Every year I write a recap of the best and worst moments of the year. Typically, these are filled with funny travel fails, feel-good moments, and business and travel accomplishments. Usually, I love writing these posts as they are fun to reflect on but this year, my annual summary was a bit harder to write.
I’m confident that I can speak for everyone when I say that 2020 didn’t end up how we planned. I went into the year with big goals and ambitions only to have most of them crash and burn three months in. My epic travel plans which involved Turkey with Intrepid Travel, living in Greece for a while before leading my first ever ESBT group tour, and diving with sharks, whales, and mantas in French Polynesia never happened.
While the loss of physical travel was a huge blow for me, I also struggled with my business. I started this blog back in 2012 and it has since become my job. My livelihood. The fact that travel basically disappeared overnight meant that a huge portion of my income did too and that terrified me. Especially when I started the year on such a high and successful note.
To be honest, when I evacuated from Israel in March and spent two weeks quarantining in my bedroom, I honestly thought that things would return to normal by summer. However, when they didn’t, I spiralled. I was stressed, anxious, and miserable. I struggled with my mental health for the months of April and May, feeling trapped, lonely, and sad. I felt like I was just wasting my life sitting around waiting for better things. I was bored and, in turn, I felt boring.
I hated that.
Thankfully, when our first lockdown ended, I was able to turn that mindset around. Looking back, I still feel sad about this year. It’s hard not to reflect on everything that I ‘lost’. But, it wasn’t all bad. Some pretty good things came out of this year too.
So, here we go. Here’s the best and worst of 2020.
The Bad of 2020
I always buy travel insurance (and you should too). But, I have to say when I considered the possibility of evacuation it was always, in my head, because of some natural disaster like an earthquake. Not a global pandemic that caused the world to shut their borders and make visitors in foreign countries feel like, well, a human plague.
When Canada called all Canadians home and announced they were closing borders I struggled to find a flight home. It ended up costing over $1200CAD (one way- which was refunded by travel insurance) and took ages to find. On top of that, Israel had already closed its borders and began lockdown which meant finding a place to stay before my flight home was near impossible. As Brittany and I walked through the streets with our suitcases in tow, we were glared at, cursed at, and had a dirty Kleenex thrown at us. As a young, white woman from Canada, I have never experienced racism. However, this felt pretty close.
Quarantining for 2 Weeks in My Bedroom
Quarantine was not mandatory when I arrived back home. However, tests also were not available to those who had travelled at the time. Since my base in Canada is my childhood home, that meant I was potentially putting my family in jeopardy if I did manage to get COVID-19 on the flight home. So I made the decision to self-quarantine in my bedroom for the full 14 days just in case.
It started off ok. After all, the stress of evacuating plus jetlag meant I had a lot of sleep to catch up on. But the novelty of Netflix in bed and having meals delivered to me wore off very quickly. I ended up feeling pretty sad and depressed. Not being able to go outside was really hard. Plus, the constant paranoia of ‘what if’ was incredibly draining.
Let’s just say it’s definitely not something I want to have to do again.
Watching My Business Fall Apart
I started this blog back in 2012. It started as a hobby but has, over time, become my livelihood. A lot of the money I make from this site is passive; people book tours or hotels through my affiliate links and I make money from ads. This means that I had a reliable monthly income that I could depend on. Well, until the world stopped travelling.
The lack of travel income was tough and definitely a cause for concern, though I do have multiple revenue streams and make it work. But, it was really sad seeing everything I have worked so hard to create over the past few years become, well, useless.
The Mental Strain
I can’t talk about 2020 without bringing up the mental stress that this year caused. I mentioned above that I struggled the most in April and May but I’ve felt like I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster ever since. Some days are fine and I feel happy and hopeful. But, other days I just want to curl up into a sad ball and hide from the world. Like everyone else, I had so many goals this year that never came into play. Losing those made me feel like I failed. I felt like I went from someone exciting and successful to someone boring who had nothing going for her and I’ve spent a lot of time stressing and worrying about what next.
At the same time, aside from 2020 being a dumpster fire on its own, I had a few things going on in my personal life as well. In the span of six weeks, I lost two incredibly important women in my life. It just made the year so much harder. I feel like all that 2020 did was take.
The Good of 2020
Giving Israel a Second Chance- and Loving It
Despite the stress of leaving Israel, I actually am very glad I went. I visited the country for the first time in 2018 and, honestly, didn’t have a great experience. I never expected to go back. Fast forward a year and a half and I found myself back in time to celebrate Purim with a fellow blogger, Brittany, who had been several times and LOVED the country. Thanks to her enthusiasm, I decided to give Israel a second chance and see it through her eyes.
I get the hype.
Once you get away from conflict tourism (which was a lot of my first visit) you get to see a totally different side of the country. Amazing food, friendly people (there was more good than bad, even when things got scary), and a whole lot of fun. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted since my trip was cut short, so I’m sure I’ll be back a third time.
Spending an Entire Summer at My Family Cottage
I grew up spending my summers as a child at the family cottage in Quebec. Located about 1.5 hours from our home in the city, our cottage is an old, rustic place on a beautiful lake in the middle of the forest. It’s my favourite place in the world. Since I started working as a teenager my time there has decreased a lot. Usually just weekends and maybe a week or two mid-summer.
However, with the way this year was going I decided that’s where I wanted to be. It was safer, more remote, and had so much more to offer in terms of things to do (safely and social distanced). I paid a stupid amount to get rural internet up there to be able to work but it was so worth it. I spent 4 months being able to swim, boat, SUP, and hike every day. It was the best thing I could have done for my mental health and I am beyond grateful that we have that place.
Successfully Pivoting My Business
Losing my travel income was hard. As I watched the numbers plummet I knew I needed to switch things up, so I did. I stepped away from travel and instead blogged a bit about travel-inspired recipes that people could do from home, I wrote a bit about photography (I bought a mirrorless camera and spent a lot of the year learning more about photography), and I even opened up a resource section on blogging and freelancing for others looking to do the same. It didn’t make up for the loss of travel searches, but, it was nice to create content that people could actually use at this time.
I also spent a lot more time doing freelance writing, which, amazingly, was booming for me. I was far busier than I anticipated and ended up having my most successful year yet as an entrepreneur. While it wasn’t the work year I had hoped for, I am incredibly proud of myself for being able to adapt and succeed.
As much as I love travel I am a family girl at heart and being able to spend so much of this year with them (and my dog) was really nice. I know that the pandemic has separated many loved ones around the world and I am beyond grateful that I have been able to spend these past few difficult months with my family.
So…What Next for 2021?
NOT A CLUE.
Honestly, I have never been so clueless going into a new year before. Aside from my ESBT Greek sailing trip- which I had to reschedule from last year- at the end of May, I have zero travel booked or planned for this year. I am incredibly hopeful that 2021 will involve more travel than 2020, but everything is so uncertain right now I’m waiting to see what happens.
If I do get back to travel this year, it will be different. Much slower. I think I will choose a destination or two to use as a base and do some local exploring rather than hop around a lot. I expect travel, as an industry, will take a couple of years to bounce back and that some destinations will take longer than others. The fact that we now have vaccines available is a huge step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.
I also hope to do a bit more local travel. Maybe even Canada-wide travel when things settle down a bit. Unfortunately, we’re starting the new year in lockdown but I’m choosing to think that if we start rough we will end on a high note. At least I hope so.
Thank you to everyone who has followed along this year and continued to support me. It means a lot to me and you have no idea how appreciative I am. Here’s to hoping 2021 is more exciting and better for us all!