A sigh of relief is shed now that we can finally put an end to 2020. Who could have imagined such a year? It all started out so well and so promising, how did it turn out to be so torrid? I don’t think anyone is naive enough to believe that a new year will wipe the slate clean. That 2021 will not be without its challenges, however, if I may reflect with a pinch of indulgence, here is a recap from our travels in 2020.
In case you missed the 2018 and 2019 recap’s or perhaps you’re after some travel #inspo, just click on those links. I should warn you that this year, unsurprisingly, is a little less adventurous – but mildly interesting none the less.
While it’s easy to remember the tail end, what with the drama and despair; I encourage you to not let it overshadow the year all together. And so, let’s get into it!
My favourite destination in 2020 (and possibly for our entire year abroad) was without a doubt Barbados, specifically our experience trying hash in Barbados and of course: surfing alongside green turtles.
Here we go!
Hello Barbados! Welcoming in the New Year on Heron Bay was an experience, and by that I mean, we watched the fireworks at midnight and fought with the crowds at 12.05am to get home. While the locals didn’t stick around long that night, my fondness for their laissez faire approach to life has lasted far longer. The culture, the food, the community, the language and the lush scenery are just some of the spoils in Barbados. What can I say, you’ll just have to get there to experience it for yourself. Our month-long house sit was drawing to a close towards the end of January, before we took flight across the Caribbean Sea to Panama!
February saw us gain an extra team member when Moo’s mum (Soz) arrived in Panama City. Together we explored the city itself, El Valle de Anton and Taboga Island – it was so lovely to sit, read and watch the plethora of ships line up to pass the canal. From there, not done with the Caribbean just yet, Moo and I took an overnight bus (urgh) to Bocas del Toro and Boquete to snorkel and sip the world’s most expensive coffee (geisha coffee).
Before leaving, I was desperate to find a sloth in the wild. Only when I’d booked a ticket to the sloth sanctuary did I finally see one in a tree (while in my uber to said sanctuary!) Sloth sighting secured, it was next on to Mexico!
Flying into Mexico City, Moo and I had one thing on our mind, and one thing only – FOOD. And boy did we eat! Moo loved the tacos so much he even wrote a guest blog on avaycay about his favourite locales. I simply adored Mexico City. The art, the fashion, the ruins, the music, the Frida Khalo museum, the masked wrestlers – yes – perhaps especially because of the masked wrestlers (Lucha Libra).
After a whirlwind week (could have easily stayed for another) we made our way to Baja California Sur, the tiny peninsula on the west coast. We made the most of our time in ‘Baja’ (bah-har) swimming with whale sharks and sipping mezcal.
Segue – By this point, we’d heard about the virus that shall not be named disrupting people’s travel plans, but like most of you, thought it to be little cause for concern. “Nothing more than a cold” we assumed, and plowed on with our journey as planned.
By mid-March we had finally made it to the last country on our year-long trip: the United States of America! We flew into San Francisco and were welcomed by our friends Noni and Bri. Nothing beats living like (and with) a local, we were incredibly grateful for their hospitality. Together we saw a NBA game, visited the Sonoma wine region – which required an obligatory snap with the Golden Gate bridge – and even made it down to Pier 39.
From there we zipped down to San Diego! At this point we were in serious preparation mode for our attempt at cycling the entire width of the U.S from west to east. We set out on March 14 and made it across California, into Arizona seven days later.
Okay, here’s where things got serious – Australian borders were closing to anyone but nationals, Californian cities were heading into their first of many lockdown’s, airlines were posing curfews, the government were threatening hotel quarantine to international arrivals and our travel insurance was suddenly deemed null and void. By day we would cycle through desert, pine forest and sand dunes, and by night our phones were a constant buzz with concerned family and friends. Sadly after just eleven days cycling, we made the arduous decision to abandon the trip and fly back to Australia.
Narrowly missing mandatory hotel quarantine (by one day), we landed in Sydney and headed north to Newcastle to self-isolate. Half expecting a house visit from the police, the two weeks went by without a hitch.
May began my appreciation for Newcastle. Or more plainly, my appreciation for the delicious coffee on offer. We spent the month decompressing from the journey and found salvation in long beach walks, fresh food and – of course – quality time spent with my mum.
We travelled south to see our friends at long last in Sydney. They were a sight for sore eyes, I tell ya!
The month of June played out like an in-house Masterchef series, where we’d take turns in cooking Ottolenghi recipes, paring our meals with wine, cocktails or home-made desserts. I think mum and I can both agree that Moo won. He even scored a job in Melbourne and before the end of the month we drove the 1,029km from Newcastle to Melbourne (stopping off in Canberra and Cootamundra on the way.)
Sydney was fun, but after seven years living in the eastern suburbs and northern beaches, it was time for a change. I had been admitted into Monash University to study a Master of International Sustainable Tourism and so – off we went!
July, August, September, October
Here’s were things went south – pun intended – we arrived in Melbourne on 25 June and by the 7th of July, we were in Stage 3 lockdown. By August 1, we entered Stage 4 lockdown.
112 days later, saw us officially out of lockdown; severely fed up with baking, jigsaw puzzles, cocktail making and online shopping (we had zero furniture once restrictions were in place!) On a lighter note, we adopted a four-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, named Rodman – He’s so much fun!
Footloose and fancy free, we took a four-day trip to the Mornington Peninsula. Here, we quickly discovered that Millionaires Walk in Sorento was less of an adjective and more of a reality, that locally-made pinot noir can be found by the gallon and that travelling with a dog isn’t so hard after all.
I also took a trip down to Geelong and Torquay with some girlfriends (sans doggo and Moo) to go wine tasting and surfing, not at the same time, don’t be ridiculous.
December saw me submit my final assignment (for the semester), become a more confident dog owner and surround myself with uplifting and supportive people. In Melbourne, there’s something in the air. Oh how I’ve missed the sounds of the street, the ding of the tram, the smile from a stranger and an ice cold beer on tap.
If the year has taught me anything, it’s that solitude is different to loneliness and companionship is different than togetherness (courtesy: Lena Dunham). Not for a second do I take for granted the privilege that surrounds me. And not for a moment can I ignore what that privilege affords me. With that, I hope to continue to do good work through my passion for responsible travel.
Thank you dear reader, for your support throughout the year. From here, I wish you a very Happy New Year! May you travel ethically, eat well and adventure more.
Until next year xo