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AK Monthly Recap: March 2022

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Today I want to talk about how Europe is right now. Over the past month, I’ve heard lots of people saying that they are afraid of me for being in Prague. People have been casually mentioning “civil unrest” in cities like Prague, Krakow, and Budapest. Charlie is getting similar messages through his work.

I want to be clear: these cities are NORMAL. There is no unrest. There has never been unrest.

Yes, there is a war in Ukraine, and it is not safe to visit Ukraine, Russia, or Belarus right now. But places in Europe that are not Ukraine, Russia, or Belarus are fine. There is not a threat of attack. The only difference you would notice is a preponderance of yellow and blue flags hanging all over the city.

Are we getting refugees? Yes, we are, and quite a few in Prague, as we already have a well-established Ukrainian community here. And here’s the kicker — you wouldn’t even notice. Several times this month, I’ve come across groups of refugees and didn’t realize until later.

What do you expect refugees to look like? Dirty, shivering, bedraggled, holding each other wide-eyed in silence? Well, in reality, it’s two teenage boys giggling on the train and thanking you for letting them borrow your phone charger. It’s a mom and her daughters grabbing Burger King in the train station, the girls bickering over their order. Refugees wear jeans and puffy coats and Nikes.

This isn’t meant to diminish the trauma they’ve experienced or the obstacles they face now. It’s a reminder that refugees are normal people, just like us, who have been put in an awful situation. And there is nothing to be afraid of.

Why am I saying this? Because Central Europe is about to have a third terrible year in a row for the travel industry — but the first under false pretenses. I am deeply concerned about what this means for travel professionals who are barely hanging on. So many of them rely on Americans, who spend more than European travelers.

So please don’t think that you need to avoid Europe this year. As I said, life is normal here in Central Europe. You can experience places like Prague they way they were before hordes of tourists arrived.

Hiking in South Bohemia on a sunny Saturday.

Destinations Visited

Prague, Tábor, and Malšice, Czech Republic

Highlights

The highlight of this month, far and away, was watching my friends’ 20-month-old daughter meet her new little brother for the first time. After a big, long hug with her mom, she laid eyes on him — and was enchanted. She didn’t stop smiling and staring at him for the next 15 minutes. She’d look up at us, smile again, and point at him.

It was adorable. And I’m so glad that this little boy is here, and grateful that he and his mom are doing wonderfully.

A great day of hiking near Tábor. I’ve wanted to visit Tábor for some time, and while we didn’t see much of the town, we did a lovely 10-mile hike along the river. One of the many hikes near Prague that you can do by public transportation.

Unfortunately the Uyghur restaurant in Tábor we wanted to visit was closed, but the fabulous ice cream place was open! They have unusual flavors like egg nog and chocolate, sea buckthorn, and Aperol!

Celebrating Charlie’s birthday. Charlie’s last two birthdays were under various lockdowns, so I’m so glad he could have a real birthday this year. We went to Taro, a fantastic and inventive Vietnamese fusion restaurant in Prague. It’s definitely the most expensive restaurant I’ve ever been to in Prague, but after two lockdown birthdays, it was warranted! Definitely a special occasion place.

Rolling Stones tickets! The Rolling Stones just announced a new European tour, and Charlie and I snapped up tickets for their concert in…Milan. (I mean, are you surprised?) We were supposed to drive to Italy on June 23 and the concert is on June 21, so our two-week Sardinia road trip has become a three-week northern Italy and Sardinia road trip!

Kate smiles big while holding up a wooden fork with an enormous clunk of pink and white mortadella on it.
Mortadella by the forkful at the party!

A catalogue party to remember. The Italians Wine & Food Market, a fancy Italian grocery store and restaurant in Prague similar to Eataly, does an annual catalogue party where several of their providers show up serving their specialties. Basically, an all-you-can-eat party with exquisite prosciuttos, cheeses, and wines.

It was SO good, and we made several contacts to visit on our next trips to Italy!

A night of expat comedy in Karlín. Comedians of Prague put on a benefit for Ukraine in our neighborhood — as they said, “We are doing this for our comedian,” Zelensky. A great night out, maybe a few too many jokes about how hard a language Czech is, but a lot of fun.

Soup Fest. One thing I love about Prague is how many food festivals there are, especially in my neighborhood, and this month we had Soup Fest! It’s exactly what it sounds like. A fest of soup.

Celebrating one year since Lewis the cat finished his FIP treatment. Today he’s a wild and crazy little boy who loves running around and jumping on things. I’m so grateful he’s healthy and well.

The pastel-colored crenellated buildings of Old Town Square in Prague. In the middle is a sign reading
Another anti-war protest on Old Town Square.

Challenges

A really sad situation in my neighborhood. A recently arrived family from Ukraine lost their cat shortly after they arrived, and the cat was never found. We went out looking for the cat, combing through the streets for hiding spots and looking under cars, but found no signs of it. It was a hairless cat, and the first few nights were below freezing.

Just imagine getting so far with your cat, and losing them in this awful way with no closure. My heart still aches for the family.

The Baby-Sitters Club was cancelled. Well, this was a huge disappointment. The Baby-Sitters Club was a close to a perfect TV series as we’ve seen in years. It was so bright and happy, perfectly modernized, perfectly cast, a wholesome show about 13-year-old girls that let them be kids.

I’m sad that we don’t get to see more of the girls’ adventures, but am trying to see the series as a gift.

A gloomy cherry blossom season. We had SUCH good weather this month, and as soon as the cherry blossoms burst into bloom, nothing but gray skies. I hope I at least get one nice day to photograph them in the sunshine.

Murray the gray tabby cat with white belly and white paws, sitting inside a wooden box with his paws perched on the edge, like he's working at a service desk.
Little Murray Bear looking like he works at the DMV.

Blog Posts of the Month

1 Week Nova Scotia Itinerary: the South Shore — All about my trip to Nova Scotia this past October, which couldn’t have been more gorgeous, and how you can plan a similar trip.

33 Gorgeous, Famous Streets of Paris — A rundown of the best streets in Paris to visit, with thanks to my fellow colleagues for their submissions.

17 Tip for Your First Trip to Disney World As an Adult — A rundown of my own recent day trip to Disney World, and approximately ten thousand tips on how to have a great day there yourself (especially considering the changes post-COVID).

A few small white cottages in the woods, reflected in a mirror-like lake. There are tall spindly pine trees and a bright blue sky.
Lovely views while hiking near Tábor.

This Month on Patreon

On the Adventurous Kate Patreon, I publish exclusive content and never-told stories that you can access for $6 per month. We also have a private Facebook group and members get free access to the Book Club each month.

This month, I published a few different things: a post about the Italian region of Calabria, where I’m traveling in May, and several of the interesting things I’ve discovered while researching it.

I also published a few things about my major side hustle/new site/new business, which I’ve been working on for several months but have only revealed within the Patreon. This month I got a few professional maps and illustrations done and they are SO cool!

A pastry on a plate: what looks like a cream puff with two kinds of swirled pastry cream inside (caramel and regular), topped with a caramel glaze. It's on a plate next to a small vase of flowers.
Enjoying a větrník, my favorite Czech pastry.

Book Club This Month

Our next book club is taking place VERY soon — on Sunday, April 3! You can sign up here to join.

This month, I wanted us to read a book by a Ukrainian author. We will be reading A Biography of a Chance Miracle by Tanja Maljartschuk.

A Biography of a Chance Miracle explores the life of Lena, a young girl growing up in the somewhat vapid, bureaucracy-ridden and nationalistic Western Ukrainian city of San Francisco. Lena is a misfit from early childhood due to her unwillingness to scorn everything Russian, her propensity for befriending forlorn creatures, her aversion to the status quo, and her fear of living a stupid and meaningless life.

As her friends enter college, Lena sets forth on a mission to defend the abused and downtrodden of San Francisco—be they canine or human—armed with nothing more than an arsenal of humor, stubbornness, chutzpah and no shortage of imagination. Her successes are minimal at best, but in the process of trying to save San Francisco’s collective humanity, she may end up saving her own. At first glance a crazy and combative girl, Lena just may be the salvation that the Ukrainians of San Francisco sorely need.”

You can buy the book at Bookshop.org here.

Hope to see you there!

Lewis the gray and white tabby cat with a white stripe on his nose, perched on top of a door, walking it like a tightrope.
Lewis the daredevil, hanging out on top of the door.

What I Listened To This Month

I’m in a bit of a rut podcast-wise, so I’m trying out a handful of new ones. I listened to a bonkers episod2q11qs e of a new podcast called Normal Gossip that I think many of you might enjoy.

Normal Gossip is basically juicy gossip stories about strangers. And the Spot the Scammer episode is about a girls’ trip to Southeast Asia that goes horribly wrong. Not in a safety way, but in a DRAMA way. LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST before going on a big trip with someone you’ve never traveled with before!

What I Watched This Month

Last month, I mentioned that I had started a recent critically acclaimed HBO series that I had been wanting to watch for awhile. Most people guessed Euphoria, and you were on the right track (I do want to watch it eventually!).

It was I May Destroy You. And WOW. This is beyond television — this is a piece of art SO great that you sit back and marvel at it as you’re watching it!

I May Destroy You is a 12-episode miniseries created by Michaela Coel. Her character, Arabella, an up-and-coming London writer, is sexually assaulted while out with friends one night. The series follows everything that happens over the next year.

And when you see that description, it doesn’t sound good, but I promise you, it’s so wild and original and thought-provoking. Arabella is not a perfect victim. She’s a self-sabotaging party girl who makes questionable decision after questionable decision. But she has wonderful friends and a wicked sense of humor, and she takes you on a fantastic journey with her.

Also, this month Pachinko started on Apple TV! Pachinko is one of my favorite novels of the last few years, but I doubted it would ever be made into a movie. My heart swelled when I heard it would be made into a whole series! In Korean, Japanese, and English!

It is gorgeously shot, perfectly cast, and it’s a bit different than the novel (it goes back and forth between the past and the future instead of continuing chronologically). And the opening sequence — so unexpected but so FUN! I am only two episodes in, but look forward to watching much more of Pachinko this month!

Two pale pink cherry blossom trees above a busy intersection surrounded by colorful buildings in Prague, underneath cloudy gray skies.
Cherry blossom season has arrived!

What I Read This Month

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (2020) — This novel tells the story of a couple unraveling as they drive across the US with their children. Both documentarians (or documentarists, as the book goes into), the husband is traveling to Arizona to document the history of the Apache, while the wife seeks to tell the stories of the lost children, migrants who arrive in the US on their own.

This was our book club book, and it was a great choice. Devastating and complicated, the voice shifting between the wife and her stepson, children who run away on a magical realism adventure, the strange Americana along the way, and the pure dread at the center of it all. This book was not what I expected, and I mean that in a good way. I’m still thinking about the characters and how they would be.

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli (2017) — In the nonfiction book that inspired Lost Children Archive, this book tells the stories of the child migrants for whom Luiselli translated in immigration court. It’s based on the 40 questions the children are asked.

What a devastating book. It’s unconscionable what our country does and continues to do to these children, and all migrants. Every American needs to read this book to know what it’s really like.

What really hurt to read is that for some children, then end up facing the same evil in America that they left behind. One child profiled faced the MS-13 gang in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, only to land in Hempstead, Long Island, which is also home to MS-13 gangs.

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford (2021) — Ashley C. Ford grew up a poor Black girl in Indiana, who wanted nothing more but to connect with her father. He was in prison for most of her life, and she didn’t know what he did to get there. Then eventually she found out the truth of her father, and it turned her life upside down.

I hate to say it, but I didn’t love this book. Ford is a great writer, and I loved how she told stories, but so much of the subject matter was depressing, particularly her sexual assault, her complicated relationship with her mother, and her lonely childhood. I agree that reconnecting with her incarcerated father was a beautiful story to tell, and loved hearing about how she clawed her way out of poverty, but it was too little joy for me at a time when I needed something more.

Eat That Frog! 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy (2017) — Like many self-help and productivity books, this comes down to a concept that could be a blog post. What is the hardest, ugliest task of the day? Do that first. Because if you have to eat an entire frog, you might as well do that first so you can get it over with and not have to think about it.

Am I putting it into action? Actually, yes! I’ve improved my productivity a lot in the last few years, and these days I keep a daily to-do list in my daily planner. I’ve started writing FROG! next to the tasks that I’m dreading the most, and it helps.

Positano, Italy: a sun-drenched coastal town amidst a mountainous coast. Layers and layers of buildings climb the mountain, all in warm shades.
Positano image by Tom Robak on Unsplash

Coming Up in April 2022

This month I have two trips! Next week, Charlie and I head to Naples and the Amalfi Coast for a long weekend. Believe it or not, this is my first time to either (I’ve only been to Capri, back when I studied abroad in 2004, plus a terrifying train station to ferry port cab ride in Naples!).

So yes. This trip is long overdue. We’re spending two nights in Naples and two nights in Sorrento, hoping to fit in a LOT of pizza (OMG, I am so excited for pizza!!), all the other food, the Path to the Gods hike, a visit to Procida, and visiting the classic towns of the Amalfi Coast like Positano.

Near the end of the month, I’m heading to Hamburg, Germany, for Reboot, a new conference put on by the Traverse people. It’s less business-oriented and more about wellness, mindfulness, and creativity. I’m looking forward to attending, and especially looking forward to seeing my friends.

I visited Hamburg in 2014 and really liked it (though I never wrote about it). Such a fun, modern city with cool architecture and canals! I’m also looking forward to the lovely nonstop six-hour train journey each way. More train journeys is a big goal for this year.

What are your plans for April? Share away!

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