AK Monthly Recap: September 2020

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Finally, this was the month that I got back to Prague!

We did not expect it to take this long. The reason why I went to Serbia in late June in the first place is because the Czechs were about to welcome partners of Czech residents back — but then when the official announcement came, they said it would only be for partners of Czech citizens.

Charlie is a permanent resident, not a citizen. Despite living in Prague for nearly 20 years, paying Czech taxes, and even speaking Czech, he didn’t hit the threshold for getting to bring his partner back.

So there was nothing we could do but wait. And that is what led to our summer in Croatia and Italy. Waiting. Waiting — in exceptionally beautiful places — but waiting nonetheless.

On September 21, more than six months after the Czech Republic closed its borders, they announced that they would begin to allow partners of EU citizens who were temporary or permanent Czech residents. (Charlie is British, and despite Brexit, UK citizens are considered EU citizens until the end of the year for immigration purposes. Huge stroke of luck.)

We applied for me to be accepted on September 21, I was accepted two days later, and two days after that, I began making my way back to Prague.

The journey back did not go as planned. See “Challenges.”

Destinations Visited

  • Venice (including Murano and Burano), Padova, Stra, Ferrara, and Parma, Italy
  • Brno and Prague, Czech Republic

Highlights

My course is launched! Earn Like an Artist: Building a Patreon That Pays is a course designed to get you to build a high-earning Patreon that earns you good money long-term. If you’re a creator who was impacted by COVID — and I know everyone in the travel industry was heavily impacted — this course is a way for you to replace some of the income you’ve lost, and keep earning that same income every month long-term.

Getting reacquainted with Prague. I can still barely believe that I’m here! It’s been mostly cold and rainy, but I’m looking forward to getting out for some long walks. It’s such a cool city, such a CHEAP city, and I’m looking forward to my time here.

Spending time in Ferrara. All roads lead back to Emilia-Romagna for me, and I always end up back in my favorite culinary region of Italy. This time, I was staying with my dear friend Katie, her husband Justin, and their three-year-old daughter, who have been living there for nearly three years. They welcomed me so warmly and gave me a place of my own — I was so grateful that I had a place to wait out the uncertainty for a bit. It was fun getting to spend time with all three of them, and hanging out with Katie made me realize how much I needed some girl time.

And the three-year-old and I had a lot of fun together! She would come up to me and say, “Kate, can you show me ten cats on your phone?” Yes I can, kiddo.

A quick jaunt to Parma. Parma is one of my favorite Italian cities and it’s a reasonable drive from Ferrara. Katie and I headed down for some food and window shopping. The windows were as droolworthy as ever.

A street in Venice lined with homes. Out one window hangs laundry: two red and white striped shirts and a black and white striped shirt. The uniform of a gondolier.
Either a gondolier lives here — or Waldo.

Getting to know Venice on an intimate level. I’ve visited Venice twice before this year — but only as a day trip. That is a BAD idea. You really need at least three full days in Venice to truly appreciate it. Night in Venice is so special. One of my favorite moments was when I walked home alone at night, got slightly lost, and paused atop a bridge, listening to the sound of forks clinking as families ate dinner. People really do live in Venice.

And this was an unusual time in Venice, to say the least. It wasn’t desolate, and there were still plenty of tourists, mostly Europeans, but it was still significantly less crowded than the city usually is at this time of year. Of all the places I visited in summer, people were most conscientious about mask usage in Italy, and especially so in Venice.

Some of the biggest highlights were finally visiting Burano, the rainbow-colored island; trying all kinds of cicchetti, and our favorite place, Vino Vero in Cannaregio; taking a romantic gondola ride; and cooking at home with all the superb Italian groceries.

A quick jaunt to Padova and Stra. We dropped into Padova long enough to grab some beef tartare sliders at a cafe, then visited the lovely, ornate Villa Foscarini Rossi in the nearby town of Stra. Stra was also where I switched out my giant bags of luggage, trading summer clothing for winter clothing, not knowing how long it would be before I could get back to Prague.

Meeting up with a great travel friend. You might remember my friend Maya — I met her in Nicaragua, ran into her again in El Salvador, ran into her again in Guatemala, then moved to Harlem and she lived a few blocks away! She wrote my Traveling Solo as a Woman of Color post. She’s currently doing a residency in Italy and she was in Venice at the same time as me. I’m sure we’ll continue running into each other around the world!

Also, um, we found the impossible. Free parking in Venice. I didn’t trust the lot, but Charlie was eager to try it. Turns out it was free. I’m not going to give exact directions (I couldn’t if I tried), but if you drive around the paid lots, you’ll notice some where there appears to be no payment, no stickers, nothing.

Kate's 2018 Halloween costume: Ruth Bader Ginsberg at the gym! Kate wears black glasses, an open black robe, a bright gold collar-like necklace, a black sports bra, black yoga pants, and black sneakers. She holds her arm up to show off her muscle.
Halloween 2018: Kate as RBG at the gym!

Challenges

Losing RBG. A gut punch on top of an exceptionally terrible year. But more than anything, I wish she had been able to be mourned the way she deserved, as a trailblazer who did so much work for gender equality throughout her career. Nothing like what we’re facing now. And I’m shocked that she’s only the first woman in history to lie in state in the US Capitol.

A hell of a journey to Prague. Well, after six months of waiting, why not finish with a gauntlet of fire? My plan was to get from Ferrara to Prague in a day, taking 15 hours worth of trains. (Due to COVID, there are no more direct flights from Bologna or Venice to Prague. Crazy.) My first train, from Ferrara to Venice Mestre, was fine.

In Venice Mestre Station, very few of the signs on the platforms were working, and the only signs that displayed the full train schedules were downstairs. An employee had asked me, “You go to Vienna?” and checked my temperature, then directed me upward. Sometime between then and the train time, my train got moved to a completely different platform. Because the sign wasn’t working, I had no idea.

I went to the Trenitalia office and they allowed me to switch to a later train at no charge. That would get me in to Vienna at 11:00 PM, and with no further transport to Prague available and me being unable to overnight in Austria due to COVID, Charlie would drive four hours to pick me up. I spent a few hours reading and working.

I was so ready for the next train, and even kept hopping back and forth between the platform and the downstairs just to make sure the platform didn’t change. Then two minutes before it was due to arrive, my train disappeared and flashed CANCELLATO. Canceled. And Charlie was halfway to Vienna.

Long story (VERY long story) short: I ended up on an overnight Flixbus from Venice to Brno, in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. I got in at 7:00 AM and Charlie picked me up, having overnighted there. After a 2.5-hour snooze, I felt almost human again, and we grabbed breakfast and drove home to Prague.

A Kajabi outage at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME. Earn Like an Artist is hosted on Kajabi, and it went down — along with tons of other sites — riiiiiight after I emailed thousands of people, directing them to a Kajabi-based site! Man. I’m in a Kajabi group on Facebook and everyone was FREAKING THE F OUT. I’m glad I wasn’t mid-webinar when the outage happened.

I did something to my eyes, but it turned out okay. At the end of my time in Croatia, while photographing Groznjan, I felt like I had hurt my eyes while popping back and forth between my viewfinder and the scenery. It felt like my two eyes were focusing differently and it was giving me a headache. Of course I got myself terrified thinking that it was a sign of a major neurological issue.

After a few days, I was still dealing with the unevenness, so I saw an ophthalmologist in Venice. He said my eyes were fine, though it would probably be better for my eyes to shoot while looking at the screen rather than the viewfinder. Even though most photographers consider that anathema. Weeks later, I’m totally back to normal, thankfully.

Mosquito attacks. Venice is a lovely city. Staying right on a canal was incredible. But mosquitos love hovering around the canals of Venice, and we got super bitten, waking up in the middle of the night most nights just to scratch the new bites.

Also, I left my phone at the grocery store in Ferrara. Tucked neatly in the vegetables! (Pretty sure I did the same thing last year in Le Marche.) Nobody touched it, so that was good!

A wooden cutting board topped with various cured meats, cheeses, and a bottle of traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena.
Best dinner you can have in Emilia-Romagna: cured meats, parmigiano, and balsamico.

Blog Post of the Month

I’ve Launched a Patreon Course: Earn Like an Artist! — The announcement of my Patreon course! Super thrilled. As you might have guess, this is the reason why I was pretty quiet otherwise this month.

Kate's hand holds a golden beer with a nice white foam in front of the cityscape of Prague -- a view of lots of orange roofs and statues underneath a cloudy sky.
There’s nothing like the first outdoor beer back in Prague.

This Month on Patreon

This month on the Adventurous Kate Patreon, the long-form essay is called “What You Think About When You Become an Expat” and it shares a few different incidents from my life and travels that left me feeling adrift in a new city.

I also wrote a little mini essay about New York moments, and the most awkward New York moment of all time.

And I want to give a shout-out to September’s new patrons: Janee, Rebecca, Erin, Kimberly, Hélène, Melody, and Christine! You guys rock.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. The cover has a drawn image of a Black woman praying.

This Month’s Book Club

This month, join us for reading Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi! Gyasi is the Ghanaian-American author of Homegoing, one of my favorite reads of 2017. I’m excited to return to a world of her creation.

Yaa Gyasi’s stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national best seller Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama. 

Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family’s loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive. 

Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief–a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut.

Our meeting is on October 25 at 1:00 PM ET and you can sign up here. Hope to see you there!!

Kate stands in front of the Lennon Wall in Prague, featuring an image of John Lennon and lots of graffiti on top of a map. Part of it says "All you need is Love and Face Mask." Kate wears a leather jacket, skinny jeans, tall black boots, big black sunglasses.

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

On my first day back in Prague, we went for a long walk around the city. I had actually never seen the Lennon Wall before — the ever-changing mural featuring the likeness of John Lennon. It was amazing (and pretty surreal) to step up for a photo at a popular destination in Prague with nobody else around. (Though some teenagers came in to do handstands against the wall for what I’m guessing was TikTok-related reasons!)

For more updates from my travels, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.

What I Listened To This Month

This musician, Jay Diggs, created an 80s R&B version of WAP. I adore it and have been singing it to myself ever since. Such beautiful historical accuracy. You know Bruno Mars is kicking himself for not coming up with this!

Podcast-wise, this month I listened to “You’re Wrong About”‘s four-part series about Jessica Simpson’s memoir, Open Book, which I read earlier this year and absolutely loved. The podcast series is a great listen once you’ve read the book. I loved their commentary.

What I Watched This Month

I didn’t watch much TV this month, but I did watch two Tom Cruise movies I hadn’t seen before — Edge of Tomorrow and Jerry Maguire. (Yes, you’re correct. I had never seen Jerry Maguire, the most quotable film of the 1990s.) Both great! I had heard for years that Edge of Tomorrow is a massively underrated action movie; it’s excellent. Jerry Maguire was…so very 90s, in a good way. And Tom Cruise definitely gets better with age.

I also rewatched The Mask, one of my favorites as a kid…and yikes. I had not realized how grotesquely sexist it is, how every man relates to every woman in the form of how he’s attracted to her, how Cameron Diaz’s character has zero personality traits other than being sexy and liking two men.

I’m also watching Selling Sunset for the first time right now and I kind of hate myself for it. It’s so obviously fake and there isn’t one likable character on the show…but the homes are really cool.

Ferrara's red brick boxy castle, set in the middle of a green moat, underneath a blue partly cloudy sky, an orange building with porticoes in the background.

What I Read This Month

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld (2020) — What would have happened if Hillary had never married Bill? This speculative novel begins when Hillary and Bill are studying together at Yale Law School. They fall in love; she follows him to Arkansas; he keeps asking her to marry him. But after a disturbing incident, she decides to leave him. She launches her own political career independently of Bill and her political star rises, but they keep crossing paths at pivotal moments in their very different lives.

HOLY FUCK, I LOVED THIS BOOK. I could not put it down!! I really enjoyed Sittenfeld’s American Wife, a novel about a First Lady very much like Laura Bush, and this one was equally compelling. It wasn’t a crazy fantasy — THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN!! — but it was just entertaining. How different Hillary’s life could have been if she had not been dragged down by Bill being Bill. The alternative scenario was quite plausible, if not for a certain memorable cameo toward the end. Highly recommended.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2014) — Robin Wall Kimmerer is a Native American, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and a biologist. All her life, she grew up getting to know the plants and animals closely; as a professor, she was thrown into a different environment, focusing on science and nothing else. This book is where she marries the two: the science of plants and the deeper meaning of their place in the environment.

“I was teaching their names and ignoring their songs.” Kimmerer uses this phrase to talk about her early days of teaching, before she learned how to teach from her background as well. I love that phrase and feel like it applies to so many forms of art (including…yes, travel blogging) where the songs are overlooked as unnecessary, but the songs are what make people fall in love. This is a beautifully written look at nature and I recommend it as a way to see your own environment differently.

A Happy Pocket Full of Money: Infinite Wealth and Abundance in the Here and Now by David Cameron Gikandi (2015) — This is one of the top-rated books on the money mindset, and it’s also the one that leans strongest on scientific evidence — in this case, quantum physics. This book helps you get into a better mindset for money long-term.

Not everyone is going to get on board with manifestation, but I think your mindset can be tremendously powerful in shaping your future. If any book convinces someone, it will be this one — much more concrete and theoretical physics-oriented than other guides. And I’m someone who rolled my eyes at the more popular books.

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness (2019) — Jonathan Van Ness is a beacon of joy on Queer Eye, bringing happiness to everyone he meets. But it took him a long time to get to the point where he was comfortable with himself, growing up gay in a small, conservative Midwestern town, and struggling with destructive behavior over the years as he escaped his small town, became a hairstylist, then became a star.

This book is basically Jonathan, his pure voice, everything that you’ve seen on Queer Eye and heard on his podcast. It was a very fast and sweet read. I do have to say that I worry for him a bit, though. He talked about going through several rounds of rehab and relapsing often, and how he accepted that aspect of himself, and I just hope he has the support he needs the next time he faces struggles. Often when people become famous they’re surrounded by enablers.

A view of Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge on a cloudy day, the spires sticking straight up from the cathedral, set on a dark gray river.
I’m here to stay in Prague.

Coming Up in October 2020

It is going to be an all-Prague month! What a huge relief to finally be here.

At this point in the long-term visa process, I have arrived, secured Czech health insurance ($41 per month for comprehensive coverage — I KNOW, Americans!!!), and registered at the foreign police. The next step is to work on securing the trade license — the Živnostenský List — which my agency tells me should take around two weeks. Once I’m on the preliminary list, I’m able to stay in the Schengen Area beyond the 90-day limit as my freelance business visa processes.

One amazing thing about actually being in the Czech Republic is that in lieu of sending my fingerprints to the FBI and waiting 12 weeks for them to process, I can simply sign an affidavit at the US Embassy. Few countries do this, and this was one of the frustrating aspects I faced when I was trying to get the visa from Italy and Croatia.

There is one exception to being in Prague this month — I’ll need to leave the country to apply for the visa at a Czech embassy. Most likely Berlin, as it’s the closest at just four hours away.

As for COVID, cases have risen sharply in the Czech Republic, and Prague in particular. Restrictions have been increasing and we’re preparing for another lockdown, just in case. This is a time to be cautious, and I’m grateful that we are safely settled here.

What are you looking forward to this month? Share away!


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