AK Monthly Recap: January 2017
Once again, I went a full month without leaving New York! I barely even left Manhattan, venturing to Brooklyn a total of twice.
The first time I did that, in April of last year, I was shocked and horrified at myself. This time, I welcomed it! The past few months were much busier than I anticipated (a six-week trip to Europe and Australia, a nine-day trip to Germany, plus three trips home to Massachusetts), so I needed some time to recuperate.
And that was a smart decision. I spent this month working hard on my fitness regime, spending time with friends, and gearing up for a busy year.
New York, NY
Taking part in the Women’s March! Millions of people marched all over the world to stand up for the rights of women, black people, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT people, and the environment. I didn’t go to DC but I was thrilled to march with my sister and our two close friends from home in New York City.
I couldn’t get over how huge the march was. It took us an hour to even get to the point where we could march, period! Everyone was friendly and in great spirits. And most importantly, when my kids and grandkids ask me how I stood up to Trump, I’ll be able to show them photographic proof. This is only the beginning.
The NO PANTS SUBWAY RIDE! On the coldest Sunday of the year, my friend Anna from Crazy in the Rain and I joined a group of strangers, got on the subway, and took our pants off, acting nonchalant about it when asked. We lucked out and ended up with a cool group of new friends and we finished our subway ride with a dance party in Union Square!
The No Pants Subway Ride takes place in lots of cities each year, but it originated in New York. Definitely join next year! It’s so much fun, even in the cold!
Image: @roamtheamericas on Twitter
Speaking at the New York Times Travel Show. This was my second time speaking and first time speaking at Industry Day. I was on a panel called “The Future of Travel Media” and I was the modern blogger paired with three more traditional travel writers, so I was a bit of a foil to the rest of them! We had a great talk and it seems like the audience really enjoyed it.
And because the show is such a big event, lots of my blogger friends were in town. The good times most definitely rolled.
Hosting my friend Amanda for a few days. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a houseguest, so I was happy to have Amanda from A Dangerous Business come stay with me during the show! We hung out, explored the city, took tons of pictures (including Times Square at night, which I hadn’t yet done), and made a visit to the Oculus, which I recommend seeing if you’re in Lower Manhattan.
A visit from a special puppy. Christine from C’est Christine brought her pug puppy Gertie to Harlem for a visit! She is the cutest, funniest thing and her fur is SO soft. You can see more of her at cestgertie on Instagram.
Seeing Maria Abramovic speak about her work. I’ve been fascinated by her performance art — she did the project at the MoMA where people would sit across from her and receive uninterrupted eye contact — so it was interesting to see her talk about art. I was surprised at how funny she was, in spite of her often-serious work, and now I’m eager to read her new memoir.
Finally getting framed art on the walls. After living in my apartment for almost a year, I finally have stuff on the walls! Should have done that a long time ago. I used Framebridge to frame everything, they were fabulous, and they gave me a discount code to share with you: adventurouskate15.
This new presidency. I wasn’t going to watch the inauguration, but I was at the gym and it was on all the TVs. I thought that would be my low point of the week, but no. It kept getting worse and worse.
As Dan Rather said, “For many Americans, in the two weeks since the inauguration, we have whipsawed from tragedy, to farce, to the theater of the absurd.” I’m deeply worried by what we’ve seen so far. I’m standing up for the most vulnerable, I’m preparing to lose my healthcare (because we all know there’s no Obamacare replacement waiting in the wings), and I’m looking to continue my political activism and action here in New York and beyond.
Seeing a bike messenger almost get run over by a car. Not only that, the driver got out of the car and they almost had a fistfight. So scary, especially since lots of bike messengers don’t have health insurance — or at least they didn’t in the pre-Obamacare days, and they’re about to lose it again.
Most Popular Post
My Plan for 2017: A Commitment to Fitness — The big post about how I’m changing my life.
Where to Go in 2017: Kate’s Top Picks — 12 locations for 12 months of the year.
For the Love of God, Don’t Sew a Canadian Flag On Your Backpack — On traveling in the age of Trump.
This is the Islamic World — A photographic journey across 10 very different Muslim countries.
Most Popular Instagram Photo
I wasn’t sure how this photo of me at the Women’s March would do on Instagram, but it turned into my most popular photo of all time!
I’m closing in on 100k followers — I’ll probably hit that milestone by the spring. For real-time updates from my travels you can follow me on Instagram and Snapchat at adventurouskate.
What I Read This Month
This month I started the Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge! I’m enjoying sinking my teeth back into a challenge and reading some genres I wouldn’t pursue ordinarily. I’m also making an effort to read both fiction and nonfiction titles, books by authors of color, and books published in 2017 each month.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond — If there’s any one book I think every American should read, Evicted is at the top of my list. (I seem to say that often, don’t I? Well, forget everything I said before, because this is the real deal.) This is the most important book about poverty I’ve ever read. The book takes place in Milwaukee, one of the most racially segregated cities in America, and follows a black landlord in a black neighborhood, a white landlord at a white trailer park, and several of the tenants of both landlords. The stories that follow are rich, nuanced, and full of character — much more than I expected. It read like a novel.
I am shocked at how little I knew about how eviction affects poverty — evictions make it harder to get housing, and circumstances of poverty make it easier to get evicted, so the cycle gets worse and worse. Did you know that benefits haven’t risen, but private rents have, and so many people spend upwards of 80% of their income on rent alone? Did you know that having the police called to your house can get you evicted? So many domestic violence victims have to choose between their safety and their housing. That’s just the beginning of the horrors of housing in America. We have so much work to do. Category: A bestseller from 2016.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri — I’ve been meaning to read Jhumpa Lahiri’s books forever, but this is only the first. A collection of short stories that won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Interpreter of Maladies tells stories of Indians, Indian-Americans, their relationships, and how their two cultures spill over into each other.
I don’t read collections of short stories very often, but I should — because when they’re as good as Lahiri’s, they’ll make you ache inside. I’m still thinking about some of the characters! That’s the mark of a brilliant writer, and I look forward to delving into Lahiri’s other works. Category: A book involving travel.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman — This crazy novel was my book club’s pick this month. The premise? The ancient gods all over the world, from Norse gods to African gods to Hindu gods, have migrated to America over centuries and are now living among us. They’re gearing up for war against new gods, like media and technology, and one man finds himself caught in the middle of it.
A lot of people are crazy about American Gods, but I honestly wasn’t a fan. I appreciated the concept and Gaiman’s ambition, but this book annoyed me so much. The main character, Shadow, had no personality. The female characters were either whores, children, or unfuckable. The big climax was a buildup to nothing and reminded me of the end of the Twilight series. In my opinion, an interesting concept does not make up for a complete lack of character development. Category: A book based on mythology.
The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide — When I had to read “a book with a cat on the cover,” I dreaded it, thinking my only options would be schmaltzy crazy cat lady stories. Instead I found this lovely wisp of a Japanese book. A couple living in Tokyo are living an ordinary life until their neighbors get a cat — and the cat starts spending all her time at their apartment. Soon, the cat is practically theirs and they discover a new love and affection for her that brings richness to their lives.
This book reminded me of how much I love Japan. This book is simple, calm, and focuses on feelings in the moment. Not a word is wasted. It’s also a quick read if you’re looking for something easily digestible. Category: A book with a cat on the cover.
A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea by Melissa Fleming — This is the story of a Doaa al-Zamel, a Syrian refugee who survived against all odds, from war in her city to a shipwreck at sea. Everyone needs to read this book to understand the Syrian refugee crisis (then again, the people who need to the most will probably refuse to read it). Doaa fought in the resistance before her family escaped to Egypt. After life in Egypt became hellish for Syrians, she and her fiancé decided to escape via boat to Europe — and their boat wrecked in the water. It is a devastating story, made all the more horrifying that so many people are continuing to go through this.
That being said — I wish Doaa’s story had been in the hands of another author. Melissa Fleming is Chief Spokesperson for the UNHCR, and she has done excellent work — but I don’t think she should have taken this assignment on. I found her writing to be distractingly bad, redundant and full of cliches. That said, Fleming’s writing style is accessible enough for high schoolers and even mature middle schoolers to read, so if you know a smart and compassionate kid, I recommend giving them the book. I still think you should read it, though. Ignore the bad writing and concentrate on the story. Category: A book about an immigrant or refugee.
What I Listened To This Month
“Time” by The Knocks. Spotify knows what I love most — that intersection of hip-hop, R&B, dance, and ambient music, sometimes with a little jazz or disco or gospel thrown in. This song is that genre in a nutshell.
What I Cooked This Month
I cook so much, might as well share some recipes with you!
Seriously the easiest snack ever: put 1 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes, 1.5 cups almonds, and 2 cups dates (pits removed!) in a food processor. Blend it. If it’s having trouble sticking together, add in a TINY bit of water — think a few drops.
Spread it into a pan, refrigerate at least an hour, and cut into bars. Amazing deliciousness.
Coconut-almond-date bars. Vegan, gluten-free, paleo, Whole 30-approved, and good for just about anyone…who doesn’t have a nut allergy. Just don’t go crazy on them, because while healthy, they do pack a lot of calories.
Since I wrote about my new journey toward fitness, I decided to do some brief monthly updates on how I’m doing.
I’m amazed at how well I’ve been keeping up the paleo diet, even when eating out. I did have a few slip-ups, all of them when out with friends (most notably, a few bites of my friend’s chocolate cake…and the Catholic in me confessed to my trainer the moment I went in the next day…), but for the most part, no-bread-no-dairy-no-sugar has become second nature. I estimate I’m eating paleo 90% of the time.
Working out has been going well. I see my trainer twice a week and add in classes three to four more times per week. Having my own washing machine makes it so much easier because I SWEAT. A LOT.
I resolved to finally try spinning, despite being terrified of it — and I have no idea why I was afraid for so long. It’s not scary at all! Tough, and sweaty, but I’ve never felt remotely uncomfortable! I’ve even taken spin classes at three places: Equinox, Flywheel, and Harlem Cycle. That’s in addition to my Equinox classes: Zumba, True Barre, Cardio Core Ball and Powerstrike.
I also joined ClassPass, which allows you to try fitness classes all over the city. I got a five-classes-per-month pack and I’m already looking forward to underwater spinning, hip-hop candlelit yoga, and a variety of dance classes! (Interested in ClassPass? Join and we’ll both get $30 off!)
And I decided to start a “workout buddies” series with my friends — instead of going to a bar or coffeeshop, we go to a fitness class together! That pic is me with my friend Elissa after a spin class at Flywheel.
I lost about 7 pounds in January. My BMI went from “overweight” to “normal.” My jeans and bras went from too tight to just right to maybe a bit too big (damn, why do your boobs always go first?). I don’t expect to lose that much per month again, as you always lose a ton of water weight at the beginning, but now I’m losing a pound a week and hope to keep that up.
That said, even if I don’t lose 25 pounds by Memorial Day, that’s okay. This is a long-term process and it might not go as quickly as I hope. But when I get to my goal weight, I’m going to look much healthier than I did when I weighed that much in Southeast Asia because this time I’m not starving myself.
My big worry, however, is keeping up my diet and exercise when I’m on the road. I don’t care about staying on my diet — I just don’t want to make my friends uncomfortable. Would you feel comfortable if you really wanted some chocolate cheesecake but were with a friend who ate nothing but salads with chicken on them? I just want them to know that they can do whatever they want!
Image: Ed Schipul
Coming Up in February 2017
I’ve got two big trips planned and they’re not my usual fare, which is why they’re exciting!
First, in early February, I’m going to Florida with my friend Cailin! We’re starting off with four days at Universal Studios, where she has a partnership, and then we’re driving down to the Florida Keys before finishing up in Miami. Both the Keys and Miami are new to me and I’m especially eager to check out both the prettier and the grittier sides of the Keys (and the Bloodline locations).
And in late February, I’ll be going on my first cruise ever with my friend Jeremy! We’ll be on the brand new Carnival Vista for a week. The cruise leaves from Miami and stops in Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Kitts (new country for me!) and St. Maarten. I have no idea how I’ll feel about cruising but I’m eager to finally try it!
I’ll be doing more of my usual solo, independent, international travel style later in the year. For now, these are some comfort trips, and I hope you enjoy the upcoming coverage.