I think it’s safe to say that after 2020 we all hoped 2021 would be better. In some ways, it was but for many of us, 2021 was still, well, a bit of a shit show. Once again, coronavirus played a huge role in our lives and despite the rollout of vaccines, things like travel remained difficult for many of us for the majority of the year.
As I look back at this past year I realize it was an absolute whirlwind of emotions. I struggled with mental health during (another) seemingly endless lockdown but then I also had some of the most incredible experiences of my life when things loosened up and I was able to get on a plane again. Travel is definitely different during pandemic times and I realize how incredibly lucky and privileged I am to have been able to have the travel experiences I got out of the year.
So, as a reflection on this year here is my annual wrap up of the good and bad of 2021.
The Bad of 2021
The 6-Month Lockdown
There’s no question that Canada has been incredibly cautious, some may argue even a bit too cautious, throughout the duration of this pandemic. We’ve had some of the longest lockdowns in the world, most notably my home province of Ontario. While lockdown restrictions did vary from city to city Ontario essentially spend mid-December to mid-June in some type of lockdown. Now, lockdowns in spring of 2020 were bad enough but add the boredom and lonely factors to the middle of winter and freezing cold weather where you can’t be outside for long periods of time and you get some pretty depressed and miserable people. It was tough, really tough. And while I tried to find things to keep me busy and keep in touch with friends via facetime and online group get-togethers there is no doubt that my mental health suffered a lot during this period of time.
Cancelling my Group Greece Sailing Trip…Again
The lockdown and closed borders in Canada as well as in many other parts of the world meant that I, once again, had to cancel my group sailing trip. The trip was originally meant to go in 2020 but was postponed to 2021. However, towards the end of February, it became obvious that the trip was not going to be able to go ahead so I had to cancel it a second time. As frustrating as it is to cancel travel, I was most disappointed about losing all the work and effort I had put into planning and organizing this trip for my followers. And while it was no fault of my own, I felt like I let the group down by not being able to see it through for two years in a row. Given the uncertainty of everything, I chose not to try to postpone for the third time but outright cancelled the trip. I will definitely organize it again though when things settle but, in the meantime, I do have a group trip to Antarctica planned for January 2023! (learn more here)
Losing Motivation for Travel Writing
Writing about travel when you can’t travel and the world is struggling with a pandemic is not easy. In fact, for me, it was pretty much impossible. For a bit chunk of 2021, I lost all interest in creating new travel content for my travel blogs. Understandable? Yes. After all, not many people are reading travel articles when they can barely leave their house. But it made me really sad because while this blog is now a huge part of my business, it started as a passion project and I do genuinely love sharing travel stories. However, watching the views dwindle and my income from ad revenue and affiliates trickle down to nearly nothing it’s incredibly demotivating. After all, I still have bills to pay and since the travel isn’t there I’ve needed to focus on other writing projects. I’m feeling a bit more motivated after the past couple of months of travel adventures and I’m hoping 2022 sees an uptick in interest for travel as well so I can get back to prioritizing this side of my business.
Airport Drama in the Middle East
During the month of November, I spent 3 weeks in the Middle East. Most of that time was spent in Tel Aviv but I also spent a few days in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well. I had friends in both destinations and after so much isolation earlier in the year, I prioritized places where I knew people and had connections so I wouldn’t feel so lonely.
I thought it was a good plan but it turns out that as a non-Israeli solo female traveller it really isn’t the best plan to go back and forth between Israel and an Arabic country. Even though Dubai and Israel seem to be buddy-buddy in the media, there is still clearly a lot of mistrust and I experienced the brunt of that.
Long story short, I got pulled aside by Israeli security on the way to Dubai and on the way back. I was questioned repeatedly and searched and scanned and taken to a private room both times. Each of these security experiences took at least two hours leaving me stressed, frazzled, and mentally exhausted. Apparently, I’m prime spy material. Unfortunately, I’m not that cool and just like to travel alone to all kinds of countries. In the end, all was fine, but it was not a fun experience nor one I would like to repeat.
Missed Flight and Lost Luggage
Before all the airport drama described above, my Middle East adventure got off to a rough start. I was meant to fly from my hometown of Ottawa to Toronto and then Toronto direct to Tel Aviv. I picked this route because it was the easiest and the shortest. Unfortunately, it did not work out as planned. My flight from Ottawa to Toronto was delayed by 3 hours thanks to a broken down plane which meant I missed my connection. I was rerouted with Turkish Airlines which added an additional several hours to my schedule (with zero compensation), however, since I still made it in time for the PCR test to be valid, I took it. Then, when I finally arrived in Tel Aviv, I realized my luggage didn’t. Thankfully it arrived two days later but it was very stressful, especially as a plus size woman, to run around Tel Aviv and try to find clothes to get me by in the meantime.
Also, I would like to add that Turkish Airlines is the worst for lost luggage. They offered me a total of $150 for my essential items purchased while my bag was lost. Let me tell you, $150 does not go far in the most expensive city in the world when you literally need to buy everything from underwear to jeans to deodorant and a toothbrush. Thankfully, I have an American Express platinum card which is coming to the rescue and covering the rest.
The Good of 2021
Another Summer Spent at My Cottage
Last year I bit the bullet and decided to have internet installed at my cottage. It costs me a minor fortune but I figured if I needed to hermit during a pandemic I may as well do it by the water for the summer. It was the best decision ever so I repeated it this year. In the past, I would just go up for weekends but being able to live by the lake for 4+ months of the year is the best. I get to swim every morning, take long walks through the forest with my dog, and spend my afternoon and evenings on the dock or a boat. I love travelling the world but my cottage is my happy place and I think living there for part of the year has now become part of my new normal.
Getting on a Plane After 516 Days
Yes, I counted. But for someone who essentially travels for a living, that was an incredibly long time to go without boarding a plane. However, after I received my second dose of the vaccine in July I booked myself a 5-day trip out to British Columbia for a mini escape to re-visit Vancouver and explore Whistler. It was meant to be a solo trip but I ended up bringing two of my best friends with me which made the experience even better. Even though I didn’t leave Canada, it felt so incredible to get back to exploring and doing what I love with some of my favourite people. It was a much-needed mini-break and while perhaps not as exciting as some of my other adventures this year, it meant a lot to me after being grounded for so long.
Island Hopping in French Polynesia
French Polynesia has been a dream destination for me for years and this year, it finally happened. One of my best friends and favourite travel buddy, Chantae, is writing a guidebook for French Polynesia and so we frantically made arrangements to meet in Hawaii and travel to the islands together. We had to push the trip back a month due to covid, but in the end, it all worked out and I spent 6 incredible weeks’ island hopping in the South Pacific. I swam with whales in Moorea, scuba dived with dozens of sharks and manta rays in the Tuamotus, did an epic photoshoot with stingrays and reef sharks, lounged on the deck of an overwater bungalow, and hiked through the remote islands in the Marquesas. Without a doubt, it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and one of the best trips of my life. It was also one of the most expensive, coming in at just over $13,500 CAD for the six weeks. However, thanks to no travel for a year and a half, I had money saved and was able to afford it and do everything I wanted to (so I guess there was a bright side to the pandemic?).
Living Out Luxury Overwater Bungalow Dreams in Bora Bora
There are two types of people when it comes to hotels. The ones who think it’s all about the hotel and the ones who view the hotel as a place to sleep in-between exploring. I’m usually the second one. Just give me a clean bed in a safe place and I’m fine because chances are I’m spending very little time in my room. However, that didn’t stop me from wanting to have an overwater bungalow experience while in French Polynesia.
I actually had two but my stay at the Four Seasons Bora Bora was hands down the winner and the best hotel experience of my life (yes, even cooler than my Irish castles). First off, the bungalow was insane. It was massive and had an absolutely beautiful view looking over the lagoon. We had a huge balcony that I jumped off of about a million times and the most comfortable bed with six pillows each. It was heaven. But the resort itself was stunning too. I spent two days running around checking out the lagoon, the beach, the pool, all spread across gorgeous grounds with lush plants and vibrant flowers. I’m not typically a resort girl but the Four Seasons Bora Bora was the experience of a lifetime and absolutely worth the price tag for a couple of nights.
Travelling with Friends
One of the worst parts about lockdowns and travel restrictions for me is being unable to see my friends. Even here in Ottawa, my best friend lives an hour away so I was unable to see her for months. I also have many friends abroad and being able to plan travels to spend time and meet up with them was amazing. I love solo travel and enjoy being independent, but it was SO nice to explore BC and do a Prince Edward County wine trip with two of my best friends here. It was amazing to spend 6 weeks with Chantae in French Polynesia after not seeing each other since 2018. I had several friends from Instagram in Tel Aviv that I spent time with and got to meet another in Dubai. I don’t think I realized how lonely I had been until I was surrounded by friends again and it felt really nice.
So, What Next for 2022?
I am hopeful that 2022 will bring more travel. In fact, I’m hoping to travel again towards the end of February. Travel will be different though. My plan right now is to find a couple of different places to use as a base and explore from there. It’s hard to hop around too much right now with testing requirements plus, I’m learning to enjoy slow travel more anyway.
Business-wise, I’m really hoping travel picks up. I’m slowly getting back to being more consistent here on the blog and I’ve had a couple of freelance travel commissions as well. Freelance has been a big focus for me the past 2 years, mostly in terms of personal finance writing, but I miss this travel part of my business and would love to see travel return so I can get back to my blog being my priority.
I know, for many readers, travel is still on the backburner. But, as always, I appreciate your continued support. Every time you read an article I make a bit of money from ad revenue. Every time you purchase something or make a booking through one of my affiliate links, I earn a bit of commission (if you are unsure, you can find my affiliate partners and links here).
So thank you again for sticking with me and Happy New Year! Here’s to hoping for a happier, healthier, and more travel-filled 2022!