Marking our third anniversary of nomadic life is not quite the celebration it has been in past years. During 2020 the world has been turned upside down and for us, our nomadic wanderings have come to a grinding halt.
As we look back at our 2020, we are grateful to have spent the first 5 months of the year in Australia. While a few challenges were thrown our way as the pandemic gained speed, we were fortunate to visit some amazing places, meet some wonderful people and spend time with new friends. We definitely plan to return to the land down under and continue exploring this beautiful country. Leaving Australia, we spent the remaining 7 months of 2020 in Calgary, Canada. Stuck, but safe, we watched as covid killed over 1.8 million people, crippled the economy and the lives of millions around the globe. We consider ourselves fortunate we have not lost any family or friends to covid and are thankful we had a safe place to call home.
But, rather than make covid the focus of our 2020, which is hard not to do, we choose to remember the wonderful places we went to, the people we spent time with and another year of treasured memories. Despite the additional challenges this year, we still love this way of life. For us, the pandemic has reinforced how much we want to continue travelling full time. We enjoy living in new places so much so that neither of us can imagine staying in one place any time soon. These past 3 years, 2020 especially, have been unpredictable, challenging, rewarding, frustrating, memorable, and still without a doubt a good decision. During these past three years, we find that the more we see, the more we discover there is to see!
Our 2020 began in Christchurch, New Zealand where we rang in the New Year after spending 3 glorious months traversing the two islands. On January 6th we flew to Australia where we planned to stay until mid-July, with short jaunts to Bali and Singapore during that time. Our one-year grant required us to leave Australia every 90 days to reset our visa. Easy to do with Bali or Singapore just a short flight away, and upon returning we would be allowed to remain in Australia for another 90 days.
Prior to the first hiccup in our travel plans, we had some fantastic experiences. First and foremost was our attendance at the Australian Open Tennis Tournament. It was an event we will always remember and made even more enjoyable by the fact we met up with our good friend Bruce from Grand Cayman. Here’s a link to our story about that experience. We also visited world-famous sights; toured Tasmania for 5 weeks; interacted with local wildlife; sipped wine at numerous vineyards and even squeezed in a scuba dive in search of a Leafy Seadragon. Oh, what a time we were having…..until late March when our planned “visa reset” trip to Bali had to be canceled.
In a nutshell, if we left Australia to reset our visa we would not get back in because the Australian borders were closed to all non-resident Australian arrivals. So, we canceled our Bali plans and flew to Australia’s east coast, where we applied for a visa extension, and would spend the next 11 weeks. Despite inter-state and local travel restrictions, we had a fabulous time filled with hot sunny days, endless beach walks, visiting friends in Batemans Bay, exploring Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Sydney, and the Hunter Valley wine region.
It was during this time we found out our July flight to Vancouver, Canada had been canceled…we were on our own to find a way home. Thanks for nothing Air Canada!!! It was not an easy task with only one flight per day leaving Australia for North America. All in all, it took over 28 hours to eventually reach Calgary, which is where we have been since June 9th. Who knew we would be here for the rest of the year, and in all likelihood well into 2021!!! Cie la vie, as a nomad you must be adaptable, so here we wait until we get the vaccine and international travel becomes possible.
So how did the budget stack up this year compared to the previous two years? We seem to be managing our expenditures and staying under budget 👍 If we splurge on one thing we find a way to cut back on another and we don’t get bogged down in daily costs. Instead, we look at the yearly picture, giving us flexibility when we need it or want it. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun life 😎 We are no different than any other retired couple, living on whatever income and/or savings you have at your disposal. We spend no more than it would cost us to live in one place, just on wildly different items. Instead of cable bills, property taxes and mortgage payments, we spend our money on airfare, travel insurance and apartment rentals around the world. Accommodation continues to be our largest outlay at 33% of our costs this year (34% in 2019; 32% in 2018) Transportation is our next largest expense however the cost has remained consistent over the past 3 years and we highly value having a car to explore the countryside.
In previous years we struggled with language barriers but 2020 consisted only of English-speaking countries so we had no language challenges this past year. We also had very few lifestyle challenges during 2020, spending 7 months “home” in Calgary. We have had the opportunity to spend time with family and friends and only rented 2 houses, both fully equipped homes of folks who usually live there in pre-covid times.
Here are some stats comparing the past 3 years:
|Airlines flown with
|Cities lived in
|Nights in apartments
|Nights in hotels
|Countries we’ve driven in
|Phone numbers we’ve had
|Gyms we’ve joined
A few of the above numbers have stayed pretty much the same with some notable differences:
- Countries visited, cities lived in, apartments rented and gyms joined all decreased dramatically due to the suspension of our travels for 7 months
- Cars rented increased substantially due to 9 short-term rentals in Australia when we could plan no more than one or two weeks in advance
Each year we list places or events that took our breath away. Looking back to 2018 these places were:
- The Matterhorn in Switzerland
- Mont Saint Michel in France
- Normandy, France
- Bordeaux, France
- The French Open Tennis Tournament
- Petra, Jordan
- Dubai, UAE
- Le Tour de France
- Italy…..anywhere 🙂
Our list for 2019 was:
- The Caminito del Ray walk in Spain
- The Alhambra, Spain
- Cappadocia, Turkey and our balloon ride
- Portugal (my new favorite country of the past 2 years)
- The Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand
Despite a shortened travel year, my most memorable places or events for 2020 are:
- The Great Ocean Road in Australia
- The Australian Open Tennis Tournament in Melbourne
- Scuba diving near Adelaide and finding a Leafy Sea Dragon
- Australia’s Wildlife – Feeding wallabies, petting Dingo’s, finding Fairy Penguins, and meeting Matilda the Wombat – Matilda is now the background photo on my phone 💕
- The Sunshine Coast of Australia
- Hiking and biking in the Alberta Rocky Mountains
Spending 5 months in Australia and 7 months in Calgary definitely limited our discovery of exciting spots but despite travel restrictions, we have enjoyed new places and experiences during 2020.
I mention “home” a few times…so where exactly is home? I was born in the UK and 98% of my family is there, is this home? It felt like it when we spent 3 months there in 2018 😊 I grew up in Calgary spending 36 years there where my immediate family and friends are, is this home? I lived in the Cayman Islands for 15 years and we have friends there, is this home? It was my most recent home. Now we are residents of the world and call nowhere home so I sometimes feel torn when asked where home is. Even though we have spent 7 months back in Calgary this year, it doesn’t feel like home because we don’t have a house of our own. Being here is temporary and we are definitely anxious to get moving again. So for the foreseeable future, we will continue to be residents of everywhere and nowhere.
Every year Blair has the opportunity to weigh in with his thoughts on the past year so without further adieu here is Blair’s annual view of our travels:
It’s that time of year again where I give my impressions of the past year. Everybody has said it many different ways so I’ll just say, WOW what a weird year!
Once again Susan has done a wonderful job recapping our 2020 in this blog so I will be brief. Only 3 countries this year, the first 5 days were the end of our New Zealand experience. I enjoyed Christchurch, hearing about the earthquake and seeing the rebuilding efforts. The International Antarctic Center was very interesting. As always I enjoyed tramping around the area and catching up with friends.
Then off to Aus. Some of the highlights for me were: The Great Ocean Road; the Dingos; the Australian Open tennis; trees full of Cockatoos; the leafy sea dragon; and of course running and walking on all the wonderful beaches.
I will say I enjoyed Australia more than I thought I would. I had been told that it wasn’t enough different than Canada to really qualify as a cultural experience. It is not vastly different than Canada so you don’t get the big culture shock, but, a country where everybody speaks some form of English makes it easy to get around. When we were limited to one 4 week vacation a year we tried to go somewhere completely different than home, but with 5 months it was wonderful to tour Australia.
The covid pandemic certainly affected our time down under. We saw much less of the country than we had planned and what we did see was often closed. If it’s a church that’s closed, no big deal, but some things like the Sydney Opera House would have been nice to see inside. Everyone was learning the new covid protocols as we went along but people in general were friendly and easy to get along with, much like Canadians 😊 Needless to say I’ll Be Back!
Seven months in Calgary! Well, not what we were expecting but it is a beautiful part of the world and I think our travels have made me appreciate what we have here even more. It was great to get out to the mountains both hiking and biking and we had spectacular weather for the most part. Seeing friends and family has been great although that was also greatly reduced due to everything covid.
Overall it was a challenging, exciting, fun year…and I don’t ever want to do it again 😊 I am looking forward to a great 2021. Bring on the vaccine!!!
There you have it, my husband, best friend and travel partner’s take on our year. Happily pretty much the same as mine and thankful that we both want to continue our nomadic life. 2020 was an interesting year for us and the entire world however we still managed to gather another trunk load of memories and photographs during our limited travels.
Now with 2021 upon us, we, along with the rest of the world, eagerly anticipate the arrival of the covid vaccine. In our opinion, getting the vaccine is the only way we will be able to safely resume our nomadic travels. It’s hard to believe that we will probably spend a full year in Canada but we are healthy, we are safe and we are close to family and friends. In the end, this is really what matters.
To everyone out there, stay safe, stay healthy and let’s hope we can resume our lives again soon…
Thanks for following our journey.
Susan & Blair