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Sometimes a moment makes your month. That’s what happened in September.
At Traverse in Trentino in June, the closing keynote included blogger Sassy Wyatt, who writes about travel and disability and is visually impaired. She pointed out that bloggers should be writing descriptions of their photos in the alt text field, because that’s what visually impaired people use to understand the photos.
At that point I had been blogging for seventeen years, professionally for nine years, and had no clue that alt text was for this purpose. I didn’t know it was even a thing. And that shows how little people with disabilities are given consideration in the blogging/online publishing world.
“Whenever I write my alt text,” my friend Alistair said as he moderated the keynote panel, “I pretend that I’m writing directly to Sassy.”
I started writing image descriptions in my alt text immediately — and I, too, pretended I was writing directly to Sassy. That top photo reads, “Kate wears overalls and jumps in the air, holding skewers of lamb in each hand, mountains and blue sky behind her, in Gran Sasso National Park.” It takes a bit more time, but it’s not complicated, and it makes a huge difference. Sometimes I’ll put jokes in the descriptions.
That’s not all I’m doing, though. If you follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate, you may have noticed that whenever I talk in my Stories, there is now a transcription underneath. And that’s something I should have known better about — I have friends who are deaf, including friends in the travel blogging community. I should have been doing this all along.
It’s not perfect, and I know I have a long way to go — but I hope that this is making my site more accessible to more people. And this month I found out that yes, it is.
I saw Sassy at Borderless Live in London this month and got a chance to talk to her in between sessions.
“I just wanted to let you know that since your talk at Traverse, I’ve started using descriptions in my alt text,” I told her.
“I know you did! I read your blog,” she said with a grin.
That didn’t just make my day — it made my month. Sometimes it can feel like the behind-the-scenes work is screaming into the void — but knowing that someone is now directly benefiting from the alt text made me SO happy.
Bloggers, start writing descriptions in your alt text. You probably already have visually impaired readers reading your site, and this will make it much more enjoyable for them!
- New York, NY
- London, UK
- Bologna, Ostuni, Lecce, Monopoli, Bari, Matera, Altamura, Turi, Alberobello, Locorotondo, Foggia, San Domino, San Nicola, Termoli, Gran Sasso National Park, Cupra Marittima, Porto San Giorgio, Porto Recanati, Loreto, Urbino, Ravenna, Quattro Castella, Reggio Emilia, Basilicagoiano, Polesine Parmense, and Parma, Italy
- Prague, Czech Republic
Lecce. A low-key city in many ways, filled with beautiful and sometimes perplexing architecture. Hot year-round, cheap year-round, and not too discovered by tourist hordes just yet.
Monopoli. The perfect base for a week of Puglia exploration. A small but oh-so-beautiful town perched on the beach, with lots of good restaurants and perhaps Italy’s best gelato.
Parma. Man, I thought I liked it before, but now I REALLY love Parma! So much joy and color, so many cool shops, interesting and artsy and cheap, cheap, cheap.
A great Borderless Live conference in London. This was the first Borderless Live conference ever, and I loved listening to inspiring creators talk about how they work. I also gave a talk on the current state of blogging, ethical issues, and writing for your existing, faithful audience rather than catering 100% to newcomers from SEO.
Spending extended time in Puglia. I’ve been to Puglia once before, a brief trip to Gargano and Alberobello, but this time I spent nearly two weeks and got to see a ton of the region. Puglia is amazing — great weather, gorgeous coastline, and excellent food, especially if you don’t eat meat.
I revisited Alberobello but enjoyed so many places, especially Lecce, which was interesting and low-key in all the right ways; the coastal town of Monopoli, which was such a beautiful and perfect base; and the inland town of Locorotondo, which may be one of the prettiest small towns in Italy I’ve ever visited. It ended with a VERY Italian trip to the Tremiti Islands, which it turns out are quite pretty but quite dead in September!
Visiting four new Italian regions. My goal to visit all 20 Italian regions is coming along nicely, as I visited Basilicata, Termoli, Abruzzo, and Le Marche for the first time ever! I made sure to have a memorable experience in each region.
First up was Basilicata, and I visited the stunning city of Matera, built on sassi (caves) where people were still living as late as the 1960s. I’ve wanted to visit Matera for well over a decade and was happy to finally get there. Also, it was my 150th UNESCO World Heritage Site! Hopefully next time in Basilicata I’ll head to the west coast to see Maratea.
Molise is the least visited region in Italy, but we dropped by the seaside town of Termoli and had a local Molise specialty: a pampanella sandwich (peppery, vinegary ribs on a bun). It was tasty. Molise is a small region and doesn’t have much for attractions, so I doubt I’ll make it a priority to return — but you never know…
Next up was Abruzzo, and we drove through Gran Sasso National Park, which is astounding in its beauty. Best of all was stopping at Ristoro Giuliani, a butcher shop in the middle of absolute nowhere, surrounded by mountains. You buy your meat — including arrosticini, the local specialty, or little skewers of lamb — and cook it on one of the grills in front of the shop! It was such a special experience, the kind of place that you can’t believe exists. I want to go back to Abruzzo and see more of the national park!
After that, we had a few days in Le Marche, staying at an agriturismo near the coast. Le Marche doesn’t get the fame of its neighbors like Tucany and Umbria, but there’s a lot to love here. There was a food festival, a Porsche festival, and two hilltop towns: Loreto and Urbino. Urbino was a highlight of the trip — such a beautiful town. They have a local pasta called passatelli, made from bread crumbs, parmigiano, and egg.
A return to Emilia-Romagna. You guys have been listening to me rave about Emilia-Romagna for eight years now, so there’s nothing new there. I think Emilia-Romagna is like Italy in miniature, with cool cities and incredible cuisine. It was fun to return to old favorites, like Parma and Ravenna, and have some new experiences, too — like learning all about culatello, one of the world’s finest meats. I actually bought half a culatello to bring back to Prague.
A great STS conference in Ravenna. I always have a good time at STS and it was great to see friends, pick up tips, and spend time discussing how we can best influence people in our industry to do better, more ethical work.
Arriving in Prague for the first time in 15 years! Can you believe it’s been that long? Last night I was here, I was a 20-year-old college student, drinking Bailey’s and hot chocolate on the street and dancing all night long at the five-floor club.
This time is different — my boyfriend has lived in Prague for the past 18 years and is fluent in Czech, so I’m experiencing the local side of the city. A lot of people complain about how touristy the Old Town is — but the Old Town is such a tiny part of Prague. You see almost no tourists outside the city center.
Lots of good times with friends. Good times with friends up and down Italy, especially in Emilia-Romagna. Probably my favorite moments was in Bologna when I briefly dropped out of sight and my friends’ three-year-old daughter said, “Hey, where’d that little guy go?”
An illness that snowballed into horrific insomnia. I felt like I was getting sick on the flight to Europe, and the cold hit in full force once I arrived in Bologna. I went to the farmacia for my usual pills (you know you spend a lot of time in Italy when you have a go-to brand of Italian decongestant pills). They didn’t work very well.
And suddenly, the night before my presentation in London — just like the night before my last presentation in Trentino — I was up ALL NIGHT and could not sleep. It just could not happen. Melatonin had no impact. Then the same thing happened two nights later. I was an exhausted mess and wanted to cry.
It turns out it was the medication — pseudoephedrine can cause insomnia. Who knew?! My mom told me she can’t take Sudafed for that same reason. As soon as I got off it, I was sleeping well again.
Just keep that in mind — if you are taking pseudoephedrine and can’t sleep, that’s probably the reason.
A pinched nerve — just to start. I had a sore neck, blamed it on crappy Italian pillows, then the pain began to shoot down my arm a few days later. Most likely a pinched nerve — and a physio visit in Prague showed me that my body really needs some alignment work. I guess this happens when I’m on the road and out of the gym for a few months. It will take some work getting back to normal.
Blog Posts of the Month
Reasons to Travel to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Canada — This was my favorite stop on my 10-day OneOcean Eastern Canada expedition this July. Here’s what made it so special.
What’s It REALLY Like to Travel to Baku, Azerbaijan? — Baku was a strange, offbeat city, and while I had a good time, I doubt I’d go back. Here’s why.
Most Popular Photo on Instagram
This is the first full-length bathing suit photo that I’ve published since 2011. Up until now, I’ve only done bathing suit photos from the waist up. It feels GOOD. For more updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.
What I Read This Month
Four books read this month and I am up to 64 in 2019, which means that I will most likely exceed my record of 72. I guess I can officially say goodbye to reading 100 in 2019…that’s not going to happen!
There There by Tommy Orange (2018) — This novel is told from the point of view of several American Indians living in and around Oakland, California, in the days leading up to the Big Oakland Powwow. There’s the teenager who knows nothing of his heritage and teaches himself how to dance from YouTube, the woman fleeing her abusive husband in Oklahoma, the documentary filmmaker eager to tell Indian stories. They all converge on the powwow, which erupts in conflict.
This book painted such a different view of Indians. (First off, learning that the “Don’t say Indian — say Native American or American Indian!” drilled into me from childhood is wrong.) I never knew anything about Indians living in urban areas today. This tells the story of people trying to survive after having their culture, family, and meaning torn away from them. Some people believe that PTSD can be passed down generation by generation — this shows that it’s the case. Generational poverty and substance abuse continue to harm Indian communities today. But even as it’s an “important” book, it’s also a beautiful, engrossing, and entertaining novel. Highly recommended.
Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff (2017) — Why do so many people struggle with finishing what they start? This book sets to figure out why. Jon Acuff ran a course helping people achieve their goals, he was surprised to learn what actually got people across the finish line. In a nutshell, it wasn’t getting people to work harder — it was taking the pressure off. The greatest obstacle to us achieving our goals is perfectionism, and that’s what keeps people from finishing.
This book was a really great read, and highly recommended for self-employed creatives. Acuff has a great sense of humor, too, and I chuckled throughout the book. A lot of these examples make a lot of sense. But the truth is that reading books like these is all for naught unless you put what you learn into practice.
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink (2019) — Timing is a lot more scientific than we think. There are different “chronotypes” that people fall into — the times that we work best as humans. Most people work best in the morning, fade in the afternoon, then rally back in the evening. But not everyone is like that. This book breaks down how timing affects how we work, and how we can best organize our days to get our work done.
Well, I’m now terrified of ever having to see a doctor in the afternoon thanks to this book. In all seriousness, though, I found it to be a fascinating read. I’m not quite sure where I lie — there have been times when I’ve gotten so much work done between midnight and 3 AM, but I feel a lot better about myself when I get a day’s worth of work done by 7 PM. Maybe I should keep experimenting. But the single best tip I got from this book is the “nappuccino” — drink a coffee, then take a short nap. Caffeine takes about 25 minutes to kick in, so once you wake up, you’ll feel amazingly refreshed and ready to work again.
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult (2018) — This novel, told backwards in time, describes the day a terrorist murders several people at an abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, and takes several others hostage. It’s told from several points of view: the cop talking the terrorist through the situation from the outside; his teenage daughter, who was in the clinic to get birth control; an undercover anti-choice protestor pretending to be a patient; the doctor, whom I knew immediately was based on Dr. Willie Parker; and some other characters.
Typical Jodi Picoult novel — you know exactly what you’re going to get. Morality issue. Legal-medical drama. Surprise twist ending. Cop or firefighter husband talking about how much he loves his wife even though she’s put on weight in recent years (though this book tended to be more about him gushing about his daughter). Gay characters with perfect romantic relationships without a single blemish. But damn if they’re not engrossing books. This one was an easy read that kept me enthralled until the end — and I actually didn’t guess the ending this time. And the book is a sobering reminder of how difficult red states make it for women to access abortion care: one clinic serving an entire huge state, mandatory two-day procedures, court orders that can be delayed simply by a judge going on vacation. We need to work to make it easier for low-income and disadvantaged women to access these services.
Coming Up in October 2019
My original late September plan was to drive north from Emilia-Romagna into Friuli-Venezia Giulia then drive to Prague via Slovenia and Austria — but we had to be in Prague a little earlier than expected, so we switched it around. I’ll be in Prague for a little over two weeks, including a weekend getaway to Olomouc, which I hear is a lovely city. It will be nice to discover a bit more of the Czech Republic, a country that is too often overlooked.
After that, I’m flying to Venice, not visiting Venice, but driving east into Friuli, visiting Trieste, Aquileia, and staying at another agriturismo. Italian region #17! What can I say about Italy at this point that I haven’t yet?
After that, I head back to Bologna briefly to catch my flight, then I fly back to New York and will remain there the rest of the month. After being on the road more or less constantly since June 1, I’ll be glad to be back in one place. Halloween in Harlem is INSANE — Broadway swarms with thousands upon thousands of kids, no joke — but this year I hope to finally make it to the Village’s Halloween parade.