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This month, I went back to my roots — back to Southeast Asia, back to Thailand, back to Bangkok. In that picture above, I’m wearing the blue dress and black open cardigan that I bought in Bangkok nearly five years ago.
And while Southeast Asia will always be the destination where I cut my teeth as a long-term traveler, there were a lot of differences this time around. For one, this was my first Thailand visit not on a backpacker budget. It was a completely different experience to enjoy Thailand without worrying about every baht spent.
Backpacker Kate would have fretted about spending 600 baht on an hourlong foot massage and mani-pedi in the same day. That was 250 baht over the daily limit for discretionary spending. The Kate of today? “It’s $17.”
I really liked going to Thailand for only three weeks as opposed to months. It allowed me to truly savor my time there and treat it like a holiday. I have no doubt this is how my trips are going to be structured in the future.
I spent the remainder of this month at home in the U.S. Here is what I got up to in November!
Reading, Lynn, and Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Fairfield and Stamford, Connecticut, USA
Bangkok, Koh Lanta, Krabi, Railay, and Chiang Mai, Thailand
Koh Lanta. My most asked question is, “What’s your favorite place?” and after my third visit, I can say without a doubt that Koh Lanta is my favorite place in the world.
Chiang Mai. I spent my time here eating great food, drinking tons of coffee, getting a lot of work done, and socializing my ass off!
Bangkok. Bangkok is my city. Plain and simple. I always feel like I’m returning home.
Image: This Battered Suitcase
Spending a week in Koh Lanta with Brenna. This island is perfect. I love the beaches, I love the sunsets, I love the low-key vibe, I love the people, I love the food. I love how it still feels quiet.
And this trip was my best trip yet. Brenna of This Battered Suitcase (read it — it’s one of the best travel blogs out there) and I have been friends for awhile, but this is the first time we’ve traveled together, and we had a fabulous time. Part of it was that we had both already been to the island, so there was no pressure to explore, and we were willing to splurge more on a nice boutique resort and good restaurants.
Much more on our fabulous thirty-something Koh Lanta getaway coming soon!
Speaking to students at my alma mater, Fairfield University. My friend Amy mentors a group of sophomores and she invited me to come speak to them about my life and travels. This is the first time I’ve been back on campus in maybe eight years or so, and I couldn’t believe how much it has changed!
The students were on the quiet side, but they did ask some questions and I gave them a lot of study abroad advice. They especially perked up when Amy and I told them what it was like to go to college in the early oughts — we didn’t even have wifi on campus then! It was jarring to see them with iPhones and Macbook Pros.
Taking the train from Boston to Stamford. I don’t take the train in the US very often because it’s much more expensive than the bus, but I absolutely loved this trip because it was a gorgeous fall day and the scenery was perfectly golden against a bright blue sky. I have no words for how much I enjoy train travel.
Arriving in style in Bangkok. I always tell people that Bangkok is one of the best places in the world to splurge on a luxury hotel, in part because the selection is extensive and the prices are relatively cheap, but I had never stayed in a luxury Bangkok property before now. The Amari Watergate had offered me a complimentary stay months ago, so I took them up on their offer.
WHAT A WAY TO ARRIVE. When you’re crazy jet lagged and have no idea what year it is, there’s nothing like coming home to a luxurious suite with an insanely comfy bed, a giant bath, having a fabulous massage, eating delicious food, hanging out in special exclusive areas for club-level guests, and being walking distance from Siam Square and the heart of Bangkok, where I always go first thing when I first arrive in the city. I loved my stay. More on it soon.
Image: Nomad is Beautiful
Hanging out with the Chiang Mai travel bloggers. What a difference five years makes. Chiang Mai has always been a popular spot for travel bloggers to put down roots for awhile (due to the extensive Western amenities yet super-cheap prices) but as travel blogging has grown as a profession, so has the number of bloggers calling this city home. Nimman Road almost felt like Blogger Disneyland. We had dinners, parties, and bar nights out almost every day.
Back in 2010, I still considered myself a “baby blogger” and was definitely on the shy side. This year, I arrived to a group of old friends, online-until-now friends, and new friends, and many of us were familiar with each other’s work.
It was just like back in 2010 in some ways, though — people would grab a long, leisurely lunch together, then discuss where to meet up for dinner that same day. Oh, Chiang Mai, never change!
Celebrating a dear friend’s bridal shower. I miss so many showers and bachelorette parties with my crazy travel schedule, so I appreciate it all the more when I can make one of these occasions. This time it was to celebrate my friend Janelle (in the center in that GORGEOUS Monique Lhullier dress!), who is getting married in March.
One reason why showers are awesome? You make lots of new friends to hang out with at the wedding. Can’t wait for the big day!
I went through some tough emotional times this month. I may talk about it in more depth once I can process it better, or maybe I won’t. Either way, let’s just say that traveling full-time takes a huge toll on your mind and body. Running your own business takes an equally huge toll on your mind and body. Most people who dream about running a business while traveling the world have no idea how much it will drain you eventually.
In short, I could feel several sources of stress growing (and have since earlier this year), but these feelings hit their apex when I was in Chiang Mai. As a result, I’ve put upcoming travel plans on hiatus for now, excluding New York, and plan to take care of myself for awhile.
It’s not a big secret or scandal; there’s nothing to worry about! I just need a break. There’s a reason why tons of us old-timer travel bloggers are starting to settle down these days.
Flying Air China was unpleasant. I usually roll my eyes when people say, “I’m never flying [airline] again!” Most of the time, I think people overreact or misplace blame. If you had a mean flight attendant or they forced you to check your carry-on that you filled beyond the weight limit and hoped they wouldn’t notice, that’s not a reason to boycott an airline.
But I’m going to make an effort to avoid Air China in the future for two reasons: first, they ban all mobile phone usage for the entire flight, even when used in airplane mode. (I refused and used it discreetly. A friend had made me a mix especially for the flight and there was no way I wasn’t going to listen to it.) Second, the flight was filled with mainland Chinese, who have different standards of manners. There was a lot of shouting, shoving, and invasion of space. My flight back on Japan Airlines felt like a spa by comparison.
I made a rookie packing error. I actually carried on for the first time in forever for my trip to Thailand (!!) but didn’t check the size of my keratin-friendly hair masque. It was just over the limit. I hated that I had to toss a $36 hair product I had never used and had nothing to protect my hair when swimming in the ocean.
As a result, my keratin treatment pretty much got destroyed. You’re supposed to avoid swimming in the ocean or at least use a hair masque when you do, and just ONE quick dip in the Andaman Sea was enough to frizzify my mane. Oh, well. I’m due for my next treatment this week, anyway.
I was sad to see what Railay has become. Even five years ago, I recognized the environment’s fragility and worried that it wouldn’t be able to handle increasing tourism without oversight by the government. But money talks, and as a result, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world is now a teeming mass of tourists with lots of trash and out-of-control monkeys and sky-high prices (175 baht ($5) fruit shakes, are you joking?! They should cost 80 baht ($2) at the absolute most!).
We went to Railay because Brenna had never visited before and wanted to see it. Her takeaway: “Why would anyone go here when they could go to Koh Lanta?”
Also, I got robbed by a monkey on Phranang Beach. The little bastard slinked up to me and grabbed my plastic bag filled with groceries. I shrieked and threw the bag; he snagged chips and Oreos (neither had been opened!) and carried them to the top of a tree to eat them.
Take my advice — the Railay monkeys see big white plastic bags and KNOW there’s food somewhere inside! (Oh, and please don’t be an asshole tourist trying to touch or play with the monkeys. That makes things worse. Brenna and I reamed out several people who did that.)
Most Popular Post
Solo Female Travelers Over 40 — I was thrilled with the response to this post! These ladies rule.
My Favorite New Destinations of 2015 — Nicaragua is my destination of the year!
Scenes from the Cotswolds — I fell in love with this beautiful part of England.
Briefly, Belgrade — Everything I loved in this cool Balkan city.
Win a Trip to Africa (With Flights!) from KLM Airlines! — One of the better contests of lately.
News and Announcements
I was surprised and delighted to be invited as a guest on one of my favorite podcasts, Awesome Etiquette! I’ll be on their holiday special, which will air on NPR, talking about holiday travel etiquette with Lizzie and Dan. I’ll be giving advice on how to survive holiday air travel, how to get through a long road trip with a relative you can’t stand, and more. As soon as it airs, I’ll let you know! (I also got to hang out with my buddy Brock after the taping, which was fabulous!)
Last month, I made a resolution to write down my rose, thorn, and bud of each day. Well, I’m sorry to say I gave up about a week into it. Did not expect that.
My challenge for December? I’m trying to add in some good habits to help me cope with stress and get out of my head. I also want them to have NOTHING to do with work, so writing, photography, and web stuff is out.
One activity is meditation, and I’ve started using the Headspace app with its guided meditations, which I like a lot. The other is drawing and painting, which I used to love, but I haven’t really done since high school. Don’t expect to see any of my art, though — I need to have at least one creative outlet that’s for my eyes only!
Most Popular Photo on Instagram
Definitely when the storm rolled in on Relax Bay in Koh Lanta! November is the perfect time to visit Koh Lanta — it’s the tail end of shoulder season, which meant we had perfect sunny days about two-thirds of the time and days with a mix of sun and storms about one-third of the time.
And all those storms and clouds make for the most beautiful sunsets.
You can follow my travels in real time at @adventurouskate on Instagram and Snapchat.
What I Read This Month
In November, I finished my 50th book of 2015! Only three books remain in the 2015 Popsugar Book Challenge.
This month, I admit that I tried to make things a bit easier for myself — not wanting to get stuck in another long book like I did with Sense and Sensibility, I instead chose short books and easy reads that fulfilled the challenge. It felt a bit like cheating, but considering the amount of books I’ve consumed this year, I hope that can be forgiven!
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton — If you like your books short, tragic, and breathtakingly beautiful, this is for you. I feel like Ethan Frome is the kind of story that you shouldn’t spoil, so it’s best left at that. I’ll just say that it’s one of my absolute favorite reads of the year and I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it until now.
I chose it because it was on the short side and I didn’t want my 100-year-old book to drag on and on; I actually finished it in a single sitting. Category: A book more than 100 years old.
The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer — If there’s any book I read this year that should be required reading for the masses, this is it. This short book describes how we can benefit from taking a break from our lives to do absolutely nothing. Especially for those of us who are entrepreneurs and never turn off.
Either way, I look forward to taking off the week from Christmas to New Year’s this year and making a greater effort to do digital detoxes in the future. Thanks for the recommendation, Jeremy! Category: a book a friend recommended.
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz — Whatever you’re doing, you need to drop it now and pick up a book by Junot Diaz. He has a dazzling literary style unlike anything I’ve ever read — it’s vulgar and unapologetic and takes you on Spanglish journey from the Dominican Republic to America and back. This book is a collection of short stories of Diaz’s iconic character Yunior and his many loves, most of whom he cheated on.
I chose this for my book that takes place in my hometown. Though the book’s setting doesn’t shift to Boston until the 83% mark, this was probably the best book I could have chosen because it gave me a new perspective of my city — on the day-to-day racism that people of color face here. It was eye-opening and I felt embarrassed and guilty by association. That said, I am a Diaz fangirl now and I can’t wait to read more of his books. Thanks for the recommendation, Oneika! Category: A book that takes place in your hometown.
Acceptance by Susan Coll — I wanted to pick up a book taking place in high school that was written for adults, and this satire about the college application process was an interesting choice. It pings back and forth between several top students at a strong Maryland public school and their crazed efforts to get into their top choice colleges. This was so much like my high school experience — my school was very similar and top students chased Ivys. In the class two years ahead of mine, five people got into Harvard. Out of a class of 250. At a public school in the Boston area!!
As for the book, it was entertaining and I loved how it brought back memories, but it wasn’t one of the best books I’ve read this year. Some of the subplots were unnecessary and I think the satire could have been pushed a lot further. Category: A book set in high school.
What I Listened To This Month
Hold on Longer by John Legend — One of the disadvantages of traveling so much is that I fall behind on music — so I had never listened to one of my favorite artist’s latest album. Well, I bought Love in the Future and OH MY GOD. So many great songs, but this one is my favorite because I have a special weakness for songs written in three.
Gust of Wind by Pharrell Williams — Love this song. “When I open the window, I want to hug you, cause you remind me of the air!” LOVE THAT. And I know and love that feeling.
Hello by Adele — Come on, if you didn’t listen to this song over and over this month, you probably live on the moon!
Coming Up in December 2015
I’m closing out the final month at home. And for me, “home” right now means pinging between the Boston area and New York. It’s time to buckle down, do some work, buy some Christmas presents, and continue planning my move to New York early next year.
But I am excited to do some Christmasy activities in the city, more than I did last year, and see lots of friends. That city is never boring, that’s for sure!
Christmas will be spent at home with my family. New Year’s? Currently up in the air. We’ll see!
47 thoughts on “AK Monthly Recap: November 2015”
Kate, I love your monthly recaps! Make sure you balance everything out and get some downtime for yourself, to stop feeling so stressed out. I can understand how travelling full time and running an online business can get its toll on you, but just know you are an inspiration for a lot of us out there!
I loved seeing that you and Brenna traveled together last month! We’ve never met, but hers is the first travel blog I started reading years ago when I found it listed on some kind of pamphlet that came with a bottle of whisky. Weird. But she has a really captivating way of writing. I’ve been meditating on and off for years, but when I reached a bit of a rut with it, I found that the Yoga with Adriene videos on Youtube really helped. Now that you’ll have some roots, you might want to give it a shot — I’d always thought you had to be super flexible for Yoga (I’ve never been), but that’s because classes make me feel oddly competitive and I never really “got” it. Now after months of just gently practicing in the comfort of my own home, my core is in killer shape and I can finally touch my toes! It’s a feat, trust me, and it’s helped immensely with meditating.
Now that you’re U.S. based, you should make plans to head down the coast next year. Virginia oysters?
Aw, Katie, you are awesome! And WOW – I almost forgot that story of how you found my blog – I used to freelance for Glenfiddich years and years ago. Thank you so much for all of your support over the years!
Ha, that’s right! I have Glenfiddich to thank for my addiction to travel blogs. 😉
Kate – oh man, where to begin? I had so much fun with you in Koh Lanta and agree that it is one of my favourite places in the world. So many fun/funny memories from that week!! Thank you so much for saying such nice things about my blog… as I told you, yours was one of the first other travel blogs I read (back when I was travelling SE Asia the first time) and so it was so cool to travel with you in Thailand. I can’t wait to see where the next year takes you and all of the exciting things that NYC brings.
To a 2016 reunion!! x
I can’t wait for our next trip together! 🙂
I always enjoy your recap posts! I’m glad you’re home for the holidays and taking care of yourself first. If 2015 has taught my anything, it’s that self care is number one. You are such an inspiration because you follow your dreams and you know when you need to rest.
I need some hobbies other than writing, photography, and exercise. Right now I’m channeling all that energy into homemade Christmas gifts, but after that…I’ll have to think of something. I’d been crocheting but my the joints in my hands can’t handle that on top of how much I type.
I’ll be in the NYC area for Christmas visiting family and friends and just loving how awesome the holidays are in NY.
I’ve definitely enjoyed reading about Ko Lanta, Kate! I’m heading there myself in 2016 and can’t wait to see what it’s all about.
Love following along on your blog & snapchat! Hope you get some much deserved rest and relaxation! I would also suggest adult coloring books as a source of relaxation! I’m obsessed 🙂
Yay!! I’m SO glad that you enjoyed “This is How you Lose Her!” I was seriously spellbound by the book and thought of it days after. It’s brash, heart wrenching, tender, and hilarious all at once. I would love to have the chance to meet Diaz in person. Read “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” next– it’s the book that won Diaz the Pulitzer– I’m curious to hear what you think (Spoiler: it wasn’t my fave). You have really motivated to take this reading challenge, I am a voracious consumer of books but lately I haven’t been reading as much. Looking forward to hanging out this week! x
i completely agree about Railay Beach, I first went there about 6 years ago and loved the relaxed vibe that it had. i made the mistake of returning there a few years back and was so shocked and upset at how much it had changed. I had been recommending people to go there and once I went back I hoped that no one took me up on the recommendation.
I originally read about Railay from a guy who visited in the mid-90s. Can you imagine how it must have been then?
I completely understand where you’re coming from. Traveling is a lot of fun, but it’s also very tiring! Realizing that is key.
Good call on Junot Diaz — best. living. writer in the world. Jump on The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, you’ll wonder what life was like before.
PS: I second what Kim said about adult coloring books. They are phenomenal, and have even popped up in some of my yoga classes as an alternative to meditation — they’ve worked wonders!
Hi! I had no idea you went to Fairfield U. I graduated from there a million years ago in 2008 :D. I happened upon your blog pretty randomly. How cool 🙂 I’ve been living abroad in Germany for a few years now and would love to start a blog of my own one day…. just got to get started [it’s the toughest part of everything :D].
All the best,
Cool, I graduated in 2006! We probably passed each other in the BCC. 🙂
Kate, I have to say much of this post made me uncomfortable. The casual way with which you talk about Thailand as your home and describing it as if its main purpose is to be the hub of travel bloggers risks sounding of unethical traveling. You go on to complain about the Railay beaches and its monkeys but neglect to mention how it has been people like yourself who are in the tourist industry who contribute in various ways to these kinds of general decline. There’s just a casual ownership of Thailand that runs throughout this post that is uncomfortable to read. You do not seem to think about the potential violence of tourism outside of how it affected you as a traveler and I am disappointed. I generally enjoy your posts but I wish you had handled this differently.
Honestly, Alex, of all the posts in the world, I’m surprised that THIS one makes you uncomfortable. You really think that I think I “own” Thailand? You really think that because a lot of travel bloggers tend to congregate in one of Thailand’s cities is a reflection of the entire country? Wow.
It’s super impressive that you managed to complete the book challenge! I’ve started really hopeful but I’ve managed to finish only 17 out of 52… Another year another new year resolution 🙂
Love hearing more in depth about what you’ve been up to, will definitely check out some of those books. I will be in NYC for a few days in mid January. I’ve done most of the typical must-sees except some museums, so I’m going to hit up some of the art museums. Any suggestions for sometimes overlooked things to do in NYC, especially in the winter? Thanks!
Go eat at Eataly and check out the Brooklyn Flea. Both cool things to do!
I am so with you on Air China. OMG, so bad. I flew with them last year and had a terrible experience. Firstly an 18 hour delay that led to a domino effect of issues. I can understand these things happen but they made no effort to communicate with me and basically left me on my own to deal with things.
But the worst part was that they refused to give me water on the flight! I had my own water bottle and kept walking down to get them to fill it and they’d begrudgingly give me a few cm in the bottom of the bottle. My feet and legs started swelling and I told them but they didn’t care.
It took me about 5 or 6 days for the swelling in my legs to go down and to get back to normal. So not worth the few hundred bucks I saved!
That sounds horrific. That’s why I always pay through the nose for giant bottles of airport water, but sometimes they aren’t even enough for a US-Asia flight.
‘So nice to read about your month in November. And Thailand. Yay! It’s no surprise that long-term bloggers and other Westerners are settling down there, it’s a lovely country, the people are friendly and welcoming and it’s easy to move around in. I took the family there last year and my pre-teenage son was raving about Chiang Mai. I could literally see GAP Year with his British-German school mates, written all over his face lol!
Even with a full-time corporate job I still managed to travel to 11 countries this year so I always make it a priority not to travel outside Germany in December. And besides, Christmas in Berlin is simply awesome!
ps. I had a monkey jump on me and & pull my then-long hair in Bali way back in ’99 and since then I have been absolutely terrified of monkeys but I keep bumping into them in India & in Germany!!!
It was a pleasure meeting you in Chiang Mai! There is indeed a plethora of travel bloggers here! Lovely bunch! =] !
When I first got here in Thailand, the first place I went to was Koh Lanta — I loved it! Yara, from Heart of a Vagabond told us it was her favourite, so we started off over there. We spent 10 days there and even with the smoke coming from Indonesia we had a great time!
Enjoy yourself in NY! =] !
It was so great meeting you guys in Chiang Mai! You’ve got a couch to crash on in NYC from app. April 2016 onwards. 🙂
So glad you and Brenna got to travel together! I love her blog and she was super nice when I met her in Dublin, I can absolutely see you two get along perfectly!
Regarding your book challenge: Will you write a round-up of your favorite books in 2015? As I have to read so much for work all the time, I can only squeeze in a handful of novels per year sadly — so I want them to be great ones! Your recommendations have always been reliable, thus I’d love to hear what your favorite books were this year!
This was the first time Brenna and I hung out for more than a day at a time and we had a GREAT time together!
We’re so glad to have finally met you in person, in Chiang Mai. I wish we had more time to chat, but I’m sure we’ll catch up again in the future (since we’re both Bostonians). Looking forward to catching up again!
Sean, it was so great meeting you this month! Hope to see you guys soon!
I love your Monthly Recap 🙂 I have to say I love how every travel blogger says that Thailand is so 2002, but everybody keeps returning to this lovely country. Let´s face it Thailand have us in our heart, 2002 or not it´still there.
I think we all have memories and good times in Thailand so we easily relate. This why we maybe keep returning to this country. It´s filled up with good memories from some of our crazy backpacking memories to new memories being in a nice hotel. You did it Kate 🙂
Flying Air China, I have heard it is bad, thanks for confirming again.
Looking forward for November Recap 😉
For the December Recap … I have to go an buy Christmas present now… haha joking.
Sad that Railay is changing so much… I loved it when we visited in May but it was quiet and I wonder if that made our experience better. That said, I preferred Phranang Beach even though it was busier.
For coping with stress, how about colouring books? I love that these have become so popular with adults, some of the designs are amazing too!
You know, I tried coloring books and I found it stressed me out more! Maybe if I did them with markers instead of colored pencils, I’d enjoy them more.
I adore your recap posts.
Sorry to hear that you’re drained, hope you find a healing process that works for you xo
I’m proud of you for putting your health first and coming home when you knew it was the right thing for you – even if it didn’t match up with your travel plans!
Gotta say though, between you and Alex, I am dying to get to Thailand!
I too love these monthly recap posts. I’m curious though- and would love to hear your thoughts about this- about how you think about and deal with the environmental effect that frequent travel has. Do you think about your carbon footprint? Buy carbon offsets for flights? I know you’ve spoken about both how hard you’ve worked to be able to travel but also your awareness of your good fortune that has contributed to the possibility of a life of long term travel for you but, unless I missed it, I haven’t heard much about your thoughts on long term travel and its environmental effect. Happy Holidays to you also!
Well, to be honest, my full-time travel lifestyle has already brought down my carbon footprint exponentially from the life I used to have. The biggest difference? No longer having a car. Right before I left to travel, I was commuting an hour by car each way. Getting rid of that has made such a difference on the planet.
The second biggest? Not having a house or apartment. Not using huge amounts of electricity to keep a million different gadgets charged. And beyond that, not buying many things has allowed me to survive on very little. I feel like the “reduce” part of reduce, reuse, recycle is the part people tend to forget the most!
There’s more that I could be doing — absolutely. There’s more that all of us could be doing. I’ve done bit of research and know that different kinds vary enormously, so thanks — you’ve given me a topic for a future post!
Hi Kate, stumbled upon your page and its quite inspiring. Keep doing what your doing!
I love these monthly posts!
And I haven’t heard of many people who share my love for Bangkok. Most people find it too chaotic, or dirty, whereas I’m totally in love with this place.
I love the food, the people, and for me it just has the right amount of chaos to not be overwhelmed.
Hmmm Air China? You should try Spring Airlines! In as much as you shouldnt. 2 hours on the tarmac waiting to take off, the only foreigner on board and the rest of the plane with short tempers. The staff got on their knees and asked for forgiveness for the delay!
I have been traveling for 4 years now (did two years in the 90’s before blogging and FB) and usually can’t stand bloggers and what they write but you do a very good job and enjoy reading your posts. I try to encourage my female friends who are scared to travel to read your website and get inspired. I am currently taking a break in Thailand but planning a motorcycle ride around SE Asia. Keep up the great work and enjoy your break.
I appreciate that, Gary. Just like everything else in life, there are good and bad bloggers out there. Sometimes the bad ones get more press. But thanks for sending people my way!
I love these monthly posts! ++ 🙂
“mainland Chinese, who have different standards of manners”…I love that very polite description. Ha Ha Ha!
I worded it several different ways before I was happy with that one. 😉
I love your blog Kate…And I love Asia too… 😉