Year in Review: Lockdowns, Staycations & Life Lessons

New Zealand West Coast sunset

2020 was the year we finally slowed down after five full years of travelling fulltime. It was also the year we found out we were not indestructible and learnt some hard life lessons! If you have followed our journey, you may have heard us talking about living every year as if it were the last year of freedom or adventure. We often talk about snatching all of life’s offerings and cherishing every moment. Also, you may have heard 2019 threw a few buckets of sand in our face. However, it was not until I broke my ankle four weeks ago, that I learnt the true meaning of the words “slow down”.

Slowing Down

Woman playing flute overlooking seacliffs

Hi, this is Oli, editor and founder of Travel Bugs World. Welcome to our year in review. 

Having met while travelling 20 years ago, my partner Geoffo and I left our jobs almost six years ago. We did this so we could relive the carefree life of choosing how we spend the hours of each day. We wanted to see the world while living a life full of passion and inspiration.

Many of our readers know we are slow travellers. But actually, we are slow about many things, and one of our maxims in life is “take it easy”.

However, that hasn’t stopped us from visiting a minimum of 3 countries every year for the last decade and 25 countries in the last five years.

The most noticeable thing about this year was, for the first time in 13 years we stayed in the same country for one year. Also, for the first time in six years, we lived through a whole winter. So you could say we slowed down so much, we almost came to a stop!

Summers in New Zealand

camp chair and coffee with bush views

We had loved our past summers in New Zealand and looked forward to more of the same. So we rang in Christmas and New Year on the West Coast of New Zealand. 

We had dreams we would visit family in Australia at the end of the summer. And, in early March with winter approaching, we found ourselves pondering whether we would take our annual trip to Thailand. We also anticipated visiting countries on our travel bucket list, Sri Lanka and Japan.

And then suddenly, due to the coronavirus, the entire world changed for everyone. And as countries closed their borders, travel became something one did only out of necessity. So 2020 was the year the whole world slowed down, not just us!

It was mainly due to the coronavirus that we stayed put in one place for longer than we intended. But in truth, after five years of fulltime travel, an extended stay in one place sounded like a good idea in 2020. 

But ultimately, it was the announcement of a worldwide pandemic that made our decisions for us. We bought a bed, made long-term living arrangements and adjusted to the fact that we would not be going anywhere for a long time.

We Had Been Preparing For This Day

View from bBoat trip from Picton

And guess what? We had prepared for this day for the past 13 years. It is why we made sure to travel to our favourite place in the world every year for the previous 13 years. Further, it is why we maniacally saved money while working in full-time jobs for seven years. Also, it is why we left them to travel fulltime for five years. 

Those five years were about revisiting favourite places and discovering new places that were on our travel bucket list. They were about making time to visit family and friends and living like there was no tomorrow!

Our goal had been to travel extensively. And if the day came that we had to slow down or stop, we would be happy we had the experiences and memories of our adventures.

The Good Life in New Zealand

picnic on a rock in New Zealand

So lockdowns and staying in one place were a well-deserved rest for us! It felt good to stay put in one place. For the first few months of 2020, we embraced the New Zealand summer and camping, barbeques, sunsets, rivers, beaches and bush.

We didn’t travel far, and as lockdown followed by travel restrictions came in force throughout New Zealand, we continued the same. In fact, for the first seven months of the year, we travelled no more than 50 kilometres from home! And we liked it!

Read our story Hello from Lockdown in New Zealand.

Seizing the Moments

New Zealand Abel Tasman

However, we missed visiting family, friends and our life in Australia and Thailand. 

Luckily, in between lockdowns, we managed to find the opportunity to travel around in New Zealand. After severe lockdowns, New Zealand lifted restrictions and declared the virus eliminated in mid-June. So we visited family in the North Island on a 30-hour road trip. 

Realising we would not be leaving the country anytime soon and that the virus returning was inevitable, we bought a van and kitted it out for camping. We then went on a camping trip to Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park.

New Zealand Queenstown room with a view

Lucky we had seized the travel opportunities, as lockdowns resurfaced along with the virus.

Between travel restrictions, we went to Franz Josef Glacier and then onto Queenstown. The past two visits to Queenstown, we had found it overly touristy, full of traffic and didn’t see the charm. But on this trip, thanks to a lack of tourists, we found Queenstown delightful and fell in love with it. 

We loved it so much we took the 7-hour one-way trip back there a few weeks later. Additionally, we drove on from Queenstown and finally visited magical Milford Sound, one of the places that had been on our bucket list for many years. We added that road trip to our favourites in the world.

The Travel Bug

New Zealand Southern Alps

We had more travel planned and were to go on a Southern Alps road trip. We intended to drive up to Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand and cross off another bucket list item when I fractured my foot!

Trust me, don’t add it to your bucket list!

Have you ever broken your ankle? The pain for the first two weeks was excruciating; I popped pills every day.

In a cast for the last four weeks, the only travel I have done is from the couch to the bed and the balcony. However, I travelled virtually all over the world, thanks to the magic of the internet and Twitter!

Coming up, Part 2 of our year in review “Year in Review: Virtual Travel
Read about Virtual Travel on Twitter,
our most read posts and Travel Bugs World’s achievements for 2020!

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Life Lessons

New Zealand coastal walking track

And the broken ankle was what taught me the biggest of my life lessons this year.

To start with, I am so grateful that I can walk! And while I can’t walk right now, I can hop. (I think I am getting very good at it.)

This is one of the life lessons I learnt that extends to other things we take for granted, like being able to walk to the kitchen and cook a meal, and having a pantry full of food!

Further, my broken ankle reinforced the notion about grasping opportunities and moments, as we don’t know what the future holds.

Mostly it reminded me that wherever I go, to step carefully (pun intended).

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Lake Wanaka

Thanks so much for reading Part 1 of our year in review. I’m leaving you with a message of the life lessons I have learnt and a wish for the future.

In the last few years, I have realised that life is a mixture of good, bad and occasionally ugly. I have become convinced there is no such thing as a run of bad luck. It’s just things that happen and how we choose to deal with them!

For example, I broke my ankle, and it taught me many life lessons. Further, I had unlimited hours to finally binge-watch all my favourite sci-fi shows. And, I had the chance to let go and stop worrying about ‘doing’. Instead, I was able to work on healing myself and doing the little things that made me smile.

Many people have chosen to see 2020 as bad and write it off. I always remind myself, though it may have happened a lot more recently, “Shit happens!” We can’t let the bad moments define us. It is a choice we make, to look at the good moments during the bad. Further, we have to work on making more good moments.

And at the end of the day, keeping time is just a social construct. If things don’t change in the first few months of the year, don’t lose hope and write off 2021. Think about all the good things in your life. Don’t get stuck in the thought that “tomorrow will be better”. Tomorrow is today! Start living happily today. If you want to be happy tomorrow, begin today.

We wish you a happy 2021, and we hope it will be a wonderful year full of good opportunities for you. Happy Today!

If you are in lockdown and need some inspiration and motivation, read our posts-
73 In-home Staycation Ideas During Lockdown

54 Things To Do On A Staycation in Your Home Town

Year in Review & Life Lessons pin

7 Replies to “Year in Review: Lockdowns, Staycations & Life Lessons”

  1. I didn’t even know you broke your ankle. Sorry I’ve been largely absent of late. Glad to hear you are on mend. What a weird year, but I think you are spending it in the best place. You wouldn’t like how Europe looks. Looking forward to part 2

  2. I try to remind myself everyday to look at the good and not be overwhelmed by the bad, so it’s always great when someone else reminds me as well. Like most of us, so many of my goals were not achieved this past year because of COVID, but at the same time, because of the pandemic, I had time to move my blog further ahead than I ever imagined in its first year. Plus, like you and Karen in her comment, traveled locally and saw a lot of Utah’s beauty – some of it for the first time. So plenty of good things too! Happy New Year Oli!

  3. Enjoyed reading your review of 2020, Oli. I hope your ankle will be okay again soon. New Zealand is a great place to be stuck at. Old Blighty sucks. Happy new year to you and Geoffo from Ellie and me.

  4. Well said Oli. We have explored more of our backyard this year too and grateful to not be in lockdown and we have our health.
    Hope your ankle mends soon and you can get back to exploring your beautiful country.

  5. Love your year-in-review…so inspirational! I like to believe everything is a gift even when it doesn’t feel like it at the time and that what is meant for me will not pass me by. I’m so surprised that I haven’t missed traveling as much as I thought I would. So grateful I was able to spend much of 2020 exploring my own backyard in Minnesota (went hiking again today). Thanks for all your support this year! Wishing you a fabulous 2021 and also a speedy recovery on the ankle.

  6. It was great to read your year in review. While 2020 looked very different from other travel years, it did offer some opportunities for great local travels. We too have been travelling a lot so we had some awesome memories going into this slow down year. You certainly have some amazing local spots to enjoy! So sorry to read about your broken ankle. But a good lesson learned about watching where you step!

  7. Certainly worse countries to be in for a whole year, I’m glad a pandemic helped ignite a love of Queenstown. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit.
    Hope you’re not hopping around for too much longer, have a good Christmas and New Year 🙂

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