Let me preface this with saying that I understand that 2020 and COVID has been devastating for a lot of you. Jobs lost and plans changed – it was difficult to say the least.
That’s why I wanted to make this post and really this whole blog. I want to show the good that can come out of a bad situation. That struggle begets growth.
Sometime around late 2018 or early 2019, I gave myself a challenge of traveling to 20 countries before the age of 30. I have learned that setting measurable goals and giving yourself a deadline is the best way to achieve those goals. I was 26 at the time and had around 13 or 14 countries under my belt at the time, so we had a way to go.
We joined our friend, Anna, in Iceland for an incredible week exploring a country that packs so much beauty into such a small space. I’m 100% sure I’ll write a post about this trip later, so consider this a placeholder for when that post comes.
A couple months later, we visited Mexico with our friends Courtney and Thomas. Honestly, it wasn’t the best trip – I was just about broke at the time and I think that gave me a bad mood and made me no fun to be around. Also sargassum. The water was beautiful but you couldn’t get near it due to the beach being overrun by the stinky seaweed. That being said, we did have the most delicious breakfast ever, were introduced to mezcal, and got to kayak around mangroves in Nichupté Lagoon.
Now that you have some context, here’s how 2020 became the best year for me:
In January 2020, we moved to a bigger city which had its expenses like a moving truck, security deposits, and new furniture (why are rugs so expensive!?) but we were getting the travel bug bad and needed a cure. We used the ‘Explore’ option on the Hopper app (which apparently doesn’t exist anymore…) to find flights out of Washington, D.C. and found RT tickets to New Orleans for about $70. Sold.
This was one of the best domestic trips I’ve had. I’ll save most of the story for a future post, but in just a few days we were able to explore the city, hear some stories from the people that lived there, and eat our way around the neighborhoods.
Now I have 6 countries and 2.5 years to go for my goal and all of a sudden COVID hits. Planes stop flying, borders close, and businesses have to limit their operations at the very least. It seems like misfortune follows our travels. We got home from Iceland less than a week before our airline, WOW air, unexpectantly ceased operations, and now we got home from New Orleans just a couple weeks before NOLA become a hotspot for early COVID cases.
Like most people, I complain about my job from time to time, but I will say that I am lucky to work in an industry that exploded post-lockdown. Every quarter, we were receiving max bonuses from destroying our sales goals and I was left with a bunch of extra money, no place to spend it, and a whole lot of time to learn about what I could do with it. YouTube was a source of a lot of inspiration.
I was already subscribed to a bunch of travel and cooking channels, but now I had time to gain inspiration about food from around the world and try my hand at some new dishes. I practiced new techniques from Indian, Palestinian, Thai, Japanese, Caribbean, French and other cooking. Delicious food without the price of eating out? This is a skill that everyone should have.
Next I found myself delving into mixology channels, learning the basics of spirits and cocktails, and built myself a nice little home bar collection. I started off making everything I could find a video of (a drink made from banana peels?) before settling on some favorites like sazeracs, daquiris, and negronis. If you ever stop over at my place, I’ll be more than excited to whip you up an elixir of your liking.
A few months into our psuedo-lockdown, I got antsy to travel abroad again. Since it was looking like it was going to be a while before we could go anywhere, my car was recently paid off, and student loan payments were suspended, I started thinking of saving for a bigger trip post-COVID. My YouTube adventures led me to investment and personal finance channels. Over the course of the year, I had started investment portfolios, and learned an important mindset – pay yourself first.
Every Friday, I make sure to buy a stock, ETF, or some cryptocurrency that will grow my wealth and let me travel further and longer. This isn’t a personal finance blog, but since I believe it is a huge opportunity to see your travel dreams come true and secure your future, I’ll leave a few affiliate links that you can use to sign up after doing your own research:
- Robinhood – get a free stock for signing up. My personal favorite brokerage app because of commission-free trading and instant deposit access.
- Webull – get 4 free stocks for signing up now. Typically preferred by more seasoned investors, but I haven’t used it as long.
- Coinbase – get $10 in Bitcoin when you sign up.
More recently, I have redownloaded the Duolingo app to get some daily Spanish exercises. Yo quiero aprendo espanol antes de yo viajo a Espana en el otoño. (I think I got that right. Leave a comment if I need more practice.) I have been able to relearn much of the vocabulary, but I’m still not confident in my ability to hold a full conversation, yet.
Rachel and I also used the year to explore our local area. We used the AllTrails app and recommendations from friends and family to go on hikes all over. The two most popular trails around were packed every single day throughout the year so we were forced to try out some lesser known trails, much to our satisfaction. The views, animal sightings, and challenging paths were fun and rewarding.
We spent a few nights up in northern PA checking out Wellsboro and the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. It was a nice getaway that included more hiking, biking, and some great vistas. This experience led us to wanting to exercise more. We purchased an exercise bike that we started using daily and began cutting out snacks and unhealthy foods from our diet. Our future travel plans include Patagonia, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and other areas that require at least moderate fitness levels, so we’re dedicated to maintaining a healthier lifestyle.
Becoming Location Independent
My biggest success in 2020 was making the decision to build a career that I could work remotely in and become location independent, enabling more travel, both domestic and international. I spent a few months reading and watching about copywriting before joining a 9-week course that got me started on a new career path. I’m one of those people that wants to be perfect at something before I fully dive into a project, but because of opportunities that presented themselves, I have been able to start my new journey on the right foot with a few clients that I’m using to build a portfolio. I’ll try not to shamlessly plug my business in this blog, but hey… if you need someone to connect your message to your audience, send me an email.
My Biggest-er Win of 2020
While most of the year wasn’t filled with exciting trips or events, I feel like I’ve been able to set myself up for future success. But…
The most important win of 2020 was that I became Griffin’s favorite…