It’s that time of year again. Annual blogging round-up time! This is usually one of my favourite posts of the year, because I get to take some time to look back and reflect on all the best bits and travel highlights from the last twelve months.
But of course, 2020 has been a little less than amazing a lot of the time. This was the year of Covid, lockdowns, cancelled plans, and travel bans.
For me, it was also a year of financial struggles and a battle to keep my business afloat. The rest of this post is going to focus mostly on my personal positives, but please don’t think that means I was unaffected by the curse that was 2020. I’m just choosing not to carry any of that negativity with me into the new year.
2020 in Brief
Normally in my annual round-ups, I like to post a list of stats which I obsessively record over the year. This year I gave up counting sometime in Spring!
In terms of numbers, in 2020 I was in three countries (England, Italy, and the Vatican – which feels like cheating!). I’ve been on two flights, and I think maybe 10 trains. A big difference compared to the 33 flights and 22 countries of two years ago!
On the flip-side, I’ve baked, walked, Netflixed, read, and video-chatted WAY more than previous years – not to mention played more video games than I have since I was 16! Don’t wanna brag, but I got allll the PS4 trophies for Fallout 4 during Lockdown!
It’s very much been a year of home comforts, RPG games, obsessive binge-watching, and local travel. Certainly very different to previous years, but not always in a bad way.
Why I’m NOT Happy to See the Back of 2020
A lot of the “end of year” posts I’ve been seeing recently have been celebrating the end of 2020. Good riddance to a terrible year, bring on a hopeful new one.
It’s very easy to write off 2020 as “the worst year ever.” But while a lot of things about this year have been horrifically bad for both people in general, and for me personally, I’m not willing to write off the year as a whole.
Last night, I scrolled right the way back through 2020 on my phone’s camera roll in search of something to post on Instagram. And I realised I have actually not had that bad a year.
Like most people, I tend to only take photos of the good moments… and even in this UNPRECEDENTED (had to say it one last time) year of gloom and doom, I still took a lot of photos. Which means there were a lot of good moments.
This was the year I became a property owner, the year I finally realised where “home” was, the year I discovered Below Deck! 2020 harboured a lot of darkness, but I’m choosing to focus on the light.
The Travel that Was
Although it wasn’t a patch on any of the last 6 years, I DID actually travel this year. I even left the country!
What feels like a lifetime ago, way back in January I flew to Rome for a last-minute city break. It was my first time visiting the city, and popping into the Vatican meant I actually visited two countries while I was there!
Then there was a weekend in the Cotswolds, a trip to London for a travel conference with some of my blogging besties, and an unforgettable up-close sunset tour of Stonehenge – all just before the first Lockdown.
Over summer, in what felt like the UK’s “break”, I spent as much time as possible in Dorset visiting family. But I also went solo camping, took a road trip in Dartmoor, and spent a glorious week staying in a posh beach hut in Bournemouth.
There were also a lot of day trips. Dorset, the South Downs, Box Hill, paddleboarding in Portsmouth, Windsor, Cheddar Gorge. I’ve definitely seen much more of England this year than I ever have before.
It was a very different kind of year for travel. I can’t lie and say that staycations replaced the buzz of overseas travel for me. I really miss the feeling of stepping out of an airport somewhere new. The exoticism of foreign markets and the thrill of exploring a new landscape. But I also learnt to appreciate a smaller kind of adventure – and realised just how beautiful England is.
Personal Highlights of 2020
I BOUGHT A FLAT
This was the year that I became a homeowner! With a bit of money in savings and a decent tax year behind me, I finally found myself in a place I never thought I’d be – able to afford a very small shared ownership flat.
I started looking just after the first lockdown, and made an offer at the start of June. It took almost 6 months to complete the process and finally hold the keys in my hand… but at the start of December, I moved into my very own flat. I’m a homeowner. Yesterday I bought paint samples! It’s been the most exciting (and expensive) whirlwind of a month, but I really could not be happier.
It was sad saying goodbye to my amazing housemate of three years, Vicky Flip Flop. She’s one of my closest friends, and I’m really going to miss our drunken sofa karaoke sessions. But it was time for a new chapter in my life – plus she needs space for the cat I think she should adopt (and name Emily).
I Was in a Book!
In 2019 I worked as a contributing author on two really exciting book projects. One of them, The Rainbow Atlas, came out this year so I actually got to hold a copy in my hands and see my name in print!
I contributed over 100 entries to this stunning book of 500 of the world’s most colourful destinations. It was a huge project for me, and seeing it come to life this year was an incredible feeling.
The thing I’m most proud of this year is my new Dorset blog. Not content with barely running this blog, I decided to set up a second site, and launched The Dorset Travel Guide in February.
The whole site is dedicated to my home county and favourite part of England. I grew up in Weymouth and now live in Dorchester, so it’s very much a “local’s guide”.
Not only did I build the new blog and fill it with posts about some of my favourite places… but it was also pretty successful. Traffic grew fairly quickly and a lot of my posts are now showing in the top results on Google.
I love Dorset so much and have really enjoyed sharing my travel tips and recommendations. And I’m so proud of the new blog! Here’s hoping it continues to grow over 2021.
Work was pretty weird this year. No more “being paid to go on holiday”… this year I found myself writing about online quizzes and reviewing period pants!
During the first lockdown, my traffic tanked, and I had to pivot into writing about new topics. I also took on some random part-time work doing things like rating Instagram ads! But there have still been some pretty big work highlights this year…
- Nominee for “Best Blogging Veteran” in the British Travel Awards 2020
- Dorset Travel Guide accepted onto Mediavine (the banner ad company I partner with)
- Best ever month for banner ad earnings in November 2020!
- Reached 1,000 followers on my YouTube channel
- Collaborated with some amazing brands including Craghoppers, Citroen, The AA, Premier Inn, and Bournemouth Tourism
- Stayed afloat during a pandemic!
What 2020 taught Me
This year has put us all through a lot, in many different ways. But challenges can also be great teachers, and I’m sure this year has taught us all a lot.
The biggest thing for me personally was the realisation that I wanted to be back in Dorset.
For someone who grew up staring at the blue line of the horizon across the sea and dreaming of escaping Weymouth, wanting to go home was a difficult thing to comprehend. But during the lockdown, the only place I wanted to be was Dorset. I wanted to be nearer to my family, to be near the coast and the countryside… and I was done living in cities!
This year I also learned that adventure doesn’t have to mean getting on a plane. That it can be as simple as a hilly hike with friends, a night spent solo camping twenty minutes from your house, or even an evening spent watching stars on the beach with your niece.
2020 reminded me just what my values are. It’s taught me to appreciate the smaller things, to celebrate little wins and try to find things to be grateful for every single day.
What’s in Store for 2021
Now for the part where I say I don’t have anything planned for 2021 and don’t know what I’m doing! I say this every single year, but at least this time I have an excuse!
My number one goal is to travel abroad again as soon as I can do so legally and safely etc. I know that might sound a bit frivolous or spoiled to some people, but travel is my life, and I miss it!
I also plan to keep up with my local travels, and to carry with me the lesson that you don’t have to go abroad to have an adventure. I’d like to keep solo camping – when the weather improves a bit – and push myself with a multi-day hike at some point.
The other big goal is to keep growing my new Dorset blog into something that genuinely helps people plan a trip to Dorset. I have big plans for it, so I just need to find an extra day in the week to work on them!
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going into 2021 full of cautious hope! If we can survive 2020, we can survive anything! And SURELY next year has to be better. Right?!
Hope you all have an absolutely fantastic new year. Let me know your highlights of 2020 in the comments! I’m sure there were more than you’d expect.