Месечни архиви: October 2015

On Curiosity, Gin, and Cultivating Interests

7

Gin in Mallorca

“Now, lean in and smell it, just like wine,” I instruct the girls before me. Vicky and Candice obey, each leaning into a small glass filled with an ounce of Whitley Neill gin at the bottom.

“Now smell it with your mouth open. It’s just like tasting it! Rachelle taught me that on the trip.”

The girls breathe in and burst out laughing.

“I know, right?”

It’s the final night of our weeklong stay in Mallorca and I’ve decided to give my friends a gin lesson. Partly because I need to free up space in my bag and drinking one of my many bottles of gin is the way to go about it; partly because, well, I just love it.

And while Mallorca is incidentally a major gin producer, I’ve brought several craft British gins with me from my weeklong distillery-hopping trip around the UK.

Whitley Neill was the only full bottle I received during my weeklong journey around the country, making it the perfect subject for gin tasting.

“Now put a little bit of it on your tongue,” I encourage the girls. “Take a sip. Don’t judge it on that sip; you’re not getting the full flavor yet. Now take a second sip.”

“Wow,” they say in unison.

Soon I’m going into the nuances of gin – the main ingredient of juniper, the secondary ingredients of coriander and angelica root (the Holy Trinity!), and the South African botanicals that make up Whitley Neill, including baobab powder and Cape Gooseberries.

London Dry Gin

I never thought I’d be a gin nerd.

This gin trip around the UK was one of the most interesting trips I’ve ever taken, and I can’t stop talking about it to everyone I meet. I went from being a moderate gin fan and thinking that Hendricks was the height of sophistication to becoming obsessed with several small craft distilleries throughout northwest and central England.

Learning about gin has fulfilled a new curiosity in me – and more curiosity is something that all of us could use.

Greenalls Distillery

In the book The Know-It-All, the hilarious A.J. Jacobs spends a year reading the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica in an effort to become the smartest person in the world. While on his quest, he interviews knowledgeable people along the way, including Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.

Jacobs asks Trebek what he thinks the secret to knowledge is. His answer?

“I’m curious about everything – even things that don’t interest me.”

How much do you love that quote?!

I honestly believe that cultivating a wide variety of interests is the key to an interesting life.

I prioritized attending a Jesuit university for this reason – the Jesuits believe in educating the whole person, and that means coursework in a wide variety of disciplines.

At Fairfield University, I had to take two courses each in history, social science, hard science, math, visual and performing arts, religious studies, philosophy, and foreign language, plus three in English, an extra religion/philosophy/ethics course, and courses fulfilling U.S. and world diversity. And that’s before you get into your major!

I absolutely loved the academics at Fairfield, even though I struggled with calculus and philosophy. Courses like Islamic Societies and Cultures, Literature of the Irish Famine, the Minority in American Film, and History of the Jews in Tuscany are among my most memorable classes.

These classes were about topics that I knew nothing about – but I was curious about them. I was rewarded with learning about the struggles of people who are often overlooked in history and having encyclopedic knowledge on extremely narrow topics.

(And here’s Kate’s advice for teens: if you can afford to attend a private university, consider going Jesuit. I am so proud of my Jesuit education. Just remember to bring your own condoms; they’re still Catholic, after all!)

I won’t lie – traveling full-time makes it difficult to keep up outside interests. But I read like a maniac and love picking up nonfiction books that cover topics that I know nothing about, like the historical context of Jesus or eating 100% local year-round or how the French raise their children differently. I read blogs about vegan cooking and running a family farm and even how to care for natural black hair, even though I had no interest in these topics until I randomly came across them.

This gin trip was the perfect way to develop a new interest – one that I can talk about and share with my loved ones.

Cotswolds Distillery

My newfound gin curiosity comes into play a few days later when I visit Charlotte’s W4 in Chiswick, London, with my friend Chris (yep, THAT Chris) and his girlfriend Daisy. The bar has a wide variety of spirits and I immediately flip to the gin section, finding some familiar names.

“Berkeley Square,” I sigh. “That was one of my favorites. Such fun, playful flavors. I can’t wait for them to sell this one in the States.”

I run my finger down the page.

“Cotswolds Distillery,” I say wistfully. “I loved it there. So beautiful. You can actually taste the landscape in the gin. It’s so soft, like the rolling fields.”

I flip the page. By now, the bartender has a grin on his face.

“Warner Edwards!” I say with a laugh. “Tom Warner is fucking hilarious.”

“Tom Warner led a workshop here a few weeks ago,” the bartender tells me.

“That must have been amazing. I wrote down practically every word he said because it was pure gold.”

Daisy suggests I try the Gin & Tea Party cocktail, made with Beefeater 24 gin, green tea, vanilla sugar, lemon juice, and rhubarb bitters. She chose wisely – it’s one of the best cocktails I’ve had in quite a long time, so delicious that it makes me swoon.

“There’s just one thing,” I tell the bartender. “You should make this with Cotswolds gin instead of Beefeater. It has some nice lavender notes that will play well with the lemon and vanilla.”

As I sip my cocktail, I think to myself, I am so glad that I learned about this.

Tom, Kate, and Johnny Gin Pic

Here is a challenge for you.

Let me ask – are you curious about lots of things? Are they only things that interest you, or things that don’t?

Or do you find yourself swallowed up by one all-consuming interest?

I’ve seen the latter quite a bit in the blogosphere, regardless of niche. Just this week, two of my travel blogger friends told me that they need to find new interests because their lives are all about travel, travel, travel. Photography becomes travel photography; writing becomes travel writing; entrepreneurship is wrapped up in travel.

I challenge you to spend time learning about a completely new interest.

Read a book. Find a blog. Watch a documentary. Take a class.

And you might love it, or you might hate it. But you know what?

I guarantee your life will be richer as a result.

For me, I’ve decided it’s time to learn how to cure meat. (Not the best timing with the WHO’s new findings, I know.) You all know how much I adore eating cured meats, but I’ve never thought about actually making them myself – I should really learn!

I’m going to start with some books and blogs and once I get a place of my own, move on to actually making some easy stuff like pancetta. (I love the idea of a spare room becoming a “meat room” and renting it out on Airbnb. Ha!)

Need a push? Here are some of my recommendations:

Books:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver – on eating locally year-round
Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman – on how the French raise their children
Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan – on Jesus in a historical context
The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy – on non-traditional relationships
Silver Like Dust by Kimi Cunningham Grant – on Japanese internment camps in America

Blogs:
The Full Helping – on vegan cuisine
The Elliott Homestead – on running a family farm
Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care – on teaching adoptive white parents on how to do natural black hair
I Will Teach You To Be Rich – on personal finance and earning more
Wellness Mama – on living a healthier lifestyle

Documentaries:
Jesus Camp – on summer camp for conservative Christian children
Spellbound – on the National Spelling Bee
Jiro Dreams of Sushi – on Tokyo’s most lauded sushi chef
Sicko – on the failed American healthcare system
Somm – on the world’s best sommeliers

This campaign was created and sponsored by the GREAT Britain campaign and UK Trade & Investment in partnership with iambassador. Adventurous Kate retains 100% editorial control and all opinions, as always, are my own.

Thanks also to Chris and Daisy for taking me out to the perfect gin bar to bring my curiosity full circle!

What are you curious about?

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On Living in Perpetual Motion

6

Beautiful Pai

It’s Monday in Mallorca and your jeans need to be replaced. They’re the only pair you brought for this trip, and you’ve dropped so much weight in recent months (GOOD THING!) that that they’re barely hanging on your hips, fitting you poorly. And you could live with that, but now there’s a hole near the crotch for some reason, and you can’t get by with that anymore.

If you didn’t care about fashion, you’d find the nearest H&M or Primark and get a crappy cheap pair. But you’re sick of looking like a slob. Jeans are a staple and a good pair is an investment. Only a quality pair will do.

But out here in a rural town on a Mediterranean island, the only shops are little touristy boutiques where they’ll charge you 200 euros for a belt and you haven’t seen any jeans on display. You’d have to head to a city and hit up a real store.

El Corte Ingles? You remember that that’s the big department store in Spain. They probably have one in Palma. They must have one in Palma.

But that would require taking the bus, and then probably a taxi, and you’d need data on your phone to make sure you found your way to an El Corte Ingles and back to the station.

But the data on your phone is gone. The only data option at Vodafone was 1.5 GB, and you knew that wouldn’t last you a full week. The ladies at the store told you that you could top up, which you’ve done easily with Vodafone in other countries, but for some reason, losing your data package on this account means that you can’t access any internet, even the Vodafone site, unlike virtually every other SIM card.

Oh, and have you mentioned that your villa has lost its wifi?

You call the number on the package. It’s all in Spanish and you can’t get through to any real human. Forget adding more data. There’s no Vodafone shop in the town where you’re staying.

Now the expedition to Palma is looking like a long bus ride, a taxi, and dropping into several cafes to find wifi so you find a place to buy the jeans. Plus saving all the bus schedules in advance and taking screenshots of Google Maps.

Assuming that you can find a decent pair of jeans there.

Zadar Sunset

All of these instances are starting to add up.

I wanted to write a post detailing the day-to-day of what it’s like to be a nomad when things are spinning out of control. Because though I’ve been happily rolling with the punches for the past five years, it’s starting to get to the point where my tolerance is fading.

Don’t get me wrong — I am deeply grateful for being able to live this nomadic lifestyle, and there is so much that is good about it. I ended up in Mallorca on a whim because Cailin booked herself a villa and I thought, “Well, that sounds fabulous!” and flew out to join her. Our friends Candice and Vicky did the same thing.

How often do you get to see your friends like that? Cailin and I have actually hung out on four continents by now (Europe, Africa, Australia, and North America). That’s far and away my favorite thing about this lifestyle — hopping on a plane to see your friends someplace awesome.

There are some other major benefits, too. There’s chasing summer — hanging out on a Caribbean island while your friends and family are at home are miserable in yet another record-breaking New England winter.

There’s being able to enjoy things at their source, whether it’s Vietnamese food or salsa music. Or avocados that are actually ripe when you buy them.

There’s enjoying a high standard of lifestyle for very cheap — pupusa dinners in El Salvador for around $3, or a balcony apartment in Albania with the view to end all views for $35 a night. All while continuing to earn a normal salary.

And there’s learning more, every single day, about different places and cultures and the world that we live in.

But after five years, I can now admit that I’m tired. Things that didn’t bother me as much are now making me want to scream and pull my hair out.

Here are more snapshots from the solitary nomadic life.

Saranda, Albania

More Instances

There’s getting to Albania and dying for a mani-pedi. And while you can find nail salons on every corner in New York City, you can’t say the same for Albania. None are in sight in Saranda, nor in Berat, and you cave and do your own nails, badly, in your hotel room.

There’s going out in a country, like Germany, where people can still smoke in bars, and your one winter coat stinks to high heaven after an evening out. But finding a reliable dry cleaner, especially when you’re only in town for a few days and don’t speak German? A huge hassle. You’ll settle for stinking.

Or there’s having to figure out how to do laundry. During your summer of Airbnbing, nearly every rental that had a washer did not provide laundry detergent. Another thing to track down and purchase in a foreign country. Not to mention how most washers are utterly perplexing to operate when in another language.

None of these are great tragedies. Just annoying.

And you start fantasizing about the strangest things — breaking a high-heeled shoe and going to your shoe guy around the corner and getting it back the next day, shiny and new.

Or spilling red wine on a white cashmere sweater and pouring the white white and vinegar on it, as they’re both stocked in your pantry, before taking it to your local dry cleaner who knows you by name.

Being lost and calling up an Uber on your phone without tracking down wifi or asking a local to call you a taxi, without knowing whether it’s even a legitimate taxi.

Breaking a heel in Guatemala? You’d be totally clueless.

When this is what you fantasize about, not winning the lottery or being a backup singer for Kendrick Lamar, you know it’s time to make some changes in your life.

San Juan del Sur

And A More Significant Part Of Things

Then there’s meeting a guy while hanging out in a group of your friends. He’s fun. He’s great to talk to. And yes, he’s handsome. But you don’t pay that much attention until he goes to the bathroom and your friend grabs you and says, “Kate, he likes you! It’s so obvious!”

“You think so?” you ask, dumbfounded.

“Watch him! He’s only talking to you!” she exclaims.

So you watch him. And your friend is right. He’s talking to the whole group, technically, but really, he’s only talking to you.

So as the night goes on, your friends peel off one by one to go to bed and you stay out in the hostel courtyard with him, still chatting, each of you with a big $1 beer in hand. After an hour or so, he takes your face in his hands and kisses you.

And so another Three-Day Boyfriend, for lack of a better term, is christened. You’ve had a lot of those (and you’ll have more of those in the coming months). You spend the days doing your own thing, mostly, but you two meet up whenever you can, dancing in the bars and strolling hand in hand. You drop into his room and jump on him for a quick make-out session before heading out with your friends for dinner. And you have no intention on it lasting any longer than until you leave this destination.

Most of these Three-Day Boyfriends are the type you wouldn’t dream of bringing home to your family. But after a few days, you’re struck by how good a guy this one is. Super hot. Super sweet. He has a very cool, creative, somewhat autonomous (if not entrepreneurial) career, and he’s successful at it. He treats your career with respect and admiration. He’s American, for once (good job, Kate!), and the kind of guy who flies to a random Central American country for a long weekend.

You have a ton in common — far more than the guys you’ve dated seriously. But more importantly, you get along amazingly with this guy in every way possible.

As he prepares to fly home to the west coast, you’re struck by uncharacteristic sadness. It’s not that you’re in love with him. Nothing like that. Just that, well, if you two lived in the same city, you would have been a great couple. The kickass fun couple everyone loves to hang out with.

As it goes, you hug each other goodbye and talk about staying in touch and how nice it would be to meet up again somewhere. Maybe in his city. Maybe somewhere random.

But stop. Wouldn’t it be worth pursuing something more with this guy? No. Out of the question. You’ve done the long-distance thing before, as well as the half-and-half visa regulation relationship. It fucking sucks and you have zero desire to do it again.

You are sick of meeting awesome guys full of potential and knowing that no, this will never lead to anything more. The relationship has a postmortem before it even begins.

Because, let’s face it, when you live a life of traveling the world and running your own business, the dating pool becomes exponentially smaller. Most guys don’t know how to relate to you whatsoever, and vice versa. A lot of the worldly guys look down on travel blogging as a career; a lot of the entrepreneurs don’t travel beyond Vegas and Florida.

This is one of the biggest costs of living a nomadic lifestyle. Having no roots, not even an apartment in a city that you stay in a few months of the year, means that there’s zero chance of cultivating relationships, both romantic and platonic. And while I’ve lived this way for quite awhile, I’m not quite up to doing it further.

As I spend a final winter in the tropics and settle down in a new apartment in the spring, I feel satisfied in my decision. When it’s time to make a big change, life will tell you, and I know I hear it more than ever now.

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Five Years of Travel: The Best Experiences

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Kate in Boracay

As of today, I’ve been a full-time traveler for five years! A huge milestone and one for which I am deeply grateful.

Five years ago today, I hopped on a plane from New York to Bangkok, excited and a little bit terrified. Within 24 hours, I went from eating at The Spotted Pig near one of my favorite TV stars (Will Arnett) to chowing down on crickets on the streets of Bangkok.

I thought I would travel in Southeast Asia for seven months, then go home for a bit and maybe get a job teaching in Korea. Not at all! When I got back, my blog was making almost enough money for me to continue traveling, so I ramped up the advertising and never went back to traditional work.

My travels in the past five years have taken me to 57 countries. (I visited an additional six countries prior to 2010.) I’ve danced with Vikings and had water fights with children. I’ve eaten kudu and kangaroo and sipped snake blood. I’ve appeared at the White House and worked with the U.S. State Department.

It’s been wonderful and exactly what I’ve wanted. And I thought this would be a great occasion to go through the best adventures of the last five years for those of you who joined me on my journey later on.

Kate at Sveti Naum

There are some things you will notice as you go through all of these photos at once.

The good: in five years, my photography went from fairly horrible to pretty fucking fabulous. Considering that I look back at photos from even six months ago and wince, I’m glad that I keep moving forward.

The bad: in five years, I went from the skinniest I’ve ever been as an adult to yo-yo-ing weight-wise all over the place. Not good, a major challenge not made easier by this lifestyle, and something I’m continuing to work on. That, and you see the creases under my eyes grow deeper and deeper.

The intriguing: I’ve always had far more adventures when single than when in relationships. Does that mean that I’ve always chosen the wrong partners or that I become a more reserved person when in a relationship (or in those particular relationships)? It’s probably a mix.

Either way, I came across this Elizabeth Gilbert quote today and I thought it was worth sharing:

What advice would you give to your twenty-something self?

Beware of romantic entanglement and how much it’s going to take you off the path of becoming the person you need to be. I wince when I look back at all the time and energy that I gave of myself to boys and men in those years, and I just wish that I could have everyone of those hours back for my health. I say that knowing that I needed those experiences too, to become the person that I became. I just see it as such a waste of my life and there’s so much I could’ve been doing. I was doing a lot anyway, but God, I wish I could’ve just said, “I’m going to learn French!” instead of sitting on the couch watching Robocop for the eighth time with this dude.

And with that, I present you with the most comprehensive collection of my adventures around the world in the past five years. I hope you enjoy them!

YEAR ONE: THAILAND TO ITALY

Kate and Matt Eating Insects in Thailand

My first day on the road five years ago! Eating insects in Bangkok with Matt.

Kate Motorbike in Pai

Despite my fear of motorcycles, I learned how to ride a motorbike in Pai, Thailand. Couldn’t have picked a better place to learn!

Kate at Petronas Towers Kuala Lumpur

Seeing those Petronas Towers for myself in Kuala Lumpur.

Lanterns on the Beach in Ao Nang, Thailand Movie Set

My brief career as a German movie star took place on the beach in Ao Nang! Twelve hours of filming netted me around $50. Not bad for a backpacker. Still need to see the final product!

Muay Thai Fight

My biggest mistake — getting into a boxing ring in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, getting beaten to a pulp, and having a bloody eyeball for three weeks. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Don’t do this.

koh-lanta-sunset-gallery

And then there was Koh Lanta. The first destination that I fell madly, unequivocally in love with, and a place that I hold close to my heart to this day. I’m heading back for my third visit next month!

Kate at Loy Krathong on Koh Lanta

And then there was the Thai holiday of Loy Krathong! I celebrated in Koh Lanta, cutting my hair and fingernails and setting it off on a krathong, or floating lantern, to bring me good luck.

(You can see my bloody eye from the boxing fight. I was posing for photos like this, trying to hide the blood, for three weeks.)

Kate Climbs

I learned to rock climb in Railay, Thailand. The verdict? Not my thing. But that’s okay.

Tat Lo, Bolaven Plateau, Laos

One of the big offbeat adventures in my earlier days was motorbiking solo from Pakse to Tat Lo on the remote Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos. I was the only solo female on a motorbike I saw during the whole trip.

I may have lost my map and broke my motorbike, but I survived!

Mekong Tubing

Tubing down the Mekong in Laos’s 4,000 Islands (Si Phan Don), close to the Cambodian border. We had a fish barbecue, drank quite a bit of Lao Lao (firewater), and then tubed behind the boat as the sun set behind us.

Killing Fields Phnom Penh Cambodia

The Killing Fields were my first exposure to Cambodia’s painful recent past. Absolutely devastating, and something that you must do in order to understand Cambodia today.

Kep Crab with Kampot Pepper

Another solo motorbike ride took me from Kampot to Kep in Cambodia. That resulting plate of crab was SO good that I forgot how dusty it was and how awful the roads were and did it again three years later.

sihanoukville-girls-gallery

And then there was SNOOKAY! I had the craziest time of my life in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, including a Christmas booze cruise to remember. Christmas on the beach!

I went back a few months later, but I wouldn’t return again. Things have shifted there.

At Angkor Wat

And then there was Cambodia’s most iconic site Angkor Wat. And the scrambling up and over lots of temples at Angkor.

Bangkok New Year's

There was New Year’s Eve in Bangkok, which became the first of many occasions when I pulled together a group of life friends, travel friends, blogger friends (including Steph and Mike), and real friends. Now I do that all the time!

Soi Cowboy

I had gone to my first Bangkok ping pong show alone — YIKES. Super crazy. Insane. Expensive. Scary. Odd.

It wasn’t my last show.

Thai Party Train

The overnight party train from Bangkok to Vientiane ended with me and four of my best friends from my travels all crammed into a tiny upper bunk with a bottle of Sangsom!

Vang Vieng Tubing

Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos. The parties. The dancing. Ba ba Americano. I’ve seen nothing like it before or since.

Tubing was complicated — it led to a lot of deaths, and it devastated the local community while simultaneously allowing the locals to make a lot of money off its infamy. Either way, I’m glad I got to experience it in 2011 before it ended shortly after.

Kate's Vietnam Visa

And there was that time that I almost didn’t get into Vietnam because my visa was dated 1900! I had to bribe my way in and almost got left behind.

Snake blood shot!

And then there was the time I went to the snake restaurant and ate snake bones, drank snake blood and bile, and made out with a dude who looked like Justin Bieber…

Beautiful Halong Bay

Sailing through Halong Bay. It was chilly and the weather wasn’t the best, but what a beautiful and magical spot. And also the home of the craziest booze cruise of my life and the place where I first met the guy who became my boyfriend for a year and a half — though at the time I was oblivious and thought it was weird that he kept coming over to talk to me!

Hoi An at Dusk

Being in Hoi An for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, brought forth celebrations and one of the best fireworks shows I’ve ever seen. As well as a collection of new custom Vietnamese clothing!

kate-motorbike

I will NEVER forget my day of motorbiking around Mui Ne, Vietnam, when my friends and I raced the sunset, got stuck in rush hour traffic, drove like maniacs in the world’s craziest driving country, and still survived!

On the Merry-Go-Round of Death

Back in Phnom Penh, my friend Ste finagled an invitation for us to a party in the countryside. Dinner in a local home, carnival games with beer for prizes, and a rusty, falling-apart “merry go round of death” where all the kids wanted to ride with me, taking my hand and yelling, “My friend! My friend!”

Koh Chang Bungalow

Going to Thailand and living on the beach in a $6 a night bungalow. That’s the dream for many, but there aren’t many places where you can do it for that cheap anymore. Except for Koh Chang, that is.

It wasn’t quite ON the beach, and the bathroom was a shared outdoor squat toilet, but I loved it.

henna-singapore-gallery

Singapore was all about the hawker food. And the henna.

Surfing a Tiny Wave!

I learned to surf in Bali! I’ve taken several lessons and I seem to get worse every time, so this was the pinnacle of my surfing career! (And yes, I know. They forced me to wear the helmet.)

Kate Shipwrecked

And we definitely can’t forget that time I was shipwrecked in Indonesia! A horrific night and definitely the worst experience of my travels, but to be frank, it did more for my blog than any other experience I’ve had.

Kate, Ste and Darren in Bangkok for Songkran

I landed back in Bangkok just in time for Songkran — a three-day water fight celebrating the New Year! One of the best festivals ever. NO ONE IS SAFE.

Kate at Platform 9 3/4

Love Harry Potter? Make a visit to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station in London!

Working out with a crab!

Next up, I pushed myself at a fitness retreat in Sayulita, Mexico, and proved that you don’t have to be super in shape to get a lot out of a week of fitness.

surfing-in-sayulita-gallery

I surfed again! This time in Sayulita, Mexico, with no helmet and no board shorts!!

Kate Gets Tied Up

My sister and I teamed up for an Amazing Race-like event called Race to the Alamo in San Antonio and I got lassoed by a cowboy. Strange and awesome.

Kate in the Helicopter

The prize for winning that day’s event was a great — a ride over San Antonio in a helicopter!

hiking-alps-gallery

After that summer, I returned to Europe, which became my base for a few years. This hike through the Tirolean Alps, near Innsbruck in Austria, was way beyond my fitness level and I couldn’t walk for days afterward. Probably the most physically taxing thing I’ve ever done. That view, though!

liechtenstein-mountains-gallery

I called Liechtenstein “The Strange and Beautiful” — and this tiny country certainly was! Nothing like sipping wine in the prince’s private vineyards.

Kate at the Chester Races

At the Chester Races in Chester, England, I dressed up, wore my fascinator, bet on the horses, and won big! (Exactly once. Then lost the rest of the day.)

Mount Snowdon

Climbing Mount Snowdon, Wales’ highest peak, was another major physical achievement for me.

truffle-hunting-gallery

Hunting for truffles with dogs in the hills of Romagna, Italy. A fun way to gather one of the world’s most glorious foods!

YEAR TWO: JORDAN TO SWEDEN

Kate at Jordan's Monastery

Petra, Jordan, is probably the coolest ancient site I’ve ever seen. And that climb to the view of the monastery is rewarding!

Camels in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Waking up at sunrise for a camel ride across the desert in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Incredible.

kate-dead-sea-mud-gallery

Getting muddy and floating in the Dead Sea? Absolutely! And then I cut my foot in the Dead Sea (SO SALTY, SO PAINFUL) and tracked blood all over the resort while being followed by a staffer with a mop.

Kate in Hammam Istanbul

Up next was my first-ever hammam experience, in Istanbul. In short, getting totally naked and taking a rogue boob to the face during a massage. 10/10, would do again.

Cappadocia Balloons

Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey, is the ultimate cliche — and so totally worth it.

Up Helly Aa Galley

To this day, I say that Up Helly Aa, the Viking Fire Festival in Shetland, is the best thing I have ever done on my travels. It’s like nothing else.

alhambra-gallery

And visiting the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, is probably my favorite architecture experience in the world. As was watching the sunset from Plaza San Nicolas while listening to flamenco.

Crashing with the bride!

Then there was the time my friend Kevin and I crashed a wedding in Pennsylvania! We did not know this bride!

Glacier Kate

Iceland is chock full of adventure opportunities, and I started my five-day stopover with glacier hiking in the south.

glacier-hiking-gallery

Don’t forget the ice climbing! Surprisingly, I loved it far more than rock climbing.

Blue Lagoon

And the Blue Lagoon on a gloriously sunny day, of course.

Snorkeling Silfra

Would you ever snorkel in near-freezing water? Thanks to a dry suit, I snorkeled the cold geological fissure between the European and American continents in Silfra, Iceland.

Horseback Riding in Iceland

Horseback riding with the furry and unique horses of Iceland.

Sailing Croatia

Sailing the islands off Croatia, from Split to Dubrovnik, was an incredibly fun week! This trip to Croatia ignited my love for the Balkans, my favorite region in the world and a place I return to every summer.

Sunset Cocktails Korcula Bar Massimo

When sailing through Croatia in the summer, sometimes you’ve got to do crazy party things — like have sunset cocktails on top of a decrepit tower of the city walls in the Old City of Korčula.

Mljet

Swimming in the saltwater lakes of Mljet, Croatia. With only 15 minutes to enjoy the national park, was it worth it? HELL YES. We ran in like maniacs, splashed around, and ran back to get our ferry.

Old Bridge, Mostar

You really can’t understand the Balkans until you confront their devastating history firsthand — like here in Mostar, Bosnia.

Whitewater Rafting in Montenegro

Whitewater rafting is super fun on its own — but there is nowhere so beautiful to do it as Tara Canyon, Montenegro. I was agape the whole time!

Faroe Islands - 454

The Faroe Islands are definitely the most off-the-beaten-path place I’ve ever visited — and definitely among the most beautiful. I loved it there and want to go back.

Douro Valley

The Douro Valley of Portugal is super underrated and super delicious — and I spent the entire time there drinking my body weight in port, which it turns out I love!

Kate and the World's Best Gelato

Being served ice cream by the chef from the #1 restaurant in the world. Literally. That’s Jodi Roca, pastry chef at El Cellar de Can Roca in Costa Brava, Spain. And sometimes he pops in to serve customers at his gelato shop, Rocambolesc!

Yellow Gamla Stan

In Stockholm, I started a new tradition — sending my friends’ babies their first postcard. It’s a keepsake for the babies and I guarantee it makes their moms cry some happy tears!

YEAR THREE: SOUTH AFRICA TO AUSTRALIA

Adventurous Kate on Safari

And then there was South Africa. A country with which I fell madly in love and hold close to my heart to this day. Nothing in the world will blow you away like a safari! I feel so privileged to have seen endangered rhinos, and all the more compelled to work to save these beautiful animals.

Cigars and Cognac on the Blue Train

The Blue Train — across South Africa on one of the world’s most luxurious trains. Just wild. And we spent the night drinking cognac and smoking Cuban cigars like we were in a rap video!

And then our train was attacked by rock-throwing protestors the next morning…

Kate on Table Mountain

On top of Table Mountain in Cape Town. What a view of one of the most beautifully set cities in the world.

Lyon Cathedral

The Fête des Lumieres in Lyon, France, was an underrated (albeit cold!) festival with some of the best lighting special effects I’ve ever seen.

Kate Torchlight Procession Hogmanay Edinburgh

New Year’s Eve was in Edinburgh that year, which meant bringing in the new year with a peaceful torchlight procession.

Kate in Skye

I bought myself a few more years of good skin in Sligachan on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, where soaking your face in the waters brings eternal youth!

Wine Tasting in Chianciano Terme

I’ve done a lot of wine tasting, but the best ever was in Chianciano Terme, Tuscany. So many wines, so many brilliant cured meats (my introduction to finocchionna!), all in a wine cellar that was more of a closet.

Road Tripping the Garden Route

Road tripping from Cape Town to East London in South Africa — the best, most fun, most adventurous, and most visually stunning road trip I’ve ever done.

Horseback Riding in Swellendam

Horseback riding at sunset in Swellendam, South Africa.

Ronnie's Sex Shop

Hanging out at Ronnie’s Sex Shop in South Africa, the coolest rest stop in the world, filled with lots of underwear.

Kate and Nadine Croc Diving

Crocodile cage diving in South Africa! Screaming with Nadine as the crocs lazily swam around us.

Kate and the Ostriches

And then there was attempting to get over my fear of birds by letting ostriches surround me and peck at a bucket of feed. Yes, it was terrifying. 10/10, would never do again.

Kate Paddleboarding

My first-ever SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) session on the lagoon in Sedgefield, South Africa! Wetsuit unnecessary.

Dolphins in Plettenberg Bay

Seeing dolphins in the wild for the first time ever was so moving! Seen on a safari in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa.

Segway Ride, Tsitsikamma Forest

Forget city sidewalks — go on a Segway trip through the Tsitsikamma Forest in South Africa!

Kate Surfing in JBay

While I keep getting worse in each surfing lesson, at least I got to experience sunset surfing in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.

Addo Elephant Park

Seeing more elephants than I’d ever seen — even more than in Kruger National Park! — in Addo Elephant Park, South Africa.

Inside PLLEK

Sometimes you’ll walk into a shipping container in Amsterdam and find THIS inside. A place called Pllek, and their food is fabulous. You’d never guess this was inside.

Edna, Kate, Ashley, and Julika in Paris Picnic

There’s nothing more quintessentially Parisian than a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower with Edna, Ashley, and Julika!

Kate Running Through a Parmigiano Reggiano Factory

One of the happiest moments of my life — running through a parmigiano reggiano cheese factory in Parma, Italy!

San Marino

I love visiting micro-nations. One of my favorites? Mountainous San Marino. And I loved getting to meet their national football team’s keeper!

View from the Swiss Train

I’ve been on many beautiful train rides, but I don’t think anything can top the Lucerne-Interlaken line in Switzerland. It looks like you’re riding through a toy world!

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

Celebrating the Festa of St. George in Qormi, Malta, watching an entire town come together in quintessential Maltese piety and opulence.

Sveti Jovan, Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid in Macedonia was one of the most lovely places I visited. I’ve never seen the sky and water meld into each other so seamlessly.

Me and Bill Clinton in Prishtina

Visiting Kosovo was incredibly moving as an American, and I was welcomed with open arms (and asked for my phone number!) by virtually every person with whom I conversed. And, of course, there’s posing with Bill in the capital of Prishtina.

Veliko Tarnovo

In Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, I was at one of the lowest points of my travel life — and survived the worst train of my life, which was overheated and falling apart.

Kate Turns 29 in Dubai

In Dubai on your 29th birthday? Celebrate with camel milk cocktails on top of the tallest building in the world!

Maiko Sighting in Kyoto

“Geisha hunting” is a sport in Kyoto, where tourists keep an eye out for the elusive female entertainers. I was so lucky to catch a brief glimpse of one — and this photo — in the Gion neighborhood.

Kate and Eric

South Korea is famous for its puppy and kitten cafes, and in Seoul, I had this adorable little dog stick to me all afternoon long.

Kate at Buley Rockhole

Swimming in (crocodile-free!) rockholes in the Northern Territory was probably my favorite experience in all of Australia. This one was in Litchfield National Park.

Kate Croc Cage Diving

Crocodile cage diving, round two! My experience at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia, which included teasing a testy croc with food, was far scarier than my South African experience.

Uluru

Witnessing the sunset at Uluru, glass of champagne in hand. And witnessing the sunrise, coffee in hand.

Kate on the Sydney Bridgeclimb

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It looks like a terrifying experience, but trust me — it wasn’t scary at all! Just exhilarating.

YEAR FOUR: THAILAND TO NORWAY

Family on a Motorbike in Kampot

Getting stuck in the mud on a rainy day in Kampot, Cambodia. Turns out that when it rains here, the whole city floods — but that doesn’t stop people from biking through the knee-deep water!

Brunei Floating Village

Brunei is a country that left me perplexed and uneasy, but I’ll never forget the day I spent visiting a school in a water village.

Boracay Sunset

The best sunset I’ve ever seen was in Boracay in the Philippines.

Dim Sum House

Hong Kong was riveting, but nothing could top doing dim sum in a very traditional place, feeling like I’d stumbled in on a huge secret. Except maybe the night I ate a whole fried pigeon with my hands.

Kate Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras in New Orleans was astonishing — the parades! The costumes! The music! The camaraderie! The good times rolled, and I grabbed as much of them as I could.

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Road tripping through the American South was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my own country. I especially loved the food, the white beaches of Florida, and stopping in small towns where the culture was so different from my New England upbringing.

Savannah

I usually shy away from scary activities, but in Savannah I went on the Dead of Night Tour, a late-night adults-only ghost tour, and scared myself shitless. One of the best tours I have ever done.

Wadden Sea

Wading into the Wadden Sea in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, carrying a net and wearing tall rubber boots, was the kind of thing I’d ordinarily hate — but I loved getting muddy and exploring the wildlife on the shoreline!

Kate Flyboarding in Malta

Flyboarding! I got to fly like Iron Man in Malta. Super fun — you’ve got to do this!

Skellig Michael

Climbing to the top of Skellig Michael, off the southwest coast of Ireland, home to ancient beehive-shaped stone huts built by monks, and a very difficult place to land a boat even to this day. I can’t believe this island isn’t more famous.

Zagreb World Cup

Watching Croatia win a World Cup match against Cameroon in downtown Zagreb, to much chaos and celebration. Major sports events are electrifying, but nothing tops the atmosphere of the World Cup!

Dubrovnik Skyline

Walking the walls of Dubrovnik. It was the second time I had done so, but let’s just say that these photos are far and away better than my first round!

Rachelle and Kate kayaking. Image via @TheTravelBite on Instagram

Kayaking around the Old City of Dubrovnik with Rachelle. What I love about the Balkans is how both the natural and manmade beauty comes together so beautifully. Seeing Dubrovnik from the water was another example of how this city was built in the perfect setting.

Ana Desetnica

Experiencing Ana Desetnica Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, possibly the most charming and lovely street theater festival in the world (and it couldn’t be set in a better city).

Skocjan Caves

Getting a private tour of the Skocjan Caves in Slovenia. My friend Peter and I got to explore those gargantuan caves on our own, and it felt like being in The Magic School Bus Goes to the Center of the Earth.

Kate on Lake Bled

And then there was beautiful Lake Bled — and rowing across it while Peter swam next to my boat, to the great delight of Chinese tourists who took about 100 photos of us.

Midnight Sun in Kuhmo

Getting naked beneath the midnight sun in Kuhmo, Finland. One minute I was in a sauna with a group of female musicians from around the world, and the next we were skinny-dipping in a warm lake as the sky turned from pink to ashy blue. I’ve never felt so wild and so at peace simultaneously.

Carpino Folk Festival

Going local at Carpino Folk Festival in Puglia, Italy with traditional music and concerts. This is a very local and traditional festival and I’m almost certain that Abi and I were the only people there who didn’t come from the immediate region.

Alberobello Trulli

After the festival, an impromptu Puglia road trip led me here: Alberobello, home of the white trulli homes.

Kate at Norway Fjords

Cruising through fjords in southwest Norway. The scenery was unforgettable and this has since become my new default photo!

YEAR FIVE: SRI LANKA TO SPAIN

Kate at Sigiriya

Climbing to the top of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka. Getting to the top of this giant rock and seeing the landscape made me feel like I was truly one with Sri Lanka.

Kandy

Visiting my 100th UNESCO World Heritage Site: Kandy, Sri Lanka! (Since then, a few newly named sites I visited prior to 2014 knocked Kandy to #102.)

Kate at the White House at Christmas

Getting invited to the White House! The White House had their first-ever Travel Blogger Summit and invited me to come. It was a huge honor to be part of it and brainstorm how to get more Americans to study abroad.

Kate Ziplining Monteverde

Time to hit up a new region: Central America. Ziplining through the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica was gorgeous. I even went through a rainbow!

Kate at Sunday Funday

Surviving (and thriving!) at Sunday Funday in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. This is the most legendary all-day weekly party in Central America and I rocked every minute of it. And by that, I mean I was home by 10:30 PM. #thisis30

Kate in Ometepe

All the adventure in Ometepe, Nicaragua. Kayaking, chicken buses, brilliant sunsets, and hanging out in a swimming pool on an isthmus on an island in a lake on another isthmus.

Laguna de Apoyo

Spending a windy Valentine’s Day swimming in the volcanic waters of Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua. A day of pure joy.

Little Corn Island

Discovering an undiscovered corner of the Caribbean: Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. And it’s not going to stay undiscovered for long!

Kate Volcano Boarding

Volcano boarding — quite unsuccessfully — on Cerro Negro, outside León, Nicaragua. I wouldn’t do it again, but hey, at least I have the photos in that way-too-big prison jumpsuit.

Truck to Panajachel Tour

Running my first tour with Leif in El Salvador and Guatemala. And the most Guatemalan mode of transportation: standing in the back of a pickup truck!

Pizza Booze Cruise Atitlan Tour

Not to mention having a pizza booze cruise on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

Kate Speaking at WITS

In between tours, I gave the keynote at the Women in Travel Summit in Boston, talking about how to fix gender inequality in the travel blogging industry.

El Tunco Tour 2

Running my second tour with Leif. Catching every sunset (and a few waves) in El Tunco, El Salvador.

Kate and Wren Kayaking

And our kayaking pub crawl took place through the rain in Lake Atitlan!

Semuc Champey Caves

Swimming in the pools at Semuc Champey, Guatemala, was a lot of fun, but even better was swimming through the nearby caves while decked out in war paint and holding candles for light!

Kate in Belize

Seeing bones of human sacrifices in Belize. The ATM caves are one of the spookiest, most interesting, and most unique places I’ve ever seen, and I can’t believe people are allowed to actually go in and see the untouched skeletons! (Nope, not naked there. It’s the lighting.)

Kate with Sharks in Belize

With a lifelong fear of feeling fish touch me while I swim, swimming with sharks was the last thing my family expected me to do. But I did it in Belize! And yes, it was frightening. But not as frightening as the tuna that swam near the sharks.

Rendezvous Caye Belize

Spending three days sailing on a catamaran through the Belize Barrier Reef was pure bliss. Snorkeling, tanning, dancing, partying, camping on uninhabited islands, and making a wild array of new friends. I want to go back!

Grand Cenote, Mexico

On my fourth trip to Mexico, I finally swam in a cenote! Spooky in the best way, and chilling out with swimming turtles was super-fun.

Kate at Potawatomi

Went to Milwaukee to lead a Bloghouse; won more than $100 in the casino!

Sankt Hans Nyhavn Copenhagen

Watching a modern and pragmatic Scandinavian city — Copenhagen — do an about-face and light a bonfire to scare witches away. Sankt Hans was not the typical Danish holiday I expected!

Kate in Andorra

Visiting the random little country of Andorra and discovering that, well, it wasn’t really for me.

Kate in Santorini

Finally making it to Santorini! Walking through the white villages, photographing the brilliant sunsets, and having the whole island seeing my underwear after I ill-advisedly wore a flouncy dress on a windy day.

Kate in Ksamil Albania

Getting way off the beaten path again in Ksamil, Albania. Discovering some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen in Europe — and nobody knows about them.

Kate at the Pyramid, Tirana, Albania

The other end of the Albanian spectrum — climbing to the top of the decrepit pyramid in downtown Tirana. A very weird place.

Jeremy, Kate and Ryan at Sea Dance

At age 30, I went to my first-ever music festival, Sea Dance in Budva, Montenegro! I had an absolute blast with my buds Jeremy and Ryan and had one of the best nights of my life there (if not the best).

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

In Kotor, I spent five days living in a haunted apartment. Seriously. It wasn’t advertised that way, but after my experience, I have no doubt that there was a presence in the room where I slept, and it made itself known on a frequent basis.

I’ve been saving that story for the right time! I’ll be writing about it soon.

Kate Climbing Kotor Fortress

Also in Kotor, I climbed to the top of the fortress — for the second time! Definitely the best early morning workout you can have!

Kate, Kash, Leah, and Rob in Belgrade

Belgrade was wild and wonderfully weird — it seemed like wherever I went, guys would appear with guitars and accordions and they would start playing music for us! Almost like a mariachi band that follows you around and narrates your life.

Sarah and Kate at Karaoke in Riga

In Riga, we brought our very American selves to very non-American karaoke and gave a few performances for the ages!

Kate, Mom and Sarah in Taormina

In Sicily, my mom, sister and I were the first family relatives to return to my great-grandfather’s village, Castanea delle Furie, after he left as an 11-year-old in 1899. After seeing Castanea in person, we feel like we understand him a bit more — he was trapped in a tiny, isolated town and had nowhere else to go. So he most likely ran away.

Mount Etna

Ever hiked a volcano while drinking wine made from grapes endemic to the volcano? Mount Etna in Sicily has you covered.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Even after many trips to my beloved Edinburgh, I fell in love with it again after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! Such a fun festival with so many cheap (and often weird) performances and unlimited ways to spend your time.

Kate at Gulfoss, Iceland

Second time in Iceland? Let’s go see some waterfalls. Like Gulfoss.

Kate in Blue Lagoon

Swimming in the rain? Steam fogging up the lens? Lifeguards in winter coats? Must be the Blue Lagoon in August!

Friends at Daybreaker New York

Back home in New York, decked out and dancing at 7:00 AM. It’s a Daybreaker party and I know there are many more in my future!

Kate and Berkeley Square Gin

And there was the time I became a gin specialist in the UK.

Kate at Strawberry Fields

The time I indulged my inner Beatles fan in Liverpool…

Kate in Christiania, Copenhagen

And the time when I hung out in the lawless land of Christiania, Copenhagen.

So where am I today as I write this?

Kate, Cailin, Vicky, and Candice in Mallorca

I’m in Mallorca, chilling in a villa and enjoying lots of cava with Cailin, Vicky, and Candice! Because of all the rewards I’ve had from this travel lifestyle, friendship is the greatest reward of all. I love that I have so many friends I can meet in random places around the world.

What’s coming up in the next five years?

Quite a bit! Obviously I don’t have much planned out, but I’d love to go to Antarctica and New Zealand, see islands in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, walk the Camino de Santiago, finally learn to dive, and live in New York City, of course. My 64th country, I can tell you almost certainly, will be Myanmar later this fall.

But after five years, I’m ready to slow down, so to speak. That’s not to invalidate the past five years — far from it! Change is good and while being a vagabond has been the best thing for me and my life, I’m now ready to build more connections at home and reduce my travels in favor of trying new and cool things in my business. It’s been fun and it’s time for something new.

What’s your favorite adventure from the past five years of YOUR life?

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Five Years of Travel: The Best Experiences

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Kate in Boracay

As of today, I’ve been a full-time traveler for five years! A huge milestone and one for which I am deeply grateful.

Five years ago today, I hopped on a plane from New York to Bangkok, excited and a little bit terrified. Within 24 hours, I went from eating at The Spotted Pig near one of my favorite TV stars (Will Arnett) to chowing down on crickets on the streets of Bangkok.

I thought I would travel in Southeast Asia for seven months, then go home for a bit and maybe get a job teaching in Korea. Not at all! When I got back, my blog was making almost enough money for me to continue traveling, so I ramped up the advertising and never went back to traditional work.

My travels in the past five years have taken me to 57 countries. (I visited an additional six countries prior to 2010.) I’ve danced with Vikings and had water fights with children. I’ve eaten kudu and kangaroo and sipped snake blood. I’ve appeared at the White House and worked with the U.S. State Department.

It’s been wonderful and exactly what I’ve wanted. And I thought this would be a great occasion to go through the best adventures of the last five years for those of you who joined me on my journey later on.

Kate at Sveti Naum

There are some things you will notice as you go through all of these photos at once.

The good: in five years, my photography went from fairly horrible to pretty fucking fabulous. Considering that I look back at photos from even six months ago and wince, I’m glad that I keep moving forward.

The bad: in five years, I went from the skinniest I’ve ever been as an adult to yo-yo-ing weight-wise all over the place. Not good, a major challenge not made easier by this lifestyle, and something I’m continuing to work on. That, and you see the creases under my eyes grow deeper and deeper.

The intriguing: I’ve always had far more adventures when single than when in relationships. Does that mean that I’ve always chosen the wrong partners or that I become a more reserved person when in a relationship (or in those particular relationships)? It’s probably a mix.

Either way, I came across this Elizabeth Gilbert quote today and I thought it was worth sharing:

What advice would you give to your twenty-something self?

Beware of romantic entanglement and how much it’s going to take you off the path of becoming the person you need to be. I wince when I look back at all the time and energy that I gave of myself to boys and men in those years, and I just wish that I could have everyone of those hours back for my health. I say that knowing that I needed those experiences too, to become the person that I became. I just see it as such a waste of my life and there’s so much I could’ve been doing. I was doing a lot anyway, but God, I wish I could’ve just said, “I’m going to learn French!” instead of sitting on the couch watching Robocop for the eighth time with this dude.

And with that, I present you with the most comprehensive collection of my adventures around the world in the past five years. I hope you enjoy them!

YEAR ONE: THAILAND TO ITALY

Kate and Matt Eating Insects in Thailand

My first day on the road five years ago! Eating insects in Bangkok with Matt.

Kate Motorbike in Pai

Despite my fear of motorcycles, I learned how to ride a motorbike in Pai, Thailand. Couldn’t have picked a better place to learn!

Kate at Petronas Towers Kuala Lumpur

Seeing those Petronas Towers for myself in Kuala Lumpur.

Lanterns on the Beach in Ao Nang, Thailand Movie Set

My brief career as a German movie star took place on the beach in Ao Nang! Twelve hours of filming netted me around $50. Not bad for a backpacker. Still need to see the final product!

Muay Thai Fight

My biggest mistake — getting into a boxing ring in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, getting beaten to a pulp, and having a bloody eyeball for three weeks. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Don’t do this.

koh-lanta-sunset-gallery

And then there was Koh Lanta. The first destination that I fell madly, unequivocally in love with, and a place that I hold close to my heart to this day. I’m heading back for my third visit next month!

Kate at Loy Krathong on Koh Lanta

And then there was the Thai holiday of Loy Krathong! I celebrated in Koh Lanta, cutting my hair and fingernails and setting it off on a krathong, or floating lantern, to bring me good luck.

(You can see my bloody eye from the boxing fight. I was posing for photos like this, trying to hide the blood, for three weeks.)

Kate Climbs

I learned to rock climb in Railay, Thailand. The verdict? Not my thing. But that’s okay.

Tat Lo, Bolaven Plateau, Laos

One of the big offbeat adventures in my earlier days was motorbiking solo from Pakse to Tat Lo on the remote Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos. I was the only solo female on a motorbike I saw during the whole trip.

I may have lost my map and broke my motorbike, but I survived!

Mekong Tubing

Tubing down the Mekong in Laos’s 4,000 Islands (Si Phan Don), close to the Cambodian border. We had a fish barbecue, drank quite a bit of Lao Lao (firewater), and then tubed behind the boat as the sun set behind us.

Killing Fields Phnom Penh Cambodia

The Killing Fields were my first exposure to Cambodia’s painful recent past. Absolutely devastating, and something that you must do in order to understand Cambodia today.

Kep Crab with Kampot Pepper

Another solo motorbike ride took me from Kampot to Kep in Cambodia. That resulting plate of crab was SO good that I forgot how dusty it was and how awful the roads were and did it again three years later.

sihanoukville-girls-gallery

And then there was SNOOKAY! I had the craziest time of my life in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, including a Christmas booze cruise to remember. Christmas on the beach!

I went back a few months later, but I wouldn’t return again. Things have shifted there.

At Angkor Wat

And then there was Cambodia’s most iconic site Angkor Wat. And the scrambling up and over lots of temples at Angkor.

Bangkok New Year's

There was New Year’s Eve in Bangkok, which became the first of many occasions when I pulled together a group of life friends, travel friends, blogger friends (including Steph and Mike), and real friends. Now I do that all the time!

Soi Cowboy

I had gone to my first Bangkok ping pong show alone — YIKES. Super crazy. Insane. Expensive. Scary. Odd.

It wasn’t my last show.

Thai Party Train

The overnight party train from Bangkok to Vientiane ended with me and four of my best friends from my travels all crammed into a tiny upper bunk with a bottle of Sangsom!

Vang Vieng Tubing

Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos. The parties. The dancing. Ba ba Americano. I’ve seen nothing like it before or since.

Tubing was complicated — it led to a lot of deaths, and it devastated the local community while simultaneously allowing the locals to make a lot of money off its infamy. Either way, I’m glad I got to experience it in 2011 before it ended shortly after.

Kate's Vietnam Visa

And there was that time that I almost didn’t get into Vietnam because my visa was dated 1900! I had to bribe my way in and almost got left behind.

Snake blood shot!

And then there was the time I went to the snake restaurant and ate snake bones, drank snake blood and bile, and made out with a dude who looked like Justin Bieber…

Beautiful Halong Bay

Sailing through Halong Bay. It was chilly and the weather wasn’t the best, but what a beautiful and magical spot. And also the home of the craziest booze cruise of my life and the place where I first met the guy who became my boyfriend for a year and a half — though at the time I was oblivious and thought it was weird that he kept coming over to talk to me!

Hoi An at Dusk

Being in Hoi An for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, brought forth celebrations and one of the best fireworks shows I’ve ever seen. As well as a collection of new custom Vietnamese clothing!

kate-motorbike

I will NEVER forget my day of motorbiking around Mui Ne, Vietnam, when my friends and I raced the sunset, got stuck in rush hour traffic, drove like maniacs in the world’s craziest driving country, and still survived!

On the Merry-Go-Round of Death

Back in Phnom Penh, my friend Ste finagled an invitation for us to a party in the countryside. Dinner in a local home, carnival games with beer for prizes, and a rusty, falling-apart “merry go round of death” where all the kids wanted to ride with me, taking my hand and yelling, “My friend! My friend!”

Koh Chang Bungalow

Going to Thailand and living on the beach in a $6 a night bungalow. That’s the dream for many, but there aren’t many places where you can do it for that cheap anymore. Except for Koh Chang, that is.

It wasn’t quite ON the beach, and the bathroom was a shared outdoor squat toilet, but I loved it.

henna-singapore-gallery

Singapore was all about the hawker food. And the henna.

Surfing a Tiny Wave!

I learned to surf in Bali! I’ve taken several lessons and I seem to get worse every time, so this was the pinnacle of my surfing career! (And yes, I know. They forced me to wear the helmet.)

Kate Shipwrecked

And we definitely can’t forget that time I was shipwrecked in Indonesia! A horrific night and definitely the worst experience of my travels, but to be frank, it did more for my blog than any other experience I’ve had.

Kate, Ste and Darren in Bangkok for Songkran

I landed back in Bangkok just in time for Songkran — a three-day water fight celebrating the New Year! One of the best festivals ever. NO ONE IS SAFE.

Kate at Platform 9 3/4

Love Harry Potter? Make a visit to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station in London!

Working out with a crab!

Next up, I pushed myself at a fitness retreat in Sayulita, Mexico, and proved that you don’t have to be super in shape to get a lot out of a week of fitness.

surfing-in-sayulita-gallery

I surfed again! This time in Sayulita, Mexico, with no helmet and no board shorts!!

Kate Gets Tied Up

My sister and I teamed up for an Amazing Race-like event called Race to the Alamo in San Antonio and I got lassoed by a cowboy. Strange and awesome.

Kate in the Helicopter

The prize for winning that day’s event was a great — a ride over San Antonio in a helicopter!

hiking-alps-gallery

After that summer, I returned to Europe, which became my base for a few years. This hike through the Tirolean Alps, near Innsbruck in Austria, was way beyond my fitness level and I couldn’t walk for days afterward. Probably the most physically taxing thing I’ve ever done. That view, though!

liechtenstein-mountains-gallery

I called Liechtenstein “The Strange and Beautiful” — and this tiny country certainly was! Nothing like sipping wine in the prince’s private vineyards.

Kate at the Chester Races

At the Chester Races in Chester, England, I dressed up, wore my fascinator, bet on the horses, and won big! (Exactly once. Then lost the rest of the day.)

Mount Snowdon

Climbing Mount Snowdon, Wales’ highest peak, was another major physical achievement for me.

truffle-hunting-gallery

Hunting for truffles with dogs in the hills of Romagna, Italy. A fun way to gather one of the world’s most glorious foods!

YEAR TWO: JORDAN TO SWEDEN

Kate at Jordan's Monastery

Petra, Jordan, is probably the coolest ancient site I’ve ever seen. And that climb to the view of the monastery is rewarding!

Camels in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Waking up at sunrise for a camel ride across the desert in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Incredible.

kate-dead-sea-mud-gallery

Getting muddy and floating in the Dead Sea? Absolutely! And then I cut my foot in the Dead Sea (SO SALTY, SO PAINFUL) and tracked blood all over the resort while being followed by a staffer with a mop.

Kate in Hammam Istanbul

Up next was my first-ever hammam experience, in Istanbul. In short, getting totally naked and taking a rogue boob to the face during a massage. 10/10, would do again.

Cappadocia Balloons

Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey, is the ultimate cliche — and so totally worth it.

Up Helly Aa Galley

To this day, I say that Up Helly Aa, the Viking Fire Festival in Shetland, is the best thing I have ever done on my travels. It’s like nothing else.

alhambra-gallery

And visiting the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, is probably my favorite architecture experience in the world. As was watching the sunset from Plaza San Nicolas while listening to flamenco.

Crashing with the bride!

Then there was the time my friend Kevin and I crashed a wedding in Pennsylvania! We did not know this bride!

Glacier Kate

Iceland is chock full of adventure opportunities, and I started my five-day stopover with glacier hiking in the south.

glacier-hiking-gallery

Don’t forget the ice climbing! Surprisingly, I loved it far more than rock climbing.

Blue Lagoon

And the Blue Lagoon on a gloriously sunny day, of course.

Snorkeling Silfra

Would you ever snorkel in near-freezing water? Thanks to a dry suit, I snorkeled the cold geological fissure between the European and American continents in Silfra, Iceland.

Horseback Riding in Iceland

Horseback riding with the furry and unique horses of Iceland.

Sailing Croatia

Sailing the islands off Croatia, from Split to Dubrovnik, was an incredibly fun week! This trip to Croatia ignited my love for the Balkans, my favorite region in the world and a place I return to every summer.

Sunset Cocktails Korcula Bar Massimo

When sailing through Croatia in the summer, sometimes you’ve got to do crazy party things — like have sunset cocktails on top of a decrepit tower of the city walls in the Old City of Korčula.

Mljet

Swimming in the saltwater lakes of Mljet, Croatia. With only 15 minutes to enjoy the national park, was it worth it? HELL YES. We ran in like maniacs, splashed around, and ran back to get our ferry.

Old Bridge, Mostar

You really can’t understand the Balkans until you confront their devastating history firsthand — like here in Mostar, Bosnia.

Whitewater Rafting in Montenegro

Whitewater rafting is super fun on its own — but there is nowhere so beautiful to do it as Tara Canyon, Montenegro. I was agape the whole time!

Faroe Islands - 454

The Faroe Islands are definitely the most off-the-beaten-path place I’ve ever visited — and definitely among the most beautiful. I loved it there and want to go back.

Douro Valley

The Douro Valley of Portugal is super underrated and super delicious — and I spent the entire time there drinking my body weight in port, which it turns out I love!

Kate and the World's Best Gelato

Being served ice cream by the chef from the #1 restaurant in the world. Literally. That’s Jodi Roca, pastry chef at El Cellar de Can Roca in Costa Brava, Spain. And sometimes he pops in to serve customers at his gelato shop, Rocambolesc!

Yellow Gamla Stan

In Stockholm, I started a new tradition — sending my friends’ babies their first postcard. It’s a keepsake for the babies and I guarantee it makes their moms cry some happy tears!

YEAR THREE: SOUTH AFRICA TO AUSTRALIA

Adventurous Kate on Safari

And then there was South Africa. A country with which I fell madly in love and hold close to my heart to this day. Nothing in the world will blow you away like a safari! I feel so privileged to have seen endangered rhinos, and all the more compelled to work to save these beautiful animals.

Cigars and Cognac on the Blue Train

The Blue Train — across South Africa on one of the world’s most luxurious trains. Just wild. And we spent the night drinking cognac and smoking Cuban cigars like we were in a rap video!

And then our train was attacked by rock-throwing protestors the next morning…

Kate on Table Mountain

On top of Table Mountain in Cape Town. What a view of one of the most beautifully set cities in the world.

Lyon Cathedral

The Fête des Lumieres in Lyon, France, was an underrated (albeit cold!) festival with some of the best lighting special effects I’ve ever seen.

Kate Torchlight Procession Hogmanay Edinburgh

New Year’s Eve was in Edinburgh that year, which meant bringing in the new year with a peaceful torchlight procession.

Kate in Skye

I bought myself a few more years of good skin in Sligachan on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, where soaking your face in the waters brings eternal youth!

Wine Tasting in Chianciano Terme

I’ve done a lot of wine tasting, but the best ever was in Chianciano Terme, Tuscany. So many wines, so many brilliant cured meats (my introduction to finocchionna!), all in a wine cellar that was more of a closet.

Road Tripping the Garden Route

Road tripping from Cape Town to East London in South Africa — the best, most fun, most adventurous, and most visually stunning road trip I’ve ever done.

Horseback Riding in Swellendam

Horseback riding at sunset in Swellendam, South Africa.

Ronnie's Sex Shop

Hanging out at Ronnie’s Sex Shop in South Africa, the coolest rest stop in the world, filled with lots of underwear.

Kate and Nadine Croc Diving

Crocodile cage diving in South Africa! Screaming with Nadine as the crocs lazily swam around us.

Kate and the Ostriches

And then there was attempting to get over my fear of birds by letting ostriches surround me and peck at a bucket of feed. Yes, it was terrifying. 10/10, would never do again.

Kate Paddleboarding

My first-ever SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) session on the lagoon in Sedgefield, South Africa! Wetsuit unnecessary.

Dolphins in Plettenberg Bay

Seeing dolphins in the wild for the first time ever was so moving! Seen on a safari in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa.

Segway Ride, Tsitsikamma Forest

Forget city sidewalks — go on a Segway trip through the Tsitsikamma Forest in South Africa!

Kate Surfing in JBay

While I keep getting worse in each surfing lesson, at least I got to experience sunset surfing in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.

Addo Elephant Park

Seeing more elephants than I’d ever seen — even more than in Kruger National Park! — in Addo Elephant Park, South Africa.

Inside PLLEK

Sometimes you’ll walk into a shipping container in Amsterdam and find THIS inside. A place called Pllek, and their food is fabulous. You’d never guess this was inside.

Edna, Kate, Ashley, and Julika in Paris Picnic

There’s nothing more quintessentially Parisian than a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower with Edna, Ashley, and Julika!

Kate Running Through a Parmigiano Reggiano Factory

One of the happiest moments of my life — running through a parmigiano reggiano cheese factory in Parma, Italy!

San Marino

I love visiting micro-nations. One of my favorites? Mountainous San Marino. And I loved getting to meet their national football team’s keeper!

View from the Swiss Train

I’ve been on many beautiful train rides, but I don’t think anything can top the Lucerne-Interlaken line in Switzerland. It looks like you’re riding through a toy world!

Festa of St. George, Qormi, Malta

Celebrating the Festa of St. George in Qormi, Malta, watching an entire town come together in quintessential Maltese piety and opulence.

Sveti Jovan, Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

Lake Ohrid in Macedonia was one of the most lovely places I visited. I’ve never seen the sky and water meld into each other so seamlessly.

Me and Bill Clinton in Prishtina

Visiting Kosovo was incredibly moving as an American, and I was welcomed with open arms (and asked for my phone number!) by virtually every person with whom I conversed. And, of course, there’s posing with Bill in the capital of Prishtina.

Veliko Tarnovo

In Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, I was at one of the lowest points of my travel life — and survived the worst train of my life, which was overheated and falling apart.

Kate Turns 29 in Dubai

In Dubai on your 29th birthday? Celebrate with camel milk cocktails on top of the tallest building in the world!

Maiko Sighting in Kyoto

“Geisha hunting” is a sport in Kyoto, where tourists keep an eye out for the elusive female entertainers. I was so lucky to catch a brief glimpse of one — and this photo — in the Gion neighborhood.

Kate and Eric

South Korea is famous for its puppy and kitten cafes, and in Seoul, I had this adorable little dog stick to me all afternoon long.

Kate at Buley Rockhole

Swimming in (crocodile-free!) rockholes in the Northern Territory was probably my favorite experience in all of Australia. This one was in Litchfield National Park.

Kate Croc Cage Diving

Crocodile cage diving, round two! My experience at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia, which included teasing a testy croc with food, was far scarier than my South African experience.

Uluru

Witnessing the sunset at Uluru, glass of champagne in hand. And witnessing the sunrise, coffee in hand.

Kate on the Sydney Bridgeclimb

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It looks like a terrifying experience, but trust me — it wasn’t scary at all! Just exhilarating.

YEAR FOUR: THAILAND TO NORWAY

Family on a Motorbike in Kampot

Getting stuck in the mud on a rainy day in Kampot, Cambodia. Turns out that when it rains here, the whole city floods — but that doesn’t stop people from biking through the knee-deep water!

Brunei Floating Village

Brunei is a country that left me perplexed and uneasy, but I’ll never forget the day I spent visiting a school in a water village.

Boracay Sunset

The best sunset I’ve ever seen was in Boracay in the Philippines.

Dim Sum House

Hong Kong was riveting, but nothing could top doing dim sum in a very traditional place, feeling like I’d stumbled in on a huge secret. Except maybe the night I ate a whole fried pigeon with my hands.

Kate Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras in New Orleans was astonishing — the parades! The costumes! The music! The camaraderie! The good times rolled, and I grabbed as much of them as I could.

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Road tripping through the American South was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my own country. I especially loved the food, the white beaches of Florida, and stopping in small towns where the culture was so different from my New England upbringing.

Savannah

I usually shy away from scary activities, but in Savannah I went on the Dead of Night Tour, a late-night adults-only ghost tour, and scared myself shitless. One of the best tours I have ever done.

Wadden Sea

Wading into the Wadden Sea in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, carrying a net and wearing tall rubber boots, was the kind of thing I’d ordinarily hate — but I loved getting muddy and exploring the wildlife on the shoreline!

Kate Flyboarding in Malta

Flyboarding! I got to fly like Iron Man in Malta. Super fun — you’ve got to do this!

Skellig Michael

Climbing to the top of Skellig Michael, off the southwest coast of Ireland, home to ancient beehive-shaped stone huts built by monks, and a very difficult place to land a boat even to this day. I can’t believe this island isn’t more famous.

Zagreb World Cup

Watching Croatia win a World Cup match against Cameroon in downtown Zagreb, to much chaos and celebration. Major sports events are electrifying, but nothing tops the atmosphere of the World Cup!

Dubrovnik Skyline

Walking the walls of Dubrovnik. It was the second time I had done so, but let’s just say that these photos are far and away better than my first round!

Rachelle and Kate kayaking. Image via @TheTravelBite on Instagram

Kayaking around the Old City of Dubrovnik with Rachelle. What I love about the Balkans is how both the natural and manmade beauty comes together so beautifully. Seeing Dubrovnik from the water was another example of how this city was built in the perfect setting.

Ana Desetnica

Experiencing Ana Desetnica Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, possibly the most charming and lovely street theater festival in the world (and it couldn’t be set in a better city).

Skocjan Caves

Getting a private tour of the Skocjan Caves in Slovenia. My friend Peter and I got to explore those gargantuan caves on our own, and it felt like being in The Magic School Bus Goes to the Center of the Earth.

Kate on Lake Bled

And then there was beautiful Lake Bled — and rowing across it while Peter swam next to my boat, to the great delight of Chinese tourists who took about 100 photos of us.

Midnight Sun in Kuhmo

Getting naked beneath the midnight sun in Kuhmo, Finland. One minute I was in a sauna with a group of female musicians from around the world, and the next we were skinny-dipping in a warm lake as the sky turned from pink to ashy blue. I’ve never felt so wild and so at peace simultaneously.

Carpino Folk Festival

Going local at Carpino Folk Festival in Puglia, Italy with traditional music and concerts. This is a very local and traditional festival and I’m almost certain that Abi and I were the only people there who didn’t come from the immediate region.

Alberobello Trulli

After the festival, an impromptu Puglia road trip led me here: Alberobello, home of the white trulli homes.

Kate at Norway Fjords

Cruising through fjords in southwest Norway. The scenery was unforgettable and this has since become my new default photo!

YEAR FIVE: SRI LANKA TO SPAIN

Kate at Sigiriya

Climbing to the top of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka. Getting to the top of this giant rock and seeing the landscape made me feel like I was truly one with Sri Lanka.

Kandy

Visiting my 100th UNESCO World Heritage Site: Kandy, Sri Lanka! (Since then, a few newly named sites I visited prior to 2014 knocked Kandy to #102.)

Kate at the White House at Christmas

Getting invited to the White House! The White House had their first-ever Travel Blogger Summit and invited me to come. It was a huge honor to be part of it and brainstorm how to get more Americans to study abroad.

Kate Ziplining Monteverde

Time to hit up a new region: Central America. Ziplining through the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica was gorgeous. I even went through a rainbow!

Kate at Sunday Funday

Surviving (and thriving!) at Sunday Funday in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. This is the most legendary all-day weekly party in Central America and I rocked every minute of it. And by that, I mean I was home by 10:30 PM. #thisis30

Kate in Ometepe

All the adventure in Ometepe, Nicaragua. Kayaking, chicken buses, brilliant sunsets, and hanging out in a swimming pool on an isthmus on an island in a lake on another isthmus.

Laguna de Apoyo

Spending a windy Valentine’s Day swimming in the volcanic waters of Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua. A day of pure joy.

Little Corn Island

Discovering an undiscovered corner of the Caribbean: Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. And it’s not going to stay undiscovered for long!

Kate Volcano Boarding

Volcano boarding — quite unsuccessfully — on Cerro Negro, outside León, Nicaragua. I wouldn’t do it again, but hey, at least I have the photos in that way-too-big prison jumpsuit.

Truck to Panajachel Tour

Running my first tour with Leif in El Salvador and Guatemala. And the most Guatemalan mode of transportation: standing in the back of a pickup truck!

Pizza Booze Cruise Atitlan Tour

Not to mention having a pizza booze cruise on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

Kate Speaking at WITS

In between tours, I gave the keynote at the Women in Travel Summit in Boston, talking about how to fix gender inequality in the travel blogging industry.

El Tunco Tour 2

Running my second tour with Leif. Catching every sunset (and a few waves) in El Tunco, El Salvador.

Kate and Wren Kayaking

And our kayaking pub crawl took place through the rain in Lake Atitlan!

Semuc Champey Caves

Swimming in the pools at Semuc Champey, Guatemala, was a lot of fun, but even better was swimming through the nearby caves while decked out in war paint and holding candles for light!

Kate in Belize

Seeing bones of human sacrifices in Belize. The ATM caves are one of the spookiest, most interesting, and most unique places I’ve ever seen, and I can’t believe people are allowed to actually go in and see the untouched skeletons! (Nope, not naked there. It’s the lighting.)

Kate with Sharks in Belize

With a lifelong fear of feeling fish touch me while I swim, swimming with sharks was the last thing my family expected me to do. But I did it in Belize! And yes, it was frightening. But not as frightening as the tuna that swam near the sharks.

Rendezvous Caye Belize

Spending three days sailing on a catamaran through the Belize Barrier Reef was pure bliss. Snorkeling, tanning, dancing, partying, camping on uninhabited islands, and making a wild array of new friends. I want to go back!

Grand Cenote, Mexico

On my fourth trip to Mexico, I finally swam in a cenote! Spooky in the best way, and chilling out with swimming turtles was super-fun.

Kate at Potawatomi

Went to Milwaukee to lead a Bloghouse; won more than $100 in the casino!

Sankt Hans Nyhavn Copenhagen

Watching a modern and pragmatic Scandinavian city — Copenhagen — do an about-face and light a bonfire to scare witches away. Sankt Hans was not the typical Danish holiday I expected!

Kate in Andorra

Visiting the random little country of Andorra and discovering that, well, it wasn’t really for me.

Kate in Santorini

Finally making it to Santorini! Walking through the white villages, photographing the brilliant sunsets, and having the whole island seeing my underwear after I ill-advisedly wore a flouncy dress on a windy day.

Kate in Ksamil Albania

Getting way off the beaten path again in Ksamil, Albania. Discovering some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen in Europe — and nobody knows about them.

Kate at the Pyramid, Tirana, Albania

The other end of the Albanian spectrum — climbing to the top of the decrepit pyramid in downtown Tirana. A very weird place.

Jeremy, Kate and Ryan at Sea Dance

At age 30, I went to my first-ever music festival, Sea Dance in Budva, Montenegro! I had an absolute blast with my buds Jeremy and Ryan and had one of the best nights of my life there (if not the best).

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

In Kotor, I spent five days living in a haunted apartment. Seriously. It wasn’t advertised that way, but after my experience, I have no doubt that there was a presence in the room where I slept, and it made itself known on a frequent basis.

I’ve been saving that story for the right time! I’ll be writing about it soon.

Kate Climbing Kotor Fortress

Also in Kotor, I climbed to the top of the fortress — for the second time! Definitely the best early morning workout you can have!

Kate, Kash, Leah, and Rob in Belgrade

Belgrade was wild and wonderfully weird — it seemed like wherever I went, guys would appear with guitars and accordions and they would start playing music for us! Almost like a mariachi band that follows you around and narrates your life.

Sarah and Kate at Karaoke in Riga

In Riga, we brought our very American selves to very non-American karaoke and gave a few performances for the ages!

Kate, Mom and Sarah in Taormina

In Sicily, my mom, sister and I were the first family relatives to return to my great-grandfather’s village, Castanea delle Furie, after he left as an 11-year-old in 1899. After seeing Castanea in person, we feel like we understand him a bit more — he was trapped in a tiny, isolated town and had nowhere else to go. So he most likely ran away.

Mount Etna

Ever hiked a volcano while drinking wine made from grapes endemic to the volcano? Mount Etna in Sicily has you covered.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Even after many trips to my beloved Edinburgh, I fell in love with it again after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! Such a fun festival with so many cheap (and often weird) performances and unlimited ways to spend your time.

Kate at Gulfoss, Iceland

Second time in Iceland? Let’s go see some waterfalls. Like Gulfoss.

Kate in Blue Lagoon

Swimming in the rain? Steam fogging up the lens? Lifeguards in winter coats? Must be the Blue Lagoon in August!

Friends at Daybreaker New York

Back home in New York, decked out and dancing at 7:00 AM. It’s a Daybreaker party and I know there are many more in my future!

Kate and Berkeley Square Gin

And there was the time I became a gin specialist in the UK.

Kate at Strawberry Fields

The time I indulged my inner Beatles fan in Liverpool…

Kate in Christiania, Copenhagen

And the time when I hung out in the lawless land of Christiania, Copenhagen.

So where am I today as I write this?

Kate, Cailin, Vicky, and Candice in Mallorca

I’m in Mallorca, chilling in a villa and enjoying lots of cava with Cailin, Vicky, and Candice! Because of all the rewards I’ve had from this travel lifestyle, friendship is the greatest reward of all. I love that I have so many friends I can meet in random places around the world.

What’s coming up in the next five years?

Quite a bit! Obviously I don’t have much planned out, but I’d love to go to Antarctica and New Zealand, see islands in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, walk the Camino de Santiago, finally learn to dive, and live in New York City, of course. My 64th country, I can tell you almost certainly, will be Myanmar later this fall.

But after five years, I’m ready to slow down, so to speak. That’s not to invalidate the past five years — far from it! Change is good and while being a vagabond has been the best thing for me and my life, I’m now ready to build more connections at home and reduce my travels in favor of trying new and cool things in my business. It’s been fun and it’s time for something new.

What’s your favorite adventure from the past five years of YOUR life?

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The Criminally Underrated City of Riga, Latvia

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Riga Streets

Every now and then, I discover a city that seems to be pretty damn close to perfection — yet mysteriously under-touristed, not visited by as many people as it should be.

That latest city for me was Riga, the capital of Latvia. It was one of my favorite destinations of my summer in Europe and I feel like it doesn’t get nearly enough love or attention as it deserves.

A beautiful city? Absolutely, with UNESCO World Heritage-listed architecture.

Things to do? Totally. Lots of tours and museums, especially if you’re into history.

Food? Surprisingly good, and nothing like the Soviet stereotype.

Shopping? You bet. Amber jewelry is probably the best quality item on which to splurge.

Green spaces? Quite a few beautiful parks with lots of flowers.

Nightlife? Absolutely. Whether you’re into beer, wine, or Black Balsam, you’re in good condition!

Day trip potential? Lots of options, whether you want to visit the beach, the countryside, or other cities.

Tourist crowds? Blissfully few. It’s not like Prague, where you’re fighting your way through the old town.

And the prices? Very, very affordable. And lots of budget airlines fly there, making it affordable to get there as well.

What’s not to love about all that?

Kate, Sarah and Mom in Riga

Most people visit Riga in tandem with trips to surrounding Lithuania and Estonia, as the three Baltic nations are small in size and have easy transit connections. That wasn’t what I did — my mother, sister and I visited Riga on its own to connect with our family ancestry in the city.

Yes, Riga is absolutely doable as a trip on its own, as is Latvia as a whole. We had hoped to branch out and see more of the country, but unfortunately it was uncharacteristically chilly and rainy, which made us want to stay put.

There is something to be said about getting off the beaten path, however you happen to define that phrase. I think Riga is off the beaten path as it has all the charm and beauty but nowhere near the level of tourism of similar cities like Prague, Krakow, even Ljubljana.

Here are my favorite highlights of the city!

Riga Latvia

The Historic Centre of Riga is one of Latvia’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (the other is the ephemeral Stuve Geodetic Arc). The Hanseatic architecture is fantastically preserved and you can see why it received that designation!

Riga LatviaRiga Latvia

And while the city center is very pastel, the flowers bring a warm dose of primary colors!

Riga ParkRiga FlowersRiga Flowers

Being so far north, Latvia is fairly dark for a few months of the year — these colors breathe more life into the city.

Riga Venison Stew

Latvia is always a running joke on Reddit. “Potato” is always the punchline and there’s even a subreddit called Latvian Jokes. (“Two latvian look at clouds. One see potato. Other see impossible dream. Is same cloud.”)

Honestly, I didn’t expect much in terms of food, but Riga was one of my favorite food destinations of my summer in Europe!

Cheese Plate RigaHerring in Riga, Latvia

And because the prices are so cheap, you can splurge a little bit. When we were in the basement pub at Folkklubs, delicious main dishes cost about 6 EUR ($7) each. In a high-end restaurant in the old town, main dishes like venison stew cost about 15 EUR ($18 USD).

Riga Cherries

Riga’s Central Market is very much worth a visit. The food is fresh and prices are super-cheap.

Riga MarketRiga Pickles

I’m a pickle fiend — always have been. (Except for sweet pickles. Blech.) As you might imagine, Latvia knows how to pickle just about everything.

At one point while on our walking tour, I broke away, bought a pickle (for something ridiculous like 20 cents) and walked back to the group. My mom and sister turned around and saw me standing there, chomping on a pickle like it was the most normal thing in the world, and they burst out laughing.

Riga Street Performer

This lady is one of Riga’s most beloved street performers. Every day she turns on a boom box with traditional music and dances in place. She cleans up quite nicely.

Riga Park

People-watching in Latvia was always interesting! You’d see old babushka ladies walking arm in arm, gorgeous young women in high heels and cutting edge couture, and families strolling together. Always something to look at.

Freedom Monument Riga

Riga’s Freedom Monument is the anchor of the city. It’s a memorial to the soldiers killed in the Latvian War for Independence (1918-1920).

Riga Changing of the Guard

Time your visit right and you’ll see the soldiers changing guard.

Riga Park

I think that having central green spaces is essential to a city, and Riga is dotted with several parks. The major central one is Bastejkalna Park, which is close to the Freedom Monument and surrounds the canals.

Riga ParkRiga Opera HouseRiga Park

Perfect place for strolling on a sunny day.

Riga Cafe Flowers

Cafe culture is important to me in my European travels, and I delighted in Riga’s many outdoor cafes. You won’t be short of places to find your afternoon caffeine boost.

Yellow building Riga

This yellow building was probably my favorite building in Riga! Love that color.

Folkklubs Riga

Our introduction to Riga nightlife was at an awesome subterranean pub called Folkklubs that my sister found. Delicious and cheap food, an excellent beer selection, and live music. We happened to be there on karaoke night — and Sarah and I rocked the harmonies on Toto’s “Africa.”

Easy Wine Riga

Our second introduction to Riga nightlife was Easy Wine — a self-service wine bar where you can order different kinds of wine in quarter, half, or whole glass portions. So many delicious options! I especially loved a New Zealand sauvignon blanc they had on tap.

I loved Easy Wine so much, I insisted we go back on my birthday two days later.

Riga ARchitecture

It’s easy to fall into the trap of going to Riga and seeing nothing but the old town, which is why my family and I loved taking the free Riga Alternative Tour, which was almost entirely outside the old town and showed us a side of the city that most tourists don’t get to experience.

Overall, I had such a wonderful time in Riga and I really think you should consider it as a future European destination! There’s so much to love about this little city.

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, which was equivalent to what a taxi would cost.

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 and educational (remember to tip your guide!). Also, don’t miss trying the famous Black Balsam liqueur, on its own or in cocktails.

Does Riga look like your kind of city?

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The Most Glorious Spirit: A Week of Gin in the UK

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Greenalls Gins

My gin trip to the UK was one of the most interesting trips I have ever taken. I spent time with fascinating (and often off-the-wall) creative entrepreneurs, learning about how they ditched the 9-5 to make booze with their buddies. I visited stunning new regions of Britain and a few old favorites.

And, of course, there was the gin tasting! Everyone has been asking me if I spent the week boozing nonstop. Not at all. It actually wasn’t a big drinking week, but I had little tastes of so many different kinds of gin.

Here is a taster — a sip, if you will — of my week exploring British gin in England.

Juniper

First off: gin is all about the botanicals! That distinctive tree-like taste (that I always complained about in college and learned to appreciate in my late twenties) comes from juniper, pictured above, which is the one required botanical for gin.

Gin is quick and easy to produce — most often it’s made from local grain in just a few days. But the botanicals are what sets it apart from other spirits.

Coriander

For most distillers, there are two other required botanicals: coriander (a.k.a. cilantro in the US) and angelica root. That’s coriander seed above. Master distiller Joanne Moore calls these, along with juniper, her Holy Trinity.

Gin Botanicals

Beyond those three? GO CRAZY. Use any botanicals you’d like!

That photo above is from Liverpool Gin, and they have a rose gin blend.

Greenalls‘ Opihr, one of my favorite gins of the week, is dark and spicy with lime and cinnamon.

Warner Edwards is a fan of elderflower, both in their regular gin and a special elderflower blend.

Most interestingly, Whitley Neill creates a South African-inspired gin with baobab fruit powder and Cape gooseberries! (Also interestingly, founder Johnny Neill is practically gin royalty — his family has been in the business for generations.)

Orange Rind

I’ve always been a fan of the combination of gin and orange — and many of the UK gins I tried included orange, as citrus is a very important flavor in gin. There seems to be a great divide between the distillers — some prefer Valencia oranges; others rave about Sevilla oranges. Either way, Spain rules.

(If you’re American, oranges come from Florida; if you’re British, oranges come from Spain!)

Botanicals Cooking

Botanicals cooking in the still. I know it looks gross, but trust me, it smells like Christmas. Somebody needs to make a pie out of gin botanicals! I could totally do that…

Berry Brothers

Berry Brothers and Rudd, in London, is the oldest wine and spirits shop in the UK. It’s well worth a visit to check out some of the amazing stuff they have on offer!

There is so much history here. Napoleon used to have secret meetings in the back and ladies used to come to weigh themselves on the giant scales. (More recently, Matt Damon insisted on weighing himself on the scales.)

And not all of it is expensive. In fact, if you live in London, they suggest going in and buying a dozen or so decently priced, high quality bottles so that you’ll be stocked up for months if you get invited to dinner or someone’s home and you won’t end up buying a crappy grocery store bottle at the last minute.

I like that idea. I think I’ll do that myself when I get an apartment in the spring.

Paxton & Whitfield Cheese

London’s Paxton and Whitfield is not just a cheese shop — it’s the Royal Family’s cheese shop. (No, I did not ask for a list of Prince Harry’s favorites and then lay slices of them on my naked body in front of Kensington Palace. I mean…not this week.)

You all know I’m a cheese fiend, and I had what may have been the best cheese of my life here: Cropwell & Bishop Stilton. I’m not even a big Stilton fan, but it was so delicious I nearly cried!

Fortnum & Mason

Now, how about doing your weekly grocery shopping here? Fortnum & Mason is a lot like the famously expensive Harrod’s, and THE QUEEN gets her groceries here. We also sampled several of their gins.

Kate and Master Distiller Joanne Moore

I’m always thrilled to meet accomplished women at the top of their game. This is Joanne Moore — the world’s first known female international master gin distiller. She works developing gins at Greenalls in Cheshire, not far from where I used to live in Chester.

Succeeding in a male-dominated field is a challenge the likes of which most men can’t fathom. And at one point this week, I met a distiller who made no fewer than three sexist comments over the course of my short visit. (I called him out over the first comment; I was in disbelief by the second and third comments.)

If that’s what I got on a brief visit, I can’t imagine how bad Joanne gets it from the “good old boys.”

Ashness Bridge, Lake District

Between distillery visits, I was lucky enough to have a short private tour through the Lake District from Mountain Goat Tours. My priority was to get good scenery photos, so my grandfatherly guide Bob took me to his favorite photogenic spots, including Ashness Bridge.

Surprise Point, Lake District

The lookout at Surprise Point was unforgettable, too.

Amazing Sunset Lake District

But my most amazing photo came from Castlerigg Stone Circle as sunset gently rolled in. What an incredible place the Lake District is!

Lakes Distillery Tasting

One of the newest distilleries I visited was Lakes Distillery, an absolutely gorgeous building filled with even more gorgeous brand new stills, in the most gorgeous region of the Lake District. And gin isn’t the only thing on the menu — they distill their own whiskey and a shockingly smooth vodka as well.

As for master distiller John Drake, he was just a regular IT guy who woke up and realized he’d rather be making booze. Excellent.

Liverpool Gin Marketing

Here’s a question that lots of entrepreneurs overlook — how does your business make people feel? Liverpool Gin charts out everything they want people to experience, from laughter to Liver Birds.

Liverpool Gin and Tonics

Now, THAT is the way to enjoy a Liverpool G&T — on top of the city! Founder John O’Dowd and his lovely daughter took me out to lunch at Panoramic 34, with 360-degree views over the city.

And we sampled each of their gins — the regular, the Valencian Orange, and the Rose, each in a proper gin and tonic glass (that’s how you should be drinking them, by the way!).

Liverpool Valencia Orange Gin

My favorite? Easy. Valencian Orange.

Liverpool Reflections

I love this picture. THIS is Liverpool.

Kate at Strawberry Fields

I wanted to do some Beatles touring in Liverpool, and I had quite a day of fandom, including a selfie at Strawberry Fields! This was part of the Magical Mystery Tour.

Stay tuned for a full post on Beatlemania in Liverpool.

Junpier Berries

Did you know you can make a gin in your hand? Master Distiller Rob Dorsett of Langley Distillery pressed the botanicals into his palm — gin, coriander, angelica, lemon, cassia, and more — and I’ll be damned if it didn’t smell just like a glass of gin.

Cotswolds Distillery

How beautiful is this little house? It’s Cotswolds Distillery! Being there felt like a gentle hug on a sunny day.

I was also very surprised that it was run by an American! Dan Szor, a native New Yorker and former finance professional, fell in love with the Cotswolds and an Englishwoman (not necessarily in that order) and he started the distillery last year.

Cotswolds Espresso Martini Gin

Cotswolds Distillery Espresso Martini Gin is the single best gin I had all week and I HAVE BEEN KICKING MYSELF EVER SINCE FOR NOT BUYING A BOTTLE THEN AND THERE. Dan, any chance you can help a girl out?

Really, really regretting that. I could sit and sip that stuff neat all day long.

It’s probably better that way. Cailin and I would have opened the bottle next week at our Mallorca villa and finished it within an afternoon.

Marton-on-Marsh Cotswolds

I had never been to the Cotswolds before, and I quickly fell in love. Such perfect little English villages!

Scary Mail Slot Cotswolds

Well, that scary face is a way to keep the Jehovah’s Witnesses from knocking.

Afternoon Tea Cotswolds

Definitely an occasion for tea and scones.

Horse & Groom Salad

I consider the UK the country where I struggle the most to eat healthy, especially in smaller towns and more traditional regions. But at The Horse and Groom in the Cotswolds, I had a smashing salad: spinach, feta, chili peppers (!), sweet potatoes, fennel, and lemon vinaigrette.

Who knew that feta-chili-lemon was such a good combination?

Warner Edwards Gin Bottles

Design is a huge factor when you run your own distillery, as I learned at Warner Edwards in Northamptonshire.

Tom Warner is half of the founding team (the other half is his best friend, Welshman Sion Edwards, whom I sadly didn’t get to meet). Having been in the game for three years now, they’re one of the older craft gin distilleries in Britain.

They’ve also gone through one bottle redesign. Here Tom holds the old bottle on the left and the new bottle on the right. The first bottle was a bit too “blokey,” Tom says, and I agree. They wanted a softer, more appealing design, and they got a gorgeous, expensive-looking etched bottle.

Warner Edwards Rhubarb Gin

You can see the etching on this bottle a bit better. On the top is a W and E — one is Warner, one is Edwards; one is from Wales, one is from England; one is from the west, one is from the east; and so on.

Victoria’s Rhubarb Gin is actually QUEEN Victoria’s rhubarb gin! It’s made from rhubarb that used to grow in Queen Victoria’s garden!

Tom also pointed out that they’re now selling this gin at Fortnum & Mason, the current Queen’s grocer. How did Fortnum’s feel about that? “There was a lot of tight bums.”

(Oh, and I barely looked up from my phone on the whole visit because I was jotting down every word Tom said. The man is beautifully profane and a verbal gold mine. I can’t wait to share a collection of his one-liners.)

Ginstitute

And finally, if you’re visiting London, you can take a class at the Ginstitute in Notting Hill. With my crazy schedule, I was only able to drop in briefly, but it was a fascinating look at the history and craft of gin — and includes lots of drinks!

The Ultimate British Gin Trip

Essential Info: Some of these distilleries offer visits and tastings, including Lakes Distillery, Cotswolds Distillery, and Warner Edwards Distillery. You can show up without an appointment at Lakes or Cotswolds, but call Warner Edwards to schedule a visit in advance. These are all still new distilleries, so check their sites for the latest information.

Mountain Goat offers a variety of private and group tours through the Lake District. Check out the full list here.

The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour is a bus tour that goes all over Liverpool. It costs £16.95 ($26) and includes admission to the Cavern Club is included.

Classes at the Ginstitute last three hours, include history, drinks, and gin creation, and cost £110 ($168).

This campaign was created and sponsored by the GREAT Britain campaign and UK Trade & Investment in partnership with iambassador. Adventurous Kate retains 100% editorial control and all opinions, as always, are my own.

Are you a gin drinker, an anglophile, or both?

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AK Monthly Recap: September 2015

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Kate's New License

If March, May, and July went down in history for their sheer hedonism, September was marked by abstinence.

I spent it mostly at home. Worked hard every day. Didn’t ingest a single drop of alcohol. And did little else until I headed to New York at the end of the month.

You might think that September was a boring month. That could not have been less true. I had a wonderful time this month — working! Seriously. I had several different projects going on at once and I enjoyed being so busy.

Due to the fact that I did little else but work this month, I don’t have that many photos to share — so please enjoy the selfies and food shots.

Copley Square, Boston

Destinations Visited

Reading, Lynn, Gloucester, Essex, and Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA

New York, New York, USA

Favorite Destinations

New York. My future home! I’m ready to move into you. After spending one more winter in the tropics, that is…

Portsmouth. I’ve got so much love for this quirky little town.

Boston. Nothing better than eating outside on a summer night in Boston!

Blonde Kate in Bushwick

Highlights

Hello, new hair! For years, I was the one-haircut-every-six-months-and-no-color-ever variety, in part due to my travels, but I decided to switch things up.

This time: a much blonder ombre with highlights, and I got a keratin treatment. This is the first time I’ve ever chemically straightened my hair — and I am shocked at how smooth and straight my hair is now, even when it air dries!

I’ve heard that keratin can be hit or miss and you want to go to a place that specializes in it, so instead of one of the ubiquitous cheap Groupon salons, I went to Keratin Lounge in Manhattan. They pioneered LASIO keratin, have several kinds of keratin treatments and I got the tropic treatment (formaldehyde-free, maintains the most body and curl, unlike most treatments you must wash it out within 24 hours, should last around three months with proper care). All treatments cost $250. Naomi was my stylist and she was great!

(If you go, say it’s your first time and Kate McCulley sent you. You’ll get 10% off and I’ll get 10% off my next visit! Also, ask for a chair near an open window — the fumes were a bit tough to deal with and i had to cover my face to keep my eyes from watering.)

Roberta's Pizza

Discovering cool new restaurants in New York. I’m always into trying new places in New York, and I ate at about a dozen new spots (my poor, poor wallet), but there are six exceptional places that I recommend:

Red Rooster in Harlem. Marcus Samuelsson’s funky restaurant fuses tastes of the American South, Sweden, and Ethiopia, and it couldn’t be in a more apt location on 125th street. I had the yard bird (fried chicken), my sister had the Swedish meatballs, and we split the deviled eggs and sweet potato donuts. All were fantastic!

983 (The Living Room) in Bushwick. Incredibly cozy bar and restaurant with fantastic food at cheapish Bushwick prices. Get the chicken under a brick — so much flavor!

Marta in Midtown East. Super delicious thin crust pizza — I could have had two whole pies to myself. Sausage and crimini mushroom pizza is great; so is the stracciatella with buffalo mozzarella.

Roberta’s in Bushwick. Another pizza spot — Beyonce, Jay-Z, and the Clintons have all eaten here. Get the bee sting — it’s a pizza with sopressata and honey! It’s not on the menu, but they always have it.

Breukelen Coffee House in Crown Heights. If I lived in Crown Heights, I would work here every day. Great coffee, lots of tables, and OUTLETS GALORE. Perfection! Well, except for the name. It’s pronounced Brooklyn, and that makes me roll my eyes. JUST CALL IT BROOKLYN, YA HIPSTERS.

Little Skips in Bushwick. One of my new favorite coffee shops in the world! Tiny and looks like nothing on the outside, like most of Bushwick but fun, colorful, delicious place on the inside. Great sandwiches, too.

Kate, Alexa, and Lisa in Portsmouth

Portsmouth day trip. Portsmouth, a small city in New Hampshire, is one of my favorite places in New England for a day trip. There are lots of great restaurants, waterfront scenery, and funky shops, including the Book and Bar, which is a bookstore with a bar in it! I had a great day and lots of girl talk with two of my best friends from home, and it was so nice spending so much time with them.

Discovering Bushwick. What a WEIRD ASS PLACE. I’ve never pinged between loving and hating a place so hard and so often — my opinion would change hourly! Bushwick is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, sandwiched between Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy, and Ridgewood (as well as some neighborhoods you’d want to avoid), and it’s a formerly Puerto Rican/Dominican neighborhood now met with an influx of artists pushed over from high rents in Williamsburg.

It’s full of warehouses, which gives it a lot of light, and there is street art everywhere. And when guys would catcall me, they would always end it with a “God bless you.” As in, “Hey girl, I like your ass in those jeans. God bless you.” Nice.

Dilapidated blocks look like they’re filled with nothing — and then behind a blank door, you’ll find a bar with circus-esque “freak shows” or a chic Cuban restaurant. In that way, Bushwick reminded me a lot of Melbourne. You have to know about these places; they don’t make it obvious.

Congratulations, Bushwick — you now occupy a spot alongside Shetland, Darwin, Liechtenstein, and Venice Beach for on the list of strangest places I’ve ever been. I came here to research it as a possible place to move to, but to be frank, I think it’s a little too out there for me. I’m sure I’ll visit often.

Friends at Daybreaker New York

Daybreaker! By far the coolest thing I did this month. Daybreaker is an early morning dance party that takes place in several cities around the world, including New York. My friends and I put on our best duds (funky workout wear, silvery disco accessories, a cowboy costume, whatever you’d like!) and danced our asses off from 7-9 AM.

It was one of the most positive events I’ve ever been to! Everyone was sober (well, everyone was supposed to be sober), there were fire dancers, a guy played a didgeridoo and we limboed underneath it, some dude frolicked in a tiger costume, and then everyone left and went to work. Just a typical Wednesday in New York.

If you’re interested in attending a Daybreaker, sign up for emails here.

Daybreaker New York

Challenges

The biggest challenge this month was health-oriented. Once I got home from Europe, I resolved to do Couch 2 5K and initially did great with it, getting stronger at running each day. However, on day nine, I felt a shooting pain through my right leg and could barely move.

I was sidelined for two weeks. At first I thought it was shin splints, but as the shin pain healed, I still had a lot of pain. My knee felt like it had slid out of place and I was terrified that I had done something seriously wrong to my knee and would need surgery.

Thankfully, my chiropractor took a look and determined it was a simple running injury to my ligaments — all I had to do was massage and ice a few pressure points. After weeks of pain, I was back to normal within a few days! Phew.

That said, though, I’ve had bad feet my whole life, and running is hell on your body even if you have good feet, so I think this might be a sign that running is not for me. Which is sad.

I did get fitted for new, top-quality sneakers and insoles from The Walking Company. Now, just about every pair of shoes I own is from that store and my feet are SO much healthier for it!

Avocado Toast at Dillinger's in Bushwick

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Cool Airfare Tricks from Kayak — Kayak has some cool features of which you should take advantage.

On Freedom to Travel — We are so lucky to be able to travel where we want, unlike people from other countries.

Corfu, Greece, in Technicolor — The case for visiting this very colorful island!

Where to Go in Eastern Sicily — All the best places, both popular and offbeat, from Taormina to Siracusa to Avola.

Viewpoints: Traveling with a Disability — Justine and Dilara of The Pickle Sandwich dish about what it’s like to travel while blind and deaf.

Aci Trezza: A Laid-Back Seaside Town in Sicily — I had never heard of it before, but it became one of my favorite places in Sicily!

Requiem for a Beloved Purple Dress — I had to say goodbye to the dress you’ve seen everywhere since 2011. A lesson in letting go.

Kate, Janelle, Beth, Amelia and Sarah in Brooklyn

News and Announcements

I survived Sober September! I have to say, it was quite easy at first while being at home, but it really became a pain in the ass once I got to New York. I didn’t crave the buzz so much as I wanted a special treat that my friends got. Which I guess is the best case scenario.

Do I feel better or healthier because of it? Honestly, I didn’t notice much of a difference health-wise. But I was glad that I was only on the receiving end of drunken texts this month.

I’m thinking that I should give myself a challenge every month, just to try something new and improve my life. This October, it will be a spending diet.

Over the past year, I’ve turned into a bit of a spendthrift, which isn’t a habit I want to maintain. My goal this month: no new clothes, accessories, tech gear, or makeup. Those are my big vices. I won’t be as strict as I was with sober September — there’s nothing wrong with buying food or replacing anything I lose. And if I need to buy more shampoo (after the keratin treatment I need to use sodium chloride-free products), that’s okay, too — I’m not going to destroy my hair treatment for the sake of not spending anything extra.

Lisbon is BEAUTIFUL

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Wow, something actually beat Santorini! First time that’s happened! This pic was taken a few years ago on a sunny winter day in Lisbon.

For more updates from my travels, follow adventurouskate on Instagram and Snapchat!

Gloucester Park

What I Read This Month

The end is near! I’ve read 43 books this year, and 42 of them are part of the 52-book PopSugar 2015 book challenge. I’ll be glad when the challenge is over — I’m eager to just read again without worrying about fulfilling categories.

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante — Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels are my favorite books from this year, and this was the conclusion of the series. I can’t tell you how meaningful these books were for me. They’re my favorite reads of the year and I can’t recommend them enough. I’ve never read a book that writes about female friendship more accurately than this series, and the wild and brutal depiction of Naples is unforgettable.

The final book is the most intense of the four, and though I don’t think it was my favorite in the series, it brought everything together into an explosive conclusion. Category: a book set in a different country.

Ask by Ryan Levesque — My mind was absolutely blown by this book — it’s the single most brilliant business book (or idea!) I’ve ever read. It’s basically a guide to figuring out what your customers want before they even know that they want it. And, amusingly, I’m now seeing lots of websites starting to use its strategy! Category: a book with a one-word title.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding — I had never read this classic book, but it’s referenced so often that I figured it would be a good idea to read this book about a group of boys who are stranded on an island and form a tribal community. It wasn’t my favorite, but I appreciated the allegory, especially the characters each representing the id, ego, and superego. Category: a banned book.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — Wow. What a chilling portrayal of the future. Written in the 1980s, it tells the story of a not-too-distant future where America is turned into a Christian military nation and women lose their rights. Following a series of environmental disasters, few people are fertile, and these handmaids in question are used to become pregnant by the most important men in the community.

“Show, don’t tell,” is one of the most important qualities a writer can have, and this book unfolds scintillatingly slowly, one tiny detail at a time. I couldn’t put it down. Category: a book set in the future.

Copenhagen

Coming Up in October 2015

On October 4, I flew to the UK for a weeklong journey of drinking gin, which was super fun! I can’t wait to share my photos with you. Those of you who followed my snaps saw quite a bit of it!

I’m now spending two weeks hopping around Europe a bit, including a full week on the Spanish island of Mallorca with my bud Cailin. Right now I’m in Copenhagen and I’m heading to Berlin tomorrow.

I return to New York for a few days to make an appearance at an event related to the British gin trip, then immediately fly out to Los Angeles for second event.

Any suggestions for Mallorca? Share away!

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I’m Off to Britain to Sample the Gin

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IMG_3101-1024x768

Well, that’s certainly a way to end Sober September.

I’m heading back to Europe for a few weeks this October, and I’m kicking things off with a boozy trip around Britain. Alongside Matt of LandLopers and Rachelle of The Travel Bite, I’m spending a week sampling the finest British gins throughout England.

I adore gin. It’s my favorite spirit and I went from a college kid whining about how it tasted like trees to an adult searching out gin’s nuanced flavors. My favorite cocktail is the gin-based French 75. And when I go to high-end bars, I often suggest that the bartender make me something with gin and orange.

So you can see that while I rarely take on campaigns or organized press trips these days, this was one that I was quite eager to join, especially since it was sponsored by the UK Trade & Investment instead of a destination marketing organization.

The three of us are doing different routes that go from England to Scotland to Northern Ireland, and my route includes stops in central and northwest England along with London. (In other news, with stops in Warrington and Northampton, you could call this tour “Let’s Explore Kate’s English Exes’ Hometowns.” Ha.)

Altogether, my route is London-Warrington-Lake District-Liverpool-Birmingham-Cotswolds-Northampton-London. An ambitious five-day itinerary that will have me taking in some of the best distilleries in the country.

Gin Twitter Card

I’m excited to make my first visits to the Lake District and the Cotswolds, two of the most beautiful areas in England, along with making my second visits to Liverpool and Birmingham. I actually didn’t do anything Beatles-oriented on my first trip to Liverpool, but this time I’m diving deep into Beatlemania!

But more importantly, I’m looking forward to sampling the gins and finding out what makes British gin so special. And after a month of sobriety, I hope my body can handle multiple distillery visits each day!

Finally, if you’ve been reading my site for awhile, you know that I spent a few years dating British guys and living in the UK half the time. The UK and I thus have a peculiar relationship, one that was fraught with equal amounts of joy and frustration. You could also argue that I became as British as a person like me is capable of being, and I feel like I understand the nuances of the UK more deeply than any other country.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to discovering more of the UK as a tourist, not a girlfriend/quasi-resident. Now I go in with all of the knowledge and none of the pressure. It’s just for fun.

Also: on Monday, October 5, we’re having a Twitter chat about gin and UK travel. The chat will take place at 3:00 PM ET with the hashtag #GREATBritishSpirit. Anglophiles and curious onlookers are welcome. Oh, and there shall be prizes!

So if there’s anything that you want me to cover on this trip, do let me know!

This campaign was created and sponsored by UK Trade & Investment in partnership with iambassador. Adventurous Kate retains all editorial control of what is published.

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