The year that WAS. This year broke so many of us down in so many way. But at the same time, I think this year taught me so much about myself.
Reading other's reviews, one word seems to replay again and again: worst. For many it's been one of the toughest years. I think we can collectively breathe a sigh of relief.
I read a quote the other day that has stuck with me: “What happened to you was not your fault, but how you go forward is your responsibility.” Especially as we enter a new year this rings to true.
Each year I recap the year: the highs and the lows, the travel moments, the things I loved. This year I'm changing it up a bit and focusing too on things that impacted me. My favorite shows I watched. Songs that made me tear up. The little things that help us get through the tough times.
What's so weird about writing this year's recap is that for the last two I've been picked as one of the “most traveled travel bloggers.” It's safe to say that didn't happen this year. But other, good, and important things did. Since I'm forever nostalgic, it's important for me to look back.
2020 Review and Recap
Breakdown: I spent my first full year back in America after living in Germany, we purchased an RV, saw more of America than I'd ever seen before, cried over leaves, lost all travel contracts we had, actually got less pageviews than last year (people weren't really reading about travel), but managed to make the most out of a crazy year.
This year taught me so much, but above all it reminded me to truly appreciate and be grateful for all that I have. Sometimes taking a step back helps you appreciate the full picture.
Travel and Personal Highlights
We kicked off the year with my birthday night in Dallas at a hotel with my girlfriends. It was one of the best nights in 2020. We stayed up too late, felt like we were 21 again, and danced in the hotel room.
Michael and I took a perfect little trip to New Orleans in February. My family is from the area and I've been dozens of times but I never put in the effort to go on tours or experience the city like a tourist. We took 4 different tours, ate at the best restaurants, and learned more history about one of the best cities in the world.
In March we headed to Dublin with Guinness for the opening of the newly redesigned Gravity Bar. It was such an incredible experience to see such a historic place that's so important to an entire city come to life. They put tons of hard work and 20 million dollars into the renovation, and then, of course, the pandemic hit. But I was so proud to get to be part of that experience before it closed.
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The months of March through June we stayed at home and watched movies. But we did manage to make some big decisions: we bought a car and an RV!
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Before we hit the road in the RV we took one more trip across the sea to Croatia! We headed to our friend's absolutely incredible Croatian wedding – one of the best weddings I've ever been to in my life!
After that trip we planned out our month-long trip through Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Was a bit bold to take our very first RV trip for an entire month? Yes, yes it was. It was at times very stressful and overwhelming but OMG that trip was beyond fantastic.
I still haven't written all I would like to about that trip, but I did manage to write a guide to Yellowstone. Definitely more to come because those locations were some of my favorite. It made me realize just how incredible and beautiful America is. After living in Europe, I have a whole new appreciation for the USA.
We decided to take travel a little slower. Instead of traveling back to back, we took a break then headed to Arkansas for 2 weeks. Again, I was floored by how much I absolutely loved Arkansas.
And then we took the trip that made me realize that America really is one of the most gorgeous places on earth: we watched the leaves change in New England. I don't quite have the words yet for just how shocking that was to see. I cried I was so overwhelmed by the beauty!
Then I headed to the beach for a week-long relaxing trip with my mom. It was like a breath of fresh air.
Our final RV trip of 2020 we headed to West Texas and New Mexico. I guess this year was the year of surprise for me. I've lived in Texas almost all my life and couldn't believe how beautiful and interesting and most of all, how much to see there is in my home state.
We wrapped up the year by going to Aruba, spending time at home, doing lots of Christmas-y things, and decorating the house for Christmas.
As I look back I keep thinking how crazy this year was, but how lucky I was to get to still see so many places and do so many things. This wasn't a typical year for any of us. But I think Michael and I learned to adapt and I'm proud of that.
Best Books of 2020
I read some great books this year, but I decided to revisit some books that brought me comfort. Mainly, Harry Potter. I re-listened to the Harry Potter series for the 3rd time. I'm a huge fan of Audible and being able to listen to these books with the narrator Jim Dale was somehow relaxing.
But if I had to pick just one favorite new book I would say “The Guest List” by Lucy Foley. This book kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish! It was named one of the New York Times best thrillers of 2020 and echoes an Agathe Christie novel. I couldn't put it down!
Best Movies and TV of 2020
Ken Burn's Country Music – If you've been following me this year you've more than likely heard me talk about this documentary series. This is some of the best TV I've watched in my entire life! I tell everyone to watch it. This is a comprehensive look at how country music came to be and played a role in our history. Whether you like the music or not, I highly recommend this. I wrote a list of the best documentaries and this topped the list.
Tiger King – I can't have a 2020 review without mentioning Tiger King. It was a cultural phenomenon and we couldn't stop watching it. To me, it's the perfect thing to come out of 2020.
A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood – Tom Hanks plays Mr. Rodgers and is basically playing the nicest human alive. This movie just makes you want to be better.
JoJo Rabbit – Hitler is funny?! This was my top pick for 2020 movies. Directed by Taika Waititi but it has almost a Wes Anderson vibe. This movie pulls at your heart strings. A young boy, Jojo, living in Germany near the end of World War II, has unquestioningly swallowed Nazi propaganda, and his imaginary friend is a hate-spewing version of Hitler (played by Waititi himself). But as Jojo starts bonding with a Jewish teenager things begin to change.
Best Songs of 2020
You might think it's odd for me to recap 2020 by looking at songs. But, for me, music is what carries me through the hard times. There was some incredible music this year. I share songs that were important to me in 2020, regardless of release date.
Louis the Child with Drew Love, “Free” – This song gets down to the pit of my soul. It's uplifting and mesmerizing.
Benee “Supalonely” – This year was terrible but it introduced me to Benee, so I can't be too upset. She is an incredible singer/songwriter and the best part of 2020.
DaBaby “TOES” – Ah the year of TikTok dances. I listened to this over and over trying to learn the dance. And I did, and then kept on listening to it.
Blog and Business
This was definitely a weird year to be a travel blogger. Pageviews went down, trips cancelled, contracts disappeared and we had a hard time staying afloat this year.
For most of the year, compared to 2019 we didn't do quite as well. But that's to be expected- people were traveling less. And for years this blog has been all about Europe and most of my readers were not going there.
But after I saw the trends I decided to change up what I posted about and we ended up with more pageviews than last year! 3.3 million!
I am continuing to grow and work on my newsletter. I ended up deleting 25,000 cold subscribers but still have nearly 130,000 people on my email list.
The best way I grew my newsletter was by putting my subscriber box on the front page and offering something of value to potential subscribers! I also highly recommend using Convertkit. It's the best tool out there, in my opinion, for bloggers. Here's my guide to creating a newsletter.
One of my big goals for 2021 is to email more frequently. I am excited to share more personal stuff there!
One of the biggest changes was launching a candle line! This was a lot of learning for me. My “Nostalgic Candles” are designed to remind you of a scent from a place or experience I've had during travels. I was utterly shocked (and a bit ill-prepared) by how fast they sold. From announcement to grand opening, the candles sold out in less than 24 hours.
I hope to continue to learn and put into practice for 2021 what I learned about business in 2020.
Goals for 2021
My number one goal is my health. I need to focus on my mental, physical, and all around health. This year was an eye-opener to how much I let stress get to me.
I'm copying and pasting this from last year because it's something I didn't get to in 2020. WRITE MY DAMN BOOK. I was supposed to be done with it by the end of 2019, but life just got in the way. That's an excuse. I know that I could have changed my priorities a bit. I'm about half way done and I need to get my butt in gear and finish.
More video! Video is becoming an increasingly important part of Instagram and TikTok, and Michael and I are working on incorporating that more into our work. Michael bought a drone and I'm learning to take more videos while we travel. I find it a completely new kind of creativity, and I'm not the best at it. That's the weird part about this being a job, things are ALWAYS changing.
My last goal is to take time to enjoy life. I know that might sound strange after reading all of this. And I do enjoy life. But taking a break away from phones and cameras and enjoying the moment.
Despite the craziness that was 2020 it still was a remarkable year. I feel truly empowered that I still get to do what I love every single day. I am so thankful to you and for you being here and reading this.
See previous year's recaps:
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