AK Monthly Recap: November 2014

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Kate in Sri Lanka

Well, I finally did it. After two and a half years, I finally took a vacation.

But aren’t you always on —

STOP! Don’t even!

Believe me, I know how ridiculous it sounds. I travel the world full-time, stay in luxury hotels, and people get me to do things like fly like Iron Man and climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and eat my face off in Italy’s best food region, all for free.

But when I travel, I never stop working. I spend hours of my day chained to my computer; if not, I’m chained to my phone, wifi-hungry and begging the local establishment to turn their router off and on again. I haven’t given myself permission to step away from this work routine since I first visited Croatia back in 2012!

But after the TBCAsia conference, I had two weeks to spare, a bunch of blogger friends with whom to travel, and several hotels that offered to host us. Conditions were perfect.

And so I let go. I relaxed. I hung out with several of my best blogger friends. I spent my days swimming and exploring. And it was divine.

My trip to Sri Lanka and TBC Asia was nothing short of life-changing — the single most healing trip of my life. I’ll get into it more in a later post; just know for now that I’m in a really great spot mentally. The best place I’ve been in a year or longer.

Beruwala Sri Lanka

Destinations Visited

Reading, Lynn, and Boston, Massachusetts

Colombo, Habanara, Kaudulla National Park, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Kandy, Beruwala, Galle, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Koggala, and Mirissa, Sri Lanka

Galle

Favorite Destinations

Galle — What a cool town! Anchored by a centuries-old fort and the clearest waters I’ve seen outside the Balkans, Galle is a funky city that quickly became my favorite spot in the country.

Sigiriya — Imagine a giant rock dwarfing an ancient city, surrounded my mountains. Sigiriya was majestic and climbing to the top was a major highlight of my time in Sri Lanka.

Unawatuna — The backpacker beach town of Sri Lanka. Unawatuna is cool, fun, and really reminds me of Sihanoukville — minus the sleaze factor.

View from Sigiriya

Highlights

I hit my goal — I’ve visited 101 UNESCO World Heritage Sites! My goal was always to say that I’ve been to more than 100 with a smile, and it’s a great feeling to be able to say that. I’ll be doing a recap of my 10 most recent sites soon.

TBC Asia was an incredible conference — the best travel blogging conference I’ve ever attended. Between the elite group of 40 bloggers from the Professional Travel Bloggers’ Association (of which I’m a founding member), the interesting talks, and an industry hungry to work with bloggers, this conference was a game-changer. Many thanks to the fabulous Cinnamon Hotels, CVisit Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Airlines, and Mobitel for bringing this event to fruition, as well as the PTBA for their tireless work.

Also, while I always have a very rough time with jet lag when flying from the Americas to Asia or vice versa, this time I did much better. The secret? Melatonin, which I took before bed. It wasn’t perfect (I tended to go to sleep at 11 and wake up at 5 for the first week), but at least I wasn’t staying awake all night and falling asleep in the middle of the day like I usually do.

Unawatuna

Challenges

I got sick this month — REALLY sick. I knew that I’d get some kind of cold in Sri Lanka due to how little I was sleeping, and boy, did it arrive with a vengeance.

In about six hours, I went from light sniffles to aches to a fever and chills so violent I couldn’t sip my tea without spilling it. It was awful — but because it arrived so quickly, I knew it would depart quickly. Later that night, the fever and chills were gone, but I was still shaky and weak for the next few days.

Thanks so much to my friends for helping me out in my time of need — especially Becki for going pharmacy-hopping and bringing me Paracetemol and Leif for insisting I eat a ton of raw garlic mixed with honey followed by an entire chopped raw onion (“Eat it like popcorn!”). That stuff actually works, especially when you’re so plugged up you can’t taste anything.

Polonnaruwa

Most Popular Post

Ten Years Since Florence: A Retrospective on Study Abroad — I was SO THRILLED that this post did so well!

Best of all, my roommates from Florence LOVED it! (Which is a relief. Part of me was afraid they’d be begging me to hide their identities…)

Sigiriya Puppy

Other Posts

It was a light month due to my vacation. Here are the remaining posts:

Five Things I’m Loving Right Now — From the best eyeliner ever to a sweet sleep tracking app and my new reality TV pleasure!

Ask Kate: Should I Book My Accommodation Ahead of Time? — The perks and pitfalls of waiting until you’re on the ground.

Women in Galle

News and Announcements

I hope you’re thinking of coming to the Women in Travel Summit in late March in Boston! I’ll be keynoting and plenty of other fabulous ladies are speaking. It should be a great opportunity to meet, talk business, and eventually take over the world.

If you’d like to come, you can get 10% off your ticket with the code KATE15. This code is valid until December 31, 2014.

North End Boston

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Believe it or not, my most popular photo of the month isn’t a Sri Lanka photo — it’s Boston! The North End is one of my favorite Boston neighborhoods for architecture (as well as food and history) and it’s so much fun to photograph.

Pictured on the right is Bova’s, a 24-hour bakery. Not much in Boston is open 24 hours, so Bova’s is a great place to stop for some late-night pastries!

As always, you can follow me on Instagram for live updates from wherever I am.

Jungle Beach Temple

What I Read This Month

Is there a point in posting this when I’m reading nothing? It’s been months and I know how horrible I’ve been. I know how Stephen King says that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write — but I’ve been working so hard on a project that it is taking priority over everything.

I will resume reading. I promise.

White House White

Coming Up in December 2014

I’ve got some crazy travel ahead! As I post this on December 1, I have one night in Hikkaduwa, one night in either Colombo or Negombo, an overnight flight from Colombo to London, three nights in London, flying from London to Dublin to Boston, one night in Boston, flying to DC, two nights in DC (and the White House!), a $3 bus to NYC (gotta love Megabus!), and at least three nights in NYC; hopefully more.

Then I’ll be spending Christmas in Massachusetts for the first time in far too long. I missed the last two Christmases and I never want to miss two in a row ever again.

Japanese Maple Tree

In Memoriam

And finally, I must conclude this month’s recap on a sad note. We recently lost a member of the travel blogging community — Wes Nations of JohnnyVagabond.com, who passed away after a long illness.

Whenever I discuss quality writing in travel blogs, I always mention Wes. His writing was raw and jarring — the kind of writing that would prove to skeptics that yes, there is merit in travel blogs. You couldn’t read a story of his casually. He wrote the kind of stories that would force you to stop and meditate on them afterward. And that wasn’t all. His design and photography were top-notch.

Many of you know how much I enjoy writing about the darker side of travel. Well, nobody was better at that than Wes. Period. He was simply the best in the world, and I can’t think of anyone who did it better, even in travel literature. Just take a look at the story he wrote about being offered a child prostitute.

Wes and I were online friends who never met up in real life, but we made plans to meet up in Chiang Mai. Twice. Our plans fell through both times. It was a big regret of mine then and even more so now.

Please take a look at his site today. Bookmark it. Read through his stories. See the world a bit differently. I particularly recommend reading his “Crazy Stories” archive.

Rest easy, Wes. We were lucky to have you as long as we had you.

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29 thoughts on “AK Monthly Recap: November 2014”

  1. Hi Kate, sounds like a perfect month. No wonder you’ve no time for reading!
    I’m so sorry to hear about Wes, that’s awful. I remember coming across his blog a while ago and being completely sucked in to his storytelling. The story of the child prostitute remains stuck in my mind today, he was an amazing writer.

  2. I wasn’t sure what the travel blogging conference was all about in Sri Lanka, but I was on vacay there that same weekend it started lol, crazy! I never followed Wes’s blog but am sad to hear of his passing and am interested to read some of his stories. Thanks for sharing.

  3. It’s so nice to read about you taking a vacation for once! And so sad about Wes – he was such a remarkable storyteller. It’s so crazy looking at his blog now knowing that he’s gone, but heartwarming to see how deeply he touched so many people in the travel blogging world.

  4. Hi Kate! I don´t knew your blog, but I read some articles and is awesome. I want to create my own blog (I still think about the design) and you have excellent articles, stories, spectaculars pics. I´d like if you could give me some advices. I forget it! It was time for you to take a vacation.

  5. That’s so nice that you got to take an unplugged vacation. Sometimes, when I travel, I try to spend a whole day or evening without my phone just to take everything in. I’m sorry to hear about Wes’s passing.

  6. Sorry, but you still are much more on vacation than most people! We get that you’re working on your computer, but like you said you get paid to do awesome things. Please keep that in mind more than while you’re reminding us that you haven’t had a vacation in soooo long. Some people have life threatening sicknesses that don’t allow them to hop around the world and snidely complain about it rather frequently.

  7. I am in love with Sri Lanka.

    I dragged my whole family there for Christmas two years ago. They live in Abu Dhabi so the flight was short and cheap. We went to Kandy, Dambulla, Kithugala (for white water rafting), Galle and Unawatuna.

    My favourite thing about Sri Lanka is the people. They are just blunt but nice people. An Example:
    My dad is somewhat anti-social. He hates crowds, touts, and being pestered. Quite honestly he will lose his sh*t if someone doesn’t understand he means f*** off when he says ‘no’ after the third time. So this particular time we had been walking for about two hours in the hot sun when this lady came up selling flowers. She immediately targeted my dad. He was so happily surprised that when he said “no thanks” she just gave us a gap-tooth smile and waved as we kept walking. Their was no guilting, no ill feelings. The next day I saw her again and I bought some little flowers from her and clumsily tried to put them in my hair. She braided them in for me and it looked awesome.

    This year we are going back to see Yala national Park and stay somewhere on the east coast. We’ll see how it goes but I can’t imagine it’ll be anything but great.

  8. Yes! So happy to finally hear about your month and glad you got to have some vacation time. Can’t wait to learn more about Sri Lanka. And it does sound like a crazy amount of travel to get home for Christmas, but that’s awesome you’ll get to spend it with your family. (Also, I read Wes’s child prostitute story after you posted about it on Thanksgiving, and it was so crazy and powerful, I’ll definitely be reading more. Thanks for that.)

  9. Hi Kate, happy you got sime time off for yourself. I recognised myself in the very first paragraph immediately… I guess as soon as you start blogging about your traveling, you never really have real holidays. You are always on a hunt for good motives, good stories, good and useful information, writing, editing photos… Yp, blogging is for sure now picnic! But we love to do it anyway, right? 🙂
    Glad you enjoyed Sri Lanka, it is a nice, diverse country and I guess perfect for unwind yourself. Enjoy and happy holidays with your family 🙂

  10. Sri Lanka looks and sounds so cool! Thanks for sharing..a couple of bloggers I met at TBEX Atgens were there after the conference, and I’ve been following their travels too! Sorry about Wes, may he rest with the angels!

  11. I’m so glad I got to share the Sri Lanka experience with you– truly special, as you said. Also happy to hear that you’re feeling so much better. Until next time– stay well, dear Kate!

  12. Thanks so much for the link to Johnny Vagabond. I had never seen his site before and it is fantastic. It really is a shame that he is gone. He had a lot to offer readers. I’ve bookmarked it so I can read his writing at leisure. Have a great December.

  13. I’m so pleased that you’re finally getting some rest and sharing the time with your friends and loved ones.
    I am so sorry to hear about Wes. I didn’t know him but I had heard of his website: Johnny Vagabond; and long may it remain so. Stay safe my friend and have a good month. You deserve it.

  14. Sri Lanka looks amazing! It’s definitely moved up my bucket list for Asia after seeing all of your amazing photos.

    Really glad to see you are in a great place now. It’s an amazing feeling to go back to your happy place after being away for so long- you should take vacation time more often! Although I must say I missed the posts!

  15. Whew, I was exhausted just reading your post! This really illustrates the point that travel blogging, while fabulous and exciting, is real work, and provides real value. That’s something I’m learning as a newbie. I love your passion for what you do – it inspires me in my own walk. Have a lovely holiday season!

  16. Barbara Coughlan

    Honestly Kate, you should have more respect for the people who actually have a real job, a time schedule to respect and a boss behind them.and 20 days for holidays. You travel for free, you stay in luxury hotels for free, transport for free, etc for free. You are not really chained to anything, if you organize your time well you can spend a very short time making an article, actually the quality of your articles have became a bit poor lately,its far to be the useful blog it used to be time ago.
    I used to find you brave to travel on your own, but staying in sponsored hotels and trips organized by others, you became too commercial its not about offer the best options to your readers anymore now its about sell your sponsors to us. Also if you travel with your fiance, you are not a solo “expert” travel anymore.

    1. Twenty days a year (four week’s) vacation?! I wish. North Americans get a lot less than that.

      Also, pretty sure Kate’s work involves a lot more than “making” an article, as you suggested. This blog is not her only job.

      And, if you were a regular reader you’d know there is no more fiance. Even if that was no longer the case, things change. Life changes. She had YEARS of solo travel before becoming half of a couple, so I think that makes her pretty qualified.

    2. Barbara, I always wonder about the kinds of people who wake up in the morning and say, “You know what? I’m going to ruin someone’s day.”

      Ordinarily, comments like yours not only ruin my day, but my week. Not just for me, but for most bloggers. But seeing how many inaccuracies you’ve written here shows that you actually don’t know me, my site, or my life as well as you think you do. 🙂

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