In Kiev, a Stylish and Surprising City

Dear cities of the world: I warn you, it’s dangerous for me to visit you immediately after a city I love. You may not be judged fairly.

So many cities have suffered this fate. Tulum couldn’t hold a candle to Caye Caulker. I would have loved Charleston more if it hadn’t come immediately after my beloved Savannah. And I’ll always regret not giving Luang Prabang the attention it deserved, but how could I when all I could think about was turning around and getting back to Vang Vieng?

I was due to arrive in Kiev after three idyllic days in Odessa. Odessa blew me away — I was expecting to enjoy it, but I had no idea I would fall for it quite so hard.

So if this were an ordinary visit, I would have tolerated Kiev and wished I was back in Odessa. To my surprise, that wasn’t the case at all! I enjoyed Kiev quite a bit. I didn’t fall in love with it the way I did with Odessa, but it turns out that much of what I loved about Odessa was actually what I loved about Ukraine. Like the dirt-cheap prices. Ukraine is cheaper than anywhere else I’ve been in Europe, often on par with Southeast Asia.

Kiev is also huge, which pleased this city-loving girl. Population-wise, Kiev is the seventh largest city in Europe. I find comfort in large cities — they let me move around anonymously with minimal attention, and one of my greatest joys is to treat a new city like I’m a longtime resident.

I was hosted by JayWay Travel on this trip (see the Essential Info box for more information) and they arranged for me to have a wonderful tour guide named Olga, who showed me the best of the city in a few hours. Yes, my guide in Odessa was also named Olga; no, they were not the same person. Meeting multiple Olgas in Ukraine made me smile, though!

One last thing I’ll say is that I did not luck out with the light on this trip, which made photography difficult. Sometimes, I’ve been unbelievably lucky (Kraków’s light was so good, I nearly wept) but Kiev was bright, and doing most of my exploring in the middle of the day did not help. That’s okay. I think I did the best with what I had.

Here’s the best of Kiev! I hope you enjoy it.

The first thing that struck me about Kiev was its many gold-topped churches. As we drove in from the airport, I gasped whenever we passed a gilded cathedral! This one is St. Michael’s Church.


St. Andrew’s, a green onion-tipped church, is another stunner. I had to take a picture of this one and send it to my friend with a new baby named Andrew!

There’s a surprising amount of green space in the city. I love this overlook by St. Andrew’s.

The opera house is one of the grandest structures in town. I wish I had had time to see an opera.

This sculpture outside Golden Gate is an homage to Pantyusha, one of Ukraine’s most famous cats. He lived in one of the nearby restaurants and was a neighborhood favorite with the locals. Sadly, Pantyusha died in a fire in 1997 and the neighbors raised enough money to have this sculpture built. Rub his ears for good luck.

One of my favorite things about Ukraine was the omnipresent coffee carts. They were on wheels, in tiny kiosks, or outfitted into the back of cars. Wherever you were, there would be one within eyesight, and they made espresso-based drinks to order for less than a dollar!

My favorite was definitely Coffee Mafia.

Some of the architecture echoed the beauty I had seen in Odessa.

I loved the playful use of color throughout the city.

But Kiev is also home to ugly communist architecture, especially in Maidan Nezalezhnosti, one of the centers of the city. Here giant concrete buildings dwarf the delicate churches.

I hated these buildings — but some of my Chernobyl buddies loved them. It’s all about what you’re into.

“FREEDOM IS OUR RELIGION!” blared from the other side of the square.

This is how you say Kiev (a.k.a. Kyiv) in Cyrillic!

I had to try the city’s most famous dish, Chicken Kiev! I tried it at O’Panas, a highly recommended traditional restaurant located in Taras Shevchenko Park. It’s basically the Ukrainian Tavern on the Green, despite its Irish Pub-sounding name.

To be truthful, I wasn’t a big fan of the dish. I found it to be dry. Give me borscht and vareniki any day.

This sign doesn’t lie. I ate borscht at least once per day, every day!

One cool thing to do in Kiev is to head underground. Like many former communist cities, Kiev has a network of underground malls and passageways that are worth exploring. I love this capture of this thoughtful woman.

The subway is DEEP underground — it takes forever on the escalator!

Awww. I wonder who got the flowers from this guy. I wonder how happy she (or he) was.

There are lots of tiny coffeeshops underground. Olga brought me to one and insisted it was one of her favorites, and far cheaper than above ground. I think we paid around 40 cents for a nice latte and got some candies to go with it as well!

If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you know how my afternoon cafe break is essential. I found several cool cafes in Kiev, but my favorite was The Blue Cup. It was right around the corner from my hotel.

Look at that luscious whoopie pie! And that beautiful latte, I remember clearly, cost about 95 cents. In a gorgeous, stylish cafe. Ukraine is insane.

I also like to seek out independent bookstores wherever I go, but I didn’t find any with English language books. It gives me comfort just to be around the smell of books, though.

In Odessa, I was surprised that the women didn’t look like my image of Ukrainians — they tended to be short, curvy, and dark. In Kiev, though, the women fulfilled the stereotype of tall and blonde in tight dresses and pants.

Just look at the height of those heels!

But even the women who broke the Ukrainian mold looked stylish. I loved how well this woman matched the wall.

Kiev was bright. Kiev was playful. Kiev was fun.

Where I Stayed: Theatre Apart Hotel

I spent three nights at the Theatre Apart Hotel in the A5 Suite. These are a collection of apartment-style suites located in buildings surrounding a courtyard in central Kiev, not far from the opera house.

The location was fantastic — I was in walking distance from so many central attractions and there were several terrific restaurants and cafes within a five-minute walk. And the room gave me everything I needed — a comfortable bed, a table with chairs for working, a full kitchen, and a bathroom complete with a jacuzzi tub big enough for four people.

It wasn’t perfect, though. It’s in an old building with an ancient-looking elevator. There wasn’t a stand for the shower nozzle, which might be annoying to Americans who are used to having both hands free while showering.

But between its central location and $39 per night price tag, I thought it was fantastic value. I’d totally stay there again.

The Takeaway

I really enjoyed my time in Kiev. In fact, I’d go so far as to put it on my favorite list of European capitals, alongside Paris, Berlin, Ljubljana, Amsterdam, Helsinki, London, and Tirana! (Strange list, I know.)

Between the beauty of the city and how unbelievably cheap Ukraine is, I highly recommend making a visit to Kiev in the future. I bet you’ll love it as much as I did.

Essential Info: In Ukraine I was a guest of JayWay Travel, a boutique Central and Eastern European travel company, for a custom itinerary they built for me with hotels, transfers, and tours. They do custom trips so whatever you’re looking for, reach out to them. It was so nice to not have to worry about transfers, and my guides were wonderful. Contact them directly for tours or other bookings.

I stayed at the Theatre Apart Hotel, which I enjoyed and would recommend. My suite, A5, starts at $39 USD per night.

Some restaurants I recommend are O’Panas for a traditional experience in the park, The Blue Cup for coffee and pastries, Druzi for international lunch fare, and Cafe Borsch for cheap Ukrainian food. Most do not have websites.

While the subway system in Kiev is cheap and extensive, I mostly got around by Uber. It’s so remarkably cheap that most trips cost me around $2, and having a SIM card meant that it was always easy to call one when I needed one.

There is a significant language barrier in Ukraine, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. In Kiev lots of people in restaurants and hotels speak a bit of English. I do recommend learning Cyrillic, which is pretty easy to do. It will make your life so much easier when you can read what’s in front of you, as many words are similar to English.

I visited Ukraine in May, which was perfect. The weather was pleasant in Kiev, it made for an easy trip to Chernobyl, and Odessa was beautiful without all the crazy party crowds that arrive in summer.

Don’t visit Kiev without travel insurance. Whether you get appendicitis and need to be hospitalized, or your phone gets stolen, or an injury means you need to cancel all or part of your trip, travel insurance will help you out. I use and recommend World Nomads as travel insurance for trips to Ukraine.

Many thanks to JayWay Travel for hosting me throughout Ukraine. They paid for my hotels, airport transfers, and tours; I paid for flights, meals, and everything else. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Have you been to Kiev? Does it look like your kind of city?

from Adventurous Kate


The Emotional Labor of Female Travel Bloggers

Earlier this year, I joined a group on Facebook called “Female Travel Bloggers.”

Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of blogging Facebook groups — they tend to feature a lot of noise and little tangible value. (The big exception being the excellent Travel Blog Success Facebook group.)

Female Travel Bloggers shouldn’t have been different from the other groups — numerically speaking, the travel blogging industry is dominated by women, after all — but I was shocked at how different the atmosphere was.

In between the tightly regimented daily conversation topics, women ask for travel recommendations; they ask for help with blogging issues; they ask for life and love advice. It’s far more personal than the coed groups. We tell stories, sharing mishaps and laughter.

But then you get the same kinds of questions over and over, blogging questions that you only see amongst groups of women. I’m going to paraphrase the questions and answers here.

Question: A reader asked me if he can bring hentai [anime porn] into another country. I don’t know what the laws are. What should I tell him?

Woman 1: You can look up the laws of bringing porn into [that country] on [this website]. I would look here and find out, then tell him.

Woman 2: I would say that you aren’t sure of the specific laws and to thank him for reading your blog but this is not something you can help him with.

Woman 3: I’m familiar with that country — tell him that he shouldn’t have any problem entering the country.

Me: Normal people don’t ask strangers on the internet how to smuggle their porn. Don’t even respond to him! This is just a way for him to start talking to you sexually.

Here’s another:

Question: How do you deal with getting personal messages from men that say “Hey, how are you?” and want to have a conversation?

Woman 1: I say, “Hello, thanks for reading the blog and I hope you have a wonderful day!” I don’t want to be rude.

Woman 2: I always make time for my readers. They’re the reason why I’m able to travel the world.

Woman 3: I’ll talk to them but if they start making me uncomfortable, I’ll leave the conversation.

Me: You don’t owe anyone a personal conversation. You don’t even have to engage. Oh, and if you shut down Facebook messaging, you’ll get SO MUCH LESS of this.

And a third:

Question: I get lots of emails from readers who ask me to plan their trips for them. I don’t want to be rude and say no, but it’s starting to take up a lot of my time and I don’t know how to let them down.

Woman 1: I always remember how lucky I am to have people read my blog so I always take the time to help my readers. It’s the least I can do.

Woman 2: You can charge for this service!

Woman 3: I don’t give them everything but I like to plan a general outline of a trip, how many days to spend in each place, that kind of thing.

Me: You don’t have time for this — so don’t do it. Send them a link to a post about a destination if you have one, but that’s it. You’re never going to rise if you spend all your time and bandwidth helping people one-on-one.

Do you notice any common threads in these messages?

“I don’t want to be rude.” “Thank you for reading.” “I’m lucky to have these readers, so I should do this for them, even if I don’t want to.”

Gender Inequality’s Impact on Emotional Labor in Travel Blogging

There may be no barrier to entry in travel blogging but that doesn’t mean that the industry is a meritocracy. There is significant gender inequality, inequality that is exacerbated for women of color in particular.

If you took a look at most travel blogging conferences and see who was speaking, you would assume that most travel bloggers were straight white men. But straight white men actually constitute a small minority of the blogging population. In fact, at most travel blogging conferences I’ve attended, I’d estimate that around 75% of the blogger attendees are female.

One of the toughest issues female bloggers face is that our success in blogging is tied to our likability, yet studies have shown that when women become more successful, they are less liked. How do you make yourself successful but not too successful? That’s a tightrope many of us walk carefully.

Add in companies low-balling us financially, female photographers being too often overlooked, and the fact that female bloggers are often seen as doing a hobby while similar male bloggers are seen as running a business, and we have an uphill battle.

But the emotional labor factor comes in because as women, we are expected to be nurturers. A lifetime of conditioning has led us to believe that our role is to help people, care for them, and put others’ needs before our own. We want them to like us, we don’t want to disappoint them, and we are worried at what the repercussions may be if we don’t fulfill their needs.

How does that affect travel blogging? We end up spending our limited free time making our readers happy. That means socializing with them, meeting up with them, helping them with their problems. Our inboxes are full of our readers’ life stories, paragraph after paragraph detailing hardships, ending with, “Do you have any advice for me?” that we are expected to answer.

But here’s the thing — you don’t have to do that.

Which brings me to Snapchat.

I’ve received several messages from readers asking why I haven’t been posting on Snapchat lately. They check in and make sure I’m okay. They tell me they miss me. And it breaks my heart because I have the kindest readers in the world and I don’t want to disappoint them (oops, there’s that conditioning again).

I’ve taken a break from Snapchat because the sexual harassment is out of control.

Every time I open Snapchat, I’m assaulted with photos of male genitalia. Multiple photos every day. And it’s gotten to the point where I get stressed out when I open my messages.

I can’t take it anymore.

Why don’t you just block them? I block tons of people every day. It doesn’t stop new messages from popping up.

Why don’t you turn off messaging? The point of Snapchat was getting to chat and laugh with my readers.

Why don’t you add nice people as friends? That would still require me to have public messaging in order to add them in the first place.

So I’m not sure what to do. For now, I’m sharing more on Instagram Stories – adventurouskate. All private messages from people I don’t know are kept in a separate folder. Occasionally I read and respond to them. But the best thing is that all photos strangers send you are hidden until you open them. I can’t get assaulted with penises on Instagram.

Am I done with Snapchat? Not completely. I’ve got such a big network on there that it would be foolish to jettison it completely. I might shut off messaging and do limited snaps — like one per day.

But for now it’s going to be on Instagram only. I still think Instagram is shitty for copying Snapchat’s platform, but at least Instagram is an app that doesn’t make me live in fear.

How Female Travel Bloggers Can Reduce Their Emotional Labor

You’re already doing everyone a favor by writing your blog. Remember that. If you’re blogging for the right reasons — if you’re blogging to genuinely help other people rather than fuel your own ego — your blog serves as a product that helps other people create more happiness in their own lives. That’s incredibly generous, even if you make money from it.

And for that reason, you’re not obligated to do anything more than just write your blog. But most women will go above and beyond until they’re bent over backwards.

You’ll never be able to please everyone, so don’t try.

You can’t be everything to everyone, and you can’t be everything to one person, either. Make peace with the fact. Only robots are able to be perfect every time and you’re a human being.

I once had a reader who was a faithful commenter on every post — until the day I mentioned I went to a Jesuit university because I loved Jesuit educational values. She went on a rant about “papists” and I haven’t seen her here since. How could I have predicted that?

There is nothing wrong with making money from blogging.

You are providing a valuable service. You have cultivated an audience. You deserve to benefit financially from that.

Blogging requires a lot of intense work, time, and education. It looks easy as hell but anyone who tries it quickly discovered just how much work is involved to make it look that effortless.

Women in particular often agonize over whether they’ll be seen as “selling out” or somewhat less genuine if they start making money, but that is not the case at all. If a man agonized in the same way, people would say, “Are you crazy? You’re letting money slip through your fingers!”

Spare yourself the anguish of turning yourself into an emotional knot and accept that there’s nothing wrong with you earning money for the work you do.

Understand that culture clash is real.

Most of the issues I face in term of blogger-reader relationships stem from one region: South Asia, specifically India and Pakistan. 90% of my requests from strangers who want conversations, friendship, and romance come from these two countries. A lesser amount comes from the Middle East.

It’s an interesting time in South Asia right now. In cultures where men and women don’t socialize together, the internet has opened up lines of communication that didn’t exist before. Many South Asian men see this as an opportunity to message Western women on Facebook.

Look at any of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook posts about his family or DACA or climate change and you’ll see comments from South Asian men saying, “Thank you Mark Zuckerberg, I have so many girl friends now because of Facebook!”

You don’t have to be part of it. But it’s good to understand the root cause.

Turn off Facebook messaging.

If you want to get fewer personal messages from people who want to have a conversation, turn off Facebook messaging on your page altogether. I did it years ago and my life has been so much better as a result. So much less crap to wade through.

If a reader really wants to get in touch with you, they can figure out how to email you through your blog.

You don’t owe anyone a real-life meetup.

The tough thing about blogging is that it creates a one-way relationship between a reader and a blogger, not unlike one between a fan and a celebrity. But the lower level of fame and ease of getting in touch makes it easier for a reader to reach out to a blogger and actually meet up in real life.

Most readers I’ve met up with have been very cool. They’ve shown me around their cities; they’ve taken me out for drinks and coffees; some have even become good friends.

But some readers see me as their best friend, or their prospective lover, or someone who will teach them how to make money online. I am none of those things, and being grilled about how I became successful at blogging makes me feel used.

So I only meet up with a very limited number of people in real life — people whom it feels like I can trust, who don’t set off my alarm bells, who aren’t looking for blogging advice. That means a lot of people end up disappointed, but that’s what I choose to do to keep myself safe and sane.

Another tip: don’t meet up one-on-one with older men. In my experience, too many times it’s turned into, “Soooo, my wife doesn’t like to travel anymore…maybe we could go somewhere!” And I’m a little sick of waiting till he’s gone to the bathroom and saying to the bartender, “Yo — I’m not a hooker, he just reads my blog.”

Write blog posts around your most popular questions.

It is so much easier to respond to emails when you can write, “Here’s a link to a post on that exact topic!” rather than writing out response after response by hand.

Here are a few of my most popular questions turned into blog posts:

Trust me…you’ll save so much time this way.

Include helpful, practical information in your post.

A few years ago, I started adding an Essential Info box to the bottom of my destination-based posts. It includes details on where I stayed, what attractions cost, prices in the local currency and USD, links to their current sites, and any other helpful information.

This is SO helpful to my readers, even more so than just linking to a hotel or museum’s website. It saves time. Information may change and prices may creep up over the years, but at least they’ll have all the resources there without emailing you to ask where you stayed.

PS — I call mine Essential Info but you can call yours anything you want.

It’s not your responsibility to plan someone’s trip.

You’re a blogger. Not a travel agent.

Most of the requests I get to plan whole itineraries and trips come from Indian readers. But I’ve found that a brief and firm, “I’m not a travel agent and I don’t plan people’s trips,” usually results in profuse apologies.

You are entitled to have a life outside your blog.

Not everything needs to be blogged. Just because you did it, it doesn’t mean you need to write a blog post about it. People might ask you for one, but if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to!

Probably my biggest sub-advice within this topic is to keep your love life off your blog. Not just because it can be awkward as hell when a relationship ends, but because it allows you to keep something special and intimate for yourself without inviting strangers to observe it.

I haven’t blogged about my current love life in three years and that’s not because it’s been inactive. (If anything, it’s been overactive.) But nobody is entitled to that information and I’ve been much happier and at peace as a result.

Female travel bloggers, do you go too far in accommodating your readers?

from Adventurous Kate

AK Monthly Recap: August 2017

Hello. I’m thirty-three. And I’m more balanced than I’ve been in a year and a half.

It took a long time to get this point. When I moved to New York in early 2016, I knew it was time — and I was so happy. Even so, I struggled with anxiety. Was I not traveling enough? How would I manage my travels and build a life in New York? Would my readers leave me?! How would I earn enough money to survive in New York when it was so much more expensive than traveling and I would be doing less of the travel that would actually earn me money in the first place?!

Balance is fallacy, I wrote on my 32nd birthday last year.

I still believe that perfect balance is an impossibility. That said, while my life is not 100% balanced, it’s pretty close right now.

For one thing, I’m thrilled to be working with so many US-based destinations this year. A few years ago, only European destinations had budgets, so this is a welcome development. I love exploring my own country and sharing it with my readers. I love that I can swoop in on a quick flight, work an intense 3-5 day campaign, then fly home and do the rest of my content creation work from New York.

And this schedule is working very well. Every 2-3 months, I do a 2-3 week trip, and in between I do short trips of 3-5 days. This allows me to live fully in New York without wondering that I’m gone too often.

Maybe I won’t be as happy with this schedule in the future — but for right now, it’s excellent.

Destinations Visited

New York, New York, USA

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Vail, Denver, and Boulder, Colorado, USA

Oulu, Kuopio, Porosalmie, Oravi, Porvoo, and Helsinki, Finland

Minsk, Belarus

Favorite Destinations

Vail. A kickass mountain town with fabulous hiking and wonderful, warm people.

Porvoo. A pretty little wisp of a Finnish town.

Helsinki. Still one of my favorite offbeat European capitals, and this time I got to explore more islands.


Turning 33 in style. I turned 33 on August 2 (no, no birthday post this year, but I might write one this month) and went to see Waitress on Broadway with my friends Beth and Amelia. There was a special reason for that: my cousin Matt was in the show! He’s been in the cast for months now, also serving as the understudy for Earl (the mean husband), so when he announced that he’d be playing Earl for a two-week run, we got tickets!

I hadn’t seen Matt in something like 20 years, but he invited us backstage after the show. It was so nice to reconnect and chat about our grandmothers — and take lots of pictures with pies!

Also, we got the cheapest tickets possible ($49 plus $12.50 fees for a total of $61.50 on the TodayTix app) and were in the very back row of the theater, but the seats were still quite good. If you want to see Waitress, go ahead and buy the cheapest seats — you’ll be fine!

After the show, the three of us planned to go to Guy Fieri’s restaurant as a joke, but they were closed and we went to the revolving restaurant on top of the Marriott instead. That’s how I learned that at 33 I get nauseous at revolving restaurants. Ha!

The next day, my sister Sarah and Beth and I grabbed Korean bar food and discovered a chocolate and wine restaurant next door. SO good.

A chance to revisit Philadelphia. I’ve always considered it my least favorite city in the US, so when invited me to revisit my least favorite city and see if I could have a better time, I was excited to go. And I had a great time! It was awesome seeing my old friends Dave and Jeff and making new ones, like my reader Maria, and I ate and drank my way across Philly’s best restaurants and bars.

My friend Lisa came to New York oh so briefly! She came in for a day trip on the day I returned from Philly, so we met up for a nice lunch and stroll through the city, concluding at the magic that is Eataly.

New sunglasses. I wear sunglasses constantly, so I allow myself one designer pair per year. My 2017 pair, pictured in the top photo of the post, is by Tom Ford. I LOVE THEM.

Enjoying glorious Vail in the summer. I made my first-ever visit to Colorado (I know, I’m shocked too) this month, focusing on a campaign to showcase Vail in the summer months. Vail is one of those places I had always heard about, but never considered visiting because I don’t ski. Well, it turns out Vail in the summer is amazing — it’s so beautiful, the air is crisp, and it’s far less busy than during the winter. It’s most locals’ favorite time of year!

For me, Vail was all about the glorious hiking. I especially loved the hike that I did with llamas (!!), and I enjoyed exploring the town, getting to know the locals, spending time in the spa at the Sonnenalp Resort, and eating at so many delicious restaurants. Stay tuned for more on Vail very soon.

Spending time with friends and family in Colorado. My cousins Colleen and Cynthia live in Denver and I was stoked to finally visit them on their turf and check out the places they’re always posting about — namely The Tattered Cover bookstore and D Bar, an incredible dessert restaurant, as well as Hop Alley for dinner.

I didn’t meet these cousins until we were adults and I’m so glad to have them in my life now — we get along so well and have so much in common. The three of us love books and writing and travel, Cynthia loves Scotland as much as I do if not more, and Colleen is the author whose books I review often here.

In Boulder, I met up with two friends from different walks of life: Carrie, who came on my first Central America tour in 2015, and Matt from the world of travel blogging, a.k.a. Expert Vagabond. The three of us checked out Boulder’s best offerings including brunch at Snooze (you guys, I had a chilaquiles Benedict with poached eggs and barbacoa over tortillas with cheese and salsa AS WELL AS a giant blueberry danish pancake AS A SIDE DISH), plus a stop at Dushanbe Tea House, which was disassembled in Tajikistan and shipped to Boulder piece by piece. Oh, and there were a LOT of people out protesting circumcision.

Watching the eclipse in New York City. We didn’t have a total eclipse this far north, but it was still an outstanding event. I went to the Museum of Natural History with my friend Amy and we watched the eclipse surrounded by science-loving New Yorkers.

Finally seeing the Air Guitar World Championships. I’ve wanted to attend this competition for years — since long before I started the blog. Finally the opportunity arrived: my friends at Visit Finland invited me to do another summer trip in summer, and I immediately asked if I could go to the championships. They loved the idea and I was so happy we were able to make it work out!

This was one of the most fun festivals I’ve ever been to. The performers were so enthusiastic and funny, and I got to know several of them at the super-fun after-parties. That’s the Jinja Assassin, my favorite, pictured above. He tied for second.

Chilling out in the Finnish countryside. I stayed at an incredible resort called Järvisydan, which has been some kind of guesthouse since 1658 (!!) and one of the owners is an 11th-generation hospitality worker (!!!). I explored the islands, forests, and fishing villages, and spent time in the best spa I’ve ever experienced.

After that, I headed to the pretty town of Porvoo for some photography and a fitness class out in the forest. Porvoo reminded me so much of my beloved Rauma, but on a smaller scale. Next I headed to Helsinki and met up with a few Finnish friends: Sami, whom I met in Kuala Lumpur in 2010 and who took me on a 20,000-step walk around his island, and Katja, with whom I delivered a kickass conference speech in Italy in 2013 and who took me out to lunch in the city.

A new country: Belarus. Cool to visit country #71 and my fifth-to-last country in Europe. I had a nice walk along the riverfront and discovered a cool coffeeshop, but the rest of Belarus belongs in “challenges”…


I killed my computer in Vail. Since I had bought my MacBook Air in spring 2012, I knew it would be time to upgrade to a new one soon. Yet I wanted to wait until it was absolutely necessary. Then it suddenly became necessary — I STUPIDLY spilled water on my keyboard and none of the top keys worked!

I ordered a refurbished 13″ MacBook Pro with maxed out RAM and it arrived in New York shortly after I got back from Colorado. I’d like to thank the Travel Blog Success community for helping me choose the right laptop for me. That Facebook group is worth the membership alone.

Oh, also — I picked up a cheap silicone keyboard protector. Because I’m not letting another spill destroy this machine.

The good news? I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE MY NEW COMPUTER. Man, you don’t realize how bad your old one was until you get a new one and everything flies at the speed of light…

The flight over to Europe was pretty awful. As much as I appreciated flying direct to Helsinki on Finnair, I hated leaving at 5:40 PM and arriving at 8:20 AM, or the equivalent of 1:20 AM New York time. They started serving breakfast at the equivalent of midnight. Yeah, I didn’t sleep a wink. And the woman in front of me had her seat back the whole time…and I was in a middle seat…I got a lot of reading done, but that was the only redeeming factor.

Minsk was rough. Definitely the most challenging place I’ve traveled in Europe. A significant language barrier, which I expected, plus some other quirks — like subway stations that have names in both Russian and Belarusian (often VERY different names) but sometimes the stations only have signs in one language and are announced only in the different language!

All that plus the fact that nearly all wifi is only available via receiving an SMS code — so if you don’t have a SIM card (and I didn’t), you basically have no wifi. Good thing I had it at my apartment…

On top of that, I didn’t find there to be much tourism value in Minsk, though I know I could have seen a lot more if I had made more of an effort. I did love my walk along the river, though. I would only recommend Minsk to experienced travelers. It’s hard.

And a small qualm — as soon as I got on the train to Philadelphia, I realized that my lone pair of sunglasses had lost one of its pads. Wearing them hurt like hell!

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How I Stay Healthy While Traveling — A guide to staying well on the road.

Other Posts

A Different 24 Hours in Philadelphia — What I did in my former least favorite city.

Portraits of New Yorkers During the Eclipse — I loved the shots I got!

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I took this picture in Kuhmo, Finland, three years ago, and shared it as a preview to my upcoming trip to Finland. Just looking at that makes my heart swell with memories of the midnight sun! For more photos from my travels as well as live updates, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

Fitness Update

My sister bought me a foam roller for my birthday! I was about to buy myself the same thing. That really says it all.

Beyond that, I’m considering revamping my diet. I’ve been thinking that I should reduce my consumption of meat. I think I’m going to start small and slowly reduce it over time.

This flies in the face of eating mostly paleo, which I still believe to be the healthiest diet, but as someone who flies a lot for work, I need to reduce my impact on the climate. I already do a lot of the top climate recommendations — I don’t have biological kids, I live in an apartment as opposed to a house, I don’t own a car and rarely drive — but a plant-based diet is the most effective method that I’m not already doing.

So. I’m not going to go full vegan, but I plan to eat a lot less meat, especially red meat, which is the worst for the climate. I plan to eat a lot more nuts, seeds, and eggs. We’ll see where it goes.

Also this month, I got my first Fitbit — the Alta HR, which is slim and cute but is a heart rate monitor as well. I’m finding it interesting what burns more calories and what doesn’t. Also, my resting heart rate went up super-high when I was in the Rockies!

What I Read This Month

I swore I was going to finish the Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge this month, but I just barely missed it — only one book to go! I’ve read 51 books so far this year, all of them fulfilling categories of the challenge. I’m proud to have read so many books, definitely a record in my adult years, but I’m looking forward to getting back to reading what I want to read without worrying about category fulfillment.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind (1985) — I actually first heard about Perfume from a guy I dated awhile back who had lived abroad in Europe. “Everyone in Europe has read this book but hardly any Americans have,” he told me. And it’s true — I hadn’t even heard of it, but my friend Dani, who is German, saw it poking out of my bag and exclaimed, “Oh, Patrick Süskind!”

A baby is born in the streets of 19th century Paris, abandoned, and is soon discovered to have no scent, unnerving everyone he meets. However, he has the keenest sense of smell and uses it to his advantage — working with perfumes, using the power of scent to influence people, and eventually becoming a murderer. I won’t give anything away more than that.

I loved this book — rich and literary, such an original idea, so many dark twists, and a protagonist who is pure evil yet you can’t help wanting him to succeed. Not to mention a bit on the short side, which I appreciated. Not a word was wasted (take note, Murakami). I enjoyed this book far more than I expected and I highly recommend it. Category: a book that takes place over a character’s life span.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (2007) — I fell in love with Junot Díaz’s writing when I read the superb This Is How You Lose Her in 2015, but it took me quite a while to read his most famous novel, the one that catapulted him to fame and won him the Pulitzer Prize. Oscar Wao is a very non-traditional Dominican-American — he’s a geek, he’s overweight, and he has absolutely no game with the ladies. But that doesn’t matter when there is a fukú, a curse, leering over the heads of his family, waiting to strike.

This book is a soaring exploration of Dominican history, the immigrant experience, and relationships between friends, lovers, and family. And it’s told in Díaz’s brilliant style, English and Spanish and profanity and uninhibited revelations. But for me, the book didn’t truly come alive until Díaz inhabited the voice of Yunior, the same protagonist of his other books, This Is How You Lose Her and Drown. Yunior is unforgettable. And I’m fairly certain that Yunior is a not-so-fictitious version of Díaz. I’m glad I finally read it, but I still think This Is How You Lose Her is Díaz’s masterpiece. Category: a book that’s been on your TBR list for far too long.

American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (2017) — Over a period of several months in rural Accomack County, Virginia, fires filled the night skies. Several dozen arsons were committed, new fires appearing almost every night. In a community where the only firefighters were volunteers, it took them forever to find the culprits — but once they did, they realized it was a local couple tied up in a crazy love story.

I love true crime, but reading about the graphic murders of innocent people (like In Cold Blood) leaves me feeling uncomfortable, like I shouldn’t be reading about that. American Fire was different — while property was damaged, it was mostly abandoned houses and most of the damage was the terror on a local community, where people in eternal fear of where the next fire would take place. More than anything, I enjoyed this close look at a once-wealthy part of rural America now struggling to keep its residents financially afloat. Category: a book with a subtitle.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013) — For the challenge I needed to pick a book that I’d read before that always makes me smile. To be honest, most of the books I love deeply don’t make me smile — or they make me smile in spite of grueling sadness, which is always what gets me emotionally. But Eleanor and Park is a book that makes me smile with its sweetness.

This book is about first love between two high school outcasts in Alaska — the lone half-Asian kid in a white midwestern town and a girl living through poverty and an abusive home environment. To me, the brilliance of this book is how Rowell gets you to feel every thudding emotion throughout your whole body. Perhaps it’s simply the universality of first love. Whenever I read this book, I feel the happiness skimming underneath my skin, flowing through every inch of my body. I really can’t describe it any other way. If you haven’t read this book, do, and let me know how it affects you. Category: a book you’ve read before that always makes you smile.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2004) — I’m a fan of Margaret Atwood and The Handmaid’s Tale, but I was not a fan of this book, the first in the Maddadam trilogy. It takes place in the future and is told by Jimmy, a.k.a. Snowman, presumably the last human left on Earth after decades of unchecked genetic engineering ruins the planet. He’s left in charge of a tribe of childlike genetically engineered quasi-humans, the creation of his best friend and brilliant scientist, Crake. The book tells the story of how the world got to be this way, plus the love triangle between him, Crake, and a Southeast Asian child prostitute turned teacher named Oryx.

It’s a realistic and scary dystopia, which often makes me uncomfortable (hello, The Road), but what irritated me the most was that this book was all exposition. Additionally, Oryx was the epitome of a manic pixie dream girl — the happy, beautiful, perfect girl who loves you for no real reason. I’m surprised to see that dreadful trope appear from a feminist author like Atwood. And a lot of reviews call this a love story, but no, I wouldn’t call it that at all; it was a tale of an infatuation. I doubt I’ll be reading the rest of the series. Category: the first book in a series you’ve never read before.

What I Watched This Month

Looking for something funny to watch on Netflix? Check out Ali Wong’s comedy special, Baby Cobra. I LOVED THIS SPECIAL and Ali Wong is one of my new favorite comedians. She is hilarious and it’s especially relatable viewing if you’re a woman in your early thirties. Oh, and she did this show while seven months pregnant!

Coming Up in September 2017

The month is starting in Minsk and then I’m off to a few more countries! First to Lithuania, where it looks like I’ll only have time for Vilnius (I wanted to see Kaunas, too, but there was a snafu on September 1 that you’ll hear about in a month…). Next up, Estonia: Tallinn and a day trip to Lahemaa National Park.

Then a brief stop in Helsinki and a ferry trip to St. Petersburg, Russia! I’m taking the St. Peter Line ferry from Helsinki, which is one of very few ways US citizens can visit Russia without a visa. There’s not a lot of reliable information about it online so I look forward to writing all about it for you.

I’m finishing with two more days in Helsinki and then I fly home to New York. After that, I’ll be staying put for the rest of the month, maybe taking a three-day trip somewhere if I have the time and/or energy.

Any suggestions for Vilnius, Tallinn, or St. Petersburg? Share away!

from Adventurous Kate

Portraits of New Yorkers During the Eclipse


As a total eclipse appeared across the United States, darkening the sky from Oregon to Nebraska to South Carolina, dozens of my blogger friends road tripped to the path of totality to see the eclipse in person.

Me? Nah.

Traveling for the eclipse kind of seemed like something I’d do — especially since I still haven’t been to Nashville, which was in the heart of the path — but this August was a very busy work month for me and it wasn’t a great time for another trip.

Instead, I chose New York.

My friend Amy invited me to join her at the Museum of Natural History, which was putting on several events for the eclipse, including a party on the terrace. I was in! We both dressed up and Amy’s galaxy dress got her a million compliments!

And even though the sky didn’t completely darken — New York had about 70% coverage — it was so worth it to go to the event.

This was everything that I love about New York.

People from all walks of life coming together to celebrate science and nature. New Yorkers of every age and size and color, plus plenty of guests visiting from around the world. People with families, people with friends, people who came solo. People making new friends all around them. Everyone in one place, equally enthralled by what lay before us.

My heart swelled with happiness. For the millionth time, I knew I moved to the right city.

Being a photographer is like constantly being itchy. Everywhere you go, you see potential shots appear before you and the only cure for the itch is to take that photo. Usually I’m that way with scenery — but on this day, it was all about the people. I’m usually quite shy about photographing people, but an event like this was perfect because everyone was happy, distracted, and wearing dark glasses.

Here are some of my favorite shots of the day. I hope you enjoy them.

Getting ready for the show to begin.

I wonder if these girls coordinated their outfits in advance.

Everyone had either glasses or mini telescopes!

If you’ve never worn eclipse glasses, they block out EVERYTHING except the sun! It’s almost like wearing opaque lenses. That made getting candid shots a lot easier…

I love this kid! So enthralled, and those braces!!

Staking out the best spot on the terrace!

I love this father-son shot!

Wonder if this lady was able to see the International Space Station with those binoculars…

I don’t do it for the ‘gram, I do it for science.

Even the newscasters had to pause!

A sweet family moment.


Even without eclipse glasses, there was reason to celebrate!

Overall, it was a day we’ll never forget.

Which of these photos is your favorite?

from Adventurous Kate

A Different 24 Hours in Philadelphia, My Former Least Favorite City

If you had a chance to revisit your least favorite city, would you go? Recently I got an interesting opportunity in my inbox. invited me to visit my least favorite city for 24 hours and give it a second chance, staying in really nice accommodation and doing lots of nice activities.

I was intrigued, and I immediately knew the city to visit: Philadelphia.

I’ve been to Philadelphia somewhere around eight times. And while I don’t hate the city, I’ve never really liked it. It’s always felt small and dirty to me, short on attractions and limited in focus. As a native Bostonian, Philadelphia feels like it has all of Boston’s worst qualities but none of the best.

But I knew it had to be better. My sister loves it, to start, and so do many of my travel blogger friends. Additionally, almost all of my Philly visits were pre-blog; the lone visit post-blog was mainly hanging out in the suburbs with my friends Kelly Anne and Dave and only briefly venturing into the city. I’ve changed a lot as a person since then, and my travel style has changed significantly as well.

Plus, Philly is only 90 minutes away from New York by train. That is so close! How nice would it be if I had a city I loved that close by?

Switching to Holiday Mode has been researching how people can make their trips better by de-stressing in advance and planning for a relaxing trip. It’s all about taking care of your mind and body, getting yourself to a good place so you can see your destination at your best self.

For me, I didn’t want to end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy. I would genuinely go into Philadelphia with an open mind this time. I would take care of myself, I wouldn’t push too many activities, I would spend time outside and do lots of walking.

This would be different from my past trips. No cheesesteaks. No South Street. No Liberty Bell. No running up the steps of the art museum like Rocky. I would spend my 24 hours enjoying the city the way I wanted to.

By 5:30 PM, I was checked into my accommodation and I started the clock.

5:30 PM: Get settled in at ROOST Midtown

While a lot of people will head out right away, I think it’s important to take a moment and relax for a bit. Heading straight out after arriving is more likely to stress me out; I prefer to take a few moments of quiet solitude.

And what a place to enjoy that solitude.

ROOST Midtown is a condo-style hotel in Center City. It felt more like a private residence than a hotel and it was so big I could have done several cartwheels across the space.

This mid-century desk was the perfect spot to answer emails and get some last-minute work done.

Unusually, the bedroom didn’t have windows, but it did have an open loft to the living room which let in some natural light.

The bathroom was modern and stocked with adorable amenities.

This had all the pluses of an Airbnb — an apartment-like setup, self-catering facilities, laundry, and an awesome clubhouse on the roof — with none of the minuses, like having to coordinate being around at the same time so you can check in. I got the amenities I wanted with the privacy, discretion, and anonymity of a hotel’s front desk.

After a quick recharge, I headed out to explore.

6:30 PM: The Beautiful Streets Around Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square was a short walk away from my accommodation. This green space is one of the prettiest parks in Center City. But even better were the houses in the surrounding streets.

It amazed me how much the architecture varied in this neighborhood, yet how cohesive it was! There were moments when I felt like I was in Amsterdam, or Savannah, or even Harlem!

I’ve loved driving around and looking at fancy houses since I was a kid. Now that I’m grown, I still love walking around city neighborhoods and checking out the fabulous homes.

7:30 PM: Glass of Champagne

The secret to solo female travel confidence? Drink champagne. It immediately makes you the most interesting person in the room. I’m still shocked by how much that post resonated. Years later, girls still send me pictures of themselves drinking bubbly, saying, “Now I drink champagne just like you!”

Twenty Manning, with its elegant bar and dark wood tables, was a lovely restaurant for a pre-dinner drink.

8:30 PM: Tasting Menu at Talula’s Garden

I got a lot of recommendations for high-end Philly restaurants, mostly for high-end Israeli restaurant Zahav, followed by the French-influenced Laurel, but both were booked solid. Instead, I searched OpenTable and found Talula’s Garden, a restaurant specializing in local, seasonal cuisine.

I love eating local whenever possible, and seeking out local chefs’ takes on their region. (Even though New York local and Philly local is pretty much the same. Many of our local farms are in Pennsylvania!)

So how was it? OH MY GOD. This is one of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory. Seriously. And ten courses for $100 might sound crazy, but it was great value for food this good.

If you eat a la carte, my favorite dishes were the fried green tomato with smoked jalapeño, the seared scallop with smoky bacon and riddled cornbread, the grass-fed beef pappardelle bolognese, the “Jewel of Summer” soft cheese with peaches, and the blueberry apricot tarte tatin. I didn’t do the wine pairings but got a glass of white and a glass of red that the waitress recommended, as well as the included sparkling wine, and all three were spectacular.

As I left, my waitress told me, “I wish more women were like you — taking themselves out for a tasting menu, just because!”

“Oh, I’m actually a travel writer on assignment,” I said apologetically. “But I agree — women should! It’s something special to do for yourself!”

Talula’s Garden was easily the best thing I did in Philadelphia, and I recommend them highly.

11:00 PM: Cocktail at Hop Sing Laundromat

The entrance to this speakeasy is intimidating. Set in the middle of Chinatown behind a nondescript door, I got in line behind the one girl standing there and we waited for the door to open.

Finally, a Steve Harvey-looking dude poked his head out and demanded to know why we were there. “I’m here for my friend’s birthday party!” she yelped and was immediately let in.

“What about you?” he said with a glare.

“I — I just heard this was a good place!” I squeaked. “I just, you know, I’m alone but I thought it would be nice to check out, maybe have a cocktail…”

He sighed and let me in.

The girl and I were ordered to sit down and listen to the rules. Absolutely no photography. No bar photos, no selfies, no social media videos, no Instagram, and if you violated that, you would be kicked out immediately.

Got it.

The girl headed back to her group; I went to the bar, where there were only two chairs and I was the sole patron. Kind of weird for a Thursday night. I had a tasty gin and cucumber cocktail and briefly chatted with the bartender, but empty bars are a bit depressing when you’re solo, and I left after finishing the drink.

12:00 AM: Bedtime!

8:30 AM: Breakfast at Federal Donuts

I met up with my friend Dave for breakfast at Federal Donuts. (Do check out their website if you’re on a desktop — it’s hilarious!) This place is famous for tender, sweet donuts, and the fact that they serve them alongside fried chicken. If chicken and waffles makes so much sense, why not chicken and donuts?

To my dismay, chicken was not served until 11:00 AM, but the donut was no consolation prize. My peach cobbler donut was astoundingly fresh. I could have eaten another one right there.

9:15 AM: Coffee at Elixr Coffee Roasters

Coffee is always a priority for me, and I personally held off from getting coffee at Federal Donuts so I could enjoy an artisanal shop nearby. I decided to check out Elixr Coffee Roasters — a cool industrial space that catered to a wide variety of people. My flat white? Delicious!

10:15 AM: Mütter Museum

The strangest and most macabre attraction in Philadelphia is the Mütter Museum: a collection of medical abnormalities. You’ll find things like preserved diseased body parts and skeletons of all kinds, most of them deformed somehow. I love quirky and unusual museums, so this sounded like it could be fun.

I’ll be honest: I did not like this place. It was too disgusting for me. I had to actively suppress the urge to vomit the whole time.

But hey, don’t let that stop you. You might like it.

11:00 AM: Lavender Latte at Peddler Coffee

In my research I discovered that Peddler Coffee was a good midpoint between the Mutter Museum and the Barnes Foundation — and that they made a lavender latte with their own homemade lavender syrup. I’m still dreaming of the lavender spiced mocha I had in Savannah last year, so that was a must!

It was absolutely worth the stop. Definitely my favorite coffee of the trip.

12:00 PM: Barnes Foundation

This is an incredible collection of art. The Barnes Foundation is a stunning collection of art with a crazy history behind it. Dr. Albert Barnes amassed an incredible collection of art over the course of his lifetime and meant for it to be kept together in his home following his death; things did not go to plan. It’s the subject of the Netflix documentary The Art of the Steal.

There are tons of Matisses here, a handful of Picassos, a Van Gogh, some Renoirs, and hundreds of paintings by other artists, stacked up on top of each other in little rooms. I loved how it was structured — it felt far more intimate than most art museums.

Tip: get the app before you go! The Barnes Foundation has an audio guide that you can use on your phone.

1:45 PM: Reading Terminal Market

I’m surprised I missed Reading Terminal Market on all my Philly visits so far. This food market features dozens of food stalls hawking everything from Cajun eats to bakeries owned by the Amish.

(Tip: Please don’t photograph the Amish. Being photographed is against their beliefs. Though the women working here may be used to being photographed without their consent, that doesn’t mean that you should take advantage of that.)

The dish that came with the highest recommendation was DiNic’s roast pork sandwich, topped with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe. It’s been on lots of lists of “best sandwiches in America.” The verdict? Pretty good, but not life-changing by any stretch.

My friends warned me that the market would be super busy around lunch time, and they were right. It was a bit much for me.

3:00 PM: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Artist Isaiah Zagar has dedicated himself to beautifying Philadelphia’s neighborhoods with his art since the 1960s. In the mid-90s, he began working on a lot on South Street, and in 2008, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens were open to the public.

Today they are a beautiful place to wander, a place that hosts artistic events — and Instagram gold. My biggest surprise was that it wasn’t full of Instagrammers trying to get the perfect shot in every direction!

4:00 PM: Capogiro Gelato

I met up with Dave again for a gelato break! Capogiro‘s gelato isn’t like what I’ve had in Italy, but it was delicious nonetheless — incredibly creamy and smooth. Black Fig and Peaches and Cream were solid flavors.

4:45 PM: Browsing at Joseph Fox Bookshop

I’m always down to check out an independent bookstore. Joseph Fox Shop has an interesting array of books, including many from small presses I’ve never seen before. For a tiny place, they have strong sections on feminism, African-American studies, and cultural American studies.

I picked up a few essay collections by Roxane Gay and Zadie Smith.

5:30 PM: And that’s 24 hours!

That was my itinerary and it worked for me — but I should point out that this is a rushed itinerary for most people. I tend to sightsee very quickly when traveling solo and even for me this was a bit quicker than I would have liked to go.

Other than that, I was happy with how I spent my time.

Bonus Itinerary: Fishtown

Some of my favorite Philly experiences happened in the final evening after the 24 hours was up, so I’ll include them here:

That night I headed to Fishtown, which people are calling Philadelphia’s new hipster neighborhood. Truth be told, there were parts that looked exactly like Bushwick, Brooklyn.

I got dinner at the highly recommended Wm. Mulherin’s Sons (probably the worst restaurant name I’ve ever heard) and thoroughly enjoyed my double margherita pizza (regular mozzarella AND burrata!) and glass of lambrusco. The pizza was pillowy — an utter delight.

Next, I walked a few blocks down to ROOT to enjoy sparkling rosé with my lovely reader Maria and her friends Whitney and Naomi. Shortly after, my friend Jeff came to join us. ROOT is a fun wine bar with a great atmosphere in the heart of Fishtown.

The next morning, I headed to La Colombe for a gorgeous flat white before grabbing a Lyft and heading back to the train station. I’ve seen La Colombes in Boston and New York but I had no idea they were originally from Philly!

So how did I feel about Philadelphia this time around?

I enjoyed Philadelphia more this time around than I ever have before. Why? Because I visited on my own terms.

I’m no longer the 18-year-old who went to Philly with her glee club friends. I’m not going to visit a new city, have a group dinner at Cosí, take group photos in condom shops, and leave with new piercings. I like to think I’ve matured a bit since then.

Would I go back? Absolutely. I would come back for the food scene, the coffee, the wine, the cocktails, to stroll and enjoy the architecture, and to hang out in Fishtown. And especially to spend time with my friends.

I wouldn’t come back for the sights, though. While I loved the Barnes Foundation and enjoyed the Magical Gardens, I wasn’t overall impressed with Philadelphia’s sights. In fact, I found myself to be irritated by the crowds that swarmed the sights, much more so in other cities. Why is that? I’m not sure.

Philadelphia is so much better when you get off the beaten tourist path. If you haven’t been enjoying the city, perhaps that’s the problem. Go explore the cool neighborhoods and jump into the food scene. I think you’ll be surprised at what you find.

Essential Info: I stayed at ROOST Midtown, a condo-like apartment hotel in Center City. I loved the location, the spaciousness, and the clubhouse upstairs. This is a great option for accommodation in Philadelphia and I recommend it to others. Note that the sign on the building is discreet — they can’t put up a big sign because it’s a historic building. Google Maps sends you to the right spot. Rates from $162.

Talula’s Garden offers a ten-course tasting menu for $100 plus $50 for wine pairings; they’ll include a glass of sparkling wine and an espresso if you don’t do the pairings. They also offer à la carte menus.

Admission to the Mütter Museum is $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, $13 for youths and students, and free for children under 5.

Admission to the Barnes Foundation is $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, $10 on weekends and free otherwise for college students, $10 for youths, and free for children under 5.

Admission to Philadelphia’s Magical Gardens is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and $5 for children under 5.

I found it cheap and easy to get around Philadelphia using Lyft. Most rides cost around $6 before tip; to Fishtown and back was closer to $12.

This campaign is brought to you by, who covered my stay in Philadelphia and monetarily compensated me. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Have you been to Philadelphia? What did you think?

from Adventurous Kate

That Time in Laos When My Tuk Tuk Hit a…

This post was originally meant to be about my time in Halong Bay, Vietnam.

However, it won’t be because as I was being taken by tuk tuk today from the bus station here in the small rural town of Vang Vieng, Laos, to my bungalow hotel, my driver hit a young girl on a motorbike throwing her little body onto the windshield and then to the dirt road with a thud. I am still traumatized by the whole sequence of events, so my hope is that writing about it will be some sort of therapy.

My view as I write this at Bearlin Bungalow in Vang Vieng, Laos.

Arriving in Vang Vieng was routine enough. Well, let me qualify that. The Chinese guy across the aisle from me clearly had a stomach that didn’t fair well with swervey mountainous roads, so the last 90 minutes of our 4 hour trip from the capital of Laos, Vientiane, was his little nightmare.  And his first attempt at ejecting whatever snacks he picked up at the last rest stop didn’t end up in his plastic shopping bag as planned. The chunky puddle on the ground that meandered back and forth with the sway of the bus around each curve then became my little nightmare. I couldn’t get off that bus fast enough.

View from the back of my tuk tuk as we crossed one of two suspension bridges.

At the station there was a young, friendly Lao woman who offered a town map and help to all of us new arrivals. I showed her the address of my hotel and her eyes got big. “Maybe tuk tuk,” she told me as she pointed in a vast general direction indicating it wasn’t on the next block like the lady’s in front of me was. I responded, as I always do here, with way too much English. “So you are saying I can’t walk there? Can you at least show me on the map where it is?” Which it wasn’t so she flipped over the map and drew a basic diagram detailing the first two turns I would need to take to get there. She then just pointed. I thanked her and decided to find a restaurant with wifi to plot the rest.

Outside the station, two tuk tuk drivers stopped me. As I was showing them the address I got disrupted by another passenger. I left a bag inside. *Doh* I collected the little straw purse I had bought as a souvenir in Hoi An and revisited the tuk tuk drivers. “50,000 Kip,” one driver said. “How about 40,000?” I bargained back. “Far,” he retorted, “3 kilometers, across bridge. 50.” I shrugged and began walking away dragging my bag behind me. The original plan was to find a restaurant anyway. About 10 meters into my walk I start hearing whistles and hoots.  I turned around. “Okay, 40!” 

The driver that had been doing the bargaining, directed me to the tuk tuk of the other driver. “He will take you.” With that I jumped into the pick-up bed like back of the tuk tuk, and cautioned my driver of my bag’s weight as he hoisted it into the back with me. Then he jumped into the front cab, shut the door and we were off.

If you have been in tuk tuks around the world, then you already know they are truly different from country to country…even from city to city in the same countries. A tuk tuk in Delhi is different from a tuk tuk in Bankok which is different from a tuk tuk in Antiqua. And my tuk tuk for this ride was much different from even from the ones I took in Vientiane. The ones in Vientiane were basically motorbikes pulling an open air carriage-type apparatus that would seat 4 max. The ones here are almost like mini-trucks. Seven other people could have sat in the back with me in my Vang Vieng tuk tuk. It was a tuk tuk on steroids.

A Vientiane tuk tuk…much different than “tuk tuks” in Vang Vieng.

I love open air tuk tuk rides, and this was no different. The wind was in my hair, the breeze felt nice on my face and I was enjoying taking in all the new sights, sounds and smells that this new beautiful town offered.

I did get annoyed when we were stopped at the suspension bridge and I had to pay a 15,000 Kip toll. But as I crossed the rickety wooden structure watching the young monk behind me struggle to navigate his bike on the uneven boards, I thought it was probably a good thing that money was collected to maintain the structure. BUT let’s hope it is indeed used for that. I hear more stories about this country’s corrupt efforts than I do its pure ones.

Once off the bridge, I put my iPhone away so I could focus on visually taking in this very rural part of Laos. We turned a corner onto a street containing some restaurants, shops, hotels and plenty of pedestrian street activity. The movement caused my roller bag to move from the back of the tuk tuk to the middle squishing an already dead green grasshopper in its path. While steadying my bag and examining if the grasshopper’s carcass had endured more damage due to the rollover, I noticed my body starting to be thrust from the back of the tuk tuk to the front. I then heard a yell, thud and squealing of my driver’s breaks. The inertia of the sudden stop didn’t allow me to brace my body at all, so I toppled onto the bed of the tuk tuk (probably re-squishing that dead grasshopper for a second time). Once at a stand still I was grateful to be okay, but quickly noted that likely someone else was not. I looked into the driver’s cab to see the windshield splintered and deeply con-caved inward. Having grown-up in Montana, it look like we had hit a deer, but examining the commotion around us I realized we had hit a motorbike.

Stunned and not really knowing what to do, I stayed seated in the back of the tuk tuk as I saw a young girl being picked-up off the road. She was probably, maybe 14, and was as white as a ghost. She was, however, conscious…but barely. Thank God! Watching it all I couldn’t understand why whoever was supporting her wouldn’t move her into a chair in the adjacent restaurant or have her sit down on the curb. He just kept walking the barely conscious, ghostly girl.

Using too much English *again*, I looked at one of the bystanders and asked, “Did you call the hospital?” “Doctor?” as I made the universal hand gesture for “phone call.”  His response to me appeared fairly dismissive, so at that point I grabbed all my belongings and jumped out to the back.

“Why don’t they sit her down? Isn’t there a hospital? Someone needs to put her in a tuk tuk and take her to the doctor!” I was saying this to anyone who would listen…but looking around it was only Laotians and their English is as good as my Lao. With frustration setting in and likely still in some shock myself, I started to tear-up. In that moment, a French family walked by (I didn’t know they were French at the time…I just saw white people and knew I would likely be able to communicate with them). Bounding towards them, I pleaded with them to help me. A bit bewildered they stopped. A floodgate of tears and words opened as I told them about the horrific accident, the little girl, how horrible she looks, how she wasn’t wearing a helmet, how no one is bringing her to the hospital, how they are all just seemingly standing around her staring…on and on.

“Zhere iz nozthing you can do. You can’t worry about it. It wazn’t your fault,” the mom told me as I sniffled. “Zhere is a hospital in town too.” She asked where I was staying and when I showed her the address she said it was still some ways. I still needed a tuk tuk.

They invited me to follow them to a restaurant down the street where I could get wifi and reorientate myself. As the 5 of us started down the road, we saw the young girl being put in the back of a tuk tuk by 4 other people. “Zee,” said the mom, “zhey will bring her to the hospital. She will be okay.”  I did get comfort in that…but you weren’t going to see me get into another tuk tuk that afternoon.

At the restaurant I called my hotel proprietress, Lanh, who promptly came to the restaurant to pick-me up. She had passed the scene of the accident in route to collect me. “You were in that tuk tuk?” she asked with big eyes. And then followed with, “Didn’t you get my email saying I would pick you up from the bus station?” Uh no, and that would have likely made for a much different day for three people; the girl, the driver and me.

In the truck ride back to the hotel, Lanh theorized that it was likely the fault of the little girl. “You don’t need a license. Anyone can ride a motorbike. She could have been a foriegner too.” Foreigners can rent motorbikes here in Laos (unlike in Vietnam where foreigners aren’t allowed to drive anything). She then asked me if I wanted to rent a motorbike. I didn’t even answer her.

Not the best travel day for sure. Our constant vulnerability to instantaneous life changing events not within our power was put under a magnifying glass this afternoon. And while I wasn’t hurt in the least, I couldn’t help but reflect on what if I had been. With all the technology we have at our fingertips I feel so connected all the time to everyone back home…even when I am 1/2 way around the world.  I don’t ever feel as if I am alone, because at the next wifi spot all my family and friends are at my fingertips. But imagining myself unconscious surrounded by people who don’t speak my language in a country not noted for excellence in healthcare, did make me pause. In that case, I would be alone and at the mercy of strangers in a foreign land in my most vulnerable state…

Okay, shaking it all off now! Writing to process it all did help too! Which is good, because tomorrow I have to be re-engaged and reenergized to visit a local farming village and do some trekking in these gorgeous mountains. I suppose a little reality/existence check is good from time to time…but let’s get back to the cool and fun stuff.


from One Girl’s Adventures

How I Stay Healthy While Traveling

Spider-walking in Karijini National Park in Western Australia.

The following branded content post is brought to you by RXBAR. I’ve been eating roughly two RXBARs per day since the beginning of the year, and their team noticed on social media — so they reached out to do a giveaway together! Working with companies I love is my best-case scenario, so I’m very pleased to share this post here with you.

At the beginning of this year, I made a decision to reclaim my health and get back into a diet and fitness routine. For the month of January, I stayed in New York and got into a solid routine. But one of the most difficult parts was when I started traveling again.

Yes, it’s one thing to be healthy when you’re at home — but what happens when you travel?!

I was so nervous when I went to Florida with Cailin in February. This was my first trip since committing to a new gym, an exercise routine, a personal trainer, and an 80% paleo diet. How was I going to manage in a theme park famous for its milkshakes and turkey legs?

I made it through security at JFK Airport and felt like crying. I was hungry and surrounded by forbidden foods. The old me would have gone for a latte and a pastry at Starbucks, or maybe a giant bag of Cheez-Its if I felt indulgent. Was I going to fail after so much hard work?

It’s okay, Kate, I told myself. You can keep up your diet here. I went to a fountain and filled up my portable water bottle. I went to a newsstand and bought a banana. And then I reached into my RXBAR stash and pulled out my favorite flavor: Coconut Chocolate.

Yes. I could travel and stay healthy.

SUP Yoga in Key West, Florida

How I Stay Healthy While Traveling

Over the past seven months, through trial and error, I’ve gotten much better at staying healthy on my travels. These recent trips have been some of my healthiest yet.

But didn’t you eat a ton of key lime pie on those Keys trips? I sure did! But I balanced things out. I would rarely eat more than a few bites of pie. I would eat healthy fish dishes the rest of the day. And I made sure to work out like crazy while I was there! I worked out in gyms, I kayaked, I did the 7-minute workout over and over in my room, I even went to a Zumba class where I was the only participant. (That was a bit awkward.)

Here are some of my best tips for staying healthy while traveling:

On a…bicycle kayak?…on South Africa’s Garden Route.

Establish healthy habits at home first.

There are a number of people in the travel blogging community who are super into fitness. You see them scaling mountains, running on beaches, rocking self-made bootcamps at various playgrounds in different cities. How do they do it?

Their secret is that they prioritized fitness at home before they hit the road.

The same truth holds for you, too. If you want to be in shape while you travel, you should commit to fitness at home long before you hop on your flight. The road is full of temptation — discipline at home will keep you on track while traveling!

Sipping on a black iced coffee — maybe 5 calories? — while strolling the reservoir in Central Park.

Hydrate Frequently and Limit Caloric Drinks

So much of your health rests on hydration. It helps your body work better, it keeps you alert, and perhaps most importantly, it staves off hunger. Very often we think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty.

Make an effort to drink water constantly. Bring a portable water bottle to cut down on trash. And if you want to drink something else, stick to drinks with few calories: black coffee, herbal tea, seltzer.

Cut back on lattes, alcohol, and delicious fruit juices and you’ll pack on fewer pounds. I say this with regret as someone who loves lattes, alcohol, and delicious fruit juices.

Pack Healthy Snacks And Use Them Often

The old me would buy a roll or two of Oreos and eat them all on a six-hour bus ride. I don’t do that anymore.

RXBAR: The Ultimate Healthy Snack for Travel

When I got into fitness at the beginning of the year, I tried all kinds of paleo protein bars. Seven months in, there’s only one brand that I still eat regularly: RXBAR.

I first noticed them at the gym, with labels reading, “3 Egg Whites. 6 Almonds. 4 Cashews. 2 Dates. No B.S.” By “No B.S.” they mean no dairy, no gluten, no added sugar, no soy, no artificial colors or flavors, no preservatives, and no fillers.

I got hooked on the bars at the gym — and then started buying them in bulk. (FYI, they’re cheapest at Trader Joe’s — even cheaper than Amazon!) My favorite flavor is Coconut Chocolate, followed by Mixed Berry and Chocolate Sea Salt. All are paleo and fit the criteria for Whole30, excluding Peanut Butter Chocolate, as peanuts and other legumes are off the paleo menu.

All the bars are gluten-free and vegetarian; some but not all flavors are paleo, Whole30 compliant, and Kosher. None are vegan due to the egg whites. See more details here.

Today I eat them constantly. In fact, the reason why RXBAR reached out to me for this campaign is because their staff noticed I was eating them all the time on Snapchat!

How I use RXBARs While Traveling

I bring a huge stack of RXBARs with me when I travel nowadays — usually two for each day. No joke, when I went on the cruise earlier this year, an entire shelf was devoted to my healthy snacks.

I pack them into my carry-on backpack. Snacks on planes are usually junk food and some airports are severely lacking in healthy options (hello, Fort Lauderdale), so they are vital on some flights.

I have them for breakfast. Each bar has roughly 200 calories, which makes them a good start for the day before grabbing a mid-morning snack.

I have them for pre- and post-workout snacks. Before the workout, they give me energy; post-workout, their 12 grams of protein helps me recover. (My trainer likes me to have 20 grams of protein after a strength workout, so I’ll often have a bar and a half after.)

I hold onto them for long rides in transit. Whether it’s a half-day bus journey or an hourlong subway ride, I keep a bar or two in my purse in case hunger pangs hit.

I bring them on road trips. When my friends and I drove out to Montauk a few weeks ago, I came bearing bars. “Coconut Chocolate, Mixed Berry, or Chocolate Sea Salt? I brought three of each!” They both went for Coconut Chocolate.

Surfing at sunset in J-Bay, South Africa.

Sign up for a fitness activity or tour.

Have you always wanted to learn how to surf? Or whitewater raft? Or rock climb? Now is the perfect opportunity to learn! I guarantee you it will be one of the most memorable activities of your trip. Plus, once you come home, you’ll have a story in your back pocket about that time you went surfing in South Africa during a pink sunset.

Another option? Try a fitness-oriented tour! Bike tours are already popular in many destinations, and running tours are starting to become popular in cities as well.

Enjoying one of my favorite restaurants on the planet: Red Snapper in Koh Lanta, Thailand.

Limit your indulging to once per day.

Definitely be sure to indulge in the local cuisine when you travel — it’s one of my favorite things to do! But balance it out. If you’re having a heavy meal for dinner, get a salad or some simple protein and vegetables for lunch. If you’re having dessert, don’t have three glasses of wine.

Let yourself live — but save the indulgences for some of the time, not every meal.

The most difficult hike of my life: the Alps surrounding Innsbruck, Austria. I hurt so much the next day!

Walk everywhere — but remember that walking is not cardio.

When you’re on the road, especially when visiting cities, you’ll be walking all over the place. You might clock upwards of 20,000 miles per day. And that’s fantastic — but walking is no substitute for cardio. Walking keeps you active, but you won’t be bringing your heart rate up much.

Is walking better than nothing? Of course! But you shouldn’t be considering it your workout for the day if you’re comparing it to your usual spin class or HIIT. Try to add some actual cardio in between the walks.

A heart rate monitor might help you here. I recently started using a Fitbit Alta HR, and while it’s not perfect, it does let me know which kind of activities get my heart rate up.

Bike riding in Caye Caulker, Belize.

Rent a bike or kayak.

Whether in a city like Berlin or a tiny island like Caye Caulker, Belize, renting a bike can be a great way to explore more of your surroundings in a healthy way.

Kayaking with Wren on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

Another fun option? Rent a canoe or kayak! It may not be the most efficient to get from town to town, but it’s a lot of fun. Plus, you’ll get new perspectives for your photos.

Trying out Anti-Gravity Yoga in New York.

Join a fitness class in another city.

One of my favorite things to do in different cities is to spend my days as if I lived there. So I visit coffeeshops, I read in parks, and I occasionally join a fitness class at a local studio. Zumba, yoga, kickboxing, spinning, barre — I’m game for anything that isn’t completely terrifying!

Above all, I recommend yoga. Yoga classes are easy to find around the world, and even if you don’t speak the local language, they usually say the name of the pose in the usual Sanskrit! Plus, yoga is all about letting go and focusing on your inner self. Nobody judges you at yoga class.

Hiking to Jesus in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, with Alex.

Grab a fitness buddy for company.

It’s much more motivating to work out alongside a friend! If you’re traveling with a friend, see if you can plan some kind of fitness activity during your trip. If not, there are other ways.

If you’re staying at a hostel or hanging out in a neighborhood with lots of backpackers, ask around. Don’t be scared — this is what people used to do before smartphones! Backpackers are often looking for something cool and different to do, especially if they’ve been traveling long-term.

Alternatively, ask on the local Couchsurfing or Reddit forum for your destination or join a Meetup Group. You never know what you might find!

On a surf and yoga retreat in Sayulita, Mexico.

Consider going on a fitness-oriented group trip.

Back in 2011, I went on a yoga and fitness retreat in Mexico. At the time, I was grotesquely out of shape and thought I would be the resident lump amongst a dozen lithe women.

But you know what? It wasn’t like that at all. All the women on the retreat were interested in fitness, and some were in very good shape, but most of them were average-sized women who wanted to go somewhere warm in the winter — and justify their nightly margaritas.

We began and ended the day with yoga. In between we’d do boot camps or go surfing. And throughout we were served delicious, mostly vegan food with a bit of fish thrown in. I felt so healthy at the end of the week!

Every retreat is different, and you should research in advance to find out what the day-to-day is like. But don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

Just after caving and swimming in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand.

Take care of your body.

Know when you’re pushing yourself too hard. Don’t go out drinking every night. Get a good night’s sleep whenever possible. And when you feel the faintest beginnings of a cold, get yourself to the nearest place serving homemade chicken soup.

Rock climbing — and hating it — in Railay, Thailand.

If you mess up, that’s fine. Just do better tomorrow.

Fitness is not like addiction. If you mess up, it doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym tomorrow and announce, “It’s been one day since I was healthy.” It’s okay to fall short, to eat way too much dessert or to spend a day sedentary in a cafe. We all fall short sometimes. God knows I do.

Likewise, it’s okay if you try a dream activity and end up hating it. I tried rock climbing in one of the most beautiful places to do so — Railay, Thailand — and hated the experience, start to finish. From the way-too-tight shoes to putting my life in the hands of a dude named Stinky Pete (seriously), it was not for me.

That just means you need to make the conscious decision to do so again tomorrow. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Win a Travel Pack Worth $639 from RXBAR!

RXBAR is giving away a travel pack to one of my readers, and this prize is excellent. Here’s what you’ll get:

To enter the giveaway, go to @adventurouskate on Instagram and leave a comment on my latest photo — the one with the RXBARs. The RXBAR team will be choosing the winner at random. Good luck!

How do you stay healthy while traveling?

from Adventurous Kate