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AK Monthly Recap: August 2023

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What does summer travel look like to you? For me, July is the time for a few quick trips, but August is when I go away to chill out and remove myself from the world.

In this month, there were two big trips: the end of my Montenegro and Croatia trip, which was all about enjoying the best of the Adriatic; then a two-week trip to Copenhagen and Greenland, all about enjoying the edge of the wilderness.

Let’s take a look at what made August 2023 great!

Enjoying the moraine hike near Eqi Glacier, Greenland

Destinations Visited

  • Perast, Montenegro
  • Dubrovnik, Cavtat, Koločep, Lopud, and Šipan, Croatia
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Kangerlussuaq (and the Greenland Ice Sheet), Aasiaat, Manermiut, Qeqertarsuaq, Ilulissat, Oqaatsut, and Eqi Glacier, Greenland
Perast, a small town on the Adriatic with lots of boats in the bay and a tiny church steeple sticking up.
I loved the town of Perast, even on a rainy morning.

Highlights

Celebrating my 39th birthday in one of the prettiest small towns on the Adriatic — Perast, Montenegro. It started out a bit rainy, but cleared up and turned out to be lovely! Charlie and I got lunch at a mussel and oyster farm in the Bay of Kotor, did a boat trip around the bay and to Our Lady of the Rocks, went for a lovely swim, and enjoyed a tasty dinner out.

A wonderful return to Dubrovnik. I’m always happy to visit Dubrovnik, and this time I got to try out something especially cool — the Sky Bike Dubrovnik, where you ride a bike on a tightrope on Mount Srd’, overlooking the city. We also enjoyed a private day trip by boat to the beautiful Elafiti Islands — a wedding present from Charlie’s Croatian colleagues!

I also got to hit up some of my favorites — walking the walls (now an eye-watering 35 EUR ($38) when I paid 70 kuna ($10) on my first visit in 2011), and Dubrovnik Eat with Locals for some fabulous food and friendship.

Getting to know Cavtat. Cavtat (SAHV-taht) is a small seaside town close to Dubrovnik but a world away. It’s quiet, chill, and so much cheaper than Dubrovnik, with a direct boat to the old city for 20 EUR ($22) round-trip. I really liked it! Definitely a good option for people who want to experience Dubrovnik but hate crowds.

A small Greenlandic town with brightly colored cottages against a steep green mountain.
The town of Qeqertarsuaq on Disko Island was one of my favorite places in Greenland.

Good times in Copenhagen. With three visits this summer, Copenhagen is becoming one of my better-known cities! Some highlights were visiting the cool international outdoor food market at Reffen, checking out the beach-like environment at La Banchina, revisiting Tivoli (with rides this time), finally visiting the Glyptotek, and spending time with Copenhagen friends.

A trip to Greenland that I’ll treasure forever. There is SO MUCH to say about Greenland, and I’ve been writing a big post in my head for awhile. That will be coming soon, rest assured about that!

This was my big major solo trip of the year. Greenland is the kind of place that makes you feel like you’re at the end of the world. The tourism industry there is still very young. The nature is absolutely stunning. It’s the kind of place that leaves you privileged.

Again, I want to save the bulk of Greenland for future posts, but my personal highlights were hiking solo at sunrise on volcanic Disko Island, sailing around the icebergs of the Ilulissat Icefjord (UNESCO World Heritage Site #175!) at sunset, experiencing the massive quaking Eqi Glacier, and getting to know what it’s like to live at this edge of the world.

Dubrovnik's old city, with orange roofs and surrounded by a big wall, set in the sea.
The view from our Dubrovnik apartment.

Challenges

FOOD POISONING. Charlie and I both got a rather violent round of food poisoning when we were in Dubrovnik.

It’s so frustrating when you can’t figure out the specific culprit. Was it the oysters we had at lunch? Was it the grocery store sausage roll that morning? Was it the local water, as it turns out safe local water is not always safe after a storm, and there had been a storm the day before?! Who knows.

Missing a day in Disko Island and getting stuck an extra day in Aasiaat. I knew that weather-related cancellations are not unusual in Greenland, but this one hurt — Disko Island had been the place I had been looking forward to visiting the most, and Aasiaat doesn’t have much to do in town at all.

Prague’s airport lounges have been removed from the Priority Pass. This actually happened last month, but I forgot to write about it. I love the lounge access I get with the Priority Pass (a perk from my Capital One Venture X card, which is SO worth it), and it saves a ton of money because I never buy overpriced food at airports anymore.

But Priority Pass quietly removed access to Prague’s lounges. And the annoying thing is that they don’t communicate this (they take the lounge off their app but keep it on their website), so I’m at the desk and getting rejected like I’m a 19-year-old trying to sneak into a bar. FUN.

However, Charlie actually opened a fancy Czech bank account that gives him lounge access in Prague as one of the perks! Ha. Next step is to add me as an authorized user.

Missing my cats. A LOT. I’ve been away from the cats a lot this summer, and I don’t like it. It’s time to make that time up to them.

This month, Baliček the cat came to stay with us while his family was away. This was his third long-term visit at our place, and he’s the sweetest, most loving cat in the world. That said, while all three cats seem to get along at times, I’m realizing that Lewis really doesn’t like him. Not sure how that’s going to affect things going forward.

Oh, and also, Baliček gets severely anxious at riding in cars — and when we brought him back, he managed to puke UPWARDS through the mesh on the carrier. The carrier was on my lap. That was fun.

Three little gray tabby cats lounging on and around the bed, staring at the camera with annoyance.
Lewis and Baliček and Murray…not quite three peas in a pod.

Blog Posts of the Month

Turning 39 with a Bit More Wisdom — Each year I write a big post on my birthday. Here’s a collection of things I learned this year, many of them wedding-related.

22 Best Places to Visit in Sicily — So you want to visit Sicily — great! — but you’re not sure exactly where to go. This post will show you some of the best places to visit and figure out what’s best for you.

Most Popular Reel on Instagram

INSTAGRAM WENT NUTS THIS MONTH!! (Check it out — I’m @adventurouskate on Instagram.) I started making an effort with reels in mid-April, and this month it paid off.

My “Where Italians Actually Go in Italy” reel got to one million views on August 5. My first million-view reel!! It now sits at 6.3 million views.

Then my “Sky Bike Dubrovnik” reel got to one million views on August 16. It now sits at 8.1 million views.

Then my “Where I am at age 39” reel got to one million views on August 27. This one actually went viral on Facebook more than Instagram, and it was quick and then stopped. It now sits at 1.1 million views.

And the best part about this is that I FINALLY got above 100k followers, where I’ve been marooned, unable to grow beyond, for nine years. Now I’m up to 119k and growing.

What I Watched This Month

This month, mid-And Just Like That, I began rewatching Sex and the City. Which I’ve done a lot over the years, but always the later seasons.

The earlier seasons hit MUCH differently. A lot of episodes and moments did not age well. But it’s a lot of fun seeing their love interests in the earlier years — Timothy Olyphant! Will Arnett! Justin Theroux, twice!

Below Deck update: We immediately vaulted into watching Below Deck: Down Under Season 2, as it’s airing currently and there was a major incident that made news in a lot of publications. Currently in the middle of it all and will reserve comment until the end of the season, but will say that Captain Jason and Aesha have just a delightful friendship.

A huge iceberg lit up in pale yellow sunset light.
The icebergs in Ilulissat were stunning.

What I Read This Month

After a lackluster few years of reading, this month was pretty intense. (Spending three days in a remote part of Greenland with no internet will help out with that a lot!) Here’s what I read:

Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (2023) — Fern Brady is a Scottish comedian who was diagnosed with autism a few years ago. This memoir is one of the most remarkable books I’ve read in a long time — a retelling of her life as she struggled to et through school, get along with her family, hold down a job, everything.

Autism presents differently in women, which is how so many go undiagnosed. You’ve probably heard that before. But this memoir is an absolutely SEARING account of how a lack of diagnosis can destroy your life. Fern’s meltdowns involve destroying all the furniture in her house.

But you know what? She was a stripper for awhile, and talks about how being a stripper is an ideal career for many autistic women — you do the same routine every night! You have the same conversations every night! Lights are kept low! It’s really hard to get fired! You know exactly what men are looking for, no subtlety!

Anyway — highly recommend this memoir. I learned a ton and laughed uproariously throughout it.

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen (2022) — In this novel, Ava Wong is a good girl who never did anything wrong — and now she’s a lawyer on who-knows-how-long hiatus, raising a difficult toddler as her surgeon husband works long hours. Then Ava reconnects with an old friend, Winnie, who runs a business importing the world’s best counterfeit designer handbags from China to the US. Soon Ava has joined Winnie’s business — but soon the authorities are after them.

I enjoyed this book a lot on a surface level! It’s fun and fast-paced and there’s a Gone Girl-style twist halfway through (which means to say, there’s a twist halfway through).

One thing, though — so much of this book is unrealistic about the luxury goods industry. All of Ava and Winnie’s employees are one-time bag purchasers who buy a bag, then return the fake in its place, then never return to the shop again. Luxury boutiques are all about establishing deep, long-term relationships between salespeople and clients. You buy from the same person forever. They save things for you. It just seemed like this was overlooked.

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld (2023) — Have you ever noticed how often glamorous female stars end up dating and marrying often-schlubby SNL writers? That’s what this novel is about. Sally, a writer at an SNL-esque show called The Night Owls, rolls her eyes when star after star pairs off with one of her constantly burping writers and even writes a sketch about these men punching above their weight.

Then she meets the latest host-and-musical-guest, Noah Brewster — a pop star known for dating models. And believe it or not, he actually likes her. And so the hot singer dates a somewhat schlubby female comedy writer!

I am a big SNL fan, as well as a Curtis Sittenfeld fan, so you won’t be surprised that I very much enjoyed this. And I appreciated how much the author did her research on the show — there wasn’t one moment that made me think, “No, it wouldn’t happen like that.” It’s a fun, low-stakes romance, and I recommend it.

A rare sandy beach in Croatia, lots of kids and adults swimming in the clear turquoise water!
Lopud Island, near Dubrovnik, has sandy beaches — a rarity in Croatia!

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield (2023) — In this novel, Miri’s wife Leah, a marine biologist, has returned from a submarine expedition gone wrong — she was trapped on the bottom of the sea for six months. But after returning, she’s not normal. She insists on sitting in baths all day, drinking saltwater, and refusing to interact with the world.

This is one of the stranger books I’ve read in a long time. Part science fiction, part horror. Leah keeps trying to figure out what happened at the bottom of the sea with Leah — and it slowly becomes a meditation on her grief. A strange one, and I still don’t quite know what to think of it, but the writing is beautiful.

In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Memoir of Courage by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado (2022) — Silvia Vasquez-Lavado became the first Peruvian woman and the first openly gay woman to summit Mount Everest. Before her Everest climb, she led a group of sexual abuse survivors on a trek to Everest Base Camp. But behind the climbing, her life was a mess — she was drinking heavily, hiding her sexuality from her family, and repressing her memories of sexual abuse as a child.

Note: this book contains graphic scenes of child sexual abuse.

After reading Into Thin Air, about the 1996 disaster on Mount Everest, I resolved to never, ever, ever entertain the possibility of climbing the world’s tallest mountain. So it was quite something to read about an expedition that was actually successful.

Silvia is an incredibly driven woman. I loved the story of her leaving Peru for America and rising in the ranks in Silicon Valley. At the same time, though, she left a LOT of wreckage behind her, and doesn’t show any accountability. And as much as I want her to be sober, I doubt she is. (Same with Matthew Perry after reading his memoir.)

Does that mean that flawed people who do awesome things can’t write memoirs? Not at all. But this one left me feeling a bit uneasy.

The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin (2004) — This was a reread for me. In this novel, Steve Martin tells the story of Daniel Pecan Cambridge — a man living with severe compulsions that impact his life. He takes long winding routes around the neighborhood because he can only cross a street from curb to curb. He doesn’t understand social cues. He makes intricate mathematical magic squares. And then when his therapist and her young son have an emergency and need his help, everything changes.

I adore Steve Martin’s writing to the moon and back — in part because it’s so different from his comedy. And this book is sweet and wonderful and it has one of my favorite surprising heartwarming endings.

Rereading it about a decade or so later, though, and having read several books by autistic authors, it gives me a lot of doubts, especially since it ends with Daniel having “recovered” significantly. Is this story a realistic look at a person with autism or OCD? Probably not. Should we be celebrating a neurotypical person writing about an autistic person making their behavior more palatable for the masses? Probably not, either.

I still love Steve, though, and there’s a lot of good in this little book.

Skyline view of Prague, little church towers poking over the landscape in front of the river.

Coming Up in September 2023

ZERO TRAVEL THIS MONTH! Between the weddings and summer travel I’ve been go-go-going since late April — I’m quite eager for a rest, and lots of kitty cuddles.

But this month I have something big planned — Czech driving school. It’s time to me to get my Czech driver’s license, and because you can’t transfer over American licenses (for the dumbest reason — because Americans write the month and date in a different order from the rest of the world), I need to go through the whole driver’s ed process.

The good news is that I will be FINALLY learning to drive a manual car! Guess this will kill two birds with one stone — I’ll learn how to drive stick and how to drive in Prague, two things that are majorly intimidating to me. I’m doing an intensive course and should be finished by mid-October.

Beyond that, September is a great month to spend in Prague, and my friends and I have a lot of plans. Beer festivals (yes, multiple), seeing Bill Burr and Cobra Man live, a private visit to the gorgeous Strahov Library, special dinners out. I’m looking forward to all of it.

What did you get up to this August? Share away!

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