AK Monthly Recap: October 2016
Do you remember last month, when I told you I had a trip coming up to a destination I couldn’t name just yet? At the time of publication, I was deep in contract negotiations and couldn’t say anything yet. But if you’ve been following me on social media, you know I went to Western Australia this month!
This is another of the busiest travel months I’ve had in recent years. I more or less went nonstop and didn’t sleep much. But while it was hectic, it was also a lot of fun. Here’s the best of it!
Kraków and Warsaw, Poland
Strasbourg, Colmar, and Paris, France
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Perth, Rottnest Island, Fremantle, Nambung National Park, Cervantes, Port Gregory, Kalbarri, Kalbarri National Park, Hamelin Pool, Denham, Monkey Mia, Carnarvon, Coral Bay, Tom Price, Karijini National Park, and Broome, Western Australia
Coral Bay. This tiny beach town is far from everything yet on the edge of Ningaloo Reef and sand dunes.
Karijini National Park. Red rocks, deep gorges, rockholes, spider-walking, and sleeping in an eco-tent.
Strasbourg. Beautiful, livable, comfortable, and bursting with delicious food.
Paris. My favorite city in the world, always.
A kickass road trip in Western Australia. I have so much to share about this trip, and I don’t want to get too detailed here because I want to write about it soon, but I’ll start by saying that I traveled with two truly amazing people: my German blogger counterpart Freedi of Freise in Design and our guide and driver Scotty of Kimberley Spirit. These are two of the most wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of traveling with and they brought so much joy to my life.
As for WA (Western Australia), I did SO many awesome things: Went to Rottnest Island and took selfies with quokkas! Snorkeled with giant manta rays on Ningaloo Reef! Flew in a tiny plane above Shark Bay! Canoed through Kalbarri National Park! Quad-biked through Coral Bay at sunset! Drank a million perfect flat whites in Perth! Spider-walked through gorges in Karijini National Park! I finished off with a few days of relaxation at the Mangrove Hotel in Broome.
WA is vast, sparsely populated, incredibly beautiful, and remarkably friendly. This has always been the region in Australia I’ve wanted to visit the most, long before I even started my travels, so I was thrilled to finally get there.
Speaking and networking at The Video Summit in Leipzig. This was one of the most inspirational conferences I’ve attended in recent years — I loved meeting so many talented people obsessed with creating new ways to tell stories. I felt like a bit of an imposter at first, as I only do quickie unedited videos (I was there to talk about Snapchat), but after getting to know the people, I feel like maybe I actually did belong there. Video is video.
It was also nice to have a different mix of bloggers than the usual events. This event was invitation-only so it was restricted to professionals, and there were a lot of people I hadn’t met before or even heard of. One thing is for sure: everyone there was bursting with creativity. I can’t wait to do more with video now!
Finally discovering a new region in France. For too long I’ve been visiting Paris and eschewing the rest of France, so I decided to visit Alsace, where France blends with Germany. It was worth the wait.
Visiting my final country in Western Europe. I have a goal of visiting every country in Europe, and with Luxembourg, I’ve conquered the west! Only seven European countries remain: Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and Cyprus.
One awesome week in Paris. I knew I’d be dropping in on Paris, as I often do, and during a coworking session in Harlem in September, I invited my friend Jiyang to come join me. He bought his ticket right then and there!
Jiyang is a New York-based portrait photographer (check out his work here), so much of our trip was doing photo shoots all over the city! He LOVED Paris, I never get tired of being a Paris tour guide, and we sat in approximately 152 different cafes and ate a LOT of foie gras.
Running into readers in the craziest of locations. The first time I got recognized by a reader, in Bali in 2011, I was grinning for days. These days, it happens a few times a month and it’s usually in an airport or a Starbucks. But this month, you can’t top the locations: I ran into readers in the Louvre, in the Musée d’Orsay, on a snorkeling trip to Ningaloo Reef, and in a gorge in Karijini National Park!
Taking a “then and now” photo for the ages. When I was downstairs at the Louvre, I suddenly got the urge to take a photo in the same place where I took my “Da Vinci Code Superfan” photo in 2006, right after I graduated from college. Jiyang helped me get as close to the original as possible.
I know most people look back at photos from ten years ago in despair at how young they used to look — but this makes me laugh. LOOK HOW BAD I LOOKED WHEN I WAS 22!! What the hell was I wearing? At the Louvre, no less?! Those horrible foil-covered pink flip-flops probably cost $2 at a garage sale!
Man. I may have more wrinkles as a 32-year-old, but at least I know how to dress and do my makeup and hair now! (To be fair, I didn’t come into my own style-wise until two years ago.)
New Pradas on a discount. After arriving in Perth, I was browsing sunglasses and wistfully trying on the pair I had been lusting after for weeks. The girl asked me what brought me to Perth, I told her about the campaign, she got excited, and she offered me her friends and family discount — 40% off. HELL YEAH! It’s been awhile since I bought new sunglasses and I love these ones!
A Warsaw accommodation snafu. Since I had less than 24 hours in Warsaw and was arriving and departing by train, I decided to book a guesthouse by the train station. It sounded like a good idea until I realized that near the train station, the only way to cross streets is to go up and down and up and down stairs, which sucked while carrying a heavy suitcase. Then I couldn’t find the guesthouse to save my life. I was hot, exhausted, and nearly in tears.
I sighed, looked across the street at the Novotel, and on a whim decided to get a room there instead. This was the first time in my life I’ve walked into a hotel and said, “Can I get a room for tonight?” (I used to do that with cheap Southeast Asia hostels and guesthouses WAY back in the day, but not in years and never in real hotels.) Best decision ever.
Google Maps sent me down a scary path. While transiting through Saarbrücken, Germany, I had to get from the train station to the bus station. In many cities they’re next door to each other. But in this instance, Google Maps sent me and my giant rolling suitcase down a rocky, unlit path through a forest at night. EEK! Not cool, Google. My heart was pounding until I made it out safely.
A brief cold — fended off successfully. Why do I always seem to get a cold when I’m in Paris? It makes me despair about not being able to taste the food. Anyway, the cold was brief, and I’m grateful for that.
Most Popular Post
My Love Affair With Scotland — My eight trips to Scotland and how each of them made me fall for the country more.
Solo Travel in Cartagena in Five Vignettes — Five little stories about what it’s like to travel solo in Cartagena.
A Taste of Alsace in Strasbourg and Colmar — I really loved this French-German region.
A Dreamy Trip to South Wales — An overview of traveling in this beautiful part of the world.
Most Popular Photo on Instagram
Colmar! This photo was taken at Little Venice, or “Selfie Point” as I dubbed it (you should have seen all the selfie people posing in front of it). I’m not a huge fan of the edit — I went much warmer because I like to alternate warm and cool photos on my feed — but Instagram loved it.
What I Read This Month
This was perhaps the best month of reading OF MY LIFE. Every single book was fantastic, and I’m pretty sure each of these books will be mentioned in my “best reads of 2016” post in December!
American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin (2016) — I haven’t devoured a book this hard and fast since The Martian. All I know about Patty Hearst is that Henry from The Time Traveler’s Wife had a crush on her when he was younger because she was kidnapped and forced to rob banks and on TV all the time. So I went in knowing nearly nothing about the story.
This was fascinating — part exposé, part psychological study. Patty Hearst, a 20-year-old heiress, was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and after weeks in captivity, decided to join their cause, robbing banks and bombing buildings. I had no idea how major this case was — one of the incidents related to the SLA was the first time a breaking news story was aired live on TV. EVER.
I enjoyed this book so much because I knew so little about it, so if you’re in the same boat, don’t read much about it before starting the book. It will take you on a wild, careening ride through 70s counterculture in the Bay Area and beyond.
The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante (2008) — I’ve now read all of Ferrante’s novels, and I think that this is the best one that isn’t part of the Neapolitan Novels tetralogy. In this novella, a mother of two grown women finds herself blissfully alone for the first time since they were born and so she travels to the seashore near Naples for a holiday. While there, she becomes fixated on a young mother and daughter and thinks back to her own days as a young mother, including times where she made significant failures.
What I love most about Ferrante’s work is that she dives deep into the uncomfortable parts of women’s thoughts and lives and presents them unflinchingly. While most authors wouldn’t admit that these feelings exist, Ferrante puts them front and center. Because of that, I feel like I related strongly to this book even though I’m not a mother myself.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016) — Whitehead’s novel is perhaps the most remarkable novel I’ve read in years. It’s going to be on every “Best of 2016” list, so I recommend you read it before the year is up! Whitehead tells the story of a young slave named Cora who escapes her plantation via the Underground Railroad, traveling northward while being pursued by a Javert-like slave catcher.
Only the Underground Railroad isn’t a metaphor here — it’s a literal underground railroad that careens between states, each stop with its own unique dangers. Magical realism reigns here and the edges between fantasy and reality are so blurred that it makes you wonder just how true this story could have been. But that’s the thing — perhaps a story like this IS true, and the actual truth has been buried because people with more power have spun a different narrative.
What the book hammers home is that the bondage of African-Americans has never ceased — it’s just changed in form. If it’s not slavery, it’s eugenics. If it’s not Jim Crow, it’s an out-of-control prison system. Really, nothing has changed over the years except the methodology. But the book ends with hope.
Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola (2015) — I’ve read a handful of memoirs about addiction, and I think this one is my favorite. Hepola tells the story of her life and how it led to dangerous levels of drinking from her teens into her thirties. She links the stories through her blackouts, telling about how they made her scary situation even worse.
I think a lot of people can reflect their lives on Hepola’s story. She’s an introvert, a writer and content creator, and alcohol was used to help her open up more easily in real life to match the persona she created in her writing. Though her story takes place mostly pre-social media, I think that’s something that lots of us relate to even more today — the pressure to have as good a personality in real life as you do online, and as American work life becomes more offbeat and casual, how it can encourage you to go in that destructive direction.
The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell (2015) — It’s no secret that I would happily pay sky-high taxes to have a social system like one of the Nordic countries. Between that and my love for Copenhagen, I knew I would enjoy this book. Danes are frequently cited to be among the happiest people in the world. When Russell’s husband gets a job offer in rural Jutland, Denmark, Russell decides to spend a year figuring out what makes Danes so happy in the first place. She and her husband navigate through their new lives, often with much humor.
Because Russell is a journalist, this isn’t just a memoir — it’s backed up with so much information. I loved the format — she starts with an anecdote from her own life, fills it in with examples from her Danish friends, then consults Danish experts in various fields to offer their thoughts on why situations are the way they are. I loved this book so much and if I ever choose to live outside the States again, the Nordic countries are high on my list!
Coming Up in November 2016
Folks, I’m tired. So tired. I planned to go to Europe for three weeks, hit two conferences, and come home — and it quickly stretched into six weeks with a surprise trip to Australia. So it’s time to take it easy.
I’ve already dubbed this month “No Travel November,” even though I won’t land in the States until the third and will be hopping between New York and Boston a few times over the month.
And one other thing — I decided to axe my trip to New Zealand, as some of you noticed. Which I’m sad about, but it was necessary — I need to spend time at home and was already dreading the thought of going away for seven weeks. I’ll have to eat the cost of the flights, but thankfully they were cheap and what I earned this month made up for it.
There’s something else I’ve been eager to start this month: Whole 30. It’s a 30-day food plan where you eliminate sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy, legumes, and anything processed from your diet. Several of my friends found it life-changing; others were more lukewarm about it. I’m eager to see how it affects me. It’s obviously very difficult to do while traveling and virtually impossible while working on a campaign, so now sounds like a good time to take the plunge!
Beyond that, I’m very much looking forward to election night.