Victims in Shannon Falls accident identified by friends as online travel bloggers

Deeply saddened at this terrible news. I attended a conference with Alexey and Ryker in 2016. They inspired a lot of people with their videos.

PLEASE be careful, especially when documenting your adventures. Be far more cautious than you think you need to be. No selfie or video is worth putting yourself in danger.

May their loved ones find peace.

Vail, Colorado, Might Be Better in the Summer!

It has been SO DAMN HOT in New York this week. I've been craving a visit to the mountains. ANY mountains. Anywhere is cooler than here. (Hell, St. Croix was cooler than here!)

Which has had be reminiscing about my trip to Vail, Colorado, last summer, where I got to hike WITH LLAMAS!

It's a bit of a complicated Independence Day today. It's hard to go, "America, wooooo!" as your country is gripped by the early stages of fascism. A few years ago, I didn't think this could even be possible.

Happy Fourth! Children in cages.

Happy Fourth! Government infiltration by a hostile power.

Happy Fourth! Forced childbirth becoming closer to reality.

I love my country -- fiercely and proudly. Let that be clear. I always have been and will always be grateful and proud to be American.

But many Americans believe loving your country means supporting its actions blindly. Nope. I find that attitude cowardly. For me, being an American means acknowledging its horrors and doing everything you do to make things better.

That's twofold. Acknowledge the horrors. And WORK TO MAKE THINGS BETTER. Many people horrified by the current state of America are doing plenty of the former but none of the latter.

Use your privilege. Donate money to causes that are making a distance -- but donating your time can be even more valuable. If you're white, use your privilege to make a scene when any person of color is being harassed by the police or especially ICE. Do work on the ground in your own community.

And if you have a platform, like I do, USE IT. Who honestly gives a fuck if it loses you a racist reader or two? Are you going to look back and see how silent you were during this time period? (Seriously, fellow white American travel bloggers, it's getting exhausting feeling like I'm THE ONLY ONE talking about this stuff.)

This Fourth of July, I'm asking my fellow Americans to take more action than you have been previously. Lately I've signed up to volunteer more with Swing Left. This organization helps you volunteer your time with nearby districts whose House races will be determined within a slim margin. Winning back the House is a big factor on how the next two years will be -- but it will only be done on turnout. While New York City's elections are pretty much predetermined, I've added a lot of canvassing events in nearby New Jersey districts to my schedule.

It's not fun work, and it's not sexy work, but it's EFFECTIVE WORK. And that's the work into which I'm channeling my energies. That and work in my own neighborhood to educate immigrants about their rights, as ICE has recently begun conducting raids on my own neighbors and sending them to detention camps.

This Independence Day, let's work toward liberty and justice for all. For ALL. Not just the privileged, the white people, the corporations. For the children and their parents ripped apart at the border who have yet to be reunited. For the little brown boys and girls who want to grow up without being shot by the police. Not some. All.

Japan Left a Spotless Locker Room and a Thank You Note After Losing the World Cup

This is why I love Japan so much. They are so considerate of others.

An African Safari with Kids: My Complete Guide

I loved this recent post by WildJunket. Taking kids on safari is AWESOME — but most lodges don’t allow kids under 6, many are in malarial zones, and others won’t let you self-drive near predators.

Nellie figured out how to do a safari safely in a nonmalarial zone with her three-year-old (and seriously, I met her kid in Rotterdam last month and she’s even more adorable in real life).

Great post to send to anyone you know with kids who’s thinking of a safari. It CAN be done!

I love going out for afternoon tea! One of my favorite spots in New York is Bosie Tea Parlor because it’s great value for money ($34 per person, when many Manhattan places are at least double that) and it’s in the heart of the West Village, always a great neighborhood to explore.

But mostly for the scones. Their scones are INSANE and the clotted cream and raspberry jam are perfect.. I also love their cheddar pickle sandwiches and Dorian Grey tea.

Safely back in NYC after an awesome trip to St. Croix. Now, my question — is it worth it to go to the Caribbean in the summer?

It’s low-season and risky. Not QUITE hurricane season yet, but we had lots of clouds and overcast skies. But we also had some brilliant days, like this one. Never a cloudless sky, but some days with fewer clouds than others.

If your trip is like mine — a mix of clouds and sunshine, but mostly clouds — I think it’s still worth it because the benefits are lower costs, cheaper flights, and fewer crowds. Unfortunately our cloudiest day was our snorkel trip to Buck Island day and our sunniest day was our historic tour of Fredriksted day! That’s how it works sometimes!

However, if you’re a photographer or someone very focused on Instagram and getting perfect photos with bright blue water and sky, you’d probably be best off spending more money and going in the high season with the best weather (December to March).

Thanks again to Spirit Airlines and United States Virgin Islands for an awesome trip and a new little island to love.

It’s all fun and games until your “pretending to fall in” shtick turns into actually falling in....

Thanks for a beautiful stay, Spirit and St. Croix! 💕

Kate and Cailin visited the Virgin Islands.

They are now the Islands.

Here are some of our thoughts on St. Croix, flying with Spirit, and everything that we loved about our trip!

Man, it’s going to be hard to leave this view.

St. Croix has been a wonderful little island, and I had a great experience with Spirit. Too much to write in a single status, but let’s just say that I had no idea how much this airline has improved upon itself over the last few years (even the last few months!) and so many exciting things they’re bringing out for the future.

Makes it easier to justify a second visit for sure. 😉 And as I said earlier, the US Virgin Islands are open for tourism. While we saw some buildings that are still struggling with damage post-hurricanes, there is overall no reason not to come here. The resorts are great, the town is great, and the locals can use your tourism dollars.

This is the town of Christiansted in St. Croix — and we had two rollicking nights out here. Mostly at Shupe’s, famous for their run punches, pictured here. 😉 This is such a funky little island, and it’s part of the US. I’d love to come back!

Does anyone here watch The Bachelor? Sean Lowe’s season took place at the Buccaneer in St. Croix. This is a sugar mill and they had a rose ceremony in here!

(Meanwhile, my mom watches The Bachelor and still says, “You should go on this show!” every time, regardless of my relationship status or the fact that at age 33 I’d be the resident geriatric.)

I think I found my boat. 😂

Does anyone else yell at stingrays because of Steve Irwin? I still do. And today at Buck Island National Monument in St. Croix, we totally snorkeled with a stingray and followed him for awhile. And I was super scared of him.

The feeling when you arrive in the Caribbean, have exactly one hair tie (or elastic, as we say in Massachusetts) and it goes missing...

Bobby pins, it’s time to work overtime!

I see you, beautiful Caribbean beach of St. Croix. Let’s hope we get some clear skies tomorrow!

Just arrived in St. Croix for the first time ever! And excited for the bits of blue peeking between the clouds!

I love the Caribbean but have seen so little of it — I’m eager to explore a new island, part of the US Virgin Islands. Also, this is where Alexander Hamilton grew up, where his mother died, and where his community collected enough money to send him to college in New York City! (Yes, the soundtrack is still stuck in my head...)

I’m here with Spirit Airlines, whom I had never flown until today (seriously!) but I’m familiar with them because practically everyone who came on my Guatemala and El Salvador tours in 2015 flew down on Spirit (because they were the cheapest!). They’re a low-cost carrier in the US, Caribbean, and Latin America and they’re bringing their low fares to more destinations each year. St. Croix is the latest. Spirit played a role in lowering fares across the board and their fares cost, on average, 30% less than other airlines.

#SpiritPartner #ad

Do you go to bed extra early before an early flight? I used to — but I’ve since learned that it doesn’t work for me. I’m more likely to stress out about how much sleep I’m losing and sleep even less than usual.

So what do I do? I accept that I’m not going to sleep much for a night. Just one night. It won’t kill me. I’ll grab a quick nap if I need one during the day. Otherwise it’s all about powering through.

Tomorrow I’m heading out on a trip to a new destination — St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands!

I’m working on a campaign with Spirit Airlines, who have just added flights to St. Croix for the first time! I’m flying there from LaGuardia via Fort Lauderdale.

St. Croix was damaged significantly in last year’s hurricanes — but they have recovered and the island is OPEN FOR TOURISM. That’s the message I want to spread. This is one place that needs your tourism dollars. And because it’s part of the United States, you don’t need to bring your passport!

And also...one of my favorite travel buddies, Cailin, is coming! So you can expect some shenanigans! 🎉

It’s Easy To Scam Your Way Into Free Hotel Stays By Pretending To Be An Instagram Star

BuzzFeed asked me to contribute to a piece about using a fake, artificially created social media profile to get free hotel stays and restaurants. As you can guess...I had some THOUGHTS about that.

It’s a great day for a pizza crawl! Today 2foodtrippers and I are checking out some delicious but not-so-famous pizza places in Manhattan — the sleeper spots, if you will. Nick’s on the UES has some great pies!

Fire Island, you are so lovely! I’ve found a new favorite summer getaway from New York and I can’t wait to come back to explore more. Have you been?

Happy Monday from Fire Island, everyone!

Also known as...THE SETTING OF BABY-SITTERS CLUB #76, STACEY’S LIE! I’ve wanted to come here for 20 years!!

You can get day trip tickets from NYC for only $37. It includes the train, shuttle, and ferry both ways!

Happy Pride, everyone! 🌈🌈🌈 Since I love to share my books with you, I thought I would share some of my favorite books with LGBT protagonists.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth -- a coming-of-age book of a gay teenage girl growing up in a homophobic community in Montana. After her parents are killed in a car crash, she moves in with new relatives and realizes how difficult it's going to be to live her own life.

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne -- One of my favorite books I've read this year. The life story of Cyrus, growing up in Dublin from the 1950s until the present. I had no idea how horrible it was to be gay in Ireland when the church controlled everything -- but Cyrus, who grew and evolved and found happiness, is one of my favorite characters EVER.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid -- In this novel, Evelyn Hugo was one of the biggest film stars of the 50s and 60s. Now nearing death, she's finally ready to tell the truth about all seven of her husbands -- and it goes in a direction you don't expect.

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Get Pregnant by Dan Savage -- I fucking adore Dan Savage, and this book is a sweet and funny memoir about how he and his now-husband Terry adopted their son DJ.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker -- One of my all-time favorite books. The story of Celie, a black woman in the early 20th century who has been denied love her entire life, but who finally begins to soar. The most beautiful depiction of forgiveness.

What's on your list?

(Also -- those are totally my books! I put up another bookcase yesterday and tried it on a whim...I love the rainbow look so much!)

My Favorite Day in Central America — Semuc Champey

One place that often isn’t on Central America itineraries is Semuc Champey in Guatemala. You should add it. I knew it would be fun, but it turned out to be one of my favorite days ever!

Fleeing Civil Unrest in Nicaragua - The Privilege of Being Able to Leave

My friends Rease and Ayngelina recently planned a trip to Nicaragua, which has been going through serious civil unrest. They planned and researched their trip carefully and determined that they still wanted to take the trip. With their extensive Latin America travel experience, including in areas with unrest, they thought that of all people, they could handle it.

However, a few days in, the violence seriously escalated and they had to evacuate.

This sounds terrifying — and it’s not making international news. Rease wrote this post on her blog, Indecisive Traveler, to share the story of their evacuation — but also to share with the world what is happening in Nicaragua right now. A gripping read.

Why luxury hotels have had enough of social media influencers

I was recently asked to comment to the Daily Telegraph on bloggers and influencers who work with hotels. I'm very happy with appearing like a voice of sanity here. The title is a bit misleading; this is actually a well-rounded piece that talks to people on all sides of the industry.

A few things that I wish had been included:

--It's the hotel or brand's responsibility to research the influencer or blogger. They are not doing their homework and are blaming influencers as a whole. It's up to them to do research -- see if the followers are legitimate, see the kind of work they do, and see whether they're a fit for the brand.

--Something else that my friend Travels of Adam pointed out recently -- hotels complain about being inundated with requests from subpar Instagrammers, but WE ARE CONSTANTLY RECEIVING UNSOLICITED EMAILS FROM THESE SAME HOTELS. I can't tell you how often I get a press release about a new chef at a hotel or something and the message, "I would really appreciate it if you share this with your readers!" Dude. When have I ever shared a press release with my readers? How does that benefit me?

--I got a comped stay from the excellent Hotel Villa d'Estrees in 2012. They're now listed on my high-ranking "where to stay in Paris" post and they get several bookings per week. Boom. ROI. If you do it right, it works.

Photos from Adventurous Kate's post

Yesterday I took the train to Philadelphia to protest America’s incarceration and torture of immigrant children. Mike Pence was spending the evening fundraising at a hotel, so we protested right outside and marched.

It was uncomfortably hot. But not as hot as a tent city in Texas.

As these awful days pass, I feel helpless — but try to turn that into action. I moved back to America instead of living abroad because I wanted to do more work on the ground, speaking up for the less privileged and doing my part to make America better. Though I never thought it would get this bad — that children would be held hostage in American concentration camps for the sake of getting a border wall.

Give money. Give time. Call your representatives. Protest. Repeat.

There will be more protests throughout the country on June 30. I’m going to be away then but I hope you can join a protest near you.

On Visiting Every European Country, and Goals that Matter

Earlier this month, I accomplished a years-long goal — I visited every country in Europe! Here’s how it feels.

Question. Let's say, hypothetically, you had $15,000 and two weeks to spend on a trip anywhere in Europe. You could REALLY do it up.

Where would you go and what would you do?

$10k for a Selfie: When Online Sexual Harassment Gets out of Hand

Sexual harassment in the travel blogging industry. Yep. It happens a lot. I share some of my experiences along with several other women’s on Be My Travel Muse.

What’s It Like to Tour Chernobyl Today?

It was around a year ago when I visited Chernobyl. One of the most fascinating places I've ever visited. Would you go?

All Info - S.3036 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): Keep Families Together Act

Friends, I have something to ask of you today. Immigrant children in the United States are being taken from their parents and placed in internment camps.

This is horrifying. Taking children from their parents -- some of them still breastfeeding, some of them with autism and epilepsy, some of them with physical and intellectual disabilities -- is cruel and inhumane. The United Nations has denounced the US's actions.

Their parents are seeking asylum legally. They are very often women fleeing gang violence in communities where the police are just as corrupt and there is literally no safe place to turn.

This bill is by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. It does one thing: keep children from being taken from their parents. That's it. Surely we can all get behind that.

The bill currently has 39 co-sponsors, all Democrats and Independents. This is not a partisan issue. It deserves bipartisan support.

I ask my readers who live in a state where one or both of your Senators is not a co-sponsor, please call their office (don't email, call) and ask them to co-sponsor bill S.3036.

Beyond that, share this information on social media with your friends. Protest. And remember to VOTE IN THE 2018 MIDTERMS this November.

If you still want to help, even if you're not American or living in the US, I encourage you to donate to the ACLU (aclu.org). They are working around the clock to help these children and their families.

Instagram’s Wannabe-Stars Are Driving Luxury Hotels Crazy

Well, this article has certainly been making the rounds.

What are your thoughts? I have a lot.

Instagram content is gone in a flash. Blog content lives forever.

And for me, as a blogger who works with brands, what I do WORKS. I've sent tons of readers to Savannah, Bologna, and Koh Lanta because of the content on my site. I sell a ton of portable safes each month because I recommend them so highly. Long, well-written, detailed content that targets people actually planning trips -- not just a girl lounging on a hotel bed in a dress from Lulu's with the caption "sweet dreams 😴✨💕"

Several of my travel industry colleagues have noticed that the demand for Instagram influencers has been waning a bit. What brands really want is content that lasts -- content that shows up when you google the destination.

That's very different from fashion or beauty content -- they're impulse buys. People impulse buy bikinis all the time. They don't impulse buy a safari in Tanzania. Instagram fashion won't be slowing down anytime soon.

What do you think?

Solo Female Travel in Lebanon: Is it Safe?

The big one is here! When I went to Lebanon a few weeks ago, almost everyone said, "Is it safe?"

The answer? It's MUCH safer than most people think it is.

I went to Lebanon with the goal of experiencing all types of travel so I could write the definitive guide to solo female travel in the country. This is that guide.

Everything you need to know about traveling by organized tour vs. public transportation vs. private driver; how to deal with men in Lebanon; and all the safety information about areas labeled as "avoid all but essential travel" by various Western governments.

A Weekend at the Wylder Hotel in Tilghman Island, Maryland

A month ago I went to Tilghman Island, Maryland for the weekend. I never would have thought of it as a weekend getaway option, but I had such an awesome (and supremely relaxing) time!

If you live in the NYC, Philly, DC, or Baltimore areas, put the Wylder Hotel Tilghman Island on your list for a weekend away. Stress melts off you like you wouldn’t believe.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you up to today that has nothing to do with the world of travel? (Because we’re well-rounded individuals, right?)

I went to Zumba and worked on my first crochet animal — a narwhal. (SO hard.) Now hanging out on my local cafe’s back patio and enjoying an iced coffee. What about you?

CNN's Anthony Bourdain dead at 61

What an absolute devastating loss.

I call him Uncle Tony. Every time I do, a few of you ask, "Is he really your uncle?" Nah. But that just goes to show you how I view him: equal parts sage and loving, infinitely knowledgeable and eager to tell you things your parents wouldn't.

Anthony Bourdain changed how all of us travel. Since I began my travel blogging career in 2010, there has been an enormous change in the influence of food on travel. Culinary travel used to be about dining in the best restaurants with the most famous chefs; in the past decade, street food cooked by regular people has become the essence of traveling for food. Bourdain did not invent that concept -- but he popularized it to the mainstream.

And perhaps the most important thing he did was teach us how to interact with people on our travels. He didn’t have a shred of condescension in his body. Whether he was rollicking it up in a Russian sauna, surrounded by vodka and cured meats, or a sitting on the ground in a home in Laos with victims of America's secret bombing campaign, he was there to eat and listen to their stories as an equal, not as someone looking down on them.

Bourdain was also one of the most influential figures on my own career. His many rants about Emeril and other chefs have caused me to be more cautious, to be in a position where I only work on products that I'm fiercely proud of -- not products that I have no choice but to promote because there are too many people financially depending on the Adventurous Kate Machine. He's also inspired me to visit places that don't get enough coverage, like Hokkaido and Lebanon and Ukraine, rather than being the umpteenth person writing about Whatever Destination Has The Most Money This Year.

Since the deaths of Bourdain and Kate Spade this week, I've seen a very common phrase on social media: "Just goes to show that all the money and success in the world can't buy happiness." Okay, I am going to stop you RIGHT THERE. We don't say, "Just goes to show that all the money and success in the world can't buy a body free of cancer cells."

Suicide isn't about happiness or sadness. Depression is a disease that warps your brain chemistry and changes your thoughts. People who take their own lives genuinely believe that the world and their loved ones would be better off with them gone.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, there are so many people who can help you. These thoughts are not normal. Please reach out to a loved one, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at +1 800-273-8255. You can chat online 24/7 at suicidepreventionhotline.org. If you'd rather text, people in the States can text HOME to 741741 to the Crisis Text Line 24/7. You can get a list of international providers here: https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/

RIP, Uncle Tony, and thank you for all the joys you brought to our lives.

Back at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam for the fourth time in two weeks — but I don’t care. This is my favorite airport!

Schiphol does everything right. Going through check-in and security is fast and efficient, and I’ve never seen a long line anywhere. The people who work here, from airline employees to Starbucks baristas, are kind, helpful, and pleasant. The KLM lounge is huge and you can find privacy if you need it. And it’s well-connected via public transit to all over the Netherlands. You can even go direct to Paris!

Basically, this airport is the polar opposite of my home airport, JFK, which is a complete mess populated with surly employees and it costs me $55 for an Uber (or 90 minutes via subway, but most of my flights leave early so that’s usually not doable).

Singapore’s airport might get all the international acclaim...but still, I like Schiphol better. If you’re evaluating flights to Europe and you have to do a layover somewhere, do it here. Or just stay. This country is awesome.

BONUS: they have Gouda samples in most of the souvenir shops!

One last stop before I begin my journey home: Paphos, on the western coast of Cyprus.

That guy’s chest is gonna HUUUUUUURT...

To everyone who told me to eat at Zanettos and didn’t tell me any details, YOU HAVE AN EXCELLENT SENSE OF HUMOR.

I sat down and they just started bringing me plates. And plates and plates. So much delicious Cypriot food! Souvlaki and halloumi and even a bowl of snails!

How can one human eat this much food? As good as it is? I was getting nervous that it would be super expensive but it was only €21!

If you’re coming to Cyprus, come to Zanettos to explore all kinds of local dishes. And you better come with an appetite!

May was beyond insane. I went on trips to Maryland, New Orleans, the Netherlands and Lebanon — and had more disasters in a single month than I’ve had in a long time. https://www.adventurouskate.com/ak-monthly-recap-may-2018/

Nicosia, Cyprus, is the only divided capital in the world. Today I walked over to the Turkish side — super easy and only took a few minutes to go through immigration.

It’s amazing how quickly the atmosphere changes. It’s quieter. Less dense. More spread out.

And my least favorite thing about Turkey — lots of staring from men.

I planned to go over to Kyrenia today, but we had an apocalyptic rainstorm for a few hours and I stayed put. I’ll probably check it out tomorrow!

The Paradise Pack | The ultimate bundle of resources from your favorite travel gurus

It's time for the best deal of the year once again! The Paradise Pack is on sale and offers you a massive discount on the resources that will teach you to start your own business -- a business you could run from the road while traveling.

That is, of course, if you're willing to make the effort. Most people don't.

If you're intrigued -- take a look. It might be for you. It might not be. It could be what changes everything.

You guys MUST see this hotel room. I had no idea I got the themed room! 🦓🦓🦓

Guys, my hotel room in Nicosia is not what I expected. In a very, very good way. 🦓🦓🦓

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED! With today’s arrival in Cyprus, I have officially visited every country in Europe!!!

And it only took me 17 years — since I set foot in France as a bright-eyed sixteen-year-old in 2001!

I adore this continent. I feel at home on this continent (some countries more than others). I’ve lived on this continent, and I’d love to live part-time on this continent someday.

Now — am I going to try to go to every country in the world? HELL NOPE. Not my thing. I don’t want to turn my travels into a chore.

Just this. I’ve got it. And it’s good.

I’m thinking of putting together a post of my 50 or so favorite places in Europe!

Today is my last day in Lebanon and I spent it at the largest Roman temple in the world — Baalbek! And Anjer, too.

Lebanon has been a very interesting country in which to travel. Very European in some areas and very Middle Eastern in others. Great people, awesome food, insane drivers, epic mountains, and full of new friends.

I wouldn’t recommend Lebanon to newbie travelers or first-time international travelers. It’s rough and challenging. But for experienced international travelers interested in a place that doesn’t get enough positive press? A very interesting place to visit.

I’m so excited about writing about Lebanon in depth!

Wow, I had the BEST day today in Tyre! And it was because I took the BUS! When I told my Beirut-living friends I wanted to do some day trips by bus, they were shocked. "What?! Why would you do that? Just hire a driver!" they said.

Well...hiring a driver generally starts around $150 per day from a legit organization, or maybe around $100 if grab random drivers off the street. Not everyone can afford that. Especially when you're traveling solo.

I'm not doing this Lebanon trip for fun -- this trip is a fact-finding mission for you, my dear readers. I came here because there is almost no information online about traveling Lebanon as a solo female. So my aim here is to travel to the far reaches of the country by organized tour, private driver, and public transportation, evaluating each option and writing in depth about their advantages and disadvantages.

One of my friends, Alexandra, has taken the bus frequently in Lebanon and gave me advice. "Dress conservatively. Wear long sleeves. Sit next to women. The two front rows are unofficially reserved for women. Put your headphones in if any man bothers you." Duly noted.

I got an Uber down to Cola, where the buses heading south leave, and said, "Sour?" (Arabic for Tyre) and they told me to get on the bus to Saida (Sidon) and switch. The buses are actually minibuses -- like large vans. I saw there was a woman in the first row and I gratefully sat down next to her. Another woman sat down next to me.

The ride was smooth -- and SUPER FAST. I was told each journey would be just over an hour; both of them took about 40 minutes.

And the cost? 2,000 Lebanese pounds, or $1.33, per journey. So Beirut-Sidon, Sidon-Tyre, and Tyre-Sidon-Beirut cost me $5.33 total. THAT'S A LOT LESS THAN $100. I was charged the local price every time. There's no question that I'm a foreigner, but maybe dressing conservatively and looking Lebanese paid off here.

Now. Tyre. The ruins were AWESOME (and I'm not a ruins person). They're set right on the Mediterranean, surrounded by pink flowers, and gorgeous. UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The town is comfortable and chill. All good vibes. It is super Middle Eastern compared to the other regions in Lebanon I've visited. Nearly all women are in headscarves and nobody was eating due to Ramadan. I was about to say that ZERO men in Lebanon have made me feel uncomfortable (and that is virtually unheard of); sadly, ONE man rode by me and made kissing noises. Still...only one in four days is lower than almost anywhere.

And I ACTUALLY MADE FRIENDS. I sat with a woman and her son, having orange juice and coffee -- they couldn't speak English or French and I couldn't speak Arabic, so we got by on "habibi" and "shukran" and "America." I had a long conversation with an Indian couple and their baby, and even got to play with another Lebanese baby on the bus back.

I've missed these kinds of experiences. I feel like I've been purposely insulating myself from people, saying to myself, "I'm here to work, not to make friends." That goes out the window now.

Three full days in Lebanon, and two things stand out to me. The first is that it's incredibly European -- it doesn't feel like the Middle East at all. French is one of the main languages here. The cities and landscapes remind me a lot of the Balkans, but on a much larger scale -- think Albania and Macedonia more than Croatia or Slovenia.

That said, I'm heading to more conservative areas in the south tomorrow (Tyre and/or Sidon, depending on time) and my assessment may change after visiting them.

The second is that I've found a country of my lookalikes. EVERYONE I meet here asks if I'm of Lebanese ancestry and is shocked when I tell them no. I get asked about my background a LOT, but this is next level. I love being honorarily Lebanese!

Algarve Holiday Villas