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What a wild month! Three trips, three countries, one conference, one talk and one panel. I’m typing this from Starbucks in Nicosia, Cyprus, and I’m exhausted.
For the past two years or so, I’ve been very good about balancing work and travel (for instance, I’ve kept my travel down to about 25% of the time, and I do very limited work while traveling), but I think this month may have pushed things a little too far.
The Maryland trip was originally supposed to happen in April, but I had to push it to May due to strep. Having an super-fun but energy-depleting conference in Rotterdam and an over-scheduled research-oriented trip to Lebanon back-to-back was a bit much, and I think I need a day spent doing nothing before I jump back into the madness again. A huge thunderstorm just hit Cyprus out of nowhere, so I don’t feel as bad about not exploring today.
On we go — here’s the best of the month!
New York, New York
Tilghman Island and St. Michaels, Maryland
(Brief technically-I-did-something-there stops: Teaneck, New Jersey, and Newark, Delaware)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Rotterdam and Delft, Netherlands
Beirut, Bcharré, Cedars Forest, Kozhaya, Jeita Grotto and Byblos, Lebanon
Rotterdam surprised the hell out of me on my second visit — it’s such an effortlessly cool city!
Hanging out with my friend’s adorable baby boy. I love that kid so much, and it’s amazing and humbling to watch him grow. He does something new every day. He even sucked his thumb for the first time ever while I was holding him!
Also, until this month, I was under the impression that babies wore one outfit per day, maybe two if they messed the first one up. HAHAHAHA. I was DEAD WRONG. Babies are messy creatures! And I learned that when a certain kiddo went through four outfits in about fifteen minutes. So that’s why babies have so many onesies…
A new baby arrived this month. Another of my friends welcomed a beautiful baby girl! And she’s pretty much a cousin to the aforementioned baby boy. I haven’t met her yet, but she is adorable and I can’t wait to go see her once I get home.
My first finished crochet project. I made a little rainbow hat for the baby boy, and I’m working on a matching hat for the baby girl! Baby hats are super easy to crochet. Now on to booties and animals…
Meeting Cecile Richards, one of my feminist heroes. The CEO of Planned Parenthood did a speaking engagement with Jessica Williams at 92Y on the Upper East Side, and my friend Amy and I went to hear them talk about Richards’s new memoir. I’m proud of the fact that we were the first ones in line to get our books signed! I didn’t have as much time to chat with her as I did with Gloria Steinem and Lindy West, but it was nice to thank her for her work and assure her that I’m working on her causes as well.
I got my Ancestry DNA results back. And there is a lot to unpack. Yes, there were some surprises on there, like the sheer amount of Scandinavian blood, and I have the feeling that Ancestry isn’t categorizing some ethnic groups correctly (the Acadians are an ethnically French community, but were categorized as Irish/Scottish/Welsh). I plan to write more about my results at a later date.
An utterly relaxing weekend in Maryland. Believe it or not, Maryland’s Eastern Shore is actually a doable weekend trip from New York! It’s just a four-hour drive from northern New Jersey (definitely rent a car from there, not JFK or LaGuardia). Tilghman Island may be one of the most supremely stress-free destinations I’ve visited in recent memory, and the brand-new Wylder Hotel invited me to enjoy their beautiful property. The adorable town of St. Michaels is a lot of fun, too.
If the Eastern Shore isn’t on your radar, it should be. I had a wonderful time (and ate a ton of crab!)
A fun solo trip to New Orleans. I adore this city, and I had a great time exploring it on my own, especially enjoying all the food! New Orleans gets me. I also enjoyed getting to see the local side of New Orleans at the Bayou Boogaloo music festival.
Watching the Royal Wedding! I was in New Orleans at the time, and hell yes I woke up at 5:00 AM to watch it live! I loved it even more than I thought I would — the dress, the veil, how happy they both looked, and especially that it was an unapologetic and proud celebration of black excellence (and that the Royal Family looked thoroughly uncomfortable — ha!).
Speaking at the Traverse conference. This was my first time at Traverse and I loved it — the sessions were so damn practical, which a lot of conferences miss, and a lot of them were blow-my-brains-out advanced. I spoke on being a personality blogger and I even got chosen to be on the hilarious closing panel. If you’re thinking of attending in the future, I highly recommend it! I hope to be at the next one.
Beyond that, Rotterdam was about hanging out with my beloved European blogger friends that I don’t see as often as I used to, as well as exploring the city. Rotterdam is amazing, you guys. It’s so alternative and fun and clean with wacky architecture and amazing transit. Kind of like a baby Berlin. How did I not realize this on my first visit in 2013? I think because it poured that whole weekend. This trip was sunny and glorious.
And then there was Lebanon. I know you’re dying to hear about this trip in particular! All in good time. All I will say is that I had a wonderful time, and it’s a very interesting country. So many different cultures and religions and lifestyles all together in one place. And it’s much safer than you think, even for a solo female traveler.
I loved hanging out in Beirut, where I based; I also enjoyed the incredible mountain scenery up north, the stunning caves at Jeita Grotto, and the Mediterranean wonderland of Byblos.
Good times in New York. First-time visits to the New York Transit Museum and New York Historical Society. Meetups with visiting friends and newly arrived transplants (welcome, Adam!). Lots of walks through Central Park and admiring the cherry blossoms. Helping my sister move into a new apartment (thankfully she’s still a short walk from my place).
I drove in Manhattan for the first time ever and survived!!!!
And on the food front, I’ve discovered my favorite Neapolitan-style pizza in New York: San Matteo on the Upper East Side. Trust me, it’s mind-bendingly delicious.
With a lot of travel comes a lot of mishaps! Nothing debilitating, but quite a few incidents happened this month:
Getting stuck in the middle of a New Orleans rainstorm. And my Lyft driver was pretty much incompetent. There was about six inches of water on the street, and he didn’t want to drive through that, but he kept missing the other turn-offs and kept mixing up one-way streets, so I told him to just let me out, took off my shoes, and ran home five blocks in the pouring rain with no umbrella, barefoot in ankle-deep water on the streets of New Orleans, in a mostly white dress with no bra. THAT WAS FUN.
A rental car mishap for the ages. Ugh. Let’s just say…I don’t rent cars very often, and I had no idea of some of the rules. Like that only people with a currently active license can use their credit card to rent a car. And most places in the New York area won’t let you rent a car with a debit card, even if you have thousands of dollars immediately at hand, unless you have a round-trip air ticket to New York (seriously?!). And some places require your license to be from the tri-state area. And if it’s not an airport rental, cars at smaller places are pretty much booked up for a Friday with no other options. So, um, I learned a lot of things. I’m not leaving my credit cards at home ever again. I eventually got a car, but it was more expensive, set me back several hours, and resulted in…
Getting stuck in the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced. It took me 90 minutes to go about ten blocks in the Village and TriBeCa on the way to the Holland Tunnel due to the earlier delay that day. Stay away from driving in Manhattan on Friday afternoons, kids.
I left my insanely powerful portable charger in the airplane seat pocket on the way to Amsterdam. At least it wasn’t my passport! I picked up a new portable charger in Delft. Smaller and not as mighty, but it’s doing the job just fine.
It took me a long time to physically recover from my strep. I had no idea what a toll last month’s strep took on my body until I went to the gym — I missed a week of workouts, then I could barely even lift light weights for the next two weeks, and cardio knocked me out solid. I’m hoping I don’t see my next bout of strep for a long time.
Most Popular Post
Best Day Trips from Florence, Italy — You could literally stay in Florence your whole trip and have a varied Italy experience, visiting dozens of different interesting towns.
Solo Female Travel in New Orleans — How to Stay Safe and Have Fun! — New Orleans doesn’t get a lot of press as a solo female travel destination, but it should.
On Travel, Lost in Translation, and the Park Hyatt Tokyo — I finally got to stay at my dream hotel from my favorite movie.
How to Plan a Day Trip from London to Paris — Yes, it can absolutely be done in a day, and here are my tips to make it a great day.
Quote of the Month
Friend: “…did you ask me where I got his onesie?”
Me: “I literally didn’t say anything.”
Friend: “Oh. Wow. Mommy Brain is real.”
Most Popular Photo on Instagram
A classic shot of a French Quarter balcony in New Orleans. Laissez les bons temps rouler! For more live updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.
What I Watched This Month
This is America. Don’t catch you slippin’ up.
You’ve probably heard of Childish Gambino’s powerful, chilling video by now. If you haven’t, you should watch it, then read the many think pieces on it (this one in The Atlantic is good):
In this, Glover certainly isn’t the first artist to suggest that black popular entertainment can simultaneously work as minstrelsy, appeasing a racist system, and as a gas valve of joy for people crunched by that system. Nor is he the first to describe the psychic tax of this state of affairs, seen both when Glover’s character wearily lights a joint and when, in some other space that may well signify his subconscious, he runs in terror from a white mob. But Murai’s eye and staging and Glover’s performance are together so stylish and surreal that the message is made newly raw.
It’s one of the most powerful pieces of art I’ve seen in recent memory.
What I Read This Month
I’ve got to be honest, you guys — I’m not enjoying my 2018 challenge of reading 25 books from new countries. I haven’t truly loved any of them, and it’s starting to feel like a chore. Does that mean I should scale back? Or choose better books? I’ll read some poetry next month to switch things up. This month I added the first books I’ve read by authors from Vietnam and Mexico. As usual, I’m including a few of my subscription books from Book of the Month.
You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero (2017) — Sincero’s first book, You Are a Badass, was about removing the obstacles that hold you back from being the best you can be. This second volume is about removing the psychological blocks that prevent you from making as much money as you should be.
I loved this book. Some people might characterize it as being a bit worshipful of money, but seriously, just reframing your mindset is a powerful thing. I also appreciated how it went into the psychological blocks about money that many people, and women in particular, don’t realize that they have. For Sincero, having a father who showed his affection by treating her to things, she was afraid that he wouldn’t know how to love her if she had a lot of money of her own. For me, it’s fear of failing on a large, public scale. And learning that about myself is helping me to move forward while acknowledging that fear, but not allowing it to dominate my life the way it always has.
Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman (2018) — Frances is the carpool mom in her tight-knit neighborhood in suburban Los Angeles. But everything falls apart when Frances discovers one of the other moms mid-coitus with a man who is definitely not her husband. The gossip spreads throughout the town and everyone gets drawn into it.
And we have an early candidate for the worst book of the year! My God! I knew this book was going to be a disaster when Waxman’s author bio said she loved dogs and chocolate. That’s like saying you enjoy breathing and not being on fire. As a result, this book was a collection of characters with no personality. Pretty much a bunch of upper-middle-class white people doing upper-middle-class white things. Oh, and there’s also a lesbian couple — for diversity! — who lesbianly lesbian all the lesbian day, oh and did Waxman remind you that they’re gay as hell?
But two things bothered me greatly: after a woman is caught cheating on her husband, her husband does everything to alienate his children from their mother, telling them she’s a horrible person — and that is completely glossed over and accepted as normal. The second is that children throughout the town gossip about this affair like adults, sharing information about who’s sleeping with whom, when they’re in fact children. This book is equally reprehensible and boring. It’s the fictional equivalent of the country of Brunei.
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell (2018) — Ten years ago, Laurel Mack’s fifteen-year-old daughter Ellie disappeared. In the years since, Laurel’s marriage and family fell apart. After Ellie’s remains are finally found, Laurel decides to make an effort to live again, and meets a charming, handsome man in a cafe. This man seems perfect — but strangely, his young daughter Poppy reminds her so much of Ellie. Seeing Poppy inspires Laurel to take another look at Ellie’s still-unsolved murder.
This is one of the most extremely far-fetched thrillers I’ve ever read. You’ll need to suspend disbelief over and over again. That said, I very much enjoyed reading it. I always enjoy London-based thrillers; I think the chilliness and dark skies of the city add to the atmosphere. I grew to genuinely care for some of the characters, too. If you’re looking for a lighter summer read, this is a great choice.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015) — In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, a communist spy in South Vietnam escapes to the United States at the end of the Vietnam War. He attempts to build a new life in Los Angeles, a land where Vietnamese refugees will never be accepted as Americans, while secretly reporting to his superiors back in Vietnam. The book is as much a commentary on racism in America as well as the hells of war, and what it’s like to be a divided person, in ethnicity as well as loyalty, unable to fit in anywhere.
I appreciated this book so much. The writing is absolutely exquisite, and I kept highlighting passages that I loved. (“Americans on the average do not trust intellectuals, but they are cowed by power and stunned by celebrity.“) Part of that is because Nguyen immigrated to the US at a young age and the book was written in English. That said…I didn’t enjoy reading it; despite its literary beauty, I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters or what would happen. Finishing it was a chore. Also, I had “The Heat Is On in Saigon” stuck in my head the whole time I read it. Even so — it might be more your thing than mine. I encourage you to give it a read if it sounds appealing to you.
Before by Carmen Boullusa (1989) — In this bildungsroman of a novella, Boullusa tells the story of a young girl growing up and the fears that held her captive from a young age. This book won two of Mexico’s most prestigious literary prizes and is regarded as one of the iconic pieces of literature in the country today.
There were things I liked and things I didn’t. Boullusa writes so brilliantly about what it’s like to be a child — the things that seem inconsequential to adults are given so much importance, and it feels like the world is ending when something bad happens to you. This might be unpopular, but I’d love to read a Latin American novel without any magic realism for once. It’s good when done well…but it can be a bit much. I think I can file this one under, “Good for you, not my thing.”
Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead by Cecile Richards with Lauren Peterson (2018) — What most people know about Cecile Richards is that she’s the president of Planned Parenthood and the daughter of the late Ann Richards, former governor of Texas. What most people don’t know is that she is a lifelong activist and has spent her entire career as an organizer, doing everything from helping service workers across the US form unions to creating organizations to promote progressive issues and combat the religious right. This memoir is a primer on how to become more of an activist.
Just reading about Richards’s life exhausts me — I have no idea how someone can work so tirelessly for so long (and to be frank, for so little money, until she took the job with Planned Parenthood). I admire her greatly and wish I had one tenth of her energy. What I most took away from this book is that there is so much more that all of us can be doing, and if something doesn’t exist yet, you can totally create it.
Coming Up in June 2018
I spent a few more days in Lebanon, then went to Cyprus! I had planned an ambitious four days of driving all over the island, but Lebanon exhausted me so much that I think I’m mainly going to take it easy and chill.
After that, I’m heading home to New York, and I don’t plan on going anywhere else for the rest of the month. (In part because I’m down to two pages in my passport — time to renew!) In fact, I doubt I’ll be traveling much this summer, other than day trips and a few short getaways.
There are a few reasons for that. I’ve got a lot of work to do, the industry is pretty quiet in summer, and it’s an expensive and crowded time to travel. Plus, I want to enjoy the best of summer in New York, odors and all. But rest assured, I am so excited to create a lot of awesome content for you to enjoy!