I’m sitting in my office tapping lightly on the keyboard as to not disturb anyone else in my household. Michael is a light sleeper so I don’t want to turn on too many lights, just the glow of my office Christmas tree before me. I’ve got a trusty Diet Coke on my left, and a bookshelf to my right with glitter encircling it from the garland I got on sale.
I’m wearing buffalo PJ pants, a red, faded Sir Toby’s Hostel in Prague t-shirt (circa 2014), and a beanie. I was going to give it as a gift but it happened to be in my office and it’s freezing so now it’s on my head. I’m also draped in Michael’s Christmas gift to me from last year: a heated blanket. My forehead is also slightly burned after we just returned from a warm weather getaway in Aruba.
I’d like to say this scene is rare, that I don’t usually get up early or sit in my office bundled up, but it keeps happening more and more frequently. My sleep seems to be out of whack ever since Covid started, I just can’t seem to calm down.
Right now, I would have been in Croatia at a speaking event. After that I’d spend a week going to Christmas Markets around Europe. But we all have the things “we would have done” this year. But of course, this year is different.
Each year I write a digital Christmas card to take a glimpse through the year. And what a year it was.
I think we’ve all had our fair share of trials and tribulations this year. I’ve heard so many stories of people thinking 2020 was “their year.” As a travel blogger it’s been weird to try to make ends meet. We lost out on our biggest travel deal to date, all our contracts were cancelled, and, among other things, our page views were cut in half. Of course, everyone has been affected deeply by this year and the intention of this post is not to harp on the bad things but to focus on the good. And the great thing about life is that there are, of course, great things that happen.
Michael and I had grand plans for this year. After all, we had just moved back to America in September 2019 and were looking forward to exploring more of our home country. Good idea, since almost all the borders are closed. The year started out with a fantastic trip to New Orleans and then a quick trip to Dublin, Ireland for the opening redesign of Guinness.
During our trip to Ireland the borders started to close. It was time to go home. We didn’t realize that that would be the last trip for quite a while. For months we quarantined, stayed inside and watched movies (and Tiger King), and recreated old travel Instagram photos and learned TikTok dances.
But while we were at home, feeling uninspired, we started the process of buying our RV. The year prior we researched and went to RV shows to pick the perfect one for us. And we landed on a Flagstaff by Forest River. You can read my post here all about how we decided on our RV.
But before we started traveling America, we headed to Croatia for our friend's wedding. We needed one more dose of Europe! This was quite interesting and many people freaked out on Instagram but the border to Croatia was, and remains open. The weird thing is, things are constantly changing.
Now that we had our home on wheels, we started planning out trips. Our first was a very bold Move: a month-long excursion through Wyoming and Montana. We were struck by Yellowstone’s unreal landscape, watched the sunset over the mountains, hiked in Glacier National Park, and felt like we were in a wild West movie. The dogs loved it and so did we.
It was stressful at first, I’ll admit it. We had to learn what worked and what didn’t with the RV. This kind of travel is very different from what we’re used to. But as we traveled we learned how to make things work.
Our next trip was a shorter 2-week jaunt in Arkansas. This is when I realized that America really is beautiful. Yes, I’m from Texas but having spent the last 3 years in Europe, I was worried there’s no way that the USA could compare. Luckily I was wrong.
Arkansas is not only beautiful, but full of great food, people, and music. Eureka Springs, nicknamed “Little Switzerland,” looks like a European town with pretty architecture and great food. We had dinner at the Grotto which was delicious and unique – located inside a wine cave
We went digging for Crystals at Wegner’s Crystal mines, and for $15 per person we left with an armload full of sparkly crystals. We were particularly moved by the Little Rock Central High memorial that detailed when 9 black high school students tried to integrate into Central High and were met with intense backlash. It was incredibly well done.
My favorite stop was Mountain View – a town that literally won my heart. Not only is it charming, it’s full of musical talent. Every single day there was a music act. Our first night we saw Mary Parker and the White River Ramblers. A 15-year-old girl and her friends that could sing and play instruments as well as any famous country band.
Each night there was music in the park and the whole community seemed to center around musical education.
Next we spent two weeks in New England watching the leaves change colors. Truthfully, I thought pictures online and on Instagram were fake. They must have added saturation, right? No. It’s all real. I was so emotionally moved by the leaves, sometimes driving around I might break into tears.
Starting in New Hampshire we took a train ride, drove through the Kancamagus Trail, and went apple picking.
In Vermont we spent the night at a maple syrup farm, and ate our weight in maple syrup, walked through a corn maze and went to a pumpkin patch.
We finished the trip off in Massachusetts and spent time in Salem to discover the history of the Salem Witch Trials. It was perfect since it was right before Halloween and the whole city is in full swing to celebrate.
But of course, nothing can beat the incredible trees. I told Michael we are going back every single year. It was shocking.
Our last RV trip of the year we headed to West Texas and New Mexico. America always surprises me, but Texas maybe the most. Growing up in a big city it was amazing to see the tallest peaks in Texas at Guadalupe National Park, go rock climbing and see ancient cave paintings at Hueco Tanks, all the while having delicious Mexican food.
As soon as we got home, we launched our candle line, Nostalgic Candles. The idea is to capture a memory through scents. If you can’t tell already, I’m an incredibly nostalgic person. And I’ve always found that scents bring back some of my best memories. Each candle is designed to reminisce on a place or time in life. Our first candle was “Christmas Market.”
It sold out quickly the first round but I learned A LOT in our first launch and look forward to making changes for our second.
The last trip of the year was to Aruba where we soaked up the sun and went snorkeling through crystal clear, turquoise water.
While this might sound like a lot of travel, compared to year's past this was our lightest year of travel in years. I’m so used to spending 80% of our year traveling that this year felt like a complete 180.
Despite the highlights, I think this year has helped me to reflect a lot on what I want out of life, and where I want to be. I’ve had to confront some of my toughest demons and work on myself more this year than any other.
I think many of us are glad to see this year come to a close and can only hope for the best in 2021. But even with this disaster of a year I hope you can take time to reflect on the good, too.
This is my 5th “Digital Christmas Card.” It’s weird to think that this little blog continues to keep on kicking. I hope you had a wonderful year and I thank you for being part of our journey.
Join me January 4th for an end of the year recap and review. Link up your posts and share your favorite memories from the past year.
Every year I host an end of the year recap and review. It's a great way to not only share your favorite memories from the year, you also get to see what others are sharing as well as goals and inspiration.
Here are some things that I'll be focusing on: best (and worst!) trips, most memorable moment, most fun experience, favorite blog posts, blog and Instagram stats, best photos, 2020 highlights, and music favorites. I'll also be sharing my 2021 goals.
Here are our previous year's Christmas cards:
Other posts you might like: