2020 in Review: Nomadic & Thriving Through COVID

Ah, 2020 – the year that needs no introduction.

Suffice it to say that 2020 looked nothing like I’d imagined or planned. It was supposed to be the year I went back to my nomadic roots, traipsing around Australia, traveling to the US for work and family, and gallivanting around Europe again before returning to Sydney and finding a new home for myself.

In reality, only the nomadic bit happened – except rather than me intentionally navigating my way around the world as a nomad, I was drifting around Sydney and surrounds, waiting for the COVID dust to settle. 

Lots didn’t happen, but lots did happen that allowed me to set the foundation for what could be a HUGE 2021. I created and recorded my first online course, survived one year in my first real relationship, and bought a couple of vehicles. All things considered, I actually had a pretty successful year – I count myself very lucky for that. 

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If you turn on location tracking in Google Maps, it’ll show you a map of everywhere you’ve visited. This is where I was in 2020!

 

Here’s a look at my 2020:

January – March 2020

The year began on a high note, as I moved out of my Bondi apartment and went back to my nomadic roots. I was full of hope for the year ahead: Aussie road trips galore! Business events in California! Seeing family in the US! An Eastern European road trip! Back to Sydney to finally live on my own!

Obviously things didn’t quite go according to plan… but more on that later.

READ MORE: Bye Bondi! Guess Who’s Going Nomadic In 2020?

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Sydney

I was in and out of Sydney for the first few months of the year, not quite getting enough of my beloved Sydney beach days as I normally would during summer due to my travels, local bushfires making the air quality unbearable at times, and of course COVID – and ugh, I’m still sad about it nearly a year later.

What time I did spend in Sydney was split between Bondi (where I lived til late Jan), North Sydney (where my bf lived), and Manly (where I rented an Airbnb for a bit). I actually loved hopping around like this because it made it easy for me to explore the north shore harbour beaches that I normally wouldn’t trek to from my base in the eastern suburbs.

cape le grand national park

South Western Australia

In late January, I flew to Perth and spent a few weeks embarking on a solo South Western Australia road trip. I drove from Perth to Esperance straight away and spent my 35th birthday at Cape Le Grand National Park, home to some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in all of Australia. It was absolute HEAVEN.

The rest of the trip was much the same, as I hopped from Albany to Denmark to Margaret River and the lesser-touristed Dunsborough and Yallingup. Whenever the sun was out, I was at the beach, and whenever it was cloudy or rainy, I worked… which is pretty much how my day-to-day life is anyway. But I swear, WA beaches just hit differently. I seriously had the best time on this trip! 

READ MORE: The Ultimate Perth to Esperance Road Trip Itinerary

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South Coast NSW

Where was I when COVID hit? Blissfully unaware while camping along the south coast of NSW. We heard whispers of it around the campground and in town, but it was easy to ignore; then, cafes started refusing to serve coffee in reusable cups and I knew shit was getting real. 

My last moments of travel freedom were spent camping on the beach, eating freshly caught fish, and flying my drone over every estuary we encountered. I wouldn’t change a thing. 

READ MORE: From Whales to Red Rocks: A Guide To Sapphire Coast NSW

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March – October 2020

Sydney

COVID kept me grounded in Sydney for most of the year. My original plans had me road tripping and Airbnb hopping until leaving for the US in May, but due to the Aussie government urging us all to STAY HOME, I did the responsible thing and stayed put at Pete’s studio apartment in North Sydney. 

We’d only known each other for 3 months at this point, and here he was inviting me to live with him indefinitely. I didn’t know what else to do with myself, nor how long I’d be staying there, but I accepted and figured I’d sort out a more long term plan later. Surely my travel plans would just be postponed and I’d be able to salvage my plans later in the year?

Welllllll, we know how that turned out. Australia’s borders are still closed to the rest of the world (i.e. most of us are not allowed to leave the country, and if we do we may not be allowed back in for god knows how long).

But even more frustrating is that some state borders within Australia have been closing whenever there’s a new COVID outbreak, which makes planning domestic travel extremely difficult. NSW and Victoria residents have been the ones banned from visiting other states and territories, because most of the outbreaks have come from hotel quarantine in Sydney and Melbourne (the two major airports accepting international flights). 

READ MORE: So, About Those Grand 2020 Plans…

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And so I found myself having to endure the entirety of winter in Sydney (you know I typically travel overseas and chase summer at this time of year!). Not only that, but I’d be away from the beach, cramped in a tiny old studio apartment with another person, dealing with various restrictions that limited where I could go and what I could do for some time. Challenging doesn’t even begin to describe these months.

But when things “go pear-shaped” (as Aussies and Brits say), I always like to make the most of the situation. OHHHH ok, so I can’t travel more than a few km from my home? Well then, I’ll just walk every street in North Sydney and Kirribilli and hang out on the edge of Sydney Harbour with the coffee I grabbed from the ONE cafe still open and offering takeaway-only drinks. No gyms or yoga studios open? I’ll turn what little floor space we have between the bed and sofa into my workout space. Too much time on my hands because I can’t go anywhere? I’ll enroll in a coaching program and build an online course.

I know that’s not everyone’s approach to facing a pandemic (or problems in general), and that’s TOTALLY fine. But as an eternal optimist and chronic overachiever, that’s just how I roll. 

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One way I stayed somewhat sane during winter was by booking weekend getaways from Sydney. We may not have been able to leave the state, but Sydneysiders were well within their rights to travel around NSW. So I booked us weekends at an off-grid tiny house, Worrowing Jervis Bay, and a Northern Beaches Airbnb. Having a little trip planned every few weeks was SO therapeutic for me, I swear it brought me back to life during the winter doldrums. 

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Wildlife at Worrowing.

And in other exciting news, I finally became an Australian citizen at the end of April!

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Just before logging in to my virtual citizenship ceremony!

And we bought a car! 

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And we decided to go on a road trip around Australia next year! Hence why we bought the car… so we can tow a caravan!

During COVID, Pete and I spent so much time dreaming about traveling around the world after the pandemic ended. Except it’s still going, and we’re growing more and more restless, so the next best thing is to road trip around our country. Pete quit his job and is looking to transition to working online while on the road, and obviously I can blog and freelance from anywhere, so caravan life should suit us just fine (more on this in the October-December section below).

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Other things of note that happened during winter/isolation in Sydney:

  • I got mildly obsessed with the Bachelor franchise (can you believe I’d never watched the Bachelor before this year? Not even back in the US!)
  • Re-watched the entire Friends series (it was on TV every night, and we tuned in religiously)
  • I spent more money on clothes than ever before – and most of that was not on activewear or swimwear! But even more noteworthy is the fact that I felt minimal guilt, which is HUUUUUGE for me. (Also, I seem to have entered a neutrals phase, which is strange because I’ve always erred on the side of colorful)
  • Experienced debilitating pain in my abdomen due to an ovarian cyst (which has since gone away)
  • I got my eyebrows microbladed and it was slightly traumatic, but ultimately VERY worth it!

TCP

I spent 3 months of the year engrossed in Jim Fortin’s Transformational Coaching Program (TCP). If you really commit to it and go all-in, TCP will dominate your life and you WILL come out of it a changed person. I was willing to give myself to the program because I really wanted to see that return on investment. And really, what better time to do that than during lockdown?

My biggest takeaway from the program was around freedom vs. commitment, and it prompted me to finally start using a planner and set concrete goals for myself. I used to avoid commitments and goals because I spent the bulk of my younger years overcommitted and miserable, but I’m learning that if you commit to the right things, it will actually give you MORE freedom.

I also had a breakthrough having to do with either/or (or binary) thinking. Why does it have to be one or the other, when it can be BOTH? That’s the abundance mindset. 

Pete did the program alongside me and had a MASSIVE transformation – the investment I made in TCP was worth it for that alone!

 

sydney blog
Recording my online course!

Life Design Studio

In late 2019, I declared my intention to create an online course on how to quit your job to travel. I got about 75% done with it and then COVID hit and pretty much made my course topic irrelevant if not inappropriate. 

Don’t worry, I still plan to finish and launch this course when it’s safe to travel freely again. But in the meantime, I’ve changed gears and will be launching a different course called the Life Design Studio. I spent winter and spring creating it, and the whole thing is DONE and online and ready to be consumed – I just need to launch the damn thing, and that’s a whole other project in itself. 

What exactly is this course about, you may be asking? It’s everything I know about how to create the life of your dreams. It takes you from living in survival mode, safe inside a box that you’re not quite sure how you ended up stuck in, to letting yourself dream about what your life could be, to actually taking action and making that dream life a reality so that you’re no longer surviving but THRIVING.

Though my speciality is the digital nomad lifestyle, and I could have easily focused on teaching you how to take pretty photos or start a blog or travel the world on the cheap… I wanted to help a broader group of people. The material in this course is useful for EVERYONE, not just those itching to see the world, move overseas, or work for themselves. 

jervis bay blog

By the way, you may have noticed that half of the 50 posts published on the blog this year were guest posts written by other bloggers. It was a really big deal for me to hand over the reigns to other people, but I’m so glad I did because it gave me more time to focus on building this course out. Not only that, but it allowed me to cover a wider range of topics and locations on the blog. I was pretty intentional with the sorts of posts I asked other bloggers to write for me: most of them had to do with van life, moving and working abroad, or hiking gear… all relevant topics I’d been wanting to cover on the blog, but just didn’t feel like writing myself. 

I know my issue in recent years has been that I spread my time and energy between multiple projects and don’t excel at any of them. I don’t like to half-ass anything I do, and I prefer to go DEEP when I commit to something – but gosh, there’s a limit to how much I can do on my own. Progress is just so slow unless I focus on one thing at a time. I’m learning to outsource and get other people to help me with tasks, but dammit it’s not easy for a control freak like me! 

 

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Byron Bay.

Byron Bay, NSW

I booked a week-long getaway to Byron Bay in August as a thank you gift for Pete for letting me live with him all this time, and it was PERFECTION.

It was my first time in Byron while NOT on a tight budget, and I indulged in really nice hotels, shopped at stores I always wrote off as “too expensive”, and ate out for nearly every meal. The highlight, by far, was staying at Elements of Byron: a 5-star resort right on the beach, where we had a fancy adults-only heated pool and our own private bath house at our disposal. Ugh, it was absolutely magical. 

Erm yeah, in case you haven’t noticed… I’m not as frugal as I used to be. I’ll never be one to throw away money on any and every little thing, but these days I’m more willing to spend money on things I never used to, such as nice accommodation and meals, when they provide me with an incredible experience like this. 

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Elements of Byron.

UPW

Remember how all the signs told me to sign up for Tony Robbins’ event? Welp I finally attended my first Unleash The Power Within – though it was held virtually this year rather than in person, so it wasn’t quite the same experience. But I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it!

The event was held over 4 days, going from 10am to just before midnight. I tried to start each day by logging in from a hotel lobby in the city, then would rush back late afternoon and log in at home after Pete had finished work for the day. I couldn’t quite go all-out while in a quiet public space (and often they’d have us jumping around, running in place, and shouting), but once I was at home I really let loose. I used to roll my eyes at everything I heard about Tony’s events; now I get it. It’s all about your energetic state.

It was slightly annoying having to rely on my iPhone hotspot to log into the Zoom meeting for 4 days straight (did I mention we didn’t have proper WiFi at the apartment?), and more than a little annoying not knowing when to expect our breaks each day (I guess this is just how Tony rolls), but apart from that – 10/10, would attend again. And I will next year, as we all got free tickets to the 2021 UPW Sydney event to make up for not being able to attend in-person this year, how good is that!

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Canberra Arboretum.

October – December 2020

Canberra

In mid-October, Pete and I moved to Canberra to live with his parents for a little while as we got ready for our big Aussie road trip. What was meant to be a few weeks there has turned into 3 months and counting because we grossly underestimated how much we needed to do and how much gear we needed to obtain before we head off. Throw in a few trips to the mechanic, some unanticipated dental/medical issues for Pete, and sporadic COVID border closures and some days I wonder if we’ll ever hit the road.

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Gibraltar Falls, near Canberra.

In the meantime, I’ve tried to make the most of living somewhere new. Most of my time has been consumed by sorting everything out for both the car and caravan, but I’ve also managed to explore some of the ACT (I’ve actually yet to step foot in Canberra proper since we moved here; we’re living in a suburb south of the city). Adventures of note: Canberra Arboretum, Red Rock Gorge, Gibraltar Falls, Mount Gingera, and Urambi Hills (aaaaaaand I’m pretty sure those will mean nothing to the 99.99% of you unfamiliar with Canberra!). 

I’ve also done loads of exploring on foot near where we’re living, dog walking is pretty great for that. Canberra in general has a multitude of walking paths carved into park lands, and they often take you through multiple suburbs. Seems the ACT really is the bush capital of Australia! 

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But really, I cannot believe how much of an ordeal it’s been with the caravan prep and I question every day whether we should have gone the van route (we did originally look for a van to buy, but there were so few options at the time). We had to take a towing course to learn how to tow the caravan. We made dozens of trips to Bunnings (the Aussie equivalent of Home Depot) to kit it out. We had to install some things on the car so it would be able to tow the caravan. We had to get both car and caravan serviced, tires all replaced. We had to get the car repaired after it broke down on our little test trip (more on that below). And now we have to get a new mattress for the caravan because aint no way we’re sleeping on a thin layer of foam for upwards of a year – and of COURSE the company has shut down its warehouses for a month over the holidays so now we’re looking at a late-January departure.

Oy vey. The list of things to do and buy is truly never-ending, and I’m thinking it probably always will be so we might as well just start our trip and deal with that list as we go!

Except I have literally NO idea where we’re heading first. With all the border closures and restrictions that have popped up recently, we had to cancel our plans to head to Victoria and Tasmania. It’s gonna be a game time decision – we’ll just wait and see what our options are, come late January.

READ MORE: Why I Left Sydney and WHAT’S NEXT in 2021?

caravan blog
Ross and Rachel, our road tripping steed… at our towing course.

South Coast NSW

In late November, we took the caravan on a week-long trip to the NSW South Coast just to test it out and make sure it’s ready for life on the road next year. And because figuring out how to tow and set up the caravan was clearly not enough to worry about, we also took Zoe the family dog with us.

We set up camp for the week at a Hipcamp property just north of Batemans Bay and explored some of the smaller beaches nearby (THEY ARE SO GLORIOUS!). It was actually pretty easy having a dog with us, we just had to make sure the beaches we went to allowed dogs… and then we were constantly having to wash her after she got all sandy and salty from swimming, which was a little annoying. But it was worth it! 

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Except then we broke down while driving over the mountain to get back to Canberra, thanks to a perfect storm of variables: a very hot day, a long uphill slog, constant stops due to road work on the mountain, blasting the air con… and it probably didn’t help that our Jeep isn’t the most powerful vehicle for towing. Thank GOD we’d signed up for roadside assistance and were able to get towed home. We did spend half of the day waiting on the side of the road to get rescued – funnily enough, we broke down right behind someone else whose car also overheated and broke down… so we just hung out with him until it started raining, and then hid in our caravan for awhile. 

This incident kind of freaked us out about whether we’d bought the right car for towing a caravan, but I’m feeling better now that the Jeep’s been repaired and improved by our neighborhood mechanic. We’ve resolved to avoid the mountains when towing the caravan, and avoid driving uphill on hot days whenever possible. Will we make it around Australia? Stay tuned for next year’s recap!

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Dolphin Point, NSW.

Kosciuszko National Park, NSW

And lastly, we ended the year with a camping trip in Kosciuszko National Park, which is 2 hours south of Canberra (and 5+ hours from Sydney, hence why I’d never made it here before). We left the caravan at home and took our tent and swag for the 9 day trip over Christmas and New Years, not just because of PTSD from the last trip’s breakdown incident but also because the road to access one of the campsites is too rough to drive with a caravan in tow. 

We hiked through the gorges at the Blue Waterholes, stumbled upon a private (and FREE) lakeside campsite just south of Tumut, and frolicked around Mt. Kosciuszko (the highest point in Australia). We had a campfire nearly every night and cooked so many dinners on it and AHHHHH I cannot WAIT til this our new normal!

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Clarke Gorge walk near Blue Waterholes in Kosciuszko NP.

 

Check Out These Past Year Reviews:

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