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I recently took a three-week trip to northern Italy that blew my socks off. I had an opportunity to attend a conference in Trento in the Trentino region, and I used it as inspiration to plan a trip concentrating solely on the far north of Italy. Concentrating on this part of the country gave me the chance to go more off the beaten path, and I loved my itinerary so much I knew I had to come home and share it with all of you!

If you’re able to spend three weeks in Italy, you’re VERY lucky. As an American, I know how hard it is to get this much time off, but if you’re able to swing a longer trip, you’ll be able to explore Italy so deeply. And if you don’t have quite enough time, I have ways to modify the itinerary to fit your time frame.

I’ve been traveling extensively in Italy for 15 years. It’s one of the countries I know best. When I travel to Italy these days, I’m not looking to travel the well-worn itinerary — I’m looking to go deeper.

That’s what led me to plan this trip, and write this post for you. While some of the locations on this trip are well-touristed, the majority of them don’t get a lot of tourism. As a result, this is an offbeat Italy itinerary that will be full of surprises.

Who is this Italy travel itinerary for?

This itinerary is best for people who have traveled to Italy before and have already been to the major sites. This itinerary could potentially also work for first-time travelers to Italy who would rather get off the beaten path than visit the busiest spots.

This Italy travel itinerary includes in a lot of variety. You’ll visit two of Italy’s best culinary regions, Emilia-Romagna and Piemonte; you’ll marvel at Italy’s most picturesque mountains in Trentino and Alto Adige; and you’ll visit four lakes: Garda, Como, Orta, and Maggiore. You’ll spend time in the quiet but very pretty city of Trento, the busy and modern metropolis of Milan, the warm and fun city of Bologna, and visit two of the more touristy spots, Florence and Verona, on day trips only.

To me, this itinerary is true bliss: everything that I love about northern Italy with few of the drawbacks that plague more touristed areas like Venice, Cinque Terre, and Rome.

Day 1: Arrive in Milan, train to Bologna

If you’re flying overnight to get to Milan, chances are you’ll be a zombie. Don’t set super-high expectations for yourself for the first day. I spent my first day hanging out with my friends and taking it easy. You may want to take a nap; you may want to push through. Either way, I recommend taking melatonin at bedtime to help you get on the right time zone.

When you arrive in Milan, take a bus or train to Milano Centrale, the main train station. (If you’re arriving at Milan Malpensa, the bus and train take the same amount of time but the bus runs more often and is cheaper.) From there you can book and hop on a train to Bologna. The Frecciarossa train is an engineering marvel that only takes one hour.

Days 2-5: Bologna

Bologna is a fantastic, underrated Italian city — and it happens to be my favorite city in Italy. Bologna is a city that comes with a lot of nicknames — la rossa, or the red, because of the red colors of the city (and its politically liberal history), la dotta, or the learned, because of its long history as a university city; and la grossa, or the fat, because it’s one of the best food cities in both Italy and the world.

Bologna is a beautiful, culture-filled city that doesn’t get nearly the number of tourists of Rome, Florence, or Venice. As a result, it feels like a lived-in city devoid of tourist traps. The cuisine is outstanding, so much that many Italians grudgingly admit that Bologna has the best food in the country. It also helps that Bologna is surrounded by lots of great cities for day trips.

My Favorite Thing to Do in Bologna: Eat, eat, eat. Check out my 25 Best Food Experiences in Emilia-Romagna, Italy for 25 ideas. At the very least, go to Osteria dell’Orsa for a cheap and delicious tagliatelle ragú and hit up the aperitivi near the city center.

Where to Stay in Bologna: Palazzo Trevi Charming House is a welcoming B&B with gorgeous, light-filled rooms in the center of town (rates from $123). Almarossa is a simpler, cheaper option in a great location near the university (rates from $76). Find deals on more Bologna hotels here.

Day Trip from Bologna: Florence

Florence is one of the all-time great cities of Italy. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world; the art is unparalleled. Unfortunately, Florence is also one of the most touristed cities in Europe, and if you visit during high season, the crowds will be particularly intense.

My advice? Plan this day trip extremely carefully. If you want to visit the Uffizi or see David at the Accademia (I recommend one but not both in the same day unless you’re a hardcore art appreciator), BUY TICKETS IN ADVANCE. That is vital. If not, you’ll spend most of your day waiting in line. Beyond that, choose a few sites you want to see and roughly plan your route.

Choose your priorities in Florence without scheduling every moment of the day — you need to allow for a bit of serendipity, even if it’s just a gelato break (my favorite is Gelateria Dei Neri). But having a few sightseeing goals will help you navigate this city much more easily.

My Favorite Thing to Do in Florence: Enjoy the sunset from the Giardino Rosato, pictured above. This is very close to the much more popular Piazzale Michelangelo but with far fewer tourists, and the roses add to the ambiance.

Where to Stay in Florence: If you choose to stay overnight in Florence, Hotel Torre Guelfa Palazzo Acciaiuoli has colorful, central rooms and an unreal rooftop terrace. If you’re on a budget, Plus Florence has value-for-money rooms with amenities like a rooftop pool. Find deals on more Florence hotels here.

Day Trip from Bologna: Verona

Verona is most famous for being the setting of Romeo and Juliet — but today’s visitors admire the ancient amphitheater, the calm riverside setting, and the pristine city center, clad in the soft colors of the Veneto. Verona is a major transportation hub and a growing tourist attraction, but it’s much calmer and low-key than other Italian cities. The amphitheater, for one, only gets a fraction of the tourists Rome’s Colosseum gets.

Plenty of Romeo and Juliet tourists make their way here and set up shop at the Casa di Giulietta, where you can go out on Juliet’s balcony (built long after the play was written) or pose with the statue of Juliet. It’s a running gag for tourists to pose with a hand on Juliet’s breast. (Creepy. She’s barely pubescent in the play, you know.)

My Favorite Thing to Do in Verona: The one activity I didn’t do that I wish I did was to climb to the best view in town: Piazzale Castel San Pietro. Go up during sunset for especially good photos overlooking the city skyline.

Where to Stay in Verona: If you choose to stay overnight in Verona, Escalus Luxury Suites has gorgeous, modern suites in the heart of the city for surprisingly low rates starting from $101. Find deals on more hotels in Verona here.

Alternate Day Trips from Bologna: Parma, Modena, Ravenna, Ferrara, Rimini, San Marino

Bologna makes a great base for lots of reasons, including that there are several great cities in Emilia-Romagna. You can easily visit several on day trips. Parma and Modena are located close together on the same train line and you could visit Parma in the morning and Modena in the afternoon.

Ravenna and Ferrara are two other great cities easily day-trippable from Bologna. Ravenna has outstanding mosaics; Ferrara is a gorgeous medieval town.

You could even visit a new country — San Marino! Take the train to Rimini, then the bus to San Marino from there. Rimini is a terrific beach destination and it’s a nice city to explore, too.

READ MORE: San Marino: The Tiny Nation Surrounded by Italy

Days 6-9: Trento

Trento and the surrounding Trentino region aren’t often on travel itineraries — but it’s worth it. I visited Trento for a conference, which is why I spent a few days here in the first place, but I was surprised by how hard I fell for this little city. Trento is immaculate yet unpretentious, covered with frescoes and surrounded by mountains. Tourists here are very few, and many are cyclists and hikers exploring the mountains.

I encourage you to base in Trento and spend some time exploring this incredibly and underrated region, filled with spectacular mountains, beautiful towns, and sensational wine. Riva del Garda and Rovereto make great day trips, and there are tons of mountain hikes available too.

My Favorite Thing to Do in Trento: See the frescoes inside Buonconsiglio Palace. Far from your average frescoes, my favorites are in a tower where a portion of the wall represents each month of the year. Each panel is so detailed and full of interesting symbols.

Where to Stay in Trento: I highly recommend the Grand Hotel Trento. Beautiful rooms, nice bedding, super quiet, and in an ideal location just a four-minute walk from the train station and on the edge of the city center, with easy access to everywhere. Rates from $107. Find deals on more hotels in Trento here.

Day Trip from Trento: Riva del Garda

Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and is split between the regions of Trentino, Lombardia, and the Veneto. I visited the most popular destination on the Trentino portion: the town of Riva del Garda.

Other Italian lakes may be more about the beauty or luxury. Lake Garda made me feel humbled by its nature — the waves seemed more intense; the mountains seemed more foreboding. Even so, it felt so Italian and refined.

Riva del Garda is a pastel-colored little town that felt more like Liguria to me than Trentino. You could lounge in a cafe on the edge of the lake while sipping an aperol spritz, or you could waltz among the sherbet-colored buildings with a cup of artisanal gelato.

My Favorite Thing to Do in Riva del Garda: Climb the Torre Apponale, the tower that dominates the landscape. You’ll have amazing views of the lake, the town, and the mountains. The top photo in this post is from the tower!

Where to Stay in Riva del Garda: If you choose to stay overnight in Riva del Garda, I highly recommend the city center. The outskirts are home to campgrounds and cheap motels — probably not what you’re looking for on this particular Italy trip. Hotel Canarino is an option just off the city center with rates from $126. Find deals on more hotels in Riva del Garda here.

Days 10-13: Dolomites

The Dolomites, in the Alto Adige region of Italy (also known as South Tyrol), are home to some of the most dramatic landscapes in Italy. This is also the region least like the rest of Italy — it feels more like Austria or Switzerland!

Before you plan your trip, make sure you’re timing it correctly. Summer is hiking season and winter is ski season — but many resorts, Ciasa Salares included, are closed during the shoulder seasons. Keep this in mind before your trip. Also keep in mind that snow can last a long time here — 2019 was particularly intense and some of the last snow didn’t melt until June!

The summer is all about hiking, and the winter is all about skiing. Either way, the Dolomites are center stage — they’re jagged, pointy, and absolutely stunning.

My Favorite Thing to Do in the Dolomites: Hike, hike, hike! There are so many great hikes in the mountains, and there are hikes available for all levels of fitness. Talk to your local accommodation about a hike that is close to you. Oh, and eat plenty of soft, feathery speck.

Where to Stay in the Dolomites: Ciasa Salares is a fantastic high-end resort that I highly recommend. I loved this place and it’s a must if you want outstanding cuisine in addition to your mountain adventure. Find deals on more hotels in the Dolomites here.

Day 14-15: Lake Como

Lake Como is famous for its beauty, its mountains, its palazzi, its Las Vegas namesakes. Oh, um, and George Clooney, easily the lake’s most famous resident. Here you’ll fine palatial residences, picture-perfect towns, flowering gardens and palm trees, and mountains leading straight down into the lake.

Lake Como is enormous and the biggest transit hub is the city of Como, home to an attractive city center. An hour away by bus are the cities of Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio, three of the prettiest cities in the area and easy to explore by ferry.

Do know that it took us so long to get to Lake Como on the first day that this was essentially a lost transit day — bus from La Vila to Brunico (Bruneck), train to Bressanone (Brixen), train to Verona, train to Milan, train to Como. Looking back, I think things would have been easier if we had rented a car from Trento or Verona and driven into the Dolomites and back.

My Favorite Thing to Do in Lake Como: While I didn’t get to explore much in Lake Como due to illness, I’ve been told that Bellagio is the prettiest city of all. There’s a reason why it inspired a Las Vegas casino!

Where to Stay in Como: I highly recommend two places: Ostello Bello is one of the nicest hostels I’ve stayed in lately with excellent amenities like laundry, breakfast, and free activities; and they have gorgeous private ensuite rooms (though the shower was so shockingly small that average-sized people will struggle to fit inside; there are shared showers that are a bit larger if you need them). Dorm rates from $28; private rates from $136. Alessia’s Place is a quiet, well-decorated B&B with perhaps the most comfortable bed and pillows I’ve ever enjoyed in Italy. Rates from $151. Both are centrally located near the old town of Como. Find deals on more hotels in Como here.

Day 16-17: Lake Orta

Lake Orta is one of the lesser-known lakes in northern Italy — and after visiting four of the lakes, Orta is my favorite. Lake Orta is much smaller than Como, Maggiore or Garda; it’s much less developed, and it has far fewer tourists. Most of Lake Orta’s visitors are Milanese looking for a nearby..

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La dolce vita. This was my sweet Italian month. Three weeks in one of my favorite countries in the world (though seriously, it has to be my favorite favorite by now, don’t you think?), followed by a week and change in New York.

And while I will remember all the travel from this month, I got one of my favorite compliments ever from a new friend I made at a conference.

“I’ve met a lot of the big name bloggers,” he said, “and you’re the only one who introduces yourself like you don’t expect people to know who you are.”

That meant so much to me. I needed to hear that.

This crazy career — this crazy life — is so often measured by how much money you make, the cool places you visit, the brands that want to work with you, the press mentions you get.

Sometimes knowing how you make people feel — not you, the character in your blog posts, the limited view of yourself that you project to the world, but you, the actual, real person standing before a stranger — is the most meaningful part of all.

Destinations Visited

Bologna, Florence, Verona, Trento, Riva del Garda, Rovereto, San Cassiano, Longiaru, San Martino del Tor, Como, Stresa, Baveno, Orta San Giulio, Mottorone, Isola San Giulio, and Torino, Italy

New York, NY

Highlights

Three fantastic weeks in Italy. What a great trip. There’s way too much to include here, but here are some of the highlights:

An excellent Traverse conference in Trento. Traverse is my favorite of the travel content creator conferences — the people are awesome, the sessions are outstanding, and the sponsors are fantastic. This time, Visit Trentino outdid themselves as sponsors, and Trentino is such a great undertouristed region in Italy. The mountains and vineyards are so gorgeous and the TrentoDOC wine is fabulous. And Trento is a sweet little city covered with frescoes.

Giving a talk to a packed room. I was speaking first thing in the morning after the biggest party night of the conference, so I didn’t have high expectations — but the room was nearly full! I talked about the most important things I’ve learned in nine years of professional blogging — the good, like how to develop your creativity and set an example with responsible travel practices, and the bad, like dealing with sexual harassment from male travel bloggers. More importantly, people weren’t in their phones the whole time. They paid attention. That meant a lot to me.

Getting professional photos taken in Florence. I wanted to commemorate 15 years since I studied abroad there. The photos came out great and the photographer Alexandra and I got along so well that we became friends. She splits her time between Bucharest and Florence and you can hire her here.

Experiencing the Dolomites in style. I’ve been yearning to visit the Dolomites for years, and this visit didn’t disappoint. Staying at Ciasa Salares was a dream — a luxurious property with a small and cozy feeling, and the food and wine was exceptional. Plus the owner took the time to show me around the region and we had one of the best meals (and surprises!) ever in the wine cellar. I can’t wait to write more about it.

Discovering the best Italian lake. Lake Orta is a gorgeous lake in Piemonte mostly unknown to foreigners and I liked it much more than Lake Como and Lake Maggiore. I also had one of the best agriturismo meals of my life for a shockingly low price ($62 for 10 courses and three glasses of wine!) at Il Cucchiaio di Legno.

Finally seeing The Last Supper. I’ve wanted to see Leonardo’s painting for so long (and make a joke about it every time I see people sitting on one side of the table). Finally I got my opportunity — while it sells out months in advance, I was able to hop on a tour with Walks of Italy. Seeing the painting (actually a fresco) in real life felt amazing.

All the Italian food. I ate my way through plate after plate of Tyrolean speck and consumed a truly obscene amount of stracciatella cheese. Not to mention the fondue in the Dolomites. Piemontese prosciutto and bufala mozzarella with a bottle of Franciacorta on a terrace at Lake Orta. My favorite tagliatelle ragú at Osteria del Orsa in Bologna. All the gelato. Even cooking with Italian groceries was pure joy.

Hanging out with my friends’ awesome kids. I loved staying with my friends Steph and Mike in Bologna, and their 2-year-old daughter is so sweet, funny, and imaginative. I loved seeing Bologna through her eyes. I also got to meet Anna and Matt‘s new baby boy in Verona, and he is an inquisitive, adorable delight. I also snuggled him while drinking a Hugo cocktail, which I think is Peak Kate in Italy.

Introducing some of my favorite people to each other. I have friends from so many different areas of my life, but I LOVE bringing them together. This time it was my blogger bud Kash and his love, Sabrina, with my sister Sarah and her love, Matt. I took Kash and Sabrina out to some of my favorite bars in my neighborhood, but later on we had one of those simple yet perfect New York nights: a slice at Joe’s, a salty pimp at Big Gay Ice Cream, a stroll past Stonewall, a perfect cotton candy sunset, and an evening sitting in Washington Square Park listening to a jazz band. So nice.

Challenges

Getting sick in Italy. The post-conference flu struck again — too much fun, too little sleep. The worst part was that I arrived at Ciasa Salares, a culinary resort in the Dolomites, with no sense of smell or taste! Thankfully that didn’t last long and I had my senses back by the next morning.

Giving a presentation on ZERO sleep. I usually don’t have trouble sleeping — but in Trento I figured out how much espresso is TOO MUCH ESPRESSO (four in a day, the last at 4 PM). I did not sleep ALL NIGHT. That never happens. Ever. And I had to give a presentation at 9:30 AM on zero sleep. It went very well, but I can’t believe I had to do that!

Losing my Fitbit in the Dolomites. Still upset with myself for that.

Lake Como was a bit of a bust. Our itinerary was a little over-ambitious as is, but due to illness and a tough day we didn’t get to see much of Lake Como beyond the city of Como itself. That’s okay; I feel lucky that I got to experience Lake Maggiore and especially Lake Orta.

Most Popular Post

What’s It Like to Travel Antigua and Barbuda? — I had the best week on this fabulous island in the Caribbean!

Other Posts

11 Things I Learned on my Latest Trip to Italy — I go to Italy a ton, but I learn new things every time.

Solo Female Travel in San Francisco — I think San Francisco is one of the best spots for a solo trip! Still, there are important things to know before you go.

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

I absolutely love this photo. This photo was taken by my photographer Alexandra Jitariuc in Florence, and I love how amazingly Italian it is. The red Vespa, the black dress — SO ITALIAN. For more photos of my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

What I Wore This Month

I had a lot of great dresses from Rent the Runway this month. This first one was a Rachel Zoe dress that I thought would be perfect for Italy. And it was probably the closest thing I found to a simple but elegant, casual but upscale dress for looking put together in a country where most people are well put together.

I love Kate Spade, and it felt fitting to wear one of her beautiful dresses on the anniversary of her untimely passing. This one was from Rent the Runway as well — a short knit dress with colorful stitching. It ran a bit smaller than expected, which was kind of weird, as I’ve found that some of her clothing can be huge on me. But this was a good, classic dress for either Italy or New York.

For my talk in Trento, I wore a bright blue Pinko midi dress from Rent the Runway. I expected it to be a home run but I feel like it was never QUITE the hit I expected. Maybe it was a bit too long.

This red Nicole Miller dress from Rent the Runway was the one I got the most compliments on (and had the highest rating on Instagram, where I love doing fashion shows on Stories.) I love the garnet color, the deep V neck, and the different sizes of polka dots! I probably would have kept it if it didn’t wrinkle so easily — not an ideal dress for travel!

The Handmaid's Tale: Season 3 Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original - YouTube

What I Watched This Month

The Handmaid’s Tale is back! I freaking LOVE this show, and season three is excellent so far. Even though it’s getting closer and closer to reality as American politicians enact laws overturning women’s rights. This month, a pregnant woman in Alabama was shot and the fetus died — and she was charged with manslaughter, not the shooter. Absolute insanity.

What I Read This Month

Eek, another month where I fell off the wagon when it comes to reading. I thought I’d get a ton of reading done in Italy, but turns out I only read a ton when I travel solo. I’m up to 48 books in 2019, and I had really hoped to be at more than 50 by now. Still, here we go:

Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, edited by Sari Botton (2013) — This collection features essays by 28 writers (all of them women!) about their lives in New York City and when they realized it was time to leave. Some of them returned; nearly all of them have mixed feelings about their departure. The collection features essays by writers including Roxane Gay, Cheryl Strayed, Ann Hood, Dani Shapiro, Emma Straub, and more. The title is from Joan Didion’s famed essay about her own decision to leave New York; Didion is idolized by many of the writers.

I love living in New York. You know I love living in New York. But to live in New York means that you spend a lot of time hating it — the horrific state of the subway, the ever-skyrocketing cost of living, the gentrification and homogenization of neighborhoods, the fact that it’s harder and harder to be a creative here unless you are independently wealthy. And this book gets at this frustration from SO many different angles. I felt all the love and all the angst from these writers. A few left for Los Angeles; several left for upstate New York. North Carolina; Providence; Paris.

There were two things I couldn’t relate to, though — nearly all of these writers moved to New York in their early twenties and partied, lived in terrible apartments with several roommates, and moved from neighborhood to neighborhood as they worked to make a living at writing. Secondly, most of these writers moved to New York in the pre-9/11 era and moved away in the early 2000s at a time when the internet transformed the publishing and media industries and many writers lost their paid work. It made me a little sad I never had those experiences. It’s a New York that I will never know. Also, while there are some authors of color in this book, none of the essays take place in Harlem, which seems like a big oversight. Still, I really loved this book.

The Dark Heart: A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator by Joakim Palmkvist (2018) — Back in April, Amazon offered several Kindle books written by authors around the world for FREE, no strings attached. I ordered them all (are you surprised?) and this is the first one I’ve read: a true crime book by a Swedish journalist. When Göran Lundblad, a millionaire agricultural entrepreneur, went missing, no clues turned up — but soon it seemed like his daughter and her boyfriend had the greatest motive to kill. The person who finally solved the case was not a detective, but a volunteer with the local Missing People organization — and she used her smarts and intuition to turn the case on its head.

This wasn’t my first book by a Swedish author — I’ve read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series — and I appreciate the spare orderliness that Swedish authors bring to their prose. And this one was well translated. The story unfolds slowly — so slowly that it seems obvious, like the killers could be caught any minute — but things really speed up toward the end and I couldn’t put it down. True crime isn’t usually something I enjoy, but this book was a change from the usual stuff I read.

Gaspé Peninsula, Québec — Image via Pixabay

Coming up in July 2019

I’m SO excited for what lies in store this month. I’m doing some seriously cool travels in Canada!

First, I will be doing a 10-day small ship expedition cruise through Atlantic Canada with OneOcean Expeditions. I first approached OneOcean at an industry event wanting..

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Traveling to Antigua and Barbuda has been one of the biggest highlights of my year. One of my biggest priorities of late has been to explore more of the Caribbean — and I ended up in one of the Caribbean’s best islands as a guest of Traverse Events. If you can choose to visit any of the islands in the Caribbean, Antigua is about as solid as you can get.

The thing is, while a lot of people know that Antigua is a Caribbean island, it doesn’t have a lot of signature fame beyond that. But I found out lots of things that make Antigua worth the trip.

Why travel to Antigua instead of another Caribbean island?

Plenty of people looking for a Caribbean vacation simply want to find a decently priced flight and resort, fly down, and spend the next week drinking piña coladas on the beach. If that’s all you want, you’ll be happy on most Caribbean islands. Probably Florida, too.

But most people want more than that. So why should you make the effort to travel to Antigua and Barbuda?

Antigua excels at being a solid all-around island. It’s got beautiful beaches, it’s got great resorts, it’s got an interesting weekly market, it’s got some outstanding scenic views, it’s got a lot of interesting adventure activities, the travel infrastructure is pretty good, and the island is large enough to have variety but small enough to get around in one day.

(Quick geography note: Saying Antigua alone refers to its main island, while Barbuda is its small sister island. Barbuda was severely damaged in Hurricane Irma in 2017 and became uninhabited for the first time in centuries; people are just beginning to move back to Barbuda now.)

Plus, there’s the ease factor. The island revolves around tourism. There are tons of flights from the US, including flights on multiple airlines from New York. English is the main language here, part of Antigua’s history as a former British colony. This Britishness is why you pronounce it like an-TEE-gah, not an-TEE-gwah like the city in Guatemala.

I didn’t find Antigua stood out strongly on any one element — the way the Cayman Islands stand out for diving or Jamaica stands out for music. And that’s fine — sometimes the best option for everyone is a strong all-around performer. But there were two areas where Antigua stands out for me: its outrageously delicious pineapple and the fact that I experienced pretty much zero street harassment.

Antigua Black Pineapple: the Best Pineapple in the World

Is it audacious to claim that Antigua has the best pineapple in the world? Maybe it is. They are famous for their black pineapple and I fell in love with it immediately.

Antigua black pineapple is a sweeter variety of pineapple with golden fruit and lower acidity than many other pineapples. Honestly, it’s the best pineapple that I’ve ever tasted and I just wish I had easy access to it at home!

You’ll see pineapples growing on the side of the road in Antigua (!!) but never pick one that’s growing. Instead, stop at virtually any roadside stand and you’ll find someone selling pineapple. If not, they’ll direct you to someone who is.

Visiting St. John’s, Antigua, the capital of the city

I’m not the kind of person who will land on a beach and stay there for the duration of a trip. I need to get out and see how local people live — even in places where the locals warn you that there’s nothing to do.

For me, that meant a trip to St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda for their Saturday morning market. A few friends and I hired a taxi to take us from the resort to the center of the city.

Like many Caribbean cities, St. John’s isn’t pretty to look at and most would dismiss it as low tourism value. For me, I appreciated just getting to walk around, try some “conch water” (more like a conch chowder), chat with locals, and understand the country in the part where they don’t cater to tourists. You should definitely go if this is the kind of thing that interests you.

There is a small corner in town that seems designed for tourists — it’s where the cruise ships dock. Beyond that, we were entirely surrounded by locals.

Open Side Safari

Another opportunity to see more of the island was going on an Open Side Safari. We rode around the island, stopped for delicious pineapple, posed in front of a pretty pink church, checked out some cool beaches, and got to see a lot more of the island than we would have ordinarily.

I appreciated the conversations I had with local Antiguan women. Like most Caribbeans, Antiguans are open and friendly. One woman was telling me how hard it was to get a visa to the US or Canada — not only because it’s so hard to get a visa on an Antiguan passport, but because they have to fly all the way to Trinidad to apply for a visa there! It’s like paying for a second trip, she told me, and most people can’t afford that expense.

Almost Zero Street Harassment in Antigua (!!!)

My least favorite thing about traveling in the Caribbean is the incessant street harassment. While street harassment happens to women all over the world, it is particularly rampant and insidious in the Caribbean.

Which is why it was remarkable that I experienced almost none in Antigua.

ALMOST NONE. I am 100% serious.

Really, the closest thing to street harassment was a man who started singing “Pretty Woman” to me, Cailin, and Ayngelina as we walked down the street. And that cracked us up.

Please note that this is my anecdotal experience: I’m not saying that street harassment does not exist here, only that I didn’t experience any in a full week here. Your experience may be very different. However, this is such a contrast to the rest of my travels in Caribbean destinations that I thought it was worth mentioning.

Shirley Heights: The Best Instagram Spot in Antigua

If you’ve seen one scenic photo of Antigua, it was probably at Shirley Heights — this is one of the most beautiful photo spots on the island. Which means that when you send a group of 40 travel content creators there at once, we’re going to lose our minds.

Oh, and did we ever.

Shirley Heights has a band playing Caribbean versions of pop songs and food and drinks for sale. My advice? Wear your best outfit and take a ton of photos up here!

As you can see, we didn’t have the best weather at first — it was a bit cloudy, and I had been hoping for bright blue skies. But it eventually turned into an amazing purple sunset.

While we visited during the week, I’ve heard that Sunday is the best night to go to Shirley Heights because that’s when the locals go. If I went back, I would absolutely go on a Sunday.

If there is any must-do activity in Antigua, Shirley Heights is it. Make sure you go for sure.

Adventure Activities in Antigua

I was actually fairly sedate on this Antigua trip — far more than usual. Throw me on a paddle board, though, and I was thrilled! I loved how calm the water was at the Verandah Resort — I was able to keep perfect balance and paddle out super-far, checking out the new resort being built in the distance. Quite a few non-motorized sports are included for free at the resort in addition to paddle boarding: kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing, Hobie Cat sailing.

But if you want a little more adventure, here are a few of the activities my friends got in:

Scooter Snorkeling in Antigua — image via Travel Yourself

Scooter snorkeling with Skylork. Snorkeling is fun enough on its own, but you’ll probably be moving slowly. With a scooter that you hold in front of yourself, you can zoom super-fast and super-deep! Honestly, this is the one I most regret not doing…

Biking in Antigua — via Where in the World is Nina

Biking, hiking, and kayaking with Triflexcursion. If you want to pack a ton of adventure into a single trip, do a bike/hike/kayak combination! Do know that the word “hike” is used loosely here — it’s more of a light stroll, but the biking and kayaking are more involved.

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There are few countries that I know better or more intimately than Italy. I visit Italy as often as I can, and while this country is forever in my top five favorite countries, it just might be my favorite (!).

It’s easy to put Italy in a box, to treat it all the same. To say that Italy is nothing but people talking with their hands and gelato on every corner.

I’ve learned a lot over the years. That the best (and cheapest) way to consume coffee is standing at a counter. That Italians spend money on quality clothing and accessories. That the sign of a good gelato shop is muted colors in metal tins. That you cover your shoulders and knees in churches. That “permesso” is the snobbiest way of saying “excuse me.” That aperitivos give you an unlimited buffet for the cost of a drink.

But I’m always learning more. And this is what I learned on my latest trip.

Sicily is not the most different region in Italy — Alto Adige is.

When I first visited Sicily in 2015, it felt like I was a different world. Sicily was like Italy turned upside down — a place where the local dialect was indecipherable and the act of driving was like taking your life in your own hands.

READ MORE: The Joys and Challenges of Traveling in Sicily

But Alto Adige is truly another world.

Also known as South Tyrol, Alto Adige is a region in northeast Italy that has been volleyed back and forth between Italy and Austria over the centuries. Today, every town has both an Italian and German name — Bolzano is Bozen, Bressanone is Brixen, La Vila is Stern (?!). Even so, neither Italian nor German is the local language: Ladin is, and today it’s spoken by about 20,000 people, though each valley has its own dialect and accent!

Drive around Alto Adige and you’ll think you’re in the Swiss or Austrian Alps. The cuisine reflects this too — you won’t be served bufala mozzarella here. Expect hearty dishes like pressknödel, bread and cheese dumplings, the kind of fare that will keep you warm through mountain winters. And the speck, a soft smoky prosciutto, is beyond scrumptious.

Driving through Alto Adige, you just might forget you’re in Italy.

Looking for untouristed Italy? Head to Trentino.

So many people visit Italy for the first time and hit up Rome, Florence, Venice, and either Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast, then get home and exclaim that Italy would have been perfect if it wasn’t just so damn crowded.

Yeah — it was super-crowded because you went to the most touristy spots. But the vast majority of Italy is not like that. There are so many undertouristed parts where you can enjoy the best of Italy without the crowds.

When I heard last year that Visit Trentino was sponsoring the Traverse conference, I was equally thrilled (yay, a conference somewhere other than Germany or the UK!) and intrigued. I knew tons about Italy but nothing about Trentino.

Well, I should have. As we drove into the region, mountains rose up all around us and vineyards spilled out beneath them. We based in the city of Trento, full of pastel buildings covered with frescoes. And just a short drive from the city you can climb those mountains, check out an art museum in Rovereto, or take in the lakeside at Riva del Garda. Oh, and the local TrentoDOC wine is fantastic.

Trentino is one of the most scenic parts of Italy that I’ve seen — and I’m stunned that more people don’t visit. You should head there soon.

Italian cities vary more than you think.

It’s easy to paint all Italian cities with the same brush — to say that they’re all filled with impossibly fashionable people with perfect hair and clothes. But the longer you travel in Italy, the more you realize that there is a lot of nuance to that.

Take two of the cities I visited on this trip: Milan and Trento. Milan is arguably the most cosmopolitan city in Italy; only Rome can compare. And even though I live in New York, a very fashionable city, I felt ridiculously unfashionable in Milan! One night I went out for an aperitivo on Corso Garibadi, a trendy area, and I was nearly knocked sideways by how well everyone was dressed. Especially the men. So many perfectly tailored suits and haircuts without a strand out of place.

Trento, by contrast, is a much smaller city — it felt a lot more like southern Italy to me. Not a lot of people dressed up; it felt more casual by comparison. Rather than perfect haircuts, there were a lot of mullets in town. It felt a lot like comparing Trento to Milan was like comparing a small southern or midwestern city to New York.

At one point, a friend who grew up in Bologna told me that when he first moved to Milan, he was stunned that there were Chinese people speaking Italian with a Milanese accent. That was close-minded of him, he pointed out, but that was just how he grew up. Even in a city as large as Bologna, it had nowhere near the diversity of Milan.

Cinque Terre (via Pixabay)

I still have zero desire to visit Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre is probably my biggest oversight in Italy. It seems like everyone has visited this collection of beautiful seaside cities. Somehow I missed it over the years, starting when all eight of my roommates went one weekend in Florence — but I honestly don’t care.

Cinque Terre is being strongly impacted by overtourism at the moment. The villages are precariously perched on the edge of the sea, they’ve faced damage due to adverse weather in the past, and the last thing they need is more foot traffic than they can handle.

Can I live without going to Cinque Terre? Sure. I’m sure I’ll go someday, but for now, I’m perfectly happy to visit other places in Italy. (Plus, I’ve heard of villages in Liguria that are just as pretty but only get a fraction of Cinque Terre’s tourists. I think I’ll start there.)

There are more than two kinds of prosciutto.

If you’re familiar with prosciutto, that most lovely meat from Italy, you’re probably most familiar with prosciutto di Parma from the Parma region in Emilia-Romagna. If you’re a connoisseur, you’ve probably heard of prosciutto di San Daniele from the Friuli region, the second most popular kind of prosciutto.

But did you know that there are all kinds of local prosciutto wherever you go? When I was in Piemonte, I picked up some local Piemontese prosciutto, and it was some of the best I have had, EVER. But you’re never going to find it anywhere for the same region it’s hard to pick up a bottle of Moldovan red wine in America — because they’re small producers. They can’t export their products on a large scale, even to surrounding regions.

My advice? If you can, go with the local option. It gives you a connection to the local culture, its production has a smaller ecological footprint, and you will discover something you can’t find anywhere else.

Do the same thing with wine, too. Many travelers are nervous to order Italian wines and just end up ordering Chianti because it’s the only one they’ve ever heard of. Chianti is great — if you’re in Tuscany and eating a bistecca fiorentina. Just ask your server for something local. Italians are very opinionated and will help you select the perfect vino.

Luxury is relative — and quite affordable in Italy.

What does luxury travel mean to you? Most people would define it as staying in the fanciest hotel possible. For me, it’s less about the amenities of a hotel and more about the experiences you have. And luckily a lot of these luxury-like experiences are incredibly affordable in Italy.

This was most exemplified in a dinner I had at an agriturismo on Lake Orta called Il Cucchiaio di Legno. I adore agriturismi (farms where you can stay or eat) and they are a very popular way for Italians to travel. You stay in the rooms, which can vary from simple to high-end, and you eat on-site. The food is usually all local produce from the farm, making it an environmentally friendly option as well.

Il Cucchiaio di Legno requires reservations and only a tasting menu is served, though you can choose from an encyclopedia-sized wine list. We were served ten glorious courses — some of the standouts were river trout risotto, tagliata di manzo (beef tenderloin) topped with fresh dill, and a coffee semifreddo.

Total cost? 32 euros ($36) for the food per person. 23 euros ($26) for three glasses of wine per person, two cheap and one pricey Barolo. Not an everyday splurge by far, but you know what you would pay for food of that quality in the United States? Three or four times more, easily. Hell, in New York, a lot of entrees cost $36.

To me, that meal was the epitome of luxury. Every course was so delicious that we were making borderline inappropriate yummy noises. I still can’t believe that it only cost $62.

ATMs are surprisingly hard to find.

It’s weird — but on all of my past Italy trips, I don’t recall having to work hard to find an ATM. On this trip, it seemed like I was constantly struggling to track them down. And Italy isn’t like Finland, a country that loves using credit card so much that they can barely find out where ATMs exist. They were just that hard to find. Or maybe I’m crazy.

I’ve outgrown Florence, and that’s okay.

My semester abroad in Florence in 2004 was one of the most meaningful times of my life. When we arrived and first drove through the city, it was so beautiful I nearly cried. I spent four months getting to know the city intimately. When it was time to leave, my roommates and I held each other on the street outside our apartment, sobbing.

I went back to Florence twice in 2006 — once for the glee club Italy trip and once as a post-graduation trip with my sister. Both times, I visited my old haunts and felt wistful at the memories.

This time, it was different. I did a day trip from Bologna and was smacked in the face by how different the city was.

It was ALL tourists, all the time. Florence always has tons of tourists, especially in June, but it honestly felt like there wasn’t a single local on the streets. Just hoards of people from somewhere else, trying to take selfies with the fake David in Piazza della Signoria. People were actually being driven around on golf carts. I winced. And the Roberto Cavalli shop where I always stopped and admired the clothes had been replaced with an Armani.

The only familiarity that brought a smile to my face was seeing that the awful Irish bars my friends and I used to frequent — J.J. Cathedral, right in front of the Duomo, and The Old Stove, which had Irish car bomb-chugging contests. I pray that the vomit-soaked bar Faces is gone.

I went to my old apartment. It’s a bed and breakfast now. Seems appropriate.

I have no doubt that tourism has increased in Florence in the past 15 years. But more importantly, I’ve changed so much since I was 20, since traveling to more than 75 countries, building a business, starting a kind of life that wasn’t even possible 15 years ago. Florence worked for me at 20; it’s not working at nearly 35.

I had some good moments, though. I did a photo shoot with local photographer Alexandra Jitariuc in San Spirito, across the river, a neighborhood where I almost never ventured during my semester (except to the aforementioned Faces). It was quiet, still, and actually felt local. Posing for photos there, 15 years after my semester in Florence, felt appropriate.

I don’t know if I’ll return to Florence. I probably will if I have a good reason, but I don’t see myself visiting casually again. It had its time.

READ MORE: Ten Years Since Florence: A Retrospective on Study Abroad Bologna is still my favorite city in Italy.

I fell hard for Bologna when I first visited in 2011. This was a city that had the beauty of Florence but felt far more real, far less touristed, with the best culinary traditions in Italy. You could blend in with the locals, browsing the food markets and hanging out in the street for aperitivo.

Bologna was my first destination on this latest trip, and my heart swelled as I walked through the city. Bologna is warmth personified, radiating from its walls of red, terra-cotta, and yellow. Joy emanates from every brick in the city. Yes, without a doubt, Bologna is still my place.

On this trip, I planned trips to Milan and Torino, wondering if they would capture my heart in the same way and perhaps be I-could-totally-live-there destinations. And I could live in either city…if I had to. Both were decent fits for me on paper, Milan a bit more so than Torino. But neither would make me as happy as Bologna.

…but Piemonte may be my new favorite food region.

SHOTS FIRED. I am an evangelist for all things food in Emilia-Romagna, and say regularly that it’s the best culinary destination on the planet. It’s the home of prosciutto, of parmigiano, of tagliatelle ragu, of traditional balsamic vinegar.

I love Tuscan food too, and Umbrian food, and pretty much any traditional Italian food anywhere…

But this time, I went to Piemonte (Piedmont). And they have many rich culinary traditions — with a twist. The food felt more refined here. More high-end. More creative. In comparison, Emilia-Romagna cuisine feels very…basic and traditional.

YIKES. I can’t believe I wrote that. Forgive me, Emilia-Romagna.

Piemontese cuisine is influenced by its close proximity to France. The region has white truffles from Alba, rich hazelnuts and chocolate (yes, Nutella is produced here), Lavazza coffee, Toma cheese, duck-stuffed pasta in butter, vitello tomato (veal with tuna sauce). And so many fantastic wines, including the lush, full-bodied Barolo.

I only got to see a bit of Piemonte — Lake Orta, Lake Maggiore, and Torino — but one of my big Italian priorities is to go back to Piemonte for a culinary road trip, staying at various vineyards and agriturismi.

I will always, always, always go back to Italy. And I’m going back soon.

After visiting every country in Europe in 2018, I decided that I had no desire to travel to every country in the world. The hunger just wasn’t there. But I did have the desire to continue achieving travel goals. A few months ago, I decided that one of my new travel goals would be to visit all 20 of Italy’s regions.

At the time, I had visited 10: Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, Campania, Liguria,..

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Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in San Francisco? Absolutely! I think San Francisco is one of the best cities for solo female travel in the United States! While many people think that San Francisco is a destination best visited with a partner, or friends, or family, it works just as well as a destination to enjoy solo.

I’ve been traveling to San Francisco since I was a teenager and traveling solo here since I was in my twenties. It’s a city with a lot to offer, it’s constantly changing, and I always have a fantastic time here.

What’s it like to traveling alone in San Francisco?

San Francisco is a destination that works well for all kinds of solo travelers. No matter what kind of traveler you are, you can find what you’re looking for in San Francisco.

First off, San Francisco is an excellent destination for first-time solo female travelers. It’s easy, there are tons of things to do, it’s safe, and there’s no language barrier. If you’re curious about traveling solo but have never done so, I think a weekend trip to San Francisco is the perfect way to get your feet wet and see how you handle it.

But even experienced solo female travelers can enjoy San Francisco. You’ll probably recoil at touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, but you’ll probably be more willing to explore neighborhoods like the Mission that are a lot of fun but a little overwhelming for newbie tourists.

Are you a hardcore sightseer? San Francisco has the sights, from the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz to museums like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Oakland’s Museum of California.

Are you into food? San Francisco has incredibly good food, from low-end to high-end, including some of the best Chinese food in the nation. And if you’re into wine, you’re a stone’s throw from Napa and Sonoma counties.

Do you love the outdoors? San Francisco has easy access to forests, beaches, bike trails, and more.

Are you looking for good Instagram photos? San Francisco is full of iconic spots that will get you likes, from the Painted Ladies houses to curvy, crooked Lombard Street, and of course the famous cable cars.

Are you queer? San Francisco is one of the most queer-friendly cities in the world for people all over the gender and sexuality spectrums.

As for me, I love to spend lots of time walking through interesting neighborhoods, taking photos, and sitting in cool coffeeshops. San Francisco is a great place to do all of those things.

Above all, San Francisco is a city where women live and work — it’s not just for travelers. Being a solo traveler won’t brand you as an outsider here; you’ll just be one of the people in the city. If you’re lucky, you might even be mistaken for a local!

Kate’s 10 Favorite Things to Do in San Francisco

I’ve been visiting San Francisco for years and have carved out my little slice of the city. While many of my beloved spots have sadly closed over the years, here are some of my favorite things to do in the city.

Take a food tour through North Beach. North Beach was once home to San Francisco’s Italian-American community, and many Italian spots remain to this day. I had one of the best food tours of my life with Tastes of the City, and tour guide Tom is a character and a half.

Explore the Haight-Ashbury. This colorful neighborhood was historically home to the counterculture movement in the 1960s, as well as home to artists like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and the hippie spirit has never left the neighborhood. It’s a great place to explore and there are lots of cool cafes, boutiques, and record shops.

Attend a singalong at the Castro Theatre. Castro was once the epicenter of the gay community in the United States, and it remains a colorful and welcoming destination to all. The theater does all kinds of special events, but if you’re in town during one of their singalongs, like for Grease or Moana or Annie, you don’t want to miss it!

Go for a walk early in the morning. If you’re flying in from the east, you’ll likely be waking up early from jet-lag anyway, so take advantage and go for an early walk while Karl the Fog is rolling in! The city looks so different at this time of day and it’s a lot of fun to photograph.

Visit the Oakland Museum of California. Yep, Oakland is worth a visit — and while I’m not ordinarily a museum person, this is one of my favorite museums in the United States, highlighting so many cultural aspects of California, from the history of the Black Panthers to the ecological environment of the Coachella Valley.

Take the ferry to Alcatraz. I didn’t think I’d be into this infamous prison island, but I had a blast! It’s one of the super-touristy activities in San Francisco that you simply must do. If you’re into cheesy Nicolas Cage movies, I recommend pairing it with a viewing of The Rock.

Dive deep into Chinatown. San Francisco has a long history of Chinese settlers, and today San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest in America. You can browse the shops and markets, people-watch in Portsmouth Square, go tea tasting at Vital Tea Leaf, check out the Chinese Historical Society, and of course, eat at restaurants from regions all over China.

Check out Sausalito. This town across the Golden Gate Bridge is a gorgeous little spot and so different from San Francisco. You can get there from San Francisco on a ferry, but if you’re up for something more active, join a bike tour!

Eat at In & Out Burger. Granted, this is a west coast thing, not San Francisco-specific, but In & Out is INSANELY good. There’s a reason why your California friends pine for them when they’re away from home. Read up on their “secret” menu here before you go.

Have a margarita with a salt cloud at Calavera in Oakland. Are you used to enjoying a margarita with a salted rim? Calavera makes margaritas with a floating salt cloud on top. I love them a million times more than regular margaritas. Salt clouds are the perfect margarita topping!

READ MORE: Why You Should Travel to Oakland Too Is San Francisco Safe?

San Francisco, generally speaking, is a safe destination for travelers. It’s comparable to most other U.S. cities, but the violent crime rate is much lower than other popular tourist hotspots like New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC.

That said, San Francisco is a very touristy city, and any destination full of naive tourists is a target for scammers. You should especially be vigilant in tourist-dense destinations like Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and the ferries to and from Alcatraz. Additionally, the homelessness problem in San Francisco is severe, and it can be jarring if you’re not prepared. Read more on that further down.

Even so, anything can happen anywhere and you should be prepared for the worst with safety tips and travel insurance. Read on for specific safety tips for San Francisco.

San Francisco Travel and Safety Tips

San Francisco is not the kind of place where you need to take on hyper-specific travel safety tips beyond basic caution and common sense — but there are some things you should know. Here are some tips that will result in a better solo trip to San Francisco for you:

Know the context of gentrification, Big Tech, and spiraling housing prices in San Francisco. The Bay Area is the most expensive place to live in America, and San Francisco’s housing prices are even higher than New York City’s. This is due in part to San Francisco’s limited geography, being surrounded on three sides by water, and exacerbated by the tech industry’s headquarters in nearby Silicon Valley.

At this point, the city is turning into a playground for the rich, with many tech companies providing shuttles from San Francisco to their offices. It’s nearly impossible for a low-wage worker to live in the city unless he or she lives in a rent-controlled apartment with family, commutes long-distance, or lives dorm-style with several roommates. Income inequality in America is severe enough as is, but in San Francisco it’s even more so.

Why is it important to know this? It means you’ll have a deeper understanding of San Francisco and its current issues. But more importantly, you’ll be able to emphasize with the people you’re visiting, particularly those who are serving you coffee, cleaning the sidewalks, or ringing up your order at the drugstore.

San Francisco has a major homelessness problem. If you’re not from a major city, you’ll probably find it jarring, and even as a New Yorker, I’m shocked at the level of homelessness in San Francisco. This has been a major problem for the city for quite some time, and as a tourist, it can be difficult to see so many people in pain.

Other than panhandlers asking for change, homeless people will not approach you. It’s perfectly fine to keep your distance or ignore them; if you want to give them money, that’s your choice, or you could make a donation to the Coalition for the Homeless San Francisco. If you see a confrontation or someone making a commotion, keep your distance. If you witness an emergency situation, call 911.

There is no way to avoid homeless people entirely in San Francisco, but there are some areas where it is particularly dense, like in the Tenderloin neighborhood. I encourage you to view San Francisco’s homeless with compassion rather than feeling inconvenienced by their existence.

San Francisco is very hilly, which makes accessibility a challenge. Quite a few of San Francisco’s hills are extremely steep, which can be challenging if you have difficulties walking. I wore sandals for most of my visit, but there were times when I wished I had sneakers for navigating the steepest hills.

Car break-ins are common in San Francisco. While violent crime in San Francisco is low, car break-ins are a major crime issue. There’s no reason to bring your car to San Francisco — you can get around the city easily without one.

I recommend getting around San Francisco using a combination of public transportation — the BART (subway), streetcars, trams, and buses — and taxis/Uber/Lyft. These will cover the majority of your travels within San Francisco and the area. If you’re interested in doing a day trip by car, just rent a car for that day.

San Francisco’s weather changes constantly and you’ll need to dress for multiple seasons. Most mornings, Karl the fog rolls in, and it’s gray and cool as clouds envelope the city hills. Later that fog might burn off into sunshine, or you might get some rain, or it might just stay overcast all day.

For this reason, San Franciscans dress in layers year-round. I recommend bringing a sweater or light jacket no matter what time of year it is. Bring a small, strong umbrella or you’ll end up having to buy a low-quality umbrella when it rains.

Consider bringing a Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. These beautiful scarves are designed and sewed by my friend and have a hidden passport pocket in them. I love these scarves (I even designed my own!) and they are so good at keeping your valuables hidden. They’re also extremely chic, enough to work in a fashion-conscious city like San Francisco.

While pickpocketing in general isn’t as common in the US as in Europe, pickpockets operate in the touristy areas of San Francisco. You should always keep your belongings close, but be especially cautious in and around Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, the Alcatraz ferries, and on public transportation.

If you carry a purse, hold it close to you. I recommend a crossbody purse, made out of a tough material like leather or fake leather, that zips shut. I recommend many purses in this post. Never let it hang behind you — always keep it in a place where you can see it, and keep your hand on it if you’re in a crowd.

If you carry a wallet without a purse, don’t keep it in your back pocket. This is obvious to thieves and they will grab it and run.

If you use a small backpack, lock it. I use a Pacsafe backpack where you can lock the compartments shut.

Never leave your bags anywhere unattended. Take your belongings with you. If you’re keeping your bag under the table or otherwise out of sight, keep it between your feet or hook the strap around one of the chair legs.

Don’t carry tons of cash around with you. You can use credit cards at most places in San Francisco, and carrying lots of cash leaves you vulnerable to theft. Don’t be the traveler who gets her wallet stolen with 500 dollars in it.

Keep your valuables locked up in your accommodation and only take with you what you need that day. I do this with my Pacsafe Travelsafe and I consider it the most important thing I pack. Keep an extra debit card and at least $100 hidden in obscure parts of your luggage.

If someone robs you, GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT. Things can be replaced. Nothing is worth your life.

Only use ATMs at banks if possible. If your card gets eaten, it’s a lot easier to retrieve it from a real bank’s ATM. If you can’t find a bank and it’s at night, use an ATM indoors, in a vestibule or in a shopping mall.

Get a digital guidebook and keep it on your phone. Even today, I always keep a guidebook PDF on my phone — it’s great for calculating approximate time of journeys, knowing what days places are closed, and it lists medical centers you should go to in case of emergency. I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks — I recommend Lonely Planet San Francisco or Lonely Planet California if you’re exploring further afield.

Spend extra money on staying safe. If you’re not comfortable walking home at night, spend money on a cab or Uber. If you’re hesitant on spending money on a not-as-nice-looking hostel, pay for a nicer place. It’s worth the peace of mind. Don’t pinch pennies on your safety.

Be careful about your drinking. Drink less in San Francisco than you ordinarily would at home — two drinks is a good limit. Only take drinks from bartenders, never take a drink from a stranger, and always keep it with you and keep an eye on it. If you choose to go wine tasting, it’s acceptable (and encouraged) to only consume a small amount and use the spittoon.

Most importantly, you have no obligation to be nice to anyone. Women often feel the need to be nice and please people at all costs. You don’t have to anywhere — especially so in San Francisco. If anyone is making you feel uncomfortable, just leave. Trust me — you won’t be the rudest person they meet that day. And so what if you were? You’re never going to see them again.

READ MORE: Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women

Wine Tasting in San Francisco as a Solo Traveler

If you’re a wine fan in the least, you should take the opportunity to explore wine country outside San Francisco. Napa and Sonoma counties are within a short driving distance of San Francisco and either region is doable as a day trip or multi-day getaway.

However, wine tasting is not often recommended for solo travelers because it’s logistically difficult — most of the time wineries are far apart and you need to drive, and drinking and driving do not mix.

Option 1: Do a wine tasting day trip from San Francisco. This is my top recommendation. You’ll have transportation provided, you won’t have to worry about logistics, and you might make some new friends, too! Here are some options:

Option 2: Spend a night or two in wine country. Book accommodation in Napa. If you’re planning on doing a lot of wine tasting, this is an efficient way to spend your time and minimizing your transportation.

If you do this, be sure to take advantage of the fantastic restaurants in this region. I had one of the best meals of my life at Bottega in Yountville, and if you can manage to get a reservation, The French Laundry is there, too.

Option 3: Go wine tasting without leaving San Francisco. You can taste plenty of local wines without leaving the confines of the city, as several wineries have shops in the city. I recommend Wattle Creek Winery and William Cross Wine Merchants and Wine Bar in San Francisco and Campovida in Oakland.

Whatever you choose to do, be vigilant about your drinking and try not to drink too much. Just because you’re wine tasting, it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to get drunk. It’s perfectly acceptable to only..

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So much good happened this month — but I’m going to open with a story.

I needed to buy a new strapless bra before the Antigua trip, so I went to Victoria’s Secret. I tried on my usual size, 36B, along with some 34Bs and 34Cs and 36Cs just to cover the bases, and nothing fit me right. I sighed and decided to call in the saleswoman to get measured. Most women wear the wrong bra size; I was probably off, too.

“I’ve been wearing a 36B forever,” I told her as she wound the tape around me. “34B before that. But my body has changed since I started working out — maybe I’m actually a C?”

“No, honey. You’re a 32DD.”

I blanched. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“No. This is your real size.”

32DD. The pinnacle. Literally the best size that exists on the planet. Have I seriously had Double D’s my entire adult life WITHOUT HAVING A CLUE?! Apparently.

I spent the next hour trying on a few dozen bras — all kinds of shapes and styles. Turns out her measurement wasn’t a fluke. 32DD fit me PERFECTLY. And now I have to buy a completely new bra collection because I’ve realized how poorly the old ones have been fitting me. You’re not supposed to poke out of the tops like a soufflé.

In the grand of scheme, does your bra size really matter? No. Of course not. But I’m screaming it from the rooftops anyway because it was such a good surprise.

I feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. All my life I’ve been living like a perfectly average B-cup, and who knew that I had Double D’s all this time?!

Destinations Visited

New York, NY

Long Bay, English Harbour, St. John’s, and Turner Beach, Antigua

Ansonia, CT

Image: Brendan van Son

Highlights

An incredible trip to Antigua. This is one of the best trips that I’ve had in a very long time and I can’t wait to share all the stories with you. Traverse put on a mini-conference for travel content creators on this wonderful little island. We all stayed at the same all-inclusive resort, The Verandah, we chose the activities we wanted to do, and we basically had an open bar for seven days straight.

Antigua is a gorgeous little Caribbean island — and so easy to get to from New York, with nonstop flights on multiple airlines! Sprawling out in water hammocks was glorious, as was checking out the markets and eating the sweetest black pineapple, Antigua’s signature fruit. Riding on a catamaran, taking in the sunset, as well as gallivanting over the view of Shirley Heights — just pure magic. And I get inspired when I spend so much time with my creative colleagues! Expect more on Antigua soon.

Raising more than $1,000 for NARAL Pro-Choice America. In the wake of attacks on reproductive rights in the United States, I started a fundraiser on the Adventurous Kate Facebook page — and so many of you chipped in. I love that I can count on you to stand up to injustice and put your money behind it. THANK YOU.

Seeing BLKS, a new off-Broadway play. I got comped tickets to this show at the brand new MCC Theater in Hell’s Kitchen.  This play was SO funny, I couldn’t stop laughing! It’s branded as “Like Broad City or Girls, but with black women,” and that’s pretty on the nose — though much more like Broad City. The show is about three twenty-something black women living in Brooklyn and dealing with their lives, loves, and the fuckery that New York presents. I loved it and you should go see it.

Spotting a K train in the wild. The other night I was waiting for an A train at Canal Street and a K train pulled up on the local track! This is crazy because THE K TRAIN HASN’T BEEN IN SERVICE SINCE 1988. As in when Reagan was president. Somehow the trains still have these old signs and with a hex key some pranksters were able to turn them to the K train. Bizarre.

I posted it to the NYC subreddit and it went viral. It’s always trippy when your readers recognize you on Reddit!

Getting professional photos taken in SoHo. I really loved the yellow dress I got for Antigua, so I hired a photographer from Airbnb Experiences to do a photoshoot. It’s nice to finally have some good professional photos based in New York!

Spending time with two of my little loves. Two of the little babies in my life have recently turned into adorably rambunctious toddlers. I love getting to spend time with them. And I melted into pieces when one little boy took two steps toward me for the first time ever. And now he loves to stab me with a sword and giggle as I shriek and pretend I’m hurt.

Lots of fun times in New York. New eats, new drinks, fun times with friends.

Challenges

Losing a friend. See the “In Memoriam” at the bottom of this post for more. And honestly, whenever someone dies, it feels ridiculous complaining about anything else that happened this month.

Two of my close friends moved away. And I had to say goodbye to them on the same day! One home to Sydney, one off to a new adventure in Austin. I’ll miss them both and I wish New York weren’t such a transient city.

Nearly missing my flight to Italy. My flight to Italy was on an airline I’ve never heard of — Air Italy — and when I went to check in, there was no record of my flight to Milan, only home from Milan. And JFK had no record of the flight. It took 30 minutes to get through on the phone to customer servic,e but they said both the flight and my ticket existed, so I headed to the airport.

But that wasn’t all. I usually take an Uber to JFK, but because I would have to leave during rush hour on a summer Friday, I elected to take the subway. I took the LIRR out to Jamaica and found out THE AIRTRAIN WAS NOT RUNNING TO JFK. I initially waited in line for a shuttle bus transfer, but after a few minutes, I realized that nobody was gong to make their flights on time and I summoned an Uber. Even with that Uber, I only barely made it through security in time.

General New York transit madness. One day I had to take five trains — D, F, A, C, and S, in that order, to get from Harlem to Crown Heights on a Sunday, and to make things worse, the D train went local and was full of Yankee fans. The next weekend, I had to wait 28 minutes for the L train — in the middle of the day. The subway is a mess and it’s unconscionable how our leaders are failing us.

Getting caught in a rainstorm in open-toed shoes…in Alphabet City. Alphabet City is not close to public transportation, and due to general fuckery the F train wasn’t even running when I needed it. The streets of New York can be gross to begin with, and even worse when it’s rain and you have to walk nearly a mile.

Quote of the Month:

Will: “I’m going to be 22 soon. I’M SO OLD!”

Me: “You are not old! I’m 34.”

Will: “What were you like when you were 22?”

Me: “Let’s see. I lived in Boston, I would go to clubs constantly, and I would grind on a different guy to ‘Return of the Mack’ every weekend.”

Will: “Cool. What’s ‘Return of the Mack’?”

Most Popular Post

Solo Female Travel in Australia — Is it Safe? — Australia is a fantastic country to travel solo — as long as you’re sufficiently prepared for driving and wildlife!

Other Posts

Moving from Boston to New York — 25 Things You Need to Know — I feel like I am the utmost expert on this subject, so I was thrilled to finally write about the cultural differences between these similar-seeming cities.

Where to Stay in Seattle — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation — A complete guide to the best neighborhoods and hotels for all kinds of travelers.

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

If there’s a yellow and blue wall somewhere, shouldn’t you pose in front of it? Well, that’s certainly what our group in Antigua thought, because EVERYONE was taking photos in front of this wall! For more updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

What I Wore This Month

I had a VERY good month for fashion — I’m really happy with the dresses I chose for Antigua! The one in the popular Instagram photo above is by Amanda Uprichard, which I rented via Rent the Runway. It was the PERFECT dress to wear on a boat. My friend Will told me I looked like a privileged pirate, and my friend Tom told me I looked like Dutch pottery.

I was obsessed with this yellow Derek Lam dress from Rent the Runway. My whole life, my mom has been telling me I can’t wear yellow, so it was amazing to hear so many people (including my mom!) telling me how good the color looked on me. I felt like royalty!

I had actually rented this hot pink Hutch romper last year, and I wore it so much that I decided to buy it from Rent the Runway this year. I love how it can be dressed up or down and be either sporty or dressy. It was just as good on the beach in Antigua as it was at the US Open last year.

And finally, I bought a pair of gorgeous overalls from Unique Vintage. I haven’t worn overalls since middle school but I am OBSESSED with this cropped fitted pair by Voodoo Vixen.

Lizzo - Juice (Official Video) - YouTube

What I Listened To This Month

I’ve been hearing so much about Lizzo, and this month I finally bit the bullet and checked out her new album Cuz I Love You. Well, Lizzo is worth every bit of hype. She infuses her songs with so much humor and self-love — and on top of that, the songs are pretty danceable! My two favorites are “Juice” and “Tempo,” the latter of which is the greatest twerking song of the last few years.

God, you're getting me hard Tell me how it feels SATC S2 E2 - YouTube

What I Watched This Month

This month, I rewatched Sex and the City for the first time in my thirties and the first time since moving to New York. I wanted to see how their experiences of thirty-something dating in New York in the late 90s and early 2000s matched up to the late 2010s — and boy, was it interesting.

I’m actually looking forward to writing about this. People who rewatch Sex and the City tend to complain about the same issues over and over — that the show had no diversity, that Carrie couldn’t afford her lifestyle, that Mr. Big never would have changed. But I want what I write to be different. For starters, I couldn’t relate to anything until Petrovsky showed up, and then the hairs on the back of my neck stood up with familiarity. That’s because I’ve mainly dated foreign guys in NYC, often incomprehensible and fascinating foreign guys.

Also, the clip I attached above is the funniest clip in the series — when Miranda finally figures out how to dirty talk. I laughed until I cried. The expression on her face…

What I Read This Month

Well, I kind of fell off the reading wagon this month. I went from averaging around 10 books per month to only reading three. I’m at 46 books for the year so far and still hope I can meet my goal of 100!

Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future by Pete Buttigieg (2019) — If you’ve been paying attention to the 2020 race, you’ve heard of Pete Buttigieg’s run for president by now. He has the most fascinating biography of anyone running — elected the mayor of South Bend, Indiana at age 29; went to Harvard; was a Rhodes Scholar; joined the Navy reserve and served in Afghanistan; speaks seven languages, and is gay and happily married to a social media darling named Chasten.

This book lays out Buttigieg’s biography beautifully, as well as showcasing the good work he’s done in South Bend. I’ve been supporting Mayor Pete for president since the beginning of the year, and this book strongly communicates his values and what he would bring to the presidency. I love his style of writing, too — it’s so calm. It reminds me a lot of Murakami, but without the creepiness.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby (2017) — Samantha is a writer, comedian who lays her whole life bare. This collection of essays is about life, love, failed and successful romances, awkward sexual encounters, and what happens when you scatter your dead parent’s ashes in the wrong direction.

This was my book club’s selection for the month and it was a fun read, often laugh-out-loud funny. That so, there was a little bit of melancholy to it — I feel like most women memoirists have a lot of sadness infused in their comedy. It was a great read and I’m so glad to hear that Samantha found love and got married!

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (2013) — If you’ve ever read a collection of David Sedaris essays, you know what this one is going to be like. This latest collection of stories discusses everything from his first colonoscopy, his adventures picking up trash on the side of the road in the British countryside, and his yearning for a friendship with his Parisian periodontist, along with stories from his childhood that he has somehow held off on telling until now.

I’ve always loved reading David Sedaris’s essays, but this was the first collection where I felt a bit uncomfortable at times — particularly when he was discussing race. I don’t think that he’s changed over time (and I do maintain that “Six to Eight Black Men,” a story about a remarkably racist Dutch Christmas tradition, is one of his best essays of all time), I think it’s more of a sign of how I have changed over time. That said, most of this book was a funny read. I listened to it as an audiobook and it made a great background for when I was taking walks around the reservoir in Central Park.

Coming Up in June 2019

As this publishes, I’ll be in Italy! One of my absolute favorite countries in the world — FOR THREE..

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Seattle Skyline (via Pixabay)

Where’s the best neighborhood to stay in Seattle? I’ve got you covered! While I’ve traveled to Seattle, I’m nowhere near an expert on the city. So this month I’ve hired Seattle native and expert Richelle Gamlam to write about the best places to stay in Seattle, Washington. Richelle knows Seattle backwards and forwards and she knows the best hotels and neighborhoods for all kinds of travelers.

Take it away, Richelle!

Seattle is one of the coolest up and coming cities in the US. With a diverse community, rich coffee culture, vibrant music history, and booming tech scene, what’s not to love about this Pacific Northwest gem?

I grew up in the Seattle area and watched as it gained popularity over the years. Long gone are the days when people made fun of us for our rain (okay, well, they still do). But now it seems like everyone is dying to move here or at least plan a visit. While I no longer live in Seattle full-time, I do spend at least a few weeks here every year, and I’ve definitely done my fair share of playing tour guide.

Seattle is home to many vibrant neighborhoods and it can be really difficult to decide which one to pick. Do you stay downtown near all the tourist attractions, or try the cool hipster neighborhood your Seattle friend raves about?

Thankfully, I’m extremely familiar with all the Seattle neighborhoods and the ins and outs of our many steep hills, intricate bus network, and our embarrassingly new light rail system (better late than never, right?).

Wherever you end up staying in Seattle, be sure to take a visit to each neighborhood to sample everything Seattle has to offer. From the gorgeous upscale downtown waterfront, to the gritty, artsy “center of the universe” Fremont, there’s so much of Seattle worth exploring.

Best Neighborhood Overall: Seattle’s Downtown and Waterfront

If you’re a first time visitor to Seattle, the best place to stay is Seattle’s Downtown and Waterfront. Downtown Seattle really is the heart of Seattle and it’s extremely easy to get to any of Seattle’s attractions from here.

Not only are you walking distance to Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market and the original Starbucks, you also have easy access to the light rail, as well as major bus and ferry lines. From here, you can even take a short monorail ride to Queen Anne to see the Space Needle.

Downtown Seattle is home to the Central Library, Paramount Theater, Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Art Museum, and of course, the Pike Place Market, the oldest continuously running farmers market in the US. Here you can buy amazing fresh produce, find incredible souvenirs (fresh lavender or smoked salmon, anyone?), the original Starbucks, Seattle’s gum wall, the “flying fish” sellers, and some pretty fantastic seafood.

Just up the hill from Seattle’s waterfront and Elliot Bay, you’ll find fantastic shopping and restaurants. If you’re looking to splurge on a nice dinner or a brand new outfit, this is the place to visit. Pacific Place Shopping Center is also a huge hit with both international and local shoppers, and is home to both designer and budget brands.

Hotels in Seattle’s Downtown and Waterfront Area are popular for good reason. You’ll find families on vacation, business travelers, and in the summer, Alaskan cruise vacationers. If you are planning on visiting Seattle in the summer high season, be sure to book accommodation early because this area is always in demand!

Best Hotels in Seattle’s Downtown and Waterfront:

Find deals on all Downtown Seattle hotels here.

Lower Queen Anne, Seattle, via Harold Hollingsworth on Flickr

Best Neighborhood for Sightseeing and Culture: Queen Anne

If you want to see Seattle’s sights, why not stay in Queen Anne, right near the Space Needle? Here you’ll be walking distance to Seattle Center, the Museum of Pop Culture, the Seattle Children’s Museum, the Chihuly Glass Gardens, and, of course, the Space Needle.

Queen Anne sits on a very large hill, and is split into two smaller neighborhoods: upper and lower. As a visitor, you’ll probably want to stay in lower Queen Anne, which is where most of the major attractions are. From here, you can also easily walk or take the monorail downtown to the Pike Place Market!

In Queen Anne you’ll definitely want to spend time at the Chihuly Gardens, which showcase the incredible glass art from Dale Chihuly. Even if you’re not into art, this glass sculpture garden is worth a look. You also might be interested in the Museum of Pop Culture, formerly known as the EMP (Experience Music Project) famous for its exhibits on Prince, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam.

Queen Anne is also home to many events, concerts and festivals. Here you’ll find Seattle’s Bumbershoot Music Festival, the Bite of Seattle, and the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival.

Finally, you can’t go to Queen Anne without a visit to Kerry Park, the ultimate Instagram spot with a perfect view of downtown Seattle. Sure, you can pay $35 to go to the top of the Space Needle, or you could drive up the hill to Kerry Park for an incredible view of Downtown Seattle and get a photo of Seattle with the Space Needle actually in it.

(Note from Kate: I agree with Richelle — go to Kerry Park to get a good photo with the Space Needle in it! This is the same reason why I encourage people not to only go up the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building. You need to have the iconic building in your photos.)

Best Queen Anne Hotels: Find deals on all Queen Anne hotels here.

Safeco Field near Pioneer Square (via Pixabay)

Best Neighborhood for History, Nightlife, and Sports: Pioneer Square

Whether you want to party the night away in one of Seattle’s coolest bars or cheer for one of Seattle’s sports teams, historic Pioneer Square is the place to be. Originally the old downtown center of Seattle, Pioneer Square is lined with historic red brick buildings and cobblestone streets, and is home to the Seattle Underground Tour. Yes, due to extreme flooding, current day Seattle is actually built on top of itself, and you can actually explore the entire old city underground!

Pioneer Square is also the birthplace of Seattle’s grunge movement, where Seattle’s oldest bar, Central Saloon, used to host Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Pioneer Square keeps that magic alive today, and is the center of Seattle’s incredible nightlife. Here you’ll find everything from breweries and pubs to fancy cocktail bars and clubs that keep the music going all night.

Finally, Pioneer Square is the place you want to be if you’re a major football or baseball fan. Watch the Seattle Seahawks play football at CenturyLink Field, or catch a Mariners baseball game at Safeco Field. Seattleites are crazy for their sports teams, and the entire city gets decked out in navy and green during football season!

Just don’t talk about the Seattle Sonics, who moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. We’re still upset about that.

Best Pioneer Square Hotels Find deals on all Pioneer Square hotels here.

Capitol Hill, Seattle (via Eric Fredericks on Flickr)

Best Neighborhood for Music and LGBTQ Visitors: Capitol Hill

Youthful and vibrant Capitol Hill is definitely the best place for live music and is known for being especially LGBTQ-friendly.With hip cafés, independent shops, local boutiques, and the next up and coming live music, Capitol Hill is by far the coolest neighborhood in Seattle.

Considered the heart of Seattle’s LGBTQ community, Capitol Hill is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Seattle. There’s a very large young and urban population here, with plenty of fantastic nightlife options. Once frequented by musicians like Kurt Cobain, Capitol Hill is the best place to catch live music. Here you’ll find everything: grunge, pop, trance, alternative, and more!

Capitol Hill is also the best place to be if you want to be surrounded by independent, locally owned businesses. Every block has a local café (did I mention Seattle is obsessed with coffee?). You’ll find local designers, jewelry, bookstores, restaurants, and microbreweries.

On Capitol Hill you’ll also find the Jimi Hendrix statue, as well as a Starbucks Reserve Roastery, where you can taste various craft coffees or enjoy a nice cocktail!

Just note that parking on Capitol Hill is notoriously awful, so be sure to take advantage of Uber or the light rail if you decide to stay here. This is not the place you want to take your car!

Best Capitol Hill Hotels Find deals on all Capitol Hill hotels here.

Belltown, Seattle, via David Baron

Best Value for Money Neighborhood: Belltown

If you’re looking for great shopping and nightlife while traveling on a budget, young hip Belltown is the place for you. Sandwiched between Downtown and Queen Anne, Belltown is packed with trendy restaurants, boutiques, and bars. Belltown is known for glamorous nightlife and being incredibly walkable.

You’d think that such a trendy area would be extremely expensive, however, Belltown is actually a great place to stay if you’re on a budget due to the wide selection of backpacker hostels and affordable boutique hotels. Belltown is also famous for its fun young crowd, which means it’s packed with affordable bars and clubs, too.

During the day head to Olympic Sculpture Park for fantastic views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. If you’re in South Belltown, you’re also within easy walking distance of Pike Place Market and the Waterfront! While in Belltown you’ll also want to check out 1st Ave., the main strip full of shops and restaurants, as well as Cinema, a vintage movie theater that serves wine and beer!

Best Belltown Hotels Find deals on all Belltown hotels here.
Best Neighborhood for Foodies: Chinatown/International District

If you want fantastic Asian cuisine while also staying somewhere super central, you’ll love Seattle’s International District. Also known as Chinatown, the International District is where you want to go for incredible food and a multicultural vibe.

Sample handmade dumpling soup at Mike’s Noodle House, or sip a bubble tea on your way to a karaoke bar. While here, you’ll definitely want to visit Uwajimaya, a giant building full of sushi spots, Japanese snack stores, imported goods, and a giant food court. Inside Uwajimaya you’ll find Kinokuniya, the cutest Japanese bookstore filled with manga, anime, school and office supplies, and other random Japanese amazingness.

Whether you’re looking for pho, dim sum, sushi, noodles, or sake, Seattle’s International District is sure to impress any foodie. Here you’re also walking distance to Capitol Hill as well as a light rail stop to visit downtown and Queen Anne.

Best International District Hotels Find deals on all Chinatown/International District hotels here.

The Ave at UW Campus, via Dmitry Alexeenko on Flickr

Best Neighborhood for Students and Young Travelers: U District

Seattle’s U District is by far the best place for students and a younger crowd. Whether you’re visiting a friend at the University of Washington, or you’re just looking to get out of downtown Seattle, the U District (also known as University District) is the place to be for young 20-somethings.

Located in North Seattle at the end of the light rail, the U District is like a mini city all its own, filled with shops, restaurants, bars, and cafes. While here, you’ll definitely want to check out “The Ave,” otherwise known as University Way NE, where all the UW students spend their spare time. This street is so cool it even has its own song.

If you’re looking for some nice shopping, you may also want to head to the University Village shopping center, which is a beautiful outdoor mall. You’ll also want to have a wander around the University of Washington Campus to enjoy the stunning architecture and red brick square. If you come in May, definitely don’t miss the U District Street Fair with live bands, food stalls, crafts and more.

Best U District Hotels
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Moving from Boston to New York was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I made the leap after several years of running my own business while traveling the world, and I haven’t regretted it for one second.

I grew up in Reading, 20 minutes north of Boston. After college, I lived in Boston for four years: first in Davis Square, Somerville, for two years, then Fenway for another two years. While I contemplated moving to New York in early 2010 (not coincidentally, shortly after Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat went to a Republican), I decided to travel the world instead.

Five years after traveling, I decided to move back to the States and immediately set my eyes on New York. I moved to Hamilton Heights, Harlem, in 2016, and I have lived here for more than three years.

Having gone through the process of living in both these cities, I’ve put together a guide that will make your move as smooth as possible. Whatever the reason for your move from Boston to New York — for a job, for a partner, for an adventure — here are 25 key tips you need to know before you pack.

1. Boston and New York appear very culturally similar — until you get there.

Boston and New York have a lot in common on the surface. In both cities you can walk everywhere, live without a car, and get by using public transportation. Both cities are liberal enclaves in reliably blue states and have cold winters and hot, humid summers. Both are filled with fast-moving, fast-talking people. Both have strong tech and healthcare industries and world-class universities. I’d argue that Boston and New York far more in common with each other than with Los Angeles, Chicago or San Francisco.

That’s just the superficial stuff, though.

The differences become clearer after you spend a longer amount of time there. Boston has a more homogenous feel among its residents, and while it looks diverse on paper, people live very segregated lives.

Boston has a more provincial feel and ends up feeling more like a large town than a major city. I constantly run into people I know from high school in Boston.

And Boston’s sports culture is what ties the city together, which is great if you’re a fan and frustrating if you’re not.

New York has a much freer feel. This is a city for everyone and everything. It feels like there are no limits. It’s big enough to satisfy everyone. Part of the bliss of living in New York is that there will always be far more of it than you could ever discover on your own. There will always be people smarter than you, better looking than you, more brilliant than you.

At the same time, New York seems like it’s making life as hard as humanly possible for you. Hard to get an apartment. Hard to get by financially. Hard to date. Hard to meet people when everyone has such busy lives. Living in a city that constantly grinds you down can be tough to deal with.

Most of all, the people who move to New York are a special breed. When you’re the kind of person who upends your life to travel to a thrilling and difficult city, you’re probably an interesting person yourself.

“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.”

–E.B. White, Here is New York

2. New York’s sports culture is VERY different from Boston’s.

New York does not live and die by sports, an enormous difference from Boston. When I lived in Boston, I was used to seeing every man on the street in a Red Sox hat, from custodians to CEOs and everyone in between. At work, every conversation revolves around whatever sports team is currently playing. And whenever I went to a bar, I had to wait for the game to end before I could strike up a conversation with a guy.

Growing up in New England, I thought this was normal — that every state was as crazy about its local sports teams as Boston. My travels have shown me this isn’t the case at all, and it’s especially not the case in New York.

The single biggest surprise after I moved to New York was how seldom you see Yankees hats in Manhattan. In Boston, if you see a crowd, half of them will be in Red Sox hats. In Manhattan, you’ll see a Yankees hat every now and then, but they are definitely not standard.

And as for the games, outside of designated sports bars, areas around the stadium, and commuter-heavy areas like midtown with game specials, you’d have no idea the Yankees, or the Jets, or the Knicks, or any of the other teams, were even playing.

The parts of New York that tend to be more sports-oriented tend to be the areas that don’t get as many transplants — the outer boroughs (The Bronx, Staten Island, deeper and less-gentrified parts of Brooklyn and Queens). New Jersey and Long Island tend to be this way, too.

3. Don’t be mad, but…the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is fairly one-way.

I used to live a 30-second walk from Fenway Park in Boston, right on the corner of Ipswich and Charlesgate East. I’m used to hearing “Yankees suck!” chants when the Red Sox beat the Tigers and Five-Dollar Hat Man setting up shop outside my window after each game. (My sister and I used to joke about leaning out the window and selling four-dollar hats to see how he’d react.)

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is one of the biggest sports rivalries in the United States. And Red Sox fans take it seriously. Supporting the Yankees is anathema in New England. Wear a Yankees hat in the Boston area and you’ll get dirty looks at the bare minimum, possibly insults or worse.

But in New York? Nobody notices or cares. Wear a Red Sox hat in New York and nobody will give you a second glance unless you happen to be in the South Bronx on game day. New York is a city of transplants and people support all kinds of teams.

These days, when the Red Sox and Yankees are in the playoffs, my dad asks me how the atmosphere is in New York…and honestly, in Manhattan, you’d have no idea any playoffs were even taking place.

4. Don’t worry, you can watch Boston sports games with Boston fans in New York!

If you want to watch the Red Sox or Patriots game while surrounded by like-minded folks, you can absolutely do that. I recommend Professor Thom’s in the East Village.

That’s one of the nicest things about New York — people here come from everywhere, so you can find sports bars for all kinds of professional teams and even bars for college teams!

5. New York has a rule about how much of your income you can spend on rent.

Your annual pre-tax income must be at least 40 times your monthly rent. This is a fairly strict rule in New York and almost every landlord follows it. How much is 40x? If you make $60,000, you can spend up to $1,500 per month in rent; if you make $100,000, you can spend up to $2,500 per month in rent. If you make $800,000 per year, I have no idea why you’re reading this post, but call me if you ever want help spending your cashola.

Applying for an apartment in New York is a challenging task. Apartments move EXTREMELY quickly and most don’t open up until within a month of their availability.

Before looking for an apartment, you need to be ready with a letter from your employer confirming your salary, pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, photo ID, and recommendations from prior landlords. If you get the apartment, you’ll need to race to your bank for a cashier’s check.

6. Most New York apartments charge a broker fee.

While some Boston apartments charge broker fees, it’s a much more common practice in New York. Most, though not all apartments, charge a broker fee of 15% of the annual rent (just under two months’ rent). Occasionally a broker might charge one month’s rent for a broker fee.

You can search for no-fee apartments on StreetEasy or other apartment booking sites. But you will be searching a much smaller selection. Personally, my first New York apartment had a one-month broker fee (which the broker said they did as a favor); for my second apartment, there was no broker fee because the previous tenants broke their lease and paid the broker fee.

7. There are a few ways around the apartment difficulties.

If you’re struggling to find a place under these circumstances, or if you have a low credit score, there are ways to get an apartment. Most landlords will be fairly lenient if you have a guarantor (someone who makes 80x the rent and legally agrees to pay the rent if you can’t), or if you pay several months’ rent in advance. You’re especially in the clear if you can pay a full year’s rent in advance, and some of my friends have done that.

Otherwise, consider subletting a room or apartment instead. New York’s housing laws tend to favor the tenants, which is why they make it so difficult to get an apartment in the first place. But once you’ve been living there for 30 days, even if you’re not on the lease, it’s extremely difficult to evict you — so once you’re in, if you’re a decent tenant, you’ll probably be able to stay.

8. New York’s  housing and roommate culture is different.

In New York City, it’s normal to have roommates into your forties and beyond. This is an expensive city. You are not a loser if you live with roommates. In fact, high-earning people often choose to live with roommates to live in a luxurious apartment with killer amenities.

And along the same lines, it’s okay to live in a studio apartment into your forties and beyond. If you like your studio, there’s no shame in it! The city is your meeting space, and apartments are tiny in New York. (Well, until you get above 110th St. And now you know one of the reasons why I live in Harlem.)

READ MORE: Why I Moved to Harlem Instead of Brooklyn 9. Try to get a job before moving to New York.

Many people assume that they’ll simply save up money, move, and search for a job once they get to New York. This is actually a very difficult approach. You won’t be able to rent an apartment of your own without a job unless you can pay a year’s rent in advance. So it’s best to have a job waiting for you with a confirmed salary before you make the move.

The catch-22 is that many companies will ignore your resume if it says you live outside New York. I recommend asking a local friend if you can use his or her address for your resume, just to get it seen.

If you choose to move to New York without a job, you’ll need to have a LOT of money saved up — I’d recommend a minimum of $10,000 if you plan to live with roommates, $15,000 if you don’t.

When I moved to New York as a self-employed person, it cost me nearly $10,000 just to move into my apartment. (My rent in my one-bedroom apartment in Harlem was $2,100 — first and last month’s rent, plus six weeks’ security and one month’s rent broker fee came to $9,450 altogether.) And did I mention that I had spent the last five years traveling and owned zero furniture?!

The best case scenario is to work for a company that allows you to transfer to the New York office. Back when I lived in Boston, I worked for a company whose parent company had offices in New York. As much as I hated that job — MAN, did I hate that job — knowing what I know now, the smartest thing would have been to get a job offer at one of their New York companies. You can always do it for a few months and look for a new job.

10. Bodegas are lifelines in New York.

Bodegas, or independent delis, are located on most blocks and open all night long. They sell everything you need and they make sandwiches and other food as well. Need condoms at midnight? Running to meet someone, hungry, and need to grab a banana? Have a headache and need just two Advil? Feel like a baconeggandcheesesaltpepperketchuponaroll? You hit up a bodega.

Part of the joy of living in New York is finding “your” bodega. And you will inevitably show off your bodega with pride to friends visiting from other neighborhoods. (I love my bodega. They know I love a chicken cutlet sandwich with pepperjack cheese, mustard, extra pickles, and banana peppers.)

This is a far cry from Boston, where there are some 24-hour shops (I was a regular at Symphony Mart when I lived in Fenway) but nothing on the level of a New York bodega.

Intimidated? Don’t be. I’ve always loved this post from AskNYC on Reddit — Can You Teach Me How To Bodega? And remember to respect the cat.

11. New York is much larger than Boston in size and scale.

When I moved from Boston to New York, I knew I would be living in a much larger city. But knowing something intellectually is very different from dealing with it first-hand. It can take you so long to get from one end of New York to the other, especially between boroughs.

I live in Harlem and occasionally go out to parties in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Under ideal circumstances, this journey will take around an hour and 20 minutes via subway. But making that journey late at night with the slower, seldom-running trains, as well as weekend closures, can take twice as long.

Uber and Lyft will cost you a lot more in New York than you’re used to paying in Boston, too. Once in Boston I got from Central Square in Cambridge to the South End, a decent distance, for just $10. That will not happen in New York. I can spend more than $10 without even leaving Harlem!

When choosing an apartment in New York, it’s helpful to be located on an express train. Many New Yorkers think Harlem is far from everything, but the express A train from 42nd St. to 145th St. only takes 14 minutes and 3 stops!

12. The subway runs all night in New York.

I have so many memories of downing my final Sam Summer at Beacon Hill Pub and sprinting to Park Street to grab the last red line to Davis. Those were the days before Uber and if you missed that train, you had to hail a cab and pay for an expensive ride all by yourself.

This makes getting home much easier and cheaper — you don’t have to leap out of the bar to make the last train. But just because the train runs all night, it doesn’t mean they run often all night. Many express trains run locally late at night. Sometimes there might be 20 minutes or longer between trains. Homeless people often sleep on the subway at night, especially the E train, as it’s a long line that stays underground.

Frankly, the subway is in a very tough state at the moment. The MTA (yes, just like the train Charlie couldn’t get off in Boston) is chronically underfunded and understaffed, which leads to crowded trains in poor condition. Weekend service is an absolute mess. For awhile, they were going to shut down the L train completely for two years; instead, they just decided to reduce L service on nights and weekends (I had to wait 28 minutes for an L train this past weekend). It’s a pain, and Governor Cuomo is the one responsible for it, but the only thing you can do is suck it up.

Another tip — don’t refer to trains by their colors in New York. Refer to them by their letter or number.

13. Everything is open so much later in New York.

In Boston, last call is at 1:45 AM and if you want drinks after that, your best option is to head to Chinatown and ask for the “cold tea,” whereupon you will be given an illegal teapot full of beer. In New York, many places are open until 4:00 AM. As a result, not only can you stay out later, but nightlife starts and peaks later than in Boston.

People tend to work a later schedule in New York, too. Most of my 9-5 friends in New York tend to work 10:00 AM-7:00 PM or so.

When I lived in Boston, once a month I would stay out until 4:00 AM on a weeknight, then go to work at 9:00 AM the next day. (Ah, my twenties, when I could bounce back from literally anything.) Looking back, I have no idea what the hell I did. RISE, the after-hours club that only sold Red Bull? The South Street Diner? One night, Flash’s let me and my friend drink until 3:00 AM as long as they turned off the lights. Who knows?!

READ MORE: 124 Things to Do in Harlem: A Guide

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Australia is a fantastic destination for solo female travel! I love Australia and if it were easy and cheap to fly halfway around the world, I would go all the time!

Australia is probably the #1 country that people tell me they want to visit. Many people keep Australia as a “someday” destination, wanting to visit but put off by the long, expensive journey to get there. And I won’t lie — Australia isn’t a trip that you can plan casually on a whim. For most people, it’s going to require diligent saving and careful planning.

But it’s worth it. SO worth it.

And for that reason, I urge you not to save Australia for “someday.” Someday you might not be able to travel the way you can now. Don’t put it off too long.

I’ve traveled Australia with others, and I’ve traveled Australia solo. Australia is a particularly good destination for solo female travelers and this guide will give you an overview on how to stay safe in this unforgettable country.

Why Travel Solo to Australia?

Australia is an easy-to-visit country that also has a high exotic factor. Australia is endlessly interesting. The wildlife is one-of-a-kind. The nature is bonkers. And the cities are just different enough that you feel slightly off-kilter — in the best way.

If you’ve never been to Australia, you’ve never seen the best beaches in the world. It’s almost embarrassing how good the beaches are, from white sand behemoths in Western Australia and Queensland to the gorgeous urban beaches of Sydney. Nothing you’ve seen has prepared you for this.

Besides, you’ve probably been dreaming about visiting Australia since you were a kid! Isn’t it time to fulfill your childhood dreams?

Finally, as a solo traveler, you have so many options in Australia. Do you want to join a group tour? Go for it! Do you want to be part of a hop-on hop-off bus? That also works! Do you want to go on a solo road trip through the Outback? Challenging, but you can pull it off solo! Whether you want to meet people or be solo, whether you’re interested in cities or nature, whether you prefer touristy areas or getting off the beaten path, you can find so many things to do as a solo female traveler in Australia.

Is Australia Good for First-Time Solo Female Travelers?

Australia is a wonderful destination for first-time solo female travelers. Australia has some of the best travel infrastructure on the planet: everywhere is outfitted for travelers. English is the spoken language and Australians are incredibly friendly and helpful. The only mark against Australia is that it’s an expensive country, which becomes a bit of a pain when you’re not splitting costs with anyone.

Of course, not every Australia trip is equal — if this is your first solo trip ever, I wouldn’t recommend going extremely off the beaten path, like driving solo in the Outback. Driving in Australia requires its own set of skills unless you’re sticking to extremely well traversed areas. You can see more about driving in Australia below.

But for the vast majority of trips to Australia, particularly when driving is not a factor, it’s very easy to travel.

Group Tours to Australia

If you’re nervous about traveling solo in Australia, consider joining a group tour. You’ll meet lots of people and all the work will be taken care of for you! G Adventures, whom I’ve traveled with and recommend, offers several tours to Australia.

Is Australia Good for Experienced Solo Female Travelers?

Absolutely, Australia is terrific for experienced solo female travelers. I had already been to more than 40 countries before arriving in Australia and I was delighted in all senses of the word.

If you’re already an experienced solo traveler, chances are you’ll have different interests than a newbie. You might be drawn toward hiking and culinary exploration in Tasmania or exploring tougher-to-reach areas of the Kimberley. Then again, you might simply want to do the classic route of Sydney, Melbourne, and the Queensland coast. It’s a cliché for a reason.

I’ve spent time in two regions of Australia that are more challenging to travel: Western Australia and the Northern Territory. If you’re driving on your own in rural parts of these states, be sure to heed the driving advice below. Driving can turn deadly in the Outback, so be sure to take all the precautions you can.

Is Australia Safe?

Generally speaking, Australia is a very safe country. Likely safer than your home country. The kind of country that provides healthcare to its citizens and bans the vast majority of guns after one massacre, not thousands. (How about that?!)

The important thing is not to get lulled into a false sense of security in Australia. Anything can happen here, including crime, and it’s best to remain conscientious at all times.

If you’re hanging out in touristy or especially backpacker-filled areas, be conscious of petty theft. Many people prey on tourists who are drinking and are less aware and have fewer inhibitions. You can see the following advice for tips on keeping yourself and your belongings safe while traveling in Australia.

Travel and Safety Tips for Australia

For the most part, traveling safely in Australia is about having common sense. I’ve added a few travel safety tips specific to Australia, but for the most part you should be fine behaving as you would traveling in any other destination in the world.

Don’t forget to get your ETA before you arrive. The ETA, similar to a visa, is a requirement upon arrival in Australia, and you must secure it in advance. You can apply here. The current cost is $20 AUD. While ETAs tend to process within a few days, do not wait until the last minute!!

Australia is very strict in what you can bring over the border. When you arrive by plane, you may be questioned extensively by the customs agent to make sure you don’t have wooden products, homemade food, fruits, or vegetables in your luggage. See the full list here. (I’ve been to Australia twice; once I was questioned extensively and once I was questioned briefly.)

Australia has a big drinking culture. I burst out laughing on my first day in Australia ever, in Darwin, where I saw people sitting around in lawn chairs, drinking beers from coolers. It was exactly like the stereotype I had in my mind.

As I mentioned in my UK travel guide, you need to be cautious about “shout” culture where one person buys drinks for a group, then another person buys the next round, and so on. It can lead you to drinking more and faster than you want to, especially if you’re with men or heavy drinkers. Four beers may be fine for a larger guy, but that can be a LOT for a woman, especially if they’re strong beers.

The best thing to do is to tell the group early that you don’t want to drink much — two drinks, maybe three at most. People will totally understand.

Australian wildlife can be dangerous. While drop bears may be a myth, there are very real wildlife dangers. The box jellyfish is a deadly animal dwelling in northern reaches of Queensland, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory roughly from October through May. Locals will advise you on the precautions to take to avoid these creatures.

And in the Top End and other parts of the country, crocodiles are a very real danger. Always ask a local before going near any body of water. They know what is safe and what isn’t.

Furthermore, kangaroos may look cute, but they are actually quite vicious. Keep things safe by not approaching any wild animal.

READ MORE: It’s Always Croc Season in Darwin and the Top End

Be cautious of the ocean. Australia is famous for its surfing beaches, and with surfing comes riptides and dangerous currents. Always ask locals about whether it’s safe to swim. In most places in Australia, swim between the red and yellow flags, as these designate a safe area. If you get caught in a riptide, don’t fight it — swim parallel to shore until you escape the current.

Get a SIM card from Telstra. Having a SIM card is especially important in Australia, as wifi is slow and expensive. There are a few different carriers in Australia, but Telstra tends to have some of the best coverage. Keep in mind that there is no cell service in many rural areas, including on highways. When driving through rural Western Australia, I had zero signal until I landed within the city limits of the nearest town.

Be careful about your drinking. Drink less than you ordinarily would at home — two drinks is a good limit. Only take drinks from bartenders, never take a drink from a stranger, and always keep it with you and keep an eye on it.

Keep an eye on your belongings at all times. If you carry a purse, hold it close to you. I recommend a crossbody purse, made out of a tough material like leather or fake leather, that zips shut. I recommend many purses in this post. Never let it hang behind you — always keep it in a place where you can see it, and keep your hand on it if you’re in a crowd.

If you carry a wallet without a purse, don’t keep it in your back pocket. This is obvious to thieves and they will grab it and run.

If you use a small backpack, lock it. I use a Pacsafe backpack where you can lock the compartments shut.

Never leave your bags anywhere unattended. Take them with you. While in cities and touristy areas in Australia, if you’re keeping your bag under the table or otherwise out of sight, keep it between your feet or hook the strap around one of the chair legs.

Keep your valuables locked up in your accommodation and only take with you what you need that day. I do this with my Pacsafe Travelsafe and I consider it the most important thing I pack. Keep an extra debit card and at least $100 hidden in obscure parts of your luggage.

If someone robs you, GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT. Things can be replaced. Nothing is worth your life.

Don’t carry tons of cash around with you. You can use credit cards almost everywhere in Australia, and carrying lots of cash leaves you vulnerable to theft. Don’t be the traveler who loses her wallet and the $500 in it.

Only use ATMs at banks if possible. If your card gets eaten, it’s a lot easier to retrieve it from a real bank’s ATM. If you can’t find a bank and it’s at night, use an ATM indoors, in a vestibule or in a shopping mall.

Get a digital guidebook and keep it on your phone. Even today, I always keep a guidebook PDF on my phone — it’s great for calculating approximate time of journeys, knowing what days places are closed, and it lists medical centers you should go to in case of emergency. I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks — I recommend Lonely Planet Australia.

Spend extra money on staying safe. If you’re not comfortable walking home at night, spend money on a cab or Uber. If you’re hesitant on spending money on a not-as-nice-looking hostel, pay for a nicer place. It’s worth the peace of mind. Don’t pinch pennies on your safety.

Most importantly, you have no obligation to be nice to anyone. Women often feel the need to be nice and please people at all costs. You don’t have to anywhere — especially so in Australia, where the laid-back culture might convince you that you’re being “difficult.” If anyone is making you feel uncomfortable, just leave. Trust me — you won’t be the rudest person they meet that day. And so what if you were? You’re never going to see them again.

READ MORE: Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women How to Get Around Australia Solo

Australia, once again, is huge and sparsely populated. Flying is the best way to get around unless you’re on a tight budget and have a LOT of time. Even Brisbane to Cairns, which looks close on the map, is an 18-hour drive! Take the 2.5-hour flight instead!

There are train lines that run along the east coast. You can see them here. There are also Greyhound Australia bus lines, which have more extensive coverage.

There are a few luxury long train rides in Australia — the Indian Pacific, from Sydney to Adelaide to Perth and vice versa; the Ghan, from Darwin to Alice Springs to Adelaide and vice versa; and the Overland, from Melbourne to Adelaide and vice versa. In late 2019 the Great Southern, from Brisbane to Adelaide and vice versa, will begin operations. If you’ve got the time and cash and love spending long train journeys staring out the window (and I do!) these are a great choice. See them all here.

While there are lots of tour companies in Australia, there are also hop-on hop-off backpacker buses like Stray Australia and Oz Experience. While those two companies also offer full-fledged tours with accommodation and activities, you can also just book the transportation and have the freedom to move on whenever you’d like.

Finally, you can rent a car. More on that below.

Driving in Australia

Driving safely in Australia requires a higher level of conscientiousness, particularly if you’re driving in the Outback or other rural areas. First off, they drive on the left side of the road, and they turn left at roundabouts. If you haven’t driven on the left before, it can take your brain some time to get used to it.

Wildlife is a major issue when driving in rural Australia. Kangaroos in particular will vault themselves straight in front of your car. It’s wise to drive slowly and be extra conscientious when driving in remote areas. Be especially conscientious at night and during dawn and dusk, when animals tend to be most active.

In extremely rural areas, there can be long stretches between service stations and roadhouses. Be sure to get gas (“petrol” in Australia!) as often as you can; this is not a place to wait until the next station. Additionally, when traveling the very rural route from Coral Bay to Tom Price in Western Australia, I was shocked that many of the towns on the map were a roadhouse and nothing else.

Cell service is more or less nonexistent in rural areas, even with Telstra, the network with the best coverage. I found that frequently there wouldn’t be any phone signal at all until I entered a town.

Look out for “road trains” — huge, long trucks. Give them a wide berth as it’s tough for them to swerve or slow down.

Another issue is driving long, monotonous distances on your own. For some people, driving long stretches where you see the same unchanging view in front of you can have an almost hypnotic effect, affecting your senses. It’s important to take frequent breaks.

If you’re driving in remote parts of Australia, you should know basic car maintenance, like knowing how to check oil and change a tire at the very least. You should also have an emergency survival kit packed with enough water to survive for days. Even though I’ve driven all over the world, I don’t consider myself a skilled enough driver to handle driving in rural Australia. I don’t even know how to change a tire. You should know your limits.

How to Meet People in Australia

Australians are gregarious, good-natured, and fun. In fact, I’d put Australia up there with Ireland as one of the easiest countries in which to make local friends! Australia is a country where you can walk into a bar and leave with a whole crew. Here are some ways to meet people while traveling.

Consider staying at a social hostel. There are tons of great hostels all over Australia, from surf lodges along the Queensland coast to modern chains in Melbourne to a hostel built in a former prison in Fremantle. Many of these hostels offer private rooms, if dorms aren’t your thing, and quite a few of them offer tours and other activities. If there is a bar in the hostel, it will be a very social place.

Join tours and activities. Tours are a great way to meet new people! Whether you’re doing a day trip to the Blue Mountains from Sydney or a river tubing trip from Cairns, you’ll meet people excited to explore the local region. I met so many wonderful Australians (though they were mostly 50+) at the Sounds of Silence dinner at Uluru.

Look for Couchsurfing meetup events throughout Australia. Couchsurfing isn’t just for free accommodation — they also put on meetup events where everyone is welcome. Many major cities have weekly meetups, and they always draw a great crowd.

Join a meetup on Meetup.com. Whether you’re into travel, running, movies, board games, or just want to meet a group of nice people, there’s a Meetup for that.

Put out feelers on social media. Often a..

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I used to freak out whenever I spent a month without leaving the confines of New York City. It brings to mind that episode of Sex and the City when Miranda briefly dates the guy who hasn’t left Manhattan in a decade.

These days, it happens about once a year, but I don’t mind anymore. It’s nice to have that respite from trips and concentrate on the things that mean most to me — spending time with friends and family, working out, and enjoying my routines.

And of all months to spend ensconced in New York, April is one of the best. It’s cherry blossom season!

Destinations Visited

New York, New York

Highlights

Meeting Julián Castro and Stacey Abrams and attending a fundraiser with Pete and Chasten Buttigieg. What an awesome month for meeting the future of the Democratic Party!

Julián Castro appeared for a speech at 92Y, where I love attending lectures. I just wanted to hear him speak, then I was elated to learn that he was doing a meet and greet afterward! I took that time to tell him I was a donor, to tell him my favorite part of his book, An Unlikely Journey, and to talk to him about what it’s like to run a small business today.

I told him about my site and all the people I know who have quit their jobs to run small digital businesses, often boot-strapped businesses. People often talk about the gig economy, Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts, but not as much about digital entrepreneurs. As exhilarating as the freedom is to run your own business, we almost no protections if things go south. And as more and more people choose this method of employment, we need our leaders to prioritize our care. You shouldn’t have to be independently wealthy to run a small business and survive a trip to the hospital. Julián agreed wholeheartedly with me and said that we need to have a safety net — good healthcare, childcare, and more.

Julián has always fought for the rights of the most vulnerable. I respect him enormously and we would be well served with him as president. He is also JUST short of the 65,000 unique donors he needs to qualify for the debates — if you’ve got an extra $5, please consider sending it his way. He’s an important voice and we need him in the debates.

Stacey Abrams was incredible. She also spoke at 92Y. And I say this without exaggeration — I haven’t been this electrified in a theater since the first time I saw Hamilton. I was buzzing with excitement. Stacey is hilarious — she was cracking us up nonstop — and heartfelt, and so incredibly smart. She has got that magical quality. We would be so well served with her and it’s a tragedy that voter suppression kept her out of the Georgia governor’s office.

I met Stacey briefly for a book signing. She was a lot more personal than the other signings I’ve been to, like John Kerry’s and Cecile Richards’s. We chatted for a minute and I told her, “Anything you decide to do, you’ve got my money and you’ve got my volunteer hours.”

I was thrilled to snag tickets to Pete Buttigieg’s fundraiser in Brooklyn. And even more thrilled when I realized that his husband Chasten would be speaking there too!

The fundraiser, held at the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, was pretty basic — Pete took questions from the audience (including mine, on behalf of my friend Beth, about paid family leave!) and the answers lined up with pretty much anything you’d expect.

But it was great to be there surrounded by Pete fans and enjoy the phenomenon of his unlikely candidacy. I was only 15 feet from him. And I loved when he and Chasten bickered over loading and unloading the dishwasher. I never thought that in 2019 that we would have a viable gay candidate for president and have his relationship with his husband be not only a prominent part of the campaign, but so beautifully normal.

Spending a month on Whole30. I really enjoyed Whole30 the first time I did it, and I felt the need to do it again this year because I had a free month with no travel plans and I could tell my eating habits had gotten a lot worse over the winter. It’s been great to get myself back into positive eating habits. I did it for 35 days in total, from March 29 until May 1.

My first boxing classes. I’ve really upped my workouts this month, from four times per week to six times per week, and I’ve added a new class: boxing! And I really like it! It’s higher-intensity than the classes I usually do and I sweat absolute buckets, especially when doing the rounds of push-ups and burpees in between. And it’s awesome going to town on a giant sandbag and pretending it’s Mitch McConnell.

Celebrating the first birthday of a special little boy. Just a year ago, I was telling you in my recap that I became an auntie for the first time ever! Since then, two more babies have become part of my life, and this month my first practically-a-nephew turned one as he ate a cupcake, clapped for everyone, pointed at dogs while yelling, “Da,” and tried to stick his hand in the burning candle.

Seeing two great Broadway shows: Oklahoma! and Beetlejuice. Lately I’ve been getting complimentary tickets to Broadway shows and these two shows were comped. First I saw a new and offbeat version of Oklahoma! at the Circle in the Square theater.

I always thought Oklahoma! was a cheesy show, which isn’t my thing, but I appreciated how much they modernized the musical. There were some absolutely CRAZY moments in the show — like a Tarantino-esque moment that sent me to Wikipedia because surely that could not be in the original Oklahoma! The lights are on and everyone faces each other; it feels like a community meeting in a barn. The dream sequence dance is different from anything you’ve ever seen. They even serve chili and cornbread at intermission!

The highlight of the cast was Ali Stroker, who played Ado Annie — and Ali uses a wheelchair. In fact, she was the first Broadway actor who uses a wheelchair to be cast in a Broadway show (she debuted in Spring Awakening). She was the most hilarious one in a show that, frankly, is very dated, and the fact that she made us laugh uproariously from those 1943 lines is a testament to how good she is. Most importantly, her wheelchair was never played for laughs. She was just herself. And yes, she danced — on her own and with the whole cast.

Secondly, I saw Beetlejuice and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS SHOW. It was so hilarious! I had actually never seen the movie, so I got in a quick viewing (it’s on Amazon Prime for free) and was delighted to see that the show improved upon the movie in every way possible! It’s totally updated for 2019 and they break the fourth wall frequently to make fun of other shows and say how different it is from the movie.

One thing I especially appreciated was how they updated Beetlejuice’s marriage to Lydia, who is a CHILD. In the movie, it’s extremely creepy; in the show, Beetlejuice points out how creepy it is and says that it’s like a green card thing!

Best of all? Beetlejuice is queer as hell. Seriously. Yes, this Beetlejuice loves the ladies but he loves the dudes (and one dude in particular) even more, and that just makes perfect sense. Go see this show. You’ll laugh hard.

Enjoying cherry blossom season. It’s one of my favorite times of year in New York.

Getting my passport renewed. It was time — I only had a few spots left. It’s unnerving to have a brand new, unblemished passport. My old passport was the one I had been using since mid-2010.

Challenges

Seeing Notre-Dame burn. It broke my heart and I know it broke a lot of yours, too.

When I was a high school sophomore, my drama club wrote our own version of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. We called it Le Bossu and performed it at Dramafest in 2000. I played a gypsy (I wince at the use of the word today and also the fact that my school was so white that I was one of the darkest people in the cast).

That was my play. I was such a francophile and I lived for drama club — Le Bossu was my favorite play we did in all four years. I attempted to read it in the original French and gave up each time. And the following year, I went on my first trip overseas, the school trip to France. At that time, the French musical Notre-Dame de Paris was popular and it became my soundtrack for the rest of high school. Seeing Notre-Dame in person moved me so much.

One of my friends on the trip, Chris, had been in Le Bossu as well. We decided to climb the towers of Notre-Dame, even though we knew we didn’t have enough time. We called it “Chez Quasi” and squealed with delight when we got to the top. It was one of my favorite moments of that pivotal trip.

Chris and I got back — and our teachers were PISSED. We nearly made everyone late getting our train back to Rouen. We were reamed out in front of the whole group. It was absolutely worth it. Looking back, though, I’m so glad we didn’t miss our train!

Blog Posts of the Month

What’s it Really Like to Travel Guyana? — Not surprisingly, everyone wants to know!

Solo Female Travel in Central America — Is it Safe? — I unravel the truth about this misunderstood region.

How to Survive #Whole30 — 20 Best Tips to Changing Your Eating Habits — Required reading before you attempt 30 days of eating clean!

Quote of the Month

Six-year-old girl: “Kate, do you like Friends?”

Me: “I LOVE Friends.”

Six-year-old girl: “Paper! Snow! A ghost!”

What I Watched This Month

I mostly stayed off TV and movies this month. Wake me up when The Handmaid’s Tale comes back.

I’ll give you a few tidbits from what I searched for on YouTube this month: “snake juice,” “how to clean a cast iron skillet,” “kevin covais part time lover,” “how to wrap hands for boxing,” “aoc green new deal.”

What I Listened to This Month

Lots of podcasts! I really enjoyed To Live and Die in LA, a story about a missing woman in Los Angeles that goes in a lot of directions you wouldn’t predict.

Blackout is really interesting — it’s an episodic drama starring Rami Malek about what happens when the United States loses all electrical power. It takes place in a far northern New Hampshire town and as you would expect, mayhem breaks out. The sound quality is gorgeous and the New England accents are atrociously authentic. I say that with affection. And I could listen to Rami Malek talk about anything for hours. Also, I was listening to the credits and was surprised to hear that my dad’s friend, a voice actor, plays the mayor!

Another one I enjoyed was Rachel Maddow’s Bag Man, about Nixon’s criminal vice president, Spiro Agnew. What a story!! I didn’t know anything about Spiro Agnew, in part because as soon as my AP US History class got to the sixties, it became time to drill for the AP exam. This guy was insanely corrupt and there are so many parallels to Trump today. It’s an entertaining listen.

What I Read This Month

I’m continuing to read up a storm, and this month, I started borrowing audiobooks from the library. Why haven’t I been doing this all along?! I can get through so many books this way! I listen to them while I cook and clean, while I commute, and even when doing cardio at the gym!

So far I have read 42 books in 2019, which blows my mind. My record is 72 within a year and at the end of April I’m already more than halfway there. That’s what joining a library will do for you.

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (2017) — Comedian Tiffany Haddish burst onto the national scene in 2017 when she debuted in Girls Trip and stole every scene she was in. Shortly after, she became one of the funniest guests on late night shows, telling such insane stories that Trevor Noah and Jimmy Kimmel lost it, repeatedly. This book is a collection of the funniest, strangest, and most unbelievable stories of her life, from her childhood as a foster kid to her high school years as a team mascot to when she decided to work in comedy — and lots of tales along the way.

THIS IS ONE OF THE FUNNIEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ. And I implore you to listen to the Audiobook version, because Tiffany’s voice is hilarious and she adds SO much to her stories. The story about Roscoe in particular has received a lot of press, and justifiably so — there is no book like Tiffany’s out there because there is nobody like HER out there!! I am SO happy for her success because SHE DESERVES IT, and I hope she is starring in films for decades to come. Also, interestingly, her co-writer for this book was Tucker Max. I LOVED Tucker Max back in the day, though looking back he was so problematic, so if you loved his crazy stories, you will love these ones too. Listen to this book!!!

Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010) — When Patti Smith moved to New York City, she was young, broke, and had nowhere to go. Again and again, she ran into an equally young and broke artist named Robert Mapplethorpe. They became friends, and lovers, and soulmates who acted as muse and artist, inspiring each other to create the best work possible while living in the most rundown conditions. This is the story of their relationship — an unconventional relationship, but one of two true soulmates.

This is one of the best books about New York City I have ever read. And it was so beautifully written. I love Patti Smith’s gentle, ethereal words — it reminds me a lot of Steve Martin’s writing, actually. I love a memoir that is centered on nostalgia, and this is pure nostalgia. It made me cry a few times from the very beginning. They were so young. They were so poor. They cared about nothing but art and each other. They lived in a New York that existed for a moment in time, a New York that we will never get back. New York is a playground for the rich these days, and I wonder if art will ever be able to flourish here the way it once did.

Atomic Habits by James Clear (2018) — We all have habits that we want to develop. But what allows us to start habits that we will actually keep up? We all fail at developing positive habits because we are focused on our goal, when really we should be focusing on our systems. The best habits are developed just a tiny bit each day — you could call it the atomic level.

This is one of the most useful books I’ve read in a very long time. It’s dense and packed with so many thoughtful tips — like stacking habits, where you make sure you do a set of things in a specific order, ending with a reward. And sometimes just starting is the best thing you can do. (It reminds me of Terry Crews’s tip that when you join a gym, if there’s a lounge or cafe, just go and hang out there for a few days without working out. It will get you in the habit.) Especially helpful was learning how to design your environment to let you achieve your goals. This is a great book, it really helped me, and I bet it will help you too.

Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs by Dave Holmes (2016) — Most people know Dave Holmes from when he came in second in MTV’s Wanna Be a VJ contest in 1998. That was the golden age of MTV, when the Backstreet Boys, N Sync and Korn were duking it out for the #1 spot on TRL. Dave was the smart, knowledgeable music geek and this memoir tells the story of being a perpetual outsider who found happiness in music, pop culture, and life.

I LOVED this book, and not just because I was MTV-crazed in those days. Dave is so smart and has a wonderful way of looking back at his life. I love that he basically talked and networked his way into an MTV job. I love how he wrote about the difficulties of coming out as a student at Holy Cross. I love that he blazed his own trail, was sometimes disgusted by the culture at MTV, and eventually carved out a life that fulfilled what was important to him. And I love that the book ends with revelations from a day doing San Pedro in a canyon! I listened to this book as an audiobook, which I highly recommend. As a fellow perpetual outsider who nodded my head more or less constantly while listening to him talk, I feel like Dave and I would be friends if we knew each other in real life.

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