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Digital Nomad Life: 2020 in Review2020 DEFINITELY turned out differently than I had planned, but I still managed to get some travel in – especially in the first quarter of the year when I was traveling through Asia, pre-pandemic.

I ended up spending a lot more time in New Zealand in 2020 than originally planned – just over four months over two visits – and that is never a bad thing.

Kaikoura Peninsula

I also did quite a bit of roadtripping in Colorado and the surrounding states over the summer and it definitely kept me sane. I felt like we were being as safe as we could (other than not leaving the house at all), traveling and sleeping in our own vehicle (as well as a few motels), and spending most of our time hiking and outdoors.

In regards to lowlights, obviously, 2020 was a year full of them for most people and I definitely had some, although I feel like I got off pretty lightly compared to a lot of people.

Beach in Abel Tasman National Park

I lost a couple of clients but still had enough work and savings to get by, a lot of our travel plans had to be canceled due to COVID, the political situation definitely got me down – more so than usual with the lead up to the election, the conspiracy theories and fake news in the U.S. almost got too much to handle, we lost one person to COVID – one of Tobys closest friends… but looking back there were a lot more positive moments than negative ones, and that’s all you can hope for.

Here’s what my 2020 looked like month by month. But first off – here are a few quick stats:

Countries Visited: 6 – Laos, Sri Lanka, India, China (Hong Kong), USA, New Zealand

States Visited: 8 – Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho

House Sits Completed: 4

Hikes Tackled: 99

About a 25% increase on hikes compared to previous years, and I feel fitter than I have in ages! I definitely want to keep it up this year.

Sheep on Mauao

What I Spent: $19705 (not including international flights)

I achieved the goal that I set last year to spend less than $20,000 for 2020 and I’m really happy about that! I think I can keep it under $20,000 for 2021 too – I’m gonna try at least!

(To see a more detailed break down of each month, check out my monthly round ups)

January: Laos, Sri Lanka

We rung in the New Year in Luang Prabang, Laos, then spent another couple of weeks exploring the north of the country.

We hiked, ate all the delicious food in Luang Prabang, did a cooking class, did a two-day zipline and treehouse adventure, explored all over on foot and by scooter, and got up close and personal with some elephants. It was great!

Eco travel tour to Kuang Si Falls in Laos

The last half of the month we spent in Sri Lanka – my first time there! – starting in Colombo, before visiting Jaffna in the north, then Anuradhapura, where we visited the ruins.

Our friend Johnny met us in Anuradhapura, and we traveled together to the sacred site of Sigiriya, to culture-filled Kandy, then took the very scenic train to Ella, one of my favorite places in Sri Lanka.

We spent a marvelous week in Ella hiking and visiting tea plantations, and relaxing in our excellent guesthouse. A definite travel highlight of 2020 for me!

February: Sri Lanka, India

February was another excellent travel month, and I spent the first half of the month traveling around Sri Lanka, before flying to India for the last half of the month – a country I have been wanting to visit for years.

From Ella, we headed to the coast, via a night at Udawalawe National Park where we did a safari to see elephants, monkeys, tropical birds, and more.

Then we spent nearly two weeks on the south and west coasts of Sri Lanka, beach hopping by tuk tuk and enjoying the chilled beach life. We also visited the historic and beautiful walled city of Galle, another one of my Sri Lanka favorites.

Galle Fort in Sri Lanka

After a couple of nights in Negombo, we flew to Delhi for our India adventure!

The last couple of weeks of the month we traveled in India, starting with the incredible historic sights and street food of Delhi, before taking our first Indian train to Varanasi – which was a massive culture shock but so enthralling, then to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and the historic sights there, before heading into Rajasthan for the rest of our trip.

Taj Mahal

In Rajasthan, we visited Jaipur and the Amer Fort – one of many incredible forts we visited in Northern India, before finishing the month in laid back Pushkar where we recovered from a mild case of food poisoning with fresh juices and delicious vegan food.

March: India, Hong Kong, New Zealand

The first half of the month I spent in India, traveling from hippie Pushkar, to beautiful Udaipur where I relaxed by the lake and did a day trip to Chittorgarh, then we hired a driver to take us to Jodhpur via Kumbhalgarh Fort and the Ranakpur Jain Temple.

Kumbalgarh Fort

In Jodhpur, we celebrated Holi which was one of my biggest travel highlights EVER! From Jodhpur, we traveled to our last stop in Rajasthan, Jaisalmer.

Jaisalmer is home to one of the only living forts in the world, and we loved our time there, although by this time it was the middle of March and shit was really starting to hit the fan with COVID.

Zostel Jaisalmer

Our plan had been to head back to Delhi then fly to Nepal, but a couple of days before we were due to fly out, Nepal closed its borders and we had to scramble to come up with another plan and get out of India before our visas expired.

I decided on a whim to head back to New Zealand, and Toby flew back to the U.S. The only flight I could get had a 24 hour stop in Hong Kong which I was super nervous about, but I booked into a nice hotel for the night there and planned to just spend my time inside.

Hong Kong at night

Once I got to Hong Kong I realized that they had things pretty under control there (there weren’t many cases when I visited in mid-March), so I decided to change my flight and stay there for a week.

I loved my week in Hong Kong, especially all the delicious food! From what I have heard, it was a lot quieter than it usually would be, but almost everything was open that I wanted to go to – restaurants, bars, the Peak Tram, the Star Ferry, even the nightly light show was still on.

Everyone wore masks and there were temperature checks at most places, but otherwise, it just felt normal.

Promenade in Hong Kong

I actually kind of liked that it was more chilled than it usually would be, and I know I definitely want to return at some point to see more of the natural attractions because it rained a lot of the time I was there.

The last week of the month I was back in New Zealand and in quarantine by myself at my brother’s apartment in Auckland. Within two days of getting back the whole country went into Level 4 lockdown.

April: New Zealand

I was in Level 4 lockdown for the whole of April, which meant that only supermarkets and essential businesses were open – there weren’t even any restaurants or fast food chains open for takeout so I did a lot of cooking!

Italian Gnocchi

We were allowed to leave our homes to exercise outside every day, and I definitely made the most of that, walking for at least an hour per day, all over Auckland.

Even with the restrictions, I actually thrived during my time in lockdown, getting a lot of work and writing done, trying out new recipes, watching a lot of Netflix and reading a lot of books, and enjoying the time I got to hang out with my brother.

I wrote a post about my experience doing the lockdown in Auckland if you want to check it out.

View from Mount Hobson in Auckland

May: New Zealand, Colorado

Like April, I was in lockdown in New Zealand for most of the month, although it was at the slightly less strict Level 3 for the first two weeks of the month – which meant me and my brother could extend our bubble to include our Dad and that restaurants were open again, but for takeout only.

Then New Zealand went into Level 2 for my last week in New Zealand, which allowed dine-in with social distancing at restaurants, and opened up regional travel again so I went and visited my Mum for a couple of days in Papamoa.

Papamoa Beach

I had planned to stay for another three weeks but I read somewhere that the U.S. is cracking down on Green Card holders re-entering the country after six months or more away, and in some cases not letting them back in.

I had been out of the country for almost seven months at that point so I freaked out and got a flight back early.

I arrived back in Denver on the 21st May and spent the rest of the month holed up in Denver – a big adjustment from New Zealand as the rules were a lot laxer, there were a lot more cases, and a lot of people’s attitudes were so different to New Zealanders.

Honestly, I really struggled, and I wanted to just get on a plane back to New Zealand. I felt like that a lot over the coming summer.

Hiking in Colorado

June: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah

I spent the first week of the month in Denver, then spent 2.5 weeks on a road trip through Colorado and northern New Mexico (this was before the quarantine was required there). 

Rico, Colorado

My goal of the road trip was to visit some new to me places in New Mexico and Colorado, and I definitely did that.

I enjoyed visiting Cañon City and Royal Gorge, Trinidad, Lake City and Creede, along with lots of National Monuments including Capulin Volcano National Monument, Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, Hovenweep National Monument, and Browns Canyon National Monument.

Hovenweep National Monument

I also visited some old favorites like Telluride, Santa Fe, Buena Vista and Leadville, before heading back to Denver for the rest of the month.

July: Colorado 

I spent the whole of July in Colorado, mostly in Denver where I did three paid housesits through Rover, then moved into an apartment that we rented for a month on the 22nd.

I also did a couple of short trips – a five-day road trip with my friend Mel, returning to Telluride again as well as my other favorite mountain town – Crested Butte, and a one night trip with friends to go boating on Boyd Lake and visiting Loveland.

View over Telluride

July was all about hiking and getting outside, the best way to stay socially distanced other than locking ourselves in our accommodation, and it was a fun month even though I was mostly in one place.

August: Colorado, Utah, Idaho

The first three weeks of the month we were in our apartment rental in Berkeley, and I knuckled down with client work and work on this website, did a lot of hiking and walking, and enjoyed cooking and experimenting with new dishes.

I also did a couple of one night Colorado trips – to Cripple Creek, Florissant National Monument, and Victor, and to hike Mount Elbert – a 14’er and the second highest peak in the lower 48 states.

Old mine in Cripple Creek

After a couple of nights staying with family, we hit the road for another socially-distanced road trip, visiting Steamboat Springs in Colorado, before staying a couple of nights in Salt Lake City, then crossing into Idaho, which was the main reason for the trip.

In Idaho, we visited the peaceful Maple Grove Hot Springs, Chesterfield Ghost Town, Pocatello, Lava Hot Springs, Twin Falls to visit Toby’s cousin, and finished the month in Boise.

Shoshone Falls in Idaho

September: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado

The first couple of weeks of the month we went hot springs hopping through Idaho, dipped into Montana to visit some ghost towns, then did some hiking and wildlife watching in Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming, before heading back into Colorado.

Kirkham Hot Springs is one of the best Idaho hot springs Edith Lake in Idaho

We absolutely fell in love with Idaho, and in September we explored Boise, did a three-day backpacking trip in the Sawtooth Mountains, chilled out in lovely Ketchum, and hiked and soaked in hot springs around Stanley and Salmon.

In Montana, we visited the historic Ghost Towns of Bannack, Nevada City, and Virginia City, and in Wyoming we went to Grand Tetons National Park and Jackson.

The fall colors were starting to come out in Colorado when we got back, and I spent a couple of days chasing them in Hot Sulphur Springs, Winter Park, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and Nederland. 

Fall colors in Golden Gate Canyon State Park in Colorado

We stayed with three different family members in the Denver area the last two weeks of the month and it was so nice to see everyone.

October: Colorado, Arizona, California, New Zealand

We hit the road again at the beginning of October for another road trip (it really was a road trip year!), starting in Buena Vista with a small family weekend get together in a fabulous Hacienda-style house.

From there, we headed to Crested Butte where the fall colors were peaking, then down to Telluride for more fall beauty, before crossing into Arizona after a quick hike in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Telluride from the gondola

In Arizona, we visited Williams, the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Sedona, Jerome, Prescott, Montezuma Castle National Monument, and Tuzigoot National Monument – hiking a lot and enjoying the warmer weather.

Our end destination was Phoenix, where we visited Toby’s mum for a week as well as a few other family members and friends that live there.

And from Phoenix I flew to LA, where I spent a couple of pleasant days in the South Bay before flying to New Zealand.

Moody skies over Manhattan Beach

I spent the last week of the month in managed isolation in a hotel in New Zealand, a requirement for all international arrivals and something I was happy to do to keep COVID out of the community. 

November: New Zealand

I spent the first week in New Zealand continuing my managed isolation in a downtown Auckland hotel, and although I was itching to get out and enjoy normal life after months of lockdowns and restrictions, I actually found the isolation quite pleasant overall.

Auckland isolation hotel

When I did get out, it felt so surreal to be out in public with no mask, no social distancing, and no worries, although I got used to it pretty quickly and now it just feels normal again.

I spent a week in Auckland catching up with my Dad and some friends which was so nice, as well as celebrating my birthday on the bird sanctuary island of Tiritiri Matangi.

Beach on Tiritiri Matangi

From Auckland, I traveled to Papamoa for a week to attend a family get together, celebrate my Mum’s birthday with her, and chill by the beach.

The last ten days of the month I hit the road in my Dad’s campervan, driving down to Wellington, where I spent a few nights with an old friend, and explored more of one of my favorite New Zealand cities.

Wellington Cablecar

Then I took the Interislander ferry with the van to Picton, then drove to Blenheim where I met up with a friend and we toured the vineyards of Marlborough, tasting some of the best wines in New Zealand.

From there we did a tiki tour of the area for a couple of nights, visiting the Marlborough Sounds and Nelson Lakes National Park, before finishing the month in sunny Nelson, staying in a luxury house with million-dollar views (owned by a friend of my Dad’s).

View from Nelson house

December: New Zealand

The first three weeks of the month I was roadtripping around the South Island of New Zealand and it was glorious!

From Nelson, I did the five-day Abel Tasman National Park Great Walk and it was my favorite one yet! After the hike, I spent a few more days in the Golden Bay area recovering, then headed to the West Coast, visiting Paparoa National Park, Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Greymouth, and Hokitika.

Abel Tasman National Park beach

I crossed over to Christchurch on the East Coast via the stunning Arthur’s Pass, stopping to do some hikes along the way, then spent five days in Christchurch and the Banks Peninsula, getting to know this part of the world again post-earthquake (the last time I visited was 2011!)

My last two stops of my road trip were Hanmer Springs, where I soaked in the hot springs, and Kaikoura, where I hiked and went whale watching.

Kaikoura Beach

Then I flew back to Auckland from Nelson, and onto Papamoa a couple of days later to celebrate Christmas with my Mum, Step-Dad and brother.

On Christmas Eve, we drove over to Waihi Beach for three nights to have Christmas with my Step-Dad’s wonderful family, then we were back in Papamoa until the 30th.

I spent the last two days of 2020 in Hamilton with one of my closest friends and her family, and we rung in the New Year at a party at her house.

Beautiful Papamoa Beach

Looking back now, 2020 was a pretty good year for me – I was lucky, I know a lot of others were not. For all of you that didn’t have a great 2020, I really hope that 2021 will be your year!

How was your 2020?

If you liked this post, check out my 2019 in review, 2018 in review and 2017 in review and my Travel Wishlist for 2021.

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