AK Monthly Recap: January 2018

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This month was all about moving. In fact, I didn’t leave New York once within the month. This is the third time in two years that I’ve gone a full month without leaving the city, and I’ve made my peace with it, but I’m looking forward to getting back to international travel next month and beyond.

Honestly, I stayed put this month because I moved into a new apartment. Moving is a pain in the ass to begin with, especially so in New York, and especially especially so when you’re in New York and self-employed, so I was happy to dedicate this month to pulling off a move with minimal difficulties.

The Move

Let’s talk about the move. I didn’t want to move in the first place, but my landlady was selling the brownstone — I had no choice. I knew that I wanted to stay in the neighborhood, so I set my sights on apartments within a three-block radius (seriously, I truly love where I am).

When I narrowed down the options, I was deciding between two apartments: one that cost $300 more than what I was currently paying, and one that cost $50 more than I was currently paying. And honestly, the $300+ one was SO much nicer — it was another brownstone, literally across the street from my current place, had a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, a separate office that could double as a guest room, and incredible Harlem architectural details like multiple fireplaces and cutout wooden dividers.

But I told myself that I needed to be smart. Last time I chose an apartment, I spent more than I intended; I wanted to be more conservative this time around. So I chose the $50+ place, just one block away.

You guys have always had honesty from me, so I’ll continue to be honest. I really like my new apartment — it’s an upgrade in many ways. There’s a lot more space, especially in the bedroom. I can walk on both sides of the bed now. I can fit a desk, or multiple desks. I have a walk-in closet in the bedroom and three bonus closets. I can still fit a full-size dining table and multiple bookcases with ease. The kitchen is its own room: a separate, eat-in kitchen. There is more storage than I could ever possibly need. Everything is gut-renovated. And the fact that this blog pays for an apartment of my own in New York makes me feel grateful every day.

But there are downsides. It’s noisier — the people next door blast music all the time. There’s a way-too-frequent scent of marijuana that wafts into my apartment. The building isn’t nearly as well cared for as my previous building. My buzzer isn’t working. And the floors are SO slanted, it throws off the whole apartment!

The apartment: clean, organized, no art on the walls yet. Spot the quokka!

All in all, this is a lateral move. I appreciate the extra amenities, but I don’t explode with happiness every time I walk into my apartment the way I did with my last place. While I originally envisioned myself living here for two years or so, I’m not sure that I’ll be staying here beyond the year. Which means I may not decorate it as much as I originally intended. We’ll see how it goes.

One last thing: if you’re moving in New York (or any other city that they serve), I highly recommend Bin-It. They are a service that rents out plastic bins, a fantastic alternative to putting together a million cardboard boxes. They dropped the bins off at my old place on a Saturday and picked them up at my new place two weeks later. I spent about $200 (including a $30 walk-up charge for the brownstone), which included bubble wrap and cardboard plate and glass dividers, and it was worth every penny.

Destinations Visited

New York…and that was it.

Highlights

Finally seeing Miss Saigon on Broadway. Miss Saigon has been my favorite-show-I’ve-never-seen for 20 years now. Of course I procrastinated and waited until its last week before closing — but what a magnificent show. It was well worth the wait and I would have seen it multiple times had I gone earlier.

Seeing it is SO different from just listening to it. For example, I had no idea that JOHN of all characters was the moral center of the show! John, the wild soldier who insisted on buying his buddy a prostitute against his will! He was the only one who tried to do the right thing after the war! I left with a lot less respect for Chris especially. TELL YOUR WIFE YOU HAVE ANOTHER WIFE, DUDE!

When Miss Saigon premiered nearly 30 years ago, there was a yellowface uproar — the Engineer, a Vietnamese character, was originated by the white actor Jonathan Pryce. As magnificent as Pryce was in that role, Miss Saigon is one of literally two shows in the traditional Broadway canon with roles for Asian actors. The other is The King and I. There were a lot of protests on Broadway.

Since then, though, the show has only had Asian actors play the Engineer. And I was lucky to see Filipino star Jon Jon Briones play the role. He was actually in the original ensemble as a 22-year-old! Today the Engineer is the top billed star. It’s interesting, because while the other characters have similar looks and voices to the originals, Briones is SUCH a different Engineer in looks, demeanor, and sound! A huge personality in a tiny package, conniving and able to shift in a moment, a man who can convince you in a fraction of a second that he’s seen awful things and can use that to his advantage.

To my surprise, a lot of the lyrics were different from the original. This is actually the version currently on Spotify if you want to listen. For example, “The Movie In My Mind” is changed from “The movie plays and plays / a screen before me fills / he takes me to New York / he gives me dollar bills” to “The movie plays and plays / I find my true romance / he takes me to a place / where I don’t have to dance.

I did appreciate the Engineer’s line “Uncle Ho…ho ho ho…I’ll have to call you from New York!” being changed to “Uncle Ho…holy shit!

I also got to see the Michelangelo exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you’re in town, it’s well worth a visit! It’s mostly drawings that were eventually turned into paintings, and they have a nice Sistine Chapel replica.

Speaking at the New York Times Travel Show. This was my third year speaking at the show and it went very well. I spoke at industry day about the relationship between brands and bloggers/influencers, and on Saturday I spoke on behalf of Quark Expeditions about my upcoming trip to Antarctica in March. And as always it was nice to have my friend Amanda visit and be my first houseguest in my new apartment!

Marching in the 2018 Women’s March. I was proud to go back, hold up my “Not Today, Satan” sign and continue to fight for the rights of women, people of color, LGBTQIA people, the environment, and more. I didn’t expect much this year, but it was just as crowded and crazy as the previous year!

Challenges

Honestly, the Aziz Ansari story. Because it forced me to do a lot of personal accounting within my own relationships and made me realize that I am far more conditioned to please others at my own expense than I thought.

This has probably been one of the more controversial stories of the past few months — and I say controversial not to mean shocking, but that people have so many wide-ranging opinions about it. The piece I read that most closely reflected my personal thoughts is this column by Jill Filipovic in The Guardian. I encourage you to give it a read.

Most Popular Post

The Biggest Mistakes New York Tourists Make — This is required reading if you’re visiting New York soon!

Other Posts

This Year, Join Me In a 12-Book Challenge — Please join me in reading 12 themed books in 2018!

AK Monthly Recap: December 2017 — Everything I got up to in December, including Vegas.

Off the Beaten Path in Italy: A Tour by Vespa — I love the idea of this Vespa tour in Italy.

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

This post from the 2018 Women’s March was far and away the most popular Instagram photo I’ve ever done. Because I used that as an opportunity to discuss why I talk about politics frequently, both on this site and on social media.

One excerpt: “Every time I talk about political issues, I lose a few conservative readers. And that’s fine! International travelers skew heavily liberal to begin with, but even if they didn’t, I’ve been doing this as my full-time job for seven years. I can lose readers and be okay income-wise. But not every blogger is in my position. So I speak up. Again and again, I speak up, and not only when it’s comfortable to do so. Since I was a child, my political views have always been that the fortunate should give more to help the vulnerable. I try to live that in my words and actions.”

For more live updates, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

Fitness Update

I actually forgot to do a fitness update last month! December was a far-more-indulgent-than-expected time, particular in terms of diet, but January got me back into gear, eating better and working out harder. I’ve been working out regularly for more than a year now and I love having real muscles on my body!

At one point my trainer Gayle pulled out a list she had found online: Things Every Lifter Should Be Able To Do. “Bench your body weight; deadlift double your body weight; hold a two-minute plank; sleep with only one pillow; sit on the floor without using your hands, knees, or shins; hang for thirty seconds and pull up. Which of these things do you think you can do?” she asked me.

“Um, sleep with only one pillow?”

We had a good laugh over that.

What I Watched This Month

This month I got back into Third Rock From the Sun, which streams on Amazon Prime. My family loved this show when I was growing up and it was so nice to watch it over again. It’s really a hilarious and genuine show — particularly its first season. If you need something light and funny to watch, look no further.

I watched a lot of Third Rock while bubble-wrapping my possessions this month.

What I Listened To This Month

My favorite music genre in the world is probably 90s R&B — and I listen to a LOT of 90s R&B playlists. But this month I found perhaps my favorite 90s R&B playlist of all. It’s called SOUL 4 REAL (I found it because I was in the mood to listen to “Candy Rain”) and it includes so many of my favorite 90s R&B hits. Bobby Brown’s “Every Step I Take.” Aaliyah’s “At Your Best (You Are Love).” LL Cool J’s “Hey Lover.” Next’s “Too Close.” Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack.” (If you don’t love this song YOU ARE A LIAR.) Listen and enjoy, my friends.

What I Read This Month

Earlier this year, I announced that my 12-book challenge would be reading authors from countries whose authors I had never read before.

Well. That was the plan. Then because I’m me, I decided 12 wasn’t enough. 25 would be a better goal. Or perhaps 30. So working my way through books by a variety of nationalities is my big goal for this year. So far I have read two: Cameroon and Albania.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (2016) — This is a wonderful novel about what it’s like to be an immigrant claiming asylum in New York City today. Jende, a Cameroonian man, emigrates to New York with his wife Neni and their young son. Jende gets the job opportunity of a lifetime driving for a wealthy Wall Street executive. But after Lehman Brothers collapses, his family’s ability to stay in the United States becomes tenuous at best.

This is a beautiful novel about the contemporary immigrant experience in New York, and I wish more people read novels like these instead of books about New York’s most privileged classes. It goes in directions you don’t imagine with kindness and dignity. What I most appreciate is that all the characters are nuanced — nothing about this world is black and white. This novel will make you grateful for all that you have and introduce you to a different side of Harlem. I have a lot of African immigrants in my neighborhood and I feel like this helped me understand their experience a bit better.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff (2018) — You’ve got to hand it to Trump — he’s full of surprises. Who would have thought that he could start a national book club? This book has been written about in depth, and I’m sure you’ve heard at least a bit about it. Michael Wolff was granted access to the disorganized White House and as a result, nobody questioned his presence. He saw a lot of crazy shit and wrote about it in depth.

The main criticisms of the book are that there are inaccuracies and Wolff doesn’t have a great reputation for being a journalist — only a gossipy hack at best. Still, though, he had a lot of bombshells in this book and it confirms virtually every story that has leaked out of the porous White House so far. It was tough to read — the information was very dense and absorbing it was akin to taking a sip from a fire hose. Still, though, it’s worth the read to just have an idea of the chaos that is going on in our government. Let’s hope this has an impact on the 2018 midterms.

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash (2013) — Finally, I got around to my “blind date with a book” that I purchased from Malaprops in Asheville, North Carolina, back in June. The book was covered in paper with the words “Clear-sighted, graceful, illuminating, tender, mesmerizing, chilling, LOCAL!” You buy the book without knowing what it is until you unwrap it. This novel is “To Kill a Mockingbird as told by Cormac McCarthy” — a child growing up in the hills of North Carolina in the 1980s with a mute (likely autistic) older brother witnesses something he shouldn’t see — and his family falls apart as a result.

To be truthful, I never would have chosen this book on my own — I’ve never been a huge To Kill a Mockingbird fan and I’m still scarred from reading McCarthy’s The Road. And I didn’t love it. It wasn’t my thing. I found it moved too slowly, revealed too little, and missed a lot of opportunities to flesh out the characters, especially the fascinating antagonist. But it has lots of rave reviews, so I think it’s just not my kind of book. Definitely give it a read if it sounds like your thing.

Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones (2014) — I have always been fascinated by the sworn virgins of Albania. In the rural northern mountains of the country, there is a practice where women are able to become men and assume all the rights and customs of men. They dress like men, go about their day as men. They are required to remain virgins for the rest of their life. When I found out there was a novel about a sworn virgin who emigrates to the US and reclaims her former life as a woman, written by an Albanian author, I knew I had to read it!

Sadly, I was disappointed. Like so many books I’ve read lately (including my least favorite read of 2017, Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling), the protagonist Hana is held at arm’s length and you never learn what she’s actually thinking. The process of becoming a man, then choosing to emigrate, then choosing to become a woman again could lead to so much introspection — but the book glosses over those parts. It’s more of a “This happened, then this happened, then this happened” novel without going into any character development or reasoning behind their actions. Though the relationship between Hana and her cousin did remind me of my Albanian friends who are cousins!

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (2018) — My first pick of the year from Book of the Month was a dystopic novel that imagines a not-so-distant future where abortion in all forms is banned in the United States, all in-vitro fertilization is banned, single people no longer have the right to adopt, and Canadians stop women at the border and get them arrested. The novel focuses on four women in a small Oregon coastal town: a 42-year-old teacher desperate to become a mother, her student who finds herself pregnant, her friend who is a mother of two in an unhappy marriage, and a local forest-dwelling woman suspected of concocting abortion potions from herbs.

I read this book in a day — I found it interesting and riveting and enjoyed the four different characters’ points of view. Even so, I found holes in the plot that bothered me — if Canada was forbidden, why wasn’t Mexico even mentioned once? Why did the characters keep so many secrets from each other? Why was the political climate in the country (particularly when it comes to protest) ignored? Even so, I found the book to be an entertaining read and would recommend it.

Coming Up in February 2018

JAPAN! After four months stateside, I’m so excited for an international trip! I’m working on a campaign with ANA (All Nippon Airways) to promote their routes through Japan. While ANA gave me the option of visiting Japan or traveling to another of their flight hubs in Asia, I couldn’t resist returning to one of my favorite countries.

On this trip I’m starting on the northern island of Hokkaido, a region I’m exploring for the first time. I’ll be based in Sapporo and attending the Sapporo Snow Festival. I also hope to visit the pretty nearby town of Otaru and the landscape of Noboribetsu, an onsen town home to a sulfurous, steaming mountains and waterfalls.

Next up is Tokyo, where I hope to check out some of the wackier attractions I missed the first time around. After that, I decided to stay a few days longer on my own dime, so I’ll be going back to my beautiful Kyoto to hopefully photograph the temples in the snow. I may add a day trip to Hiroshima, which I missed the first time around, and I might revisit Osaka for street food and fugu (pufferfish). Finally, I come back to Tokyo and I’m splurging on something VERY special — two nights at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, the Lost in Translation hotel.

Any suggestions for Japan? Let me know!

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39 thoughts on “AK Monthly Recap: January 2018”

  1. It is so amazing and inspiring of you to continue to speak your mind about important issues! I am behind you 100% on that. If there had been a Women’s March in my country again this year, I would have attended again. 🙂

    Have a wonderful time in Japan! I would love to visit; mostly to check out animal cafes in Tokyo, Zao Fox Village, and catch a glimpse of Hokkaido flying squirrels, which are probably the single cutest animals on Earth.

  2. Do you think you’ve settled down permanently in New York now? It seems like an exciting, constantly evolving city to live in, especially for those who have been on the road for extended periods of time. It’s my guess that the reverse culture shock and boredom that usually comes with coming home wouldn’t be as intense? What are you thoughts? By the way I love 3rd Rock from the Sun, what a great show to laugh with!

    1. Permanently is such a tall order! I don’t know if I’ve made a decision for the next 60+ years or so, but I absolutely hope to be living in New York long-term. We’ll see where life takes me. I do think it’s a great place to live after traveling for so long. So much stimulation, so many places to explore.

      1. Just a curioisity – in Australia – housing affordability is a significant issue for young people to get a foot in the door, for instance the average house price in Sydney and Melbourne is quite exorbitant. Do you think you will always be a person who is a renter so that you can maximise the lifestyle and culture opportunities of where you choose to live?

        1. You know, it’s hard to say. I can’t determine what I will or will not always be. People change and I won’t be so bold as to determine exactly how I will be in my forties, fifties and beyond. There’s also the possibility that I could eventually own property somewhere more affordable while continuing to rent in New York.

  3. Moving in New York is a special kind of hell. I had to do it 7 times over 9 years and it never got any easier. I hope you’re able to make it feel homey so you don’t have to move yet again!

    Also, a recommendation: The Meurseult Investigation if you’ve never read an author from Algeria. A really searing, wrenchingly beautiful postcolonial take on Camus’ The Stranger — it’s one of my favorites of the last few years. Also, Season of Migration to the North from Tayeh Salih (Sudan) – another postcolonial adaptation of yet another problematic text from the Western canon, Heart of Darkness. Both really excellent!

  4. I’ve been to Japan 10 times – I’m an elementary and middle school Japanese teacher in Australia. In my mind Hiroshima is the best base for travelling to see quiet, non touristy, Japan that once was. Miyajima is a short day trip from Hiroshima. It’s a spiritual island full of wild roaming deer. The red floating tori gate in the ocean is regarded as one of the three top views in Japan. Miyajima is a beautiful addition to a day in Hiroshima, which can be intense.

  5. I’m currently working on my MA in French, which usually means reading books by a bunch of crusty old white guys, but I’m in a seminar called “Violence, human rights, and Francophone expressions” that has been so awesome and diverse! So far my favorite has been Ananda Devi’s “Ève de ses décombres”, which does have an English translation. Devi is Mauritian – highly recommend for your challenge!

  6. Hi Kate!

    I can’t wait to hear all about your adventures in Japan. My husband and I are looking into that for a possible 10 year anniversary trip. I do have one suggestion for you for Tokyo you can visit the Studio Ghibli museum which is based around all the anime from Studio Ghibil Studios. It is really cool and unique and I think you might like it. You have to purchase tickets ahead of time but here is the website http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/

  7. Looking forward to hearing all about your Japan trip as my daughter and I will be going April 2019 with her school! Also love seeing what you are reading as well as your other travels. Excited to see what you think of Antarctica as I read “My Last Continent” by Midge Raymond last year and it peaked my interest!

  8. Congratulations in your new place ! Don’t want to alarm you, but to my amazement, electricity power supply is right next to the kitchen sink !?! Again, I can not wait to hear all about your action adventures stories in Japan ! Have a great time !

  9. Thank you for all the tips you give us regarding… tons of things in life! Politics, books, diva cup, places to visit, you name it. Thank you. I really enjoy reading your blog and have been a fan for a while now.
    Love your writing; love your honesty and genuineness.

    Have you watched “Cable Girls” on Netflix? It is about 4 strong women who work as operators in a big telephone company in Madrid. It is also about female empowerment in the 1920s. Lots of suspense, secrets, some espionage… Definitely a high quality drama.

    I look forward to reading about your trip to Japan.

  10. Hopefully once you get settled in your new place you’ll come to like it — sometimes it can take a while (though what do I know? I’m constantly moving!)

    I always love your book suggestions and your thoughtful response to what you’re reading. Gives me some good ideas.

    Can’t wait to hear about Japan. There’s a chance I’ll be going there this summer, so your info will be most useful 🙂

  11. So jealous that you’re staying at the Park Hyatt hotel! I went there the first time I was in Tokyo because I was obsessed with Lost in Translation but just stayed for a glass of wine…. let’s just say that covering the fees to sit in the bar, that was by far the most expensive glass of wine that I’ve ever nursed in my life! Enjoy!

  12. The Atomic Bomb dome and the memorials surrounding that site in Hiroshima are a must visit. I visited the site during the 70th anniversary year of the atomic bomb drop. An emotional experience at this world heritage site.

    While you’re there you have to try the Hiroshima style dish of Okonomiyaki. Much better than the Osaka styel in my opinion. The floating tori at Miyajima is pretty cool too.

  13. I LOVE that you are political and proud and strong in your opinions. It makes your content more meaningful, somehow (although, hey, I’m down for margaritas on a beach too).

  14. Loved this update, I feel like you made the right decision apartment wise.
    It’s sometimes better not to take risks and maybe one day you will be able to afford an apartment $500 +

  15. Though you didn’t leave the city at all in January, it still seemed pretty fun! You kept yourself busy with things that mattered to you, that’s important.
    Hopefully you’ll get a new apartment that you really like and can move in soon.

  16. Hi Kate, really enjoyed the read and the new place looks really nice! Been following your blog since I was 18, I’m 23 now and finally abroad doing some travelling and volunteering in Tanzania. If you have some time I would really value and cherish any input on my blog. Sending good vibes to the new place, Brunna 🙂

  17. Congrats on moving! I feel like I may have recommended Bin-it to you when you first announced you were moving but I could be wrong… My sister recommended them to me when I moved last fall from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn. I didn’t get the extra bubble wrap or the cardboard dividers (I can’t remember those options popping up when I ordered them) but I know for sure I will use them in any upcoming move. It made the process less stressful for me and I remember thinking “I can’t possibly use up 20 bins for all my stuff.” Famous last words, I definitely used all the bins.

  18. It is so Wonderful and inspiring of you to continue to speak your mind about important issues! .?
    Have aAmazingl time in Japan! I my Dream to visit; mostly to check out animal in Tokyo, Zao Fox Village,I do think it’s a great place to live after traveling for so long. So much stimulation, so many places to explore.

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