We never know what a new year will have in store, but 2020 has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The year started off with a Chiefs Super Bowl win and parade that Kansas City fans have been waiting 50 years for, and a trip I could never dreamed of to Egypt. Then in March, a turn for the unexpected, the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It appeared that my year would be full of new adventures, experiences, and broadening horizons; instead, with the sudden onset of COVID-19, 2020 became synonymous with cancelled trips, monotony, and physical distancing.
Leading up to my Egypt trip, COVID-19 was in the news but it was a slow burn as it spread across the world in late February and early March. Upon returning safely to the States in mid-February, cities in every country around the world were shutting down in varying degrees to prevent the spread. I began working from home on Friday the 13th in March with no plans to return until at least mid-2021.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t share how incredible Egypt was. I feel so lucky to have been able to go and experience this beautiful country with such kind people. We travelled to Cairo, Luxor, and Hurghada (ask me how to pronounce this city’s name in person, I know now!). The trip was more than I could have imagined: seeing the Great Pyramids by camel and even going inside, visiting ancient Egyptian temples and tombs (including Valley of the Kings where King Tut is located), riding a hot air balloon for the first time, cruising on the Nile, snorkeling in the Red Sea, catching beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and sharing these experiences with a great group of people. I can’t wait to do it justice in its own post, but for now, you can check out the highlights here.
While I typically use this space to share my travels, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share how I’m not ~really~ traveling. I keep checking the list of countries that are allowing U.S. citizens entry, but haven’t felt comfortable to go as far as booking anything yet. Of the countries allowing U.S. citizens to travel, only a few of them allow visitors without a COVID-19 test. Early on, I heard unpleasant stories of taking a test.
Despite being centrally located in the midwest, there aren’t a whole lot of places that are easily accessible by car. An exception to this geographical disadvantage is northern Arkansas. I had the chance to make two trips to the area; the first to the Ozark National Forecast area near Jasper, and the second to Eureka Springs and Beaver Lake. Going into the trips, I didn’t know what to expect, but found the scenery to be spectacular.
While in Kansas City, I explored parks and hiked more frequently. So much so that I finally got my first pair of hiking/trail shoes! I also got the chance to put them to work on an epic road trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming making pitstops in Colorado and South Dakota area along the way. I never imaged exploring the west through the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, a Mount Rushmore drive-by, and roaming around Custer State Park and the Badlands, with great company might I add. But again, enjoy these pictures below and video until I can do it justice with its own post.
South Dakota is also where I learned “Denial” isn’t just a river in Egypt. And with that we’ve come full circle…
What if 2020 isn’t cancelled? What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for? A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw — that it finally forces us to grow. A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us from our ignorant slumber. A year we finally accept the need for change. Declare change. Work for change. Become the change. A year we finally band together, instead of pushing each other further apart.
2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather the most important year of them all.Leslie Dwight
All these new experiences caused me to reflect on the above passage, by Leslie Dwight. This is a (not so) subtle reminder that we have the ability to make things happen. Things may look different or not go as expected, but it’s all up to us on how to respond and pivot. Most importantly, you possess the ability to preserve through uncertainty.
As we move into 2021, I’m not rushing to book any international trips. I may be reevaluating the purpose of my 30 countries-in-30 years goal that I set just a few years ago. The intent is not to rush destinations to count or check them off a list but value the experiences.
Any savvy traveler should follow Scott’s Cheap Flights (not an ad). If you do, you have also received “the 21 places to go in 2021”. Except it was less about places to go, but more about experiences. In recent years, I’ve learned what makes places most memorable are the people and experiences. The world is so full of places that individually, we’ll never be able to see them all, but we can become richer by sharing our experiences with one another. I’ve created my own list for 2021, inspired by this philosophy and Scott’s list.
- Somewhere to see all the stars (remote, away from light pollution).
- Somewhere to catch my breath (both from the hike/climb and the achieved view).
- Somewhere for another domestic road trip of a lifetime.
- Somewhere to enjoy the warmth of earth (I may be a winter baby, but I much prefer summer!).
- Somewhere to embrace and be emerged in local customs.
With that, 2020 nears the end. While it may not have been the best of years, and I’m sensitive to the lives lost and challenges faced because of COVID-19, I hope this year had a silver lining for you all. Be safe and renew for 2021.