Kate in sunglasses in Parque Mexico in Mexico City

AK Monthly Recap: March 2020

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Before I start recapping the month, let me begin with a greeting: “Hey, Kate from the future! Hey, people who were curious! I knew you’d look up this post! How are you doing? By the way, just how long is this going to last?!”

Because this is the recap for March 2020 — a month that will live in history forever. A month where the coronavirus went into overdrive. A month where every day seemed to bring a new horrifying revelation. A month that felt three times longer than it actually was.

People of the future, I want you to know that this was a scary time — but worst of all was the uncertainty. Most of the month felt like a horror movie in slow motion, people not being sure just how bad this virus was going to get, then watching city after city become engulfed.

On a personal level, it was a strange month. Since I had been living in Mexico since January, I began the month continuing my long-planned Mexico travels. Life in Mexico was progressing as normal.

But by the 15th, it became clear that things were changing. We decided to shelter in place, spend 22 hours per day at home, and continuously evaluate whether it was better to stay or to go.

Destinations Visited

Holbox, Chiquilá, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Parque Nacional Cañon del Sumidero, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapa de Corzo, Oaxaca, and Mexico City, Mexico

I loved this yellow building in San Cristóbal.

Everything Corona

It’s so hard to recap everything because SO MUCH happened in this endless month. Coronavirus and COVID-19 deserve their own section.

I began the month thinking that my travels for the next few months would be fine, that this virus wasn’t going to shut down Latin America. Back then, the only shutdowns were in Asia. Italy didn’t even quarantine until March 9! Isn’t that insane?! It feels like Italy has been under quarantine for several months.

It was wild seeing so many countries enact escalating measures over time.

I canceled my trip to Peru, which was to begin March 25, and decided to wait and see about Ecuador, with my Galapagos trip scheduled for April 18. Then G Adventures canceled the Galapagos, effectively making the decision for me.

Traffic had been down in the last month, particularly when it came to content about Asia. I was disappointed, but felt that I could live with it.

Then came the mid-March panic. My traffic plummeted. My display advertising income dropped from $150 to $20 per day; my affiliate sales dropped to almost nothing. And some affiliates, including my hotel affiliate, HotelsCombined, announced that they were no longer going to be paying people AT ALL.

I was going to lose my business. I had to act fast to save it.

Kate does a consulting call from her computer.
I have been doing a LOT of video calls this month!

I Launched FOUR New Business Products!

I’ve been running this blog for 10 years, making a healthy income from display advertising, affiliate marketing, campaigns, and advertising. I wasn’t a millionaire by any stretch, but I did make enough money to afford my own apartment in Manhattan. Then that income dropped to $25 per day, or less than $1000 per month.

I was officially thrust into emergency mode. However, I leaped into action more than I’ve ever leaped into anything in my life.

Here’s what I introduced:

One-on-Ones with Adventurous Kate — Ever wanted a chance to get one-on-one time with me? You can book a 45-minute video call with me directly! We can talk about anything. So far I’ve helped people with their creative projects, I’ve talked people through coronavirus worries, I’ve helped a few folks with general blog advice, and I’ve had laughter-filled conversations about feminism and politics. The rate is $75 for 45 minutes and you can book here.

Adventurous Kate Blog Consulting — Have you been trying to succeed with your blog, but you feel like you’ve plateaued? Sometimes the best thing you can do is hire an expert to point out what you should be doing to improve. I’ve survived for ten years in this ever-evolving industry, I’ve crawled out of the gutter many times, and I’ve learned a LOT. The rate is $350 for a full audit and two hourlong video calls. You can email me here.

Adventurous Kate on Patreon — Patreon is a site where creators create exclusive content for their biggest fans in exchange for a small monthly payment. I’m telling stories I’ve never told on the blog — starting with the story of the ghost that haunted me in Montenegro for five nights — and you can access all the stories from $6 per month. You can see more here.

Currently 94 people have signed up as patrons (!!!) and if I get to 100 and keep them for one full month, I’m unlocking the ghost story, posting it here for everyone! Can we get that last six??

Travelers’ Night In — I’m putting on small group online events over Zoom for travelers to get to know each other and talk about their favorite destinations! I keep the groups small so everyone has a chance to speak, and we end up telling stories and laughing a lot. Tickets are donation-based; I ask for $5.

These tend to sell out quickly, but here are the ones that still have availability:

So far, the biggest challenge has been going from working quietly all day to talking for hours each day! I’m a hardcore introvert and can write alone for days, but talking tends to exhaust me. I’m eager to develop this new skill.

I’m not sure how long I can sustain certain arms of the business, but I think I can comfortably earn $2000 per month through these new ventures for the next few months. Right now it’s all being chucked into my emergency fund until the payments from the last few months run dry and I have to tap it.

And let me say it once and for all: THANK GOD I moved out of New York last November. I don’t know how I would be able to survive my $2200 rent, the bills, and all the sky-high expenses of living in an expensive city.

I’ve applied for a small business loan from the government and several grants for creators. In the US, everyone is getting a single $1200 payment at some point, which is shamefully low and not nearly enough for most people who have lost work in this crisis. I have not applied for unemployment.

Dancers in indigenous clothing in front of a church in Oaxaca.
The magic of Oaxaca, distilled into one photo.

Travel Highlights

Life in Mexico felt more or less normal until late March in Mexico City. It was a strange contrast from my friends in Europe and North America, watching their countries and states lock down from afar. But because of this, we did get to enjoy some travel this month, for which I am grateful.

It was so nice to go back to Holbox. I really love this Mexican island and I was glad to introduce it to Charlie. We actually took some video! I’m not a video person at all, but Charlie likes editing it, and I think that video will make a nice addition to my Holbox post (from last year, which will be updated with 2020 content soon).

Chiapas was a nice change of pace. This cool, mountainous region felt different from everywhere I’ve been in Mexico so far. The scenery is breathtaking and San Cristóbal is a lovely city — though I’m still mystified at why all the restaurants insist on keeping the doors and windows open when it’s only 50 F/10 C outside!

Chiapas has a large indigenous population, and you can tell that this is a poorer region of Mexico. You feel it in everything — little things, like street sellers continuing to sell to you after you say no several times.

Sumidero Canyon was a beautiful excursion from San Cristóbal. Mexico’s inland natural wonders don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve.

Oaxaca was spectacular. I think that if you want to experience Mexican culture to the fullest and only have time for one city, Oaxaca is the place to go. It’s a good-sized small city, it’s so colorful, there are interesting cultural offerings, the food is the best in the country, and it just has a great vibe.

Oaxaca is somewhere I feel like I could stay for a long time. There were two major highlights of our visit — we did the best mezcal and mole tasting. You may not be a big fan of mole, but come to Oaxaca and you’ll learn that there are so many diverse moles. And mezcals are as diverse as wines! The tasting was led by an awesome sommelier named Daniel who became a friend of ours and took us around his neighborhood.

We also visited a Temezcal — a Zapotec sweat lodge — at Cevarium Temezcal. It was intense but moving and invigorating, a test of what your body can handle, as well as a spiritual experience. You submit to the process. I would love to go back and do it again.

Mexico City became one of my new favorite cities on the planet. We’re staying in La Condesa, which is one of the coolest neighborhoods I have ever stayed in. As soon as we got here, the COVID-19 news ramped up, and soon we were inside for 22 hours a day, only leaving for a daily walk and to get food.

We did have one really exceptional meal out — breakfast at the painfully hip Freims. They made EXQUISITE lemon ricotta pancakes.

A dock leading out into the blue water in Holbox, Mexico.
The sargasso was pretty severe in Holbox but the sea was as blue as ever.

Challenges

So much stress and worry. It’s been a lot of pressure worrying about my older and immunocompromised loved ones, the stress of being under quarantine, the uncertainty of how long this will last, and the loss of my income. So many people are doing the same.

I’ve been dealing with all of that on top of starting four new arms of my business on a shoestring, being in a foreign city and not sure whether to stay or leave, and worrying that Charlie and I could end up separated for several months, as we’re currently banned from each other’s countries.

It has been an enormous amount of stress. I had a panic attack for the first time since November 2016. I haven’t been able to sleep. But you know what helped? CBD oil. I had never tried it before, but I’m a huge believer now. If you’re struggling, I recommend looking into it.

Honestly, I’m surprised I’ve held it together this far. Maybe as soon as I get home I’ll collapse into a puddle.

At the same time, I know how incredibly lucky I am in the grand scheme of things. I hope this horrible chapter of our lives begins to get better soon.

One of the most deceptive business calls I’ve ever had. An agency representing a fancy food and beverage brand that I’ve enjoyed a few times in New York asked me if I was interesting in a long-term advertising campaign. I was! I needed the money, working long-term with a brand you already know and like is a win-win, and I was thrilled that they had told me they were reaching out to travel bloggers because they knew we were struggling right now.

I got on the phone with them. Within a few minutes, I learned that it wasn’t an advertising campaign: they wanted me to join their affiliate program. I would be advertising them, they wouldn’t be paying me, but if people made a purchase through my link, I could earn a dollar.

“Okay, I’m going to stop you right there,” I said. “You told me that this was an advertising campaign — but you don’t have a budget. You expect me to do this for free? For just a few months? Do you know how affiliate marketing works?

“The fact that you would specifically seek out travel bloggers, the people who just lost their incomes due to a worldwide health crisis, and offer them what you call an advertising campaign but you’re not actually going to pay them for it? That’s terrible. Do you think we’re so broke now that we’d give you thousands of dollars worth of advertising for a few bucks of affiliate commissions? And you’re doing this while expecting us to sell $8 juices at the beginning of a global recession?”

They apologized.

“You can’t have another call like this. You need to be honest up front that you have no budget and want people to be your affiliates. Because right now you wasted my time and you wasted your own time. I need you to convey the message to [Fancy Food and Beverage Company] that if they can’t afford to pay the people advertising their products, they can’t afford an agency. You need to do better — all of you.”

I’ve never let it out on a brand like that before. It felt cathartic.

Keep your eyes peeled, bloggers. There are a LOT of people looking to take advantage of us in our time of need.

A gross cold that lasted a full week. It began soon after I arrived in San Cristóbal de las Casas and continued into Oaxaca. The worst part was having no sense of smell for a lot of my time in Oaxaca, the best culinary city in Mexico. (I know that lack of sense of smell is a symptom of COVID-19, but I’m fairly certain this was a regular cold.)

Altitude and climate issues in Mexico City. Mexico City is at 2,350 meters and it took me awhile to stop being out of breath all the time. And it is insanely dry here — my lips, skin, and feet are cracked and peeling. Drinking electrolyte-laced juices helps.

A plate of cured meats and cheeses in front of an iPad with Joe Exotic on it
Charcuterie and Tiger King. Things turned low-key.

Most Popular Post of the Month

Sheltering in Place in Mexico City — a lengthy post about how Charlie and I ended up here and are dealing with the pandemic.

Other Posts

How to Prevent UTIs While Traveling (or at home) — After roughly 15 years of dealing with frequent, painful urinary tract infections, I’ve finally figured out how to prevent them. It’s a combination of supplements and behavioral changes. Please pass this on to anyone you know who gets constant UTIs.

Visiting Sumidero Canyon from San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico — One of the highlights of Chiapas was taking a speedy boat ride through this spectacular canyon.

Introducing One-on-Ones with Adventurous Kate — All about my new one-on-one video call service and how I can help you personally.

45 Funny, Heartfelt, Unforgettable Travel Stories — I asked my travel blogger friends for the best stories they’ve ever written. They had some GREAT ones. This is a very good read if you’re looking for entertaining stories from the road.

Purple jacaranda trees above a street with a green bus parked on the side.

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

I love being in Mexico City for jacaranda season. These purple trees fill me with happiness. This was right on Parque Mexico, around the corner from our apartment and one of our favorite places to do our daily walk.

For more photos from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

What I Watched This Month

Yep, like everyone else, I watched Tiger King this month. What a crazy documentary — one of the best original shows Netflix has put out in some time.

I mean, this documentary has everything. Murder for hire. Gay polygamy. Straight polygamy. Expired Wal-Mart meat. A dude who got his arm chewed off by a tiger. Definitely one for the truth is stranger than fiction category!

I’m hosting a Tiger King discussion night over Zoom on Tuesday, April 7, at 8:00 PM Eastern Time. There are a few spots left — you should join us!

A yellow boat in Sumidero Canyon, surrounded by mountains.
I loved seeing Sumidero Canyon in Chiapas.

What I Read This Month

Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen (2019) — Most of the media about LGBT Americans focuses on people who live in big cities and liberal areas. But that completely leaves out queer folks who didn’t leave their conservative hometowns, but decided to stay, grow their communities, and fight for their rights. This book covers LGBT enclaves in areas you wouldn’t expect, from Provo, Utah, to Bloomington, Indiana, to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

This book completely changed my mind. Before reading it, I always assumed that most queer folks would choose to migrate to the nearest liberal enclave if possible. Not at all. This book makes the strongest case for building community where you are and supporting those around you. One of the people profiled is a trans Mormon whose faith centers his life.

The only issue I had was that the book didn’t seem to know whether it wanted to be journalistic or a memoir. While I loved Allen’s story of growing up Mormon and coming out as trans in her twenties, I didn’t like how it read like journalism but she inserted herself into every other person’s story. I think it would have been better if she had kept her own story in the introduction and made the rest of the chapters about other people’s stories alone.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (2020) — Doyle’s last book, Love Warrior, was about how she and her husband worked to repair their marriage after he admitted years of infidelity; at the end, they decided to separate. Then while on her book tour, she met soccer legend Abby Wambach — and fell in love with her on the spot. This book is a series of vignettes, some with Abby, some with others, about her transformation from the woman she thought she was supposed to be into the woman she always was.

I’ll be honest — I bought this book for the gossip factor. I wanted all the juicy details about how a Christian mommy blogger suddenly falls in love with a woman and blows up her life, personally and professionally. That might not be the best phrasing; Doyle has an unbelievably supportive family and she, Abby, and her husband get along extraordinarily well and consider themselves a whole family unit.

Honestly — this book would never have been published if Doyle hadn’t had two bestsellers already. It was a bit indulgent. A series of essays, some quite short, some longer. There isn’t a lot of cohesion to them and some seemed quite out of place. If you’re a fan of Doyle, I’d get it from the library rather than spending the money on it.

I’ve taken a lot of walks in my Mexico City neighborhood.

Coming Up in April 2020

At this point, I am in Mexico City until I head back to the Boston area to stay with my parents. I had a flight, it got canceled, I rescheduled, it got canceled, and I rescheduled again. I’ll be leaving very soon.

The plan was to stay in Mexico City while the virus raged in the US. Soon it became clear that if we did that, we’d risk being stuck here for months. Between the canceled flights, my income loss, us not having long-term accommodation, and the impact that a pandemic would have on Mexico City’s hospitals, which have fewer ICU beds and ventilators per capita than the stretched-thin US, leaving now seems like the best option.

While I appreciate that a lot of people are telling me to stay put in Mexico City, and a lot of people are telling me to leave Mexico and go back to the US as soon as possible, please know that I am doing the best I can in a difficult situation. I’ve done my research and I will be transiting in the safest way possible for me and others.

The plan is to strictly quarantine for two weeks as soon as I get back to the US. And from there I’ll continue the social distancing guidelines. Maybe I’ll finally watch Star Wars.

I’m holding you all in my hearts right now — medical workers, grocery and delivery workers, people who are sick, the immunocompromised, people who have lost their incomes, and people who are worrying about their loved ones. We’ll get through this.

How are you doing right now?

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10 thoughts on “AK Monthly Recap: March 2020”

  1. I’m so sorry for all you are dealing with Kate. I have been thinking of you and all people in the travel industry. This situation is just horrible and I know my words don’t make it better. I am inspired by your optimism and by how quickly you’ve pivoted your business. Wishing you all the best.

  2. Hello !
    Good luck for the future, hope all will be better soon. Quarantine in France as well, almost a month already ! But at least we’re lucky with social security, and companies not firing too many people. I have a small question. I’m reading blog posts (yours and others) via my feedly reader. Does that count as a visit on your website, or should I rather click to visit your site ? If that can help you with some visits… Take care !

  3. I saw someone online say that just because you’re dealing OK with the situation right now doesn’t mean that you’re not being hurt by it. So keeping it together now is just mental survival, but for many people that just means that the trauma is just getting buried and will resurface in unexpected ways in the future. So be kind to yourself and others, and know that psychologically dealing with everything is probably going to be a long road for many.

  4. I am a strong believer in most decisions we make are not inherently right or wrong, but a matter of being deeply personal. If you decided to stay in Mexico, I would tell you you did the right thing. Since you have decided to come back to the US, I will say YOU ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING. Good and bad will follow either decision and you have to DO WHAT FEELS RIGHT FOR YOU.

    You have been so resilient business wise. Keep hanging in there, your career and income will return, hopefully sooner than you think.

    1. Greetings from the center of the epidemic in NYC. It seemed like everything’s grounded to a halt in two weeks. I’m currently furloughed from my job as a donations associate. It’s now a waiting game. Good for you making the best of a bad situation and opening up new avenues for business. I wish for your continued health & safety, Kate.

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