As I began to reflect on the year that has been 2020, I debated whether to even write a year in review. It was to be my first full year as a travel blogger, and it was going to be epic. Looking back 2020 feels to some degree inconsequential, because so many of my travel plans got derailed. On the other hand, it is a year that has shaped me in ways I can’t fully express in writing.
I began the year by marrying a man I feel I’ve been waiting for my entire life. Proof that if you keep an open heart and and believe in miracles, amazing things can happen when you least expect them. As fate would have it, this involved quitting my 20 year teaching career in order to move to Sicily with my new husband, leaving my (adult) children behind. In awe of the strong, independent women they have become, while at the same time worried that the recipe cards and towel folding strategies I’ve left them with somehow don’t seem like enough.
As a parent, you prepare yourself for the possibility that your children might move away when they grow up, but making the choice to move away yourself is a strange feeling. There were emotional highs and lows, moments of panic, and more than a few times that I felt guilty for “abandoning” them; however, there was never any doubt that fate, or God, or whatever forces there are in the universe, had destined me to be with this man. So we we started planning the move with only one condition; with my oldest daughter set to get married in April, we would at least wait until after her own wedding.
Following my wedding the second week of January, we took a weekend “mini-moon” to Kentucky for some bourbon tasting and a perfect little stay in a tiny house just outside of Frankfort. We visited five distilleries in four days and had the time of our lives. We had so much fun that we made plans to tackle as much of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail as we could in the four months we had left before our scheduled move to Sicily in June. Alas, this was not to happen. Something to look forward to on return trips.
In February, we took advantage of a long weekend with a last minute getaway to Jacksonville, Florida to visit some friends. I’ve been to Florida numerous times in my life, but had never been to St. Augustine. I love any traveling that involves history, and the old town in St. Augustine is full of it! We ate (and drank) our way through the oldest city in the U.S., toured the fort, and even caught the daily canon firing ceremony. We were so glad to have taken advantage of this time when we had it, as it would be our last chance to see our friends before moving out of the country. If you ever find yourself in the Jacksonville area, I highly recommend a visit to St. Augustine, it was super cool!
We made the decision in March to stay home for Spring Break in order to do some pre-packing for our move, because we weren’t sure how much time we would have at home over the next several months with all the bourbon tasting trips we had planned. I can just hear fate laughing maniacally now. Turns out I never went back to school after the break, and spent the last quarter of my teaching career working from home.
And so began what I call the 131 days of lockdown. Limited to movement within a 50 mile radius of home, we had to get creative. Sunday Fundays on the front porch, neighborhood walks, backyard bonfires and outdoor movie nights with “the kids” were my salvation. Did I mention that my two adult daughters had both “temporarily” moved in with us? One had recently graduated from college, and the other was between leases in preparation for her upcoming nuptials. The planned April wedding ended up being postponed twice, but so did our move. Thankfully the dates worked out perfectly and the wedding took place two weeks before we headed off across the pond.
Lockdown also brought with it the need to develop some home bartending skills. Since I couldn’t travel anywhere, I decided to try my hand at making cocktails that made me feel like I was. What started out as a joke turned into a full blown Travel Inspired Cocktails page on my blog, and a series of recipe collections that remind me of some of my favorite travel destinations!
With summer came a lift in local and state restrictions across the U.S., and although many people treated this as a free-for-all, we chose to stay local. I looked around at the city I had called home for 25 years and felt led to share my knowledge, and my love, of Memphis. I retraced days spent with friends at outdoor patios, late nights on Beale Street, music festivals on the Mississippi River, and adventures with my kids as they were growing up. Beyond this, I found stories told with street art and dove into the city’s place in Civil Rights history that, with the death of George Floyd, held a not-so-new significance. Click on the pictures below to read my Best of Memphis series of articles.
Around mid July, the wait was finally over! The movers came and cleared the house of almost everything we own, so we did what I call “house camping” for almost four weeks. When the end of August came around we happily loaded up our suitcases and Coco the fabulous Chocolate Lab, and headed to the East Coast for our flight to Italy!
And so came the days of quarantine. 14 days in a hotel room, relying on other people to deliver groceries, and only allowed out for daily walks. I’ve never been to prison, but I think that’s what it must feel like. Okay, so maybe that is slightly overdramatic, but we were itching to get out there and start exploring! When freedom finally came, we didn’t even care that we weren’t allowed to leave Sicily. How could you when you have thousands of years of history and hundreds of miles of coastline to explore! We’ve seen so many amazing places in the past three months. Hikes on Mount Etna and by the Mediterranean Sea, hillside villages and medieval towns, pottery making and wine tasting, and Sicilian food. Oh the food!
We even had a short reprieve from the travel restrictions for a Fall trip up to Tuscany. Although we had to cancel our trip to Cinque Terre due to a spike in Covid cases, Pisa was surprisingly charming, and our spontaneous detour to the Etruscan hills was a perfect preview to what I believe will be many future adventures.
November and December brought back some scattered lockdowns, but I managed to fit in some local exploring. With most museums, castles, and historic sites temporarily closed, I’m discovering a love for climbing stairs, getting lost in small towns, and hunting for street art. Here are some of my favorites.
Although not the “epic” travel year I had envisioned, I look back on 2020 with gratitude. Time spent with the ones I love the most, a new life with the man of my dreams, and a renewed appreciation for finding adventure wherever you are. When you lay things out in front of you, or write about them in this case, you start to realize you have so much more than what you might think. I’m not sure what the future will bring, but I know it can only be as amazing as we make it.
If you are reading this, that means you have supported me in some way. I sincerely thank you for joining me on this journey of life, love and travel. Here’s to finding adventure near, far, or wherever you are!