The strangest year in travel history
Last year I wrote what I thought was a pretty profound post on all my travels of 2019. It was all about my personal growth as a travel blogger, the people I had met and travel content community I had joined. It was such a big year for me and I was so proud of myself. My 2020 travel reflections are, unsurprisingly a little different.
We have all found ourselves in an unprecedented situation this year, and it has affected all of us content creators in some way. Some have been lucky enough to spend time living abroad during the pandemic, others have felt trapped in their home countries and not made it out at all. Fortunately for me I have managed to land somewhere in the middle of it all. I managed a few UK trips to see family and one to Wales, and three trips abroad in 2020.
So I shall give a little round up of my trips and the significance they have had for me this year along with some hopes for next year to round off this bizarre year! So let’s kick off the 2020 travel reflections.
For my birthday we always take a weekend break away. Having tried to aim for warmer places given it is in February, this year we settled on the North African city of Marrakech. Known for its hustle, mixture of Arabian and African cultures it is somewhere I have always wanted to visit. Craig had already been which was handy for having a rough knowledge of the Medina and an idea of what to do.
We had an amazing few days experiencing the souks, drinking mint tea, visiting the mountains and the ancient walled city of Ait Benhaddou, and wandering the tranquil YSL gardens. We also visited a rooftop bar in the modern part of the city and it was interesting to see the contrast.
This was all the first weekend of March. Little did we know that would be our last international travel until August. We thought we would be off to Panama the first week of April for our biggest backpacking adventure yet, but 2020 had other plans. On 23rd March the national lockdown hit the UK and we were grounded. Thankfully I had a huge stock of Marrakech Instagram photos to keep me going through the start of lockdown!
I felt so lucky to have got that trip in, especially to somewhere so exotic. Really couldn’t have asked for a better first time to visit Africa!
It was a long slog over the lockdown of working from home and barely seeing friends. I have a garden and a few housemates so was luckily able to enjoy the sunshine with a few BBQs but still. Eventually we could meet people outdoors and travel about the UK again.
So in July we decided to do our first ever staycation and visit Cardiff in Wales. It’s only a short train journey from London to the Welsh capital so we thought we would give it a go. We rented a little AirBnB flat a walking distance to the city, and a car to go further afield.
We had a fun first day exploring the dock area and going to some bars and restaurants. At this time you were only allowed to frequent these outside, and it was a little chilly but we made do.
We then got our adventure on and headed to the Brecon Beacons to scale Pen Y Fan and then drove on to Tintern Abbey where Craig used to visit as a child. We even squeezed in a trip to the castle and went to Barry Island to reminisce about Gavin and Stacey highlights which was a fun day out.
Not exactly the kind of weekend away we would usually have done but I suppose it was good to do something different. Also I had never been to Wales so that was another country off the list for me! And we did have a lot of fun, plus I got to face my fear of driving manual cars and lived to tell the tale!
One 2020 travel reflection is that I am definitely keen to go back and explore more of what the UK countryside has to offer after this experience!
We had planned a weekend in Spain to explore the Malaga region in mid August after buying cheap flights. However the Government’s new fun 14 day quarantine policy soon threw that plan out the window.
So instead, we crossed our fingers for Italy. Neither of us have ever been to Venice, largely put off by the hoards of tourists who pour off of cruise ships daily. However there was very little tourism going on with most people choosing not to travel. So we thought this could be the perfect time to visit the floating city. The weekend before we booked onto some flights, and a few days before found a hotel room, and headed to the airport early on Friday morning with fingers and toes crossed!
We knew we wouldn’t actually believe it was happening until we were safely on the plane. Never have I been happier to see Stansted Airport Wetherspoons and a pint of Dark Fruits! But we made it on a pretty full plane out to beautiful Venice.
It was the perfect trip and exactly what we needed. I am so grateful we got to have that experience it is one I will never forget. And it is also the first trip we decided to properly film to finally get a travel YouTube channel underway! So do check that out if you are keen to actually see what it was like in Venice with few tourists during Covid!
We managed to fit loads in like visiting the Doge’s Palace and Art museum, a day trip to Murano and Burano, a trip to the beach, it was such a fantastic weekend. And a cute little romantic destination too with lots of delicious eating and drinking!
Backpacking around Turkey
I am still amazed that we managed to sneak this trip in there, a full two and a half weeks of backpacking around Turkey. It was such an epic adventure and also the first time Craig and I have backpacked around a country by ourselves without having things pre-booked. So that made this trip extra special for me. We also got to celebrate Craig’s birthday in Istanbul, and I bought us a hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia for the occasion!
We saw so much here I actually haven’t even finished all the blog posts I want to do on the Turkey trip at the time of writing this at the end of December. We also haven’t finished making the YouTube series for this yet thanks to life getting in the way rather a lot. But that is a project we look forward to getting on with in the New Year.
Our adventures spanned the busy city of Istanbul, where we made friends for the rest of the trip and hopefully life! It was great to see people were still in hostels, in smaller numbers than usual but what a time to meet other travellers with all that was going on in the world.
We went onto Cappadocia, and I felt so privileged to be out there when it was so quiet. It was just such a magical place, and to have it almost to ourselves was so incredible I cannot get over it. I cannot stress enough how much this place is worth a visit, and is more than just pretty balloon sunrises.
Antalya provided us with some great little adventures to waterfalls, beaches, ancient ruins and party hostel life. Pamukkale blew us away with its beauty and uniqueness. And Ephesus was amazing to see and made even better by the hugely reduced number of people there compared to normal.
It was so fantastic to actually get a decent length backpacking trip in and I am glad we took the risk and went for it. We will definitely be returning to Turkey in future to explore some more, there is so much history and culture to discover. Plus the people were so nice and friendly, and amazing cooks, the food was delicious!
2020 Travel Reflections
That concludes this years trips! We did also visit both our parents during the year. I visited Manchester for the first time with Craig and his mum which was great and I look forward to going back one day when it is a bit more open! We also went to a few new places in Suffolk for Craig and did a cracking distillery tour which was fun.
Overall I feel very fortunate to have got in three international trips, as I know many have not been so lucky or felt so confident to do so. I will say in both Venice and Turkey, we found the mask wearing and temperature checking much stricter than here in the UK so it actually felt safer than home in a way!
I am really hoping that the vaccine rollout goes successfully and that we are able to travel much more freely in 2021. One of the saddest 2020 travel reflections I have is the conversations we had with locals businesses on our travels. Waiters and bars particularly told us how much they were suffering due to the pandemic. Most of the restaurants we visited in both Venice and Turkey we were one of only a few tables in there at the time. People were so happy if you just went and had a drink, it really was sad to see the devastating economic impact in these places which rely so much on tourists.
Looking forward to 2021, we are really hoping to go on a biggish trip to somewhere in South America to use some leave up. We also want to get in a few weekend breaks we had to miss this year so hopefully Europe opens back up to the UK soon.
I am fortunate in that for me at the moment, travel blogging is just something I do because I enjoy it. It isn’t my source of income, but for many out there that isn’t the case, and I can only begin to imagine how harrowing this year has been for some people in the community. Stay strong pals, the world is out there waiting for us to get back in it and explore!
Thank you for reading my 2020 travel reflections, I would love to hear about some of your 2020 travel reflections so please drop me a comment to share them!