AK Monthly Recap: July 2016
Finally, after seven months stateside, I broke out my worn navy passport and traveled abroad once again! I needed a break, but I still can’t believe it lasted seven months.
This month was about South Africa. My friend Beth and I spent just over two weeks in the country, my third visit and her first. In addition to that, we spent a day in Amsterdam and the rest of my time was spent in the New York and Boston areas.
I love summer — I’m a summer baby and I’ve always loved summer weather, the hotter the better. But the older I get, the less I’m able to tolerate long periods of heat and humidity, so a trip to South Africa during their winter was a perfect way to take a break from the heat. It felt great to wear the closest thing I have to a uniform: jeans, boots, and my leather jacket!
New York, NY, USA
Reading, Lynn, Salisbury, Newburyport, and Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Johannesburg, Kruger National Park (and environs), Cape Town, Muizenberg, Simonstown, Cape Peninsula National Park, Stellenbosch, and Franschhoek, South Africa
Hoboken, New Jersey, USA
Cape Town. After three visits, I think I finally have a favorite destination in South Africa.
Stellenbosch. Fantastic wines, beautiful surroundings, and a lovely town to walk around.
Amsterdam. The second time was the charm — good weather had me swooning for this city.
South Africa was an amazing trip. I had such a good time with my friend Beth and loved seeing how much she fell in love with South Africa! We also got along great the whole trip, which is all you can ask for when traveling with a friend.
Flying business class on KLM was amazing. This was my first time flying business class for longer than a two-hour flight, so flying super long-haul (eight hours from New York to Amsterdam, then 11 hours from Amsterdam to Johannesburg) was a treat. It was just so pleasant. The food was constant, the seats were so comfortable, the flight attendants were so nice, and the souvenir KLM houses they give business class passengers are my new obsession! I even slept a full eight hours on an overnight flight!
We saw amazing wildlife, including the Big Five, on safari. Seeing the Big Five at any time of year is somewhat rare, but we lucked out: first rhinos (I know!!), then lions, Cape buffalo, elephants, and finally a leopard. Beyond that, some of our wildlife highlights were a tiny baby rhino nursing from his mother, a lioness feasting on a kudu, the most playful elephants you can imagine, and two cheetahs, seen on foot, just 15 feet away!
I got to spend time with my dear South African friends in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Seriously, the best thing about travel blogging is having friends all over the world.
Cape Town was unbelievable. This was my third visit and the best visit by far! From hanging out in Camps Bay to enjoying steampunk java at Truth Coffee Roasters to having an unforgettable meal at the Potluck Club to making friends with a Wine Guy at the bar at the Doubletree and sharing a bottle of the most interesting wine I’ve ever tasted, Cape Town blew me away this time around.
Stellenbosch was all about the wine tasting. I couldn’t think of a better way to wind down our trip. In four days we actually did tastings at 10 wineries in Stellenbosch and Franshhoek, pairing wines with chocolate, cheese, cured meats, and even salts!
We had an unexpected layover in Amsterdam. Our connecting flight to New York was cancelled, so we were booked on the next day’s flight and had a 24-hour layover. Beth and I both love Amsterdam, so we went out to explore the city! The weather was spectacular. I took tons of photos (making up for my rainy first visit to Amsterdam), Beth bought her husband his favorite cheese, and we enjoyed a delicious Indonesian rijsttafel dinner.
I went home for the Fourth of July and got to spend time with my family. And the North Shore of Massachusetts is a fantastic place to hang out during the summer!
And at the end of the month, my mom came to visit me and my sister in New York for a few days. We got to check out some new parts of the city, including the New York Botanical Gardens, where the corpse flower was in bloom!
A lot went wrong this month. So much that my previous months look quaint by comparison.
My debit card was stolen online. Hope you enjoyed the $38 worth of Panda Express, motherfucker. (Seriously, who buys $38 worth of food at Panda Express with a stolen credit card? If I stole someone’s credit card, I’d go straight to Barneys.) And a reminder to all of you — have multiple bank accounts and multiple debit cards when you travel. I was okay because I was able to withdraw from my other accounts; that wasn’t the case when my cards were stolen in 2011.
I left my coat and scarf in Johannesburg. Yeah. Dumb move. I was cold on safari and thankfully Beth had brought an extra fleece that I could wear. That said, both the coat and the scarf remind me of times in my life that I’d rather forget, so it’s no big deal that they’re gone. I asked the hotel to send them to a shelter, so hopefully they’re keeping someone warm now.
I got the worst sunburn EVER. You know when you use that spray-on sunscreen? You need to rub it in. I had a speckled burn on my thighs which eventually turned into a speckled tan on my thighs.
Jet lag was rough this time. It was only a six-hour difference but it was the worst jet lag I’ve had in years, in part because I forgot my melatonin and you can only get it with a prescription in South Africa. My friend Jodi sent me some unusual jet lag tips she’s discovered, which she later turned into this excellent post.
The worst Lyft ride ever. I usually take Lyft Line rides (carpooling) home from JFK because it’s $35 as opposed to $55ish, and they just pick up someone near you. Well, Beth and I hailed Lyft Lines at the same time and got paired together, which is bizarre because she lives in Brooklyn and I live 50 minutes away in Harlem. Long story short, it usually takes me 30 minutes to get home from JFK, but between the traffic and the detour it took me TWO HOURS to get home.
I got sick and puked out the side of my safari vehicle. Because I am a classy lady.
I had a few bad street harassment incidents this month. There’s one part of my neighborhood that I feel the absolute safest in, and I never get catcalls there, but men yelled at me constantly in that neighborhood one day. I wasn’t flashing people or anything — I think it was because I was wearing an above-the-knee dress and forgot my sunglasses so my eyes were showing. NOTE: That is NOT blaming myself, because the only people that deserve blame are the street harassers. All women deserve the right to walk down the street without being harassed.
And I actually caught another street harasser while in the middle of a snap this month! My Snapchat followers loved that, particularly since it ended with me telling him to fuck off.
And finally…I can’t believe I’m telling you this…I dropped my phone in the toilet. For the first time ever. BUT the toilet had just been cleaned AND my phone was fine because of my LifeProof case! PHEW! That case saved me from having to buy a new phone. Worth every penny and then some.
Most Popular Post
Don’t Expect Travel to Solve Your Problems — Many of you related to this and shared your stories.
Visiting South Africa in the Winter: Worth It Or Not? — A must-read for South Africa visitors.
Hudson, New York: The Coolest Small Town in America — I loved discovering this cool local getaway!
News and Announcements
This month CNBC did a lovely little video feature on me! You can find it here on Facebook.
Most Popular Photo on Instagram
Hello, Amsterdam! I love your houses so much! This is one of my favorite shots from our brief layover.
For real-time updates from my travels, you can follow me on Instagram and Snapchat — I’m adventurouskate on both!
What I Read This Month
The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball — One of my guilty pleasures is reading memoirs from city girls turned country girls, and this is exactly what this book is. Kristin is a Manhattan freelance writer who suddenly falls in love with a farmer and starts a new farm with him in upstate New York.
As much as I love reading about farming, this memoir had a lot missing. While she wrote about a year’s worth of events and the technicalities of farming, she wrote so little about her thoughts and feelings that I found myself wondering why she even liked her husband in the first place. Yes, he was handsome and a great cook and he did thoughtful things for her, but other than that, I feel like he was didn’t even have a personality. Nor did she. I enjoyed the book, but I found the emotional distance borderline bizarre, especially for a memoir.
The Girls by Emma Cline — This was my book club’s pick for the month (and to be fair, I voted for it), but it took me a long time to get through it because I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes. A teenage girl joins a cult of mostly women led by a messianic leader in 1969, and later the cult is involved in a murder. It’s a fictionalized version of Charles Manson and the Family, which is what interested me in the book.
This book is enormously popular right now, and I get it, but the author’s descriptions went way overboard. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of similes (yes, I get the irony of this statement). It was just too much. And I kept waiting for the plot to start and as soon as it became mildly interesting, it abruptly ended. Talk about a disappointment.
Grace by Natasha Deón — A dark, haunting, beautiful novel. A former slave is on the run from bounty hunters while in labor. Shortly after giving birth, she’s shot dead — but her spirit decides not to leave her daughter. The book takes place in two parts: Naomi’s life that led up to her death, and her daughter Josey’s life from the beginning, both stories told by Naomi’s ghost.
This novel is beautifully told — I got it after reading its laudatory New York Times review. For literary reasons alone, you should read it, and because it was originally a screenplay, it has a cinematic quality to it. But beyond that, I think it’s important to read books by women of color, who are too often overlooked in the publishing industry, and it’s also important to read books about slavery, as it’s the root cause of blacks being treated as second-class citizens in America today. It does not matter that you personally did not own slaves — the effects of slavery have been passed down through generation after generation, and the more you read, the more you will understand.
What I Watched This Month
Orange is the New Black — wow. Season Four made up for the weak previous season — and ultimately ended devastatingly. The show has significantly changed direction since Season One and I don’t think anyone would consider it a comedy or even a dramedy anymore.
It’s tough. Season Three was about the prison going from nonprofit to for-profit, and all the negative changes that ensued, but Season Four pushes the horrors to new levels. Without giving anything away, this season highlights many of the problems with our prison system, and on top of that, the storytelling is fantastic. Well worth a watch.
What I Listened To This Month
Sorry, I’m still listening to Hamilton! No new music to share this month. I had “History Has Its Eyes On You” stuck in my head for most of the month.
Coming Up in August 2016
I’m going to Colombia! This trip is seriously overdue. It’s been just over a year since I’ve visited a new country (!) and I haven’t done a solo trip or been somewhere adventurous in quite some time. Plus, I haven’t been to South America since 2008, pre-blog!
I was actually hoping to visit the Caucasus this month — Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, in that order — but as the costs, time required, and Azerbaijan visa complications added up, I didn’t feel good about the trip. I ultimately decided to go with a shorter, cheaper trip closer to home.
My plan is to fly into Cartagena and fly out of Bógota 2.5 weeks later. In between I hope to visit Santa Marta and/or Taganga, Tayrona National Park, Medellín, and Salento, plus day trips to places like Minca and Guatapé. A fairly basic Colombia itinerary, but one that will take me to the most popular spots and let me create the most useful blog posts for you.
Almost all of my travel blogger friends who have been to Colombia consider it one of their favorite countries. Let’s just say I have very high expectations! I’m a bit nervous about how rainy it will be on the Caribbean coast, but while it’s not the driest time of year, July and August are a slight reprieve from the rainier months. We shall see. My biggest priority, as you guys know, is getting good photos!