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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