AK Monthly Recap: July 2015

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Kate at Sea Dance

Oh, July 2015! You are going down in history! Could I have had any more fun this month?! Let’s not answer that.

It was a very Balkan month. This month I continued my annual summertime getaway to the Balkans, this time visiting Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia, bookended by visits to Greece and Latvia.

Here are the highlights and lowlights of this marvelous month in Europe!

Ionian Sea Corfu

Destinations Visited

Santorini and Corfu, Greece

Saranda, Butrint, Ksamil, Berat, and Tirana, Albania

Budva and Kotor, Montenegro

Belgrade, Serbia

Riga, Latvia

Saranda View from Airbnb

Favorite Destinations

Saranda. What a nice chilled-out town with surprisingly good beaches.

Tirana. I did not expect to love this wacky city as much as I did! I need to go back!

Kotor. Still one of my favorite little towns in the world, even if it’s crazy busy and super-hot during the summer months.

Jeremy, Kate and Ryan at Sea Dance

Highlights

Dancing all night long on the beach at Sea Dance. I went until sunrise on the second and fourth nights, but the second was by far the best. Everything fell into place. Good vibes, great people, and excellent music blasting as the sky slowly turned from black to green to blue. Much more on Sea Dance in a later post.

Climbing to the top of the pyramid in Tirana. Of course, I got convinced to climb to the top of the broken-down pyramid, then realized there was no way to get down other than scooting on my butt, inch by inch, for about 15 minutes. But what a great view up there!

Living large on the cheap in Albania. Prior to this trip, I thought Macedonia was the cheapest country in Europe, and it turns out that Albania has similarly low prices. Which means you can eat a huge platter of mussels and octopus in a fancy restaurant on the waterfront and still spend less than $10. I bought a TON of clothes, including the lovely dress in the photo below.

Kate, Kash, Marko, Rob, Leah, and Nebojsa in Belgrade

A big night to remember in Belgrade. I know that Belgrade is one of the biggest party cities in Europe, and I expected to be hitting the clubs hard, but instead we went out to a restaurant and drank a ton of homemade rakija. That’s definitely a 10/10 would never do again, if you catch my drift.

Climbing the fortress in Kotor. I had already done so a few years ago, but this year I stayed longer and got beautiful, more brighter photos as the sun came up!

Spending time with friends. I traveled with a lot of different blogger friends this month, both old and new, and it was so nice to spend so much time with them.

Meeting up with family in Riga. I had two special guests fly out to join me at the end of the month! It’s so nice to have them traveling with me. You’ll hear more about this after the trip.

Kate in Belgrade

Challenges

I had my worst taxi scam yet at Sea Dance. I was going back to our apartment alone on the first night and soon realized that I had jumped into a crooked cab that had a warped meter that charged me 40 euros for a ride that cost me 6 euros on the way there (and should have cost around $10 that late at night). I refused to pay the 40 euros, threw him 20 euros and ran, he threatened to call the police (really, dude?) and I fake sobbed that I had nothing and ran into my house. He didn’t follow. I’m glad it wasn’t worse, because it easily could have been.

I was in rough shape after the festival. It’s not surprising that I got the worst kind of cold after the craziness of Sea Dance, but I had it on top of various injuries from ripped fingernails to swollen toes to painful joints — it was like my whole body was rebelling! I spent the first few days in Kotor just recovering and nursing my wounds.

An Airbnb arrival went wrong. I arrived in Kotor and found out that my Airbnb didn’t have working internet. The good news: Airbnb was awesome about refunding me right away and helping me out, and I found another (much nicer) place to stay in the old town.

Berat, Albania

Public transportation in Albania was…basic. From Saranda to Fier, the route was absolutely beautiful and completely terrifying, swerving around mountain passes with hardly a guardrail. In Fier, there was no bus to Berat, as I was told, so I had to jump into some rando’s van. In Berat, I was assured buses to Tirana ran every 30 minutes, then arrived and found out there was nothing for 90 minutes. Oh, and no air-conditioning and 95-degree heat. Always an adventure!

My computer cord broke in Saranda. Of all the places in the world, it had to happen in the furthest place from an Apple retailer! I was able to survive five days with electrical tape and bobby pins holding it together, then I got a new cord at the iStream store in Tirana.

And for a few days in Saranda, I couldn’t get “I’m in love with the coco” out of my head. That was a rough time. OH NO, IT’S HAPPENED AGAIN!

Sunset in Tirana, Albania

Most Popular Post

15 Lessons from Turning My Travel Blog Into a Career — This is one of the best blogging advice posts I’ve ever written, and I’m glad it struck a chord with so many of you.

Folkklubs Riga Latvia

Other Posts

7 Fantastic Food Experiences in Chicago — WAY more than deep dish pizza, these are the best eats I found.

A Day Trip to Andorra from Barcelona — Worth it? Kinda. But I didn’t really like it.

Is it Safe to Travel to Greece Right Now? Absolutely. — Required reading for anyone thinking of canceling their trip to Greece due to the economic crisis. You should still go.

The Secret to Solo Female Travel Confidence: Drink Champagne — This post was HUGE! And now it’s become my thing! People snap me photos of champagne all the time.

Viewpoints: Traveling While Overweight with Pamela MacNaughtan — A wonderful interview on a subject that should be talked about more.

Milwaukee Rocks! Who Knew? — I had a blast in Milwaukee. Here’s what you should do there.

Snorkeling with Sharks in Belize — SHARKY SHARKY SHARK.

Caye Caulker: A Good Place to Go Slow — One of my favorite spots in Central America.

The UNESCO Hunt: 92-101 — More sites! I hit my goal of 101!

Sveti Stefan at Sunset

News and Announcements

Nomadic Matt has announced his new nonprofit initiative — FLYTE, or the Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education. This program will provide educational trips overseas to students in underserved communities. This is a wonderful cause to support! Check it out here for more information.

Kotor Hotel, Montenegro

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Honestly, this photo from Kotor is my least favorite photo I posted on Instagram this month. But it was the most popular. Go figure.

Follow me on Instagram for more photo posts from my travels. Last month I hit 20,000 followers; this month I hit 25,000! It’s like compounding interest — Instagram grows faster and faster as you get bigger! And for even more, check me out on Snapchat — my name is adventurouskate there!

Kate in Tirana

What I Read This Month

I’m still cracking away at the Popsugar 2015 book challenge, but now I feel like I’m really going to finish it! 32 books down, just 20 to go.

The Bloodletter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty. Taking place in what is now the Czech Republic in the 17th century, a young woman battles between her identities as a common bathmaid and her bloodletter father’s assistant as they begin to care for the Hapsburg Emperor’s insane son, who becomes obsessed with her. Honestly, I’d put this book into “It would be better as a movie” category because while the plot itself was fascinating, especially since it was based on a true story, I couldn’t stand the author’s writing style or any of the characters. Category: A book you own but have never read.

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince. What a surprise! I loved this funny and touching graphic memoir about a proud tomboy and her gender nonconformity from birth through high school. It’s a point of view that you don’t hear very often, not least because it addresses gender expression rather than gender identity, and it really made me think about kids respond to people who are different. And I now want to read more graphic novels and memoirs. Category: A graphic novel (yeah, it’s a memoir, but I think the point is that it’s graphic).

The Martian by Andy Weir. HELL YES! I HAD MORE FUN READING THIS BOOK THAN ANY OTHER BOOK I’VE READ IN YEARS. Seriously, this is such a fascinating and funny and science-y and suspenseful book! READ IT IMMEDIATELY. You will LOVE it. And, ideally, read it before watching the trailer to the movie, which is coming out this October and starring Matt Damon. Category: A book that became a movie.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This book was sad in so many ways — not to the point of making me ugly cry (though I did get close at a revelatory moment near the end), but just because a family can grow up without truly understanding each other. I’ve also never read about the prejudice interracial Asian-white families faced during the 1970s and it was sad to read about how poorly they were treated. Category: A book by an author you’ve never read before.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I had to find a book from my birth year (1984) and this was the only one I recognized: some classes studied it at my high school, but mine never did. It’s a series of vignettes set in a tough Latino neighborhood in Chicago. I wasn’t super drawn in, but it was a quick and visceral read. Category: A book that came out the year you were born.

Kate, Jeremy, and Ryan at Sea Dance

What I’m Listening To This Month

I’m discovering so much great music on Spotify lately, I figured I’d share some of it with you!

First of all — I LOVE Miguel’s new album Wildheart. Great, modern mix of R&B and rock with one of the best voices in music today. I especially love “Face The Sun,” which features Lenny Kravitz.

And Zak Waters decided to remake Ginuwine’s “Pony.” And it’s actually a really good cover. I like it better than the original. Perfect for Magic Mike season.

But my biggest music obsessions are my new favorites from Sea Dance. I’m especially a bit fan of Flight Facilities, Doorly, and TCTS.

“96” by Doorly is probably my absolute favorite song from the festival — it transforms me when it comes on. I now make sure to listen to the beat drop (3:40) whenever I’m on a plane taking off!

Jeremy loves it too, as you can see:

Jeremy Loves 96

“Thinking About You” by TCTS is just awesome. Give it a listen.

“With You” by Flight Facilities is mellow and nostalgic but still dance-y.

Siracusa_2014 05 30_1478

Image: Harvey Barrison

Coming Up in August 2015

I spent a few days in Riga, where I celebrated my 31st birthday, before heading to Sicily, where I am now. I’ll be here until August 12, giving me enough time to get to know much of the eastern part of the island.

After that I head to Edinburgh for festival time before winding down my two-month European trip with a few days in Iceland. Then home to Massachusetts for a much-needed break. Beyond that, there’s always a chance I’ll drop into New York!

Any recommendations for Eastern Sicily? Let me know!

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45 thoughts on “AK Monthly Recap: July 2015”

  1. Definitely visit Castlemola in Sicily. Its better to go in the evening I think and watch the sunset from there. You should stop off in a place called Bar Turrisi for a drink….a highly unusual place defo up your alley! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Haha I also did SO much shopping in Albania ๐Ÿ™‚ The Albanian Riviera might just be one of my just be one of my favorite places on earth – except that all the delicious food makes me gain 5 pounds each time I go (worth it).

  3. You should listen to “El Mismo Sol” by Alvaro Soler, thought I’d be SHOCKED if you haven’t heard it on your Euro-travels yet. It is so delightfully Euro-dancy, and it was playing EVERYWHERE I went in Bologna! Now, naturally I still can’t get it out of my head – not that I am trying, not yet :)))))

  4. I’ve been following your blog for awhile, but somehow I’ve skipped over a lot of your monthly round-ups – and I’m so sorry I have! Will definitely be checking in more. I haven’t been to Europe yet, and I love that I haven’t even heard of most of your favorite destinations from this month. Read ‘Everything I Never Told You’ a few months back and it stands out as one of my best reads this year. I feel like you might also love Catherine Lacey’s ‘Nobody is Ever Missing’ – incredible writing.

    1. So far, DEFINITELY the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay). These books astounded me on two levels: on 1) how accurately they depicted a lifelong female friendship and 2) the rough, wild nature of Naples from the 1950s onwards. I can’t wait for the next one to come out in English later this fall!

      The Martian is a VERY close second, though!

      Also really loved Me Before You and The Girl on the Train.

  5. Epic! ) Riga! I too have family there.. would love to visit them sometime soon. Love that you danced all night! Did that in Barbados and Zanzibar (arggg) although Zanzibar was more drinking Konyagi than dancing ))

    Would love to visit Albania! You know, never been to Burning man.. must be a lot of fun.

    Let There Always Be A Road

  6. I think I might finish the PopSugar challenge, too! So exciting. I read The Bloodletter’s Daughter a few years ago … right before visiting eastern Europe, actually. That was a fun coincidence and it was interesting to visit the Hapsburg palace in Vienna while reading about a Hapsburg.

  7. I love this post — such a nice way to recap your travels and a great thing to look back on! I’m traveling to Europe next summer as a backpacking college student. I have no clue where to start planning my trip because my budget is so limited (preferably under $5000 with transportation from america to europe included.) It’s good to hear that Albania’s so cheap, I’ll try to spend some time there!

    1. Albania is cheap but it would be very challenging for a first-time traveler, as it’s so undeveloped. Perhaps get your feet wet somewhere like Poland or Prague or Budapest first, then move further south!

  8. You’ve given me so many ideas for the Balkans- as I’ll be doing these countries at a similar time (June-July) of next year as part of my 10 month trip to Europe.

    I’d only planned to stop over in Tirana for a night en route to Athens from Kotor- but I might just have to stretch it out from what you are saying! Albania looks like a really unique destination.

    Such amazing photos!

    1. If you do, I recommend staying in Blloku — that’s what made me fall in love with the city. Propaganda Hostel is a good place to stay and I had a private ensuite for 27 EUR per night.

  9. Let me first say that I think it is SUPER AWESOME that you quit your job to fulfill your traveling dreams. It takes so much nerve and heart to do that. You just may be my travel blogging hero:-) Love you blogs!

  10. i wonder how you manage to read so much with such a busy and filling schedule. its cold here in melbourne so amongst other reasons I am mostly jealous that it’s warm where you are! keep up the great blogging!

  11. I don’t know how you have so much energy and can read all these books on top of all the travelling and blogging, you are a wonder woman. Enjoy Edinburgh, my husband is Scotish, so I visit often and love it so much.

  12. Andddd now “I’m in love with the coco” is stuck in my head. Having such a love/hate relationship with that song this summer…it’s annoying but it was playing during the Best.Night.Ever so it always makes me smile. Then it gets stuck in my head, like it’s going to be allll day now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Sea Dance sounds amazing! Loved following all of your Facebook posts on it!

  13. Oooh yes I like that we’re getting music recommendations now too! I always make sure to check out the books you read. Still loving your Snapchat too!

  14. I’ve read The Martian, The Bloodletter’s Daughter, and The House on Mango Street, too! Super good books! I couldn’t put The Martian down after a fellow scuba diver passed it on to me when we were in Bonaire. I’ll definitely check out Everything I Never Told You.

    I enjoy your site. Thanks for the honest posts. ๐Ÿ™‚

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