There’s no denying that 2020 sucks. It’s been one of the suckiest years that ever sucked, in fact. The entire world was brought to its knees by a microscopic virus. There was no March Madness, nor any summer music festivals. They even canceled the Olympics for the first time since World War II. Worst of all, for the first time in a decade we’ll go an entire year without a Phish concert.
There’s a lot to complain about when it comes to 2020, that’s for sure. As we get ready to bid adieu to this dumpster fire of a year, though, we thought we’d try to project a little positivity on our way into 2021. Here are 20 things about 2020 that didn’t suck.
But first, let me get something off my chest…
You Suck, 2020
It’s hard to believe that 2020 has only been one year. Hell, it feels like a whole lifetime has gone by!
Back in January, we were wrapping up the holiday season at home, which was full of family gatherings and concerts. We were all smiles as we headed back to Mexico to kick off another huge year of travel.
While it got off to a pretty great start, 2020 quickly took a turn for the worse. We soon found ourselves in lockdown in Medellin unable to leave a sparsely furnished 1-bedroom apartment except for groceries once a week. I love being outside and get serious cabin fever, so that was a rough couple of weeks.
When the lousy global pandemic shut everything down, our grand plans immediately vanished.
We were gearing up for a jaunt through Colombia before taking the boat trip to Panama via the San Blas Islands. It was going to be the biggest partnership our little blog had to date.
In April, we had planned to return to our beloved Puerto Vallarta. We even had two great friends we never see coming down to visit. There was no way for us to make it back and they canceled their trip.
Memorial Day weekend is a special time for us, as we make our annual pilgrimage to the Summer Camp Music Festival. Turns out having 20,000 hippies camping together in the woods is a bad idea during a pandemic.
This was going to be another massive summer of Phish for us. After the disappointment of Curveball in 2018 and only seeing three shows last summer, we were going to go big in 2020. Our 5 year wedding anniversary was supposed to be spent seeing Phish at the Gorge – our favorite band at our favorite venue.
In the fall, we were ready to finally go back to Asia. My brother’s wedding was supposed to be in Seoul on October 10th. We planned to re-visit our old stomping grounds in Beijing and Bali with some new places in between, but that obviously didn’t happen.
In fact, we couldn’t really go anywhere for much of 2020! Due to our nation’s bungled response to the pandemic, Americans have learned what it’s like to carry a passport from Venezuela or North Korea.
As it turns out, being a digital nomad with no place to call home isn’t ideal in the midst of a pandemic. We’ve spent the better part of a decade trying to craft our ideal lifestyle, and it all came crashing down this year.
We weren’t the only ones with travel dreams put on hold. With no one planning trips, there’s far less of a need for travel writers. All the hard work I put in over the years to become a travel writer went up in smoke. As a freelancer digital nomad, there was no safety net of unemployment for me.
Our work as online English teachers has suffered this year as well. Sure, we had great bookings for a while when our Chinese students were stuck at home, but it’s basically gone to shit since then. Bookings are slim, cancelations happen often, and we received a pay cut after four years on the job.
Talk about a slap in the face!
Wow. Typing all that out made me realize just how bad this year sucked! In fact, I’m sitting here wondering if I should even continue with the original intent of this post.
It’s hard to shine a light on this year that seems like a never-ending dark tunnel, but I’m going to do my best!
20 Things That Didn’t Suck
Check out the video if you prefer a more visual version of the list!
Ok – after a little brainstorming session with Rachel there, it actually wasn’t that hard to come up with 20 things that didn’t suck about 2020!
Drumroll, please… preferably in a four on the floor beat for our first entry:
Disco Biscuits in Chicago
After seeing Pigeons Playing Ping Pong in Asheville for New Year’s Eve, we headed to Chicago for 3 nights of the Disco Biscuits.
While the Windy City isn’t our first choice for a January destination, it sure was warm ’round the Bisco fire! We had an absolute blast raging with friends and one of our favorite bands.
Sorry if you don’t!
Nomad Friends in Merida
Being a digital nomad is fun, but it can get lonely. Over the years, we’ve made a lot of “internet friends” – people we talk to online but haven’t actually met.
Earlier this year, we finally got to meet several of them while spending 2 weeks in Merida. It’s so nice meeting and spending time with people who have our same unconventional lifestyle.
Isla Holbox Vacation
For years people have been telling us to visit Isla Holbox, a picturesque island a few hours north of Cancun. We finally made it there this year and took my brother and his fiancée.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous island and was the perfect place for a relaxing vacation.
Carnival in Barranquilla
After celebrating Carnival in Mazatlan and Rio, we had to go for the trifecta in Colombia.
We joined our friends from the World Wanderers Podcast and our Colombian amigo for the festivities in Barranquilla. There were dance parties in the street, epic parades, and more cervezas than we can count.
Rachel’s Birthday at the Beach
If there’s anything we’ve learned from doing Carnival in Latin America, it’s that you need a vacation afterward!
It was also Rachel’s birthday, so we booked a nice Airbnb in Santa Marta for a few days and then stayed at a cool beachside hostel. This was the last fun thing we did before everything shut down…
Picking Up Old Hobbies Again
One bright spot of this quarantine life we’ve all been living this year has been picking up old hobbies again.
I bought a little guitar in Medellin (the first one I’ve had in years) and have been jamming out quite often. I’ve also played more disc golf this year than I have since college.
While there’s no replacement for live music, all the “quaran-streams” this year have been great.
It started out with the six-week Live From Out There series, which was a lifesaver when we were in lockdown. Then there was Goose Bingo Tour, Biscuits at the ballpark, Umphrey’s in The Boondocks, and Trey at the Beacon. Oh yeah, and who can forget Doom Flamingo’s Power Hour stream, which gave us the catchphrase “smooth drinkin’ beer”?!
In these difficult times, tuning into the streams with thousands of other fans has kept our spirits up.
Exploring Asheville and WNC
We spend a lot of time in Asheville, but it’s usually around the holidays when the weather is a bit cold.
It was great being there in the summer this year and exploring the surrounding area more. We discovered mountain lakes, hidden hiking trails, riverside breweries, and so much more.
Spending Time with Family and Friends
With our travels put on hold this year, we spent most of it close to home.
We got to spend a lot of quality time with Rachel’s family and our friends who live nearby. It was a much shorter trip in Michigan, but we were still there for three weeks and got more face time in this year than we do in most.
4th of July Camping
As most things remained pretty shut down in Asheville and Johnson City, we didn’t do a whole lot for the first few months back.
We jumped at the chance to go on a camping trip with a few friends over the 4th of July weekend. It was my first time visiting South Carolina and we had a blast playing in the river, grilling out, and cranking up some Widespread Panic.
Great Smoky Mountains Anniversary Trip
We were super bummed about Phish tour getting postponed, but we were determined to have an awesome 5-year anniversary anyway.
That’s why we booked a cabin for four nights and an RV for three to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was such a breath of fresh air and a very necessary break.
Glamping in Kentucky
Since it’s a long drive from Asheville to Detroit, we decided to break it up and cross another state off the list.
We found a yurt on a farm in Kentucky and stayed there for two nights. It was a fun little trip with a few hikes, a nice birthday dinner, and some star-gazing with a campfire.
Pure Michigan Trip
Since we had a much shorter time in Michigan, we really tried to make it count.
We took a few trips to Belle Isle and also went up to my mom’s cottage on Lake Huron. Finally, we joined some friends on a camping trip up north to go rafting and climb the sand dunes. Now that’s some Pure Michigan!
Finding Cash from My Past Self
This next story is so crazy I still can’t even believe it.
Back in 2009, I messed up and brought a bunch of Chinese yuan home from my first year working there. I found a place to exchange it into dollars, stashed it away, and went off on Phish tour.
When we got back, I couldn’t find the money anywhere. I chalked it up as a loss and a lesson learned and went on with my summer. A decade later, I found a wad of hundred-dollar bills stashed inside a leather binder.
Thanks, past self!
Getting New Gear
Thanks to that influx of cash from my past self and the fact that we didn’t pay rent for 5 months, we were finally able to upgrade our gear.
I got a new MacBook Pro, iPhone, and Mavic Air 2. Rachel got herself a new phone and a nifty gimbal for it. We also picked up some new microphones to step up our video game, so get excited!
Umphrey’s McGee at the Drive-Inn
Just when it looked like we might go an entire summer without a show, Umphrey’s McGee announced two nights at the drive-in outside of Chicago.
We snagged a pass and got in the van with my brother and cousin for a rock show. It was definitely different, but damn did it feel good to see some live music!
Fiercely Colorado Road-Trip
Even though there was no Phish Dick’s this year, we still headed out to Denver for Labor Day weekend.
We rented a car and hit the road with a friend on an epic road-trip that can only be described as “fiercely Colorado.” We hit two national parks, soaked in hot springs, explored a ghost town, looked for UFOs, and climbed a castle.
Glamping (Again) in the Rockies
Before we high-tailed it back down to Mexico, we had to squeeze in one more adventure.
We rented a Mini Cooper and booked a teepee on Airbnb for a glamping trip near Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a short trip but we managed to put in about 12 miles hiking on the trails and enjoying the fall foliage.
Sustained Growth of the Blog
For the past few years, Rachel has been working tirelessly to monetize our little blog here.
Her efforts finally started to pay off a few years ago, when a few hundred bucks trickled in. This year we’re on track to make around $15,000.
While that pales in comparison to big-shot bloggers, it’s pretty freaking impressive, especially during a pandemic. I’m super proud of her and all her efforts, and also very thankful as my writing income dropped substantially this year.
Moving to a New Condo
When we first moved to Puerto Vallarta in February 2017, we lived in a dumpy little apartment on the outskirts of town. Our bed was a mattress on the floor and my desk was a piece of plywood on top of two crates.
This month, we moved into a brand-spanking-new condo for the high season. The beach is a block away and we have some insane views from our rooftop infinity pools. That’s right, there are two of them! It feels like all our hard work over the past few years is finally paying off and we’re so happy to call this place home for now.
If I had to sum this year up in one word (besides sucky), it would be “adaptability.” This is very interesting as Step 1 of our 5 steps for becoming a digital nomad is to learn to be adaptable because in the world of travel, everything that can go wrong, will.
That has never been more true than this year.
While it’s easy to sit around and mope about how 2020 was the worst year ever, that’s just not our style. Instead of laying on the couch binging Tiger King, we rolled out the yoga mat, picked up the guitar, and laced up our hiking boots.
Rather than give up when her VIPKID hours slipped, Rachel started a new job and is loving it. I could have bitched and moaned about losing nearly all of my writing gigs, but instead, I used my newfound free time to tackle my most ambitious video project yet in our “10 Years of Travel” film.
In lieu of complaining about being stuck in our boring old hometowns, we got out and discovered new corners of our own backyards.
In short, we took the lemons that 2020 gave us and used them to whip up some strong vodka lemonades. We all needed a stiff drink or two this year!
If you made it all the way to the end of this long and rambling post, thank you. I hope it helped provide a bit of positivity in what has been a very, very negative year.
What was something about 2020 that didn’t suck for you? We’d love to get a whole new list going in the comments.
Wherever you’re reading from, we wish you a safe and Happy New Year. Now let’s all make sure 2021 doesn’t suck!