Every year at this time I write a post on my best and worst moments of the year. This year seems more poignant than others. This was the year that we were all challenged in some way, whether that was financially, feeling isolated or worrying about our health.
But this year has also made some of us take a journey within, to realise what is important to us, whether that’s having our own space, nurturing friendships, or realising that we are on the wrong path in life and want to change course. And things to feel grateful for.
There’s no doubt that it has been one of the most challenging ones we have seen so far in our lifetime, but I hope that amongst the chaos, the fear and uncertainty, there have been glimmers of hope, moments of joy and a renewed sense of how you want to live your life moving forward. For this month’s solo insight, I look back on my best and worst moments of 2020.
Being One of The 13 Best Eco-Friendly Travel Blogs
Being selected as one of the 13 best eco-friendly travel blogs for 2020. I feel really blessed to have been included in this list by Luggage Hero who based their criteria on quality of the content, practicality of the tips and advice and originality. I have been blogging for 8 years and to be recognised for eco travel is amazing. Thanks!
Starting a Podcast
This was a scary one! When the lockdown began, I channeled my energy into creating a podcast on everything and anything to do with solo travel. My first episode was on ‘Things to do when you’re not travelling’ to help keep people occupied during lock down, the second was ‘How to cope in anxious moments,’ talking about tips for anxiety and how to deal with challenging times.
As soon as the first episode was launched, I couldn't cope with the anxiety! I felt so vulnerable putting myself out there and at the birth of something new. I didn't even look at how many listeners I had for weeks and just focused on putting it out there, interviewing solo female travellers and giving my own tips on more than two decades of solo travel.
Since then the episodes have included how to travel consciously and make a difference as you travel, how to travel to different destinations and how to plan a solo trip. Season 4 will be returning in the spring. In the meantime, you can listen to all the episodes here.
My Best Moments
Being a Digital Nomad in Lisbon
Despite everything, I still managed to travel to 4 countries this year. In 2020 I visited Lisbon, Barcelona, Athens, 5 Greek islands and Norway. Lisbon was my first stop and in January I decided to ‘test’ Lisbon as a potential for my next base. This Portuguese capital was becoming a digital nomad hot spot and having spent my birthday here the previous year, I decided to go back and throw myself into Lisbon life, co-working, meet ups and the cool city scene. I really enjoyed my time here and would love to go back but I’m unsure if it will be my next base.
Seeing Friends in Barcelona
From Lisbon I flew back to Barcelona (my old home), and spent 7 weeks co-working with friends, drinking cava in bars and running along the beach. I’m so glad that I got to go back to my favourite Spanish city and see people before the lock down began. I even went clubbing! Remember those?! I have been trying to get back there ever since but hopefully next year will bring some better news about visiting.
Living in Athens
Okay, so it was only a month but living in Athens was such a cool experience! Amongst all the chaos and burn out, I was still able to travel so I rented an apartment with a friend in the Greek capital. We spent a month living slap bang amongst it in the city, with bars on our doorstep and walking distance to the Acropolis. We spent the week days working, checking out co-working cafes, meeting expats and other digital nomads and spent the weekends exploring, drinking in rooftop bars and catching the flying dolphin to the nearby islands.
Athens was such an eye-opener for me. It was the second time I had been there having briefly spent a weekend there two decades ago, but to be honest I only remember seeing the Acropolis the first time round. I loved Athens. I loved the outdoor cafe and wine culture, the gorgeous buildings and the fact that so many people spoke English. I indulged in too many Greek salads, ate too much Greek yoghurt, and even tried dating! Athens, I will definitely be back.
Falling in Love With The Greek Islands
Being able to spend time exploring more of Greece and island hop was one of my highlights. During my month in Athens I went to Hydra and Aegina, having girly weekends on both of them. Then, I went solo and spent two weeks taking ferries to the rest of the Saronic Islands to see the differences between them and find my favourite one (spoiler alert… it’s Poros).
The freedom that I felt on the islands was just what I needed. I hired a bike on each one and loved cycling around, stopping at vantage points and gorgeous bays. Then hopping on another ferry to travel to the next one. Plus, the weather was glorious. I was even sunbathing on 6th November! (only when the sun was out of course). There are so many Greek islands that I’m going to probably spend the rest of my lifetime seeing them all but the Saronic Islands were a great starting point and I recommend them for solo travel.
Feeding Reindeer in The Arctic Circle
From Greece, I flew to Norway just as the islands began to lockdown. After being invited back to Oslo by an old friend, my 10 day quarantine turned into 5.5 weeks of living in Oslo, and exploring Bergen and Tromso whilst I was there. I embraced the opportunity to fly to the Arctic Circle as a pre-birthday celebration and spent 5 days in Tromso being transported to a winter wonderland.
Feeding reindeer was one of these magical experiences. I had initially booked reindeer sledding but the fjord hadn't frozen enough to take the sleighs so I was offered to feed these amazing animals instead. I had always wanted to learn about the Sami tribe in Norway and there I was amongst the reindeers, sat around a fire learning about the Sami culture. It was such a humbling experience that I'll be publishing next month, but in the meantime here’s the tour that I did.
Seeing the Northern Lights
This has also been on my travel wish list for aeons! And I never thought that 2020 would be the year that I would get to actually see them. You have to be so lucky to experience them as the weather conditions have to be just right. It took five days but on the last evening that I was there, they came out in force, twice! And to make this evening so much more magical, I also saw three shooting stars (so blessed). I’ll be writing a post on this too.
My Worst Moments
If you read my Looking back on 2019 post, you’ll see that I had big ambitions for this year. I wanted to change the way that people travel, encourage more women to travel solo, release an app and start a Girl about the Globe Foundation. I even said “Bring it on 2020!” Not knowing what lay ahead less than three months later.
As with most people, my goals were put on a back burner. Travel came to a standstill, and the money that I wanted to donate from Girl about the Globe came to a halt as my income seemed to vanish overnight.
And as others enjoyed a period of being furloughed, I threw myself into the brand, determined to achieve my goals and help inspire others during these strange times. I started a podcast, released a 14 day life plan, created a course and was active in my community, trying to keep everyone uplifted until everything would be back to normal.
But it didn’t go back to normal. There were moments of hope as restrictions were lifted, and then dashed as travel corridors were opened then closed. Any optimism I had of getting back on the road was taken away as I patiently waited in the UK for my jaw surgery in the summer to be told that it had been cancelled.
It was only then that I was able to get back on the road. I was burnt out, suffering from anxiety and stressed about my business. I needed some rest time and to get back in the flow of life and be able to create some of my best moments for 2020.
Becoming Disillusioned & Feeling Trapped
I've hit some low moments this year. Not knowing where to live and having the choice taken away from me, worrying about a business that I have taken 8 years to build, being single and childless and not having a home to call my own has come to the surface so many times. This was also the year that I turned 45, and it felt momentous. My life was nowhere near what I had envisioned and I felt trapped.
This was the year that I should have found my next base, the year that I would have had my jaw surgery, the year that my blog evolved into a social enterprise so that it can help more girls about the globe, but instead I was back in the same environment, and had taken huge steps backwards.
Things that once made me really happy began to lose their appeal quicker. I lost interest in my blog, having burnt myself out doing it and not taking enough breaks. Staying in a gorgeous place soon began to wear off as the loneliness crept in and the longing to create memories with someone special took over. Those solo moments in between travel became more and more lonely. As humans we desire connection. It’s wired in us to be part of a tribe, and I really struggled not having the network as I travelled.
Luckily, I have my mojo back and am more focused on creating the life that I want and getting the right balance. I will never take travel for granted again and am grateful for having somewhere to stay as I keep working on my business and towards my goals.
What Will 2021 Bring?
My jaw surgery finally! Having being toing and froing to the UK for the last 2.5 years whilst waiting for my surgery, I'm finally having it in February. So until then, I'm back in the UK, building my existing business and starting a new one, before my six weeks recovery period. I'm hoping that I'll be able to take my Africa overland camping trip that was put on hold this year too.
I've realised how many amazing experiences I have been fortunate enough to have had and I've hardly written about any of them! So, I plan on returning to creative writing and storytelling more for my blog. After all, that's why I started this blog in the first place.
In summary, 2020 has definitely been a year of insights and I'm really ready for the next chapter but in all honestly I don’t know what 2021 brings, and maybe none of us really do. But one thing that I hope for next year is that it brings more meaningful connection. With myself, with the planet and with other human beings. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about…
What were your best moments of 2020 and what are you looking forward to in 2021?
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