I'm currently on a layover at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and I'm thinking about how much I love this place. Easily my favorite airport in Europe.
Not only is it super-clean and well laid out, the staff are always super courteous and a joy to deal with. There are tons of good food options and lots of bookstores selling books in English that you can't find outside Europe. And best of all: tons of souvenir shops selling cheese, stroopwaffels, and tulip seeds!
So if it's a similar price to lay over in Schiphol or another European airport, choose Schiphol. It's a nice place.
What do you if you want to dump your boyfriend, but are about to visit him in Italy for three weeks?
I agree with Dan. Be honest and kind, break up before the trip, and get a cheap onward ticket to hang out in Croatia or Scotland on your own. Or, you know, elsewhere in Italy.
Also: Spain has the hottest men, in my opinion...
Today I visited one of the strangest, most devastating, most moving destinations on all of my travels: Chernobyl. This Ukrainian town's nuclear reactor exploded in 1986 and became one of the world's worst environmental disasters of all time.
Yes, it's safe to visit. The levels of radiation are very low nowadays if you know where to go (and my guide did).
I can't do Chernobyl justice in a single social media post. It's beautiful and fascinating -- but it brings up the same issues as visiting a concentration camp. This is a destination that destroyed thousands of lives, and many people are still living with cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses as a result of it.
So stay tuned for a long-form blog post. My goal is to show you Chernobyl in a fair and ethical way while honoring the victims of its tragedy, and to do what I can to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.
For now, take a look at Instagram Stories and/or Snapchat (I'm adventurouskate on both) to see videos I took in Chernobyl and the ghost town of Pripyat today.
Every attack is a tragedy -- but having lived in northwest England, this one hits close to home.
I'm thinking of you all.
Proud travel moments: when you sound this out in your head and yell, "OH! Sushi bar!"
I was warned about the language barrier in Ukraine. While it's significant, it's not nearly as difficult to deal with as I thought. What DOES help, though, is learning Cyrillic. It will make your life a million times easier.
Until this trip, I was certain that Albania and Macedonia were the two cheapest countries in Europe. Not anymore. Ukraine has them both beat.
Tonight here in Kiev I had a meal at a mid-range restaurant with borscht (and its accoutrements), beef cheeks over mashed leeks, a glass of wine, and a bottle of water -- for $8.
Many fancy-looking cafes have cappuccinos and lattes for less than $1. Fancy macarons, less than $1.
Local beer and wine in restaurants? Regularly $1-2. More for international brands.
If you want to eat and drink well for very little money in Europe, Ukraine is the place to go. I would also point you toward Albania and Macedonia plus Poland, Czech Republic, Latvia, Hungary, and Berlin (but not all of Germany), but Ukraine is indisputably in the lead.
Kate in February: "I'm so scared I won't be able to stick to paleo 24/7 in Florida!"
Kate in May: "Did you say *fried* cheesecakes?"
Odessa has had the BEST IDEA EVER when it comes to love locks.
I'm not a fan of love locks; they were cute when they started in Paris, but now they are everywhere. They weaken bridges, destroy historic landmarks, and they're not even original at this point.
I mean, when you see two love locks on a ten-foot bridge over what can only be constituted as a trickle of water in Rauma, Finland, the jig is up. (I love that town, though!)
So Odessa didn't want locks on their "Mother-in-Law Bridge" (long story). What did they do? They built a love lock heart.
This way love locks have a designated location that doesn't destroy property, and it makes a highly Instagrammable spot as well! I love it!
What do you think?
Random thought: when I choose accommodation, I look closely at ratings on their location. It's probably the single most important factor when I'm traveling solo.
I want a very highly rated location because I want to feel safe, close to attractions, and not isolated.
Well. My hostel in Chisinau, Chisinau Chill Hostel, had a very high location rating on HostelWorld, but I found it to be the opposite. The main reason? Its street and the surrounding streets did not have working streetlights. As soon as the sun went down, it was pitch black. If you didn't have a phone to light your way, you'd be in trouble.
Because of that, I thought to myself, "It was probably only men who rated it that high." Because when you're a woman traveling alone and it's dark and unlit, you've got scenarios running constantly in your mind: "Am I going to get raped? Is that man going to try anything? Why is he walking that close to me? Please get me home safe...."
That hostel was technically a short-ish walk from Chisinau's (few) attractions. But even so, I think the lack of streetlights AND the presence of several growling stray dogs on the street is enough to reduce its location rating.
Let me add that now that I've arrived in Odessa, I feel a million times more at ease because the streets are lit and so many more people are out at night.
What do you think? What kind of location is ideal for you?
I've been yearning to visit Odessa since reading the book Moonlight in Odessa, which I picked up at Shakespeare and Company in Paris a few years ago.
Does it live up to the hype? HELL YES. I am so, so, so in love with this city!!!!!
Also -- Ukraine is my 70th country!
Guys...I've done some boneheaded things.
Hopefully I'll never make these mistakes again...
Today in Smart People News.... 🙄
This long read will be one of most compelling, fascinating stories you've read in a long time. The author's Filipino-American family had a slave who spent her life working for them for no payment.
The piece also brings up a lot of interesting questions. I feel bad knocking the author, as he just passed away at the far-too-young age of 57, but I feel like this piece didn't do enough to acknowledge the severity of his parents' crime. This is human trafficking, plain and simple, and though he tried to make amends at the end of Lola's life, it seemed too little too late.
What do you think?
Just sat down to eat at a place I thought was called Deuce Dance and it reminded me of the little hopping dance you do when you have to make a poo...
It's actually called Délice D'ange. French for "delicacies of the angel."
I blame the font choice beneath the angel. It totally looks like Deuce Dance, doesn't it?
South Africa is my FAVORITE wine country in the world -- the wines are so delicious, yet shockingly cheap. The best way to enjoy wine in South Africa? Spend a few days in Stellenbosch at the end of your trip!
Last night I caught the first episode of Master of None, Season 2, on Netflix -- and it takes place in MODENA, ITALY!
I love Modena. Such a fabulous foodie town, and part of one of my favorite regions in Italy: Emilia-Romagna. It looks beautiful on-screen in black and white! (And I'm impressed at how well Aziz Ansari learned Italian!)
I love Master of None because it's the show I relate to the most -- gallivanting around NYC, living off passive income and not having a "real job," trying to figure out love and life in your early thirties...but now that they added a stint of living in Italy, I relate to it even more. <3
So. You're in a new country and need a ride. Should you take a taxi or an Uber? Here's how one situation played out for me here in Bucharest.
I get in a cab. Driver refuses to use the meter but quotes me 30 lei ($7) for a 15-minute ride. I refuse -- if a taxi driver refuses to use the meter, you're getting scammed. He quotes me 25 lei ($6). I refuse again and get out.
I get in another cab. Driver agrees to use the meter. He takes me to my destination. Cost: 50 lei ($12). WHAT?! He drove direct! He must have tampered with the meter, just like a driver I had in Montenegro back in 2015. Oh, and there were no seat belts in his car.
Instead of a cab ride back, I summon an UberX. He takes awhile to find me, but ultimately brings me home without incident. Cost: 14 lei ($3), even with a 1.6x surge price.
That's a HUGE difference.
People often ask me why I support a company like Uber when they do bad things: the fact that Uber drivers don't receive protections, the fact that some Uber drivers have assaulted their passengers, the fact that Uber's CEO was on Trump's business advisory council (he quit after the outcry).
For me, it's about safety. In some destinations, taking an Uber is not only cheaper, but recommended as the safest option by locals. (That was certainly the case in South Africa -- "Uber changed everything" was a refrain I heard again and again.) And while some Uber drivers have assaulted their passengers, the risk is very low and similar to what you face with regular cab drivers. Plus Uber has a record of your entire interaction.
While this is only one anecdotal example, the Uber driver was the only one out of the three who didn't try to scam me and had seat belts.
I take Lyft when I'm home in New York, as I find it a bit cheaper and faster (and you can't argue with a $35 ride from JFK to Manhattan when New York City cabs charge $52-56.50 plus tip), but I use Uber often on the road.
What do you think?
Today I spoke to a group of content creators here in Bucharest, Romania. The subject was visual storytelling. One big takeaway:
"It takes a long time to develop your style as a writer, photographer, or videographer. Spend that time working hard and trying to challenge yourself and be as original as possible."
I had a big advantage when I started Adventurous Kate seven years ago because I had been blogging regularly since 2002 and had already developed my voice. My photography, though, was AWFUL. Through a lot of hard work and commitment to originality, and a LOT of bad photos that got progressively better, I'm now at a point where brands fly me to places like Australia to take photos for them.
Whatever your creative outlet is, work hard at it and put your own spin on it.
Have you ever been to Slovakia? I spent some time in the offbeat city of Košice and it was lovely!
I'm about to jump on a plane to Romania, where I'll be kicking off a two-week trip in Eastern Europe!
First up is Experience Bucharest: a four-day event filled with a conference, tours, parties, dinners, and special trips designed to showcase why Bucharest is a fun city.
What I like about this event is that it's being organized by locals -- people who work in tourism in Bucharest, from tour companies to restaurant owners -- and they're so excited to show us the best of the city. I *love* discovering what there is to love about lesser-loved cities, so this trip is right up my alley. I only visited Bucharest for a few hours back in 2013 and I definitely owe it a real visit.
Plus, I asked if there were any good workout classes in Bucharest and within a few hours, the team actually organized a private yoga class for us! How nice is that? They are ON it!
After Bucharest, I'm visiting my 69th country -- Moldova. I plan to hit up the capital Chisinau, sample some of Europe's best wine, see the countryside if I can, then head to Transnistria, a breakaway republic.
After that is Ukraine, my 70th country -- I'll be visiting Odessa and Kiev with some side trips that you'll learn about soon. ;-)
Pride is right around the corner! If you're a straight person who's thinking of attending, please take the time to read this list first.
Tomorrow I leave for two weeks in Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine. These are all the books I want to read in the next few months. Which ones should I bring with me?
I'm definitely bringing A Gentleman in Moscow to read in Ukraine!
This ad is a hit in Denmark and it has an important message. How many of you can say you're ready?
I love these little mini-itineraries for New York!
For the Harlem one, though, I'd add two more things: check out the architecture on Astor Row and the Hamilton Heights Historic District, and get cupcakes at Make My Cake.
The largest travel blogging organization, TBEX, has announced that they've partnered with dictator Robert Mugabe's government for a conference in Zimbabwe next year. This is extraordinarily unethical and dangerous.
I think that people should travel to Zimbabwe independently -- they need our tourism dollars. But for a media conference to partner with the government, particularly in a country where journalists are suppressed and murdered, is the worst way to possibly do it.
THANK YOU, FRANCE! Thank you for rejecting xenophobia and not following in our fucked up footsteps!
Someone get me a bunch of baguettes and some Normandy butter. I want to celebrate.
All right, folks. I don't write about industry stuff here, but this is too crazy not to and I want to know what you think.
TBEX is the biggest travel blogging conference. Lately they have been in the news for not paying their contractors, Donald Trump-style (They admit to it here: https://medium.com/@debng/the-sad-strange-story-of-nmx-b120b79b5d76).
Tonight they announced that their next conference will be held in Zimbabwe with Tourism Zimbabwe as a partner. Tourism Zimbabwe is a government organization. The leader of Zimbabwe is Robert Mugabe, one of the worst dictators of the past century.
Personally, if my conference were in the news for lots of bad reasons, the next logical step would be to partner with the government of a brutal dictatorship!
Now -- I understand that tourism is important. It's vital that we don't seal vulnerable people off from the outside world. Cultural exchange can change lives. It is SO valuable. And for me personally, there aren't many places that I consider off-limits for me to visit. (I won't go to North Korea, for one. I don't think it's possible to visit ethically at this point in time.) In fact, I would probably go to Zimbabwe as a traveler.
When you become business partners with a dictator-led government with the goal of bringing more money into said government, I think that crosses the line.
I've attended one TBEX ever: Girona, Spain, in 2012. None since (I bought a ticket to Athens in 2014 but didn't go). I don't go to TBEXes because they're all about churning and burning newbie bloggers with few benefits for professional bloggers. But this one I won't attend for ethical reasons.
What do you think?
As far as travel writing gigs go, guidebook writing is among THE ABSOLUTE WORST. Here's a taste of what it's actually like.
One my latest trip to Paris, I got the best photos I have EVER taken there. Here's a taste.
I laughed a little harder at this than I should have. If other countries exit the EU, what should their equivalent of "Brexit" be named?
Biggest laughs: "Oui Out" for France and "Full" for Hungary.
Sometimes you get a miracle shot.
This was in Paris, on top of the Sacré Coeur.
This makes me sad, but I get it. I hope people don't put off traveling to Europe, because the chances are SO small that you would be killed or injured in a terrorist attack.
It's fairly analogous to ban travel to the United States because of the risk of being gunned down by a mass shooter. The risk of gun violence does not stop us from living our lives here.
People always say, "Be careful," but there's so little you can do to definitively avoid a terrorist attack. These attacks are random for a reason. But if you ever find yourself in an emergency while traveling, listen to the local authorities. And I now make a habit of looking for the exits whenever I go anywhere crowded.
Last night I did a TON of Paris photo editing. Here's a shot from my new favorite street: Rue Montorgueil in the 2nd. It's filled with tons of amazing food shops, yet very few tourists.
This month I met some celebrities, and enjoyed all the flowers in bloom in New York. And, as usual, read a ton of new books and reviewed them for you here!
One of the biggest stories of the past few days is how the Fyre Featival in the Bahamas was a complete disaster. What are your thoughts?
I feel bad for everyone who got involved and ended up wasting their money on a terrible experience. Not all of the attendees were crazy-rich with parents who paid for everything, as much of the coverage has insinuated.
Here's a random fact: I saw Ja Rule in New York about a year ago. It was at a club. On a Sunday afternoon. It was fully packed, people were falling over drunk, and he was taking selfies with everyone. Yeah. First date gone weird.
I've got a new promo to share with you: two free months of Skillshare Premium, no strings attached, for Adventurous Kate readers. Skillshare is a site where you can take video courses in tons of different fields.
So far I've been getting into a comedy writing course and a few others! The link to the free membership is in the post.
Uncle Tony is always great for quotes. The latest: "Be flexible in your plans, because a rigid itinerary is lethal to a good time.”
Not that surprising.
Yesterday was World Book Day -- I can't believe I missed it!
If you're looking for something amazing to read, here are my top books that I read last year, the year that has so far been the best year of reading of my life.
Happy Sunday, everyone! Who wants a cronut? (Um, that St. Bernard definitely does!)
I was in SoHo at an uncharacteristically early hour today, so I decided to brave the cronut line at Dominique Ansel Bakery. I arrived at 9:30, waited 45 minutes outside and 10 inside, and got the cronut of the day: blood orange and almond.
It's delicious. Flaky and sugary. Not sure I'd ever wait in line for it again, but it was worth it to run into a few of my readers on the way out!
Now, off to the gym to work it off at kickboxing class...
Harlem is really turning out the blossoms this year!
This Earth Day, I have a lot of destinations on my mind -- none more so than Mississippi.
While New Orleans has more or less recovered post-Katrina, parts of the Mississippi coast are still reeling from the damage, so many years later. They are also at risk for escalating storms as a result of climate change, and being less of an economic priority than a vibrant city like New Orleans, they get less funding and help after disasters like these.
I just finished American War by Omar El Akkad yesterday. It's a new novel about the Second American Civil War, brought on by climate change, and part of it takes place in Mississippi. Much of America is wiped out. Florida, Long Island, many coastal cities are underwater. The US capital is moved to Columbus due to Washington being ravaged by storms. The South has broken away so they can continue using now-illegal fossil fuels. Animals are dead; little grows anymore. As America falls into war, the new economic superpower is the Bouazizi Empire, covering all of North Africa and the Middle East after the fifth Arab Spring finally toppled the old regimes.
A scary read, and a very realistic look at what could be.
BEST NEWS EVER!
Predictably, after the outcry, Bangkok's government announced that they are no longer going forward with Bangkok's street food ban. Instead, there will be new regulations for street vendors, particularly when it comes to hygiene.
This is a victory for Bangkokians who make their living selling street food as well as locals who depend on street vendors for affordable food. And as a bonus, it's great news for us travelers who love to eat street food in Bangkok.
Well, this was a LOT tastier than I expected!
Anyone have a Unicorn Frappuccino yet?
And the next trip is officially BOOKED. I'm Eastern Europe-bound in May!
Friends of mine are putting together a huge campaign in Bucharest, Romania, to promote the city. Since my only experience in Bucharest is showing up at a hostel after a 110-degree train from Bulgaria and being told, "Um, you can take a shower if you want," I thought it would be a nice opportunity to do Bucharest right and see all it has to offer. Plus, I have a soft spot for lesser-loved cities.
After that, I'm adding on a few days to visit two countries I haven't yet visited: Moldova and Ukraine. I don't have a lot of time to play with (the result of loving your settled life in New York and not wanting to travel for long periods), but I think I can see a few of the best parts.
What do you think? Any suggestions for Moldova and Ukraine?
It was World Heritage Day a few days ago! What's your favorite UNESCO World Heritage Site?
I've been to around 127 or so. Here are 10 of my faves:
1) The Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Probably my favorite building on the planet; it nearly brought me to tears.
2) Wadi Rum, Jordan. An amazing desert with incredible colors.
3) City of Valletta, Malta. Nowhere else in the world looks like it.
4) Natural and Cultural landscape of Kotor, Montenegro. The town is amazing but the surrounding area is even more beautiful. I love it there so much.
5) Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia. In a country full of spellbinding natural sights, this is my favorite.
6) Early Christian monuments of Ravenna, Italy. This town is covered with incredibly detailed mosaics -- I can't believe how well they're preserved.
7) Skellig Michael, Ireland. An improbably community built by monks on an island in the middle of an angry sea. It defies all logic.
8) Galle, Sri Lanka. A colonial Dutch town perched on the bright cerulean sea.
9) Old Rauma, Finland. An almost unknown shipping town, with pastel wooden buildings and the most perfect light.
10) Historic monuments of Kyoto, Japan. Temples everywhere, so varied but so immaculately preserved.
What's on YOUR list?
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