May 2021 be the year that makes us forget all about 2020!

Rewind to the first day of 2020 where I ended my blog post with “I’m pretty damn excited about the coming year. It’ll be a big one, no matter what.” Oh how ‘sweet summer child’ of me! *sigh*

But my oh my, what a year it has been! A total unexpected roller coaster of emotions for everyone I think. From an amazing start of the year, to a sudden two month lockdown and then step by step cancellation of all my travel plans and basically all social plans. It hasn’t been easy. But we got through the year and while it definitely wasn’t a breeze, I’ve still got some really amazing things to look back on.

When this year kicked off, I had plans to go to Vienna, compete in an Olympic Triathlon in Lisbon and attend one of my best friend’s wedding in France. Fortunately the first trip still took place end of January, and was absolutely amazing. So much architectural beauty in Austria’s capital. It’s a shame I hadn’t been sooner! It may even be one of my favorite European cities so far! My trip to Lisbon and France however were both cancelled because of the virus. And what’s even worse, on a whim I had decided to go to Australia after all and in february had booked a ticket to leave October 16th. But those plans sadly also fell through. But I’m optimistic. I must be! All three trips have been postponed to 2021!

But only one trip in 2020? Nah, that doesn’t sound like me! As you all have noticed, the travel bug is still a stronger virus than COVID-19. My initial 2020 plans may now be 2021 plans, but that didn’t mean I didn’t look for alternatives that were still allowed and, most importantly, safe enough!

First of all, it was a safe bet to stay closer to home. And with the French border only about a twenty-minute drive from my home, that’s of course where I looked first. I knew that France had a lot to offer, but sort of kept that country for later in life. But later in life came earlier and I ended up going on my own Tour de France this summer.

Just like the actual tour the France, my trip also had multiple stages. A three-day getaway with my sister to Hauts-de-France, followed by a day trip to the French Ardennes with one of my best friends, a day trip walking and biking through the Somme Bay and then another two-day trip to the French Ardennes with my father and sister. That two-day trip should have been a five-day trip to Brittany, but at the time the virus was raging pretty badly again so we decided to change our plans.

And then of course came the apotheosis; a ten day camping roadtrip through some of the lesser known regions of France. My friend and I set off with just a list of possible places we wanted to see and once en route decided what would be the best option weather, interest and virus-wize. For the dedicated planner in me, this was a whole new experience and a bit scary, but I loved every minute of it. It was also the first time camping for me so another thing I can now scratch of my bucket list. My favorite places of this trip were definitely Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval in the Haute-Savoie and the Vercors Massif in the Isère/Drome.

But even after all of that, my thirst for travel wasn’t quenched yet. In my defense, I did have to get over the fact that I couldn’t go on my one-month solo trip through Australia. A lot is needed to recover from that. So I ended up going on one more short getaway; the region of Istria in Croatia. This place wasn’t on my bucket-list but it was a COVID-19 safe place and offered me a momentary escape from the reality of life. And we ended up seeing a few really nice places, so no regrets at all.

And now comes the part where I usually start summing up what the coming year will have in store for me. I could just redirect you to last year’s post for most of it, but even though vaccination in Belgium has started, I’m still really careful not to get my hopes up to much for anything really. As of now, nothing seems certain.

My triathlon in Lisbon is for now scheduled for the 28th of March, but that just seems awfully soon given the current situation. After a full year of training, I’m getting a bit tired of it, but at the same time, it’s also what’s kept me occupied these last nine months. However I’m really hoping to finish that race sooner rather than later.

My friend has also postponed her wedding in France to September 4th and I really hope life will be relatively normal again by then. I could really use a big party trip with my best friends.

And hopefully I’ll be able to leave on my month trip to Australia sometime around October. I’ve gotten vouchers for the activities I had already booked, but I’m still waiting for a refund from Thai Airways of my flight. If that’s all set and we’ve got the virus in the ropes, I hope Australia will open its borders again so I can explore that beautiful country.

So that’s that. 2020 has been an odd year for sure, but it hasn’t all been bad. I’ve tried to make the best of it and in the end I’m still happy about where I am right now. I’ve realized that travel really is the best therapy (conventional therapy also really helps and shouldn’t be frowned upon!) and also which people are important in my life. Without some friend’s listening ear I might not have been where I am now. So a special shout out to those who called or texted me while I didn’t even know I needed it, those who accompanied me on yet another hike through the Flemish fields or city streets and those who just stopped by my house for a small wave to make me feel less lonely. I love you, I love you, I love you!

♡ Ellen

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