At the end of every year I usually do a round up on the places I’ve been, goals I’ve reached etc. But 2020, as I’m sure a lot of people can relate to, hasn’t been the greatest. Before all the madness even started, I knew it was going to be a bit of a rough year. Just like 2016 when I moved to the US, 2020 was going to be the year I moved back to the UK so I was in for an avalanche of major life changes all happening in one go again. I planned to just spend the summer travelling, yes maybe ‘escaping my troubles’ but of course that never happened.
Review of 2020
New Years Eve 2019/2020
I’m not a huge fan of New Years Eve and NYE 2019 was spent in a car windscreen replacement centre in Colorado USA. Along with a bunch of other drivers that fell victim to the poor quality of Colorado roads, we discussed 2020 plans and wished each other a happy new year.
I watched the New Years fireworks in London on TV through FaceTime with my family back home at 5pm MST, followed by a curry and a cocktail in the lovely little town of Manitou Springs and we were in bed by 10pm. As an expat I always watched the London NYE, being in CST they just played the New York ‘ball drop’ 1 hour later, so it was quite handy just watching the London one and going to bed at a normal time.
Breakdown on New Years Day
First day of 2020, hooray! When we were 900 MILES away from home (around 13 hours left of drive time). My car decided that it would start violently shaking and making awful noises. We pushed through, but I had a huge amount of anxiety. I have a bit of a phobia of breaking down after I was in a car crash several years ago. So I had a different type of breakdown knowing I was going to have to do half of the driving. We still had 2 days left of travel, with 2 nights in Nebraska. I tried to enjoy a day at Omaha Zoo before crawling the rest of the way across Iowa. Thankfully we made it back.
Flu or The Rona?
The day after we got back from our massive 7 State road trip I started feeling a bit rough. By Monday I felt ‘well enough’ to go back to work but by Monday night I went downhill. FAST. We were in Walmart, stocking up after being away for a while, and I got to the point where I didn’t even have the energy to push the trolley. In the night I was messaging my mum, 4000 miles away because I felt so bad that I just didn’t know what to do with myself. My temperature was consistently 104f/40c. I went online and listed myself as sick in the work system. My boss thought it was weird, I never have a day off and suddenly I’m off for the whole week. I spent the week not even getting out of bed, I didn’t even have the energy to read a book. I never nap, yet I slept for HOURS every day. When I returned back to work the school nurse even said it’s weird for an adult to have a temperature of 104f for as long as I had it.
At this point in January, the virus still wasn’t that wide-spread. It was only when they started listing symptoms around March that I started to wonder if that’s what I had. I remember an advert on TV being like ‘if you’ve had a cough for more than 3 weeks, you might have cancer’. I had a cough that lasted a good 8 weeks and had been questioning the advert, but thought I was being stupid so just wrote it off as a never ending cold.
Booking My Flight Home
The decision to move home wasn’t an easy one. Every time I went to book the flight I chickened out. It just felt like once it was booked, that was it, I was committed to moving home. But then one day it snowed pretty heavily while I was at work and as I got home and went to pull onto the drive, I got stuck. I hate the snow and the cold and my car was wedged. It wouldn’t go forward or backwards and I was stuck blocking half of the road. I tried to dig it out, got angry, threw the snow shovel across the garden, left the car where it was and booked the flight. At the time the virus had been announced as an epidemic in Asia and I just thought it was something that would only affect that part of the world.
End of March, we went into lockdown. The schools were shut but luckily they continued to pay us. I used the time to get my TEFL certification to teach English as a foreign language. But other than that, I wasn’t really motivated to do anything. I had all this time when I could work on my websites and I just didn’t feel like writing.
At this time, borders around the world started closing, flights were being cancelled and I had a breakdown most days because I didn’t know if I was even going to be able to get home. I had purposely not visited home in over a year to save money. This alone I was already struggling with. Thinking that I may not even be able to go after a whole year of waiting, broke me once more. I was tracking the flights every day and came to the conclusion that there would most likely continue to be ONE plane a day departing. I held on to this small piece of hope.
Coming Out of Lockdown
Iowa came out of lockdown about a month before I was due to fly home. I had managed to work with the New Day Dairy for an overnight stay which was fun, I did aerial yoga in Dubuque, went quad biking and out on the Mississippi River one last time. I had hoped to do more before moving back (we had to cancel a trip to Tennessee for a week), but I was glad I got to do a few bits before I left.
I hired a car and drove to the airport with my life packed up into 5 suitcases. The rental return was DESERTED and it was at that point when I discovered my bright idea to be able to pull 5 cases at once didn’t work. I stood in the middle of the car park getting more and more stressed out and had no idea what to do. Thankfully after around 15 minutes of struggling, I found another human being and begged him for some help. He kindly disappeared and came back with a cart for me. Thank you mr airport worker.
One positive was that I cashed in my air miles and flew home in Business Class! It’s something that had been on my bucket list for YEARS. I really wanted to experience flying in a sky bed at least once in my life. Now the full experience was a little different, there was no fancy meal service (it was literally the worst food I’ve ever had on a plane), no business class lounge…but I did get my sky bed…and 3 toilets all to myself as I was the ONLY person in the business class cabin. I even had my own personal crew member.
I did just get caught by the UK quarantine restrictions, but I was home and spent my days chilling in the garden until I was free.
Summer of (Local) Travel
At the start of the year I had trips booked to Portugal and Zanzibar. Portugal got cancelled and I pushed Zanzibar to January…and then to September 2021. So I spent the summer travelling around my home county of Essex. I went to Colchester Zoo, Mersea Island, Walton beach, Chappel Viaduct and had 2 nights glamping just outside of Maldon. Luckily the weather for our glamping trip was AMAZING and I even went swimming in the river. I ate a lot all summer long…endless takeaway deliveries, cream teas and all the things that I’ve missed eating. I also had a press trip to Go Ape.
The best laid plans…
Originally when I decided to move back to the UK, my plan was to try and get a job working at Stansted Airport which I live fairly close to. Of course air travel came to a grinding halt this year, so working at the airport was no longer an option as a short term plan. I had my plan B though which was the TEFL certificate and teaching online. I applied for one company and didn’t pass the interview…and then applied to the company I’m currently working for.
And it’s been GREAT. I’m fully booked with a group of regulars and I love what I do. I’ve done close to 1000 lessons and met over 100 students from 19 different countries. I feel so lucky to have been able to find work during a time where so many people are struggling. It may not be hugely paid but it’s something…and I enjoy it. For now, that’s all that matters. Plus I was accepted to be an ambassador for the kids platform.
We then went into a second lockdown in the UK. With the weather getting cold, the days getting shorter and me working online, I wasn’t hugely affected by it. When we could, we went out for walks, but that was about it.
The lockdown finished the day before my birthday…my first birthday at home since 2015! I didn’t do anything special but we did have a fish and chips takeaway for dinner. We went back into lockdown just before Christmas but ironically this year has been the first year since 2015 that I’ve actually been excited about Christmas. Christmas never really felt like Christmas while I was in the USA. The traditions just weren’t the same and I was away from my family. The year I did manage to fly home was the year of ‘drone gate’ at Gatwick airport, so I wasn’t even sure if I’d GET home and spent the days leading up to my flight crying. I’m now back living with my parents and sister and I have been able to enjoy all the Christmas traditions that I was so used to growing up.
In 2019 I read 50 books but in 2020 I’m almost finished with my 40th. Lack of travel and motivation to do anything that used my brain during lockdown, meant that reading was pushed aside. Some books I’ve enjoyed this year include:
- 1996 – Kirsty McManus
- 1997 – Kirsty McManus
- Jamaica Inn – Daphne Du Maurier
- Life In Pieces – Dawn O’Porter
Plans For 2021
At the moment I only have my rescheduled Zanzibar trip that’s semi planned. I have the flights but I haven’t yet rebooked the accommodation, but I do have my potential itinerary ready to go. I’m hopeful that we will be able to travel more in 2021. I don’t think I’ll plan any more trips just yet until we know what the state of things are like maybe once the injections have started rolling out. I’m desperate to get back travelling again and I’m glad that my motivation to start researching travel has come back. I’d really like to visit Hong Kong at some point and I still want to visit Estonia at some point, but we shall see. At this rate even if I only manage to finally get to Zanzibar, I’ll be happy!
Fingers crossed we get some sort of normality back in 2021!