mean you need to wear ugly shoes. The Walking Company does the most amazingly comfortable shoes in the world, even for people like me who need arch support. I love their black ABEO flats.

Don’t forget a universal converter for your electronics. Bonus: it will work in most places around the world. If you’re bringing multiple electronics to charge simultaneously, bring a mini power strip as well.

Montmartre

Safety and Security

Don’t even think of going to Paris without travel insurance. Whether you cut yourself and need to go to the hospital for stitches, whether you get your phone stolen on the metro, or whether an injury means you need to cancel all or part of your trip, travel insurance will help you out. I use and recommend World Nomads as travel insurance for Paris.

Be wary of pickpockets. As Paris is such a popular tourist destination, pickpockets prey on tourists in particular. Only take one card and as much money as you need for the day, and leave your passport at home. Use a crossbody purse that zips up and keep your hand on it.

Buy a portable safe, put your valuables inside (think passport, jewelry, extra cash and credit cards, and electronics), and lock it to something sturdy in your room like a radiator or pipe. I consider it the most important thing I pack and I take it everywhere.

Vivid Paris Sunset

Other Paris Tips

Bring a guidebook. Guidebooks are not dead — they help you with the fun of planning your trip! I prefer Lonely Planet: Paris, as it has far more info in it than their France guidebook. Rick Steves: Paris is another good option.

Free public bathrooms are rare. In fact, public bathrooms, period, can be tough to find. Be sure to use the bathroom whenever you’re at an attraction or in a restaurant.

Free wifi is becoming more common in Paris. You’ll find it at many cafes these days, something that seemed unthinkable a few years ago.

Take your umbrella everywhere you go. Paris is part of Northern Europe, which is home to frequent rain. The weather also changes quickly — you could have four seasons in a day!

Phew! We got to 100 — and I feel like I could have gone on for another 100! Just so you know, some of these links are affiliate links and I’ll earn a small commission if you buy any of the products I recommend. Those commissions help me reduce the ever-increasing expenses of running this site. Thanks for reading!

What’s your favorite travel tip for Paris? Share away!

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What’s it Like to Travel in Albania?

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Kate in Ksamil Albania

Image: travelFREAK

Albania was the country I was most looking forward to visiting this summer. It fit my dreams — home to a fascinating culture and some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, yet a bit of an underdog. A Balkan country I hadn’t visited yet? Sold!

But the biggest factor was meeting two lovely Albanian girls this past spring. Erisa and Bianka joined my second Central America tour. Both of them immigrated from Albania to the US when they were teenagers and both go back to visit often.

Soon our tour days were filled with stories and anecdotes from Albania, and learning from Erisa and Bianka allowed me to get to know a culture that most people only know from watching Taken.

(Side note: Erisa was watching Taken in the theater and suddenly let out a scream. One of the Albanian mobsters in the kitchen scene was played by a friend of hers. True story.)

So I wanted to enjoy my trip to Albania, but I wanted to make my friends proud, too. I wanted to give Albania a fair chance and get to see the wonderful parts, not just the negative stereotypes.

Here are the things I learned — and what you should know — when traveling to Albania.

What's It Really Like to Travel in Albania?

Albania is one of the least developed countries in Europe.

I’ve visited nearly every country in Europe. Honestly, Albania is the least developed of all the ones I’ve seen, less so than Bosnia, Macedonia or Bulgaria (though it’s worth noting that I haven’t been to Moldova or Belarus yet).

What does this mean? Roads are in poor condition. There are no central bus stations and public transportation is a headache (more on that later). The water isn’t safe to drink. There is hardly any tourism infrastructure beyond a tiny bit in Saranda and Berat. Get outside the tourist areas and you’ll find nobody who can speak English.

Does that make Albania a bad place? Not at all. I’m saying this because you should know what to expect before you arrive. While they’re very different countries, the lack of development in urban Albania reminded me of Cambodia several times.

The average monthly wage in Albania is 45,539 lek ($369 USD). Assuming 22 days of work per month, that’s just $17 per day. Adding that to the difficulty of ever leaving the country and you’ve got a very tough situation for much of the population.

Albania shut itself off from the rest of the world for much of the 20th century, but so many of its residents are facing a different kind of imprisonment today.

DSCF1391

Albania is a Muslim country.

This may surprise you, but about 59% of Albanians are Muslim! About 17% are Christian and the remainder are nonbelievers or followers of other religions.

That said, it’s a largely secular Muslim country, and religion does not influence its government. I could count the women I saw wearing a hijab on one hand — and that includes my time in Tirana.

The only way you’d know the prominence of Islam is that mosques are everywhere. I also noticed that it was rare to hear the call to prayer blasted out early in the morning, a big change from places like Indonesia and southern Thailand.

Butrint NP, Albania

The Albanian language is like nothing you’ve ever heard.

Don’t think a smattering of Serbo-Croatian will help you out here — Albanian, while technically an Indo-European language, is not related to any other living languages. It’s like Basque that way.

In areas like the more upscale parts of Tirana, the city center of Berat, Saranda, and Ksamil, you can get by with English; sometimes, Albanians speak Greek or Italian as their second language. (A taxi driver in Tirana and I spoke entirely in Italian!)

But like anywhere else in the world, learning a few words of the local language will delight the locals. Përshëndetje (per-shen-DET-yeh) means hello and falaminderit (fa-la-min-DAIR-eet) means thank you.

DSCF1124

The Albanian flag is everywhere, and not just on government buildings.

My foreigner friends often rib me about how Americans always have their flags on display. But seriously, we’re not the only ones! People from Denmark, South Africa, Turkey, and Norway, among others, are just as demonstrative with their country’s flag.

And the blood-red Albanian flag topped with a double-headed eagle is seen everywhere throughout the country. Not only that, they sell Albanian flag merchandise everywhere — think everything from t-shirts to posters to tea towels. I noticed the same thing in Kosovo, too, which is home to ethnic Albanians.

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It’s dirt cheap.

Before this trip, I thought Macedonia was the cheapest country in Europe — and Albanian prices are in line with Macedonian prices or even slightly lower. Like everywhere else in the world, you’ll pay more in urban and touristy destinations in Albania and less in smaller towns and less popular destinations.

Some price examples: I very rarely spent more than $10 (or even $5) on a meal, and only did if I had a few drinks somewhere fancy. I paid 350 lek ($3) for prosecco at the chic bar on top of the Sky Tower in Tirana. I went on a shopping spree in Tirana and spent about $8 per shirt and $18 per (nice) dress.

Most unbelievably, I paid $18 per night for a hotel room in Berat that had both a double and single bed, air conditioning, an ensuite bathroom, and it was centrally located. Eighteen dollars. I’ve paid more than that in Cambodia for much worse rooms.

Just one thing — get rid of all your Albanian lek before leaving the country, because nobody will change it. (I’ll be giving mine to my Albanian friend Erisa to spend on her next trip home!)

Butrint NP, Albania

Public transportation can be maddening.

Mountain bus rides can be the most beautiful and frightening of overland transportation. Albania kicks things up a notch on the ride from Saranda to Gjirokastra, where several treacherous passes are crossed without any safety precautions. The guardrails, when they exist, are barely knee-high and seem to be more symbolic than protective.

Cities in Albania don’t have central bus stations, nor do they have travel agencies that work with every bus company. For me, getting the right ticket from Saranda to Berat required me to go from door to door, agency to agency, listening to them telling me where to go in Albanian as I nodded without understanding, then finding another agency, again and again, until I found someone who sold those tickets! All the buses depart at different street corners.

As for the quality of the buses, you definitely won’t have air conditioning and if temperatures are in the high 90s (36 C), which they very often are in Albania during the summer, it will be even hotter inside.

Finally, sometimes you’ll arrive and find out that your connecting bus doesn’t exist, which happened to me in Fier. I needed to pick up a bus to Berat and found out that nothing existed and my only option was to jump in the back of some guy’s van. More on that below.

Albanian Shellfish

Food can be hit or miss.

You know, there were times that I really loved the food in Albania, but much of the time I found the food to be uninspiring.

Lots of meat pounded into patties or formed into sausages. Lots of stews. Lots of salads. I hate to say it, but as a cheese lover, I found that most of the cheeses I tried had an unappealing flavor to them, almost like they had started to go bad. (Coming straight from Greece with its stupendous feta exacerbated this, I’m sure.)

But Saranda had wonderful seafood, especially shellfish and octopus, and like elsewhere in the Balkans, you can always find good pizza.

For what it’s worth, my favorite traditional meal in Albania was at a place called Taverna Leo in Saranda. I had the most wonderful stuffed zucchini and squash. But then a few days later I ordered stuffed peppers at one of the nicest places in Berat, trying to recreate the magic, and it just didn’t happen. Those odd flavors crept back in.

Boat in Ksamil Albania

The evening stroll is the place to see and be seen.

Like the rest of the Balkans and much of the Mediterranean, cafe culture rules and so does the evening stroll. As soon as the sun begins to set and temperatures turn livable again, it seems like everyone comes out for the evening to stroll down the street and sit at cafes. No matter how old or young you are, you’re there. It’s what people do.

This was most prominent in Berat. During the day, nobody would be out on the main cafe street (the super-hot summer temperatures may have been a reason), and you wouldn’t believe the difference come evening.

Saranda, Albania

You see children with their grandparents most of the time.

This may just be a Saranda thing, but I often saw Albanian children being cared for by their grandparents, no parents to be seen. It may be cultural, it may be just for vacation, or it might just be a coincidence. Either way, I saw it as evidence of strong and close families.

Berat Albania

Albanians will question why you’re actually there.

Over and over, Albanians were incredulous that I was visiting their country. “Why would you come here when you could go anywhere else?” they kept asking me. My friends experienced the same reactions.

No matter how much praise I heaped on the country, the kind people, the beaches, the mountains, the delicious seafood, Albanians would refuse to believe their country could be a tourist destination.

At one point, a waiter in Berat told me, “You’re lucky. All of us are stuck in this town.” “You’re right. I am,” I told him. “But this is such a beautiful town that you get to live in.” He snorted and walked away.

Tirana Albania

Tirana is one wacky and vibrant city.

Tirana was a huge surprise to me! I had no idea I would love it so much. I think most of this was because I stayed in the Blloku neighborhood, an upscale area which used to be exclusively for the elite of Tirana.

Some of my favorite experiences were climbing to the top of the the derelict pyramid in the center of town and having drinks on top of the Sky Tower during sunset. And all the shopping, of course! I practically bought a new wardrobe at a Pink Woman boutique downtown and a Tally Weijl store in the Tirana East Gate (TEG) mall outside town.

Berat Albania

Berat is one of the most unusual-looking old cities I’ve ever seen.

I went to Berat for to see its UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town, and I wasn’t disappointed. Have you ever seen a place that looked like this before? It’s the city of a thousand windows!

Berat is a tiny place and you don’t need more than one full day and two nights here. Spend your time exploring the town on foot. The main cafe street comes to life around sunset — it was amazing to watch it transform from being totally empty to a swarming crowd!

Ksamil Albania

The beaches on the Riviera are glorious.

Did you know that Albania is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe? Here you’ll find clear water like the beach above, in Ksamil. (I feel dishonest just looking at that photo, though — it was filled with people and I photoshopped them all out for a nicer photo. It is CRAZY crowded there.)

Saranda, a relaxing resort town, makes a great base for exploring the south. It has a great boardwalk, beaches with free chairs and umbrellas, and several good restaurants and cafes. There wasn’t a lot to do, which made it a good place to chill out.

I spent six nights in Saranda and could easily have stayed longer. If the internet were better (i.e. didn’t randomly stop working twice a day), I’d consider it a digital nomad hotspot for summer.

It was an easy hourlong bus trip to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed ruins at Butrint, and a bit north of there, the near-island of Ksamil with its beaches. Ksamil was chock full of families and umbrellas, but you’ll find fewer people on the rockier beaches.

Other beaches worth visiting are Himare and Drymades, or just drive up the coast and stop wherever looks good!

Kate in Albania

Yes, I recommend Albania for solo female travelers!

I felt very safe in Albania and aside from guarding against theft, I don’t think there are any specific precautions that solo female travelers should take beyond the basics. I experienced zero sexual harassment or sexist treatment and wasn’t so much as hit on by a single Albanian man, even in bars and clubs.

There is one issue: for transportation to some places, you’ll have to get into an unregistered taxi, which is pretty much just a random guy with a car. I had to do this when I found out there was no bus from Fier to Berat. It was the only option.

If you get into this situation, I recommend doing what I did: I took a photo of the driver’s face, took a photo of his license plate, and pretended to make a phone call to a friend saying that I was coming soon and repeating his license plate number clearly.

I do this all over the world and it’s an extra layer of safety — the driver thinks you have someone looking out for you and knows he can’t try anything without getting caught. Is it 100% foolproof? No. Nothing is. But it helps quite a bit.

All this being said, I don’t recommend Albania for new and inexperienced travelers. It’s a challenging country in many ways for even an experienced traveler, and I recommend you cut your travel teeth on a few different countries in Europe before you travel to Albania on your own.

Full solo travel disclosure: I traveled with my bud Jeremy for most of my time in Saranda but traveled the rest of the country on my own.

Ksamil Albania

Albania is mostly undiscovered, but it won’t stay that way.

I don’t expect Albania to grow into a major tourist destination in the next decade, but things are absolutely going to change as the country continues developing.

I expect to see many more tourists, especially along the Riviera. I could see Tirana becoming a popular stag do hotspot as well. But one place where I think we’ll see the most growth is in the adventure and outdoors travel industry.

Albania is home to beautiful, pristine mountain ranges. The Peaks of the Balkans trek through Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania is starting to get more attention (for more on that, my friend Katie did the trek recently and is now blogging about it) and I fully expect to see more hiking, mountain climbing, canyoning, rafting, and outdoor lodges spring up in the future.

If Montenegro was lauded as the new Croatia, Albania could very well become the new Montenegro.

The verdict? Albania is great. Go now. Or go in a few years. You’ll be very glad you did.

Essential Info: Tirana is home to Albania’s only commercial airport. I traveled overland and arrived in Saranda via ferry from Corfu, Greece. Ionian Cruises has one ferry in each direction each day costing 19 euros ($22) and it takes an hour and 15 minutes. Keep in mind that the Ionian Cruises ticket office is not at the dock but down the street! Get your tickets in advance or you’ll have to hail a taxi in a panic like I did!

I departed Tirana via Montenegro Hostel’s direct shuttle to Podgorica, Budva, and Kotor. It costs 40 euros ($46) and should take five hours. While we had some nightmarish logistical issues due to a Norwegian tour group on the bus before our pickup, it was a very comfortable journey. I highly recommend it, as the alternative is taking several public buses of dubious quality. They also stop for a photo op at beautiful Sveti Stefan.

In Saranda I stayed at this modern Airbnb rental with a stunning balcony view for an absurd $35 per night. It can sleep up to seven. Keep in mind there is no kitchen whatsoever besides a small fridge.

In Berat I stayed in this incredibly comfortable hotel room via Airbnb with air conditioning for an even more absurd $18 per night.

In Tirana I stayed in a private ensuite room at Propaganda Hostel, which is in an ideal location in the chic Blloku neighborhood, for 27 euros ($31) per night.

New to Airbnb? Sign up here and get $25 off your first stay from me!

Overall, I think visiting Tirana, Berat, and Saranda (plus a day trip from Saranda to Ksamil and Butrint) makes a good weeklong trip. I spread mine out over ten days. If you want to visit other countries at the same time, you could easily expand your trip to Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, and/or Montenegro.

Would you want to visit Albania? Share away!

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How to Protect Your Belongings on the Beach

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How to Protect Your Belongings on the Beach

Imagine relaxing on the whitest beach you’ve ever seen. The breeze is gentle, the sun is warm but not harsh, and you’ve got your eye on the bright blue sea before you.

And that’s not all — you’re here alone. Because you feel like it. And you’re having a kickass time.

Ordinarily, you’d trade off swimming time and watch-the-bags time with a friend, but on your own, that’s not an option. And that water is looking very inviting. So you run straight in, diving beneath the surface, and emerge just in time to see…

…a dastardly criminal running off with your $800 smartphone!

Many solo travelers shy away from swimming at the beach, which I think is a shame. I love swimming in the ocean year-round (well, Thailand and Nicaragua in the winter months) and I make beach time a major part of my travels, whether it’s on the Adriatic or the Caribbean.

I don’t let traveling solo stop me from spending a glorious afternoon sunbathing on the sand — nor do I let it keep me from taking a swim on my own, even if I have valuables with me.

People are always asking me how to protect your belongings if you go to the beach alone — so here are my top tips for solo beach travelers!

Kate on Little Corn

1) Decide whether you even need your valuables at the beach.

Sure, you want to take photos at the beach, but can you do that and then head back to your accommodation to drop off your phone, then return empty-handed and go for a swim?

If you’re staying close to the beach (or even on the beach!), this is a smart option. If you’re staying further away from the beach, it becomes less desirable.

When you lock up your valuables in your accommodation, be sure to use a portable safe and lock it to the sturdiest thing in your room. I consider my portable safe the most important thing I pack.

One thing…if you choose this route, just hope that David Beckham doesn’t randomly show up on your beach. You’d really hate to not have your camera for that.

Kate, Sky, and Grace

2) Leave your belongings with a trustworthy fellow traveler while you swim.

Other people are in the same position as you — they want to swim, but they’re alone and they don’t want to leave their belongings unattended. Seek these people out and ask if they could watch your things for a few minutes while you take a short swim, then offer to do the same for them.

You’ve got to be careful who you ask. I spend time watching people on the beach and seeing how they behave before choosing someone to ask. What are they doing? Who are they with? Are they sober? Do they look responsible?

I personally look for the following kinds of people to ask:

  • Fellow solo female travelers around my age
  • Families with kids
  • Older couples

I personally choose to avoid asking the following kinds of people:

  • Teenagers or very early twenty-somethings
  • Local kids
  • Solo men (usually)

While this system isn’t foolproof, and people of all demographics can be trustworthy, I find that older rather than younger people in established families or groups tend to have a bit more “insurance.” I also tend to pick out bookworms rather than people who are drinking, and I make sure that they have their own valuables within their eyesight, not just pushed behind them somewhere.

Kate Surfing in JBay

3) Pay for a locker or a service that will guide your valuables.

Some beaches have lockers for rent, which is great, but they’re uncommon.

Many European beaches have chairs and umbrellas for rent, and these often come with a locker or even a private lockable changing shack right on the beach.

If those aren’t an option, consider doing a water activity like renting a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Companies who run activities like these have systems for holding onto your belongings while you get in the water.

Sometimes they’ll allow you to keep your stuff in one of their lockers for a little bit longer if you want to take a swim afterward. Just ask before you pay for the rental.

Akumal Corona Beach

4) Buy something at a bar or restaurant, then leave it with the staff.

When you arrive at the beach, visit a nearby restaurant and spend some cash — buy a drink or have a meal — then ask the bartender or waitress if it’s possible for her to watch your bag while you have a swim.

I’ll be honest — I consider this the iffiest option on the list, and it would probably be my last resort. Every bar and restaurant varies. Many refuse due to the liability factor; others agree but will get distracted and forget to watch your bag closely.

But there are some bars and restaurants that take it seriously and will keep a close eye on your belongings as long as you take a relatively brief swim.

If you choose to go the bar or restaurant route, ask about exactly where your belongings will be kept and who will be watching them and for how long. Your best-case scenario is if it’s kept on a shelf behind the bar and the bartender won’t be leaving the bar during your swim. Lock your bag, if you can, before handing it over.

Kate in Senggigi

5) Swim with your valuables in a dry bag.

I actually travel with two dry bags, which many people think is excessive, but trust me — after you’ve been shipwrecked, nothing is excessive.

My first dry bag is an extra-large (20L) Sea to Summit Dry Sack, which I keep in case another of my boats goes down and I have to put my entire tech bag in it. So far, it’s been most useful on the very wet panga ride to Little Corn Island in Nicaragua.

My second dry bag, and the kind that I recommend you use while swimming, is a generic bag from Central America, but the most similar model to it is the Freegrace small 5L Ultimate Lightweight Dry Sack.

This bag is small enough to sling around your shoulder, yet it wraps your valuables up tightly. If you want to go swimming with it, it will float gently on the surface — not ideal for free-diving or anything like that, but perfect for surface swimming!

I recommend that you use a plastic bag as a liner and test it out without your electronics inside, seeing if there are any leaks, before you actually swim with it. Wrap it up tightly and you’re good to go.

Mindil Beach

Know that nothing is ever 100% safe.

You can choose the sweetest old lady to watch your phone and she could be part of an international crime ring. Likewise, the day you choose to leave your valuables at home could be the day a hostel staffer breaks into the dorms.

Nothing is ever 100% safe, not even if you stay home. Yes, you could have your belongings stolen if you followed any of these tips, bit pointing out these tiny loopholes isn’t the point.

Travel — and life — are not about learning how to be 100% safe. They’re about reducing your risk as much as possible. Just because seat belts don’t save lives 100% of the time, that doesn’t mean they’re a waste of time. These tips reduce your risk of theft enormously, and this is why you should follow them.

Do you go to the beach alone? How do you protect your belongings?

AK Monthly Recap: July 2015

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Kate at Sea Dance

Oh, July 2015! You are going down in history! Could I have had any more fun this month?! Let’s not answer that.

It was a very Balkan month. This month I continued my annual summertime getaway to the Balkans, this time visiting Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia, bookended by visits to Greece and Latvia.

Here are the highlights and lowlights of this marvelous month in Europe!

Ionian Sea Corfu

Destinations Visited

Santorini and Corfu, Greece

Saranda, Butrint, Ksamil, Berat, and Tirana, Albania

Budva and Kotor, Montenegro

Belgrade, Serbia

Riga, Latvia

Saranda View from Airbnb

Favorite Destinations

Saranda. What a nice chilled-out town with surprisingly good beaches.

Tirana. I did not expect to love this wacky city as much as I did! I need to go back!

Kotor. Still one of my favorite little towns in the world, even if it’s crazy busy and super-hot during the summer months.

Jeremy, Kate and Ryan at Sea Dance

Highlights

Dancing all night long on the beach at Sea Dance. I went until sunrise on the second and fourth nights, but the second was by far the best. Everything fell into place. Good vibes, great people, and excellent music blasting as the sky slowly turned from black to green to blue. Much more on Sea Dance in a later post.

Climbing to the top of the pyramid in Tirana. Of course, I got convinced to climb to the top of the broken-down pyramid, then realized there was no way to get down other than scooting on my butt, inch by inch, for about 15 minutes. But what a great view up there!

Living large on the cheap in Albania. Prior to this trip, I thought Macedonia was the cheapest country in Europe, and it turns out that Albania has similarly low prices. Which means you can eat a huge platter of mussels and octopus in a fancy restaurant on the waterfront and still spend less than $10. I bought a TON of clothes, including the lovely dress in the photo below.

Kate, Kash, Marko, Rob, Leah, and Nebojsa in Belgrade

A big night to remember in Belgrade. I know that Belgrade is one of the biggest party cities in Europe, and I expected to be hitting the clubs hard, but instead we went out to a restaurant and drank a ton of homemade rakija. That’s definitely a 10/10 would never do again, if you catch my drift.

Climbing the fortress in Kotor. I had already done so a few years ago, but this year I stayed longer and got beautiful, more brighter photos as the sun came up!

Spending time with friends. I traveled with a lot of different blogger friends this month, both old and new, and it was so nice to spend so much time with them.

Meeting up with family in Riga. I had two special guests fly out to join me at the end of the month! It’s so nice to have them traveling with me. You’ll hear more about this after the trip.

Kate in Belgrade

Challenges

I had my worst taxi scam yet at Sea Dance. I was going back to our apartment alone on the first night and soon realized that I had jumped into a crooked cab that had a warped meter that charged me 40 euros for a ride that cost me 6 euros on the way there (and should have cost around $10 that late at night). I refused to pay the 40 euros, threw him 20 euros and ran, he threatened to call the police (really, dude?) and I fake sobbed that I had nothing and ran into my house. He didn’t follow. I’m glad it wasn’t worse, because it easily could have been.

I was in rough shape after the festival. It’s not surprising that I got the worst kind of cold after the craziness of Sea Dance, but I had it on top of various injuries from ripped fingernails to swollen toes to painful joints — it was like my whole body was rebelling! I spent the first few days in Kotor just recovering and nursing my wounds.

An Airbnb arrival went wrong. I arrived in Kotor and found out that my Airbnb didn’t have working internet. The good news: Airbnb was awesome about refunding me right away and helping me out, and I found another (much nicer) place to stay in the old town.

Berat, Albania

Public transportation in Albania was…basic. From Saranda to Fier, the route was absolutely beautiful and completely terrifying, swerving around mountain passes with hardly a guardrail. In Fier, there was no bus to Berat, as I was told, so I had to jump into some rando’s van. In Berat, I was assured buses to Tirana ran every 30 minutes, then arrived and found out there was nothing for 90 minutes. Oh, and no air-conditioning and 95-degree heat. Always an adventure!

My computer cord broke in Saranda. Of all the places in the world, it had to happen in the furthest place from an Apple retailer! I was able to survive five days with electrical tape and bobby pins holding it together, then I got a new cord at the iStream store in Tirana.

And for a few days in Saranda, I couldn’t get “I’m in love with the coco” out of my head. That was a rough time. OH NO, IT’S HAPPENED AGAIN!

Sunset in Tirana, Albania

Most Popular Post

15 Lessons from Turning My Travel Blog Into a Career — This is one of the best blogging advice posts I’ve ever written, and I’m glad it struck a chord with so many of you.

Folkklubs Riga Latvia

Other Posts

7 Fantastic Food Experiences in Chicago — WAY more than deep dish pizza, these are the best eats I found.

A Day Trip to Andorra from Barcelona — Worth it? Kinda. But I didn’t really like it.

Is it Safe to Travel to Greece Right Now? Absolutely. — Required reading for anyone thinking of canceling their trip to Greece due to the economic crisis. You should still go.

The Secret to Solo Female Travel Confidence: Drink Champagne — This post was HUGE! And now it’s become my thing! People snap me photos of champagne all the time.

Viewpoints: Traveling While Overweight with Pamela MacNaughtan — A wonderful interview on a subject that should be talked about more.

Milwaukee Rocks! Who Knew? — I had a blast in Milwaukee. Here’s what you should do there.

Snorkeling with Sharks in Belize — SHARKY SHARKY SHARK.

Caye Caulker: A Good Place to Go Slow — One of my favorite spots in Central America.

The UNESCO Hunt: 92-101 — More sites! I hit my goal of 101!

Sveti Stefan at Sunset

News and Announcements

Nomadic Matt has announced his new nonprofit initiative — FLYTE, or the Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education. This program will provide educational trips overseas to students in underserved communities. This is a wonderful cause to support! Check it out here for more information.

On a more personal note, my bud Liz and I decided to axe Burning Man this August — as much as we want to go, we are exhausted and nowhere near prepared. Burning Man is not something to half-ass — we’ll do it another time for sure.

The good news is that I sold the tickets in less than a minute after making a post about it on Facebook (!); the bad news is that Ticketfly is being an ass and it’s taking forever for me to just switch the names over. Sigh.

Kotor Hotel, Montenegro

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Honestly, this photo from Kotor is my least favorite photo I posted on Instagram this month. But it was the most popular. Go figure.

Follow me on Instagram for more photo posts from my travels. Last month I hit 20,000 followers; this month I hit 25,000! It’s like compounding interest — Instagram grows faster and faster as you get bigger! And for even more, check me out on Snapchat — my name is adventurouskate there!

Kate in Tirana

What I Read This Month

I’m still cracking away at the Popsugar 2015 book challenge, but now I feel like I’m really going to finish it! 32 books down, just 20 to go.

The Bloodletter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty. Taking place in what is now the Czech Republic in the 17th century, a young woman battles between her identities as a common bathmaid and her bloodletter father’s assistant as they begin to care for the Hapsburg Emperor’s insane son, who becomes obsessed with her. Honestly, I’d put this book into “It would be better as a movie” category because while the plot itself was fascinating, especially since it was based on a true story, I couldn’t stand the author’s writing style or any of the characters. Category: A book you own but have never read.

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince. What a surprise! I loved this funny and touching graphic memoir about a proud tomboy and her gender nonconformity from birth through high school. It’s a point of view that you don’t hear very often, not least because it addresses gender expression rather than gender identity, and it really made me think about kids respond to people who are different. And I now want to read more graphic novels and memoirs. Category: A graphic novel (yeah, it’s a memoir, but I think the point is that it’s graphic).

The Martian by Andy Weir. HELL YES! I HAD MORE FUN READING THIS BOOK THAN ANY OTHER BOOK I’VE READ IN YEARS. Seriously, this is such a fascinating and funny and science-y and suspenseful book! READ IT IMMEDIATELY. You will LOVE it. And, ideally, read it before watching the trailer to the movie, which is coming out this October and starring Matt Damon. Category: A book that became a movie.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This book was sad in so many ways — not to the point of making me ugly cry (though I did get close at a revelatory moment near the end), but just because a family can grow up without truly understanding each other. I’ve also never read about the prejudice interracial Asian-white families faced during the 1970s and it was sad to read about how poorly they were treated. Category: A book by an author you’ve never read before.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I had to find a book from my birth year (1984) and this was the only one I recognized: some classes studied it at my high school, but mine never did. It’s a series of vignettes set in a tough Latino neighborhood in Chicago. I wasn’t super drawn in, but it was a quick and visceral read. Category: A book that came out the year you were born.

Kate, Jeremy, and Ryan at Sea Dance

What I’m Listening To This Month

I’m discovering so much great music on Spotify lately, I figured I’d share some of it with you!

First of all — I LOVE Miguel’s new album Wildheart. Great, modern mix of R&B and rock with one of the best voices in music today. I especially love “Face The Sun,” which features Lenny Kravitz.

And Zak Waters decided to remake Ginuwine’s “Pony.” And it’s actually a really good cover. I like it better than the original. Perfect for Magic Mike season.

But my biggest music obsessions are my new favorites from Sea Dance. I’m especially a bit fan of Flight Facilities, Doorly, and TCTS.

“96” by Doorly is probably my absolute favorite song from the festival — it transforms me when it comes on. I now make sure to listen to the beat drop (3:40) whenever I’m on a plane taking off!

Jeremy loves it too, as you can see:

Jeremy Loves 96

“Thinking About You” by TCTS is just awesome. Give it a listen.

“With You” by Flight Facilities is mellow and nostalgic but still dance-y.

Siracusa_2014 05 30_1478

Image: Harvey Barrison

Coming Up in August 2015

I spent a few days in Riga, where I celebrated my 31st birthday, before heading to Sicily, where I am now. I’ll be here until August 12, giving me enough time to get to know much of the eastern part of the island.

After that I head to Edinburgh for festival time before winding down my two-month European trip with a few days in Iceland. Then home to Massachusetts for a much-needed break. Beyond that, there’s always a chance I’ll drop into New York!

Any recommendations for Eastern Sicily? Let me know!

Why Snapchat Matters

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Kate on Snapchat

Over the past several months, Snapchat has been becoming a more and more prominent social network. What was once though to be the domain for teenagers sending each other nude photos has become a powerful new medium of communication.

As a publisher, I’ve watched as all of the social networks became more perfection-focused for bloggers and publishers like myself. Instagram was no longer for instant smartphone photos of wherever you were; today it must be a portfolio of your best DSLR photos. Pinterest was no longer a folder of cool things you liked; today it must be a carefully curated collection of themed boards. YouTube was no longer for casual videos; today everything must be perfect.

We were due for a backlash. And then came Snapchat — a platform where everything was designed to be raw, short, unedited, and real.

Snapchat is exploding in popularity, particularly amongst the younger demographic. So it’s time to jump on. Those who don’t believe in it are going to be left behind.

Kate on Snapchat

What is Snapchat?

Here are the things to know about Snapchat:

1) Snapchat is a messaging app. You can send images and video, each lasting up to 10 seconds, you can also text each other. These are called “snaps,” and they disappear after you view them.

2) There are two options: private messaging and public snaps, aka My Story. Private snaps stay live until the recipient opens them; public snaps on My Story stay public for 24 hours and then disappear. You can view them as often as you’d like within the 24-hour period.

3) No editing prior to taking the photo or video is allowed. You can only upload snaps using the Snapchat camera right there and then.

4) Some editing after taking the photo or video is allowed. This is where Snapchat shines — you can use text and draw on top of your photo! Text is limited. Emojis are fun.

There are also three color filters, temperature and speed filters, and many cities and regions around the world offer city filters. They’re designed by local artists.

5) There are some third-party apps out there that allow you to upload photos previously taken and add additional text. However, third-party apps are technically against Snapchat’s terms of service, so I urge you to tread lightly. You don’t want to get banned. I haven’t touched third-party apps yet and I haven’t seen any big brands using them, but some of my friends have dabbled.

6) Every snap is supposedly deleted from Snapchat’s servers after posting. But keep in mind that nothing is ever 100% safe or 100% deleted. You can screenshot snaps that you like; the person will receive a notification if you screenshot one of their snaps.

7) The Live function shows community-shared snaps from public places and events. Each day features a different city or two (today it’s Asunsción, Paraguay); some days also feature events and festivals like the Tour de France, the Tomorrowland music festival, and my personal favorite so far, the Lumberjack Championships in Wisconsin!

I love these live snaps because it really gives you the essence of a city or event in short clips. If you’re in a city currently being featured, you are given the option to upload one of your snaps to the live event; the snaps featured are curated by Snapchat’s staff. (I’ve only been in one city currently being featured live — Chicago — and they did not choose any of the snaps I submitted!)

8) The Discover function shows you snaps from publishers. Some of the ones featured are CNN, Cosmopolitan, National Geographic, Buzzfeed, Vice, MTV, Food Network, and more.

9) The only statistic you are able to see is views on each snap. You can’t tell how many users you have unless you count them manually.

Kate on Snapchat

Why Snapchat Matters

It’s f*cking huge. Snapchat has 100 million daily users. 100 million!! Another factor? 70% of users are women. 400 million snaps are sent per day. 8,976 snaps are shared each second.

It’s a social network growing incredibly fast to a young audience. Periscope and Beme may have dominated headlines recently, and while they are the darlings of internet and social media geeks, they aren’t pulling anywhere near the growth of Snapchat.

In other words, normal people use Snapchat — just like Pinterest and Instagram, the other two rapidly growing social networks. Snapchat is not a platform for internet junkies; Snapchat is for real life.

Engagement is huge. In order for someone to view your snap, they need to touch it. That is engagement — it’s not counted by what people like (like Instagram), but what they see. As a result, numbers are huge.

It pays to be an early adopter. I missed the boat on adopting Instagram super-early. Had I done so, I could have been a top influencer in travel. I’m not going to make the same mistake twice.

Kate on Snapchat

Common Arguments Against Snapchat

“Isn’t it just for dick pics and sexts?” Nope. That’s a common misconception. If that were the case, no major brands would be on it.

“It’s just for teenagers.” Wrong again. It may be dominated by people under 30, but over time, I’ve gained more and more users who are older. On my birthday, I joked that at 31 I was the oldest person on Snapchat, and was immediately deluged by snaps from people in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s telling me I was wrong!

“I don’t have time for another social media platform.” Then reduce your time on Twitter. Honestly, I think Twitter has been in decline for a long time. You’ll get more mileage on Snapchat.

“It doesn’t drive traffic to my site, so I shouldn’t bother.” Dude. It’s more than driving traffic. As I always say, social media is about making yourself present in your readers’ lives. Snapchat plays into that.

In the words of a reader named Aisling: “I found you on snapchat first and then found your website!”


Kate on Snapchat

How to Rock Snapchat As a Blogger or Personality

Everyone is different and everyone has different goals. These are some great ways to get started.

Go to settings and make sure non-friends can see your snaps. Set “Who Can Send Me Snaps” to “Everyone” and “Who Can View My Story” to “Everyone.” This is so your readers can be in touch with you.

Think entertainment factor, not perfection. That’s why I go for funnier over prettier snaps. Save the perfect shots for Instagram.

Tell a story. It’s not just about a snap here and a snap there — it’s about adding up the sum of a place. This is especially valuable when traveling or going on a tour of a certain place.

Show behind-the-scenes action. People are incredibly curious about what we do for our strange careers. Show them the nitty-gritty!

Be funny. Probably what I enjoy the most.

Communicate with your followers. You don’t have to respond to every “hi” you receive, but it takes two seconds to send a quick reply to everyone who says hello or asks a question! (Most recently: a reader snapped me a few minutes ago saying, “HOW DO I PACK FOR A YEAR?” I just replied, “Whatever you need, you can buy there!”)

Most importantly, be yourself. Truth: if you’ve been putting on a front and being a different person, you won’t be able to fake it on Snapchat. It’s go time.

Kate on Snapchat

How I (@adventurouskate) Rock Snapchat

For those of you who are new to this site, it’s nice to meet you! I’m Adventurous Kate. I’m a 31-year-old American girl who travels the world full-time and blogs about solo and independent travel for women. You can find me on Snapchat at @adventurouskate.

Here’s something you probably don’t know about me — when I’m with my friends, I spend all my time trying to make them laugh, mostly at my own expense. And I’m a former drama geek. Add those together and you have a powder keg of performance potential.

So on Snapchat, it’s not just about travel — it’s about me trying to crack you guys up as much as possible.

Yes, I do use Snapchat to show you the cool places where I’m traveling around the world. Which is very cool on its own. Sometimes I do tours — once I live snapped a Red Sox game; once I did a walking tour of Corfu, Greece.

But you also get me:

  • Going on a tirade about why The Rock never took off his shirt in San Andreas.
  • Singing like Cartman as I see a street named Via del Ghetto in Sicily.
  • Showing you what I’m eating, especially if it’s an unusual local food you may not have heard of.
  • Not just hiking to the top of Kotor, but me in all my sweaty, wheezing awkwardness.
  • Hanging out with readers whenever they recognize me.
  • Dancing to “Pony” by Ginuwine in advance of seeing Magic Mike XXL.

And other things. I talk a bit about beauty and fashion; sometimes I do makeup tutorials. No matter where I am, I point out weird and funny things I spot along the way.

Oh, and sometimes I talk about things I won’t talk about anywhere else.

Kate on Snapchat

Does It Pay Off?

Hell yes. I’ll leave you with a few quotes from my readers:

“Love your snaps. It’s like my morning routine to catch up on your snaps and laugh my head off!” —Amy

“I’m SO glad you joined Snapchat — I literally look forward to seeing your snaps every day (I even showed my mom the Riga ones!).” –Noelle

“My favourite of your 30 things definitely include snapchat- I absolutely love following your snaps- you make me laugh so much!” —Britt

And I get the best feedback in the form of snaps from my followers! Check this one out:

Kate on Snapchat

Travelers to Follow on Snapchat

At this point in time, not a lot of travelers and travel bloggers are doing much with Snapchat. I’d like to highlight a few of the ones who are doing exceptional work so far. These are people who know how to use Snapchat to tell a story.

@drewbinsky

Drew is the king — plain and simple. In my opinion, nobody is doing travel Snapchat better than him right now, and he’s got a great feel for the rhythm that will entertain people. He’s currently traveling, partying, and festival-ing his way across Europe.

@ExpatEdna

Follow Edna and you’ll realize that nobody is eating and drinking as well as her. She’s a newly minted full-time traveler, but most of her snaps cover high-end dining and cocktails from Shanghai to Paris.

@cailinoneil

You’ve seen Cailin in many of my blog posts — well, she’s one of the funniest people I know. And that sense of humor carries over into Snapchat. She recently went to the Yukon in Canada and snapped a pic of her kissing a severed dead toe!

@migrationology

Mark is the food and travel guy — Thai food in particular. His snaps are all about what he’s currently eating, with a bit of travel thrown in. He also happens to make the funniest “yummy faces” of anyone I know.

@theblondeabroad

Kiersten is in a new destination every time I check in with her — she has a great mix of narration and showcasing the places she’s visiting. A California girl, she was just in France and in Portland for a short weekend.

@p4use

If anyone is living like a baller right now, it’s Ryan, who spends his summers in Europe and winters in Mexico. His party snaps from the yacht week in Croatia were probably the most jealousy-inducing snaps I’ve ever seen (especially the six-liter bottles of Belvedere).

@expertvagabond

Matt is known for his extreme adventures, but on Snapchat you’ll find Matt the real life human. He’s currently hanging out in Madrid, his summer base, and snapping from behind the scenes around the city.

Kate on Snapchat

Other Travelers to Follow

It’s still the early days in terms of travel, and everyone is still finding their footing, but I also enjoy snaps from the following people:

@globotreks — Norbert shows snaps from his round the world adventures, many in Latin America right now.

@youngadventures — Liz is snapping away from beautiful Wanaka, New Zealand, and around.

@jeremysfoster — Jeremy shows snaps from his adventures around the world. He’s in Berlin right now.

@glamdering — Alex is snapping live from Copenhagen and on his travels.

@waegook_tom — Tom, a hilarious guy, is sharing lots of live snaps from Taipei.

@theplanetd — Dave and Deb are sharing behind-the-scenes snaps on their adventure trips, most recently Niagara Falls.

@michaelshodson — He’s got one foot in the travel blogging world and one out, but Michael is still sharing cool snaps from wherever he is.

@twodrifters — Amy is snapping live from her summer destinations, including my neck of the woods, North Shore Massachusetts!

@dangerousbiz — Amanda is getting into Snapchat and trying new things, like daily travel facts.

@backpackerbrock — Brock shares lots of funny and scenic snaps from his travels, currently at home in Toronto.

@seektheworld — Are you deaf? Can you read sign language? Calvin is snapping and signing from around the world!

@an00ba — Anubha lives on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. Follow her for icy, chilly snaps!

@candicewalsh — Candice just moved to Berlin a few days ago and I’m expecting many more crazy Berlin snaps.

@justtravelous — Yvonne is snapping from around Europe, with recent trips to France and Switzerland.

@thetravelbite — Rachelle is brand new to Snapchat, but her video personality is so fun, I know we’re going to see more fun snaps from her.

Kate on Snapchat

The Best Part — Snapchat Birthdays!

Remember when Facebook first came out and everyone was thrilled by how many birthday wishes they got? Facebook has nothing on Snapchat.

I had the most beautiful messages from around the world! People took photos! People drew pictures for me! People made me stuff! Three people even sent me videos of them singing happy birthday! One of them was shirtless! (You know who you are.)

I was touched.

Kate on Snapchat

Don’t miss the boat on Snapchat.

Hey, feel free to do whatever you want. But I think it’s a mistake for you to think that Snapchat is a passing fad. It’s here and it’s going to be here for awhile.

In fact — and this is what I know bloggers and publishers want to know — I was approached for my first paid Snapchat campaign the other day. I turned it down because it wasn’t the right fit for me, but I know it’s only going to grow.

Long may it continue!

Are you on Snapchat? What do you think of it? Share away!

Snapchat: Why It Matters. It's super important for publishers and bloggers!

30 Things I Didn’t Do Until I Turned 30

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Kate on 31st Birthday

Yesterday I turned 31. I spent a wonderful day with my loved ones in Riga. It was a day filled with plenty of my favorite things: photographing a World Heritage Site, wine, cheese, getting recognized by a reader, and Magic Mike XXL. I also spent time reflecting on how far I’ve come in the past year.

Life doesn’t end at 30. Far from it. In fact, when I turned 30 last year, tons of people told me that their thirties were their favorite decade of their lives! Turning 30 doesn’t mean you need to slow down, either. It’s a time when you’re still young and fun, but more comfortable with yourself and you care less about what other people think.

This was easily the best year of my life. While I went through a lot of rough times this year, the good times were SO GOOD that they elevated me to new heights of happiness.

In fact, I haven’t had such an unusual and yet accomplished year since age 26! More than anything, age thirty was about building momentum in my life and career, setting the stage for many more exciting adventures.

For that reason, I did a lot of new stuff this year. Here are the things that I didn’t do until I turned 30!

bali-beach-gallery

1. I had a fling with a local.

It’s crazy — until this year, I had never had a short-term travel romance with a local! My romances, frequent as they are while I’m single, had been exclusively with fellow travelers until then.

And this new experience was fun! And very different, considering the level of cultural differences. I’ve never had anyone make me fried plantains for breakfast before, for starters.

I won’t say where it took place (you guys are crafty and can probably guess), but I will say that it was in a small town atmosphere, the kind of place where everyone knows each other’s business. So much that soon another travel blogger who lives nearby heard about it through the grapevine!

Apparently someone saw me and the guy walking hand in hand and told the local travel blogger that the travel blogger currently visiting was hooking up with so-and-so. Gossip travels fast.

Kate with Prosecco in Saranda

2. I started filling in my brows.

This year I really got into makeup, which is now one of my favorite hobbies. While I’ve always been meticulous about tweezing my brows (still haven’t had a brow wax, ever! I do that myself!), I’ve never used makeup on them until recently.

I experimented. First wax, then pencil. But then I started using shadow and it’s become my absolute favorite. I use Anastasia Brow Powder Duo in Dark Brown, applied with the Anastasia #20 brush, which has a spoolie on one end and a flat shadow brush on the other.

Now I always do my brows, even on very light makeup days. I consider it as vital as lipstick.

Kate Speaking at WITS

3. I gave a keynote.

I’ve spoken at lots of events, but I’ve never been the keynote before. It was something I had been hoping to do for some time, and I was honored to be chosen as the closing keynote of the 2015 Women in Travel Summit in Boston.

My speech focused on gender inequality in the travel blogging industry. Yes, it absolutely exists, and it’s a problem that I’m working on combating both privately and publicly. We need to feature female photographers more often, apply for more awards, know our financial value, and support each other rather than tear each other own, among other things, and these are areas in which we could stand to grow.

Kate in Ometepe

4. I visited a LOT of new places.

I could name far more than 30 new places that I visited this year! Let’s just say I visited 12 new countries (Norway, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Andorra, Greece, Albania, Serbia, and Latvia), tons of new cities (Chicago! Milwaukee! Copenhagen!), and a few new regions (Central America, the Caribbean, South Asia, the American Midwest!).

I can tell you now that I’m not going to break that record next year, especially since I’ve now been to most of Europe and Central America. 12 new countries within a year may very well end up being my life record — I’d have to work pretty hard to beat that!

Kate Volcano Boarding

5. I volcano boarded.

For years, I had dreamed of volcano boarding. Once I arrived in León, Nicaragua, I signed up for this unique adventure.

Was it what I hoped it would be? No. I got a defective board and it didn’t work properly. I slid super-slowly down the first half of the mountain and had to walk down the rest of the way.

But still, I got to slide halfway down a volcano! That’s kind of cool. I guess.

Unawatuna

6. I cured a cold with raw onions and garlic.

I got a cold so bad in Sri Lanka, I was completely plugged up, I was burning up with fever, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I only get that sick about once a decade. And then my friend Leif went to the kitchen and came back with a pile of raw onions and garlic, telling me to eat them like popcorn.

Truth — it’s disgusting. You don’t want to be near anyone doing it. But damn, that shit works well — and fast. I recovered by the next morning. Now whenever I feel the beginning of a cold coming on, I have some raw garlic and honey and it goes away.

Kate in Vogue India

7. I got featured in women’s magazines.

This is some of the press coverage of which I am most proud. I was in major women’s magazines — Vogue, Marie Claire, and Harper’s Bazaar — and not just a brief quote or blink-and-you-miss-it mention! Actual features.

Vogue India listed me as the top solo female travel blogger. Marie Claire Hungary did a feature on women who travel alone and profiled me in particular. Harper’s Bazaar named me as a top travel Instagrammer, which catapulted me into rapid follower growth that continues to this day.

Kate with Hey Hot Guy! sign

8. I kissed a guy before he kissed me.

I never make the first move. Ever. I always sit around and wait for the guy to kiss me first, even if I end up just goofily smiling at him for 30 seconds until he does it already.

But there was a point this year when I really wanted to kiss someone and he hadn’t leaned in. And although this would normally be completely terrifying, I made the move. I kissed him. He kissed me back.

It was awesome. And not scary at all! I need to do that more often!

Jeremy, Kate and Ryan at Sea Dance

9. I went to a music festival.

How is it that I’ve never been to a music festival before the age of 30?! I have no idea — I guess I just don’t run in those circles. I’ve also never been much of a concert-goer unless is was the Backstreet Boys or the Spice Girls.

But an opportunity presented itself to go to Sea Dance in Montenegro with my buds Jeremy and Ryan, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of my European summer. Oh, God, I loved it. I had one of the best nights of my life at Sea Dance (maybe even the best night of my life!) and I’ve learned just how much fun these events can be when you’ve got good people, good vibes, and good music.

There are MANY more festivals in my future — I promise you that!

Tour St. Patrick's Day

10. I became a tour guide.

Leading tours of my readers was something I always wanted to do, but it was always bucketed to “someday.” I didn’t think I would be able to swing it for a few more years, and I dreaded the amount of work that it would take to create a full tour.

Well, it’s funny how things come together. Leif had a tour to Central America all planned. I had the people ready to go. It was perfect. We ran two tours to El Salvador and Guatemala, one in March and one in April.

Honestly, these tours were some of the most fun I have ever had while traveling. While both tours had very different feels to them, they were surrounded in so much friendship and love. I can’t wait to do more!

Alberobello Trulli

11. I drove in Italy.

Italians are crazy drivers — it’s a stereotype for a reason. And the further south you go, the crazier the driving gets. So when I found out that I would be driving in Puglia, the heel of the boot, I was terrified.

It didn’t start well. They tried to give me a manual (yeah, still don’t know how to drive a stick), I couldn’t figure out how to start the car, and I freaked out, bursting into tears. It was the culmination of a lot of difficult things in my life, and I sobbed my eyes out in the Bari Airport parking lot.

But after that catharsis I managed to start the car successfully. And I rocked it, all the way from Bari to Gargano to Alberobello and back to Bari in one piece. Italian driving wasn’t that scary after all!

Kate at the White House at Christmas

12. I got invited to the White House.

I got invited to the White House because of the work that I do as a travel blogger.

I still can’t believe it — it’s hard to put into words. It was an incredible honor. And seeing how proud my family was made it even better.

Playa Samara

13. I SUPed in the ocean.

I love to SUP (stand-up paddleboard). But until I turned 30, I had only done it in calm waters like lakes and lagoons. SUPing in the ocean? Totally different.

If you think that SUPing on a glassy lake is a workout, wait until you get into the waves! It’s incredibly difficult and you will wipe out constantly until you get the hang of things. This even happened in the relatively gentle waters of Sámara, Costa Rica.

Side note: You may want to avoid reading Unbroken shortly before doing this. Every time I fell off, I was convinced sharks were going to eat me.

Alex and Kate on Meat Cart in Copenhagen

14. I wiped out on a meat cart in the middle of the night.

Because at 2:30 AM in Copenhagen, the obvious thing to do is jump on a meat cart with your friend and be pushed down the street. (This is on the list because it’s probably never going to happen in my life again.)

I fell off and hit the curb with my arm and knee. HARD. My arm still occasionally flares up with pain more than a month later, though miraculously my leather jacket and jeans didn’t suffer so much as a scratch.

Adventurous Kate on Snapchat

15. I got on Snapchat.

Dude, how much fun is Snapchat? I’m completely addicted to showing my travels in little real-time photo and video snippets, as well as chatting with my readers. It’s a way for me to show my goofy, real self and make people laugh.

And I’m also digging the fact that so many other bloggers are turning their nose up at it. Guys, history repeats itself. People said that Instagram was just for kids and would never be valuable, and look at it now.

Anyway, I highly recommend you check it out. To follow me, you can scan the code above or enter my name (adventurouskate).

Holistic Healing

16. I had my chakras balanced.

I’ve always been interested in alternative healing, and in Monteverde, Costa Rica, I got the opportunity to have a session that combined several elements, including a chakra balancing session.

The color that kept coming back was a warm, sunny yellow. My third chakra was out of whack and I would have to work on reducing my dairy consumption and my worrying — two things that occupy far more of my life than they should. I found it interesting to have an alternative healer come to the same conclusions that western medical professionals have.

Also, I recently received an email from Ana saying that one of my readers had come to see her. That made me happy! Unfortunately, Ana is no longer in the space pictured above, but she’s working out of her home. Ask around town and you can find her.

Kate Chanel Paris

17. I went shopping at Chanel.

On my 30th birthday, I decided to go shopping at Chanel in Paris and actually purchase something. Not with gift money or a credit card — with my debit card and its finite amount of money.

The experience wasn’t as luxurious as I expected — the boutiques were filled with families from Mainland China who allowed their children scream, run wild, and throw things. I was shocked that this was tolerated in Paris of all places, but I guess money talks.

Anyway, I bought my first pair of Chanel sunglasses — something I always coveted. Black oversized glasses with a very visible Chanel logo on the side. I felt sophisticated and mature.

Valletta Laundry

18. I did laundry by hand.

I know. It’s crazy that I’ve been traveling this long and have never done laundry properly by hand, with soap and a basin.

In Saranda, Albania, doing it by hand was the only option. So I washed and rinsed on my balcony, grossly overestimating the amount of dry detergent I needed, while listening to music and gazing over the ocean. I really enjoyed it, actually. Even if the clothes were stiff and smelled like soap afterward.

Sunset El Tunco, El Salvador

19. I had two brothers fight over me.

Seriously. This was ridiculous. I was in El Salvador on my second tour. There was an awesome party on the beach featuring free beer and music and someone dancing with a palm tree, and my friends and I ended up befriending three Salvadoran brothers.

It turns out that two of them liked me. And once they realized that, they got quite angry with each other. Apparently each of them had called dibs on me but they hadn’t let the other know.

I chose the one who didn’t speak English. His brother exploded. “That’s my girl!”

Oops.

Kate, Erisa and Shaun at Semuc Champey

20. I took a month mostly off to have fun.

For years as a travel blogger, I never took any time off from work. I know that what I do doesn’t look like work to many of you, but believe me, if you saw how much time I spend behind the scenes on this site, you would realize how difficult it is to step away from my computer for even a day. I always, always worked.

This May was different. My second tour ended and Erisa and I started traveling through Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico together. And we ended up having so much fun that I pretty much pushed work aside in the name of having more fun. Just a little bit of work every now and then. A short-ish post per week. Hardly any email.

That was an awesome decision. And it was only because of having an affiliate marketing-based income that I was able to do so.

Kate New Ombre Highlights

21. I ombré’d my hair.

I’ve had my hair highlighted a few times in my life, but I gave it up because highlights require frequent and expensive upkeep. Once I started traveling, it would be even more inconvenient to find new colorists on the road.

Then ombré hair became a trend. (Thank you, Kardashians!) Ombré means shadow, and it’s a gradual difference in color from your roots to your ends, usually with lighter ends.

In other words, frequent upkeep isn’t necessary because your roots are supposed to be a different color than your ends. Ombré hair is perfect for travelers!

The above photo was my first foray into ombré, but I like my current look even better, with a much more gradual ombré that makes me look a lot blonder.

Charcuterie Publican

22. I ate headcheese.

What is headcheese? It’s a terrine made from the head of a pig or calf. It can be mixed with anything from spices and condiments to unusual body parts, like the heart or tongue. They take out the eyeballs first. Oddly, there’s no actual cheese in it.

Headcheese makes most people shudder. Yet like haggis and paté, it’s absolutely delicious if you don’t think about what you’re actually eating. Try spreading some on crusty bread and you might be a convert!

Grand Cenote, Mexico

23. I swam in a cenote.

Cenotes are underwater sinkholes in Mexico, primarily in the Yucatan region. While I’ve been to the Yucatan before, I’ve never taken the plunge and dived into the cenote itself! For my first foray, I biked from Tulum to the Grand Cenote, just on the outskirts of town.

It was cold, clear, and spooky. Erisa and I spent most of our time there taking underwater glamour shots as intrepid fish and the occasional shy turtle swam around us.

White House White

24. I teamed up with the U.S. State Department.

I was invited to speak at the New York Times Travel Show on a panel with the U.S. State Department this January. This involved working with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Karen Christensen about educating people about travel safety. I focused on solo female travel and my colleagues and I provided a ton of great information.

Just like the White House, it was an incredible honor to be chosen to help my government educate travelers who are heading abroad.

Kate at Sea Dance

25. I danced all night long on a beach.

The Montenegrin sky turned green before turning blue, then pink, then blue again. I only knew that because I was dancing underneath the sky, surrounded by friends, most often in the rocky gray beach but occasionally in the sea, until we were unceremoniously told to go home by security at 6:00 AM.

It seems like such a basic thing, but you need to experience that feeling for yourself. Everyone should dance all night on a beach at least once in their lives.

Lake Quannapowitt

26. I pulled the plug on a big trip at the last minute.

I’ve never cut it this close before. Just hours before I was supposed to fly to Greece this October, I decided to cancel everything and stay home, losing a lot of money in the process.

While I missed seeing my friends at TBEX Athens, it was absolutely the right decision. I was shattered, both mentally and physically, and needed more time to recover.

The next month, I kept my commitment to fly to Sri Lanka and while I still had quite a ways to go, I was in a much healthier place than I had been the month before. I can’t imagine how bad I would have been if I had gone to Greece.

Kotor from Above

27. I communed with a ghost.

So, yeah, I stayed in a haunted Airbnb in Kotor.

I could feel it every day. It would lie next to me. It would touch me. Once it talked to me, telling me to get up and get dressed, and I actually followed its directions and waited for it outside the bathroom before I realized that a ghost had spoken to me.

But though it was scary in some ways, things mellowed out. I feel like the ghost and I began to show mutual respect for each other, and that made a difference in the atmosphere. It still made its presence known, though.

Kate in Lake Atitlan

28. I swam in the Indian Ocean, Lake Atitlan, and Ionian Sea.

You can visit as many countries as you want and collect enough passport stamps to fill an encyclopedia, but I think there’s something even more special about swimming in new bodies of water.

They’re here, forever. They’re not held to political lines. They star in classic literature and are filled with legends. They belong to the people.

The wild Indian Ocean chewed me up and spat me out. I’m convinced that Lake Atitlan gave me crazy dreams. The Ionian Sea was even clearer than the Adriatic.

Semuc Champey Caves

29. I swam through a cave with a candle.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not stranger to cave swimming. I had my first taste of that at Khao Sok National Park in Thailand.

But on that trip, we had headlamps to light our way. This year, on a day trip to Semuc Champey in Guatemala, my friends and I were only given a candle to light our way through the cave. That was in addition to zero safety precautions — no helmets, huge groups, lots of water and squeezing through tight spaces!

You might think that it would be a nightmare, but it’s one of the most fun activities I’ve ever done. I loved swimming like the Statue of Liberty!

Ometepe Sunset Kate

30. I wrote a book.

WHAT?!

Yeah. I wrote a book. How about that!

Writing a book is something I’ve wanted to do for my entire life, but it wasn’t until this year that I strapped down and really started writing. I kept it under wraps for most of the year and endured a horrible freak-out that slowed me down for quite a long time, but I got to the finish line.

It’s not ready to be published — far from it — but my plan now is to go into hardcore editing mode with my team before publishing it later in the fall.

So, what’s it about? You’ll find out soon. I will say this — it’s not a memoir!

What’s Coming Up This Year?

I am beyond thankful to be happy and healthy as I turn 31. I’m also deeply grateful that so many of you have made my site part of your lives enough to keep me telling stories and taking photos for a living.

I have a few goals for the next year. Publishing my book, obviously, is a very big one, and the editing and publishing process will dominate the next few months. I also have several more projects going on behind the scenes on the site, and you’ll see them in due time.

On a personal note, after a year of nursing myself back to mental health, it’s time to make my physical health a major priority again. That and I hope to find more of a balance between travel, work, relationships, and a fixed life. I need an anchor.

I’ll hit my five years of travel milestone this October, and after that, I think it’s time to “settle down,” so to speak, and look for an apartment. Probably in New York. Not to say that I’ll be hanging up my travel boots — far from it! I intend to continue traveling quite a bit, just not as much as I am now.

It will be nice to have somewhere to come home to, a bed of my own where I know the pillows will feel nice. A tray near the door where I can keep all my sunglasses. A juicer and hardcore blender. A couch where my friends can crash.

Anyway, that’s the plan for now, but if there’s anything I know, it’s that anything’s possible. Maybe I’ll find myself living in Paris or Tokyo this time next year. Maybe I’ll have a tiny house in Portland or I’ll be based in a surf town in Central America. Who knows?

Thank you for being part of my journey!

Най-бързия самолет в света: От Лондон до Ню Йорк за 50 минути



От Лондон до Ню Йорк за по-малко от час – учени създадоха най-бързия самолет в света

Не е шега. Най-бързия самолет в света ще счупи рекордите по висока скорост. И от Лондон до Ню Йорк вече ще се стига само за 50 минути.
Всички помним феноменалния успех на Конкорд, който изминаваше разстоянието за половината време, нужно на останалите самолети. Но след трагичните инциденти през 2000 г., когато загинаха 117 души, в съчетание със срутването на кулите близнаци през 2001 г. в САЩ се отказаха от Airbus и самолетите Конкорд бяха изтеглени от употреба през 2003 година.

Сега от Airbus работят по нов свръхзвуков самолет, Aerion AS2, който няма да има недостатъците на Конкорд, дори ще притежава и няколко подобрения. Най-значимото подобрение, разбира се е, скоростта. А именно -новият самолет ще може да постига скорости 4 пъти по-големи от скоростта на звука, която пък е около 340 метра в секунда – или иначе казано, самолетът ще има максимална скорост от около 4180 километра в час!
Дизайнът на най-бързия самолет в света е подобен на Конкорд, но ще изглежда повече като обикновен самолет. Идеята е този самолет да превозва до максимум 20 пътници, което означава, че определено ще бъде предназначен за супер ултра висока класа пътници (милиардери). Пътуването от Лондон до Ню Йорк ще отнема по-малко от един час, а обиколката на Екватора (около 40 хиляди километра) на максимална скорост ще коства максимум около 30 часа полет.

Създадоха най-бързия самолет в света

Създадоха най-бързия самолет в света

От Airbus работят усилено върху техниките за управление на звука, който се появява, когато машината се движи и превишава скоростта на звука, и който действа отрицателно и върху самолета и пътниците, и върху популацията долу на земята, ако достигне до тях. Компанията вече е патентовала самолета като „ най-бързия самолет в света“ и смята да го предложи за ползване единствено на най-богатите си клиенти. Първите тестови полети се очаква да се направят през 2019 година.



Source Article from http://www.razkritia.com/454171/%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%B9-%D0%B1%D1%8A%D1%80%D0%B7%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B5%D1%82-%D0%B2-%D1%81%D0%B2%D0%B5%D1%82%D0%B0-%D0%BE%D1%82-%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%BD-%D0%B4%D0%BE/

Ваканция на Карибите? Най-големият кошмар! (Вижте защо)



Защо идеята за ваканция на Карибите отказва хиляди тази година?

Най-екзотични острови на света са толкова много замърсени, че тези дни туристите бягат оттам като „дявол от тамян“. „Ваканция на Карибите? Кошмар!“ е най-честата реплика на бивши туристи, посетили уж красивите пясъчни плажове.
Причината? Ужасната обстановка в региона.

Властите в Карибите се опитват да почистят красивите пясъчни плажове, на които в момента се намират огромни купчини на боклук, цъфтящи водорасли и други отпадъци, поради което туристите масово отказват своите почивки там, пише „The Independent“.

Управата на островите твърди, че тази година истинско природно бедствие е връхлетяло островите и замърсяването е най-лошото от всички досега. Голям проблем е, че цъфтящите водорасли привличат всякакви бактерии, които причиняват сърбеж и зачервяване.

Не може да се подмине и факта, че с оглед на това, че на Карибите живеят от туристи, щетите са огромни. „Това е най-лошата година досега. Трябва спешно да предприемем нещо, защото водораслите ще унищожат имиджа, който имат Карибите като туристическа дестинация“, казва Кристофър Джеймс, директор на туристическо сдружение.

Идеята за ваканция на Карибите става все по-отблъскваща заради снимките, които летовниците качват от там. А негативните коментари се разпространяват като вирус из мрежата, докато туристите масово отказват резервации.

Сезонът вече е пред провал, въпреки това властите взимат крути мерки за борба със замърсяването и възстановяването на репутацията на слънчевите карибски плажове.

В Тобаго заради водораслите вече са обявили природно бедствие, докато от Мексико са наели над 5000 работници и са отпуснали помощ от няколко милиона долара, за да се почисти брега.

Причината за такова изключително цъфтене на водораслите трябва да се търси в увеличаването на температурата на океана и смяната на морските течения, а и двете са следствие от изменението на климата, т.е. на глобалното затопляне.

Ваканция на Карибите - райско кътче, което се превърна в ужасно място за почивка

Ваканция на Карибите – райско кътче, което се превърна в ужасно място за почивка

Доскоро Карибите бяха смятани за най-красивия и предпочитан курорт от другата страна на океана. Туристи от цял свят избираха тропическия рай за своите ваканции.



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