Visiting Antarctica felt like I was traveling for the first time. And I wrote and rewrote this post so many times, it's like my first blog post ever!
I thought I would come home from Antarctica pumped at visiting seven continents. Not at all. I don't feel triumphant; I've never felt smaller or more insignificant! Antarctica has a way of stripping you to your essence, and it happened for my fellow passengers as well as me.
I'm proud of this one, and very curious to hear your thoughts.
Forget all those selfies in beautiful ball gowns — this is how you’re SUPPOSED to dress in Antarctica. I don’t look sexy, but my head stayed toasty (thanks for the hat, Beth!), my face stayed free of windburn, and had I fallen off my zodiac, I would have stayed afloat thanks to that life jacket!
Quark Expeditions gives everyone the yellow jacket to keep (and their staff calls us honeybees! Aww). That jacket RULES. I’ve never felt warmer or comfier. Wearing it on the street in NYC might be a tall order, though. Can I deviate from my all-black NYC wardrobe?
Also — I am totally smizing, Tyra Banks-style.
Stay tuned for more on what to wear in Antarctica!
Honestly, it’s hard to think of anywhere but Antarctica right now, but it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I always like to share this post.
Skellig Michael is my favorite place in Ireland and it’s up there with Antarctica as one of my favorite places on the planet. It’s tough to get there, but incredibly rewarding.
Almost every experience in Antarctica was so beautiful, I’m yearning to feel them just one more time....
Except the last day in Deception Island, when I got charged by an angry fur seal.
Honestly, that was the second time in a week that I nearly shat myself. (The first was when a humpback whale rose out of the water about ten feet from our line of kayaks and looked like he was going to flop on us.)
For the record, if this happens to you, put your arms up. He’ll think you’re bigger than you are.
Definitely not something I want to relive...
I was going to wait on sharing these...but I’m feeling very grateful right now. Here’s a video of what it’s like kayaking through brash ice in Port Charcot, south of the Antarctic Circle, my favorite kayaking spot in Antarctica.
Ordinarily I’d feel self-conscious for looking so ridiculous — not anymore. If you don’t dress ridiculously in Antarctica, you freeze to death.
The greatest place I will ever know.
Antarctica broke me open in ways I never expected. I’ve heard the term “ego death” thrown around in some circles, but now I finally understand.
My entire worldview has broken apart.
Antarctica, you gave me what I needed. Not what I thought I needed. And I will miss you fiercely, with every core of my being, until you welcome me back again. I’m counting the minutes.
To my dear readers: thank you for your patience while I was offline. I have so much to share with you. The first post has already been written — and rewritten and rewritten and rewritten and rewritten and rewritten. It will be out Monday. Stay tuned.
LAST DAY OFFLINE IN ANTARCTICA! Cannot wait to get online tomorrow and chat with you guys about this trip!!!
So I'm sharing a special post. Special because it's one of my more literary, ethereal posts. And also because something wonderful happened recently. A destination contacted me and a campaign and told me, "We'd love for you to visit our destination and write a post like your All of the July Elevenths post."
I felt like my heart would burst.
I'm totally going to that destination this year. I can't wait to see how it inspires me.
Day 10 offline in Antarctica. To quote Joey Tribbiani, the cold has now moved to my special place.
But it's funny -- when people ask me the coldest place I've ever been, I always say the coldest I have ever FELT was in the Scottish Highlands. There's no cold like Scottish cold. It's damp. It seeps into your bones. Even after a 30-minute shower, I was still shivering.
Have you been to Scotland in the winter? Am I crazy?
Day Nine offline in Antarctica and if I haven't made a new penguin friend by now, I'm going to be miffed...
But here is probably the best piece that I wrote last year, and one that resonated with so many of you. I work SO HARD to keep you guys safe while traveling. That's my priority. But I worry that power is shifting to people who don't have the knowledge or experience to provide you with accurate travel information, people who spend more time posing for Instagram than actually researching and experiencing destinations.
Day Eight offline in Antarctica and I really miss talking to you guys.
A lot of you ask me about places to go in Europe that aren't touristy. Well, Albania is one place that has VERY few international tourists. It's quirky and weird and awesome -- if you're up for traveling in one of Europe's least developed countries, it's very rewarding.
Day Seven offline in Antarctica and I'm starting to wonder what antics Trump has been up to in the past week...hopefully no more nuclear threats on Twitter...
At any rate, here is one of my all-time favorite US destinations: Savannah. I've helped a lot of people plan weekend trips here, and here are some of my favorite things to do.
Day Six offline in Antarctica and today MAY be the day that we reach the Antarctic Circle! Eeeee!
Funny coincidence -- just seven months ago I was on the Arctic Circle for the first time ever. The destination? Oulu, Finland. The occasion? The World Air Guitar Championships.
Weird as hell, and one of my favorite festivals ever.
Day Five offline in Antarctica and I'm sharing this post because it did something I never expected -- IT TOOK OFF WITH YOU.
After I published this, readers started sending me pictures of themselves all over the world with champagne, prosecco and cava. It touched me SO much!! What do you like to drink when you travel?
Day Four offline in Antarctica, and what is pretty much the opposite of Antarctica? This lovely little island off the coast of Nicaragua and one of my absolute favorite destinations in Central America.
If you haven't been to Little Corn Island, GO SOON. It's changing very quickly.
Day Three offline in Antarctica and today I should be setting foot on my seventh continent! What an exciting day!
I didn't make it there until I was 33...but I'm a late bloomer in a lot of ways. Here are some surprising things I didn't do until I turned 30.
Day Two offline, still crossing the Drake Passage to Antarctica -- and here's my monthly recap. Oh, and book lovers need to read this one because I READ A BOOK SO AWFUL THAT I NEED TO COMMISERATE WITH OTHER PEOPLE WHO READ IT.
Who has read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood? I found it horrific and irresponsible, a book that glorifies the sexual and romantic relationship between an adult and a child, and a poorly written book on top of that.
That, and everything I got up to inJapan, in this post.
It's day one of being offline in Antarctica, and at this point I'm crossing the rough seas of the Drake Passage. It's a two-day journey before we reach the Antarctic peninsula. Hopefully those seasickness patches my doctor got me are doing their job!
If I'm feeling okay, I plan to go to the lectures. One thing that impressed me is that so many of the scientists on this Quark Expeditions voyage are women. In fact, among the scientific/professional crew, women outnumber men. That's unusual for any group of scientists, and I hope I get a chance to get to know these ballsy women. Maybe even interview some of them for the site! Would you be interested in that?
Greetings from El Fin del Mundo! When people ride their bikes from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, this is where they finish and collapse. So beautiful here!
Greetings from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world!
The plane views were ASTOUNDING. I wanted to reach out and rub my hands over the mountains. Rough, jagged mountains with pockets of snow. Much better than flying over the Alps!
Also, the mountains on the left are in Argentina and the mountains ahead/on the right are in Chile!
Oh God, I hope I didn’t forget anything.
Off to the airport! NYC-Buenos Aires-El Calafate-Ushuaia-ANTARCTICA starts now!
(Also, totally got my hair keratined yesterday so I look good for the penguins.)
This is the scariest packing I have ever done.
I’m a casual packer. I do it last minute, throw in my usual skinny jeans and blazers and boots, and if I forget something, I just pick it up on the ground.
...You can’t do that in Antarctica.
I AM SO STRESSED THAT I AM FORGETTING THINGS ALREADY!!
I fly to Ushuaia tomorrow at 3:30 PM. So close!
I'm excited to share my first big post from Japan. Getting off the beaten path in Japan is SO worth it, especially if you've already been once before.
So here's where you go: Hokkaido, the northernmost island, in winter. Snow sculptures, hot springs, small towns, fresh seafood, all the Sapporo beer, and a dish called GENGHIS KHAN!
With Antarctica just 48 hours out (!), I thought I'd share a post from the most remote place I've visited until now: the Faroe Islands. Mykines is spectacular!
I was the first blogger invited to the Faroe Islands back in 2012. What an incredible time. Then at a conference in Scotland in 2016, I accidentally ended up sitting next to their team at dinner and we reminisced about what a fantastic trip this was! I really want to go back.
Have you been following Justin Trudeau's visit to India? It's been drawing a lot of attention because he brought his wife and kids and they have been wearing traditional Indian outfits each day.
First off, I AM SO GLAD A MALE POLITICIAN'S FASHION CHOICES ARE BEING SCRUTINIZED. Hooray gender equality? (#NeverForget Obama's tan suit.)
I think dressing in the clothing of the country you're visiting is a kind and respectful gesture, especially for formal events. That's particularly true for a country like India, which has such a different and more conservative way of dressing. I myself haven't been to India, but I dress to blend in with locals wherever I go. Even when it means discomfort -- and wearing jeans in Cartagena in August is the definition of discomfort. Dressing similar to locals makes a big difference in how you're treated.
I do think the Trudeaus overdid it a bit, however. When you're a guest in someone else's country and you wear a different headline-making outfit every day, you're making it about YOU, not them. It's the same reason why you don't wear a flashy dress to a wedding. I think a lot of the criticism could have been avoided if they had a better stylist who dressed them in more typical, sedate, and understated Indian clothing rather than bordering on garish costumes for every day of the week. By dressing this way, I think it sends a message of "This is how Westerners think Indians dress every day" rather than "I'm dressing to blend in with you."
Sharing this news.com.au piece because it shows tons of different outfits.
What do you think? I'd love to hear your opinions.
Ten books into 2018 and two of them have set me on fire. Here is the latest: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, published this month, which I chose from Book of the Month and which Oprah has since named her latest book club pick.
Celestial and Roy are a young married couple in Atlanta planning their future. That comes screeching to a halt when Roy is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
They try to keep their marriage strong. Then they try to keep it afloat. Then things get worse.
And then Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, five years in. What now?
Sometimes you need a book to brutalize you, to strip you down and scrape you raw. This is the one. You could say this book is about the prison industrial complex and the dangers of simply existing while black in America today. But more than that, this book is about the choices we make and those made for us. The marriages within a marriage.
Pick this one up. You won’t regret it.
Travel burnout is real — and it’s not just for amateur travelers. Even if you’re a very experienced traveler, it can hit you hard — and in some cases, it can be paralyzing.
Here’s how to deal.
Antarctica is around the corner -- I leave a week from today! Currently doing some last-minute Amazon buying. On the list: sock liners, glove liners, waterproof pants, extra camera batteries and memory cards. I even rented a zoom lens and an extra camera body.
People who have traveled to polar regions or rural cold areas -- what would you recommend? My coat and boots are provided by Quark so I don't need to bring those.
Traveling around the world allows you to see your own country through a different lens. One of the most stark differences between the US and every other developed country is the amount of gun violence and the frequency of massacres.
It's not just a mental health issue. Plenty of other countries have mental illness and this doesn't happen there.
It's not just toxic masculinity. It's toxic masculinity and easy access to killing machines.
The one issue that differentiates the US from other countries is the lack of sensible gun laws.
But that's not all -- it's also the presence of money in politics, eased further by Citizens United, which is an American tragedy. So many of our politicians are funded by the NRA, an organization dedicated to keeping America's gun laws as loose and minimal as possible. Some consider the NRA a terrorist organization, and you know what? That's not far off. As they fight for domestic abusers and the mentally ill to have easy access to military-grade weapons, they are making it as easy for these terrorists as humanly possible.
Gun control is an issue close to my heart. It was the first issue for which I protested in Washington, DC, when I was a teenager. But after we lost those sweet babies in Sandy Hook and our NRA-funded lawmakers voted to DO LITERALLY NOTHING, I lost hope that we would ever be able to prevent these senseless deaths.
But it feels different this time.
The teenage survivors of the latest massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School are speaking out and organizing. With Trump in office, we are living in a new era of protest and action. This time, we might actually be able to get some sensible gun laws made. And it starts with using the 2018 midterms to fight any and all NRA-funded candidates.
I encourage my fellow Americans to take the following steps from Everytown for Gun Safety in removing NRA-funded politicians from our government.
This is one of my favorite things I've ever written. Looking back at my semester abroad in Florence in 2004, a time when I brought ZERO devices that plugged in (I rented a Nokia phone and used Internet cafes!), a time before digital photography, a time when I didn't see the point of solo travel if you had so many friends around you...hope you enjoy it.
I’m happy to be back in New York but had a very scary experience today. Two homeless men got into a physical fight in my subway car. One was waving his belt (fabric with a huge buckle) and throwing it around aimlessly, almost hitting the passengers around him.
Let me tell you it’s incredibly frightening being trapped in the middle of that and being unable to escape. The passengers and I ran to the opposite side of the car but the men kept chasing each other back and forth.
God bless the passenger who tried to calm the men down. He might have saved us from getting hurt.
I LOVE this story. You guys know how much I love Finland and Finnish people, and this story is SO Finnish — the Olympians are knitting to reduce stress, and also to keep them from having to make small talk. 😂😂😂
They’re making a blanket for the president’s kid. How cute is that?
I’m so excited to write new posts about Japan! For now, I hope you enjoy this one from 2013. It certainly holds up five years later.
I’m back at home, sitting on my purple couch! What a seamless journey back to New York. Turns out I feel INCREDIBLY well-rested and like today is a normal day, even with the 14-hour time change. Here’s how I did it:
—No caffeine 24 hours before my flight.
—Stayed up late and only slept 2:30 AM-6:00 AM.
—Flight departed at 10:20 AM, but I didn’t go to sleep until 2:15 PM Japan time (12:15 AM New York time, my usual bedtime). Had my four-course dinner and a champagne (okay, two, the takeoff champagne doesn’t count).
—Took a melatonin 15 minutes before bed.
—Turned on binaural beats for sleeping and went to sleep.
I slept FOUR FULL HOURS, then snoozed on and off another two. Woke up, had breakfast and a coffee, and I feel SO rested!! Maybe it will fall apart by the afternoon, but I feel like an evil genius for succeeding this much.
Japan, it’s been real. What a fantastic country.
Time to fly home in style — on All Nippon Airways in business class. I hope you guys enjoyed my live coverage from Japan and are looking forward to the blog posts! I’m looking forward to writing them! Especially about the wackiness of Hokkaido in winter and the cool places I discovered in Tokyo this time around.
So glad to be home in New York in just 14 hours...
The two things I’ve enjoyed most about this Japan trip have been FOOD and SHOPPING. Today I ate at Bird Land Marunouchi — because nothing says Valentine’s Day like going out alone to eat meat on a stick!
Bird Land is the first yakitori (meat on a stick) restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. I got their basic tasting menu (4,000 yen, or $36) and got six skewers of meat and vegetables in addition to several other dishes. I’d recommend getting the 6,000 yen or 7,000 yen menu — I ordered extra chicken skin and everything was SO GOOD I wish I could have tried everything!
The first stick was chicken filet with green onions, and I had no expectations — but it was the BEST DAMN CHICKEN WITH GREEN ONIONS you could possibly imagine. That salt was magical. I went on to chicken livers, ground chicken on a stick in egg yolk sauce, chicken necks. So many delicious veggies as well. Very healthy!
Also, I appreciate that Japan is so solo diner-friendly. So many restaurants have bars, which are ideal for eating solo without feeling like you’re on display. I ate the bar at restaurants specializing in yakitori, tempura, sashimi, and ramen, and nobody gave me the head tilt and the “Only one?” that I hate.
Also, I totally went to the wrong Bird Land tonight because Google Maps is crazy in Japan, but they were so nice about it and let me switch my reservation from Ginza to Marunouchi.
Coming to Tokyo? Bird Land is an awesome place for a meal, assuming you’re not a vegetarian. Literally everything they served was outstanding.
Tomorrow I fly home to New York on All Nippon Airways. It’s been real, Japan! #experienceANA #partner
Looking for jet lag advice. I fly out of Japan about 24 hours from now and I want to get on a normal New York schedule ASAP. I got over jet lag in a day on the way to Japan and I want to do it on the way back too!
Here’s the plan:
10:20 AM Japan/8:20 PM NYC: Fly out
7:00 PM Japan/9:00 AM NYC: Land
Landing at 9:00 AM NY time means I need to sleep a lot on the plane. How do I make that happen? I’m flying business class with All Nippon Airways, which is a lie-flat seat (the only way I can sleep on planes), but I also need to be tired. Melatonin can only do so much.
Should I stay up all night on my last night in Tokyo to get tired enough to sleep on the plane? I’m waking up at 5:30 AM for the flight anyway...
It was 2004 and I was a 19-year-old college sophomore trying to see all the Oscar-nominated movies. I went to the little $3 movie theater in downtown Fairfield, Connecticut, to catch a new indie film called Lost in Translation. It wasn’t as funny as I thought it was going to be — it was something better. That film touched something deep in me, nostalgia for moments I hadn’t yet experienced.
At the time I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living. I would joke, “I would LOVE to get paid to blog about my life.” But it was 2004 — the word “blog” barely even existed, let alone ways to make money from it that weren’t a book or TV deal.
I wouldn’t stay in a hotel room by myself until I was 25.
I wouldn’t make it to Japan until I was 29.
Yet somehow, 14 years after that winter evening in Fairfield, I would be staring at the same view that Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen enjoyed as they sought respite from the overwhelming metropolis of Tokyo. I wasn’t just there to gawk, or enjoy the bar. It would be my own hotel room at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, for me alone, with staff that greeted me by name at every turn.
And I would be here because I was getting paid to blog about my life.
One thing that helps me carve out a bit of normalcy while on a trip is to become a “regular” somewhere. I like to learn a routine somewhere, get used to how things work, have a special order and go through the same ritual of ordering it and knowing exactly how much it costs. I get to feel what it’s like to live there.
And...I became a regular at the strawberry mochi stand in Kyoto station.
The lady remembered me and laughed when I showed up.
I have had one of these each day for the past five days. (I’m averaging 20k steps per day; I’ll allow it.) Now I have to figure out how to bring home wrapped custard mochi because I can’t live without them!!!
Here’s a secret about Japanese train stations: they are AWESOME. In big cities, they’re filled with high-end shops and excellent restaurants. Even Sapporo had a Marc Jacobs!
Last night, on a tip from Foursquare, I went to a restaurant in Kyoto’s train station called Katsukura. I hadn’t had a chance to try tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet, Japanese-style) on my first trip, so when I saw people raving that this place had the best tonkatsu they ever had, I had to try it!
The restaurant is hard to find. Go to “The Cube” in Kyoto Station and take the escalators to the 11th floor. Take a left, walk in the door, and it will be on the left (they have a sign with Roman letters).
Fantastic, melt-in-your-mouth tonkatsu. And you get to grind your own sesame seeds for the sauce with a mortar and pestle!
At 2100 yen, or $20, including an iced oolong tea, this was an excellent little detour and well worth the journey and 30 minute wait in line.
There’s always a point on my trips when I hit burnout. And today it hit me on my first day in Kyoto.
It’s strange — I loved Kyoto on my first trip, but I didn’t really like it today. It just seems SO touristy, vastly overcrowded, and I didn’t feel like exploring or photographing temples. Plus, the weak winter weather of Kansai puts a damper on things. In Sapporo I got a full, blizzardy, wonderful winter! In Kyoto it’s just gray and damp. (I feel so bad for the women who rented kimonos — they look like they’re freezing!)
I am pretty sure I saw a real geisha or maiko (apprentice) in Gion today, though — she was in full dress and makeup and she was BOOKING IT down a random street, all business-like. I spotted a maiko on my first trip but I was too far away to get a photo of this one.
Not every moment of every trip is going to be a home run. Remember that. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or you did anything wrong — these are the times to sit back, regroup, and think of what you ACTUALLY want to get out of this trip. Change your plans. Re-prioritize. And go do something that makes you happy.
Adventurous Kate Accidentally Books Herself Into a LOVE HOTEL!
Seriously, it was an accident...there was nothing online that indicated it was a love hotel! I just wanted to be in Shinjuku! This place cost $220 per night which is pretty good for Tokyo...but...
Coming with its own karaoke system is a sign of it not being a normal hotel.
You’ve gotta see it.
It’s strawberry season! Yay! Strawberries are everywhere in Tokyo — and so are WHITE strawberries! Have you ever seen these before?
I tried one — the cheapest single white strawberries in the Tsukiji area are around 300 yen ($3) each. And...they aren’t THAT special. They’re not as flavorful. If I were in a generous mood, I’d compare them to starfruit; if I weren’t, I’d call them watery.
Turns out these are popular to give as gifts in Japan. There are sets of beautiful, perfect white strawberries that package them like jewelry.
I’d also love to give a shout out to Yuma from Ninja Food Tours for a wonderful foodie tour of the market! If you’re in Tokyo, be sure to hit this guy up! I’m still dreaming of that tuna bowl and strawberry-stuffed custard mochi...
Four years ago, I wrote about what an awesome time I had in Golden Gai, Tokyo’s neighborhood of tiny hovel bars.
Tonight, I went back. It was a completely different experience. Most notably, I didn’t have to financially support a broke partner this time around, so I specifically sought out a bar WITH a cover charge. And I found one that was great.
A tiny bar with four bar seats. A friendly bartender with a huge collection of vinyl (and he played “New York State of Mind” and assorted hip-hop for me! Two sweet and gregarious customers who informed me that yeah, if your hotel room has karaoke, you’re in a love hotel, girl.
Such a good night. Golden Gai is an absolute treasure, but for the first time, tonight I felt like I was part of the local community here in Tokyo. You must come here!
Highlight of the day: spotting a FURRY TOILET SEAT in a cafe in Sapporo! Japan, you are so weird!
Just got to Tokyo. Unfortunately some idiot stole my debit card info and is using it to make $100 purchases at a Wawa in New Jersey. HOW DARE YOU SULLY WAWA’S GOOD NAME, YOU THIEF. (Wawa, for those of you who don’t know, is an amazing convenience store in the Philadelphia area. Seriously, it puts every other convenience store in the world to shame. It’s like the Target to 7-11’s Wal-Mart.)
Luckily (or not?) this is something like the third or fourth time I’ve had my debit card stolen online while traveling. I’m prepared — I have other cards and bank accounts ready. Still, it’s a huge hassle and I’m extremely miffed right now.
How do you like your ramen? The island of Hokkaido has three ramen cities and Sapporo is one of them. Their signature dish is miso ramen — and they jazz it up by adding corn and butter! I got this dish at a place on Ramen Alley, a street crammed with tiny ramen shops.
Hokkaido is a major dairy producer, hence the butter. You see ice cream everywhere but I couldn’t convince myself to get one in below-freezing temperatures! I might today in Otaru — there’s a famous shop with squid ink ice cream and I can’t pass THAT up!
While Japan’s population has been in decline for awhile, Sapporo has been holding steady. Why is that? Lots of young people keep moving here. This is a solid, affordable city with a good economy. It might not be as sophisticated as Japan or as pretty as Kyoto, but it’s a smart choice — you can make a life here. I’d compare it to Atlanta or Minneapolis in that way.
Hokkaido has been a very interesting corner of Japan to discover. The easiest way to get here? Fly from Tokyo to Sapporo on All Nippon Airways and explore the region on day trips. #ExperienceANA #partner