Our End of Year Gratitude List: 20 Things We Are Grateful for in 2020

A couple at Dunas Beach in Baleal – Silver Coast Portugal camper trip

Are you mature enough when instead of countries you start counting the things you are thankful for?

Dilemmas aside, we felt it was time to pick up this on-and-off tradition before the New Year rings out in a few days. After all, since the article about a year in the life of a travel blogging couple aired in 2016, we hadn’t had a chance to properly catch up.

After a series of PR updates hitting our inbox lately, and well aware that no one needs to read another year-end recap; This is what the unpredictable last twelve months have brought around here, to satisfy your curiosity if you are still reading. And to keep tabs on our own ‘life journeys’, if that’s even a thing.

Let’s do it:

1. Being alive

Is there anything that matters more than health? We don’t think so, and the fact that we don’t have to report any personal loss nine (fifteen?) months into a global pandemic would be enough to end this here.

Related: Why accessible travel matters and what you can do about it

2. Our online community

Invited authors, companies, brands, destinations, ad networks, social media followers, and overall blog readers; we appreciate you. 

When the world went into lockdown and in a time when travel-related searches were down 90% due to a worldwide halt, your contribution to this website was everything and the reason it is still running towards its full recovery as soon as things get back on track.

3. Defining a core value

After over five years in the making, we were finally able to broadly shift our main focus to sustainability

When traveling is your job, it can be tricky to balance a travel writer or photographer position with being a better human and caring for the planet. 

But this year assured us otherwise, and in Spring we pledged to make taking planes a sort of luxury only to be used sparingly and to travel without flying as much as possible from then on. 

Slow travel and sustainability are now our top priorities.

4. Enough time to hit pause and think

Enduring one of the strictest lockdowns across the globe for 48 days and being able to self-reflect on the circumstances daily was the perfect ground to realize – once again – how much privilege and freedom we are lucky to enjoy.

From technology to modern medicine, shelter, food, and access to water, heating and air conditioning, clothing, and the many comforts and conveniences that surround us; Getting to the end of the year was just a breeze in hindsight.

5. New challenges and accomplishments

There can’t be growth without leaving the comfort zone and during this year I was also fortunate to continue expanding my experience in fields with which I do not feel particularly comfortable but which I enjoy a lot, such as public speaking.

That way, there were physical and online stages that counted on me to discuss issues such as women’s travel (opening talk at Fitur Madrid, a Spanish trade event in January) and sustainability in the tourism industry in front of an English-speaking audience (TIMA webinar, July) among others.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it was stressful at times, but as practice makes perfect, I will just keep at it.

6. Room for learning

I firmly believe that the best education is available on the internet and free nowadays.

On the other hand, for as long as I can remember, I’ve spent five to ten hours a week reading and learning stuff online, which, by the way, has never been easier with sites like FutureLearn and Edx. 

Developing new skills and updating old ones is a major factor to stay relevant in this fast-paced world and something that has vastly contributed to keeping this site running year after year. 

Yay upskilling!

7. Partnering up with cool companies

Ribeira neighborhood in Porto

In September, just before restrictions began to tighten for the second time this year, a couple of new partnerships with exciting slow travel companies saw the light. 

Testing the van life was a great dream of ours and we could not have had better partners than Van Van Go in Galicia and Indie Campers in Portugal to start with. Suffice it to say that now we are hooked for life and cannot wait to take our relationship with them to new levels in 2021.

8. Finding joy in the tiniest details

À la Marie Kondo if we may, the past few months also brought us a couple of collabs to remind us of how the tiniest things are where true happiness hides. That way, both Maria Manuela in June and Cabanas sen barreiras in December – a couple of gorgeous glamping sites near our hometown – offered us just that: 

  • Enjoying a homemade breakfast in the open air while the first rays of the late Spring sun filter through the trees
  • Sleeping in the warmth of a bonfire in Fall
  • Noticing the cold rainwater on your face while enjoying an open-air hot bath in a stormy night
  • Cooking a hearty dinner
  • Feeling comfy indoors, letting wood and warm materials such wool wrap you
  • Walking through a forest in complete silence
  • And, in the end, slowing down and embracing mindfulness to unplug and recharge in nature

9. Making the most out of things

After shrinking our world to a few square kilometers, being able to enjoy it from a different angle can make all the difference. Thus, towards the end of summer, I enjoyed a day in good company sailing in the classic Joaquín Vieta sailboat through the waters of the Muros y Noia estuary; where we established our base years ago.

If you follow us on Instagram you might have noticed how these days most images can be traced to our region of Galicia and its surroundings (especially the autonomous communities of Asturias, Cantabria, and the neighboring country Portugal) so I feel tremendously fortunate that, for a day, I had a chance to radically change my perspective.

10. Employment

I have always liked working. So much so that I can’t imagine fully retiring and need to regularly find new career challenges to avoid feeling stuck. In the end, I have learned that along with self-study and willingness, experience is vital to success at work. Well, this year has not lacked anything in this regard.

Until I was laid off due to the global state of the tourism industry at the end of July, I was working as an affiliate manager for a travel insurance company. 

On the other hand, I had the pleasure of continuing to work as a freelance copywriter for companies like Teletext Holidays who kept trusting me for their content needs.

And there is more. The real gem of this year was having the opportunity to go back to working as a leader and coordinator of groups of travelers abroad. And for a company as disrupting as WeRoad – that is showing exponential growth from the beginning and whose culture and community are a true inspiration – and in a country as incredible as Cuba. Seriously grateful to be part of it!

11. Traveling

Before everything exploded, the universe was very good to us, and then too.

After passing through Malta, North Macedonia, and Albania at the end of last year, on January 1, 2020, we woke up in Montenegro. And those epic days exploring the country from south to north were followed by a brief getaway to Dubrovnik, Croatia, before heading home.

In February, I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba; from where I returned just in time for the European closure in March.

And while it is true that some trips we were about to embark on (looking at you Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Poland), and a few music festivals we were supposed to attend (such as Boom, o Son do Camiño, Resurrection Fest, Neopop and Paredes de Coura), were canceled or postponed; we weren’t standing still the rest of the time:

In September we were able to cross the border to explore our neighboring country from Porto to Lisbon by van.

And we spent the rest of the year, whenever the regulations left us, going deeper than ever into Galicia, our land, and its surroundings.

All in all, we can’t complain.

12. An amazing support system

From my partner in crime Jose to my family that always gave me roots and wings, the friends with whom we had daily video calls when the confinement became hard, the neighbors that we finally got to meet at the daily appointment at 8 in the afternoon to thank the health workers, and acquaintances who became friends once we were able to go out again; the community that surrounds us is large and full of people who make us never be alone if we don’t want to.

And we are very grateful for that.

13. Moving

When we had only been confined for a few weeks, the body began to complain. Quite used to the movement, it was imperative to continue doing it even if we only had our apartment for that purpose.

Thus, yoga and dancing freed us from back pain in those days and as soon as we could enjoy 1 hour of freedom a day, we resumed cycling for a while.

But it wasn’t until we made the decision to walk an hour and a half or two every day – ten thousand to fifteen thousand steps – that we really saw again the benefits of moving.

It is not the same to explore faraway cities on foot for the first time or to dance at music festivals until dawn (in both it is possible to walk about 30,000 steps without almost realizing it) than to have to walk for the umpteenth time a route close to your house, but it surely does the trick. And it can have great side-effects too! In fact, the foundations of this article were recorded during a solo walk last week.

On the other hand, during the weekends, we were able to undertake wonderful walking routes in places as diverse in the Galician geography as the natural reserves of Oscos-Eo and Courel, and the coastal areas of Laxe, Camariñas, and Carnota among others.

14. Adjusting

It felt weird when the travel industry came to a halt all of a sudden. Without sounding tone-deaf, your editorial calendar stops making sense and you don’t want to hurt sensibilities by publishing articles from places where travel is not possible – nor will it be for some time. It is not easy to navigate this scenario and knowing that we could have done better, it is true that a great effort to understand and pivot towards other angles and topics in line with the events took place.

From prioritizing inspirational articles that showed a range of ideas to ‘visit a country from your own home’ to dealing with topics such as staycations, how digital nomads experienced the beginning of the disaster and remote work; we did not want to be still and we tried to continue publishing relevant content leaving the travel guides aside for a while.

It was also a year that brought synergies and interesting collaborations. I still remember the good vibes that the live interview with Elsie Mendez or Sam Ketch – yet to be published – left in me.

Finally, we should mention the recently published guide 20xvinte Xacobeo 2021 special edition (page 40), of which we are really proud as Galicians and in which we had the opportunity to showcase our playground – the Muros and Noia estuary – once again.

15. Dealing with helpful businesses

When confusion reigned, many large companies took advantage to abuse consumers, deciding not to return the money invested in a myriad of matters that would no longer take place.

Fortunately, it was not the case for all of them.

Thus, while we will not name those who did not behave well, we do want to congratulate some who did.

Like Olympus cameras, who replaced one of our cameras right away when it stopped working, and Ridestore and Lighthouse Clothing approached us in an especially difficult year for everyone with collab proposals.

To all of them, thank you very much.

16. Building new habits

This slowed downtime made us begin to focus more on everything that can affect our physical and mental health.

From growing and eating more plants to drinking more water, meditating, practicing yoga, and overall moving more; the benefits of these healthy habits and routines are already undeniable.

On the other hand, having come to the realization that podcasts are one of the best ways to make you want to go for a walk, deserves a mention too. They say there is no better thing than interlinking two or more habits together to make them stick, and I agree.

17. Working in a few tourism campaigns

As incredible as it may seem, some destinations were brave enough to launch tourism promotion campaigns during this crazy 2020. And we were lucky that they had us.

Here are two examples of content in English and Spanish born as a result of two of these campaigns:

18. Turning 8!

That’s right, we are celebrating eight years of A World to Travel. And soon we’ll give the site a facelift to celebrate.

Meanwhile, with these years of blogging experience under our belts, we have an insight or two to share when it comes to launching and growing a successful – and profitable – website. And we wrote about it not long ago. Have a look: 

Roadmap to create a website in 10 simple steps.

19. This world’s natural beauty

It’s not the first time we’ve talked to you about this, we even won an award for doing it not too long ago, but maybe we’ve never dedicated a spot to it on a year-end gratitude list until now.

The world we inhabit is the greatest thing there is and an endless source of wonder. Period.

20. Our 2021 action plan

That’s correct, folks. We’ve even had time to dream big this year and will keep doing so in 2021. Because, without goals to look at, things become monotonous. And no one would want this.

Soon we will be able to share more details with you but, in the meantime, we would like to know:

What made it onto your 2020 gratitude list?

You can stay updated on our future plans and projects by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, connecting via LinkedIn (all links in the footer), or sending us an email at aworldtotravel@gmail.com.

To all of you who have accompanied us on this journey and continue to do so day after day, we want to send you our warmest wishes and thank you once again for your support. You rock.

Happy New Year!