This month my beautiful friend gave birth to the most perfect baby boy. Not only am I crazy about this kiddo, I’m an auntie for the first time ever! That, far and away, is the highlight of this past month.
It also made me feel even more grateful for my career and lifestyle. Most people who try to become travel bloggers are dreaming of the travel perks — “free” trips, getting paid to travel, unlimited vacation time. But for me, the best perks are being able to make my own hours and be there for my loved ones when they need a helping hand.
So when my friend found out she’d be having the baby sooner than expected and lamented that she had no time for maternity photos, I dropped everything to do a shoot with her and her husband (and their dog too!). I spent time with my friend while she was laboring, and I visited the morning after the baby was born. I even got to read him his first book! As soon as I recover from a tough bout of strep (more on that below), I plan to help her out during the week while everyone else is at work.
So yes, the travel perks are nice…but for me, getting to be there for my friend in her early days of motherhood is the greatest perk of self-employment.
Reading, Lynn, Lynnfield, and Burlington, Massachusetts
New York, New York
A rock star schedule in Massachusetts and New York. I had my friend’s baby shower in Massachusetts that ended at 4:30 PM and my sister’s 30th birthday party (how do I have a 30-year-old sister?!) later that evening in Manhattan. I made it work — I flew! I got there in time for Sarah to blow out the candles on her Dunkin Donuts cake, which is pretty much the most Bostonian thing ever.
Family time in Massachusetts. I tend to do a spring visit every year, and this time I got to spend Easter and my mom’s birthday with lots of different family members, which was nice. Also, there’s an Amazon Bookstore near my hometown now and that place is probably the most dangerous place I could go. ALL THE AMAZING BOOKS AT AMAZON PRICES.
I got to see Hamilton again! My friend Eric had an extra ticket to the show and he kindly offered it to me. What an amazing show. It was so interesting to see how the new cast interprets their roles — especially the humorous lines. Just think of all the ways you can say, “Everything is legal in New Jersey!”
Was it as good as the first time? I saw Hamilton with the original cast, went in mostly blind, and I was blown away in a million different directions. You can’t replicate that experience, though I still love the show as much as ever. And this time I found some new actors I adored — especially Michael Luwoye, who played Hamilton so spectacularly that I will fork over major cash to see him in literally anything (and if my dream comes true, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice or maybe the titular role in Macbeth) — and I gained an appreciation for things I overlooked the first time around.
(Also, we had dinner at Osteria Doge beforehand and it was outstanding. I thought there was no good dining in Times Square but I was dead wrong! If you’re going to a show, eat there. You’ll love it. Thumbs way up for the risotto Milanese.)
I learned to crochet. It’s been a long time since I learned a completely new skill! Being in Antarctica showed me how much I value time away from screens, so I decided to pick up a hobby that allows me to disconnect and clear my mind.
I took a few classes at Lion Brand Yarn Studio (I found them on Coursehorse — get $15 off your first Coursehorse class here). I feel like I took to it quickly — maybe I inherited some skills from my grandmother, who was amazing at anything involving yarn or thread. Unfortunately I missed the third and final class due to illness, but I hope to make it up next month. But that’s okay because YouTube is an absolute gold mine!! You can learn how to crochet all kinds of crazy things on YouTube! I’m already addicted. I can’t wait to share my creations with you.
A tour of uptown New York City. My friend Dani had an extra ticket (recurring theme this month?) and I joined her for an art and culture tour of Washington Heights and Central Harlem. It was nice getting to see some places in my neighborhood that I’d never visited, like Sylvain Terrace, one of the most unique streets in Manhattan. We also grabbed some soul food at Sylvia’s — I can’t believe I haven’t been there until now!
Some gorgeous spring days. I won’t lie, it’s been a rough April weather-wise (it snowed no fewer than three days in April!!), but there’s nothing more enjoyable than taking a long walk through Central Park on the first warm days of the year. It’s nothing short of divine.
And my old brownstone, my first New York home, has gone on sale. If you’re interested, it’s here. $2.7 million for a duplex with a backyard topped with two rentable one-bedroom units on one of the prettiest blocks in Hamilton Heights, which honestly is a steal by New York standards.
This month, I was the sickest I’ve been in years. Right after the baby was born, I got strep throat. Strep is something that I get every five to eight years or so and it always seems to come at the worst time. Usually I get diagnosed, start antibiotics, and feel better within a day and can go outside within two days. Not this time. I got a weird, antibiotic-resistant form of strep that would take its time to work through my system, and a viral infection on top of it as well.
So instead of being knocked down for two days, this time it knocked me out for more than a week. I didn’t leave my apartment for several days; I couldn’t focus enough to read or work; I was too weak to stand in the shower; I rotated between fever and chills every few hours; even swallowing water felt like razor blades down my throat. I’ve been sicker than that in my life, but I’ve never been that sick for that long.
I had a trip scheduled to Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, to profile a new hotel, but I had to cancel (and thankfully reschedule for two weeks later).
Worst of all, I had to stay away from the baby. I missed him so much!
Most Popular Post
Solo Female Travel in New York City — Is it Safe? — I’m proud of this guide and glad so many women are using it to plan their trips!
100 Travel Tips for Croatia — A guide to what is probably my favorite country in the world.
Where to Stay in Boston: Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation — A guide to where to stay in my hometown of Boston.
My Favorite Moments in Antarctica — The beautiful, thrilling, and inspiring moments that I’ll remember the most.
Skyhour: The Best Way to Give Flights — A new app that I think is a brilliant idea.
Quote of the Month
Me, holding newborn baby: “Who do you think he looks like? I can’t tell.”
New mom: “He looks like a baby today. He looked like an old man last night.”
New dad: “He looked like a pack of hot dogs when he was born!”
Most Popular Photo on Instagram
It’s an old photo but a good one — me boating in Central Park. For more photos from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.
What I Watched This Month
The Handmaid’s Tale is back and it’s as brutal as ever. I won’t give anything away, but it’s frightening and gorgeous and heartbreaking. I’m so glad only one episode comes out at a time; binge-watching this would turn me into a mess. As a Bostonian, this season is making my heart hurt — a number of pivotal scenes take place at Boston landmarks.
On a lighter note, I became slightly obsessed with Oh, Hello on Broadway, John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s show where they play two crotchety old Upper West Siders, which is on Netflix. It’s weird and hilarious and you don’t want to know how many times I’ve watched it.
What I Listened To This Month
I’ll be honest — when I started watching the reboot of Queer Eye in February, I loved it but I found the long-haired Jonathan a bit grating. Well, my sister recommended his podcast to me, Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness. I was shocked — turns out I love this guy!
Each week, Jonathan invites an expert on a subject he’s curious about and they talk about it. Some of the subjects: cults (and they totally talk about how the Landmark Forum has cult-like qualities, which I found hilarious), the Armenian Genocide, how Los Angeles became a driving city, how Dave Holmes became a VJ (I’m a huge fan of Dave and vividly remember that VJ contest), the opioid crisis, psychedelics, and more.
This has become what I listen to when I crochet.
What I Read This Month
My reading slowed majorly down this month. Two reasons: crocheting ate into my reading time, and I spent a week too sick to read at all. I panicked when I got close to the end of the month and had only finished two quick books. Still, I rallied to finish five in the month, including books by authors from two new countries: Rwanda and Morocco. I’ve now read books by authors from nine new countries and am on track to hit my goal of 25 by the end of the year.
Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood by Mari Andrew (2018) — Mari Andrew became famous on Instagram for her sweet illustrations about navigating through life as a young adult. This book is a collection of new and already published illustrations, along with several essays, grouped into different sections about the experience of growing up.
I’m a big fan of Mari Andrew on Instagram, and I bought this book primarily to support an artist whose work I enjoy. That said, while the book is sweet, and some of the original illustrations are fantastic (especially the maps of different cities), I did not care for her essays, and it was the kind of book I would look through once and never again. I’ve often found that I don’t like when celebrities or media stars write long-form books. Shonda Rimes is better at TV writing, Luvvie Ajayi is better when not held to a list of topics, Mark Manson is better at one great essay every few months, Amy Schumer is better on stage. Still, I’m glad I supported an artist whose work I enjoy.
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (2017) — After the success of Milk and Honey comes a sequel of Indian-Canadian author Kaur’s poetry. This time it’s divided into the following sections: Wilting, Falling, Rooting, Rising, Blooming.
I like her poetry. Some people deride it for being so simple, but I think she really nails the universal human experience. Here are a few of my favorite lines:
i can’t wrap my head around the fact
that i have to convince half the world’s population
my body is not their bed
i am busy learning the consequences of womanhood
when i should be learning science and math instead
The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clementine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil (2018) — Since I’ve been trying to read books by authors from different countries, I’ve been picking whatever Book of the Month offerings come from international authors. This book tells the story of Clementine Wamariya, who fled Rwanda during the 1994 genocide at the age of six with her teenage sister Claire. They went on to migrate through refugee camps in several African countries before becoming eligible to immigrate to the United States. The memoir shifts between their journey through Africa and their new life in America.
I realized this month that so many books by African authors marketed toward US audiences are about war and genocide. There is so much more to Africa than that. That being said, I found this book to be an illuminating glimpse of what it is to be a refugee in Africa. Clementine’s sister Claire is the ultimate inspirational figure — she was a hustler every minute of every day, and it was her business sense, street smarts, and relationship-building that kept them alive and moving to better places over time. The book itself is a bit uneven — Clementine was so young when the massacre happened that her early memories are patchy (which is totally understandable) but those parts of the book are written rudimentarily with no depth to them. I wish there had been a bit more consistency, as the later parts of the book were much stronger.
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (2018) — This month I was at Albertine, New York’s French bookstore, and I saw Moroccan-French author Leila Slimani was making an appearance. I picked up a copy of her latest novel, The Perfect Nanny (Chanson Douce in the original French). The book opens in Paris with two children dead at the hands of their nanny. From there it rewinds to the beginning, telling the story of everything leading up to their murders at the hands of a woman who appeared on the surface to be the greatest nanny of all time.
This isn’t a traditional book — it leaves so much to ambiguity, and I can see why many reviewers didn’t like it. I personally would have liked to have more of a conclusion, but it made me realize that not every book has to be what we’re used to. I’m doing this project to expand my views of literature and the world, and part of that is discovering new styles of literature. Overall, I found this novel to be a quick, sinister, and quite entertaining read. And because Slimani’s style is so spare and simple, I think I’m going to try to read one of her other books in French.
Interestingly, Slimani named the nanny Louise after Louise Woodward, a British nanny in the Boston area who was convicted of manslaughter in 1997 after the baby she took care of died from head trauma. That was the biggest news story in Boston when I was 13. But want to know something crazy? I went on Wikipedia and found out that Louise Woodward went on to become a Latin dance instructor in Chester, England. I went to Latin dance events in Chester, England. She was probably there.
The Oracle Year by Charles Soule (2018) — A struggling musician in New York suddenly hears predictions of the future in his head, and he decides to write them down. Then they start coming true. After putting his predictions on Reddit, then on a website, he becomes known worldwide as “The Oracle,” the wealthy pay him insane money for the exclusive rights to predictions, and he becomes an enemy of the US government. Soon he’s on the run.
Ever since seeing this listed on Book of the Month, I was excited to read it — but I found it better in theory than in practice. One user on Goodreads described this book as “dick lit,” which made me laugh because it’s so true. At the center of this book is this boring guy, yet everyone he meets is fascinated by him. Three different female characters hang on his every word and say, “Oh, Will.” Come on. That’s just lazy. Throw in some action sequences and implausible plots and you have a book that entertains but makes little sense. Overall, I’d rank this as a Dan Brown-type book: compelling, and I couldn’t put it down, but as a work of literature, it made me cringe endlessly. I’d recommend it if you’re up for some mindless entertainment and you can suspend disbelief a bit.
Coming Up in May 2018
I’m hitting the road hard this month. First up is the trip I had to reschedule — Chesapeake Bay, a lesser-known weekend getaway from New York City! I’ve barely been to Maryland and I’m excited to have a relaxing weekend at the brand-new Wylder Hotel on Tilghman Island.
In mid-May I’m going back to New Orleans, one of my favorite American destinations. I’ll be in town to attend the Bayou Boogaloo, a music festival on the water. I’ll be back in a kayak for the first time since Antarctica — hanging out on the bayou while listening to music! How amazing is that? I’m especially excited to explore New Orleans solo, as it’s not often promoted as a destination for solo female travelers. And the FOOD, oh my God. Don’t be surprised if I’m covered in powdered sugar from Cafe du Monde beignets the whole time.
In late May I’m heading to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for the Traverse conference. While I’ve been to Rotterdam before, this is my first time at Traverse and I’ve always been impressed by their line-up of creative talks and workshops. I’ll be speaking on how to be successful as a personality-based blogger. I’m putting together the talk now, and I’m pleased at how it’s going — I’ll be talking about making money, of course (that’s what everyone wants to hear), but also about setting boundaries, self-care, and standing up for what you believe in.
I turned Traverse into a two-week trip across three countries, and my next destination is a bit of a secret for now. It’s a new country (my 75th!) and it’s not in Europe. It’s famous for its cuisine. I’ll be going for five days at the end of May into June. Any ideas?