AK Monthly Recap: August 2016

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Kate in Cartagena

It was the month of Colombia! I spent 19 days exploring my 64th country and getting back into the groove of long-term solo travel after several trips with friends and short solo excursions.

Between Colombia and some good times at home, here are the best and worst moments of August 2016.

Valle de Cocora Colombia

Destinations Visited

New York, NY

Cartagena, Medellín, Guatapé, Salento, Valle del Cocora, Bogotá, and Zipaquirá, Colombia

Salento Colombia

Favorite Destinations

Salento. This small, colorful mountain town introduced me to slow-paced Colombian life.

Valle del Cocora. Easily the most visually stunning place in the country, with super-tall palm trees you can’t find elsewhere.

Bogotá. The rare city where I slipped in so well, even with the communication difficulties.

Kate Birthday

Highlights

I had a wonderful 32nd birthday. I spent it doing a lot of favorite things in New York, both old (Big Gay Ice Cream) and new (Museum of the City of New York), before grabbing dinner at Red Rooster (also known as the place that made me decide to move to Harlem!) and meeting up with lots of friends at a bar in my neighborhood.

And best of all were the Snapchat wishes! If you thought having a birthday on Facebook was great, wait until you’re on Snapchat! I got artistic creations, video messages, even songs from my readers! Thank you all! And to the person who made me the snap above, I’m honored that you took the time to make rainbow letters! (I’m adventurouskate on Snapchat if you want to follow me.)

Everything in Colombia. I want to repeat myself in future posts, so I’ll be brief, but some of my highlights were eating the best fruit in the world, photographing the doors of Cartagena, seeing some beautiful and otherworldly landscapes, going out dancing, getting my hair cut and colored for less than 25% of what it would cost in New York, and making lots of new friends — both locals and travelers! Expect far more on Colombia soon.

New York View from Governors Island

Visiting Governors Island. This little island south of Manhattan is only open during the summer months and well worth a visit. I explored by bike, watched the Drone World Championships, and got to see one of the most underrated views of Manhattan, pictured above.

And at the end of the month, I acquired a new possession. A Fuji 16mm f 1.4 lens. This wide-angle is the top-rated Fuji lens and I’d had my eye on it for awhile, so when the price dropped by 25% this month, I knew it was time to pull the trigger. (It’s still on sale, by the way. There’s an additional $50 coupon that appears at checkout.)

Beer in Salento

Challenges

The hives came back. If you’re a long-term reader, you may remember when I suddenly developed hives in Korea back in 2013. I don’t have any allergies, so I have no idea what the cause was — I just took antihistamines. Soon my lips started swelling up. I saw three doctors in Australia and they couldn’t tell me anything beyond, “Just wait it out and keep taking antihistamines, or prednisone if it gets really bad.”

It took nine months before the hives stopped appearing. Nine whole months.

So when I was in Bogotá and developed what I thought was a mosquito bite on my arm…then another bite…then three more bites, all expanding and connecting to each other, and more on my hip as well, I groaned and thanked my lucky stars that I had brought Zyrtec with me. They did appear again 24 hours later once the Zyrtec wore off, then another 24 hours after that, but since then I’ve been in the clear.

I still have no idea where they came from. I had only eaten eggs, fruit, coffee, a tamale, and an aguapanela (Colombian sugar cane drink) that day.

To my readers, even if you aren’t allergic to anything, please pack a strong antihistamine when you travel. I like Zyrtec because it’s non-drowsy and one pill lasts for 24 hours. You can get it for cheap on Amazon.

Cartagena Door

I really need to improve my Spanish. I speak “kindergarten Spanish” — I can communicate basic stuff and speak decently in the present and future tenses. French has always been my primary foreign language. I taught myself Spanish 1 over the summer when I was 15, then took Spanish 2, then dropped it after a year because I didn’t enjoy it (I think having an unenthusiastic teacher was a factor).

Colombia has a significant language barrier — more so than most places I visited in Central America. On top of that, Colombians speak very fast and the accent is thick. I struggled so hard to understand and be understood. Kindergarten Spanish is sufficient for traveling in Central America, but it’s not nearly enough for Colombia. I cannot imagine what it’s like to travel here without speaking any Spanish.

So I think it might be time to take a Spanish course focusing on grammar. Because while you do pick up a lot of vocabulary while traveling in Latin America, your grammar remains the same. And mine is atrocious.

Two brief instances of food poisoning. I usually have an iron stomach, but digestive issues got me one night in Salento and again while flying home to New York. It was…less than pleasant.

YO in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Most Popular Post

Notes from the Brink of Age 32 — Every year I write a birthday post and reflect on the past year, where I am now, and where I want to go. This was my latest.

Other Posts

Adventurous Kate’s Offbeat Guide to Cape Town — Everything you need to know to plan an awesome trip.

How I Choose Where to Travel Next — In a world of destinations, how do you narrow them down?

How to Survive Pre-Trip Anxiety — What do you do when you’re sick with worry right before a trip?

How to Rock a Trip to Johannesburg — All the best in this underrated city.

Guatape

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Easy — this photo of Guatapé. This famous view, from the top of La Piedra del Peñol (a giant rock in the middle of the lakes) was one of the reasons why I went to Colombia in the first place!

For more real-time updates from my travels, along with greatest photography hits, follow me on Instagram at adventurouskate.

Fruit in Colombia

What I Read This Month

On Writing by Stephen King — This is the first Stephen King book I have ever read, and it’s one of my favorite nonfiction reads of the year. This book is part memoir and part writing guide, and I’m already implementing some of his tips. “Killing my darlings” never felt so good.

I may avoid the horror genre, but I have so much admiration for Stephen King. For his work ethic, for his voracious readership, and especially for his marriage. The only thing I didn’t like? Nearly all of the authors he cited were white men, as were the authors of his book recommendations. I don’t know how you can read 60-70 books a year and end up recommending so few written by women or people of color. (Though it’s worth noting that his list of favorite reads from 2001-2009, included in the book’s 2010 edition, was somewhat more diverse than his original list. As an aside, I think more people are mindful about the literature they consume today compared to 15 years ago.)

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — Adichie is one of my favorite authors that I discovered last year, and since then I’ve been on a mission to read all of her works. This novel tells the history of Biafra, a region that seceded from Nigeria in 1967 following the ethnic cleansing of the Igbo people, and the war that ensued. I knew nothing about Biafra or this war before reading this book and it was eye-opening.

I love learning about Nigeria through Adichie’s books, but what I love is that she creates characters who are imperfect, yet so good at heart. And even when thrown into impossible circumstances, you can’t help but love them fiercely and want the best for them. That’s even more difficult when they’re living through war and starvation.

What I Watched This Month

The Get Down! I had been looking forward to this Netflix series since I saw the first previews, and I wasn’t disappointed. This show — or more of a mini-series — tells the story of the dawn of hip-hop (not to mention the height of disco) in the Bronx in the late 1970s.

It’s Baz Luhrmann, so you know exactly what you’re getting — light on plot and character development, but so damn gorgeous and sounds so good that it takes you to another place, just like the movie musicals of 50+ years ago. Moulin Rouge! was one of my favorite movies as a teenager; in my opinion, The Get Down is the only Baz production that lives up to it.

What I Listened To This Month

I’m waiting for Frank Ocean’s new album to come out on Spotify. Until then, I’m listening to his old stuff. Channel Orange is one of my favorite albums of the past few years. It’s good to listen to when you’re alone, particularly if you have a tendency to be melancholy in private.

I love when you forget an album for awhile and then rediscover how good it is. There are so many good songs here. I love “Sierra Leone.” I love “Monks.” But “Sweet Life” is one of my all-time favorites.

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Image: Gabriela Fab

Coming Up in September 2016

I’m spending most of the month at home in New York and the rest in Europe! I’m starting in Inverness, Scotland, for the Social Travel Summit, where I’m speaking on two of my favorite blogging topics: passive income and Snapchat.

Next up is a culinary trip to South Wales. I’ve been to North Wales several times but this will be my first time in South Wales, including the Welsh capital of Cardiff. I’m looking forward to both the food and the landscape, especially the wild coastline!

After that, I have about a week free, and I’m almost positive I’ll be spending it in two new countries: Slovakia and Poland. My time is limited, but I think I’ll fly straight into Bratislava, head to Krakow, visit Zakopane if I have time (I really hope I do because it looks gorgeous) and then finish in Warsaw.

But before Europe, we’ve got Labor Day Weekend — and boy, do I have plans. My sister and I are going to Club Getaway in Connecticut — also known as Adult Summer Camp. Think all the fun of summer camp plus burlesque classes, Texas Hold’em tournaments, SUP yoga, bungee trampolines, theme parties, and plenty of free-flowing alcohol throughout.

Any recommendations for Krakow? Let me know! Where are you going next month?

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48 thoughts on “AK Monthly Recap: August 2016”

  1. Glad to read that you had a great time in Colombia! It’s such an eclectic country. Apart from Santa Marta, I agree with you – Salento and the Cocora Valley were some of my favorite destinations as well. I also got food poisoning in Salento…I think a local restaurant called El Rincon de Lucy was the culprit although I can’t be sure. But my stomach was a mess afterward. Looking forward to reading about your European travels next month.

  2. “On Writing” is my writing bible! I freaking love that book. I’m not a fan of King’s horror works, but “On Writing” made me realize just how talented the man really is. Also it made me feel better about my alcohol consumption.

  3. Ah your Colombia posts are killing me. I’m trying to decide between Belize and Colombia at the moment, because I don’t have time to do both!!

    So excited for the Europe updates- I’m not facing my last month and a half on the continent! I’ll be in Slovakia and Poland somewhere between late September and early October. Maybe our plans will cross!

  4. We are stopping at Cartagena for one day on an upcoming cruise so I’m anxious to see what you have to say about the city.

    Loved “On Writing” by Stephen King. It motivated me to write another chapter on my book about Istanbul. Sadly, only one.

    Great advice about the antihistamines! We’ve also got our doctor to provide us with antibiotics (Cipro) to take on every trip. Rarely do we need them, but when we do they are tripsavers! We never travel without them.

    We’re headed to Barcelona next month. Got to look at your past posts to see what you have to say!

  5. Beautiful photos as usual,

    Two comments: I got a bad case of hives and couldn’t trace it back to any food, personal care, or laundry products. My dermatologist figured out I was allergic to the Cipro I had taken OVER A MONTH previous to my breakout.

    Also,on Stephen King: his early fame was about his horror books, but think of what else he has written – The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, The Green Mile, 11/22/63.

  6. Haha! That’s so funny you’re going to club getaway! When I was a teacher in the bronx we took the 9th graders there every year for an overnight trip! My friends and I always joked about going for the adult camp option!

    Loved your snaps of Colombia and can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

  7. Poland is one of my favorite places, I’m hoping to go back again soon! The Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow is incredible. Try not to stay somewhere on the market square in Krakow since the bugler at the basilica will wake you up every hour 🙂 Your pictures from Colombia are incredible!!

  8. I’m so excited for you to be travelling to Poland (my motherland!). Krakow is stunning with lots to do. Obviously there’s Auschwitz which I highly recommend. It’s a tough and emotional day so you’ll want to have a drink after it’s over!

    The Milk Bar’s (Bar Mleczny) in Krakow are great. They were traditionally the lunch canteens for the working class, run by locals cooking ‘grandma’s food’. They’re no frills and are cheapIf you want to taste real polish dishes as if you were eating at Grandma’s then these are the place. Don’t be put off by the potentially straight-to-the point service.They may also close early (6/7pm)so I would check opening times before heading to one

    Krakow also has many bars and some great ones underground. Definitely find some good Polish vodka to taste (another of our past times 😉 !). Apart from that, Old Town and the Castle is beautiful so you won’t go wrong exploring there.

  9. You will love Krakow! In addition to the obvious (Auschwitz-Birkenau, Wielickza Salt Mine, Wawel Castle, Kazimierz), be sure to duck into the Church of St. Peter and Paul! Free and doesn’t take long, but it’s one of my favorite cathedrals–full of intricate statues and it has an open crypt.

    Looking forward to reliving the place through you!

  10. anirban roychowdhury

    Wait what does king’s reading list have to do with gender or color? A good book is a good book regardless of who wrote it.

  11. Love hearing about Colombia- a place I never considered before! Hope you travel to more South American countries, they seem so adventurous, but I feel like you’re always going to Europe!

    1. Well, honestly, I go to Europe that’s where the travel blogging industry is at its strongest! I’m going there for two conferences and padding it with some extra travel in between because I’m already there!

  12. I also read Half of a Yellow Sun last month while house sitting and it was one of those books that really drove home how much I don’t know about some parts of the world. Since then I’ve been recommending it, along with a few others from the same bookshelf – they’re not about Biafra but really great reads so I’ll pass them on to you too:

    Goodbye Sarajevo by Atka Reid & Hana Schofield
    Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill
    Emma’s War by Deborah Scroggins

  13. I’d suggest you skipping Zakopane and head to Tatras in Slovakia. You could do like this: Bratislava – High Tatras – bus to Zakopane – bus to Cracow – Warsaw, it should be easier and makes more sense than Bratislava-Cracow-Zakopane. And let me know when you’re in Warsaw, I can play a guide as I did to numerous other bloggers passing by 🙂

      1. I really like Strbske Pleso but from Tatranska Lomnica you can take the cable car up to Lomnicky Stit or hike to Zelene Pleso (and that’s a really spectacular place!). In the off season Polish side should be fine too but I prefer Slovak Tatras to be honest

    1. We couldn’t agree more. 🙂 Slovakia’s High Tatras is a place that we love so much! Strbske pleso is easily accessible and it’s a beautiful lake. There’s cabins either from Strbske pleso or from Tatranska Lomnica and the views are stunning.

  14. wow, you are so great Kate. You’ve been a lot of wonderful places on your own. I hope you travel more and more. Hoping for your next adventure. Good luck.

  15. I’ve had hives like that before. Lips and eyes swollen shut and having to go back and forth to the doctor for medicine. Right when I was about to have the scratch test done to maybe get an answer I got pregnant and they stopped. Now I get them off and on only sometimes and not as bad. But carrying an antihistamine with me when I go places is an excellent idea. Thank you so much.

  16. Hi Kate! I went to Krakow for the first time in 2014 and fell instantly in love with Poland! If you have any time to get out to Auschwitz or Birkenau, they’re totally life-changing. I also did a bike tour with Krakow Bike Tour and loved all the places we went – specifically Kazimierz. Have fun!

  17. Kate I totally understand the hives issue. For many years I have broken out in hives for no obvious reason. I had allergy testing last year and found out I have a significant number if environmental allergies. But there are still times I break out, and have no idea why. Unfortunately for me…..I am sensitive to medications so I usually have to suffer through ?

  18. Great post !….columbia seems like an adventurous .Would seriously think of going there on my next holiday.
    Great pics by the way…can wait to read your next post ,,,,!

  19. Colombia is a place we barely know anything about… look forward to reading your posts about it!
    As for Krakow, we were amazed how many huge and beautiful churches are in that tiny old town! Other than the famous St Mary, our favorite is Church of St. Francis of Assisi which has such a colorful interior. It’s free to visit and it’s on your way if you walk in the old town anyway. 😉
    And try Zapiekanka, it’s a cheap and delicious street food! 🙂

  20. Gorgeous photos, as always! When I got inexplicable, non-allergy hives, my doctor said it was pityriasis rosea. It’s fairly common; I’ve had a couple friends who had it also. Maybe that’s what you’ve got? Either way, glad you had an antihistamine! Good tip.

  21. I had hives really bad in college and kind of off and on throughout the years. Or well, not really hives but something called “dermatographism” where if you scratch yourself or brush against something, the skin that is rubbed against will raise up in red angry welts that look like hives and (they were sometimes itchy). Taking anti-histamines didn’t make them go away but it did stop the itchiness. It made me super self conscious because I didn’t want anyone asking about them since I had no idea what triggered it. At the time I was going through a difficult time personally so I think stress had something to do with it.

    And I also recently discovered Governor’s Island (before this blog post) a few weeks ago. Most under rated park in NYC and I find the history behind it pretty interesting.

  22. I love Krakow!! Such a great little town with awesome public transport. Auschwitz was eye-opening, don’t miss it. I didn’t make it to the Salt Mine. I really enjoyed the Gestapo Headquarters (enjoyed may not be the right words) but its free and I learnt a lot. Check out Propaganda bar, I think you’ll like it – very cool. Other than that, eat lots of pierogi!

  23. My doc prescribed me to take a Zyrtec every day.

    This summer I got diagnosed with a whole truck load of food allergies that

    1. I didn’t know I had (don’t cause anaphalactic shock
    2. Were the cuase of my horrific heartfburn

    She prescribed the zyrtek for the inflamation caused by eating all these things for 32 years and not having a clue I was allergic. But she wants me to keep taking it becuase of the high likelyhood that I’ll end up eating small amounts of these inadvertenatly (I’m seriously allergic to everything delicious…)

    So sorry you weren’t able to find out the cause. You may want to get some more extensive allergy tests, because even if they aren’t causing hives they may be causing inflammation that leads to heart disease. SUPER FUN.

    And Zyrtek is amazing.

  24. That’s an awesome summary of the month. This is my second time visiting your blog since I stumbled your blog last August, and looking at your photos makes me secretly envious while commenting here. ^_^

    Regards and more power.
    Daisy of Mosafer Fine Art of Travel

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