If we were sitting together right now, you would hear a pause. But, because you’re reading this and we’re most definitely not in the same room, let alone the same building, imagine me sitting with you and just staring and thinking before you read any further. …Yup.
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The Year of Disasters
Because you haven’t heard it said enough already, 2020 was an absolute gongshow. Between Kobe‘s helicopter crash, the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, inconsiderate pandemic hoarders and profiteers, the worldwide closure of international borders, the devastating mass shooting in Nova Scotia, numerous acts of police brutality towards and murders of Black people, a deadly blast in Lebanon, Trump’s impeachment acquittal, Brexit, the world burning and melting at rapid rates, protests in Hong Kong, continued Indigenous struggles in Canada, numerous business closures, a global pandemic that has Ontarians hunkering down for a second province-wide lockdown, and many more horrific headlines, the past 12 months have been nothing short of awful.
And, like all other years, there were also moments of reflection, kindness, joy, community, adaptation, resilience, and perseverence.
How Fast Life Changes
At the end of 2019 I wrote out my 2020 goals. In more or less words, the plan was to continue 2019‘s travel trajectory. Needless to say, every single travel plan was cancelled. Every conference, every foreign adventure, every untried dish, every chance to get lost or meet strangers I’ll probably never see again, and every vision I had for building out a business in travel, gone.
A New Direction
Travel has been a major part of my identity for the past decade. It’s what excites me most and also brings me great calm. Travel expands my limited perspective, builds my confidence, and breaks my ego. It informs my professional life as a language teacher and influences the flavours at home in the kitchen. It is a large part of my conversations, the books I read, the lifestyle I have built, and the future I envision. And this year it disappeared. Sortof.
Who are you when the activity that shapes you is no longer one you can partake in? Humans have been involuntarily losing a part of themselves for ages – injured athletes, employees abruptly let go, parents whose children grow older, etc… So when this particular road block hit home for me this year, I did what anyone else would do. I grieved and then I moved in another direction.
To be honest, I only allowed myself to sink into the loss a couple of times. Luckily I’ve had some practice with learning to release and let go of things I can’t control. Additionally, my mood and outlook vastly improve when taking action to improve a situation. A thought that stuck with me throughout this year was that my family and friends were healthy, a warm roof covered my head, and food was always on the table. My life wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, but then I’d remember this quote: “Instead of ‘I have to’, I think to myself ‘I get to'”. And life continued.
A Different Kind of Goal Review
Similar to what you might have experienced, several of the goals I wrote out 12 months ago simply weren’t attainable. I believe the saying goes, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. Knowing this, and knowing that so many others are currently going through similar experiences, made this shitstorm a little better. Also, erasers and the backspace button helped. Because really, what else can we do? Breathe in, breathe out. The world keeps spinning and we must continue forward!
Without further rambling, here is a review of my 2020 goals.
Review of 2020 Personal Goals
- Read 20 Books – Somewhere along the line I changed this goal to 24. Perhaps it was a typo in my head, but I like the typo better so it stuck. By the mid-year review in July, I had read 11.5 books. As I write this on December 30th, I have finished a total of 22 books and intend to complete 2 of the 3 partially read books sitting on the corner of my desk by the stroke of midnight on NYE. In the new year I’ll be writing a post on the round-up of books for 2020 so stay tuned!
- Move Daily – This was the biggest surprise to myself this year. As I’ve written about before, despite enjoying movement I still have to convince myself to get going which means that oftentimes I convince myself that “later” suffices. Well folks, I found the magical answer to counter the “later” dilemma! At the beginning of this year I was teaching Phys.Ed. at a middle school. While I grew up playing all of the sports (because as 90s kids we were jack-and-jills-of-all-sports) and continued playing (basket)ball throughout university and afterwards, these activities are no longer an everyday occurrence thanks to the flaky attendence of being a traveller. Safe to say though, when you’re front and centre to 200+ pre-teen students you do not want to be a bump on a log. I participated in warm-ups and games with the kids, hoping to be a decent role model…and to prove to myself that I could exercise on a daily basis again. When COVID closures forced schools to move online I already had momentum from teaching and gathered a few friends as accountability buddies. I started each morning with Yoga with Adriene and Heather Robertson’s HIIT classes through YouTube and would intersperse push-ups between each teaching class. This worked fabulously until July or August and then one day I just stopped. Since then not much has happened except for the odd walk with a friend, until November. In November a friend set a 50km walk/run challenge and I thought why not. I didn’t hit the 50km mark in November but I certainly walked more than I might have otherwise. As of NYE day, I completed 51.95km. Success!
- Memorize Countries and their Flags – I chose this goal last January because it pertained to travel and I thought I’d enjoy the challenge. It turned out not to be that enticing, and while I did practice here and there, I really didn’t put in an honest effort.
- Learn to Knit – Yahoo! I started to knit in December and really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to finishing my first scarf and want to work up to a blanket. What a fantastic past-time. Super happy to keep this activity going in 2021.
- Live Clean – Ouf. This one hurts, a lot. Talk about a rough year for sustainability on both a personal and societal level. I won’t dive into this too much, but I struggled a lot with moving back to plastic bags at bulk stores, including plastic-heavy items in our grocery cart that we’d previously eliminated (re: bread, chips, pasta, dips, wraps, the odd frozen pizza, etc…) because they were either more affordable or took less prep time. There was more food waste, as we ordered takeout more than ever before and thus had extra groceries in the fridge. We stopped composting because as apartment dwellers we’d been bringing it to my parents’ and that wasn’t safe anymore. It has not been good. One thing I stuck to as much as possible was buying secondhand furniture for our apartment which worked out well, except for two sets of Ikea shelf inserts. On the positive side, I purchased 3 new pieces of clothes all year (sweatpants, a dress, and snowpants), replaced my mascara with a more sustainable brand, and didn’t replace any other makeup (still looking for more sustainable options). After a few months of a bit of a COVID-slump, I’m re-energized and ready to find creative and resourceful ways to live in a responsible and eco-friendly manner with what is possible these days.
Review of 2020 Travel Goals
- Spanish-Speaking Country – This year I’ve been fortunate to teach Spanish-speaking students from South America who are practicing their English. While I didn’t hop on a plane to a Spanish-speaking country, I’ve had great fun conversing, learning, and teaching in our lessons.
- Road Trip – Last year I bought a book called Top 160 Unusual Things to See in Ontario by Ron Brown at Queen Books in Toronto. I thought it would make for interesting reading and home-based explorations a waaaay down the road…in 10 years. Turns out that road was around the next bend. When I realized 2020 would be void of any international travel, a wee Ross on my shoulder yelled “PIVOT!”. Grateful to have a car and the ability to move at my own pace in a socially-distant and responsible way, I road tripped a fair bit the past few months. Of the 160 unusual things to see, I was able to visit 24 spots. I learned a lot of local history along the way, seemed to always be able to meet the right person at the right time, and was thrilled each time I heard from you when you shared your connections to these places. After visiting each location I dive into researching them with the help of local library archives, historical societies, and other websites. So far I’ve been able to write about 7 of the locations and look forward to sharing the rest with you soon.
- Work & Live in 2 Countries – Nope. Unless my living room and my living room count…
- Spontaneous Travel – I’m not sure I’d call the small road trips I did “spontaneous”, though throwing all international travel out the door and diving into the book certainly was!
Review of 2020 Professional Goals
- Write 2 Blog Posts per Month – BOO YA! This post will be my 29th for the year, exceeding my goal of 24 posts for 2020. I’m super proud of this and looking forward to setting new writing goals for 2021.
- Attend 3 Conferences – The TravelCon conference I attended in 2018 and 2019 was postponed several times in 2020 as they hoped, like everyone else, that the COVID disruptions would be less…disruptive. While I didn’t attend any conferences in person, I tuned in online to the Ontario Tourism Summit and a few workshops scattered throughout the year.
- Create and stick to a work calendar – My original plan was to set 3 hours aside per week to work on the website and its various tasks. With a lot more time available to mold into my own schedule, I spent a heckuva lot more than 3 hours a week working on Travel with TMc. It’s true what they say – when you put in the work you see the results.
- Earn Steady Monthly Income through Travel with TMc – Though I didn’t earn a steady monthly income through Travel with TMc this year, I did earn more than the total amount I was aiming for. Yahoo!
That’s a Wrap on 2020
It’s safe to say that 2020 was a year unlike any other, not to mention one the majority of us did not see coming. In a lot of ways, I’m grateful for the experience and in other ways I’m wondering how this “pause” will affect the future. My heart also goes out to those who lost jobs, couldn’t say goodbye to loved ones, got sick, struggled through online learning, worked on the front lines, or dealt with other COVID-related pressures.
For some, this year was a gift with the chance to reassess and reset lives and lifestyles in a major way. I recognize the privilege I have in saying I’m thankful for the forced pause to slow down, focus on family, health, nature, and real human connection. It’s always the little things that matter: kind words, warm gestures, hard work, supporting one another, and compassion. If there’s anything I hope for in 2021 it’s that we don’t forget this time and take it or each other for granted.
Happy New Years to You and Cheers to 2021
Thank you for reading and thank you for joining the adventure this year. It puts a smile on my face each time I hear from you and learn of your explorations and connections to these places. I hope that you continue to have endless opportunities to enjoy this marvelous, magical world and the people and creatures we share it with. Happy New Years, fellow wanderlusters. Many wishes for a healthy, safe, and happy 2021 to you and your families.