AK Monthly Recap: October 2016

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Kate in Australia

Do you remember last month, when I told you I had a trip coming up to a destination I couldn’t name just yet? At the time of publication, I was deep in contract negotiations and couldn’t say anything yet. But if you’ve been following me on social media, you know I went to Western Australia this month!

This is another of the busiest travel months I’ve had in recent years. I more or less went nonstop and didn’t sleep much. But while it was hectic, it was also a lot of fun. Here’s the best of it!

Paris Rue de Montorgueuil

Destinations Visited

Kraków and Warsaw, Poland

Leipzig, Germany

Strasbourg, Colmar, and Paris, France

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Perth, Rottnest Island, Fremantle, Nambung National Park, Cervantes, Port Gregory, Kalbarri, Kalbarri National Park, Hamelin Pool, Denham, Monkey Mia, Carnarvon, Coral Bay, Tom Price, Karijini National Park, and Broome, Western Australia

Coral Bay Sunset

Favorite Destinations

Coral Bay. This tiny beach town is far from everything yet on the edge of Ningaloo Reef and sand dunes.

Karijini National Park. Red rocks, deep gorges, rockholes, spider-walking, and sleeping in an eco-tent.

Strasbourg. Beautiful, livable, comfortable, and bursting with delicious food.

Paris. My favorite city in the world, always.

Kate, Scotty and Freedi


A kickass road trip in Western Australia. I have so much to share about this trip, and I don’t want to get too detailed here because I want to write about it soon, but I’ll start by saying that I traveled with two truly amazing people: my German blogger counterpart Freedi of Freise in Design and our guide and driver Scotty of Kimberley Spirit. These are two of the most wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of traveling with and they brought so much joy to my life.

As for WA (Western Australia), I did SO many awesome things: Went to Rottnest Island and took selfies with quokkas! Snorkeled with giant manta rays on Ningaloo Reef! Flew in a tiny plane above Shark Bay! Canoed through Kalbarri National Park! Quad-biked through Coral Bay at sunset! Drank a million perfect flat whites in Perth! Spider-walked through gorges in Karijini National Park! I finished off with a few days of relaxation at the Mangrove Hotel in Broome.

WA is vast, sparsely populated, incredibly beautiful, and remarkably friendly. This has always been the region in Australia I’ve wanted to visit the most, long before I even started my travels, so I was thrilled to finally get there.

Video Summit Friends

Speaking and networking at The Video Summit in Leipzig. This was one of the most inspirational conferences I’ve attended in recent years — I loved meeting so many talented people obsessed with creating new ways to tell stories. I felt like a bit of an imposter at first, as I only do quickie unedited videos (I was there to talk about Snapchat), but after getting to know the people, I feel like maybe I actually did belong there. Video is video.

It was also nice to have a different mix of bloggers than the usual events. This event was invitation-only so it was restricted to professionals, and there were a lot of people I hadn’t met before or even heard of. One thing is for sure: everyone there was bursting with creativity. I can’t wait to do more with video now!

Finally discovering a new region in France. For too long I’ve been visiting Paris and eschewing the rest of France, so I decided to visit Alsace, where France blends with Germany. It was worth the wait.

Kate in Pink

Visiting my final country in Western Europe. I have a goal of visiting every country in Europe, and with Luxembourg, I’ve conquered the west! Only seven European countries remain: Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and Cyprus.

One awesome week in Paris. I knew I’d be dropping in on Paris, as I often do, and during a coworking session in Harlem in September, I invited my friend Jiyang to come join me. He bought his ticket right then and there!

Jiyang is a New York-based portrait photographer (check out his work here), so much of our trip was doing photo shoots all over the city! He LOVED Paris, I never get tired of being a Paris tour guide, and we sat in approximately 152 different cafes and ate a LOT of foie gras.

Running into readers in the craziest of locations. The first time I got recognized by a reader, in Bali in 2011, I was grinning for days. These days, it happens a few times a month and it’s usually in an airport or a Starbucks. But this month, you can’t top the locations: I ran into readers in the Louvre, in the Musée d’Orsay, on a snorkeling trip to Ningaloo Reef, and in a gorge in Karijini National Park!

Kate in Paris, Then and Now

Taking a “then and now” photo for the ages. When I was downstairs at the Louvre, I suddenly got the urge to take a photo in the same place where I took my “Da Vinci Code Superfan” photo in 2006, right after I graduated from college. Jiyang helped me get as close to the original as possible.

I know most people look back at photos from ten years ago in despair at how young they used to look — but this makes me laugh. LOOK HOW BAD I LOOKED WHEN I WAS 22!! What the hell was I wearing? At the Louvre, no less?! Those horrible foil-covered pink flip-flops probably cost $2 at a garage sale!

Man. I may have more wrinkles as a 32-year-old, but at least I know how to dress and do my makeup and hair now! (To be fair, I didn’t come into my own style-wise until two years ago.)

New Pradas on a discount. After arriving in Perth, I was browsing sunglasses and wistfully trying on the pair I had been lusting after for weeks. The girl asked me what brought me to Perth, I told her about the campaign, she got excited, and she offered me her friends and family discount — 40% off. HELL YEAH! It’s been awhile since I bought new sunglasses and I love these ones!



A Warsaw accommodation snafu. Since I had less than 24 hours in Warsaw and was arriving and departing by train, I decided to book a guesthouse by the train station. It sounded like a good idea until I realized that near the train station, the only way to cross streets is to go up and down and up and down stairs, which sucked while carrying a heavy suitcase. Then I couldn’t find the guesthouse to save my life. I was hot, exhausted, and nearly in tears.

I sighed, looked across the street at the Novotel, and on a whim decided to get a room there instead. This was the first time in my life I’ve walked into a hotel and said, “Can I get a room for tonight?” (I used to do that with cheap Southeast Asia hostels and guesthouses WAY back in the day, but not in years and never in real hotels.) Best decision ever.

Google Maps sent me down a scary path. While transiting through Saarbrücken, Germany, I had to get from the train station to the bus station. In many cities they’re next door to each other. But in this instance, Google Maps sent me and my giant rolling suitcase down a rocky, unlit path through a forest at night. EEK! Not cool, Google. My heart was pounding until I made it out safely.

A brief cold — fended off successfully. Why do I always seem to get a cold when I’m in Paris? It makes me despair about not being able to taste the food. Anyway, the cold was brief, and I’m grateful for that.

Kate with Quokka

Most Popular Post

My Love Affair With Scotland — My eight trips to Scotland and how each of them made me fall for the country more.

Other Posts

Solo Travel in Cartagena in Five Vignettes — Five little stories about what it’s like to travel solo in Cartagena.

A Taste of Alsace in Strasbourg and Colmar — I really loved this French-German region.

A Dreamy Trip to South Wales — An overview of traveling in this beautiful part of the world.


Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Colmar! This photo was taken at Little Venice, or “Selfie Point” as I dubbed it (you should have seen all the selfie people posing in front of it). I’m not a huge fan of the edit — I went much warmer because I like to alternate warm and cool photos on my feed — but Instagram loved it.


What I Read This Month

This was perhaps the best month of reading OF MY LIFE. Every single book was fantastic, and I’m pretty sure each of these books will be mentioned in my “best reads of 2016” post in December!

American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin (2016) — I haven’t devoured a book this hard and fast since The Martian. All I know about Patty Hearst is that Henry from The Time Traveler’s Wife had a crush on her when he was younger because she was kidnapped and forced to rob banks and on TV all the time. So I went in knowing nearly nothing about the story.

This was fascinating — part exposé, part psychological study. Patty Hearst, a 20-year-old heiress, was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and after weeks in captivity, decided to join their cause, robbing banks and bombing buildings. I had no idea how major this case was — one of the incidents related to the SLA was the first time a breaking news story was aired live on TV. EVER.

I enjoyed this book so much because I knew so little about it, so if you’re in the same boat, don’t read much about it before starting the book. It will take you on a wild, careening ride through 70s counterculture in the Bay Area and beyond.

Kate in Karijini NP

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante (2008) — I’ve now read all of Ferrante’s novels, and I think that this is the best one that isn’t part of the Neapolitan Novels tetralogy. In this novella, a mother of two grown women finds herself blissfully alone for the first time since they were born and so she travels to the seashore near Naples for a holiday. While there, she becomes fixated on a young mother and daughter and thinks back to her own days as a young mother, including times where she made significant failures.

What I love most about Ferrante’s work is that she dives deep into the uncomfortable parts of women’s thoughts and lives and presents them unflinchingly. While most authors wouldn’t admit that these feelings exist, Ferrante puts them front and center. Because of that, I feel like I related strongly to this book even though I’m not a mother myself.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016) — Whitehead’s novel is perhaps the most remarkable novel I’ve read in years. It’s going to be on every “Best of 2016” list, so I recommend you read it before the year is up! Whitehead tells the story of a young slave named Cora who escapes her plantation via the Underground Railroad, traveling northward while being pursued by a Javert-like slave catcher.

Only the Underground Railroad isn’t a metaphor here — it’s a literal underground railroad that careens between states, each stop with its own unique dangers. Magical realism reigns here and the edges between fantasy and reality are so blurred that it makes you wonder just how true this story could have been. But that’s the thing — perhaps a story like this IS true, and the actual truth has been buried because people with more power have spun a different narrative.

What the book hammers home is that the bondage of African-Americans has never ceased — it’s just changed in form. If it’s not slavery, it’s eugenics. If it’s not Jim Crow, it’s an out-of-control prison system. Really, nothing has changed over the years except the methodology. But the book ends with hope.

Paris Sunset

Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola (2015) — I’ve read a handful of memoirs about addiction, and I think this one is my favorite. Hepola tells the story of her life and how it led to dangerous levels of drinking from her teens into her thirties. She links the stories through her blackouts, telling about how they made her scary situation even worse.

I think a lot of people can reflect their lives on Hepola’s story. She’s an introvert, a writer and content creator, and alcohol was used to help her open up more easily in real life to match the persona she created in her writing. Though her story takes place mostly pre-social media, I think that’s something that lots of us relate to even more today — the pressure to have as good a personality in real life as you do online, and as American work life becomes more offbeat and casual, how it can encourage you to go in that destructive direction.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell (2015) — It’s no secret that I would happily pay sky-high taxes to have a social system like one of the Nordic countries. Between that and my love for Copenhagen, I knew I would enjoy this book. Danes are frequently cited to be among the happiest people in the world. When Russell’s husband gets a job offer in rural Jutland, Denmark, Russell decides to spend a year figuring out what makes Danes so happy in the first place. She and her husband navigate through their new lives, often with much humor.

Because Russell is a journalist, this isn’t just a memoir — it’s backed up with so much information. I loved the format — she starts with an anecdote from her own life, fills it in with examples from her Danish friends, then consults Danish experts in various fields to offer their thoughts on why situations are the way they are. I loved this book so much and if I ever choose to live outside the States again, the Nordic countries are high on my list!

Hamilton Heights, Harlem

Coming Up in November 2016

Folks, I’m tired. So tired. I planned to go to Europe for three weeks, hit two conferences, and come home — and it quickly stretched into six weeks with a surprise trip to Australia. So it’s time to take it easy.

I’ve already dubbed this month “No Travel November,” even though I won’t land in the States until the third and will be hopping between New York and Boston a few times over the month.

And one other thing — I decided to axe my trip to New Zealand, as some of you noticed. Which I’m sad about, but it was necessary — I need to spend time at home and was already dreading the thought of going away for seven weeks. I’ll have to eat the cost of the flights, but thankfully they were cheap and what I earned this month made up for it.

There’s something else I’ve been eager to start this month: Whole 30. It’s a 30-day food plan where you eliminate sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy, legumes, and anything processed from your diet. Several of my friends found it life-changing; others were more lukewarm about it. I’m eager to see how it affects me. It’s obviously very difficult to do while traveling and virtually impossible while working on a campaign, so now sounds like a good time to take the plunge!

Beyond that, I’m very much looking forward to election night.

What are you up to this November? Share away!

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29 thoughts on “AK Monthly Recap: October 2016”

  1. Wow – sounds like a crazily hectic month! Though in the best possible way.

    So glad you had such a fab time in WA. I rounded off my year in Australia with a road trip up the west coast, and it was one of my favourite bits of the year. (At least, in my top ten – there were so many great moments!) Snorkelling with the manta rays was incredible. I think I actually preferred Ningaloo Reef to the Great Barrier Reef, just because it was less crowded and more of a surprise – unlike the Great Barrier Reef, I’d never heard of Ningaloo Reef before I went there, and it totally blew me away.

    Looking forward to hearing more about it all! 🙂

  2. Hi Kate!

    I’m that first reader that recognized you in Bali! (well me and my husband). Still love your blog and so glad to see it grow!

  3. I love the “then and now” photos in the Louvre–you look great in both!

    Looking forward to the posts about your time in Western Australia, and thanks for the book recommendations. The magical realism of The Underground Railroad sounds fascinating.

  4. Love the idea of Whole 30. I just did two weeks at a place called Kamalaya in Koh Samui where I had no booze, caffeine, gluten, meat, eggs, soy or dairy for two weeks. I added some fish at the end because my energy was low. My takeaways — I looked so much younger afterwards! Also, my hair and skin felt and looked amazing and I slept like the dead. (Although the “Detox Headache” on Day 4 was not fun.) The downside…while I maintained all this a few days once I got home, I fell hard — had a big steak and a whole lotta wine and coffee. BUT…I want to do this sort of thing more often. I worry though that I need to be totally isolated to do it…London holds too many temptations!

  5. I do whole 30 every year after the holidays and it’s the best! My only recommendation is to slowly reintroduce the things you weren’t eating in case you find any surprises. I realized that legumes caused me terrible stomach pains and drinking alcohol was impacting my quality of sleep. Now I know exactly how many legumes I can enjoy and how much I can drink without suffering the negative consequences.

    It can be hard to ween yourself back into your old habits because god everything on that list is so delicious but it’s great experiment!

  6. 1. I have no idea how you gracefully went from Europe to Australia without having planned (or packed for) it, but remember that next time you beat yourself up for not traveling as often as you used to.

    2. Your book reviews have now become my go-to resource for new reading material. I read Ferrante’s Troubling Love and though the writing was as beautiful as the Neapolitan novels, I found it difficult to get into the story. I’m excited to add another expat memoir to my wish list (I feel the same way about Nordic countries and also Switzerland). Have you read Bringing up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman? It’s kind of an expat parenting book about observations (from a journalist) on the differences between U.S. and French parenting. It gets a lot of critical reviews of course, but I found it fascinating. I’m not a parent, but if I were, I feel like I’m a French parent at heart.

    3. I’m no nutritionist, but be weary of dramatic diets/cleanses. This really can be shocking to your system. It’s so much easier (on the body and mind) to just make gradual changes… everything in moderation, you know? Drastically cutting processed foods is a solid win, but everything else? It’s too easy to beat yourself up and live in a constant state of stress over what you eat.

    1. 1. I’ll tell you exactly how I did that: my friend Jiyang was coming to Paris from NY, so I made a list of Australia things and had my sister go to my apartment to pick them up, Jiyang went to her apartment to pick them up, he took them to Paris, and I switched them with a lot of my formal wear and he took them home to NY, then I went to get them from his place the day I came back.

      2. Troubling Love was probably my least favorite of her books. And I have read Bringing Up Bebe! If I have kids I would LOVE to raise them that way.

      3. Totally get that. In fact, Whole30 kind of makes you into a monster for a bit for that reason. I do think it would be good to cut out alcohol and sugar and stuff, though.

  7. Based on the books you love, have you ever heard of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ – It is FANTASTIC. I learned so much about one of the disenfranchised populations of the US, and he is also a great writer. Loved it.

  8. I love reading your book reviews! Can’t wait for the 2016 wrap up. WA would be a nice place to visit… I need to check that out one day! I see that you haven’t visited Cyprus yet. I can highly recommend that beautiful island!

  9. Your notes on your 2006/2016 photo give me hope that maybe in my thirties I’ll finally get my act together on dressing like an adult and wearing makeup. 🙂

    I hope you enjoy being home in November!! I haven’t done Whole30, but I’ve done something similar and it feels so amazing. Tough but worth it.

  10. Good luck with the Whole 30! I did it for lent this past year and while I had moments of just wanting to eat anything that had massive amounts of sugar in it, I have never felt better! Just a heads up, I had lots of crazy dreams about eating random things that aren’t whole 30 approved and would wake up in a frenzy that I cheated. My best advice is to always be prepared and you’ll do fine. Hope it goes well for you!

      1. Aww!! I just got back to Spain from a whirlwind trip around Morocco (without much wifi) and saw your response – it warmed my heart! 🙂

  11. Wow, sounds like a very tiring (but fulfilling) month for you, Kate! And Western Australia sounds absolutely lovely. My girlfriend and I spent a couple of weeks earlier this year in Tasmania, and we were blown away by the amazing views and friendly locals. Consider putting it on your to-go list 😉

  12. New fan of your sight from Alaska. Though I live in an amazing place, I love to travel. Are you planning any “group/guided” trips?

  13. Great post Kate, glad that you had a great time in Australia. I’m really jealous of your WA experiences, it’s the top of my bucket list for things to do in at home. I read your post regarding how expensive it is to travel here and I shared it across my FB page as I have been increasingly concerned about the cost of travelling here in Australia. We are a family of 5 and we are finding it is so much more cost effective for us to travel to Asia than it is to stay here which is a real shame.
    When travelling in Australia we always make sure we have kitchen facilities so that we can prepare some of our meals to balance the expense. It’s a sad reality that Asia is so much more affordable.
    Anyway enough of my moaning!

  14. This may sound crazy but I can’t wait for the day when you travel to Russia!! I’ve been a reader for years and would love to get there myself but it’s unrealistic at this time in my life (young wife and stay at home mom). So instead, I look forward to living these experiences through you! You’re still my favourite travel blogger. Thanks for the adventures!

    1. Awww, I appreciate that, Rebecca! I think the former Soviet Union will be on the table in some form in summer 2016 — maybe it will include Russia! (Depends on Trump and US-Russia relations, though…)

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