A Recap of 2020

Me, on my last trip assignment in 2020.

2020 shook up not only our ability to travel but also our daily living; in many cases, our economic means. While this year had some personal and professional setbacks for me, I am overall grateful that for the most part I had good experiences and made lasting memories. 

Here’s my recap of 2020.

My first trip of 2020 was to the Don CeSar Hotel.

Starting 2020 on the road

January had me already going on my first trip to St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida. I stayed at the Don CeSar, a grand hotel that is noted for its bright pink paint color. Its place along the beach was also nice and I spent some time wandering along the sand.

Abu Dhabi is the second Emirati that I’ve visited.

Visiting Abu Dhabi

I’ve been to the United Arab Emirates before — first to Dubai in 2019 — but I returned to this destination in February to see Abu Dhabi, which is its capital. Traveling with Visit Abu Dhabi and Etihad Airways, I stayed at St. Regis Abu Dhabi along Corniche, a beach area, and at the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, a lux oasis near the Rub’ Al Khali. 

Other highlights ranged from visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi, an outpost of the famous Parisian museum; to sipping on a 24K gold cappuccino at Emirates Palace; to visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which was built and named for Abu Dhabi’s founder. See more here.

Celebrating Mardi Gras in Lake Charles

It was fun to head to this city in Southwest Louisiana that also puts on Mardi Gras parades and events in February. Compared to NOLA’s, I think Lake Charles’ version still offers a good time but is more chill. I got to throw beads to crowds in a family-friend parade, see a Mardi Gras pageant featuring local Krewes chapters and try locally-made boudin and rum.   

The beautiful Cox Bay at Pacific Sands Beach Resort

Visiting Tofino and Vancouver

I’ve been to Canada a few times and got to see Vancouver and Tofino, also in February. Tofino is a small district on Vancouver Island that is known for its beaches and forest areas and has a community living here year-round. I tried my hand at surfing and dined at places such as Tofino Brewing Company, Chocolate Tofino, and SHELTER Restaurant. Our group stayed at Pacific Beach Sands Resort, a lovely property along Cox Bay.

I quickly explored Helsinki before having to head back home.

Rushing Home from Finland

March 2020 was when the coronavirus pandemic really began to change everything in travel. At that time, I was on a work trip to Finland, where I arrived in Helsinki two days before President Trump implemented travel restrictions to the U.S. from certain Schengen Area countries (Finland, being among them.) I got there on a Wednesday with the ban to kick in on Friday. On Thursday, we were told by Visit Finland officials that they were concerned about myself and another American on the trip being able to make it home okay. Also on that day, they rebooked our return flights to JFK for that afternoon, so we had to rush back to the hotel to get our bags and go to the airport ASAP. 

But I also learned a lot this year. Here’s some of it.

The holiday tree at the New York Stock Exchange

More Of An Appreciation For New York City

New York City got hit hard with the pandemic, with hospitals being inundated with cases, tourism locations having to shut down and restaurants still trying to stay afloat. I stayed at home much from March through June, only venturing out for fresh air walks or essential grocery shopping. I started going beyond that by heading to local parks and often very empty museums and getting takeout from nearby eateries.

The subway and buses are getting busy again, so I’m staying as careful as I can while using them. I have to admit that I’m nervous riding them as cars and seats are filling up. Most riders wear masks, but there a few that don’t.

However, I did venture out in December around Manhattan to see holiday trees and decorations and headed to restaurants that I’ve always wanted to dine at and to get to-go orders.

Pico Do Carvão in The Azores

Branching Out In My Writing

I got scared a lot with keeping work steady this year, as I was laid off from my tourism side job and most outlets had to change their formats. I tried a lot of new fields of writing and thankfully was able to score assignments in new publications, including Reader’s Digest, Smithsonian Magazine and Zagat. Due to my layoff and being able to self-quarantine alone, I accepted a special press trip to Portugal in October to see how its tourism and hospitality sector was adjusting to the pandemic and implementing Covid-19 health and safety precautions. You can read more about my experience here.

These days, and going into 2021, I’m going to be staying local. But that’s fine for me. We’ll see what happens.

So how was 2020 for you? Tell me.

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