Lessons Learned Travelling In 2020 Will Change Many Things In The Future
While the year was a bust in so many ways, there were many lessons learned travelling in 2020. We were thankful we did some travel in a year when so many did not. And we feel blessed that those close to us stayed safe and employed. While far too many people got sick, died or suffered financial loss.
Normally our year end wrap- blog provided a summary of and links to all of our travel in a year. But as 2020 drew to a close, we reflected back on more than just travel this year. And we thought about the lessons learned. We expect a very slow recovery in 2021. And it may take many years before life returns to a new normal. But some things may have changed forever for us.
2020 By The Numbers
2019 was a big travel year for us. We were away from home almost 6 months. Compared to that, 2020 paled. But even in a year that was a travel bust for so many, we travelled over 89 days. Our cruise around South America at the beginning of 2020 took us away for 60 days. On our short local trips later in the year we were away another 20 days.
We made little headway with loyalty points and status in 2020. There were only 2 flights – to Miami and back for our cruise. At the beginning of our South America trip we stayed for 9 nights in a hotel in Miami. And on local travels we added only 12 hotel nights. It was a good thing that most loyalty programs extended our status into 2021.
Our cruise around South America took us to 29 cities/towns and 12 countries. We crossed the milestone of 100 countries visited!
We travelled by car, cable car, train and boats. There were small boats, fast boats, slow boats and a large cruise ship. We travelled from 47°N latitude in Northern Ontario to the bottom of South America at Cape Horn (56°S latitude). This meant we celebrated crossing the the equator twice in 2020.
In total, we travelled about 39,000 km (31,000 miles) this year. It was quite an amazing feat in a pandemic year! If not the really a busy travel year we originally planned for 2020.
Fly 2,000 km 1,600 miles
Drive 5,000 km 4,000 miles
Cruise 32,000 km 25,600 miles
We certainly headed out enough to have some lessons learned travelling in 2020.
Travel Became A Priority Well Before 2020
Sadly, we had many reasons that drove us to live a bit as every day may be our last. Far too many people we knew died very young with so many dreams left unfulfilled. Cancer wrecked havoc throughout the family and changed life for our son. It took many hits over the head before we finally semi-retired early in our 50’s. We lived frugally enough that we had the financial means to travel well. And we continued to work when we were home.
We travelled extensively for more than 6 years and did many amazing long journeys. We were amazed this year when we visited our 100th country!
Each year we added many new places to our travel wish list. But we also ticked off some big ones. When the travel world stopped in 2020, we were happy we had so many amazing travel memories. The travel pictures streamed to our Apple TV every day.
We are still not at retirement age. And we truly believed we might never have had many of those experiences if we waited to start travelling after 2020 at retirement. If we had not gained the travel experience we did, we are sure that adventurous worldwide travel would have looked far too scary to begin when we retired at some future date.
Don’t Put Off The Big Dreams
One of the long trips we put off for years was to travel around South America with Oceania Cruises. When we boarded the cruise ship in early January 2020 we were so happy to finally be on this trip. People had just started to talk about Covid-19. Little did we know that Covid-19 would chase us around the continent.
We were one of the lucky cruise ships that completed this 2 month trip with no disease on board. The ship almost made it into the last port in Peru before we were stranded at sea.
Our cruise around South America provided us with so many amazing port stops. We sailed up the Amazon River for a week and saw pink dolphins. There were some interesting ports and great beaches as we cruised along the Brazil coast. We loved our brief stops in Buenos Aires and Uruguay.
On our stop in the Falkland Islands we wandered amongst the penguins. The weather co-operated as we circumnavigated Cape Horn. And our trip through the Chilean Fjords was one we would love to repeat. We even got an amazing trip through the Panama Canal which meant we circumnavigated South America. And then we were re-routed back to Miami and finally finished our cruise.
While we successfully ticked off one dream trip in 2020, we cancelled our planned cruise around Australia. That trip would have included another month or more as we explored New Zealand. And might even have taken us back to SE Asia.
When travel becomes safe again, we will not put off booking our dream trips to Australia, New Zealand, Antarctic, Galapagos and the South Pacific. One of the lessons learned traveling in 2020 was to make sure to prioritize our big dreams.
Learn To Appreciate Things Closer To Home
By the time we returned home to Toronto in Canada, the country was locked down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was not until the summer before things in our home province of Ontario started to open a little. But throughout 2020 there were still many parts of Canada even we could not visit.
We were at higher risk of serious impact from catching Covid-19. So we developed a set of comprehensive considerations for every time we left our small condo. We took our responsibility seriously and kept ourselves and others safe. But we needed a break from what felt like our small condo prison. And the economy needed local spending.
We were delighted to visit old favourites and new gems throughout Ontario for the short period when travel was a bit safer in 2020. In the summer, we did short day trips and visited the small communities along Lake Erie. The delightful area along Lake St Clair and up to Lake Huron was a treat to discover.
In the early fall, we headed north and enjoyed the beautiful fall season. Two trips to the Lake Rosseau area brought a relaxing family break and then a fun trip as we explored the Cranberry Route. We headed further north to Lake Superior and enjoyed the stunning outdoor scenery. And we finished with a stay in Kingston as we explored the Thousand Islands.
We only travelled for 20 days and spent 12 nights away from home on our local travels. But we discovered so much in our local area. It was a wonderful break when we escaped for a few days. We will value the places closer to home more in the future. Definitely one of the lessons learned travelling in 2020.
Travel Planning Will Be Harder
Even as we planned our small local trips, we learned that travel planning will be harder and more complicated in the future.
In the past, we often went weeks without looking at news. We certainly did not watch the news in the morning, at noon and at dinner as we did in 2020. But in 2020 we learned that it was important to keep better informed about situations abroad and at home. It was often hard to filter out the noise in 2020. And facts changed quickly. But facts guided our actions.
When we planned in the past, we did not always plan for all contingencies. We bought travel and health insurance and figured that covered us if we needed to make changes. But we rarely considered more. When we started to book travel in 2020, we chose to leave travel decisions to the last minute. We always checked on cancellation policies. And we were always prepared to return home immediately. When we resume major travels, we know we will always think through our escape plan.
In the short term, the continually changing requirements at home and abroad will make longer term travel planning a challenge. The long list of things to do will make spontaneous travel harder. And longer vacations face the risk of rules changing when away.
Planning for travel will take more time and be a bit riskier in the future. Good planning can reduce but not eliminate all risk. Yet another of the lessons learned travelling in 2020.
Planning To Travel Forever Needs To Be Reconsidered
When we semi-retired early, we planned to start with adventurous travel and long trips. We were healthy and had the means to work through our travel wish list. And we wanted to do as much as we could before health or age slowed us down.
We knew that over time our travel would change. We would travel slower, enjoy more luxury and engage in less adventurous activities. But our travels to-date taught us that even as we aged there were still ways to travel and see amazing things. We wondered if one day we might be those people who lived on a cruise ship. We never thought we would be snowbirds that travelled to the U.S. south every year. But we thought we might live somewhere else in the world for part of a year.
This pandemic has forced us to face one reality. We are older and that puts us at more risk for this and future diseases. We really missed cruising but it may not be the safest choice. So we may not continue to travel 6 months a year until we die.
That meant we needed to consider what the next stage of our life looked like. We certainly won’t stay in a small condo in a large city. But we have no idea where we might settle down. When we resume our travels, we will continue to search for where that final home destination might be.
Lessons Learned Travelling In 2020 Informed Future Travel Plans
Normally our year end review talked about travel for the coming year. We often had travels booked, some idea of where we might travel and some aspirational travel ideas in planning. Sometimes a year like 2020 happens and that blog post was pure fantasy.
At this time we have only one trip booked. When we got stranded at sea in South America, we got a future cruise credit with a time limit. So we booked a cruise for the last possible date before that cruise credit expired. Hopefully we will be able to return to re-visit the ABC Islands by March 2022.
We are pessimistic about the timing of the recovery in 2021. It was wonderful news when the vaccines arrived and were approved. But the rollout of vaccines in Canada is expected to run until late summer or early fall. We are sadly not old enough, sick enough or essential enough to get the vaccine early. Covid-19 safety precautions and travel limitations will exist for some time for us.
So for now we have no travel booked in 2021. Everything is still so uncertain. And requirements for travel will continue to evolve at home and abroad. We also remain concerned about the financial viability of many travel companies and don’t want our money stranded.
But that does not mean we have not dreamt of travel. As the winter set into Canada, we recalled our past escapes from the cold. We daydreamed of wandering through our favourite places in Europe at a slow pace. And we started to get those dream trips on the planning board.
Many Lessons Learned Travelling In 2020
We were part of the small group that actually got some travel in 2020. So there were many lessons learned travelling in 2020. We remained happy that we started our big travels many years ago. Those memories kept us entertained. And will spur us to travel again when it is safe for us to do it.
We learned that travel will not be as easy or spontaneous as it was in the past. But we will perfect new travel planning skills. And will plan for contingencies. But we will keep travelling as long as we can. We have learned to appreciate the great places we have close to home. And will not put off getting our big dream trips booked!
Thank you for following our travels in 2020 and using the RetiredAndTravelling for travel inspiration. We will continue to publish blog posts with new travel content. Best wishes to everyone for a better, safer 2021!
What were your lessons learned travelling in 2020?
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