Kate wears a red dress and stands in front of a wrought-iron gate to a mansion, surrounded by purple flowers, in Merida, Mexico

AK Monthly Recap: February 2020

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Well, this month didn’t go the way I anticipated. On the travel and life side, it was fantastic — I spent the whole month based in Mérida and did trips all over the Yucatán Peninsula.

At the beginning of the month, Coronavirus was in the news and my traffic took a slight hit. By the end of the month, I had lost one third of my traffic and a ton of my income as people stopped researching and booking travel.

It’s a tough hit to suddenly lose a huge chunk of your income for something you can’t control. I am trying not to worry and instead focus on what I can do to generate additional income at this point in time. I’m expecting a lull of a few months before things pick back up again.

That said, I’m in a good position. I’ve paid ahead for many of the next two months’ expenses and I’ll be based in low-cost countries. As a current nomad with a digital business, I can lower my overheard when I need to; brick-and-mortar businesses don’t have that option.

Finally, I am SO grateful that I no longer have to pay rent in New York. One reason why I left was because I anticipated a recession hitting soon, and this is pretty much the equivalent of a recession for people who work in the travel industry, though hopefully it will be more short-lived.

If you’re continuing to travel, no matter where you go, I recommend you peruse small businesses whenever you can. Guesthouses, restaurants, tour companies. They are going to be hurting a lot this year.

Kate stands in front of a huge Mayan pyramid at Uxmal.
Uxmal — like Chichén Itza with far fewer people!

Destinations Visited

Mérida, Chichén Itza, Valladolíd, Izamal, Hecelchakán, Campeche, Uxmal, Chocholá, Homún, José María Morelos, Bacalar, Mayapán ruins, Pichyá, Acanceh, Chiquilá, and Holbox, Mexico

Kate and Sarah covered in dark brown mud for the Mayan healing ceremony.
All muddy pre-Mayan healing ceremony.

Highlights

Living in Mérida. If the first month in Mérida was about getting our bearings, the second month was about enjoying our routines. Mérida is such a fabulous city and I couldn’t have asked for a better base after leaving New York. It has so many things I loved about New York (friendships, great restaurants, walkability) and some wonderful things that New York doesn’t have (heat and affordability).

My sister’s visit. My sister came to visit Mérida for a few days — her first visit ever to Mexico! We visited some of the coolest cenotes I’ve ever seen, we climbed the pyramids at Mayapán, we did a Mayan healing ceremony, we drank mezcal margaritas at cantinas with live salsa and dancing, and of course, we ate a ton of great food.

An insanely fun weekend in Bacalar. Ten of my friends and I took off to Bacalar for the weekend and it was not only one of the most fun places I’ve been in Mexico, it was also the absolute most beautiful place in Mexico I’ve ever visited. I already wrote about it here.

A sweet little weekend in Campeche. Campeche is a bite-sized city that doesn’t get a ton of visitors, but I found it to be a lovely place to overnight. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town is much prettier, neatly, and more stately than central Mérida, and the malecon on the edge of the sea is a great place to take a walk at sunset.

Cenote-hopping. The best part of traveling in the Yucatán is getting to visit lots of cenotes, and I visited a ton.

My favorite hacienda cenote — kind of like a resort, where you can come for the day or stay overnight, and enjoy a pool as well as the cenote — was San Lorenzo Oxman, just outside Valladolíd. The cenote is deep, jungle-y, and not too crowded, despite being close to Chichén Itza. I’d love to go back for a full day.

My favorite wild cenote — essentially just a cenote, a bathroom, and little else — was Cenote Nah Mozon, a wild 30-minute journey on an insanely bumpy road outside the town of Pixyá. It was huge, deep, incredibly blue, and like something out of the ancient world. Extremely hard to get to — we did an Airbnb Experience tour with a local who drove — and so worth it.

Another notable cenote was San Ignacio in the town of Chocholá. The underground cenote was small and low-key, making it a bit underwhelming, but the restaurant on-site served the absolute BEST sopa de lima — a Yucatecan soup with chicken or turkey, tortillas, and lots of lime — I’ve ever had. The chicken was rubbed with lots of achiote. I would go back just for that soup.

I also did a cenote tour of three wild cenotes outside Homún, a big cenote-strewen town near Mérida, with Urban Adventures, who comped me and gave Charlie a discount. These were definitely off the beaten path cenotes, they were great to photograph, and it was a fun day out.

Lots of cool stops along the way. I think the Chichén Itza ruins are a bit overrated, especially with the hawkers everywhere making jaguar noises to scare people, but both Mayapán and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Uxmal were wonderful sets of ruins that weren’t nearly as crowded. And Izamal was a lovely little city, all painted bright yellow.

Kate floats in a tiny bright blue cenote, surrounded by rocks and a wooden staircase.
Swimming at Cenote Tres Oches near Homún

Challenges

Strep throat. Awful timing, too. I ended up missing a party my friends threw — a fancy all-day party with catering and bartenders. UGH! I had been so excited to go.

Strep is incredibly painful and sucks so much that I remember every time I’ve had it as an adult — 2005, the day before classes started my senior year of college (I had to email each professor and apologize for missing the first class); 2011, when I was in Hanoi and shivering uncontrollably in my hostel bed; 2018, when I got the antibiotic-resistant Type A version for the first time and was in pain for a week.

Luckily it’s very easy to get a strep test in Mexico — there are several pharmacy chains that have a doctor on-site (!!). I went to Farmacia Ahorro. You get a ticket from the pharmacy, see the doctor, he or she examines you and writes a prescription, and you get it at the pharmacy. You tip the doctor (most locals tip 50 pesos or $2.50, but you can tip more if you want).

I hurt my foot, which hurt my leg, hurt my hip, and upward…When I was in my early twenties, I developed tendinitis in my right ankle. I was in a boot for a month or so (taking public transportation in Boston in a giant boot was a hell of a learning experience) and after I took it off, my arch had issues, I could no longer wear most heels, and I had to start wearing insoles in everything I wore.

This is why I’m always recommending shoes by The Walking Company in my posts, especially their Abeo line — they are among the few shoes I can wear comfortably without insoles.

Anyway — since getting to Mérida we’ve been working out first thing in the morning, by the pool, barefoot. I should NEVER have been doing this without shoes, given my history, and after a few weeks some lunges sent shooting pain down my foot. My foot hurt for weeks, the pain traveled up to my leg, hip, and back, and I was terrified that I had ruined my foot long-term like I did in my early twenties.

After a few weeks of taking it easy, though, the pain disappeared. A miracle. I’m going to be a lot more careful going forward, as this is the second injury in a few months that has taken a few weeks to heal. Welcome to your mid-thirties, kids.

My trip to Las Coloradas got cancelled. I got to see a ton of the Yucatán over the last few months, but one attraction high on my list was the bright pink lakes of Las Coloradas. There was no time to give it the few days it deserved, so I opted for a very long day trip from Mérida.

And I got a text the night before saying it was cancelled because it hadn’t reached the minimum of six people. SIX! Had I known that, I never would have put all my eggs in this basket…

One big sandwich mistake. When my boyfriend Charlie and I went to Campeche for the weekend, we stopped in Hecelchakán, a small town famous for making the best cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) in the region. We raced down to get there before they ran out for the day and we ordered some cochinita tacos and tortas (sandwiches).

Surtido o solo carne?” the man asked as he made the tortas.

“Surtido,” Charlie replied.

We grabbed our sandwiches and started to eat them while fending off the local stray dogs.

“Weird — this tastes kind of like liver,” I said to him. “It’s dark like that.”

Then we figured out what surtido, or assorted, really means: “throw all the random pig organs on top of the meat.” YIKES. That’s a mistake we won’t make twice! The cochinita was fabulous, though.

Campeche's bright green, orange, and yellow buildings, all over stately with white trim.
Campeche had the most beautiful, stately streets.

Most Popular Blog Post

The Solo Woman’s Guide to House Sitting While Traveling — Ever considered watching homes and pets in exchange for free accommodation around the world? My guest writer April shares her experiences and shows you how to do the same thing.

A Valladolid street covered with hundreds of brightly colored flags.
Valladolíd’s streets bring a lot of cheer.

Other Blog Posts

Solo Female Travel in Belize — Is Belize Safe? — A comprehensive guide to just exactly what it’s like for a woman to travel alone in Belize.

Solo Female Travel in Turkey — Is Turkey Safe? — For this guide, I hired the ultimate Turkey travel expert, my friend Katie, who has been living in Istanbul and traveling around Turkey solo for several years.

A Guide to Bacalar, Mexico’s Lake of Seven Colors — I already finished my guide to Bacalar! This has all the information you’ll need to plan a great trip to this fabulous corner of Mexico.

Giant white letters reading LOVE surrounded by greenery in Bacalar.
There’s lots to LOVE in Bacalar!

Majorly Reworked Posts

The Joys and Challenges of Traveling in Sicily — I loved my time in Sicily, but I was surprised by how hard it was, especially considering how often I travel to Italy.

Why Travel to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua? — A big guide to the Central American beach town I love so much.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Petra, Jordan — I loved my time in Jordan but my information was old, dating back to 2011. The posts have been consolidated and brought into the present day.

Floating in the Dead Sea in Jordan — Curious about heading to the Dead Sea? Here’s how to do it on the Jordan side.

The malecon in Campeche, a walkway along the edge of the sea.
Campeche’s malecon is a great place for a stroll.

News and Updates

One big update — I’m heading to the Galápagos in April! I’m traveling with G Adventures, going on this 10-day trip through the Central and Eastern islands. G and I are partnering on this trip — after working together in 2012, we’ve wanted to do another trip together, and it took this long to make it finally happen!

What I love about this Galápagos trip is that it’s on a small ship — just 16 passengers — an enormous difference from the previous “small ship” expeditions I’ve taken in Canada and Antarctica with 150-200 passengers. Small ships like this one make a minimal impact in this protected region.

I’ll be adding on a week in mainland Ecuador on my own. Still working out exactly where I’ll be going, but chances are it could include Mindo, Cotopaxi National Park, and Baños, in addition to Quito, from where my tour departs.

I can also confirm that after last year’s Very Canadian Summer, I am heading back to Canada this summer as well, and hopefully multiple times. I’m thrilled — I really fell in love with Canada last year, and I love that so many of you have already planned trips to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland after reading my posts! More details soon.

Kate lying in a hammock in bright turquoise water in Bacalar.
It’s all about Bacalar in a hammock!

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Without a doubt, Los Rapidos in Bacalar was made for Instagram! I love this photo. For more live updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

What I Watched This Month

The Taco Chronicles. This documentary series on Netflix has standalone episodes about different kinds of tacos — al pastor, carne asada, carnitas, etc. It might be a little on-the-nose for my month in Mexico but this is a delightfully charming series!

Unfortunately, though, it’s reduced my desire to ever eat carnitas again. Once you see how it’s made, you can’t ever unsee it…

Oh, and I also watched Love is Blind — started the marathon when I had strep and I couldn’t stop watching. Yep, it’s trashy and fascinating as several strangers date someone through a wall and decide to get married within days.

Some couples are awful, some are SO lovely, and perhaps because it’s on Netflix and not a network, it shows just how much people drink on reality shows. YIKES.

Kate swimming in a bright neon blue cenote.
Cenote Noh Mozon is the best wild cenote I’ve ever seen.

What I Read This Month

Open Book by Jessica Simpson (2020) — Jessica Simpson was one of the top subjects of gossip magazines in the early 2000s. This memoir talks about her rise to fame as a Christian singer and virgin to marriage; her relationship and marriage to Nick Lachey and the show Newlyweds; their divorce and her wild relationships; and how she realized she was struggling with alcoholism.

I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. I’m part of the TRL generation, watching MTV daily after school when Jessica Simpson broke out, and I’ve followed her for years. What a crazy story. She tells the truth about a lot of rumors (like what REALLY happened with Johnny Knoxville — my heart was pounding the whole time). John Mayer does NOT come off well here. Neither does Nick. And while I was initially skeptical of Eric, who became her husband a few years ago, he sounds like a really interesting guy.

But more than anything, this book underscored how the media enjoyed tearing her down and ripping her apart. They showed no mercy. Jessica is an incredibly nice and generous person — that comes through so clear in the book. And I feel awful, because I was complicit in making fun of her as the media dictated. She didn’t deserve any of that.

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro (2019) — When author Dani Shapiro did a DNA test on a whim, it set in motion a series of life-altering events. Soon it became clear that her beloved father was not her biological father. This memoir talks about the detective work that led her to her biological father, a medical student who donated sperm at a fertility clinic, and how she wrestled with her identity as a Jewish woman who was raised Orthodox and the implications of her family keeping so many secrets.

I devoured this book. I think the most fascinating part was learning about fertility treatments in the 1960s — medical students were expected to donate sperm because they were considered top tier humans, and no accommodations were made for physical characteristics (her father was dark; her sperm donor was blonde and blue-eyed, which led to people accusing Shapiro of not really being Jewish her entire life). This book raises a lot of questions and I found it to be ultimately satisfying.

Ramshackle restaurants and bars on the beach at Isla Holbox.
Coming back to Holbox this month!

Coming Up in March 2020

It’s going to be a BIG month! Charlie and I started March on Isla Holbox. From Holbox we are heading to San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas for a few days, then spending a week based in Oaxaca. We conclude our three months in Mexico with 10 days in Mexico City.

I’m really excited to discover more of inland Mexico — these three cities are new to me. We’ve already booked a lot of activities: in Oaxaca, a mole and mezcal tasting event and a day trip around the surrounding countryside; in Mexico City, a party boat day on Xochimilco, a night of pro wrestling at Lucha Libre, and reservations at Pujol and Quintonil, two of the best restaurants in the world.

On March 25 I fly to Peru solo — country #84! I’ll be starting the month in Lima (and eating at Central and Maido, two more of the best restaurants in the world!). After a few days I’ll head southward to Paracas, Huacachina, and Arequipa. From there? We shall see!

What are you excited about this month? Share away!

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16 thoughts on “AK Monthly Recap: February 2020”

  1. Thank you Kate for your facebook update on the virus and travel. My husband and I are taking our honeymoon in a few weeks to croatia, and were really struggling with the decision to still go or not. In the end, we decided to shift our itinerary slightly to hit more off the beaten path (aka less populated) and still go, and reached out to a bunch of small tourist companies for tours to make sure we were patronizing local businesses. I know I’m privileged in this regard because I am healthy and young, but your post really encouraged me to continue our plans.

    1. I’m really glad to hear this, Liz. They will be glad for your business! My boyfriend and I have been talking a bit about going back to Croatia for my birthday. I’ve been wanting to visit Vis.

  2. Oooh I’m so excited to hear you’re heading to San Cristóbal de las Casas and Oaxaca this month! I really hope you write about them both and share your experiences – I’ve never been to either, but I’m strongly considering one of them for my next trip to Mexico.

  3. I am so excited to see that you’re going to Peru. That’s been on my bucket list for years, and I look forward to reading about your experiences there. I hope that you plan to see Machu Picchu. Everyone I know who has gone raves about how amazing it is. I’m sure you’ll experience lots of cool history and culture regardless!

    1. Machu Picchu is definitely happening! Funny, I have a friend who did a lot of trekking in Peru and he loved it but said Machu Picchu was actually his least favorite day. I’m curious to see how I find it.

  4. Ahhhhhh I hope you love lucha libre wrestling in CDMX. It was so fun when I went! Missing Xochimilco is a huge regret of mine; I can’t wait to see your pictures. I hope business comes back soon. I heard the other day that the French people have stopped doing the bisou kiss greeting, and it makes me so sad. I hope this coronavirus doesn’t permanently change the way we move and interact with one another. Best of luck and safe travels!

      1. Ahh, that will be perfect! I love CDMX – heading back for two weeks in April. I did a Xochimilco trip with Airbnb Experiences and it was such a highlight. Bunch of strangers, tequila, and a playlist full of jams – pretty wild and VERY fun!

  5. What an exciting month you have coming up! I’m looking forward to reading about the Galápagos Islands …when I went to Ecuador 10 years ago I could afford one big ticket item only and chose the Amazon. Don’t regret it for a moment but still have Galápagos on my list. I am heading off on a six month travel adventure Yes how’s that for crappy timing! First up is Costa Rica for a couple of weeks, thanks for your tips, Sámara beach is on the list!

  6. My husband and I spent a month traveling Ecuador in June 2013. The highlight of our trip was staying at the Secret Garden Cotopaxi near Cotopaxi National Park. They cook and serve three meals a day, and the food was fresh and absolutely delicious. We spent our days hiking, reading, and napping. The Pasochoa Summit Hike was particularly epic. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  7. Cenote Tres Oches looks divine! I hope Mérida will bounce back after all this COVID-19 ends. Such a beautiful place.

  8. Salvo Costarelli

    Hi Kate,
    I am from Sicily and I just read the last piece you posted on your blog,
    I write hoping that this will help…Given the circumstances in which we found ourselves in Italy.
    I will start by saying that although this pandemic is hitting badly my Country, young people are not prone to the Cvirus. Statistics are consistently confirming that. Also, being a woman you are even safer (70% of departed were male and also in this case the trend is steady).
    All that being said, Boston would be much safer and should you need a hospital at some point you might have more chances to be admitted and properly treated in Massachusetts, I believe. I don’t know what your health is like but here most part of the infected that passed away had preexisting conditions (2.7 on average).
    Long story short…If you are bent on taking the chance, and decide to stay in Mexico, take all possible measures to prevent the possibility of hospitalization. Precautions will involve putting on a face mask and wearing gloves while in public areas. “Social distancing” = no contact whatsoever with anybody at all. Stay at at least 1 m away from others and avoid any hugging, handshaking or else. Stay out as less as possible. We are forced to stay home and we hardly go out and only for compelling reasons. I am a free spirit (Besides being a tourism industry pro) and I feel like hitting the wall with my head while at home … But I know that what I am doing is what is required to overcome this circumstances and put in the past as soon as possible the horror we are living.
    As an EU citizen I wouldn’t feel safe in Czech Republic, neither in UK to be frank. So again, if I were in your shoes I would have considered staying where you are now (Taking all possible measures to prevent a contagion) or heading to Boston with your boyfriend, where possible (VISA issues etc).

    Off the top of my head…

    Don’t trust Mexico statistics and official data: it’s a metter of fact that they lack means and it applies to data detection too.

    Don’t think this is going to last a couple of weeks. Our Health Ministry just issued a forecast saying that we might be out of the woods by mid-May. And we are at least two weeks ahead of you. Consider if you are fine with spending two and a half months on lockdown in Mexico.

    Given the lack of means, they might decide to be very strict, imposing super restrictive measures to all people, especially to those living in the most crowded cities… Italy is a democracy. Nevertheless if they find us out of our homes for no justifiable reason they can fine us up to 3K Euros! I wonder how tough police might become in Mexico where people are cash-strapped and fine might not be working as a deterrent.

    Look at updates just once a day, otherwise you will freak out. And we (Your readers) want you in good health! 🙂 check this out  for updates on numbers and statistics.

    I write this in the hope that what I say may be of help to clear your mind.
    Sorry for the mistakes you will most certainly find.
    I am at your disposal if you need further info.

    Take care,
    Salvo

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