The 8 Best Old Towns in Europe

How do you define an old town? For purposes of this post, I define an old town as a separate, distinct part of a modern city that is historical, beautiful, protected from further development, and often holding UNESCO World Heritage designation.

London and Paris don’t have old towns, for instance, while Venice and Valletta are nothing but old town. Many old towns in Europe were destroyed during the World Wars (and some, like Warsaw, were painstakingly reconstructed); other old towns, like Vilnius and Belgrade, have their old and new towns overlap so much that it’s hard to tell which part starts and ends where.

I’ve visited dozens upon dozens of old towns across every country in Europe except Cyprus. (Man, I really need to get to Cyprus next year so my statements land with more punch!) Nearly every country has a special old town.

Riga, Latvia, has a funky and colorful old town featuring Art Nouveau architecture.

Bergen, Norway, has an old town capped by a centuries-old wooden wharf, the Bryggen.

The colorful, flower-filled, half-timbered old town of Colmar, France, could stand in for Beauty and the Beast.

Granada, Spain, has a luscious and unusual old town with Moorish architecture, capped of course by the Alhambra.

But as beautiful as these towns are, I wouldn’t rank them as the absolute best. There are seven towns that I think stand heads and shoulders above the rest. Here they are, and I hope you enjoy my incredibly subjective list.

Kraków, Poland

When I think of exceptional old towns in Europe, Kraków comes to mind immediately. It’s got the most glorious architecture, it’s rich in history, and I swear the light hits the city more beautifully than almost anywhere else. Best of all: the entire old town is encircled by a park. It took me a while to get to Kraków, but once I did, I fell in love hard and fast.

My Favorite Things to Do in Kraków:

  • Check out the Jewish area of Kazimierz and see how artists have transformed it.
  • Walk around the park that encircles the Old Town over and over.
  • Eat all of the soups and try the cheesecake at Camelot.

Where to Stay in Krakow: Check out the best hotel deals in Krakow here.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is home to two distinctive towns: the Old Town and the New Town. The Old Town includes the Royal Mile and one of my favorite streets in the world: the hilly, colorful, shop-filled Victoria Street. And from almost everywhere in town, you can see Edinburgh Castle perched on a giant rock, glowering over the city. I first visited Edinburgh in 2011 and have returned seven times since. Scotland is the kind of destination I can’t stop visiting, but Edinburgh truly holds my heart!

My Favorite Things to Do in Edinburgh:

  • Come in August for Fringe, a.k.a. Edinburgh Festival. See all kinds of shows and performances back-to-back, all day!
  • Come for New Year’s and the Hogmanay celebration, complete with kilts and fireworks.
  • Take a walk across the Water of Leith on a rainy day.

Where to Stay in Edinburgh: Check out the best hotel deals in Edinburgh here.

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn is the newest arrival on my list, having made my first visit in September. But within minutes of arriving I knew it was one of the best I had seen. Tallinn is a walled city and reminded me a lot of Prague. Pastel buildings, church steeples poking out everywhere, cobblestone streets. It’s everything you want in a European old town — and it has the bonus of being one of the cheapest options on this list.

My Favorite Things to Do in Tallinn:

  • Climb to the top of St. Olav’s Church for the best panoramic view of the city.
  • Go to The Living Room for a surprisingly high-end coffee experience.
  • Head to Ill Draakon to eat elk soup, pastries, and drink beer served by costumed servers for super-cheap.

Where to Stay in Tallinn: Check out the best hotel deals in Tallinn here.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

There’s nothing like driving along the ocean from the Montenegrin coast, suddenly seeing Dubrovnik’s old city appear before you, a terra-cotta circle on the edge of the blue Adriatic. George Bernard Shaw called it “The Pearl of the Adriatic” and the name stuck. Dubrovnik is phenomenally beautiful, but that beauty comes at a price: it can be very busy and devoid of locals, especially during cruise season. If you’re going, I wrote a guide on how to avoid the worst crowds and make the most out of your time in Dubrovnik.

My Favorite Things to Do in Dubrovnik:

  • Walk the walls of the city just before sunset, after it’s cooled down a bit.
  • Go on a Game of Thrones tour and see lots of sites from the show.
  • Take the cable car to the top of the mountain for amazing views.

Where to Stay in Dubrovnik: Check out the best hotel deals in Dubrovnik here.

Prague, Czechia

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Prague — since my semester abroad in 2004. When I first arrived, I remember being struck by the “candy houses” of the old town and hearing that over history, Prague locals preferred to let invaders march in rather than fight them and have their city destroyed in the process. As a result, Prague today is nothing short of magical. It’s one of the most famous old towns in Europe and one of the prettiest.

My Favorite Things to Do in Prague:

  • Enjoy the fun, distinctive, and phenomenally cheap beer scene.
  • Take a day trip to the bone chapel at Kutna Hora.
  • Stroll across the Charles Bridge at sunset and enjoy the musicians. Don’t forget to tip them.

Where to Stay in Prague: Check out the best hotel deals in Prague here.

(My original photos from Prague are terrible. These ones are Creative Commons photos by Roman BoedMiguel Virkkunen Carvalho, Pedro Szekely, and Thomas Depenbusch.)

Stockholm, Sweden

When I visited Stockholm in 2012, I was struck by two things: how incredibly beautiful the old town (Gamla Stan) was and how incredibly expensive it was. Since then, I’ve visited places more expensive than Stockholm and I now realize that it’s not so bad, especially considering what you get in return. Stockholm’s Gamla Stan is so beautiful, I almost expected to see Cinderella around every corner.

My Favorite Things to Do in Stockholm:

  • Go on a tour of the colorful subway stations, which could practically be art installations.
  • Visit the Vasa Museum, a seventeenth century ship that wrecked, was rescued, and today is a maritime museum.
  • Eat your weight in Swedish meatballs and stop for fika (coffee and pastry break) whenever you can.

Where to Stay in Stockholm: Check out the best hotel deals in Stockholm here.

(My original photos from Stockholm are terrible. These ones are Creative Commons photos by Eugenijus Radlinskas, Trausti Evans, Pedro Szekely and Michael Caven.)

Florence, Italy

The city where I studied abroad in 2004 is home to, in my opinion, the best old town in Italy. They call it the Centro Storico. Right before I got on the group flight to Florence, one of my professors told me that roughly 50% of the world’s artistic treasures are in Italy and of those in Italy, roughly 50% are in Florence. I couldn’t verify that statistic anywhere, but I will say this: Florence is the kind of city where art seems to spring up from the pavement. It’s around every corner. Some statues that would be considered exceptional anywhere else are considered “bad art” in Florence simply by comparison (looking at you, Neptune). And that’s what makes the Centro Storico so special: rich warm colors, world-class museums, tons of churches, and all kinds of art.

My Favorite Things to Do in Florence:

  • Go up to Piazzale Michelangelo for the best sunset view over the city.
  • See more precious art than you’ve seen in your life at the Uffizi, and be sure to say hi to Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia.
  • Have dinner at Acqua al’2 — get the assagio di primi (pasta sampler) and the balsamic steak!

Where to Stay in Florence: Check out the best hotel deals in Florence here.

(My original photos from Florence are terrible. These ones are Creative Commons photos by samueleagrimi_, Lex Kravetski, Chris Wee, and Bob Hall.)

Kotor, Montenegro

With a population of 5,000, Kotor is more of a small town than a large city. That being said, it belongs on this list because its old town is one of the most distinctive of all of Europe. Old Kotor is a walled city perched on the Bay of Kotor; being inside feels like you’re in the middle of a fairy tale. And on the outside, it has perhaps the most spectacular natural setting, surrounded by gray-green mountains and still blue waters.

My Favorite Things to Do in Kotor:

  • Get up at sunrise and hike to the top of St. John’s Castle for one of the best views in Europe, then watch the colors change as the sun gets higher in the sky.
  • Take a day trip to Tara Canyon and go whitewater rafting.
  • Take millions of photos every day, especially at sunrise and sunset.

Where to Stay in Kotor: Check out the best hotel deals in Kotor here.

Final Note: If you’re planning a trip to Europe, don’t forget to use travel insurance. It could save your life or finances. Recently a friend of mine broke her foot in Florence and because she had travel insurance, they not only paid for her to fly home early, they flew her home business class so she could keep her foot elevated! That’s why you get insurance. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Europe.


READ NEXT: First Time in Europe: Where to Go?


Do you agree with this list? What’s your favorite old town in Europe?

The post The 8 Best Old Towns in Europe appeared first on Adventurous Kate.

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Solo Female Travel in Thailand — Is it Safe?

I’ve traveled solo in Thailand several times in the past seven years. I consider it one of the best destinations in the world for women traveling on their own, including first-time solo female travelers.

There are a number of guides out there, but they tend to be lacking in specific tips for women to stay safe while traveling. (Oh, and I SEE YOU, Rough Guides, with that post labeled “solo female guide to Thailand” in the search results that omits the word “female” once you click on the page and has exactly zero female-specific tips.)

Altogether, I’ve spent several months in Thailand, most of them solo. I’ve traveled on a shoestring budget and in luxury; I’ve traveled to big cities, small towns, quirky islands, and national parks all over the country. By this point, I have a strong perspective about what travel in Thailand is like for women, and I want to share it with all of you.

First Time in Asia? Go to Thailand!

Asia can seem overwhelming if you’ve never been before. Even my friends who are very experienced travelers were nervous for their first trips to Asia. And all of them who started with Thailand said something along the lines of, “I don’t know what I was worried about!”

Not only is Thailand a fantastic destination for first-time solo female travelers, I also think it’s the ideal location for a first-time trip to Asia. Here’s why:

First off, Thailand is a very easy place to travel. There is a well-worn tourist trail and great infrastructure. If you suddenly wake up in Pai and decide you want to go to Koh Phi Phi tomorrow, go to your guesthouse desk and they will purchase the combination of bus, train, and ferry tickets that will take you directly to the island. Isn’t that insane? And there are travel agencies on every block that will do it for a bit less. (Side note: don’t go from Pai to Koh Phi Phi overland in one go. That’s a LONG journey. Flying from Chiang Mai to Krabi makes it infinitely easier and shorter.)

There isn’t much of a language barrier. If you stick to the tourist trail (and the tourist trail is vast and expansive in Thailand), people speak at least a little English. Learning a few phrases like “sawatdee-ka/kap” (hello for women/men) and “kop kun ka/kap” (thank you for women/men) will be appreciated, however.

Great food. Even if you have no idea what Thai food is beyond pad thai, you’ll soon discover a plethora of delicious dishes. Just know that spicy is one thing, but “Thai spicy” is spicier than anything you’ve had in your life!

It has something for everyone. Thailand is equally fantastic for young backpackers who want to party, older couples who love history, and families with young kids. It’s a safe and welcoming destination for LGBT travelers. It’s a top culinary destination. You can backpack for very cheap or bask in some of the best luxury resorts in Asia. Whether you’re a city person, a mountain person, or a beach person, you’ll find a place that’s perfect for you in Thailand.

Is Thailand Safe?

Generally speaking, Thailand is a very safe country to visit as a traveler. Violent crime against foreigners is extremely rare, and most theft can be prevented with common sense. Petty criminals tend to seek out inebriated travelers, which makes it all the more important to stay sober enough to know what you’re doing.

That doesn’t mean that nothing bad happens, ever. There’s no 100% perfectly safe location on the planet. Even if you follow every precaution, you can still get robbed. You occasionally hear about a traveler dying in Thailand, and while these incidents are tragic, they are uncommon, just as tragedies are uncommon in your home country.

While you occasionally hear of terrorism and bombings, these tend to be in off-the-beaten-path destinations in far southern Thailand. There was one bombing at Erawan Shine in Bangkok, a busy and well-traversed area, in 2015. Again, these incidents are rare, but they happen — in Bangkok, in New York, in Paris.

What It’s Like to Travel in Thailand as a Woman

Traveling alone as a woman in Thailand is a safe and secure experience, and I feel very comfortable there. Here’s why:

For one, catcalling and street harassment are virtually nonexistent. It’s almost disconcerting how pleasant it is. If anyone yells at you as you walk down the street, it will likely be a foreign visitor, not a Thai. The closest I’ve been to being hit on by a Thai was a salesman at MAC who shyly told me, “I like your eye.”

People are out all night. You’ll see people manning street carts even late at night. This is good because it means you’ll never be alone on the street. That in itself is huge for safety.

Thai people are incredibly kind and welcoming. Just like anywhere else in the world, 98% of people are nice and the other 2% are assholes, but I think Thai people are a lot kinder, a lot more open, and a lot gentler than the general population of the world.

Here are a few things to know as a woman:

Tampons and pads are readily available, but… It’s hard to find tampons with applicators. You can get them at Boots or Tesco Lotus; otherwise, get your products at 7-Eleven. That said, I recommend you use a DivaCup instead for convenience, packing, and environmental reasons (read why here).

Condoms are also readily available. You can get them at 7-Eleven, including Western brands like Durex and Trojan. And in the event that you get a UTI, just head to a pharmacy and they’ll give you a prescription. Cipro is usually prescribed; check with your doctor to see if taking it is right for you.

Women are not permitted to touch monks. Don’t sit next to them or walk next to them, either.

Safety Tips for Thailand

Keep your drinks close to you. Don’t take drinks from strangers and don’t leave them out when you’re drinking them. Watch them like a hawk.

Don’t drink too much. Be in a state where you’re aware of your surroundings. Especially be cautious of the ubiquitous bucket cocktails.

Lock up your valuables in a portable safe in your hotel room. I do this with my Pacsafe Travelsafe and I consider it the most important thing I pack.

Cover up a bit. Always cover your shoulders and knees when you visit a temple. Beyond that, Thai women tend to cover up more than Westerners, and it’s good to blend in by dressing a bit more conservatively and not wearing short-shorts or super revealing tops or dresses. Do not wear your swimwear anywhere but the beach.

Take VIP buses and avoid backpacker buses. Travel agencies will try to send you on backpacker buses, but these sometimes have drivers who are forced to work long hours and take amphetamines to stay awake. VIP buses are what the locals take.

Do not take drugs, even if you’re a party drug enthusiast. First, drugs in Thailand can be cut with poisonous substances. Second, if you’re caught, the police have the power to do a urinalysis and use the results in a court of law. Third, if you’re caught with drugs, some corrupt police will take your passport and demand hundreds or thousands of dollars in order to get it back. Fourth, the penalties for drugs are extremely severe in Thailand.

Don’t be afraid of street food. Street food is life in Thailand. Go where the crowds are; it means the food is great and there’s high turnover. You may want to start with vegetarian food and slowly ease yourself into meat.

Hide your money in multiple places. Only take a small amount of cash and a debit card with you when going out. Keep the rest locked up in your room. Make sure you bring multiple debit cards, too, in case one gets lost or stolen.

Don’t insult the royal family. Thai people love their king, who recently passed away, and speaking badly about the royal family can get you arrested. Always rise when the national anthem plays — even in places like movie theaters.

Protect yourself from the sun and heat. Bring sunscreen and a hat. If you plan on snorkeling or diving, use reef safe sunscreen (Stream2Sea is a good reef safe brand). Hydrate constantly. Water is ideal, but coconuts are great for the electrolytes! Stick to bottled water or use a Steripen on Thai tap water.

Taxi and tuk-tuk scams abound in Bangkok. Most common ones are of drivers telling you an attraction is closed, then taking you on a super-cheap tour instead…to shops his friends own. (I once got hit with this at Wat Po: “You can’t go in, there is special ceremony right now!”)

Additionally, always ask to use the meter when riding in a taxi. If the driver says it’s not working or he doesn’t have one, it’s a scam and he’ll try to negotiate for more than what the ride should cost.

Finally, invest in a guidebook. Even as an expert traveler in the year 2017, I love guidebooks. They’re filled with detailed information about everything from travel times between cities to medical clinics serving foreigners. I’m a Lonely Planet fan and I recommend Lonely Planet’s Guide to Thailand or Southeast Asia on a Shoestring if you’re visiting multiple countries in the region.


For more general safety tips, be sure to check out

Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women


The Best Experiences in Thailand

Get massages every single day. An hourlong massage in Bangkok usually runs around 250 baht, or a little over $7. Expect to pay a bit more on the beach. At prices like that, you can afford to get them daily! If you’ve never had a foot massage, this is the time to get one.

Celebrate Loy Krathong. During this November holiday, locals make krathongs, or floating lanterns, and release them into the river. It’s beautiful, especially if you can make it to Chiang Mai for the lantern release.

Find your perfect island or beach. There are plenty of them, but my absolute favorite is Koh Lanta.

Visit Elephant Nature Park and care for rescued elephants. DO NOT RIDE AN ELEPHANT IN THAILAND, EVER. This is abuse 100% of the time. Instead, visit this park that cares for rescued elephants. You can feed them, wash them, and even hug them — and unlike elephant rides, it’s not abusive at all.

Learn to ride a motorbike. Motorbiking is an adventurous way to explore the countryside! I recommend learning in Pai, where the streets are empty and the countryside is stunning.

Shop like crazy. One of my favorite markets in the world is Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, only open on the weekends. This massive place has everything from furniture to local hipster clothing to live animals for sale! You can also get clothing tailored for a very cheap price.

Learn to dive. Koh Tao is one of the top destinations to get scuba-certified. This will be a skill you can take around the world.

Join the water fight at Songkran. Every April, Thailand erupts into a three-day water fight to celebrate the New Year. The best celebrations are in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Where to Go in Thailand

Bangkok is a thrilling city with more to do than you could ever fit into one vacation. The food is outstanding, the rooftop bars are insane, the people are wonderful. It’s one of my favorite cities on the planet. A lot of people may say bad things about Bangkok, but I’ve found that these people tend not to be city people in general. My suggestion? Roll with it and enjoy it.

In the north, Chiang Mai is relaxing city full of temples with great night markets and an amazing street food scene. Pai is a gorgeous mountain village that makes the ideal place for learning to ride a motorbike.

If you like ancient cities, be sure to do a day trip to Ayutthaya from Bangkok, or to head further north and visit Sukhothai en route to Chiang Mai. Sukhothai in particular has surprisingly few tourists.

Thailand is famous for its islands and beaches. I will always recommend Koh Lanta first. Railay in the Krabi region gets a lot of praise but I think it’s past its prime, sadly. If you’re looking for beach luxury, the best options are in Phuket and Koh Samui. If you want to dive or just chill, Koh Tao is your place. Koh Phangan is home to the infamous Full Moon Party. I’m also a big fan of chilled out Koh Chang in That province, which is close to the Cambodian border. (Find out how to protect your belongings on the beach here.)

One nice off-the-beaten-path spot is Khao Sok National Park in the south. You can cruise giant lakes filled with limestone karsts, canoe down rivers, and stay in over-water cabins.

In terms of accommodation, I can recommend two places wholeheartedly: Wild Orchid Villa in Bangkok is my spot — it’s a sweet and comfy budget guesthouse by Soi Rambuttri. Soontreya Resort in Koh Lanta is a mid-range guesthouse with super-comfy beds and a pool, a short walk from Relax Bay, the best beach on the island. Otherwise, I tend to stay in simple guesthouses.

These are just a few suggestions — Thailand is full of great places to visit!

Travel Insurance

One last note — it’s absolutely vital to have travel insurance before traveling to Thailand. If you get sick or injured on your trip, or even have to be flown home, travel insurance will protect you from financial ruin. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Thailand.

I once had a medical issue crop up while in Bangkok and I had to see a doctor. I went to Bumrungrad Hospital (which is excellent, FYI — far better than any American hospital I’ve ever visited), got an examination and an ultrasound, got documentation, and my expenses were reimbursed by World Nomads.

If you’re a woman, you will feel safe in Thailand.

People often ask me where the safest place for a woman to travel is. If I were considering safety alone, I would probably put Iceland and Japan at the top of the list. But right after that would be Southeast Asia, and Thailand specifically.

If you’re nervous about your trip to Thailand, don’t be. Plan carefully, do your research, and then go and have the time of your life!

Have you been to Thailand as a solo traveler? What would you add to this post?

The post Solo Female Travel in Thailand — Is it Safe? appeared first on Adventurous Kate.

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The Best Halloween Dogs in Hamilton Heights, Harlem

I wasn’t a dog person until I moved to New York. I didn’t grow up with dogs (or any pets larger than a rodent, for that matter), and I never really knew how to interact with them. Spending time on Bali in 2011 and being cornered by barking street dogs on a nightly basis didn’t do anything to warm my heart to them, either.

But something changed. Once I moved to New York, I started fawning over every dog I met. Especially neighborhood dogs.  I’m now that person who goes up to a dog and starts talking to it without acknowledging its human. And not just the tiny, fluffy ones. All the dogs. (Also, at one point I dated a guy with a pit bull, and I soon learned that pit bulls can be the sweetest, most loving creatures you can imagine.)

So when my neighborhood running group, the Hamilton Heights Running Group, asked me to photograph their Halloween dog parade and 5K Fun Run, I was happy to help out! Since everyone loves dogs in Halloween costumes, I thought I’d share my favorite photos here. Spoiler alert: they were all good boys and girls.

Wonder Woman was a popular dog costume this year! This is Sally and she was rambunctious!

Oliver the hot dog was cute enough to eat and his human Latoyia went as a chef.

Look at these glamorous ladies — Eddie and Alex.

Hudson the Superdog made the most human-like expressions!

Look at that tongue on Charlie the lobster! That’s his sister Amy the ladybug behind him.

LOOK AT THAT LITTLE FACE! That’s Frog the pug and his human Christopher.

Waddles the dachshund! Look at how cute he is as a tiny pirate!

New friends — Scarlett as Mike from Monsters Inc. and Docco as a cow.

Lily the fluff-ball as King George the Third and her human Michael as our neighborhood’s namesake, Alexander Hamilton! (Yes, Hamilton Heights is named after him. The song “It’s Quiet Uptown” from Hamilton is literally about this neighborhood, back when it was countryside.)

MANGO! (Every time I say Mango, I think of Chris Kattan on SNL.) I have him marked down as “velvety lobster” to differentiate from Charlie the “shiny lobster.”

How scrumptious is Zoe the little sushi dog? And look at those bright orange toenails! (Also, I’m pretty sure my friends GQ Trippin dressed up their baby in the same costume. LOL.)

The minions have taken over! Anyone have a banana for Brooklyn the chihuahua and her human Pam?

LOOK AT THIS GUY’S INSTAGRAM GAME. He knows how to pose like a superstar!

Hi, little Santa baby! This is Max the Yorkie.

There’s something about a grown man being tender with a tiny dog that melts my heart. This is Cody the pumpkin and his human Lex.

I love how pugs look vaguely terrified when they get excited!

Oscar made a very scary mummy!

Star Wars duo! Ella went as an Ewok and her human Sara was Rey.

Little Amy the ladybug knew how to rock a tulle skirt!

It wasn’t hard to win our judges over.

Look at these elegant Egyptian ladies! Boney Maroney and her human Kristin as Cleopatras.

Duck the Wonder Dog enjoyed the view atop her human Amy.

Tater the Taco Dog had his humans Danni and Carinna join him as the best taco stand on St. Nick!

My sister Sarah went as a Zombee (zombie…bee…get it?) so she had to pose with the bee dog and a little bumblebee girl!

And now here are a few of my personal favorite dogs:

Ross! Such an adorable teeny Yorkie. He went as the Gorton’s fisherman. While my neighborhood has a ton of Yorkies, something about Ross just captured my heart.

He even came with props!

MARGE! Isn’t that an awesome bulldog name? AND LOOK HOW HAPPY SHE IS. Even as she’s being eaten by a dinosaur.

Not only that — Marge dressed in matching costumes with her little brother Anson!

I hope they’re always two peas in a pod.

But my favorite costume of all was Rex! “Oh, is she Little Red Riding Hood?” I asked her human. “No, she’s a handmaid,” she told me, showing me the white bonnet. “THAT IS AMAZING!” I exclaimed.

“Blessed be the fruit.”

And you won’t believe who showed up — our congressman! Rep. Adriano Espaillat’s election was one of the joys in an otherwise bleak day last year. Not only is he the first Dominican-American member of Congress, he’s also the first member of Congress who was once an undocumented immigrant. Since his term began, he’s introduced legislation to ban federal funding for Confederate monuments.

He’s from our neighborhood and loves our neighborhood — so of course he came out!

Here are the Halloween dog costume contest winners:

In third place, this lion dog and her fearless tamers!

In second place was the most picture-perfect real-life Snoopy I’ve ever seen!

And in first place — Zoe the dog went as Georgie from It and her human Leny went as Pennywise! Super creepy and just perfect.

This was such a fun event. I was glad to help out my community (the proceeds from the event benefited community organizations) and I loved getting to know more of my neighbors.

I love my neighborhood so much. And while I wrote about it shortly after moving here, I haven’t written much about it since. Why? I like to keep some things in my life private. And just like my love life and my finances, my day-to-day life in my cozy little neighborhood falls into that category as well.

Just know that I am so happy here. I feel like I massively lucked out ending up in a neighborhood that I love so much.

So, after all that gushing, am I going to get a dog of my own? Maybe. In the future. I’m not in that place right now. Even though I’ve massively reduced my travel schedule, I’m still traveling far too often for it to be fair to a dog. Once I get to a place where I’m home nearly all the time, that would be when to start thinking about a pet. The fluffier, the better.

One more shot of Ross before we go. HI ROSS!


READ NEXT: Why I Moved to Harlem Instead of Brooklyn


Which Halloween dog is your favorite? Share away!

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AK Monthly Recap: October 2017

October in New York is fantastic. The best month of the year. And this was actually my first time experiencing an October in New York!

Last October was split between Poland, Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Australia. I think October is a fantastic month to travel, especially to Europe, but after a big Eurotrip last month it was time to sit still and spend time in one place.

It was a month of Halloween goodness, exciting opportunities, and a surprising number of visits to Staten Island. It was a month of admiring the decorations throughout Harlem and enjoying far-warmer-than-usual weather. This month rocked!

Destinations Visited

New York and Croton-on-Hudson, New York

Tybee Island and Savannah, Georgia

Jersey City, New Jersey

Favorite Destination

The new? Tybee Island. The old favorite? Savannah. Don’t worry, Jersey City — you’re nice, too.

Highlights

The other half of my dad’s visit to New York. My dad visited over a long weekend and I talked about the September half of his visit in last month’s recap. On this part of the trip, we got dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown, walked around the 9/11 Memorial and downtown Manhattan. We cut through Brookfield Place and did a walk-through of Le District (it’s essentially the French Eataly) and I can’t wait to go back for a proper meal! Post-Whole30, of course…

We also got a trip in to Staten Island — the only borough Dad hadn’t visited. And we introduced him to one of my absolute favorite things to do in New York: drinking on the Staten Island Ferry. As on every trip to Staten Island, we walked to the Flagship Brewery and had a few beers before getting back on the ferry to Manhattan. Topping it off? Fraunces Tavern (a very cool place and one of my favorite bars in the city) and John’s Pizzeria (Bleecker Street), which I’m starting to think is my favorite New York-style pizza in the city.

And before Dad left on Monday, I introduced him to the quintessential New York breakfast: the bodega bacon, egg and cheese and a coffee. He loved it.

A beautiful beach getaway to Tybee. October is still beach season in Tybee Island, Georgia, and I enjoyed temperatures in the mid-80s. I even got a tan! I’ve written a lot about that trip already, so I won’t repeat myself here. It was also lovely to spend a day in Savannah, one of my favorite cities in the world.

Traveling to Jersey City for amazing pizza. Jersey City is a short PATH train ride from Manhattan, but I had never been before — until I read a New York Times piece asking, “Is New York’s Best Pizza in New Jersey?” The place is called Razza and it’s pretty damn good pizza. Not classic New York pizza, but I’d definitely place it in my top five for the city. Maybe even the top three.

What makes Razza pizza great? Amazing crust, a delicate thinness, and unusual and inventive toppings, many of them locally sourced from New Jersey. My favorite was the Panna with tomato sauce, mozzarella, local grass-fed cow’s cream, arugula, and parmigiano. Cream on a pizza is a stroke of brilliance. It’s like burrata. So yes — go to Razza! It’s absolutely worth the trip to Jersey City. It’s very popular and they don’t take reservations, so try to go at an off-peak time. I had to wait an hour on a Monday night.

Golden Girls Trivia at the Golden Girls Cafe. I made my first visit to Rue la Rue Cafe, the Golden Girls-themed cafe in Washington Heights, for a wild night of Golden Girls trivia. The owner, Michael La Rue, was close to Rue McClanahan and inherited much of her estate, some of which is on display at the cafe. Even the phone from the set! He gave away some of Rue’s things as prizes — things like one of Rue’s canceled checks, one of her coffee cups, and even the script from the George Clooney episode that George himself drew on!

And man, these were serious Golden Girls fans who showed up. (My sister is a hardcore fan and she aced two rounds of trivia.) I was very happy that the grand prize winner was the guy who took the midnight bus from Baltimore and showed up in Blanche Devereaux drag!

Visiting the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden. The exhibit is now closed, and I’m glad I made it there. I love the New York Botanical Garden and Chihuly is such a great fit for a natural environment.

Visiting The Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson. Every year, the Hudson Valley town of Croton-on-Hudson does a giant jack-o-lantern display. There were a merry-go-round, a Tappan Zee Bridge, and a Statue of Liberty all made out of pumpkins. And they’re still doing it through November!

It’s a nice little getaway from the city, and there’s a nonstop train during rush hour. Just 35 minutes from Harlem-125th and 40 minutes from Grand Central. And while the website says the walk from the train station is “not pedestrian-friendly,” don’t let that stop you — the walk is easy and the cabs are both expensive and communal. (Me: “What is this, a marshrutka?”)

Visiting Staten Island a whopping three times. Once with my dad, once to cheer my sister on in the Staten Island Half Marathon (her first half marathon ever and she did amazing!), and once with the Knights. More on the Knights below.

Halloween festivities in Hamilton Heights! This year my neighborhood’s running group, of which I’m kind of an honorary non-running member, put on a Halloween dog parade and 5K fun run. I photographed the event for them. The costumed dogs were adorable and I really enjoyed getting to know more of my neighbors. Stay tuned for a Halloween dog post next week!

And I went out in my neighborhood as trick-or-treating was in full swing. I went to Broadway in Hamilton Heights, and you guys, I’ve never seen trick-or-treating that crazy. Hundreds of kids and their parents filled the streets. In the city, they trick-or-treat at businesses, and I wouldn’t be surprised if business owners invested in upwards of 1000 pieces of candy!

Also, my friend Jessie threw an impromptu fall celebration party at her apartment with pumpkin painting. You are never too old to paint pumpkins!

Let me just say that I am so happy that I got to experience a lot of Halloween fun this year, after missing so many Halloweens due to my travels. I love this holiday so much!

A fun and creative gig with Visit Kissimmee. On the thirteenth, I spent the day with the team from Visit Kissimmee in Florida, traveling around the city with knights from Medieval Times, taking hilarious videos of them for Snapchat, interviewing people on the street, and getting people to sign up to win trips. First of all, I laughed harder this day than I have in a long time, and second, it was deeply gratifying to have so much creative control from a first-time partner.

On the professional front, very exciting things are happening. The rest of 2017 will be on the quiet side but I’ve got two big trips planned for next year. Both will be cold and snowy trips. One is to a place I’ve been before and the other is to a place I have never been but has long been a goal of mine to visit. The first trip isn’t until late January so I’ll be revealing it in the next few weeks.

One hint: I’ll be visiting a city that hosted the Winter Olympics in my lifetime, and it’s not Sochi or Albertville. Any guesses?

Challenges

My flight back from Savannah was delayed upon delayed upon delayed. I soon realized I could have gone to dinner in Savannah! Missing a meal in one of my favorite food cities made me sad. Eh, what can you do.

I had a bad cold this month. One of those help-me-I-can’t-do-anything, stay-inside-my-house-and-not-move-for-three-days, please-let-my-sense-of-smell-come-back colds. It happens once or twice a year; I hope this means I’m good for awhile.

When the challenges are that minimal, you know you are a very lucky person indeed.

Most Popular Post

How Men Can Fight Toxic Masculinity and Rape Culture — I’m so glad that finally this conversation is being taken seriously by the media.

Other Posts

What’s It Like to Tour Chernobyl Today? — It was a beautiful, haunting, and life-affirming experience.

Finland in the Summer: Quirky, Isolated, and Pretty — My Finnish trip took in air guitar championships, deep wilderness, and a pretty town just outside Helsinki.

A Getaway to Tybee Island: Savannah’s Beach — Everything that I got up to in Tybee, including the most beautiful sunrise ever.

Most Popular Instagram Photo

This was the easiest shot I took this month — I woke up at 6:45 AM on Tybee Island, reached over to my camera on the nightstand, and shot this photo through the glass door without even getting up. For more live updates from my travels in life and New York, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

What I Read This Month

With my reading challenge over with, I’m still sticking to my informal goals each month: one work of fiction, one work of nonfiction, one work by an author of color, and one work published in 2017. Now that I’m spending a lot more time cooking and cleaning (more on that below), I haven’t had as much time to read, but I still got four books in. Three fiction, one nonfiction, three authors of color, and all four published in 2017! Not to mention two of the five finalists for the National Book Award in Fiction (The Leavers and Sing, Unburied, Sing).

The Leavers by Lisa Ko (2017) — I chose this novel from Book of the Month. What a beautiful and unusual story; what a tragedy that means so much in our world today. In this novel, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, is living in the Bronx with her American-born 11-year-old son Deming. Suddenly Polly disappears out of the blue. Deming is placed with white foster parents who eventually adopt and rename him Daniel. The book picks up a decade later as Deming/Daniel is still dealing with the trauma of losing his mother, the anguish over her abandoning him, and he starts trying to find out what happened to her.

I don’t want to give anything away. But this book terrified me, and it showed that immigration reform needs to be tackled in so many different ways. Because the way it exists right now, people are being denied their humanity. As I always say, reading is the way to compassion, and this book will grab you hard and not let go.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (2017) — “Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” That quote kept surfacing in my mind as I read this book. One of the most notable debuts of the year, and receiving far-ranging praise from both the media and legends like Stephen King, I thought that I was in for an extraordinary novel. Nope. It was terrible, it was a mess, and I’m bewildered that it was even published in the first place.

A thirteen-year-old girl named Turtle is living in the wilderness of Mendocino, California, with her survivalist father. He is a sadist who sexually abuses her. Turtle begins to think that there’s more to life than her small world with her father, and when she makes friends with one boy in particular, her father is furious.

Let’s see. What did I hate about this book the most? The fact that fifteen-year-olds talk like pretentious philosophy professors, even trying to be witty when facing life-or-death situations. Has Tallent even met a teenager before? I couldn’t stand the complete disassociation from characters and their emotions, similar to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Turtle was the protagonist, but nothing about her emotions was ever revealed, only her behaviors. Nothing about her resembles any girl I’ve ever known (or been), and that’s not “because she’s so different” — it’s a glaring error. And finally, while the father was a sadist who reveled in torturing his daughter, I feel like Tallent himself was a sadist, writing grotesque scenes for shock value and nothing more.

I’ll give Tallent one thing: he knows nature very well. He himself grew up spending extensive time in the California wilderness and his book lends a level of expertise not unlike Andy Weir’s scientific knowledge in The Martian. I think I would have appreciated it had it been put to use in a different kind of novel.

Most importantly: if you’re a privileged man writing from the point of view of a sexually abused young girl, you need to knock it out of the park. Tallent didn’t even make contact with the ball.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (2017) — One of the biggest releases of the year and another Book of the Month pick for me, Sing, Unburied, Sing is so many stories wound into one. It’s a story about the relationships between children and their parents. It’s a supernatural tale of ghosts and spirits. It’s about race and addiction and police brutality and economic insecurity. It’s about love and guilt and duty. It’s a wonder.

Jojo is a thirteen-year-old boy living in Southern Mississippi with his grandfather, whom he emulates; his grandmother, who is dying of cancer; his baby sister, for whom he is the primary caregiver; and occasionally his mother, a drug addict. His mother takes him and his sister on a road trip to pick up his father from prison in Northern Mississippi, where Jojo meets a ghost who served time there as a child and was protected by his grandfather, also a former inmate there.

Every now and then I read a novel that makes me marvel at just how creative fiction can be. This is one of them.

Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well by Lola A. Åkerström (2017) — It’s no secret that I am enamored with the Nordic lifestyle. From the löyly of the Finns to the hygge of the Danes, this month I dipped into the Swedish lifestyle. Lagom is a word roughly meaning balance and equilibrium, and it’s a guiding force in many aspects of Swedish life. Swedes indulge but don’t overeat; they build fitness into their daily lives; they buy investment pieces but not ostentatious ones, and they don’t boast but lift each other up. In short, Swedes are so goddamn sensible and I wish I had the fortitude to be more like them. Reading this book was a start at how I can do that.

Lola is a friend of mine, a pillar of the travel blogging community, and one of the foremost authorities on Stockholm. Most excitingly, this week she was named the Society of American Travel Writers’ 2018 Photographer of the Year — check out the portfolio that won her the prize here. Another bonus: Lagom makes a great coffee table book because it’s a small and adorable hardcover book. Perfect for stacking on larger books, as you can see in the photo below.

Fitness Update — and Whole 30

I started Whole30 this month! 30 days of no sugar, no alcohol, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no natural sweeteners other than fruit, no artificial flavors, no processed foods, no “technically compliant” versions of unhealthy treats, no snacking, no weighing yourself. Learn more about it here. Many of my friends have done it and I’ve wanted to try it for quite some time, but my hectic travel schedule made it impossible, since you need to prepare nearly everything you eat yourself. With 30 free days in October and November, I decided to go for it, embracing it as a disciplinary challenge.

(“But whole grains and legumes are healthy!” you say. To be honest, whole grains and legumes both cause inflammation, and this is an anti-inflammatory diet. Keep in mind that no one diet is perfect for everyone on the planet, and for me, this is just an experiment to see how it makes me feel. But I think we can all agree that sugar is bad and Americans eat way too much of it.)

How has it been? It’s been pretty awesome, actually! It hasn’t been remotely a struggle. And I’m so happy I’ve broken some of my more harmful food habits, like ordering takeout way too often and snacking out of boredom, and I’m making more of an effort to cook nearly all my meals. Every morning I have two poached eggs and a sweet potato for breakfast and I love it.

Additionally, I’ve decided to step up my workouts during this month. I already do personal training twice a week (and let me tell you that twice a week makes SUCH a bigger impact than once a week) and Zumba twice a week, but I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit in terms of other stuff, so I’m adding in more classes and more cardio. I also took Pilates for the first time ever and I loved it! Faster and less boring than yoga and not the cruel and unusual torture that is barre!

Day 30 is scheduled to be November 19 for me, but I’m going to keep it up until November 21 so my trainer and I can do a proper weigh-in and body composition analysis. We did one beforehand as well, so it will be interesting to compare.

What I Listened To This Month

I like listening to podcasts when I cook and clean. And if you do Whole30, you will be doing a hell of a lot of cooking and washing dishes!

Dirty John is the podcast of the moment, and I binge-listened and highly recommend it. It’s the story of a con man and the effect he had on one well-to-do woman and her family. A lot of people have been saying that they can’t believe how stupid the woman was — but I disagree. I know first-hand how abusers can completely warp your sense of what is good and/or normal. They’ve had a lot of practice at it, too.

Other than that, I’ve recently started listening to The Daily from the New York Times every morning while I cook breakfast (it’s just 20 minutes, which is perfect). I also love Pod Save America for politics — it’s basically like listening to your best friends gab and riff on all political issues, only they happen to be incredibly smart and knowledgeable. All the guys used to work for Obama.

What I Watched This Month

This month I started watching a new-to-me series on Netflix: Lovesick (formerly Scrotal Recall). It’s a British comedy with plenty of sweet and heartfelt moments. The series begins when the main character, Dylan, is diagnosed with chlamydia and has to inform his past sexual partners. (Stay with me here, it gets good.) Each episode focuses on one partner in particular and what happened with them. The stories tie in with his two best friends and their relationships with each other.

This show is wonderful. It’s hilarious but also very sweet, and it reminds me a lot of Master of None. It also makes me miss Britain a lot. Put it on your watch list — the pilot is one of the funniest pilots I’ve ever seen.

Coming Up in November 2017

I’m going back to Vegas for the first time since 2009!! Can you believe it? My friends and I were Vegas regulars when we were in our early twenties. So why not go back in our early thirties? And yes, I’m including the picture of us with Ice-T and Coco because it’s one of my favorite photos of all time. This was taken at XS at the Encore back in 2009.

This will just be a quick weekend visit, but I’m excited to see all we can get up to as four classy grown women. Less bursting out of after-hours clubs at 6:00 AM, more high-end cocktail bars, and maybe finally getting to see Celine…

In Memoriam

And to end on a somber note — this month we lost one of our own. Billie Frank of Santa Fe Travelers passed away unexpectedly. Billie was passionate about sharing the best of Santa Fe with visitors and she was a huge proponent of getting Baby Boomers to travel more.

Her husband and partner in life, Steve, wrote a beautiful eulogy on their site. Here is an excerpt:

“She wasn’t easy. We met at a time when men’s attitudes towards women were changing. It didn’t take long to figure out where she was coming from. Many men were intimidated by the force of her personality. Those men who had the misfortune to patronize her soon found the error of their ways. There are lots of definitions of masculinity and I don’t necessarily subscribe to most of them but I believe it takes a strong man to be with a strong woman. I’d like to think that I was a strong man with her strong woman. I loved the idea that for her, being liberated was non-negotiable. We were partners in the truest sense of the word. Not only was she strong in living her convictions, she supported her sisters along the way.”

Billie and I never met in real life, but we’ve been Facebook friends for years and chatted often. Prior to that (and prior to my own blog’s existence!), we were both part of the BootsnAll message board community. Over the years she was always eager to help whenever I had an issue, especially when I moved to her native New York. I still can’t believe she’s gone.

My thoughts are with Steve, their son, and all those who loved her. We’ll miss you, Billie.

The post AK Monthly Recap: October 2017 appeared first on Adventurous Kate.

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A Getaway to Tybee Island — Savannah’s Beach

So many destinations could be summed up with, “If only it had a beach, it would be perfect.”

It’s a designation that Barcelona and Miami hold with pride; it’s something that New Orleans and Tokyo wish they had. Having beach access elevates your city several rungs on the best-place-ever index.

Savannah, Georgia, is one of my favorite cities in the world. And it just so happens to have a beach: Tybee Island. I’ve known about it for a long time — even suggesting a visit in my three-day Savannah itinerary — but I’ve never actually been.

This month, Visit Tybee Island invited me to Tybee to experience it as a standalone destination. A little visit to Savannah would be worked in, of course, but the main goal would be to experience Tybee on its own, not as a side trip.

I went and discovered a throwback island, a quirky island, an island filled with beautiful nature and colorful houses and very friendly people and the best sunrises I’ve seen in years. This is Tybee.

Enjoying Beach Time…in October!

When I stepped off the plane, I was met by a wave of heat. For all my days in Tybee, the temperature was in the mid-eighties with high humidity — a big change from New York, where a recent cold spell had my friends doing emergency harvests to save their tomatoes.

It felt incredible to step back into summer. When out at night, I didn’t even need a cardigan. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at the beach — look at all that space!

Also, I was delighted to see what I thought was a baby seagull for the first time in my life, only to be informed by my readers that it is, in fact, a sandpiper.

Enormous Crab Claws Dipped in Butter

As much as I love seafood, I’ve never been a big fan of crab. Perhaps it’s my New England roots. But as soon as I arrived on Tybee, my friends from Visit Tybee and Visit Savannah announced they were taking me to lunch at the Crab Shack!

The Crab Shack is one of the big, casual (and yes, very touristy) restaurants of Tybee, most of it set in a deck overlooking the marsh. We decided to order the sampler plate for three: giant crab legs for each of us, plus shrimp, corn, mussels, sausage and crawfish that you twist in half before peeling apart and eating.

And it was SO good, and no, we didn’t even come close to finishing everything, but the showstopper was the crab claws. I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR THIS CRAB. However I’ve been eating crab my whole life, it’s been wrong. There’s nothing better than cracking those open and dipping them into melted butter.

Biking Around and Exploring

The first thing I noticed about Tybee was that it was almost chain-free. There’s a single Subway…and that’s it. No McDonald’s. No Starbucks. And it sounds like such a small thing, but that is an increasingly rare find in the States (not to mention something people are willing to pay money to enjoy).

But who needs chains when you’ve got places like Huc-a-Poos, a kitsch-stuffed dive bar and pizza restaurant featuring all kinds of crazy slices, each of them roughly the size of your head, as satisfying as a meal, and costing only $4?

Or Tybean Art and Coffee Bar, where you can get everything you’d find at Starbucks plus Southern praline lattes, with the addition of art by local artists on the walls…

Or Seaside Sisters, a fun store that goes above and beyond the standard gift shop with lots of cool, artsy items. I may have bought a tea towel with Jesus holding up two cups of coffee that reads, “CAFFEINE SAVES.”

The chain-free atmosphere makes Tybee feel like it’s from a bygone era — a time when people knew the local business owners more intimately.

Tybee has an unpretentious feel to it. This is a down-home Southern destination with quirks in all the right places.

Tybee has a relaxed and unpretentious feel to it. The homes are beautiful, yes, and people take good care of them, but it’s also not out of place to put a surfing Ken doll on your mailbox.

As I explored the island, places kept reminding me of different parts of the United States.

This? Southern California.

These little named houses reminded me of the cottages of Seaside, Florida.

A restaurant like this could be equally home in Maine or New Hampshire.

Any beach town in America, right here.

Tybee is home to a lighthouse and museum, and if you want to get a view of the island, head to the top of it!

I love how this picture feels like a miniature.

When you buy a ticket to the lighthouse, you also get admission to the museum, which is a monument to how the lighthouse keepers once lived. Worth a visit to check out the banisters shaped like lighthouses and the old-timey radio!

AJ’s is the spot for sunset,” everyone told me when I started planning my trip. Tybee’s beach is along the eastern shore of the island, so the west is a mix of much smaller beaches, marshland, and grassy hills that grow right into the sea. There are lots of homes on the west side but few commercial businesses. AJ’s is one of them — a casual restaurant perched above the shoreline, giving you gorgeous views.

I sat down with a bowl of crab stew and a plate of fried flounder, watching the sky change before me.

Not a bad first day on the island.

Kayaking Through the Islands

Sea kayaking is a popular activity off the shores of Tybee Island. I signed up for a half-day excursion with Sea Kayak Georgia, one of the local providers. They also do SUP and canoe trips, and more intense kayaking trips for experienced sea kayakers.

I’ve never done actual sea kayaking before, but this was a very easy way to start — for the most part, the water was very still, and it was only once we paddled out into the ocean that we had to deal with slight waves. Eventually we let the current take us back to shore — fear not the inadvertent roll!

Little Tybee Island is an uninhabited island just southwest of Tybee, only reachable by boat. That didn’t stop us from running into a local gentleman and his very friendly dog! He had come out on his little boat and sat fishing, soaking up the sun, his long white hair flowing in the breeze.

“Hello!” we called out as we slipped by. “Welcome to another beautiful day in paradise,” he replied.

We would kayak into little inlets, carefully maneuvering around oyster beds and getting lost among the grasses. “If I got left behind, nobody would ever find me,” I remember thinking to myself.

And, predictably, this is where I got messed up — I ended up kayaking straight through grasses taller than my height and got stuck! It took a lot of digging with the oars to release myself from the clench of the grasses.

Kayaking was one of my favorite activities on Tybee. I loved getting to see the natural beauty of the island up close, and it was a perfect complimentary workout to all the biking I was doing. If you get the chance, you should make kayaking on Tybee a priority!

Just the Right Level of Pirate-y

Tybee has a pirate festival every October and I had just barely missed it. Much of the island was still decked out in pirate flags and skeletons. At some point it makes you wonder, “Is this for Pirate Fest, Halloween, or just because people on Tybee are really into pirates?”

The next festival is October 4-7, 2018. Arrrrrrr you ready?

Seeing Dolphins in the Wild

The waters off the north Georgia coast are filled with dolphins. You can see their fins dipping in and out from shore, but you’ll have a much better view if you get out on the water.

There are a few cruise providers in town and I went with Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure for a 60-90 minute cruise.

There’s nothing like seeing your first dolphin in the wild. For me, it was in South Africa, and I nearly burst into tears. And it’s kind of hard to replicate that feeling after you’ve already had it.

But seeing dolphins is ALWAYS a great time. And while I’ve since seen dolphins in places like Belize and Australia, I haven’t seen as many dolphins concentrated in one place as I did in Tybee. They are everywhere. Surfing in and out, enjoying the wake of the boats before them, playing with their friends, grabbing air and diving down below. (And trust me — the real thing is much better than my photographs!)

They love to play. If you luck out, they might sidle up to the boat and do jumps out of the water. If you really luck out, you might see a baby with its mother!

Sandra Bullock has a home on Tybee.

That’s her home above, actually. You can tell because it’s the only one with a locked door on the pathway to the beach.

Best of All: Absolutely Gorgeous Sunrises

It’s pretty rare for me to see a sunrise. Gone are the days when I’m riding a camel across the desert or partying with Vikings until 8:00 AM; these days, I’m likeliest to see a sunrise in the back of a Lyft on the way to JFK, yearning to take a picture of the skyline but knowing it will come out terrible. But time was on my side in Tybee — after several days of early wakeups, I was rising earlier than usual and awoke to brilliant sunrises each morning. It helped that the beaches were on the east side of the island.

I think for this one, the pictures need to do the talking.

In mid-October, the sunrise was it’s most colorful around 7:15-7:30 AM. Not too shabby.

Luxuriating in a Beachfront House

Some destinations are better for hotels — others, you’re better off getting a rental. For Tybee, I definitely recommend a rental in the form of a beach house. There aren’t many hotels, but beach houses dominate the landscape. And staying in a house just fits the whole atmosphere of Tybee much better.

I had a giant three-bedroom house called The Sea Breeze from Tybee Vacation Rentals. No, I definitely did not need three bedrooms and three bathrooms as a solo traveler, but it was nice to see what was out there. This would be an amazing place to rent with a few friends.

This house was filled with everything you could possibly need. One small touch I loved — each light switch was labeled. If you’ve ever rented a house or apartment, you know how long it can take to figure out which light switch goes to each light or fan. I wish more rentals did that.

While technically not right on the sand, there is only one house between it and the beach, plus a private path from the street to the beach.. Beach views from the balcony outside the master bedroom are beautiful.

And THIS was the view of the sunrise from the master bedroom. I literally took this photo through the glass door without leaving my bed.

Surprisingly Posh Dining

As much of a low-key Southern town that Tybee is, I didn’t expect the eats to be on the posh side.

The single best place I ate was called Sundae Cafe. Even in the shoulder season, it’s tough to get in — I had to eat at the bar — but it was so worth it. Pictured above is their seafood cheesecake, made with shrimp, crab, and gouda. I also had a gorgonzola-encrusted filet that blew my mind.

Another hit was Tybee Island Social Club. I imagine this place is hopping during the summer with its party atmosphere, but it was very quiet during my October visit. I feasted on a skillet of manchego cheese with white wine and roasted garlic. Incredible. As was their carne asada taco and pineapple margarita.

But if you want some down-home eats, there are plenty of good spots. I got these shrimp and grits at Sunrise Restaurant, and don’t forget the giant pizza slices at Huc-a-Poos or the diner fare with sunset views at AJ’s. One place that several people recommended me was The Breakfast Club, but unfortunately their AC broke on the day I planned to visit and they closed.

And Just Down the Street…Savannah

Tybee is just a 20-minute drive from Savannah. It’s so close, you must spend a day in Savannah during your time in Tybee!

I’ve written a lot about Savannah — see my list of 16 Reasons to Fall in Love with Savannah — but just know that this city is magical. And unique. And whenever I meet someone abroad who says they want to do a big trip around the States, I try to talk them into adding Savannah to their itinerary.

On this trip, I only had a day — so I hit up my favorite spots as well as a few new places. Unfortunately, it rained most of the day, making it near-impossible to get good photos, so I stuck to indoor photography.

Lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, of course — one of my favorite restaurants on the planet. Platefuls of Southern dishes that will stick to your ribs, served family-style! Literally everything is outstanding, but I especially love the fried chicken, the cheesy potato gratin, the candied yams, the pickled cucumbers, and the banana pudding they bring around for dessert. Get there early and wait in line. Lunch Monday to Friday only.

The Paris Market, my favorite store in Savannah, filled with all kinds of treasures for your home. I bought a decorative apothecary bottle full of matches that reads Ignite! on the side.

Perhaps my favorite specialty coffee in the world is the lavender spiced mocha at The Collins Quarter. SO good.

I did check out somewhere new — the Owens-Thomas House, one of the houses I hadn’t yet visited in Savannah. I remembered that the guide on my architecture tour last year said that if you visit any one house in Savannah, let this be the one. What a glorious place, and what a technological marvel for the time (indoor plumbing!!).

And a connection for Hamilton fans — Lafayette stayed here when he returned to the United States as an old man. He gave two addresses to Savannah while visiting; some historians believe he gave them from the Owens-Thomas House balcony.

I had to sneak in one more coffee place — The Coffee Fox, which I had often heard recommended but had never visited, despite it being in the heart of town on Broughton St. I loved my horchata latte.

It was a lovely wisp of a day in Savannah. If you’ve only got a few hours to spend there, that’s not a bad way to spend it.

The Takeaway

I’m so glad I finally made it to Tybee — and especially happy that I gave it more than the perfunctory day trip that I thought it deserved.

What I most enjoyed about Tybee were the nature activities — the kayaking and the dolphin-spotting — and that’s what I think makes Tybee special. If I went back, I’d do more tours along those lines — like a lowland tour of the islands, including local Gullah communities, or a Tybee ecology trip.

Also worth noting? Tybee is a bargain. I kept expecting prices to be higher than they were and was pleasantly surprised again and again. It’s not dirt cheap, but you get a lot more for your money than you would in more popular resort towns in Florida or New England.

This was a really nice trip that got me an unexpected tan in the middle of October! I hope you enjoy it, too.


READ NEXT: How to Spend Three Days in Savannah


Essential Info: In Tybee I stayed at a giant three-bedroom house from Tybee Vacation Rentals. It’s called the Sea Breeze and you can see the listing here. Shoulder season rates from $494 per night plus taxes, $45 guest services fee, and $215 cleaning fee. I recommend getting a rental in Tybee if you can, but if you’d rather have a hotel, check out hotel deals in Tybee here.

I got around Tybee Island with a bike from Tim’s Bike and Beach Gear. It was a simple one-speed bike, but it got the job done. Make sure you get a light. Rentals from $12 per day.

You can survive most of Tybee with just a bike, but do know that many of the streets are unlit at night. Especially keep this in mind if you’re going to AJ’s for sunset, as it’s pretty far from the main road. I left immediately after sunset and it was navigable — I was glad I didn’t linger. I also wouldn’t recommend biking all the way to Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure, as it’s pretty far from town and involves highway riding. Uber and Lyft are only sporadically available on Tybee, so call a local cab if you need a ride.

Visiting the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum (the lighthouse) costs $9.

Sea Kayak Georgia offers a variety of kayaking trips, as well as SUP and canoe trips. I took the three-hour half day tour, which costs $55.

Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure offers dolphin cruises for $15 or $18 for sunset dolphin cruises, which I think it a steal.

Admission to the Owens-Thomas House, which includes a tour, is $20. You also receive admission to the Jepson Center and Telfair Academy.

Even in October, it was still quite hot on Tybee and the sun was strong. Be sure to hydrate, wear sunscreen, and treat Tybee like you would any other summer trip.

Even if you’re staying in the United States, don’t travel 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 in your time of need. I use and recommend World Nomads as travel insurance for trips to Tybee Island and Savannah.

This post is brought to you by Visit Tybee Island, who covered my trip expenses in full including flights, accommodation, activities, and most meals, though I paid for a few cheap meals and incidentals out of pocket. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Have you ever been to Tybee Island? Does it look like your kind of destination?

The post A Getaway to Tybee Island — Savannah’s Beach appeared first on Adventurous Kate.

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Favorite Things about Laos

Laos was one of the 4 1/2 countries I visited this past August (note: the 1/2 country was the 12 hours I spend in the South Korean airport, Incheon. If an airport could ever be called special, this one would be indeed. Parades of the royal family, chamber orchestra concerts, world class shopping and take-home art projects of traditional Korean handicrafts were just a few of its splendors I experienced!).

I chose Laos with the thought that it would be much like my enchanted time in Cambodia (which I did not write about as my time there ended literally moments before I learned of my Dad’s death. The time and months after weren’t conducive to much writing)…yet even more undiscovered.

I didn’t get either right.

Frankly, it likely never had the chance to rise to the “enchanted” level the minute my tuk-tuk driver in Vang Vieng almost killed a young girl on a motorbike. And the “undiscovered” part probably fell to the wayside for me when I felt that prices seemed to be double what I experienced in both Cambodia and Vietnam, not to mention the inordinate number of South Koreans I kept running into. Regardless I was happy to experience this county which is considered the heart of the Indochinese peninsula.

Here are a few of my favorite moments:

Vientiane:

This sleepy capital city of Laos was the perfect introduction to the communist country and a much appreciated change in level of street chaos from what I experienced in Vietnam. Remarkably I was able to cross the street in the downtown without fearing for my life nor waiting 7 minutes on the curb for a semi-break in traffic.

A view of the Mekong river and the vibrant night market at sunset.

 

Me winning juice!

Each evening on the walk home I would get obsessed by one of the carnival games set up near my charming French colonial style boutique hotel, Hotel Khamvongsa. The first night I was just an observer, but the second night I sprung for the Lao equivalent of .80 cents to try my hand at popping balloons with 3 darts. My first attempt resulted in one missed ballon, but by try two I had honed my skills enough to pop a balloon with each dart which won me a choice of a bottled beverage! I chose a local orange drink…it matched the balloons.

 

Me in a tuk-tuk when I actually still liked tuk-tuks…so clearly pre-Vang Vieng accident.

Vientiane is known to have the most important Buddhist temple in the country, but I didn’t go visit it. I find temples, much like churches, start looking all the same, and having seen quite a few of both during my travels there wasn’t much compelling me in the Southeast Asian heat to go find it. However, I did go out of my way to find the monks who led a sitting and walking meditation once a week on Saturdays at Wat Sok Pa Luang.

 

The monks who taught me how to meditate.

I arrived 45 minutes early to the 4pm session as I was told the monks like to practice their English prior to meditation. Most were fairly shy, but I enjoyed learning some of the basics of their lifestyle. For example in the picture above, the ones in orange are considered novices and the one in brown is an actual monk. Every morning they get up at 3am to mediate for 2 hours and then meditate again in the evening. Also, novices don’t have to become monks. In fact my now Facebook friend, Khoun (the one who is talking to the monk in brown), has been at the temple for 10 years. He is now in the process of deciding if he wants to continue this life or pursue one with a wife and family outside the temple. (As an aside, having a novice monk as a Facebook friend must give me some clout when it comes to determining my incarnation in the next life…right?)

The session was 20 minutes of sitting meditation, 20 minutes of walking meditation and then another 20 minutes of sitting meditation. An interpreter helped us with the introduction and taught us a mantra to aid our Vispassana meditation. The point, he detailed, was to train our brain to go from thinking to knowing.

The monks started the mediation by chanting and then it was silent. I sat eyes closed and legs crossed and did my best not to fidget too much. While I did fairly well, I definitely need more practice. Most of the meditation I was thinking about what a poor meditator I was, and during the walking mediation my mantra included not to step on an ant.

Nirvana for me will not be achieved any time soon.

 

Zumba next to the Mekong!

I don’t know if Zumba is just a thing in the capital or if it is pervasive country wide, but each evening in the main plaza next to the Mekong huge speakers would pump loud music while teachers on raised platforms would breathlessly give instruction to a small army of mostly pink clad zumba-ers.

Enjoying the sunset over the Mekong and contemplating the inception of the seemingly bizarre activity happening next to me was one of my favorite things to do in Vientiane.  And when I got tired of the contemplation next to the river, I went up to a bar with a view to do the same with a glass of wine.

 

Vang Vieng:

Rice paddies of Vang Vieng….more beautiful than I could have imagined.

Vang Vieng, located a 4 hours bus ride north from Vientiane, is mostly known as a tourist destination for inner tubing the Nam Song River, cave exploring and eh, drinking Beer Lao at one of the many bars. None of that interested me as I can do all without crossing several oceans (well, minus drink Beer Lao). However, what did interest me was spending time learning about how the local Hmong and Kamu, both ethnic groups in Laos, lived in their nearby villages. The concept of wanting to learn more about the local culture and people completely delighted the owner of my bungalow hotel who clearly wasn’t use to such a request, and with one phone call she set me up to experience rural Laos in the morning.

 

A Hmong mother and her daughter heading home after collecting snails (the young girl’s basket was full of them) and grass from the rice paddy.

 

Just me and the local gals hanging as we wait to cross the bridge (a large tractor was taking all the bridge space)!! This is one of my FAVORITE travel pictures from this trip.

The Hmong have their own language and many of their own villages. They use to live in the mountains, but in the last 30 years have come down to take part in a much easier lifestyle than their once remote mountain one.

 

Everyone in a marketer!  My guide said the cave wasn’t so “amazing.”

 

A Hmong home! The livestock is kept underneath…brilliant odor.

 

Between hikes from village to village my guide and I did stop for lunch at a watering hole famous for its cave. Watching a plethora of South Koreans mounting inner tubes and being guided into the dark cave (usually after posing for a picture…stereotypes are earned) did keep me entertained, but my main distraction was….

 

….my lunch companion!

So sweet and annoying this little guy.

 

After lunch activities included wobbling over suspension bridges (I had to yell at one young South Korean girl who decided to jump violently on it at the same time I was traversing it. She had a safety belt connected to a sturdy wire line to keep her alive…I only had a crappy red net and a few prayers keeping me from the ravine below. Not a favorite moment.) and scaling the side of a mountain to witness….

 

….THIS!

 

A descent and hour later…

To the shock of my guide I didn’t bring a swimsuit (in my defense, no one told me to), but that didn’t stop us from hiking to the “Blue Lagoon” after lunch and cooling off by taking a wade into the cool and pristine blue-green water. Being there with just 4 other locals (love birds in their early 20s) made it feel completely off the South Korean beaten path.

 

This image alone is reason enough to visit Laos.

 

What we saw walking the rice fields…

 

Our last stop was a Kamu village. Like the Hmong, they have their own language and villages. In this one we were invited into a home to witness this group of women working together to make a specialty coconut and rice dessert that they would wrap in banana leaves before steaming to perfection. The bed in the home was a mat on the dirt floor and the kitchen was an open fire nearby.

Village exploring was a highlight during my time in Laos and completely recuperated me from the tuk tuk traumas that happened the day before in Vang Vieng.

Luang Prabang: 

My final stop in Laos was the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang.

Charming Old Town of Luang Prabang

The architecturally stunning old town uniquely preserved its French colonial heritage and seamlessly integrating with numerous nearby Buddhist temples and monasteries. Sitting at the sacred confluence of the Mekong River and the Khan River, I found it and its surrounding parts to be a feast for the eyes.

 

A glimpse into Luang Prabang’s largest market, Phosi.

I love me a good market…and this one didn’t disappoint!

 

Different rices at the market at different price points.

You must like sticky rice and lemongrass to eat the cuisine of Laos because most all dishes have both.

 

Fancy a toad for lunch?

 

Or how about a plate of maggots?

 

Hard at work learning to make Lao cuisine for lunch!

Not having any knowledge of Lao cuisine, I did take a cooking class in Luang Prabang (thankfully for this class we weren’t required to buy toads or maggots at the market). Our class of 8 had to choose to make 6 recipes from a list of 31. It wasn’t complicated cuisine, but it did take A LOT of prep (so many herbs).

 

  My favorite part was sitting down to eat the unique foods…like the stuffed lemongrass sprouts (pictured above) that for some reason I was charged with turning while frying in the hot, spitting oil. My class members were likely all whispering, “make the American do it.”


The local police station with both the national and communist flag.

I was told the police were likely just taking naps inside…and they were.

 

My new friend, John, and me!

A highlight of my time in Luang Prabang was meeting a local Aussi ex-pat, John. He briefed me on ex-pat life, local gossip and the idiosyncrasies of living in an underdeveloped, communist nation. The above shows us at one of his favorite spots, a very, very local bar (I had to drink a blue drink cuz I don’t drink beer…the only other beverage they served) which made us quite the curiosity to the patrons who weren’t use to seeing white folks there. We were also older than everyone at the bar by a minimum of X2…which may also be a reason that John loves it so much (if you get my point).

When John wasn’t showing me were the local 21 year olds hung out, he did introduce me to some of the best restaurants in Luang Prabang.  Cafe Toui, featuring local cuisine, and Tangor, a French fusion restaurant, being two of them.

Monks of Luang Prabang practicing the daily alms giving ceremony

While I am not a morning person, there was no way I was going to miss the daily tradition of the Buddhist monks’ morning collection of food through the streets of Luang Prabang (which was also a great excuse to stop drinking that blue drink at the barely 21 bar the night before).

At 5:30am they silently started to file out into the streets, oldest first, carrying their alms bowls in front of them. Laypeople (and us curious tourists) waited for them, sometimes kneeling, to place a handful of sticky rice in each of their bowls.

The line of saffron-clad young men doing something so unique to me was beautiful to witness…although I couldn’t imagine eating all that fondled rice for breakfast after.

 

A local woman giving alms to the young monk…you can see how the tourists in the background (like me) are starting to detract from this tradition.

The ritual is done in silence; the almsgivers do not speak, nor do the monks. The monks walk in meditation, and the almsgivers reciprocate with respect by not disturbing the monk’s meditative peace. This practice supports both the monks who need the food and the almsgivers who need spiritual redemption.

 

Taken at sunrise and after the almsgiving ceremony, this picture of the Mekong is a favorite…and rarity given my sleeping-in propensities.

Another favorite thing about Laos was arriving at the airport in Luang Prabang to leave…and not because I didn’t enjoy my stay in this interesting, eclectic and still-undiscovered part of the world…no, it was because my next destination was Bali. Much anticipation and excitement was built up inside me to visit this little Hindu island in vast archipelago nation of Indonesia, and the airport meant I was going to see if all my expectations would be met.

Onward.

***

Shop the beautiful earrings and necklaces found during this trip to Laos here in my shop, JJ Caprices.

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How Men Can Fight Toxic Masculinity and Rape Culture

If you’ve been following social media, chances are you’ve seen many of your friends posting #MeToo in recent days. Women have been posting this phrase to signal that they, too, have been a victim of sexual harassment and assault at some point in their lives.

It’s so well-intentioned, but it makes me angry at the same time. Why must we publicly share our own personal trauma in order to get men to notice how widespread this is? Rape culture and toxic masculinity are forces that affect all of us, even the most privileged women.

Many of my male friends have been shocked at the revelations of the past few days and have been asking what they can do to be an ally. Here’s what I’ve got:

We can’t win this battle without men’s support.

Just as white supremacy cannot be dismantled without the help of white people, and LGBT equality cannot be achieved without the help of straight cis people, we need men’s help in achieving gender equality.

That doesn’t mean you should take over the movement and be front and center — it means you should be a beacon of support, helping women however you can. Use your male privilege to call out behavior in a way that will draw much more notice than if a woman did the same thing. Bring women the resources they need to take this fight further.

Stop saying that you’re shocked.

We get it — you had no idea that so many of your female friends experienced sexual harassment and assault.

I assume that you feel shocked because you consider yourself a good guy. You want to express your solidarity. But to us, your female friends, you’re shocked because you haven’t been paying attention. This is part of our lives. Women live this every minute of every day. You see it in front of you, from misogynistic jokes to street harassment to women being overlooked at work. It’s too late to be surprised about it.

Hell, a guy was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and he was elected President of the United States! How much more proof do you need?!

And along the same lines, strike, “As a father of daughters” or “as someone with sisters” from your vocabulary. You should be repulsed that women are being treated this way because women are human beings — not because you happen to be related to one.

Believe women.

When a woman tells you she was sexually harassed or assaulted, listen to her tell you what happened — and believe her.

Don’t think that she made a mistake wearing that short skirt — believe her.

Don’t think that she shouldn’t have gotten that drunk that night — believe her.

Don’t think that only an idiot wouldn’t have stopped the guy — believe her.

Don’t think she said this because she wants to ruin the guy’s career — believe her.

Believe her. Please, just believe her.

Be there for the women in your life.

If a woman brings an issue to you, listen to her. Don’t try to solve her problem while she’s talking. Just start by listening.

After you’ve listened, ask what you can do to help. Maybe she’ll want you to take action. Maybe she’ll want you to back her up at work, or to run interference with a sexist relative during family gatherings. Maybe she’ll want you to walk her home at the end of the night. Maybe she’ll want you to speak up about an important upcoming election.

The important thing to do is listen to her and ask what you can do. Don’t try to be Superman.

Know that sexual abuse takes many different forms and varies widely.

There’s a stereotype that rape is a man jumping out of the bushes and attacking a woman they don’t know. That is extremely rare.

Most sexual assaults are by people the victim knows. More typical? Say, waking up naked and sore next to that guy you were talking to after being blackout drunk the night before. Going out with a guy and telling him over and over that you don’t want to do anything that night, but he doesn’t stop, and it’s late, and you’ll probably have to stay over his place anyway, and you reluctantly agree even though it’s the last thing you want to do.

And that’s on top of having your ass being groped by a stranger on a subway, having graphic phrases yelled at you while you walk down the street, or having a boss “accidentally” rub himself against you a few drinks in at the office Christmas party.

And rapists? They’re not all cartoon-like monsters like Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump. They look normal on the outside and they feel like they’re normal on the inside. They’re a lot like you’re friends. They’re a lot like you.

Stop bringing up false equivalences.

“Men can be sexually abused, too!” Technically true, yes. But with women the level of constant abuse is on another level.

“Women can be sexist against men, too!” No. They can be prejudiced. Sexism is a system of power and the power is very much in the hands of men.

“Well, I wasn’t accepted to that college but this girl who had a lower GPA than me did!” Do not even. Do not even. Maybe that college read your essay and thought you came off like a jerk.

Also, let me know when American men are having laws passed telling them what they can do with their bodies.

Hire, lift up, and mentor women — and women of color — at work.

Women already have an uphill battle in the workplace. Not being taken seriously, being passed over for a lesser-qualified male applicants, constantly being talked over, being disliked more if they’re more successful. It’s even more difficult for women of color.

For that reason, make an effort to hire women. Not to hire in a more gender-blind manner — to hire women, specifically.

It goes beyond hiring, though. Choose women for positions of authority. Choose them to head up major projects. Choose them to represent the company publicly. Promote them from within.

If you run a conference, make a bigger effort to select women to be speakers. Choose them for big roles, like giving the keynote or spearheading a discussion on a subject like tech or photography that is dominated by men.

The systems aren’t always in place — so create them. One example of this is how Transparent director Jill Solloway wanted to hire trans writers but had trouble finding them, so she created a training program and hired directly from there.

There are lots of changes I’d like to see in the travel blogging industry. While the industry is heavily dominated by women, you wouldn’t know it by looking at conference speaking schedules, round-ups of top bloggers, or features on travel bloggers in traditional media.

I’d like to see women speak more often at conferences, particularly as keynotes on subjects like photography. I’d like to see more brands intentionally seek out diverse brand ambassadors so we don’t have a cringeworthy situation like when Allianz showed up at the New York Times Travel Show last year with only straight white male travel bloggers representing them, when straight white males constitute a tiny minority of travel bloggers. I’d like to see female travel bloggers more often quoted in traditional media as an individual — not jointly with their husband.

And for me? I’d like to be mentioned more often as a top travel blogger without the omnipresent qualifier “but for women.” You don’t see other top travel bloggers constantly qualified with “but for adventure” or “but for families” or “but for budget travel.” Why does “but for women” always get mentioned?

Help your female partners feel sexually safe with you.

You might think, “This doesn’t apply to me — I’m not a rapist.” That may be the case, but it’s possible that you’ve made a female partner uncomfortable at some point. Whether you’ve been with your partner a decade or you’re finding a new one, it’s always good to have a discussion.

Women often tend to agree to sex even when they’re not enthusiastic about it, feeling like they don’t want to make waves or they don’t want to disappoint their partner. This is why it’s important that the male partner take initiative and let the female partner know that she has just as much control and agency as he does.

Here are some good phrases that I recommend:

  • “Just because I came over, it doesn’t mean we need to have sex today. I’m happy just to spend time with you.”
  • “If you don’t feel like being sexual with me at any time, I won’t make you feel bad or guilty about it.”
  • “Your comfort level is my comfort level.”

It sounds basic, but trust me — those words will be so appreciated and will help you build a stronger relationship with your partner. And while you’re at it, ban the phrase “blue balls” from your vocabulary.

Take responsibility for birth control on your end.

Yeah, you might hate how condoms feel, but that’s not an excuse. If your female partner is happy to take birth control, that’s great — but not all women want to take birth control.

Did you know that birth control can cause weight gain, mood swings, and in some cases, can completely zap a woman’s sex drive? Not to mention that some women just don’t want to put hormones into their body.

And if you want to go nonhormonal with the copper IUD, did you know that it makes some women bleed nonstop? And did you know that IUDs can expel from the woman’s uterus and get stuck in her cervix? That’s uncomfortable enough if you’re at home and can get to a doctor, but what if it happens when you’re traveling through Guatemala or Laos or Malawi?

You should be an equal partner in birth control. If your female partner doesn’t want to deal with the side effects of birth control, it’s up to you to wear condoms without complaint.

Truth — condoms alone are not as effective as condoms combined with birth control, but when condoms are used correctly they are 98% effective.

Take a look at your media consumption and observe who you recommend to others.

This is a big one in the travel blogging community. I can’t tell you how often I see men writing posts recommending their favorite travel books or travel photographers and surprise! It’s a list of all men! Or maybe twelve men and two women. Usually all white.

“But I shouldn’t have to choose my favorite photographers based on their gender or skin color! Are you going to tell me I need to have favorite Muslim and trans photographers, too?”

Ugh. That’s not what I’m talking about.

Take a look at the content you consume. Before you hit publish or send on that list of recommended artists that happen to be all or mostly men, take a look at the list and think about who you’re recommending. Think about who’s missing.

Then ask yourself. “Why is it that all my favorite travel photographers are men? Is it that there aren’t any women travel photographers? No. Is it that most women travel photographers are Instagram models posing in front of pretty landscapes? No, that’s not true either. Is it that it’s harder to find them? Maybe it is because photography has traditionally been seen as a male pursuit. What I’ve been doing so far has not led me to follow enough women, so I need to make more of an effort to seek out women photographers specifically.”

And then you take action. Maybe you look up a female travel photographer on Instagram and go through the list of people she follows. Maybe you find several women photographers whose photos you enjoy and you follow them. You get to know their work over time, you communicate with them, and when it’s time to promote your favorite photographers, you have a list that is no longer just men.

Maybe you post on Facebook saying, “Hey, I just realized that I haven’t read many travel books written by women. I’d like to change that. I’d love to hear your recommendations!” Or maybe you reach out to an avid reader you know and ask her privately. You read the books; you become a fan; you recommend these new female authors to your friends.

The last few years I’ve been making more of an effort to read books by authors of color. Why? Because if I hadn’t made the effort, I would have read mostly books by white authors. The publishing business, like most businesses, overlooks people of color. I’ve read 21 books by authors of color so far this year and that’s 21 different perspectives I never would have seen otherwise.

Vote wisely.

This is particularly important for Americans. There are constantly measures on the table that undermine women’s reproductive rights. Republicans in particular are fighting for the right of companies to deny their female employees birth control.

Fight for reproductive rights, universal healthcare, and paid maternity leave.

Additionally, I encourage you to support Planned Parenthood. They provide everything from birth control to STI testing and treatment, HIV services, hormone therapy for trans patients, prenatal care, and yes, abortion services and referrals.

For some women, Planned Parenthood is the only reliable healthcare they can get. Providing women with effective healthcare is one of the greatest ways to mobilize toward economic equality.

Don’t financially support the work of predators.

Stop going to see Roman Polanski movies, remove R. Kelly from your Spotify account, and don’t stream anything by Woody Allen. And for God’s sake, don’t do anything to financially support the career of Donald Trump.

This is particularly hard and may take you some time. I cut Chris Brown’s music out of my life the day after he assaulted Rihanna, but it took me a much longer time to stop listening to R. Kelly. Make the effort. You’ll get there. And definitely don’t buy any concert tickets in the meantime.

Raise your sons to respect women.

This topic could be a lengthy post on its own; as someone who isn’t a parent, it’s not my subject of expertise. But there are things that all parents should be doing:

Teach your kids bodily autonomy. If they say, “Stop!” when you’re showering them with kisses, don’t make it a game. Just stop. Teach them that they are the boss of their own body and everyone else is the boss of theirs. And yeah, that means that if they’re not in the mood to hug Grandma, they don’t have to hug Grandma. Most importantly, teach them that no means no.

Let boys express their emotions. Boys have always been encouraged to hide their emotions, told that being stoic is the only way to “be a man.” Let them cry. Let them play.

Don’t segregate boys and girls. Have them play together from a young age; don’t differentiate between activities for boys and activities for girls. Let your boys play with dinosaurs and dolls, let them play superheroes and dress up in tutus. It’s all kids’ stuff.

Encourage your kids to stand up for others. It’s not okay to make someone feel bad. If someone is being bullied or teased, your role is to call it out and let the person know that it’s not okay. Do role-playing scenarios with your kids so they’ll know what to do.

It will be uncomfortable. You will not always feel like a hero.

I bet you have images dancing in your mind — you, telling off a brutally sexist coworker with wit and aplomb in the board room, humiliating him as everyone gives you high fives. You, on the street in a city, telling a street harasser to shut the hell up and ask the woman if she’s okay.

It’s not going to be like that.

Your coworkers might roll their eyes at you. You might be laughed at. You might be threatened. And there will come a time when the offender is your best friend, or your boss, or someone important in your career field. Harvey Weinstein was protected for decades because he was so powerful. Stop it from happening in your industry.

Will you put yourself at risk? You very well may. But social change is uncomfortable. If it were easy, we would all be doing it already.

What are you going to do to fight toxic masculinity and rape culture?

The post How Men Can Fight Toxic Masculinity and Rape Culture appeared first on Adventurous Kate.

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