What did I do this month?
I always dreamed of spending a summer hopping along the Adriatic. I would touch down in Venice and head to Piran in Slovenia, making my way down the coasts of Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece.
Well, I kind of got that. I never dreamed it would be under these circumstances.
I am beyond thankful that Croatia gave me and my boyfriend what we needed — a place where we could be together at a time when we’re banned from each other’s countries. Beyond that, this trip allowed me to work with companies that believed my work mattered, even in this time of turmoil in the travel industry, and I was able to get to know Croatians more intimately.
While this was my third trip to Croatia, this is the first time I ended up discussing the war with locals. Cautiously, guardedly. I appreciated getting to know a side of Croatia that is often kept hidden from visitors.
Here’s what I got up to this month.
- In mainland Croatia: Dubrovnik
- On Mljet: Polace, Mljet National Park, Pomena
- On the Pelješac Peninsula: Drače, Trstenik, Orebić, Viganj, Kućište
- On Vis: Vis Town, Rogačić, Komiža, Mount Hum, Stiniva, Porat, and the Blue Cave
- On Hvar: Hvar Town, Pakleni, Jelsa, Vrbanj, Vrboska, and Stari Grad
- In Kvarner: Opatija
- In Istria: Rovinj, Poreč, Motovun, Groznjan, Pula, Bale, Vodnjan, Fažana
- In Italy: Venice
(Yes, that’s a LONG list for one month — but keep in mind having a car means you can do easy day trips! I love stopping in random places that look cool.)
Falling in love with the best kitty ever. When we were staying in Orebić, a tiny tabby kitten came to greet us — and she became our constant companion for the next three days. She would run around us and bite our toes in the morning. She would sleep on our laps while we worked. She would even jump in the window in the middle of the night to wake us up!
Kitty was the most wonderful temporary pet, and it broke my heart that we had to leave her. (The locals said that they believed she was owned by a neighbor, and considering how well conditioned she was to humans, I’m certain she has an owner.)
But it’s made me think seriously about getting a cat or two once my life is more settled. The whole story about Kitty is on my Patreon.
Doing some new things in Dubrovnik. Most of my time in Dubrovnik was in July, but I did a few new things I hadn’t done before in August: I visited Lokrum Island, posed on the Iron Throne, and kayaked around a nude beach; I ate capon (castrated chicken!) at Kopun, and their gnocchi with capon and truffles was one of the best dishes I’ve had in Croatia; I visited the Red History Museum. With its incredible interactive re-creations of homes from the 70s; and I enjoyed a hosted three-night stay at Hotel Excelsior, a gorgeous luxury property I’ve wanted to stay at for years.
In terms of tourism, Dubrovnik is hurting more than anywhere else in Croatia — in part because it draws primarily American and British tourists and that it’s a fly-in destination where many flights have been canceled, as well as the cancellation of almost all cruises. As a result, the streets were airy in the heart of summer, an unheard-of circumstance these days.
Celebrating my 36th birthday in Mljet. Mljet island is a beautiful place I was eager to revisit, and my friends at Croatia Tourism and Mljet Tourism arranged a wonderful day trip from Dubrovnik for me. We climbed Montekuc, one of the highest points on the island, with a ranger, then we toured some villages and went for a silky-smooth swim in a saltwater lake before getting me a birthday pizza at Pizzeria Levanat.
Charlie got a badass drone photo of me standing on Montekuc! We wound down with a quiet night at Hotel Excelsior, and they surprised me with a gorgeous cake.
Returning to Pelješac. We had spent two days on the Pelješac peninsula in July, and in August we stayed for five. I really dig this part of Croatia — the scenery is stunning, the red wines are the best in the country, and it’s an unpretentious, laid back part of Dalmatia.
Some of the highlights were visiting the elegant Korta Katarina winery, checking out the windsurfing village of Viganj, and sipping wine that had been aged under the sea at Edivo Wine Bar!
An elegant long weekend in Vis. Well, I think Vis is my new favorite place in Croatia! This island is the furthest from the mainland and it has an exclusive, upscale air. Just being there makes you feel special. It’s a big difference from every other island. Korčula may have more interesting things to do, but you can’t beat the vibe on Vis.
Some of the highlights of Vis were exploring the military tunnels that still exist today, getting to see the Blue Cave illuminated, swimming into Stiniva Beach from the sea, and having traditional food at a konoba in the mountains. I would absolutely love to go back to Vis for a week or longer, soaking it in.
Staying at the brand new Maslina Resort in Hvar. The Maslina Resort, a one-of-a-kind resort that pushes sustainability to the next level, just opened and. I was honored to be one of their first guests (they hosted me for three days). This property is SO much more than a typical luxury wellness resort — it’s inspirational in its point of view and beliefs, it has a modern yet practical view of responsibility to the community and the planet, and the staff make you feel so welcome. And it’s GORGEOUS.
I interviewed the hotel’s manager about their unique philosophy and the process of opening during a pandemic, and it will be in a post here. I can’t wait to share it with you; I think you’ll find it really interesting.
We spent a little over a week in Hvar overall. I wasn’t a fan of Hvar Town, which was crowded, expensive, and full of hardcore party people in designer threads paying 200 euros for a bottle of Moet (I think I’d like it more in shoulder season, when the partiers are gone). I did appreciate a few quiet days in Jelsa. A small village with great value for money accommodation (we got an apartment for $35/night!), and Vrboska, Hvar’s canal-filled answer to Venice, is a pretty little town worth visiting.
Revisiting Istria in style. I loved my trip to Croatia’s Italian-flavored region in 2012; it’s been great revisiting and taking much better photos!
We started in Rovinj and stayed for three nights at the Grand Park Hotel, who hosted us. Both the rooftop infinity pool and the private plunge pool were SUPERB. Rovinj is as pretty as ever. I even met up with a reader from the US! She and her husband come to Croatia every year.
We then moved on to the interior and stayed at Roxanich. A fabulous family-owned wine hotel in Motovun that hosted us for three nights. We visited the charming cities of Motovun, Groznjan, Bale, and Vodnjan, and checked out Poreč and Fažana for the first time. Many truffles were consumed, as were many glasses of wine.
Revisiting Venice. On the last day of the month, we crossed from Croatia to Slovenia to Italy! (Yes, Americans can visit Italy right now, but only if they’ve spent the past 14 consecutive days in the EU. We also got COVID tested beforehand and were found negative.) I’ve only visited Venice on day trips, so it’s incredible to have five days to explore it in depth!
This month had a lot of amusing challenges.
We rented a boat in Hvar and it did NOT go well. One of the popular things to do in Hvar is to rent a boat and explore the Pakleni islands for the day. We thought it would be easy — IT WAS NOT. Pretty much a million things went wrong, from crashing into three boats tied up in port to drifting into a multigenerational Indian family’s party to accidentally sidling up to a pair of Italian nudists. The whole story of that day is on my Patreon!
We got caught in a Biblical-level rainstorm. In Dalmatia, there’s usually rainfall only once per summer — but it’s a hell of a storm. It hit us when we were revisiting Pelješac, staying in Drače, and realizing that we had to go out for dinner as ants had eaten our Muesli, the only food we had.
It went from drizzling to raining SUPER hard, and when we ran into our first restaurant, getting soaked, we were told they were reservation-only! Ack! We drove further down the curvy roads of Pelješac. And we actually had to pull over because the rain was severe and lightning was cracking all around us. Oh, and it had knocked out all signal on our phones. But even after waiting, the rain didn’t let up like we thought it would. We had to keep going, and we ended up in the town of Trstenik.
After navigating the narrow parking lot and finding a spot (after nearly driving into the ocean), we ran into the restaurant, about 70 meters, and were so soaked, it looked like we had gone swimming. But the staff were so lovely, welcoming us with blankets and serving us tomato soup. Then the power went out!
The drive back was less rainy but somewhat scarier, as the roads in Pelješac are surrounded by cliffs and huge chunks of dirt had fallen out onto the road. Boy, were we glad to get back to our apartment!
I thought our bus was going to fall into a canal. This month I had to take public transportation for the first time since COVID began: an hourlong bus ride from Hvar to Jelsa. Charlie had taken the ferry back to Split to pick up the car, so my choices were either a $5 bus or a $60 cab. The bus required masks and there were only a few passengers, spaced out far from each other.
But when we got to Vrboska, the bus driver had to do some maneuvering, and it looked like he was going to drive into the water. Then I felt the front of the bus shift DOWN and I knew the driver had driven onto the 12-inch lip surrounding the canal. I yelled, “Oh shit!” involuntarily but the driver reversed and we were fine. Phew.
The pizza I had wanted for YEARS did not pay off. I adore the black truffle pizza at Jupiter Pizzeria in Pula, but the second time I ordered it, back in 2012, they didn’t make it with tomato sauce and it wasn’t nearly as good. So I was determined to make sure it came out with tomato sauce on it.
I said to the waiter, “Yes, I want it, but not with cream — with tomato sauce. Like a margherita pizza with black truffle sauce.” He kept insisting that all pizzas were made with tomato sauce and he reassured me that it would, indeed, be made with tomato sauce.
It came out. It didn’t have tomato sauce.
I pointed it out to the waiter. I cut it open and showed him. Him: “It’s tomato.” Me: “Where is the tomato?! This is WHITE!”
He took the pizza back into the kitchen and brought the same pizza back topped with dollops of cold tomato sauce on top and half a jar of oregano. At that point I just gave up.
I mean, it’s a little thing — but I had been looking forward to this pizza for SO long and I thought I took all the steps I needed to make sure it was made with tomato sauce…
Still no updates from the Czech Republic. But I am working on my options. I’m encouraged by the fact that Austria is now welcoming Americans, as long as they 1) come from the Schengen Area 2) have a negative COVID test 3) quarantine for ten days. Perhaps a bit overkill. The Czechs and Austrians have been moving a bit in tandem through the pandemic, so I’m hopeful that I will be able to return to my Prague apartment soon.
Posts of the Month
Turning 36 in a Time of Uncertainty — Birthday post time! This month, I reflecting on how to survive the greatest disaster my business has ever faced, and how each mini-era of COVID was like my shipwreck from 2011.
Visiting Korčula: A Guide to Croatia’s Coolest Island — I adore Korčula, and I think it has the best collection of things to do. If you’re planning a trip to Croatia, I highly recommend spending at least a few days in Korčula.
Is Your Work Right for Patreon? — I’ve been helping some of my friends start their own Patreons, and one thing I’ve noticed is that some kind of creators tend to do better than others.
Why I Can’t Wait to Return to Korea — Korea is one of the countries I most sorely need to re-visit. Here is how I would do my second trip better than my first.
Most Popular Photo on Instagram
This photo was taken in the pool area of the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace — a fantastic outdoor area carved out of the natural rocks surrounding the landscape. It almost makes you feel like you’re in the desert! And it faces west, so it gets the most delectable late afternoon light.
For more live updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.
Patreon This Month
Patreon is a platform where I share exclusive content from $6 per month. You can see it here! Each month I share one original long-form travel essay, plus some shorter works and lots of exclusive shares in the private Facebook group.
This month’s long-form blog post on Patreon is called Dear Irshaad. It’s the story of a missed train to Paris, a relationship gone haywire, and two people from different backgrounds sharing vulnerability with each other in the heart of London’s King’s Cross station.
I also wrote two mini-essays, one about the little kitty we adopted for a few days, and one about our disastrous day of boating in Hvar, and I shared an exclusive video of Groznjan in the Facebook group.
I also changed benefits this month — now, in addition to the content, mid-tier patrons are getting a book or TV recommendation customized to your personal likes, dislikes, authors and streaming subscriptions!
Book Club This Month
I decided to move August’s book club meeting, for Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. August was a bit crazy, so we will now be covering this book on Sunday, September 20, at 1:00 PM ET.
This book came as a top recommendation in a “What book has changed your life?” thread in a women’s personal finance FB group I’m in. It has effusive reviews praising its beautiful writing as well as the lessons we can learn from understanding our natural environment from indigenous people.
So if you wanted to read and discuss Braiding Sweetgrass, you have plenty of time to finish it! I hope you join us.
All are welcome and I suggest a donation of $5. You can sign up here!
What I Watched This Month
Love on the Spectrum. In this Australian reality show on Netflix, several twenty-somethings with autism learn how to date for the first time. This show is so sweet and kind, showcasing their quirky, sweet personalities and sharing their challenges. I think I fell a little bit in love with every single person in the cast.
This show dispels the myth that most people with autismaren’t interested in dating or relationships. That’s what I thought before watching this show, and I’m ashamed I held that belief. It’s not true at all. So many of them want so badly to find love.
We’ve also been marathoning The Office and got to the episode with Kevin and the chili. That may be the hardest I’ve ever seen Charlie laugh!
What I Listened To This Month
This month I enjoyed the “Nice White Parents” podcast by the New York Times. It’s a multi-year investigation into segregation in New York public schools and one Brooklyn school in particular. The revelations are ugly — you see years upon years of the same patterns repeating. White parents push for integration, decide not to put their kids in those schools anyway, and leave until they swoop back in with a new plan to integrate that eventually falls by the wayside again.
I’m also listening to the Spotify podcast “An Oral History of The Office,” which is hosted by Brian Baumgartner (Kevin!) and features interviews with the cast and crew. It’s really well done.
Also, a new song recommendation for you — “Jim and Dwight” by Tom Rosenthal. It’s a cute, folksy, and uplifting song about Jim and Dwight’s friendship on The Office. Give it a listen!
What I Read This Month
This month I read four new books, taking me to 37 in 2020. Not anywhere near my record last year, and I’m fine with that.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb (2020) — Lori Gottlieb is a therapist in Los Angeles, and when the man she planned to marry leaves her out of the blue, she is in desperate need of therapy herself. This is the story of Lori and her therapy patients — including a high-powered TV writer and a young woman dying young of cancer — as well as Lori and her own therapist. It’s now being developed into a TV show starring Eva Longoria.
I absolutely LOVED this book! One of my favorites of the year by far. I couldn’t stop reading it until I finished it. Gottlieb’s writing is heartfelt and engaging and you end up falling in love with all her clients. I especially appreciated how she was able to engage with her patients in a clinical context, then turn it around and view herself in the same context, unflinchingly honest. Most people would be horrified if they knew their therapist sobbed her eyes out at her own therapy sessions. Highly recommended.
The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer (2015) — Amanda Palmer is a musician who broke crowdfunding records — she was the first artist to hit one million dollars on Kickstarter — and her creative career is fascinating to follow. She began as a living statue in Harvard Square (she’s originally from Lexington, Mass., close to my hometown, and I loved all the local references!), when she first learned that art is an exchange, and money is simply one form of currency in that exchange.
This book is a must-read from any person who earns from their creativity and wants more creative freedom. Seriously. It will give you more ideas of what’s possible. I don’t listen to Palmer’s music, but the first time I heard about her, it was because she invited musicians to play with her without pay, which earned a fierce backlash, including from me. But this book shows WHY she did that — for Palmer, art is an exchange. Everything she earns goes back into making more art. She even couchsurfs with her fans instead of staying in hotels.
This book is all about creating the work that your audience loves rather than creating more generic work for the masses. And you know I can get behind that!
Plus two other books in the self-improvement space. Not including the specific titles here because you’ll think I’m crazy — but I’ve been doing a lot of work on mindset lately, especially on how having a positive mindset can improve the rest of your life. It takes a lot of work to root out the limiting beliefs that you’ve held for decades.
Coming Up in September 2020
As I write this, we are in Venice! It’s amazing to be here — I’ve only visited Venice twice before, but only as day trips. It’s magical, especially once you get away from the touristy parts. To be able to experience Venice at this less-touristed time is remarkable.
Right now we are working with an agency to get me back to the Czech Republic. It turns out that I am able to apply for my trade license outside the country, which is great — but that’s not enough to get me back in while Americans are banned. Once I get the trade license finished, I need to wait up to 90 days for the freelance business visa to process.
I’m now kicking off what could be a four-month process of visa acquisition, concentrated primarily in Italy and Croatia. I will need to find somewhere to wait things out. But as soon as the Czech Republic lets me in, I am there.