Kate wears a red dress and stands on a rocky slap leading into the bright blue ocean, stone cliffs topped with evergreen trees in the background.

AK Monthly Recap: July 2020

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This month went in an incredibly unexpected direction. In late June, I flew to Serbia, Charlie drove down to meet me, and we planned to stay until the Czech government allowed me to reenter the country.

We stayed for two weeks — but then Serbia erupted in protests as COVID cases spiked. We were nervous that the protests would cause other countries to ban entry from Serbia, so we decided to cross into Croatia.

(Yes, Americans are permitted to enter Croatia right now, with proof of paid accommodation and a special form filled our on their site. However, the conditions are tough — you are required to either 1) show a negative PCR test less than 48 hours old 2) get a PCR test once you arrive in Croatia and quarantine for 7 days after a negative result, or 3) quarantine for 14 days if you get no test. I got tested immediately before leaving the US for Serbia, and Croatia’s current rules for Americans went into effect after I was already in the country.)

We then got news: the Czech government is allowing cohabitating partners to return. My name has been on our lease since September; that counts as proof of cohabitation.

However, they are only allowing this entry to partners of Czech citizens, not partners of permanent residents. Charlie is a permanent resident. He’s lived in the Czech Republic for nearly 20 years. He speaks Czech. He pays Czech taxes. He hasn’t lived in England since just after 9/11. But that doesn’t count.

So this news hurts. Especially since I’m trying to get my trade license so I can pay Czech taxes of my own. They’ll make more money if they let me in!

We now have to figure out what to do. This could last a few weeks or a few months. This could last until the US gets taken off the “bad list,” which could be six months or longer. The uncertainty of it is maddening — as much as I recognize how lucky we are to be healthy and together, to be able to work remotely.

Interestingly, this month we got to do a news feature on this. ABC News was filming a series in Dubrovnik and we joined in to talk about what it’s like being a couple banned from each other’s countries and how we ultimately ended up in Croatia. It should be on Nightline soon.

Bright white and yellow modern buildings stacked next to each other in Novi Sad, Serbia.
Modern buildings in Novi Sad.

Destinations Visited

  • Belgrade, Golubac, Donji Milanovac, Djerdap National Park, Rogljevo, Felix Romulana, Sokobanja, and Novi Sad, Serbia
  • Ilok, Osijek, Zmajevac, Plastovo, Brač island (including Bol, Pučišća, Supetar, Milna, Vidova Gora, and Gorni Humac), Orebić, Korčula island (including Korčula town, Lumbarda, Badija island, Vrnkik island, Zrnovo, Pupnat, Smokvica, Vela Luka, Zavalatica, Pupnatska Luka, and Plaža Bačva), Ston, Kuna Pelješka, Plaža Divna, Prizdrina, Potomje, and Dubrovnik, Croatia
Kate wears a berry-colored dress and sits along on top of a cliff, looking over green mountains and the ocean, Hvar Island in the distance, in Brač.
It’s easy to find outdoor solitude in Croatia.

Highlights

The silver lining of Croatia. As far as day-to-day actions go, it’s much easier to stay safe here in Croatia than it is home in Massachusetts. I can say that without a doubt. And a much lower rate of COVID cases (fewer than 10 active cases in the entire region we are in right now) is only part of it.

Croatia is a big summer destination, and thus structured for people to be outdoors and distanced 24/7. It’s easy to eat every meal outdoors and distanced. You can do tons of activities outdoors and distanced and get from place to place outdoors and distanced.

The only place where we weren’t able to stay more than two meters from other people was on the ferry from Split to Brač. We stayed outdoors on the windy upper deck and wore our masks.

Most of the time we only go indoors to use the bathroom or go grocery shopping. Additionally, all indoor employees in Croatia are required to wear masks, as well as all restaurant and bar servers, whether indoors or outdoors. Most indoor places require mask usage by all, whether it’s grocery stores or churches, though there are some exceptions.

This is a big difference from New England, where it’s cold most of the year and thus most restaurants and activities are made to be indoors.

And one big thing — I haven’t come across any anti-masker types in Croatia. And they’re everywhere in the States, even in liberal, educated Massachusetts.

Novi Sad was lovely. Honestly, I didn’t connect with most of the destinations we visited in Serbia, but Novi Sad, the northern city with beautiful architecture, was a nice change of pace. We stayed in THE BEST APARTMENT, too. I miss that place.

Quite an arrival in Croatia. It was amazing how stark the difference was. From Serbia, with a rougher outdoor landscape, we crossed the border — and four minutes in, we arrived at a fancy winery in Ilok, looking like it was pulled from the pages of a bridal magazine. Even the sunflowers on the other side of the border seemed to grow taller and brighter.

Brač was nice. Overall, I think the other Dalmatian islands have more to offer, but it was a good place to settle down and work for a week. We spent one morning on the world-famous Zlatni Rat beach and one day driving around the island. Bol made a great base and Milna was a wonderful, quiet village.

Korčula was a revelation. I spent one day on the island of Korčula back in 2012 and enjoyed it — but this time around I stayed six nights and absolutely loved it! Korčula is gorgeous, filled with history, interesting gastronomy, hidden beaches, as well as two wonderful wines — Grk and Pošip — you can’t find anywhere else. It’s an island for adults who love food, wine, and culture. My kind of place!

The Pelješac peninsula was really cool. This is an area in the heart of Dalmatia that is overlooked by American tourists (it’s more of a European camping destination), but you’ll find stunning drives with green mountains surrounding you, gorgeous beaches, delicious oysters, and TONS and TONS of wineries.

Dubrovnik was a nice place to revisit. On my third trip back to this beautiful city, I revisited a few favorite spots and found some new ones — including a wonderful octopus peka dinner served in a local family’s backyard. More on that in my upcoming Dubrovnik post.

News coverage! We were filmed for a segment on ABC News, talking about being in a relationship and banned from each other’s countries. It will be on Nightline soon. I also did some interviews for local publications in Croatia.

A very slight pickup in income. In June, my display ads RPM started improving; this month, traffic has slightly improved and I’m beginning to earn a bit more from travel booking affiliates again. Not huge, but I’ll take it.

Had we hiked the walls of Ston in the midday heat, that would have been a HUGE challenge!

Challenges

Getting the bad Czech news. We were really hoping we could be on our way back to Prague by now. We just need to keep waiting.

An extremely thorough border crossing…but only from the Serbians. I don’t know why — we were leaving the country, but they spent half an hour checking every bag so thoroughly, quizzing us on our relationship, and one of them even asked Charlie if there was any chance I was pregnant (sexist much?! Jesus). Entering Croatia took five minutes by comparison.

Some Jadrolinija mishaps. Croatia’s ferry system, Jadrolinija, needs to be better with communication. We originally bought a ferry ticket from Brač to Makarska a week in advance, as it’s a small ferry and we wanted to make sure we had a spot. Then we got to the ferry and they told us it was now leaving 90 minutes later. Did they email the people who had bought tickets online? No, they did not.

So we zoomed down the coast to get our second ferry, from Ploče to Trpanj on the Pelješac peninsula. They waved us into the line and we thought we made it in time — then we double-checked and found out the first ferry was full and we would be on the next one FOUR HOURS FROM NOW. Did anyone tell us that when we arrived? Nope! We were lucky we were able to get out of the line-up; most people were trapped. And while some Croatia ferry towns are lovely places to chill for a few hours (like Orebić!), Ploče isn’t one of them.

My advice to you? YOUR FERRY TICKET DOESN’T GUARANTEE YOU A SPOT. GET THERE EARLY.

Tastes from Bibić winery, a Bourdain favorite.

Posts of the Month

Traveling in Serbia: Takeaways from an Unexpected Trip — What’s it really like to visit Serbia, especially now? I try to nail it all down in this post, covering very off-the-beaten-path areas.

Visiting Campeche, Mexico: Things to Do and More — A recap of my weekend trip to the colorful Mexican city of Campeche back in February, and some tips if you want to go!

Kate stands in a one-piece bathing suit facing the bright turquoise ocean, a sailboat in the distance. The beach is gray and pebbly.
Unreal how much space you get to yourself on Croatia’s most famous beach.

Most Popular Post on Instagram

Zlatni Rat, the most famous beach in Croatia and one of the most famous beaches in Europe. But even with all that fame, it’s easy to get a big stretch of it to yourself. For more real-time photos from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

We didn’t plan our looks, I swear.

This Month on Patreon

The Adventurous Kate Patreon is where I share exclusive content, including one original long-form essay each month. This month’s long-form essay on Patreon is about a trip I’ve never written about here before — my first time overseas ever, as a 16-year-old on a two-week school exchange program in Normandy, France, and how it didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.

I also wrote a post about our delicious experiences in Slavonia, Croatia’s lesser-visited northeast region on the edge of Serbia, as well as a essay about why I love The Baby-Sitters Club Netflix series so much. In the private Patreon Facebook group, we had a lot of interesting discussions, including one about toxic masculinity in the thru-hiking community.

And a special shout-out to July’s newest patrons: Sarah, Erin, Katie, Rebecca, Rachel, Antoinette, Tracey, Erica, Maria, Jingyi, Lisa, Melanie, Kimberly, and Rebekah!

This Month’s Book Club

Our book club pick this month is Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a scientist, professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Last month we went with an unknown book by a first time novelist, so this month I wanted to pick a beloved book by an established author. As always, our book club focuses on books written by women of color from around the world. First South Korea, then Haiti, then South Africa, we now turn toward the Indigenous habitants of what is now the United States.

I am so looking forward to this book! I hadn’t heard of it, but it came as a top recommendation in a “What book has changed your life?” thread in a women’s personal finance FB group I’m in. It has effusive reviews praising its beautiful writing as well as the lessons we can learn from understanding our natural environment.

You can sign up for the book club here. It’s donation-based and I suggest $5. As always, my Patreon members get free admission to the book club each month, and that information can be found in a post on the Patreon.

What I Watched This Month

The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix!!!!! As a lifelong BSC fan, I was SO thrilled with this series. It’s incredible how they modernized it perfectly for 2020, yet were true to the plot lines of the original books.

I think the biggest difference from the early 90s TV series and mid-90s film are that this time it’s being remade by die-hard fans of the series, and they know all the subtle details that matter. It’s a love letter to grown-up BSC fans.

I wrote a whole essay on the Adventurous Kate Patreon about what makes this series so magical. The casting is especially on point — from the diverse actors playing Mary Anne and Dawn to an entirely Japanese family for Claudia rather than the usual any-East-Asian-will-do casting to the amazing parents (Marc Evan Jackson as Richard Spier is an absolutely inspired choice, and Alicia Silverstone as Liz Thomas is wonderful).

If you’ve got a kid in your life, The Baby-Sitters Club is a show you can feel good about them watching.

Two other recommendations on Netflix — Blown Away and The Big Flower Fight. Both are creative reality competition shows. Blown Away is about glassblowing and The Big Flower Fight is about building giant flower sculptures. Both are great, comforting TV shows filled with brilliant artists you can’t help but root for.

The Pelješac peninsula was SUCH a good drive.

What I Listened To This Month

The Slow Burn podcast. I love this podcast — the first season was about Nixon and Watergate, the second season was about Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the third season was about Biggie and 2pac’s murders (I haven’t listened to that season yet), and this latest season is about the rise of David Duke in Louisiana politics, culminating in his run for governor.

The best thing about Slow Burn is that they show you a dark slice of history, while showing (not telling!) that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Nixon’s corruption. Clinton’s lechery. Duke’s racism. It all adds up to the moment we’re living in — and proves that it will continue to happen over and over unless we actively stop it.

Bright blue water and Grk wine — two staples of Korčula.

What I Read This Month

A quick note — you know I’ve been trying to reduce my Amazon purchases as much as possible. This is the first month that I bought an eBook from Bookshop.org rather than Amazon. It uses a different app — MyMustReads — and if you’re okay with reading on your phone, it’s not bad. Most books I borrow from the library.

Outside the Lines by Ameera Patel (2020) — This story of family and relationships takes place across contemporary Johannesburg. A young white woman who recently lost her mother falls into drug addiction and is kidnapped. A Black housekeeper worries about her son. A nonverbal Zimbabwean immigrant is given a job opportunity he can’t refuse. A young Muslim woman is afraid she’s disappointing her strict family. All of these stories fit together — perhaps a bit too perfectly — as tensions come to a head.

This was our book club’s pick this month. This was an interesting look at Johannesburg, a city that doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but it shows how incredibly diverse and interesting it is. In our meeting, I loved sharing with people a few tidbits that might go unnoticed, like when one character says she doesn’t know the signs for taxis — many share taxis in Johannesburg are summoned with hand signals! Patel is an actress, and I think that’s what helps her draw such vibrant, deep characters. When you finish the book it really makes you wonder what happened to all of them.

Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way by Tanja Hester (2019) — The FIRE movement has been gaining steam — financial independence, retire early — and more people are realizing that this is not solely the domain of the obscenely rich. If you save aggressively, invest wisely, and live a relatively modest lifestyle, regular people can get themselves to FI.

I’ve been reading a lot about the FIRE movement lately, and this book covers most of the basic bases. There are two areas where the book is different, though — it goes into lots of detail about how to pay for American health insurance until Medicare kicks in at 65 (assuming that Medicare for All doesn’t happen, which…I don’t want to think about), and building the kind of retirement life that works for you personally. She and her husband retired at 38 and 41, are child-free, moved to Lake Tahoe to enjoy an outdoorsy lifestyle, and make service one of their top priorities. She also has a great blog called Our Next Life if you don’t want to read the book itself.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2018) — Kya is a child growing up poor on the marshy coast of North Carolina in the 1950s. One by one, her family members leave, and she ends up raising herself alone, never going to school but becoming a student of her natural environment. The book follows Kya as she grows up and flashes forward when a murder has taken place in the nearby town.

This is a phenomenally popular book right now, spending more than a year on the bestseller list. Most bestsellers I read years after they come out and think, “Wow, I can see why it was so popular.” This one, however, did very little for me.

Owens is a science and writer, and that comes through clearly. But the drama of the story is implausible to the point of laughability and poorly written, and so much of it made me cringe — especially when Kya is nearly raped and one of her few friends, an older Black man, tells her to go to the Sheriff so the near-rapist can be punished. Or when Kya, who spends her life poring over biology textbooks, has a long-term sexual relationship and never once considers the possibility of pregnancy. I know “men writing women” is an eye-rolling trope, but there was a lot of “women writing men” here, too.

Coming Up in August 2020

Well, we’re in Croatia. It looks like we’re going to stay here and wait for the next update from the Czech Republic. If we don’t get an update, we will need to reevaluate our next step. I’ve been talking to an immigration authority who tells me I may be able to secure a Czech visa in Zagreb.

Perhaps this extended time in the EU will give me an option eventually, as some countries now base entry on where you came from, not where you hold citizenship (which makes FAR more sense). Perhaps there will eventually be an option to enter the Czech Republic with proof of a recent negative PCR test. All we can do is wait.

For now, I’m excited to visit the Croatian destination that has long been #1 on my list: the island of Vis.

What did you get up to this month?

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10 thoughts on “AK Monthly Recap: July 2020”

  1. I am so glad to see someone else who thought Where the Crawdads Sing was cringeworthy! The language is at times beautiful but the plot was so ridiculous and don’t get me started on the lame poetry.

    1. I really didn’t like the book either! I kept thinking, “THIS is what everyone is obsessed with??” Glad to hear I am not the only one

    2. I’m also on the ‘I don’t understand the hype over this book’ train in regards to ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’… sometimes I really wonder about what makes a bestseller a bestseller. I mean, I read the book too, because it seemed to be all I was hearing about, and so many people raved about it! I understand that people have different tastes, but it wasn’t especially well written, and like you Kate, I had some big issues with the character, believability, holes in the plot, the way intimacy was discussed, etc. Anyway, thank you for continuing with these recaps and for discussing literature with such critical eye!

  2. I’m sad you didn’t like Where the Crawdads Sing! Of the 60-some books I’ve read in the past few years (my pace is much slower than yours!) it was one of my favorites.
    If this is any perspective for you… I haven’t seen my fiance who lives in England (who is eventually supposed to be moving here for a job) for 5 months – since March. Since nothing seems to be improving COVID-wise, I finally bit the bullet and am going to go visit him next week. I’ll have to quarantine while there (thank God he has a garden at least) and I’m taking a COVID test ahead of traveling like you did just to feel safer. It definitely hasn’t been an easy time for any of us in long distance relationships!

  3. Hi Kate! I just discovered your blog recently and I love it! It has been really interesting to read about your experiences traveling during the pandemic. This is the longest time I’ve stayed within a 2 mile radius of my house in my entire adult life (I don’t have a car) and it has been more pleasant than I expected but I do miss travel and am living vicariously through your stories. I’m a fellow BSC fan and LOVE your book recommendations! I went to a retreat hosted by Tanja and I think she’s the best FIRE blogger out there. Look forward to continuing to follow your adventures!

  4. I, too, was disappointed by Where the Crawdads Sing. I listened to the audiobook, and at one point, the actress reading it said the “AppaLAYshun mountains”…anyone from that area knows it’s pronounced “AppaLATCHin mountains.” Grrr. In your reading about FIRE, have you read The Frugalwoods blog? I love that one! I really hope you are able to get into the Czech Republic soon. I have my fingers crossed for you.

  5. So glad to find a whole group of people who dislike where the crawdads sing. It’s so poorly written I can’t for the life of me figure out the rave reviews

  6. Jealous! We’re expats living in Bosnia and love to go to Lumbarda in the summer but changing border restrictions made it impossible. Hope you enjoyed! It’s one of our favorite places in the world!!

  7. You have had quite an adventure recently. It’s great that you got to do a news feature on this with ABC News. I have a good friend in Croatia as it is a lovely country. I just discovered your blog recently and I look forward to your future articles. All the Best.

  8. hi kate,
    girl, i’m brazilian and i loved to know your blog, sorry for my english.
    i’m spending hours reading and i’m imagining myself traveling in a few years when my 2 kids grow up lol

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