Месечни архиви: April 2017

How I Joined Skillshare and Learned Cool New Skills on the Cheap

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The following branded content post is brought to you by Skillshare, a site that I tried out and like a lot. They’re a great site for learning and offered two free months for AK readers (click to redeem two months of Skillshare Premium here), so I was delighted to share this with you!

I love to learn new things. Scratch that — I crave learning new things, whether it’s how to write a new poetry form, how to cook a new dish, or how to do a perfect deadlift.

And while I scratch my learning itch largely by reading, it’s not enough. I’ve been wanting to take some courses lately, and Skillshare has been the perfect introduction into learning more.

Introducing Skillshare

Skillshare is a website filled with more than 15,000 courses. They are taught by video.

Skillshare members can take as many courses as they’d like — and even create a course of their own.

What kinds of courses are there?

Tons — there are more than 15,000 courses altogether. They are courses from complete beginners to hobbyists, professionals, and even advanced courses for experts looking to grow their skill set.

What kinds of classes are there? To start, they have tech classes on mobile development (“How to Make Apps with No Programming Experience”) and game design (“How to Create Pixel Art for Games”).

In the lifestyle section, there are courses on cooking (“How to Make French Macarons”), and design (“Modern Flowers: How to Design a Stunning Centerpiece”).

In the business section, there are courses on marketing (“How to Create Engaging Social Media Content”), freelancing (“How to Start a Shopify Business”), and sales (“How to Create a Sales Funnel That Converts”).

Most popular, however, is the creative section, where there are courses on everything from video production (“How to Shoot With Your iPhone and Edit Like a Pro”) to art (“How to Create Modern Watercolor Florals”) and UI/UX Design (“UI Design in Photoshop From Scratch”).

This is by no means an exhaustive list — these classes are just the beginning of what Skillshare has to offer.

How much does it cost?

Premium Skillshare plans start at $10 per month billed annually or $15 per month month-to-month — much cheaper than I expected. It doesn’t cost much more than Netflix.

However, Adventurous Kate readers can get two months of Skillshare Premium for free through this link.

My Skillshare Experience — Three Different Classes

I decided to try out three very different classes to give me an idea of how everything worked.

Course #1: Humor Writing: Write Funny for the Internet by Mike Lacher

I’ve been wanting to take a comedy writing classes for a long time, but I haven’t wanted to make the time and financial investment right now. This course, taught by a McSweeney’s author, was a fabulous introduction to writing for comedy, using his experience to outline the steps that make your writing funnier and more entertaining.

So much of humor writing is by instinct, but a lot of it can be mapped out by releasing tension almost mathematically. (Most famous was Steve Martin, where he decided to create routines where no tension was released. People hated it.)

Course #2: How to Create a Morning Routine by Derek Franklin

This course, while technically on video, is more of an audio/podcast-type course. For that reason, you could listen to it while cooking or cleaning (which is when I usually listen to podcasts). This is a simple but effective course on steps you can take to create a better morning — something I could definitely stand to do!

More than anything, this course taught me that if you’re starting your routine in the morning, you’re already too late — you will be so much more productive if you plan your morning the night before!

Course #3: Going Pro with Street Photography by trashhand

I love photography, but I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately and wanted to learn new techniques. This course is outstanding for any kind of lifestyle Instagrammer who appears in his or her own photos, and that goes for travel bloggers as well. This course is a detailed way of setting up editorial shoots that work well with your location and create great results for both you and whatever brand you’re working with.

I always lean away from getting photos of myself, unless I’m traveling with a photographer, but after this course, I’m going to work harder on getting those shots.

The Takeaway

I’ll be honest — I’m surprised by how rich the course selection is and the fact that you can learn about so many different kinds of areas with a low risk factor. If you’re interested in drawing, for example, it’s nice that you can try out a drawing class through Skillshare without investing hundreds of dollars up front.

I also appreciated that you can listen to the courses at up to 1.5x the speed, which cuts down on time and works well if you’re paying attention.

Overall, I think Skillshare provides excellent value for money. Which leads me to my next point:

Get Two Months of Skillshare for Free

Want to try it out? I’m giving away two free months of Skillshare to Adventurous Kate readers!

You can access the two free months promotion here.

Should you try it? It’s free! Why not? And you never know. This could be the beginning of a career change or the start of a lifelong learning project.

What kind of course have you been wanting to take?

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“Do You Have Any Regrets?”

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Dear Kate,

There will a come a time when you’re just settling into bed on your friend’s blow-up mattress, tipsy from a night of bar-hopping in a foreign city, browsing Facebook on your phone, when your friend’s good-looking roommate will return home from his own night out.

“Hey Kate, you still awake?”

You could go either way.

“Yeah, I’m up.”

You chat about your respective evenings. He puts on a Blur album; you suggest To Pimp a Butterfly instead. By the time Kendrick sings, “But your flood can be misunderstood,” he’ll have casually slid next to you on the air mattress.

Will it be a fun night? Oh, yes.

But there’s a casualty — it will make things weird with your friend. Your friend who was so kind to offer you a place to stay, to take you out for dinner and drinks, to catch up on everything that’s been happening in the years since you drank buckets together in ramshackle bars built by the water, cockroaches scurrying by your feet.

You’re over 30 now. And you still pull that shit?

You could have yawned and said, “Yeah, I’m going to bed now, though.”

There will come a time when one of your longtime blogger friends will be in Bangkok at the same time as you. Delighted to finally meet in person, you plan to grab lunch together before you fly south the next day.

He doesn’t eat seafood, but you do. Served up is a giant plate of shrimp, dripping in fresh lime juice and punctuated by zests of garlic and chili. This isn’t pad grapow on Soi Rambuttri — this is real Thai food for Thai people. And perhaps that’s why you’re caught off guard.

You’re fine as you catch your early morning flight to Ranong. You’re fine as you cross the choppy waters to Koh Phayam, gazing at Myanmar in the distance. You’re fine on the kamikaze motorbike ride to your guesthouse as you drink in the warm breezes of the Andaman Sea.

36 hours after your fateful meal, it hits you. Stomach cramps. Nausea. Fever. Diarrhea. Running to the bathroom four times an hour and feeling like you’re going to die each time.

Years into your long-term travels, this is only the second time you’ve fallen victim to food poisoning; you’re proud of your cast-iron stomach. But everyone has their kryptonite.

The diarrhea isn’t even the worst part. Soon, the stomach cramps get so bad that you can’t sit up — you can only rock back and forth on the bed, moaning in place. Staying still is impossible. Sitting up is impossible. All you can do is whimper and turn down offers of plain sticky rice from the concerned ladies checking on you.

The next day, it’s all over. You eat a bag of plain potato chips. They taste like sunshine.

Years later, you’ll invite that same blogger friend into your New York apartment for a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie from Long Island. Nobody will get sick that time.

Maybe, Kate, you shouldn’t order that plate of shrimp in Bangkok.

There will come a time when you randomly reply to a press release, saying you’d love to come visit their destination — and holy shit, it actually works.

It’s the Faroe Islands. You’re going to the Faroe fucking Islands. Nobody goes there. And their people want you there.

But flights from the UK are limited. What makes the most sense is to do a four-night trip over a long weekend, they suggest.

And you hesitate.

You have a boyfriend who is so good to you. And weekends are the times when you get to spend the most time with him. And you feel so guilty being away so much of the time, even though there are visa-related reasons for that, and being present on the weekend is the least you could do for him.

“Could we do it during the week instead?” you ask.

Of course. The only thing is, due to that limited flight schedule, you could only fit three nights, not four.

That’s fine. Of course you’d be okay with that.

You land in the islands, rent a car, and burst into shrieks of happiness as you drive down the island of Vágar. This is as close as you’ve been to being at the end of the world.

Driving down those smooth roads on the islands, hiking with puffins on Mykines, getting that iconic shot of the waterfall at Gasadalur (not to mention accidentally driving your car into a ditch). Gripping the steering wheel as you needle your way toward Gjogv, dining on lamb with fermented salt, sailing into dark caves to the sounds of Nordic singing.

This place is everything.

Your heart aches fiercely when it’s time to leave — you would do anything to stay longer.

Well, you could have stayed longer. And you chose not to. You didn’t even ask your boyfriend for his input; you assumed this was what he wanted.

Years later, that airline route won’t even exist anymore, and you’ll by chance sit next to Visit Faroe Islands reps at a conference. You’ll reminisce about how much you fell in love with their islands and how much they loved your content.

Maybe, Kate, you should go for four days instead of three.

There will come many times when you’ll be in the Italian countryside drinking homemade red wine out of repurposed Gatorade bottles.

This is almost always a mistake.

Homemade wine is much stronger than what you can buy in the store. Often twice as strong. And while it’s local and organic, it has way more of the stuff that settles behind your eyeballs and gives you a blinding headache the next day.

In fact, the following morning, after a twisty car ride through the Tuscan countryside, you’ll beg for the van to stop and dash off, vomiting between two olive trees.

Because yes, Kate, you do know you’re prone to severe motion sickness, ever since you couldn’t keep yourself from retching out the car door on camping trips to New Hampshire as a kid. But let’s not pretend that the wine wasn’t a factor.

For the sake of your body, Kate, not to mention your pride, you should skip the home-fermented brew altogether.

There will come a time when a nice boy asks you to dance.

Of course you say yes.

He takes your hand and pulls you onto the dance floor, light on his feet and holding you at just the right closeness.

It doesn’t hurt that he bears a resemblance to a certain good-looking friend of yours. The friend that can make you draw your breath in sharply with just a glance. The friend who has had a lovely girlfriend for as long as you’ve known him.

This guy appears to be more available, and a better dancer to boot. You dance to a second song. A third. You try some goofy steps and laugh through a fourth.

He whirls you around and pauses, looking into your eyes. “I really want to kiss you.”

You’re dumbfounded. “What…did you say?”

“I want to kiss you now.”

You heard him the first time.

“I…I shouldn’t.”

Why did you say no? You wanted to kiss him. But you had a narrative in mind for the night and that kiss would have taken it in a completely different direction.

Feeling a bit sheepish, you exchange numbers with the nice dancer boy and pose for a selfie. You’ll never see each other again.

Kiss him, Kate. It will go nowhere, but who cares? Imagine the narrative you could have chosen instead. Writers always need stories, after all.

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The Most Photogenic Places I’ve Ever Visited

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Any destination can be a photographer’s paradise if you’re creative enough. But some places are massive overachievers! I’ve visited some countries, cities, and regions where beautiful shots lurk around every corner.

And it’s not always the places you think. I don’t always have the best luck shooting photos in Italy, for example. And as gorgeous as Savannah is, the shadows from the ubiquitous oak trees make it a challenge to photograph. And I was so upset when my first trip to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, was a near-disaster due to poor photography conditions.

But when a destination gets it right, I have treasures that will last me a lifetime.

Here are my picks for the 10 most photogenic places I’ve ever visited. Some of them are obvious, like Paris and New York — but I’m sure at least a few of them will surprise you.

Copenhagen

I couldn’t believe how many great photos I got in Copenhagen. I don’t say that to brag about my skills; I say that because I was flabbergasted at how every aspect of the city was begging to be photographed. I had to restrain myself from covering my whole apartment in framed Copenhagen photos!

So, what should you look for in Copenhagen? I take a lot of photos of bicycles ordinarily, and Copenhagen is bike-crazy metropolis.

The Nyhavn, the famous ship-filled wharf along a canal, is the most photographed site in the city. I also happened to be there for Sankt Hans, when bonfires are lit in the canal and led to some awesome colors.

The picture with the lines was taken at the Superkilen, which is a great spot for black and white photography. That shot hangs in my black-and-white bathroom today.

Oh, and also get photos of very tall, very attractive people clad in nothing but black and charcoal gray.

Japan

I’m putting the entire country on this list because literally every part of Japan is a photographer’s paradise. Whether you’re in cities, more traditional areas, or in the wilderness, you’ll get to enjoy some of the world’s most beautiful light.

I urge you to see as much of Japan as humanly possible. Some of my favorite places for photography were the Dotonbori neighborhood of Osaka at sunset, Kyoto for the temples and rare geisha-spotting, the tech-crazy Akihabara neighborhood of Tokyo, and of course Shibuya Crossing.

One thing I’ve always said is that Japan turns you into a stereotypical Japanese tourist — suddenly you want to photograph everything because it’s so different! From vending machines to trash cans, everything is worthy of a photo. And Japanese people are lovely and a lot of fun; many of them turn into total hams when they see a tourist with a camera!

Cherry blossom season is, of course, a very popular and photogenic time to visit, but it can be tough timing it right. Personally, I’d love to visit in the fall when the leaves change.

Istanbul

I’ll spare you the Istanbul is where East meets West and old meets new drivel (god, I hate that so much) — Istanbul is on my list because nowhere else looks like it. I don’t know any other city that looks just as good up close (details in markets! Tulip-shaped tea glasses!) and far away (mosques and minarets dotting the skyline! Colorful seaside buildings!).

There’s so much to see in Istanbul, you could be occupied for weeks. I would start by visiting the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, and every market that crosses your path. Bowls of olives, brightly colored spices, detailed lamps and hand-painted dishes make for amazing photos.

Istanbul has an amazing skyline and there are fabulous views from the Galata Tower. Istanbul also has some cool neighborhoods — I recommend checking out the hip zone of Kadikoy and the colorful Armenian neighborhood of Kumkapi.

One last thing to photograph — cats. Stray cats are all over Istanbul and they’re well cared for by the locals. Some of those cats are better-looking than most people!

Rural Australia

I’ve been to Australia twice, visiting four of its states, and while the cities are great, it’s the outdoors where Australia truly shines. In no other place in the world have I had as many “I can’t believe this place exists” feelings as I did in Australia. Some of the national parks make you feel like you’re at the beginning of time, a dinosaur lurking around the corner.

Some of my favorite photography spots are Uluru, Litchfield, and Kakadu National Parks in the Northern Territory and Hutt Lagoon (pink lake!), Shark Bay, the Pinnacles Desert, Rottnest Island, and Karijini National Park in Western Australia. I would love to explore the Kimberley, Queensland and Tasmania.

The challenge in rural Australia is getting around safely. WA in particular is very sparsely populated and there is very little public transit; most people either drive themselves or take an organized tour. Of course, driving leads to its own challenges, particularly when kangaroos like to jump in front of your car at night.

Pack your wide-angle for the landscapes and your zoom for the wildlife. And be prepared to take a million selfies with the quokkas!

Oia, Santorini

Ah, the island that launched a thousand calendars. Santorini might be a giant cliché at this point, but clichés exist for a reason. And Santorini’s crown jewel is Oia, the white village on the northern tip of the island.

Oia has been photographed a million different ways, so finding your own take on the village can be a challenge. My recommendation? Just make peace with that fact and take whatever kinds of shots make you happy.

If you want to get the key sunset picture, shot from the fort, I recommend heading there an hour or so before sunset. Bring a book to read; you’ll be glad you have something to do. And don’t leave as soon as the sun dips beneath the surface — stick around for Blue Hour!

Another tip can be photographing the sunset in the opposite direction. It can be surprisingly entertaining to get photos of hundreds of tourists lined up with their cameras.

New York City

It’s a city full of icons. How could New York not be on my list? My only crime is that living here, I treat it less like a travel destination and don’t have nearly as many photos as I should! (That will hopefully change this flower season. I need photos of New York in bloom!)

So, what should you photograph in New York? Definitely get the icons in: Times Square at night, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Staten Island ferry, Central Park. If you want views from above, head to Top of the Rock or One World Trade Center (the Empire State Building is popular, but isn’t the point to have the Empire State Building in the photo?).

But I think the best New York photography comes from neighborhood wandering and seeing what comes your way. Some of my favorite neighborhoods for photography are the West Village, Bushwick, Harlem, SoHo, and the Lower East Side. Spend the bulk of your time here — and don’t fall into the trap of spending most of your time in midtown. Midtown is boring.

Season-wise, you can’t beat spring when everything is in bloom!

Nicaragua

Of all the countries in Latin America, I feel like Nicaragua was the best for photography. (“Not Mexico?!” yells everyone. Sorry, that’s how I feel! Maybe I’ll change my mind when I visit Guanajuato and Oaxaca.) Not only was Nicaragua one of the most colorful countries I’ve visited, it also has the rare combination of extremely photogenic cities and extremely photogenic rural areas.

Nicaragua is a place to focus on details and colors. Think markets, street art, all the fruits you can find. And try to visit at least one volcano; they’re all over the country.

I found León to be the richest photography destination in the country, so many colors and markets, plus that incredible white roof on top of the cathedral. And while I didn’t have a great volcano boarding experience with Bigfoot Hostel, you can’t deny that their orange jumpsuits against the black volcano and blue sky make for some striking shots.

And a little tip: your Instagram followers will love tropical shots of Little Corn Island the most.

Paris

I don’t have to explain why. You already know.

Like New York, I find it best to knock the Paris icons off your list and then dig deep into the neighborhoods. Some of my Paris neighborhoods for photography are Montmartre, St. Germain-des-Pres, and the Marais. My new favorite street in Paris is Rue Montorgueil in the 2nd, which is covered with food shops and cafes so perfect that they look like they’re out of a movie.

But if you’re looking for the best views of Paris, I recommend the top of the Arc de Triomphe, the towers of Notre Dame (gargoyles!), the Montparnasse Tower (I hate that building so much, so when you’re up there you don’t see it!), and the top of the Printemps department store.

Do be prepared for less than ideal weather. One thing that doesn’t get said often enough is that Paris generally has gray weather with sprinklings of rain, not unlike London. Don’t fight it; lean into it and learn to love your gray photos.

Want more? I’ve got 100 travel tips for Paris.

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

The Balkans are my favorite region in the world to travel, and Macedonia is a particular delight. The first place I visited in the country was Ohrid, the town on the banks of Lake Ohrid (which spans both Macedonia and Albania) and it astounded me with its understated beauty. I’ve never seen water meld into the sky more cleanly than on Lake Ohrid.

I’ve only visited the Macedonian side, so I can’t speak to Albanian shores, but the town of Ohrid is a great place to base yourself. Everyone gets photos of Sveti Jovan, that famous church overlooking a cliff on top of the lake, and make sure you go inside the churches, too — they’re just as interesting as the outside.

One of the best things I did was take a boat trip to Sveti Naum, a few towns away. It’s home to pretty shoreline, an abundance of wild peacocks, and young Macedonian men who don’t speak a word of English but cut you pieces of watermelon with an enormous knife.

Get photos of the lake from every angle — I especially love shots of swimmers from high above.

Also, Macedonia is one of the cheapest countries in Europe and they make surprisingly good wine. Use those facts to your advantage.

 

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a feast for the eyes. So many colors, so many interesting landscapes, an interesting blend of cultures, religions, and people. There is quite a lot packed into this small island, and I was deeply enamored with what I saw.

My favorite photography spot in the country was Galle, home to a Dutch colonial settlement, a fort, and clear cerulean waters. Galle also makes a good base for exploring the nearby beaches. Another must-photograph destination is Sigiriya, home to a giant rock in the middle of the countryside.

Two things that you shouldn’t miss photographing in Sri Lanka: women in their gorgeous dresses, and the tuk-tuks, which are somehow a million times nicer than the ones you’d see in Southeast Asia. And if you’re into mountains or temples, Sri Lanka has both in spades.

While I haven’t been to India, lots of my friends have said that Sri Lanka is so much cleaner and calmer than India. There’s something to be said for that.

Photography Notes: These days the camera I use is a Fuji X-T1, which has dropped in price now that the Fuji X-T2 has come out. I’ve tried the X-T2 and love it, but I don’t feel a pressing need to upgrade at this time.

I use two lenses: my main walking-around lens is the 18-135mm 3.5-5.6, which is versatile enough for most of the shots I take, and I also have a 16mm 1.4 wide-angle lens, which is FAST and FANTASTIC.

I’m also a big fan of the Pacsafe Camsafe V17 anti-theft bag, which is big enough for all my photography and tech gear yet small enough to put beneath the seat in front of me on a plane.

What are the most photogenic places you’ve ever visited?

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The Most Photogenic Places I’ve Ever Visited

12

Any destination can be a photographer’s paradise if you’re creative enough. But some places are massive overachievers! I’ve visited some countries, cities, and regions where beautiful shots lurk around every corner.

And it’s not always the places you think. I don’t always have the best luck shooting photos in Italy, for example. And as gorgeous as Savannah is, the shadows from the ubiquitous oak trees make it a challenge to photograph. And I was so upset when my first trip to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, was a near-disaster due to poor photography conditions.

But when a destination gets it right, I have treasures that will last me a lifetime.

Here are my picks for the 10 most photogenic places I’ve ever visited. Some of them are obvious, like Paris and New York — but I’m sure at least a few of them will surprise you.

Copenhagen

I couldn’t believe how many great photos I got in Copenhagen. I don’t say that to brag about my skills; I say that because I was flabbergasted at how every aspect of the city was begging to be photographed. I had to restrain myself from covering my whole apartment in framed Copenhagen photos!

So, what should you look for in Copenhagen? I take a lot of photos of bicycles ordinarily, and Copenhagen is bike-crazy metropolis.

The Nyhavn, the famous ship-filled wharf along a canal, is the most photographed site in the city. I also happened to be there for Sankt Hans, when bonfires are lit in the canal and led to some awesome colors.

The picture with the lines was taken at the Superkilen, which is a great spot for black and white photography. That shot hangs in my black-and-white bathroom today.

Oh, and also get photos of very tall, very attractive people clad in nothing but black and charcoal gray.

Japan

I’m putting the entire country on this list because literally every part of Japan is a photographer’s paradise. Whether you’re in cities, more traditional areas, or in the wilderness, you’ll get to enjoy some of the world’s most beautiful light.

I urge you to see as much of Japan as humanly possible. Some of my favorite places for photography were the Dotonbori neighborhood of Osaka at sunset, Kyoto for the temples and rare geisha-spotting, the tech-crazy Akihabara neighborhood of Tokyo, and of course Shibuya Crossing.

One thing I’ve always said is that Japan turns you into a stereotypical Japanese tourist — suddenly you want to photograph everything because it’s so different! From vending machines to trash cans, everything is worthy of a photo. And Japanese people are lovely and a lot of fun; many of them turn into total hams when they see a tourist with a camera!

Cherry blossom season is, of course, a very popular and photogenic time to visit, but it can be tough timing it right. Personally, I’d love to visit in the fall when the leaves change.

Istanbul

I’ll spare you the Istanbul is where East meets West and old meets new drivel (god, I hate that so much) — Istanbul is on my list because nowhere else looks like it. I don’t know any other city that looks just as good up close (details in markets! Tulip-shaped tea glasses!) and far away (mosques and minarets dotting the skyline! Colorful seaside buildings!).

There’s so much to see in Istanbul, you could be occupied for weeks. I would start by visiting the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, and every market that crosses your path. Bowls of olives, brightly colored spices, detailed lamps and hand-painted dishes make for amazing photos.

Istanbul has an amazing skyline and there are fabulous views from the Galata Tower. Istanbul also has some cool neighborhoods — I recommend checking out the hip zone of Kadikoy and the colorful Armenian neighborhood of Kumkapi.

One last thing to photograph — cats. Stray cats are all over Istanbul and they’re well cared for by the locals. Some of those cats are better-looking than most people!

Rural Australia

I’ve been to Australia twice, visiting four of its states, and while the cities are great, it’s the outdoors where Australia truly shines. In no other place in the world have I had as many “I can’t believe this place exists” feelings as I did in Australia. Some of the national parks make you feel like you’re at the beginning of time, a dinosaur lurking around the corner.

Some of my favorite photography spots are Uluru, Litchfield, and Kakadu National Parks in the Northern Territory and Hutt Lagoon (pink lake!), Shark Bay, the Pinnacles Desert, Rottnest Island, and Karijini National Park in Western Australia. I would love to explore the Kimberley, Queensland and Tasmania.

The challenge in rural Australia is getting around safely. WA in particular is very sparsely populated and there is very little public transit; most people either drive themselves or take an organized tour. Of course, driving leads to its own challenges, particularly when kangaroos like to jump in front of your car at night.

Pack your wide-angle for the landscapes and your zoom for the wildlife. And be prepared to take a million selfies with the quokkas!

Oia, Santorini

Ah, the island that launched a thousand calendars. Santorini might be a giant cliché at this point, but clichés exist for a reason. And Santorini’s crown jewel is Oia, the white village on the northern tip of the island.

Oia has been photographed a million different ways, so finding your own take on the village can be a challenge. My recommendation? Just make peace with that fact and take whatever kinds of shots make you happy.

If you want to get the key sunset picture, shot from the fort, I recommend heading there an hour or so before sunset. Bring a book to read; you’ll be glad you have something to do. And don’t leave as soon as the sun dips beneath the surface — stick around for Blue Hour!

Another tip can be photographing the sunset in the opposite direction. It can be surprisingly entertaining to get photos of hundreds of tourists lined up with their cameras.

New York City

It’s a city full of icons. How could New York not be on my list? My only crime is that living here, I treat it less like a travel destination and don’t have nearly as many photos as I should! (That will hopefully change this flower season. I need photos of New York in bloom!)

So, what should you photograph in New York? Definitely get the icons in: Times Square at night, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Staten Island ferry, Central Park. If you want views from above, head to Top of the Rock or One World Trade Center (the Empire State Building is popular, but isn’t the point to have the Empire State Building in the photo?).

But I think the best New York photography comes from neighborhood wandering and seeing what comes your way. Some of my favorite neighborhoods for photography are the West Village, Bushwick, Harlem, SoHo, and the Lower East Side. Spend the bulk of your time here — and don’t fall into the trap of spending most of your time in midtown. Midtown is boring.

Season-wise, you can’t beat spring when everything is in bloom!

Nicaragua

Of all the countries in Latin America, I feel like Nicaragua was the best for photography. (“Not Mexico?!” yells everyone. Sorry, that’s how I feel! Maybe I’ll change my mind when I visit Guanajuato and Oaxaca.) Not only was Nicaragua one of the most colorful countries I’ve visited, it also has the rare combination of extremely photogenic cities and extremely photogenic rural areas.

Nicaragua is a place to focus on details and colors. Think markets, street art, all the fruits you can find. And try to visit at least one volcano; they’re all over the country.

I found León to be the richest photography destination in the country, so many colors and markets, plus that incredible white roof on top of the cathedral. And while I didn’t have a great volcano boarding experience with Bigfoot Hostel, you can’t deny that their orange jumpsuits against the black volcano and blue sky make for some striking shots.

And a little tip: your Instagram followers will love tropical shots of Little Corn Island the most.

Paris

I don’t have to explain why. You already know.

Like New York, I find it best to knock the Paris icons off your list and then dig deep into the neighborhoods. Some of my Paris neighborhoods for photography are Montmartre, St. Germain-des-Pres, and the Marais. My new favorite street in Paris is Rue Montorgueil in the 2nd, which is covered with food shops and cafes so perfect that they look like they’re out of a movie.

But if you’re looking for the best views of Paris, I recommend the top of the Arc de Triomphe, the towers of Notre Dame (gargoyles!), the Montparnasse Tower (I hate that building so much, so when you’re up there you don’t see it!), and the top of the Printemps department store.

Do be prepared for less than ideal weather. One thing that doesn’t get said often enough is that Paris generally has gray weather with sprinklings of rain, not unlike London. Don’t fight it; lean into it and learn to love your gray photos.

Want more? I’ve got 100 travel tips for Paris.

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

The Balkans are my favorite region in the world to travel, and Macedonia is a particular delight. The first place I visited in the country was Ohrid, the town on the banks of Lake Ohrid (which spans both Macedonia and Albania) and it astounded me with its understated beauty. I’ve never seen water meld into the sky more cleanly than on Lake Ohrid.

I’ve only visited the Macedonian side, so I can’t speak to Albanian shores, but the town of Ohrid is a great place to base yourself. Everyone gets photos of Sveti Jovan, that famous church overlooking a cliff on top of the lake, and make sure you go inside the churches, too — they’re just as interesting as the outside.

One of the best things I did was take a boat trip to Sveti Naum, a few towns away. It’s home to pretty shoreline, an abundance of wild peacocks, and young Macedonian men who don’t speak a word of English but cut you pieces of watermelon with an enormous knife.

Get photos of the lake from every angle — I especially love shots of swimmers from high above.

Also, Macedonia is one of the cheapest countries in Europe and they make surprisingly good wine. Use those facts to your advantage.

 

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a feast for the eyes. So many colors, so many interesting landscapes, an interesting blend of cultures, religions, and people. There is quite a lot packed into this small island, and I was deeply enamored with what I saw.

My favorite photography spot in the country was Galle, home to a Dutch colonial settlement, a fort, and clear cerulean waters. Galle also makes a good base for exploring the nearby beaches. Another must-photograph destination is Sigiriya, home to a giant rock in the middle of the countryside.

Two things that you shouldn’t miss photographing in Sri Lanka: women in their gorgeous dresses, and the tuk-tuks, which are somehow a million times nicer than the ones you’d see in Southeast Asia. And if you’re into mountains or temples, Sri Lanka has both in spades.

While I haven’t been to India, lots of my friends have said that Sri Lanka is so much cleaner and calmer than India. There’s something to be said for that.

Photography Notes: These days the camera I use is a Fuji X-T1, which has dropped in price now that the Fuji X-T2 has come out. I’ve tried the X-T2 and love it, but I don’t feel a pressing need to upgrade at this time.

I use two lenses: my main walking-around lens is the 18-135mm 3.5-5.6, which is versatile enough for most of the shots I take, and I also have a 16mm 1.4 wide-angle lens, which is FAST and FANTASTIC.

I’m also a big fan of the Pacsafe Camsafe V17 anti-theft bag, which is big enough for all my photography and tech gear yet small enough to put beneath the seat in front of me on a plane.

What are the most photogenic places you’ve ever visited?

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Miami Is Nice, So I’ll Say It Twice

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One of my travel goals for 2017 was to visit more of my egregious oversights in the United States. Miami was definitely one of my top priorities. But I had no idea that I’d end up visiting the city twice within a three-week span!

First, Cailin and I finished our February Florida road trip with two nights and one full day in South Beach. In early March, Jeremy and I hung out in the artsy Wynwood neighborhood for one day and one night after our cruise.

Yes, I fell in love with Miami. Such an interesting cultural mix, a cool art scene, amazing music in every direction, and the best urban beaches that I’ve seen in the United States. (I would say in the world, but Sydney’s got you beat, Miami. Sorry about that.)

The first thing that struck me about Miami was how dominant the Spanish language was. Obviously, I knew that Miami has a huge Latin community, but I assumed it would have a similar feel to Latin neighborhoods like Washington Heights or Corona in New York — salsa music blasting from vegetable stands, tamale sellers on corners, quinceañera dresses in shop windows, loud games of dominoes on the sidewalk.

Miami had all of that — but it was even more Spanish. I was surprised how people frequently spoke to us in Spanish first, not English. (I’m ethnically ambiguous enough to maybe pass as Latina if I’m wearing sunglasses, but there’s no question that neither Cailin nor Jeremy are remotely Latin.) And it surprised me a bit how a few drivers, restaurant workers, and hotel workers I chatted with didn’t speak a word of English. In New York, most new arrivals speak a few English phrases; in Miami, I found some people to just stick to Spanish.

Is this a criticism of Miami or the immigrants who have made Miami their home? Not at all. It’s just something that I noticed. But I will say that knowing some Spanish will make your Miami experience more enjoyable.

The second thing I noticed was how ridiculously good-looking people are in Miami. People here are hot, dress well, and take care of their bodies. The level of grooming is right up there with Italy! So many women in crop tops with long hair flying, either perfectly curly or pin-straight. Men in tight t-shirts and perfectly cut jeans with haircuts that must have cost a fortune.

South Beach

I feel like everything I know about pop culture told me that South Beach was the place to be in Miami. It’s home to clubs, restaurants, shopping, pro athletes, and (sometimes) the Kardashians — that’s pretty much an indication that stuff happens here.

Miami Beach is actually a different city from Miami proper, and you have to travel over a bridge to get there. Miami proper doesn’t have much of a beach.

South Beach is home to numerous boutique hotels, many of them known for their unique design. I looked into up-and-coming boutiques and one that just opened and offered us a complimentary stay is the Meridian Hotel, an Urbanica property just south of 5th Street.

This is my favorite front desk I’ve ever seen — I love the vintage suitcases.

The rooms were very mid-century modern — since my home is practically a West Elm showroom, I felt very much at home here!

There’s a cafe across from the front desk with free coffee (always a huge plus with me), plus lattes and lots of food for purchase…

And I got a delicious açai bowl, minus the carbs, for a healthy breakfast.

After breakfast, we headed straight to the beach. The Meridian is only a five-minute walk from the beach and they give you free chairs at Esteban’s Place (though not an umbrella — those cost $12).

Just look at that sand and water! Miami Beach is incredible. I’ve never seen a beach this nice in an American city.

The water was a little too cold for me in February, but that didn’t stop a lot of people from swimming. Miami Beach is also the place to spot highly attractive people running along the beach, if you don’t mind being a bit of a voyeur.

Later in the afternoon, we headed to the W South Beach for some time by the pool. I have some contacts at the W and I asked if we could spend the afternoon at the pool, and they kindly offered us pool passes.

And this, dear readers, is where I made the biggest mistake of my Florida trip. The W South Beach doesn’t offer pool passes to regular people; I only got one because I’m press. I make an effort to only write about activities that my readers can do themselves, so this wouldn’t fit the bill. I should have asked if pool passes were available for anyone to purchase; I am kicking myself for not thinking to do that. Where was my head?!

In short — if you want to use the pool at the W South Beach, you’ll need to stay at the hotel.

That said, this is an amazing pool, and one of the highlights of our time in South Beach. After so many days of driving, it was heavenly to kick back with a skinny margarita and veg out on a day bed, Kindle on my lap. If you’re going to South Beach, a fabulous pool makes the experience.

Cailin and I wanted to grab a Cuban sandwich while we were in Miami, so we asked some locals for suggestions. South Beach isn’t the ideal place — you should really go to Little Havana or Little Haiti — but we were urge to check out an adorable Cuban diner named Puerto Sagua.

That Cuban sandwich was the first time I had bread since going primarily paleo, and it was glorious.

When looking for restaurants that night, Cailin and I kept hearing the name CVI.CHE 105 pop up again and again. This Peruvian restaurant, located just across the bridge in downtown Miami, is famous for its varieties of ceviche. Jill from Jack and Jill Travel was also in Miami and joined us for dinner, the three of us splitting this platter of ceviches.

Worth it? Oh HELL yes. The ceviche is so delicate, it melts in your mouth. If I lived in Miami, I would eat there all the time — and I insisted on taking Jeremy a few weeks later.

Wynwood

Jeremy booked a place in Wynwood because it was supposed to be “the Brooklyn of Miami.” Brooklyn is a pretty diverse place, so I wondered which neighborhood it would resemble more. Once we got there, I realized it was undoubtedly the Bushwick of Miami! This is a neighborhood of artists, of brightly colored murals, of wacky shops and interesting nightlife.

The Wynwood Marketplace takes place Friday through Sunday — it’s a collection of local artists hawking their wares. If you’re looking for a unique piece of art of jewelry, this is a great place to visit.

Jeremy and I spent much of the day hanging out at Panther Coffee, one of the top-rated coffeeshops in Miami. We were there to work, but the people-watching was so damn good that we didn’t get much done!

I felt intoxicated by the atmosphere of Wynwood. So many cool people, good-looking people, artsy people, people of so many different ethnic backgrounds. It all fit together perfectly, and it was exciting, and I wanted to be part of it.

There are two other times that I felt like that. The first was the first time I went to Red Rooster and loved it so much that I decided to move to Harlem. The second was when I went to the Oakland Museum of California and watched families of all colors dance to hip hop with their kids.

While we were there on a Sunday night, it was hopping. There were lines around the block for clubs. One taco stand blasted 90s R&B jams, also known as my favorite music of all time, and I think I may have scared Jeremy with my enthusiasm for Jodeci and Ginuwine.

The Takeaway

I know this isn’t a remotely representative post about Miami — it’s just a brief look at two neighborhoods. I didn’t get to experience Little Haiti or Little Havana. I didn’t go on an art deco photography walk or take a day trip to the Everglades.

I will say, however, that these trips whet my appetite for the future. I am very interested in coming back to Miami for a longer duration to explore this fabulous city further.

Now — which major US travel oversight should I visit next? Nashville? Hawaii? Portland? Alaska? San Diego? Austin? The national parks of the southwest beyond the Grand Canyon? There are so many options!

Essential Info: Rates at the Meridian Hotel start at $133 per night, which I think is great value for the location and amenities. I loved it there. Check out more hotels in Miami Beach here.

In Wynwood I stayed at this Airbnb for $120 per night before Airbnb fees. This is a nice little studio in the heart of the action, but don’t plan on anyone sleeping on the futon — it’s horrible. So it says it can sleep four, but plan on no more than two. Personally, I wouldn’t have felt super comfortable in that neighborhood as a solo female traveler, but I felt okay staying with a male friend.

Miami has some public transit, but it’s very much a car city. My friends and I got around via Lyft, which is much cheaper than New York!

Don’t visit Miami without travel insurance. Even if you’re a conscientious traveler, you could still be robbed or injured and travel insurance will save you financially if you need it. I use World Nomads for travel insurance on every trip I take and I recommend them highly.

Have you been to Miami? What did you enjoy about it?

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AK Monthly Recap: March 2017

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You know what nobody talks about? That first gust of air when you come back from a tropical vacation in the middle of winter. I stepped off the plane and nearly wept. I knew it would be cold, how could it not be cold, but I didn’t expect it would be that bad.

Shivering like mad as I waited for my Lyft to arrive, I mentally prepared myself to leave the Caribbean behind and get ready for several more weeks of winter: all the gray, all the rain, and one final major blizzard in the middle of the month.

This is March. It goes in like a lion and stays relatively lion-esque well into April.

Destinations Visited

St. Kitts (sights around island)

Philipsburg and Maho, St. Maarten

Miami, Florida

New York, New York

Favorite Destination

St. Maarten was a really cool island! I’d love to go back.

Highlights

The second half of my cruise with Jeremy took place in March. Some of the highlights were finally discovering the sushi bar (and some amazing cruise staff from the Philippines and Thailand), smoking cigars in our Captain Awesome and First Mate shirts, having some odd conversations with shipmates (WHO NAMES THEIR KID NIXON?!), and getting a facial so good that I’ve been inspired to completely overhaul my skincare regimen. More on that in a future post.

Getting through a cruise sober — and loving it. Jeremy is off alcohol at the moment and I would have felt bad drinking when he couldn’t, so I gave up booze for the cruise as well. I had a great time, felt awesome, and I’m very grateful not to have experienced a hangover on a swaying ship.

Watching planes land over Maho Beach in St. Maarten. This beach is famous for being just meters from the airport runway, and it’s crazy watching the giant planes land right above you! But even better was getting blasted by the engine as the planes took off!

St. Kitts was my 68th country. We only had a few hours to explore the island, but we got to see some cool things. Brimstone Hill Fortress was my newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, while Timothy Hill was an incredible spot for sunset photography.

Hanging out in Wynwood, Miami. Wynwood is such a cool neighborhood! Amazing street art, cool markets, great music, and painfully attractive, ridiculously cool people in every direction. I’m really getting to love Miami, and Wynwood was a nice change from South Beach last month with Cailin. I insisted we return to CVI.CHE 105 in downtown Miami, and we weren’t disappointed in our velvety ceviche!

Getting to experience One World Observatory. This month’s New York Travel Massive meetup took place on top of the Freedom Tower, which I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time! It wasn’t an ideal event for photography, but I did get a few quickie sunset shots. It’s amazing up there; you should make an effort to go if you visit New York.

Lots of good times with friends in New York. I love having so many friends in this city!

I’m in this month’s issue of Psychology Today talking about the benefits of traveling alone. Pick up a copy! You can get it at Barnes & Noble or Whole Foods.

Challenges

We had an incident with our Airbnb in Miami. It was an adorable little apartment — the owner actually had Beyoncé and Frank Ocean on vinyl! — but something wasn’t right. The building didn’t smell great. I zonked out the moment I got inside (and I never nap) and found it hard to wake up. And the air seemed strange — I kept feeling the need to go over to the window and breathe in fresh air.

Jeremy has been dealing with lyme disease for awhile now. The good news is that he’s doing much better than he was a few months ago. But the lyme still brings up a lot of issues, including environmental sensitivity. He didn’t feel like he could stay there. Considering that I have no environmental sensitivity and felt weird too, we decided something was up. Possibly carbon monoxide or toxic mold.

Well, we got out and found another Airbnb available closer to Wynwood at the last minute. And as soon as we left the house, both of us felt totally normal and we had our energy back. We even went on a long midnight walk!

Jeremy called the building to report a possible gas leak; they didn’t find anything. He also talked to Airbnb. After researching and talking to friends, I think it was either mold (which is common in humid Miami) or possibly outdoor insecticides used inside.

Jeremy and I cut it close when getting back in time on St. Maarten. I’m the kind of person who always budgets a lot of extra time “just in case,” yet I frequently travel with people who say, “Don’t be silly, we’ve got plenty of time.” Jeremy is the latter type. Long story short, I decided to loosen up and not worry as much, and OF COURSE we ended up trapped in so much traffic in St. Maarten that we missed our call time back to the boat.

I tried to keep my freakout in check. I was about 80% successful.

The good news is that we did make it back. And from the sound of the announcements, it seemed like tons of people didn’t get back in time, either. Also, I got a message from a reader saying, “Hey, just so you know the Heineken regatta is happening today so there will be a lot of traffic!” Aha…

Just a word to the wise: if you’re doing St. Maarten independently while on a cruise, allow yourself a TON of extra time. There is essentially one major road around the island, so if any part of it gets traffic, it affects the whole island.

Our cab driver in St. Kitts was a bit of a jerk. And he harassed a woman from the car before we had even left the parking lot. (Smoke was practically coming out of my ears. Jeremy gripped my arm with a grin.)

Also…I did the Landmark Forum this month. And it did not work for me. It’s a personal development course that many of my friends have done and swear changed their lives for the better, and that’s why I went. I’m not going to go into detail now because I’m exhausted talking about it. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I think it’s important to me to clarify four things:

1) Many of the people who attended my Landmark Forum got SO much out of it, including some friends I made.

2) Many of the people who attended my Landmark Forum got NOTHING out of it, including myself and some friends I made.

3) On the third day, the instructor raised an issue that deeply disturbed me and I got up to the microphone and voiced my concerns. For the rest of the forum, attendees were coming up to me and thanking me for speaking up.

4) The next day, I got a call from Landmark telling me they refunded me due to the issue I spoke up about. I didn’t ask for a refund; they initiated it on their own and then called me to tell me.

It’s all very mysterious, I know. Maybe I’ll write more at a later date.

Most Popular Post

On Dating After Long-Term Travel — I’m really enjoying writing these, and you’re really enjoying reading them. Kind of weighing whether or not to write more of them.

Other Posts

The Worst Books I’ve Ever Read — Because I’ve dragged myself through some awful books, too!

Welcome to the Florida Keys — A guide to this quirky US destination.

Key West, You Are My New Favorite — Man, I had a LOT of fun in Key West.

How to Spend a Layover in Paris — If you’ve got a long layover at Charles de Gaulle airport, here’s how to get a taste of Paris!

Most Popular Instagram Photo

Easy — this shot of a giant KLM plane landing over Maho Beach in St. Maarten!

This is definitely a bucket list item. If you’re a fan of planes, photography, or just AWESOMENESS, get yourself to Maho Beach at one point in your life!

For more live updates, follow me at @adventurouskate on Instagram or Snapchat.

Fitness Update

This month, I had a few fitness breakthroughs. I OBLITERATED my calories burned record at spin class (translation: I’m now strong enough to have the resistance much higher and thus work harder). I also took a Zumba class that used to always leave me out of breath and dripping but this time I thought, “Hmmm, not much of a workout today.” Now I throw myself into Zumba much harder. I’ve been working hard on perfecting my deadlift form with my trainer and now I’m actually starting to deadlift some real weight.

And my body looks a bit different — my face is thinner, my boobs have shrunk significantly (pour one out for my homies) and my upper arms are looking much more muscular lately!

The only thing is that I’m losing weight much more slowly. I need to let go of my goal of losing 25 pounds by Memorial Day. But that’s FINE — a lot of people totally transform their bodies while staying roughly the same weight (here are nine women who did exactly that). Weight is not everything, changing your body composition is!

I also tried a few new classes: antigravity yoga at Studio Anya in Chelsea, pictured above (super fun, not much of a workout, and hanging upside down is neat but it hurts to swallow), as well as two new classes at Equinox: The Cut (a kickboxing class that I really enjoy) and Hatha Yoga (nice but very basic — I’ll try Vinyasa next time). I’ve decided to add yoga into my workout rotation; there are so many mental and physical benefits.

I’ve been reading a lot about intermittent fasting, which seems like the most efficient way to lose fat and add muscle simultaneously. I’m considering trying it next month.

What I Read This Month

I read seven books this month — wow! I’m continuing to chip away at the PopSugar 2017 Book Challenge (17/52 completed). I also got into Book of the Month, which I absolutely ADORE and highly recommend to my fellow American bookworms. I love choosing my new book each month and picking out two extras for just $10 each!

If you’re interested in joining Book of the Month, I have a 30% off code for new members. If you join, I’ll earn a free book.

Here’s what I read in March:

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (2012) — I want everyone I love to read this book. This is a collection of Dear Sugar columns from The Rumpus, which were written anonymously for a long time before Strayed’s identity was revealed. I can’t remember how I discovered those columns (maybe through Dan Savage?) but soon I became obsessed with them. In fact, I read this column over and over, day after day, while trying to get up the nerve to leave my abusive ex. It’s still saved on my phone today.

What makes this advice column phenomenal is that Strayed tells stories from her own life as allegories that illustrate her advice for the letter writers. Her life has been hard in many ways — she grew up in poverty, survived molestation, lost her beloved mother at a young age, married very young, lived through drugs and more poverty, worked with severely at-risk teens, eventually met the love of her life and went on to have two children and publish a bestseller you may have heard of called Wild. She also collected so many seemingly insignificant stories along the way that are actually profound.

This book is the very definition of grace. It makes me cry just thinking about it. Please read it. You won’t regret it. Category: a book of letters.

The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy (2017) — I chose this for my Book of the Month pick for February. I love the premise — in an unnamed American city, a business called the Elysian Society hires men and women to be “bodies” to channel the spirits of the deceased so their loved ones can talk to them. They swallow a pill while wearing the possessions of the dead and black out as the spirit takes over, leaving them unsure of what happened. Some of the customers come back every week.

This book is about Edie, a body who left a troubled past for a fresh start. After an unusually long five-year tenure with the Elysian Society, she becomes fascinated with Patrick, a customer who comes to channel his dead wife, Sylvia, who died under suspicious circumstances. As the book ramps up, Edie becomes more deeply entwined in Patrick and Sylvia’s lives until she’s not sure whose life she’s living.

As much as I loved the idea of this book (and it could so be a series) — I feel like it ran out of steam near the end and the characters weren’t developed enough. At times, I thought Edie’s blank-slate personality was a lazy choice, not unlike the main character in Twilight. That said, I did enjoy it, loved the idea of the Elysian Society, and I would read more of the author’s work. Category: a book with an unreliable narrator.

You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero (2013) — I picked this up in the Miami airport while waiting to board my flight home and I finished the last paragraph as my Lyft arrived at my apartment — talk about perfect timing! I check out self-help books every now and then, and there’s nothing in this book you haven’t read before. What makes it different is the voice and the delivery.

It’s motivational, yes. The tips are great and I learned some new things. I enjoyed reading it, too. But there’s one part that I didn’t like — Sincero implies that people with depression should just get over it and go do brilliant things. Yo, depression doesn’t work that way. I’m actually surprised her publisher allowed the book to go out like that. Category: a book you bought on a trip.

Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher (1987)  — This was my book club’s pick this month, in memory of an inspirational lady. Postcards from the Edge is the book that catapulted Carrie Fisher to literary success. A story told in diary entries, solid dialogue, and first- and third-person narratives, the book follows actress Suzanne Vale from rehab back into the Hollywood scene, the dating scene, parties and the gym and everything else.

It’s an entertaining book, a bit sloppy in its execution (why so many different formats?), but full of humor and humanity from a woman who does not care whatsoever what people think of her. Category: a book written by someone you admire.

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel (2017) — I chose this as my Book of the Month pick for March. For decades, a vacation community in Maine was constantly burglarized — but strangely, never expensive things, only food, books, and clothing. And nobody was ever found. Was there a hermit living in the woods?

There was.

Christopher Knight went into the woods to live alone in 1986. He didn’t have so much as a conversation with another human until he was caught in 2013, 27 years later. Author Finkel spent a long time trying to earn Knight’s trust following his capture. This book was created from his interviews with Knight. It’s fascinating.

While this book is about nature and relationships and solitude, it raises a lot of questions about mental health and how neuro-atypical people can function in our modern world. Knight has some characteristics that many people with autism also have, but in some ways he’s completely the opposite. There’s no easy way to characterize him.

In Maine, people are given lots of space, and walking on someone else’s property is no big deal. Someone in the book mentioned briefly that this never could have happened in Texas. I agree! In Texas people are very territorial — and have lots of guns. Either way, this reminded me that I still need to plan a digital detox trip sometime this year. Category: A book that takes place in the wilderness.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1937) — I had this legendary book on my reading list for quite some time, and I’m glad I finally got around to it. It’s all about how to get people to like you — in life, in relationships, in business. The advice is basic — people like to hear their names! Be positive with people, not negative! Give people compliments and don’t criticize! — but basic advice is often the best advice of all. It’s a cheap book, and I recommend everyone get a copy for their shelf or Kindle.

I will say, though, that the latest edition is a bit odd. It’s obviously been updated since 1937, but the editing isn’t consistent. It’s strange to see phrases like “even if you’re only a housewife” followed by letters from 1936 followed by a reference to Stevie Wonder, who didn’t become famous until the 1960s. Bizarre what they kept in and what they added. Category: a book with career advice.

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah — I had to listen to an audiobook for the challenge, and I’ve seen so many people recommend the audiobook version. After listening to it, I concur — it’s fantastic as an audiobook. Noah is a polyglot and he speaks different languages, uses different accents, and imitates a wide cast of characters throughout the book.

The best memoirs are from people with extraordinary stories or who tell ordinary stories in an extraordinary way. Occasionally you’ll get someone who does both. And Noah’s life story is CRAZY. He was born to a black mother and a white father during Apartheid, so his existence was literally a crime. He had to hide in the shadows for much of his childhood. He didn’t fit in with the blacks, whites, or coloreds in South Africa (in South Africa, colored is a non-insulting term meaning mixed race), but he survived, thrived, created a million entrepreneurial ventures and eventually broke out as an entertainer.

This book is devastating at times. The police laughed off the beatings Noah’s mother received at the hands of her husband. At times they were so poor they had to eat caterpillars. But there’s so much love and humor in this book as well — I nearly cried laughing when Noah secretly pooped in the house as a kid and his family thought it was a demon! It’s a remarkable feat to write a book this serious and yet have it be filled with so much laughter. Category: an audiobook.

What I Listened To This Month

Missing Richard Simmons! Have you listened to this podcast yet? You must!

A few years ago, Richard Simmons abruptly withdrew to his home and became a recluse. He said goodbye to no one — he just disappeared. This podcast, created by one of his friends, tries to figure out why. Was he being held under duress by his maid? Was he transitioning to female? Or did he just want to be left in peace?

The strangest thing about Simmons’s disappearance is that he gave SO much of himself to his fans. He would call fans on a weekly basis and counsel them through their weight and depression issues. He would always be outside when the Hollywood tour buses went by his house so he could greet fans. He cried with them, he opened up with them, he was ON 24/7, and as a result, the line between his professional and personal life was deeply blurred.

I consider this podcast required listening for bloggers or any other kind of internet personalities. It made me realize I haven’t always set the right boundaries. Yes, I’ve gained some great friends who I met because they were my readers, but I need to stop thinking it’s my job to personally solve everyone’s problems. This piece on NPR goes into that more.

What I Watched This Month

THIS IS US!!! After seeing tons of my female friends cry over it weekly on Facebook, I decided to give the series a try. I got through all 18 episodes in five days, no joke.

Yes. This show is worth the hype. It’s filling the hole I’ve had in my heart since Friday Night Lights went off the air. And the Chris Darden-shaped hole I’ve had in my heart since The People vs. OJ Simpson went off the air.

It’s just so nice to have a show about interesting characters who are all good at heart, and thus you genuinely root for them. Yes, the tears will come. There was one episode where I more or less bawled from start to finish. I’m so glad it’s been renewed for two more seasons!

What I Cooked This Month

A few days ago I made an awesome paleo Mexican chocolate mousse where avocados are the main ingredient! And this was SO GOOD. I got the recipe from Cook Eat Paleo.

I do encourage making a few tweaks to the recipe: I used a bit less honey, and I recommend using only half the amount of cinnamon. I couldn’t find ancho chile powder so I used regular chili powder and a few red pepper flakes. If you like it spicy (and I do), add a ton more red pepper flakes. This is a basic recipe; you can tweak it to your personal taste!

The only thing is that I’m starting to be highly sensitive to sugar, and even though it’s only raw honey (technically paleo!), I could feel it sitting in my stomach for hours.

Coming Up in April 2017

No major travel plans this month — at least not yet, you never know! — but I will likely go home to Massachusetts for the first time since Christmas. I also think I should spend some time in Boston proper, since most of my trips have been only to the suburbs lately.

April is when the flowers start to bloom in New York, and I wish I had taken more photos last year when everything was in bloom. It’s such a fleeting time — I hope I’m able to get a few neighborhoods!

What are your plans for April? Share away!

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