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Some months feel like they go by in a flash. This month was LONG. So long that I had to keep checking and making sure I didn’t miss a recap.
My weeklong trip to Mexico was undoubtedly a big part of the month, but I also got in a very busy networking week and a lot of more relaxing good times in New York as well.
- New York, New York
- Holbox and Mérida, Mexico
A fantastic trip to Mexico. This trip was perfect — in some ways, it was the best trip I’ve taken in a long time. Just a week long, escaping the cold for warmth, to new destinations in a familiar country, a mix of beach and city, enjoying one of my favorite cuisines, seeing old friends and making new ones. It was perfect in its simplicity.
Holbox is one of my new favorite islands in the world. It has such a chill atmosphere, it’s easy to get to but not too developed, and Casa Sandra is one of my favorite boutique hotels ever.
Mérida was a lot of fun, too. I stayed with my friend Nathan, a.k.a. Foodie Flashpacker, and he took me to tons of great restaurants all over the city! There’s a nice little travel blogger community in Mérida these days, and I love how relaxed the city feels. I’m sure I’ll be back for more.
A fabulous IMM and New York Times Travel Show. This is one of my favorite weeks of the year because it’s when all my friends descend upon my city! I always host someone, and this year I hosted my friend Jeremy from Living the Dream and Discover the Burgh. IMM is my favorite networking event of the year, and I met with around 30 different travel brands. I’m really excited about my travel plans for 2019 — I am planning SUCH cool trips. One clue: Canada.
On industry day at the New York Times Travel Show, I spoke on The Future of Travel Media panel for the third year in a row and got a lot of nice compliments afterward.
And because all of the bloggers were in town, we had a lot of nice evenings out. Best of all was our final bloggers-only party where we could finally hang out and catch up without being pressured to network and make connections.
Cooking up a storm with my Instant Pot. My dad got me one for Christmas and I immediately became obsessed with it. So much that I almost don’t want to cook something if I can’t do it in my Instant Pot!
I’ve made Indian dishes, risotto, stews, chili, rice, hard-boiled eggs, all in the fraction of the time it takes to make something regularly. You’ve got to get one! Next up, I want to tackle some Korean recipes, a dairy-free risotto using duck fat instead of butter, and…I must admit it…mac and cheese.
An exciting time in politics. It was inspirational to see so many badass women sworn into Congress for the first time, and it’s been exciting see so many great people announce their candidacy for president in 2020. This is the first time since 2004 that I didn’t commit to a candidate immediately, so it’s nice to take my time in picking who to support. If I were a betting woman, though, I’d put my money on Kamala Harris to win the primary. I think she’s the one to beat. We’ll see how that pans out.
Enjoying living in the best city in the world. I checked out some places for the first time like Industry City (and the Avocaderia), restaurant No. 7 with its famous broccoli tacos, the Whitney and its Andy Warhol exhibit, and the Felix coffeeshop, which looks like it’s straight out of a Wes Anderson movie.
Losing a friend. See In Memoriam at the bottom of this post for more about that. Everything else that happened this month pales in comparison.
Food poisoning. I like to say I have a cast-iron stomach — in all these years of travel, I’ve only gotten sick from food twice. Once in Cambodia and once in Thailand, both within a month of each other in 2013.
Then came Mexico, and I know exactly where I got it — a tiny restaurant at the Mexico City airport that looked terrible, but they had chilaquiles on the menu, and I REALLY wanted chilaquiles. The waiter brought them to me and they didn’t look good — they looked microwaved, and the chicken was tepid. But they were there, so I ate them. And I paid a huge price. (I know this was the place because Nathan and I ate all of the same food in the preceding 24 hours and he was fine.)
I’m just relieved the gastrointestinal purging didn’t hit until the morning after I got home, where I could deal with it in the privacy of my apartment. Thankfully it didn’t last long and I felt much better by the evening.
Most Popular Post
How to Be Less of a Traveling Asshole in 2019 — There are lots of ways we can all do better, myself included. Here’s how we get started.
The Biggest Mistakes Women Entrepreneurs Make — This post has a giveaway — a free negotiation guide to get you the money you deserve.
Solo Female Travel in Antarctica: I Did It and Loved It! — Everything you need to know about booking a trip to Antarctica on your own.
Traveling to Isla Holbox, Mexico: The Island I Didn’t Know I Needed — Holbox is now my new favorite destination in Mexico. Here’s why.
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Those Antarctica posts always kill! For more photos from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.
What I Listened To This Month
This month I listened to two very different podcasts — one lighthearted and one tragic. The lighthearted one is The Habitat. It tells the story of six strangers who sign up to simulate a mission to Mars by living in a tight, enclosed space on the side of a volcano in Hawaii. This podcast isn’t about the science, it’s about the sociology. The relationships formed, the bonds people made, the fights they had, and how they coped with being in each other’s faces for a full year. It’s a short, fun listen. By the fourth episode I was SO into it.
The more serious one is Broken Harts, about the Hart family. The two white mothers, their six adopted black children, and the mother who drove her entire family off a cliff last year, killing them all. The podcast delves into how this could have happened, and the intersection with race, adopting from the foster care system, being queer in less-than-welcoming regions, and how people create different versions of their life on social media. But overall, it’s an indictment on how we don’t value the lives of black children the way we value the lives of white children.
I have long been uncomfortable with violent true crime — I don’t like the idea of being entertained by the death of an innocent person. But I decided to try out this podcast on the recommendation of a friend to see if I still felt that way. The verdict? I got really into it, but I felt guilty about being into it. I’ll stick to nonviolent true crime from now on (like Slow Burn, about Nixon and Clinton’s scandals, and Last Seen, about the Gardner Museum heist).
What I Watched This Month
Um…how about those Fyre Festival documentaries?! I love a good documentary, and these ones were fascinating. I watched Hulu’s first, then Netflix’s, and both of them covered the disaster of a festival from interesting angles.
Beyond that, this month I really enjoyed Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix. It’s a sweet reality show in the same vein as Queer Eye and The Great British Bake-Off — just nice people doing interesting things. I’m reading her book now and I’m sure I’ll be doing my own KonMari purge in the next few months.
Movie-wise, If Beale Street Could Talk was one of the most beautiful-looking and beautiful-sounding movies I’ve ever seen. The whole thing was LUSH. Watch the trailer above — you’ll fall in love with it before seeing it.
I also really enjoyed Vice — especially Steve Carell’s demented depiction of Donald Rumsfeld, often breaking into Brick Tamland-esque giggles!
What I Read This Month
It’s a new year and time for a new challenge — the Book Riot #ReadHarder 2019 challenge! I like this challenge because it’s 24 books instead of 52 and it challenges you to really expand the kinds of books you read, especially from authors who don’t get enough attention. And because I’m insanely competitive with myself…I read 10 books this month.
Another delight — I finally (FINALLY!) got a New York Public Library card this month. I honestly can’t believe it took so long. But now I’m borrowing books like crazy! It’s like an invitation to read even more!
Here are the books I read this month, ranked from favorite to least favorite:
Umami by Laia Jufresa (2014) — The Belldrop Mews in Mexico City is home to several families, each of them living with grief — whether it’s the death of a younger sister, the disappearance of an ambivalent mother, or the passing of a lifelong partner. Each character muses on death and what it means for his or her own life now, and each of the characters interacts with each other in different ways.
This book is WONDERFUL — written so beautifully that I marveled at it continuously. It sounds like a bleak subject, but trust me — it’s magical and life-affirming and peaceful. Jufresa has so much compassion for each of her characters, and later in the book, the plot has a twist you’ll never predict. Just utterly, utterly wonderful from start to finish. It’s worth noting that last year I read a lot of translated books that I didn’t enjoy, and I attributed that in part to the translation, but the translation here is so lyrical you’d never guess it was originally written in Spanish. It was especially nice reading such a great book by a Mexican author while I was in Mexico. Category: an #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova (2007) — Dr. Alice Howland is an accomplished psychology professor at Harvard, a wife, a mother, a runner, a traveler. She begins experiencing forgetfulness here and there, but then it worsens when she can’t read the word “lexicon” aloud during a presentation. And one day while out running she can’t figure out how to get home. After seeing doctors, she’s diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50. The book is told from her point of view as she and her family cope with her diagnosis, and little by little, her memories fade away.
I could not put this book down — I finished it the same day I started it. It’s so tragic, but also beautiful at the same time. What would you do if you were diagnosed? What would you do if you did genetic testing and found out you would get it someday? What would you do if it were your spouse or parent? This book gave me new compassion for people living with Alzheimer’s — both victims and their loved ones. Lisa Genova herself is a neurologist, and I see she’s gone on to write more books about neurological conditions. I might check them out. Also, this book was turned into a movie and Julianne Moore won a long-overdue Oscar for her role as Alice. Category: a self-published book (the book was originally self-published and was later picked up by a publisher).
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (2014) — When you work in academia, you have a lot of letters to write — letters of recommendation, emails to your department chair, messages to both your ex-wife and former mistress apologizing for doing them both wrong. Jason Fitger is a creative writing professor at a middling university facing budget cuts across the board, and the story is told in witty, snarky, passive aggressive, curmudgeonly letters. The narrator is both unreliable and unlikable, but you can’t resist rooting for him, especially when he’s advocating on behalf of his best students.
This book reminded me so much of a history teacher I had in high school who took every opportunity to write overly flowery letters for the most mundane of subjects. (Yes, RMHS folks, it’s exactly who you think, and it was further hammered home when he uttered a “Huzzah!”). The letters are fun and I laughed continuously. If you work in academia, I think you’ll especially love this book. But more than anything, it’s a romance — a great love letter to language. Jason take every opportunity possible to dance joyfully with the written word. We should all celebrate that. Category: an epistolary novel or collection of letters.
George by Alex Gino (2015) — Everyone thinks that George is a boy — but she knows that she’s a girl. She’s never felt like a boy in her life. She reads girls’ magazines in secret, wanting to be just like them someday. George wants to play Charlotte in the school production of Charlotte’s Web, but her teacher won’t let her because she thinks George is a boy. This makes George upset because she knows if she plays Charlotte, her mother will realize who she really is. But George and her best friend Kelly have a plan, and soon George learns to soar like the girl she truly is — a girl named Melissa.
This is such a sweet and heartfelt book. I want everyone who has an eight-year-old in their life to read them this book. It shows you what it feels like to grow up trans — and what it means to be a good friend. I wanted to hug George and his friend Kelly so many times. I’ve always believed in the power of literature to instill empathy and compassion, and this book will do that for kids and adults alike. Category: a children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009.
You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson (2016) — In this collection of essays, Phoebe Robinson shares her thoughts on being a black woman in comedy today. From her love of U2 to adorable advice for her new biracial niece (she tells her how to be black, and you’ll laugh when you see who she got to teach her how to be white!), her stories will keep you captivated.
I really enjoyed this book — it was a perfect casual beach read while I was in Holbox. I especially loved the parts she wrote about behind the scenes in film and TV. One reason why humor memoirs by black authors aren’t read as much is because non-black readers don’t think they’ll be able to relate to them. Well, you know what? If you’re not black, you’re going to learn about a lot of things you’ve never had to think about before. Many of them about black hair. That being said, this book is for everyone, you will relate to it, and it will make you laugh. Category: a humor book.
New Erotica for Feminists by Caitlin Kunkel, Brooke Preston, Fiona Taylor, and Carrie Wittmer (2018) — What do feminists TRULY want? This book imagines it with wild hilarity. Maybe it’s the hot firefighter who saves all your animals — then goes back in and saves your first edition of Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Maybe it’s going on a date with a scientists who tells you how his team created a serum to make Ruth Bader Ginsburg immortal. This book is a collection of vignettes about just how good life could be.
I got this from my friend Amelia in our book club’s Secret Santa. I hinted that I wanted a feminist book and she told me this was the funniest one she could find. It’s a quick read, as a collection of scenes more than stories, but it’s a conversation piece to keep out on your coffee table. Category: a book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads.
Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan (2018) — In 1980, six college friends enter Philadelphia’s abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary at night; one of them disappears and is never seen again. Decades later, the body finally turns up, and one of them is arrested. The only person who can give an alibi to her arrested friend is Judith — formerly Quentin. In the late 1980s, she realized she was trans, faked her own death, transitioned, and lived a quiet life in Maine where nobody knew about her past. Judith realizes she needs to come out to the world in order to clear her friend’s name.
I’m pretty mixed on this novel overall, the first novel I’ve read by a trans author (though George ‘s author, Alex Gino, identifies as nonbinary). There were action-packed parts where I was so drawn into it, I couldn’t put the book down. And there were parts that made me cringe. Strangely, the worst parts were those written from the point of view of Judith. It was treacly and terrible and so hard to believe. Overall, I felt like the book didn’t deliver overall. Category: a novel by a trans or nonbinary author.
Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals by Patricia Lockwood (2014) — Last year I read and loved Patricia Lockwood’s memoir Priestdaddy, about growing up with a priest for a father. This year, I decided to check out the poetry that made her famous. It’s bizarre, and graphic, and wild. Personally, not my cup of tea, but with one big exception: “Rape Joke.” If you can find Patricia Lockwood’s poem “Rape Joke” anywhere, you should go and read it right now. That one poem hit me harder than anything else I read this month. Category: a collection of poetry published since 2014.
Folk-lore and Legends: North American Indian by Anonymous (1890) — Before I joined the library, I wanted to see what folklore was available for free on Kindle, and finding categories from all over the world, decided to focus on Native American literature, as I haven’t read much of it. A few of these stories were entertaining; most of them did nothing for me. What struck me the most was how misogynistic so many of the stories were. (Though it did make me laugh when a guy became invisible to his wife and he tried to get her attention by yelling in her ear, “I’m hungry!”) Category: a book of mythology or folklore.
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters (2016) — In this alternative history novel, it’s the present day but the Civil War never happened and slavery never ended. Victor is a former slave and bounty hunter, hunting down escaped slaves for the government in exchange for his freedom. Victor discovers a network called “Underground Airlines” and a trail sends him off into the Hard Four, the remaining states where slavery is legal.
I’m disappointed in myself for reading this book. Why is it so radical to reimagine life under slavery today, as if black people aren’t already second-class citizens? (Roxane Gay wrote about this issue brilliantly, speaking about HBO’s new series with a similar premise.) Even worse, this was written from the point of view of a black person by a white person, and one whom I suspect doesn’t actually spend time with any black people. Beyond that, the plot was cluttered, there was zero character development, and it was overall a very unsatisfying read. Skip this one. Read Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad instead. Category: an alternate history novel.
Coming Up in February 2019
More winter, more snow, more staying inside as much as humanly possible. Ha!
I will be heading down to Maryland for a few days to speak at a conference: CCRA PowerSolutions. This is a travel industry conference for agents and suppliers and I’ll be speaking on a panel about working with influencers. I had never heard of this conference before, but it sounded like an interesting opportunity. We’ll see how it goes.
Beyond that, there’s a chance something could pop up last minute — and I’d welcome that. It’s been hovering below freezing in New York (sorry it’s been much worse for you, midwestern friends!) and I would relish the chance to go somewhere warmer.
We lost a beautiful soul this month. Meruschka Govender, the South African blogger known as Mzansi Girl, passed away following a battle with cancer.
I met Meruschka in Cape Town when we were working on a campaign together. Right away I was struck by her bubbliness, her friendliness, and her huge personality. She brought laughter everywhere she went, she was kind enough to check in on her blogger friends years after we had seen each other last, and she was a tireless advocate for South Africa travel. I never heard her say a bad word about anyone.
You could throw Meruschka into any room and soon everybody would be laughing.
“One of the first things people notice about me is my laugh, it’s deep, hearty and loud AF ? As a teenager, I was embarrassed about it, it’s definitely not a cute giggle and often makes me cry (in the best way). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to love my laugh, it’s is one of my defining features – unique and distinctively me. Yes, I’m loud, and I love life, get over it! Life is seriously better when you’re laughing.”
I can’t believe she’s gone.