One of the first blogs I ever wrote was 2019 in review, and I was amazed at the response I received! I had over 600 views in just a few short days. People from all over the world were reaching out to me, thanking me for sharing my life so publicly. So now, it’s time for 2020 in review. And this one is a much happier story thankfully!
2020… Wow, talk about a fucking rollercoaster of a year! The first few months started off quite nice, other than my first vipassana. I spent almost a month in Thailand, catching up with one of my beautiful friends from Australia. We spent an amazing time relaxing with her in a nice resort, which was a brilliant way to start the year.
When I returned to India, another friend from Australia came to visit and we celebrated Holi together, the colour throwing festival of India. Nothing quite compares to the culture embedded in Indian festivals, but Holi is by far my favourite!
And well, we all know what happened to the world in March…
Around the middle of March 2020 everything went into a frenzy, with the coronavirus pandemic hitting the world hard. It sent me through a world full of emotions, seeing people from all over the world panicking about whether they would be able to make it home. When it first hit, no one really knew what it meant or how long it would go on. I honestly never thought that I would be seeing anything like this in my lifetime.
I saw people being kicked out of their hostels and hotels, being forced to live on the river, in caves and trying to find any shelter they could. There were places shutting down, with no idea of when they would be able to open their doors again. I was really lucky to be in a place that I knew, surrounded by friends, and the ability to paint when I wanted to. Not to mention the view at Bunkstay is amazing. We could see almost the whole of our section of Rishikesh and the most beautiful sunsets each night.
Returning to Australia
I initially made the decision not to return to Australia, despite everyones objections. To me, it felt as though I had come so far personally, and I didn’t want to all back into the same habits and routines that had made me so miserable. The ones that made me become a nomad in the first place. So I thought it was better for me to stay put and wait this out. But I didn’t know what that meant without my handy crystal ball in hand. I naively thought it would be no longer than a few months.
But as we all know, circumstances changed quickly and drastically. I eventually made the hard decision to return to Australia, but I had no idea how difficult that would be. Our embassy made it virtually impossible to get back. I booked a flight and had it cancelled two days before I left. Thankfully I hadn’t started to make the journey to Delhi yet, or I would have been stuck there like hundreds of others. The cost of the ticket was ridiculous, it cost me almost $2,000. When my flight to India cost less than $400!!
It took two months to get the refund which would have allowed me to book another flight. But after seeing all the stories of people getting stranded, I decided it was a bad idea. The last place anyone would want to be stuck in Delhi. It is manic. My personal experiences find it unsafe, and I also have my anaphylaxis condition to add to the mix. So again, staying put seemed like a much safer option than running the risk of trying to return to Australia. And I had a great group of people around me for support.
I’ve been in the hospital far too many times this year. I have lost count, but I believe it is around 7 for life-threatening matters. And another 2 or 3 for others. I’m pretty sure that I have set the record for the person who has survived the most anaphylactic attacks. Those who don’t know what that is, it’s a rare, life-threatening disease where a body overreacts to something and starts to shut down. It can close up your throat and stop you from breathing as well as stop your heart from beating. For me, this happens when I come into contact with peanuts. And that is something that has accidentally happened far too many times in India!
Trying to explain a disease in a country that is unfamiliar with it, while you have the clock ticking on your life, and also only have about half an hour where you are able to speak… well that’s really hard. Add coronavirus to the mix, and it is a complete shock that I am still alive. I’ve been really lucky to always have had someone around me that understands and has been able to help. But there have been too many close calls.
In one instance, when I finally made it to the hospital, my heart rate was below 20. Which is basically seconds from death. Unfortunately this year I have also started to have seizures when I am having an anaphylaxis attack. Around the middle of the year, there was a time that it took my mind over a week to start functioning again. I was really scared that it wouldn’t come back, and it was so frustrating understanding how slow you are, and not being able to do a thing to change it. But I am very grateful that it did come back, and now I just need to be even more careful than I already am with the food I eat, as well as what the people around me are eating.
Starting a Company
Myself as well as many others found themselves losing their jobs during the pandemic. But I believe that has been a blessing in disguise. I’m a professional copywriter, helping small businesses convert more clients and rank better in search engines. I make terrible money from this, but the company I was writing for consistently provided work. Which was some security I couldn’t pass up during these times! Having less work allowed me to research and better understand how I could leverage my skills and make a proper income.
I was getting paid about 10% of what I should have been getting paid to my disgust and surprise. So I started to do more research and found out that the company I was working for, and many others, are charging their clients WAY too much for their services. And to make it worse, they’re paying the people actually doing the work hardly anything.
So I decided to change that. With my connections from freelancing, I have started a digital marketing company. My goal is to give small business owners an affordable option for getting started and generate more business. The company I was writing for is a churn and burn type. They have little regard for their clients, and their web designs are pretty pathetic. Yet they charge an arm and leg for them. And that made me pissed off.
So with my team, we create websites and marketing that actually increase sales for small business owners. And because our whole team is made up of digital nomads, there are no expensive overheads, which means our clients don’t need to pay extra! I’ve always loved helping the growth and development of businesses, so I’ve really found myself something I love, that will also support me during my travels.
Mental & Physical Health
Last year, I had a big focus on improving my mental health. I was able to come so far so quickly, just by changing my environment and the circumstances I was putting myself in. For the people who tell you that you can’t run away from yourself and need to stay where you are to work on yourself, tell those people they are welcome to do that with their own life, not yours.
It wasn’t just changing my surroundings, it was being out of my comfort zone, not having familiar faces and bad habits to turn to whenever I was feeling uneasy. It was learning to spend time with myself and discovering what I enjoyed doing. And I never would have found those things if I had stayed in Melbourne. So other than a few valiums this year, I am proud to say that I have been medication-free all year! My mental health has improved drastically, even though the pandemic. Sure, my mental health wasn’t great at a lot of stages this year, but I wasn’t contemplating suicide, so that is a big improvement!
This year I have been focusing on my physical health and managing the diseases in my back. There has only been a handful of days this year that I was unable to walk. And in hindsight, those were the times that I was quite active. I was told by many medical professionals that the more active I am, the worse it will get. And although I never wanted to believe them, my forced inactivity during lockdown has proven it to be true.
Somedays I am fine and the pain is just a dull ache. And then other days, I don’t even have enough control over my limbs to pick up a toothbrush. Thankfully the latter is quite rare, and hopefully, I can get on top of it before it gets worse. I have made a lot of progress already, and I look forward to seeing how I can further heal my body with alternative medicine.
Beginning to Travel
Finally, after months of lockdown in Rishikesh, I began to travel again. I took the earth angel Anoop with me, and we travelled to Goa for our birthdays. My birthday is one day ahead of his, so I never let him forget that he needs to respect his elders. He had never been on a flight before, nor had he ever seen the ocean. So getting to be by his side while he experienced these things was truly incredible. Check out his page Backpackers World to see some of his travel stories.
Going from lockdown in Rishikesh to Goa was really intense. Rishikesh is a town where you can’t commercially sell meat or alcohol. And Goa is the polar opposite to that. We spent just four days in Goa before deciding we didn’t like it and headed down to the sunny beach town of Varkala. I had spent last Christmas and new year here, so I knew we would enjoy it.
Getting on flights and trains during these times is strange and intense, especially in a country like India! But I am glad that we moved, I am in a much better mindset after escaping those four walls in Rishikesh. And now, after Anoop has been called to his job, I am planning a move to Jhansi in the new year. I will no longer get to be a beach bum, but I will be safe with him until it is time to leave India.
Planning for the Future
My aunt told me a joke around the middle of the year, saying that the most useless thing you can have in 2020 is a calendar. And with a new strain of coronavirus hitting the world, that may be the same for 2021. There were talks of international flights resuming in India from April 2021, but who knows if that is still the case. From the day that international flights are available, I will have 30 days to leave the country.
But until that happens, there is no point trying to plan. I have no idea what country will be open for tourism, and where I will be able to go that is safe and peanut friendly! Instead, I will be focusing on other things, like finishing my novel that has been two years in the making! I’m in the second round of editing, so hopefully, I will have it ready early in the year, ready to find myself a publisher. It is planned as a dystopian fiction trilogy, focusing on artificial intelligence and its impact on humanity. So if this is your jam, stay tuned for updates!
There are no plans other than this for 2021, and luckily for me, that is exactly how I like it. I’m excited to see what life has to throw at me, and looking back and reflecting when I write another one of these blogs in another year’s time.