Travel Year in Review: My Silver Linings of 2020

At first, I thought it may be pointless to even put this travel year in review post together. It’s 2020. What a dumpster fire of a year. But it’s good to remember the positive things and there were some silver linings! I explored my home state more quickly and thoroughly than I ever have before and gained a better appreciation for adventures in my own backyard.

Looking back through my photos for the year, I actually did a decent amount of exploring! I moved to the Charleston, SC area in January 2019. That first year I visited exactly ZERO state parks, ZERO historic plantations, and only 2 different beaches.

Considering Charleston, SC has been voted the #1 US city by Travel + Leisure for 8 years running, it’s pretty sad that I wasn’t doing something different every weekend. Or at least every other weekend.


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What 2020 Was Supposed to Look Like

Like everyone else, I had big plans for 2020.

My husband and I were scheduled to pay off our six-figure student loan debt that summer, celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary in August with a long weekend away in a new city, and then jet off to Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti for a month of celebration and relaxation in November.

I had just finished a weekend trip to New Orleans in February and was at home obsessing over new day trip ideas for our upcoming epic Aussie and Kiwi adventure, when everything started shutting down.

Yellow, green, and purple tulle and buntings decorate a New Orleans French Quarter multi-story building in February
New Orleans in February

Now, let me be clear. I’m not throwing a pity party. I got off pretty easy this year, all things considered.

Nobody in my household lost a job and there was no interruption to our finances. We were still able to pay off our debt this year as planned. (Debt free except the house!)

We don’t have kids and haven’t had to navigate the exhausting process of virtual school or watching children while also working.

Neither of us has caught the virus.

So, while I did not get to go on my epic 10 year anniversary trip, I am still blessed beyond measure this year.

What 2020 Actually Looked Like

Before the Virus

I started off the year well enough, painting rooms in our newly purchased first home and taking strolls through our local parks to admire the azaleas.

February arrived, and I set off to New Orleans to meet up with my sister for the Rock N’Roll Half Marathon. Our goal is to run a half marathon in every state, which aligns nicely with my US States bucket list. All about bucket lists!

Lockdown

In March, the world shut down, and my husband and I stopped leaving the house, doing our part to slow the spread of this awful virus. South Carolina is far too conservative to actually mandate a lockdown, or safety precautions at all for that matter, but we took it seriously and most of the city councils imposed safety measures.

I took a grand total of THREE pictures the entire month of March. For a shutterbug like me, that still hurts to see as I scroll through my photo archives.

Small alligator swimming in a green pond
The baby alligator

April was a duplicate of March: only 3 photos.

  1. A baby gator in the pond in our neighborhood as we took a walk
  2. A skink lizard that got himself stuck in our garage
  3. The 4000 piece puzzle we started to occupy our time after the power went out when tornadoes came through town one day

Nothing again in May.

By the end of June, the mental health factor really started to kick in for me.

My husband is a happy homebody, positively thriving in this can’t-leave-the-house-except-for-groceries lifestyle. I am the complete opposite! I have indoor hobbies, of course, but staying at home day after day with only walks around the neighborhood to sustain me was not working.

Depression is real, folks, and it can sneak up on you.

I started planning weekend day trips to distract me. It gave me a reason to get out of bed or off of the couch. I discovered I live within easy driving distance of at least a third of the South Carolina State Parks. A new bucket list was born!

My spirits lifted instantly just thinking about it. I could leave the house AND be safe and responsible at the same time. Hiking is made for social distancing. This was going to work out after all!

Summer and Fall

The summer months passed into fall with weekend day trips to various places:

Tall and dark storm clouds soar over the ocean from the right contrasting with the bright blue sky on the left
Stormfront viewed from Tybee Island, GA

The End is Near

That brings us up to November, and buddy, did I need a vacation from work. I’m a notorious workaholic. Just can’t help it. And when you work from home (and have no other distractions at home), it’s hard to walk away from work.

I needed a vacation away from home just so I could escape work and recharge. At the time, the second spike hadn’t caught up to us yet, so we were in that lull between the first and second waves of the coronavirus. I figured contactless check-in hotels were okay so long as they also had detailed cleaning policies.

I planned and plotted and researched and finally came up with a unique road trip itinerary for the eastern US that we enjoyed the first week of November. This itinerary focused on outdoor activities and relied heavily on the National Park Service. We safely road tripped through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, (West Virginia again), and North Carolina before returning home.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were travel logistics quandaries. Virus cases were on the rise again, and we were conflicted whether to stay home or visit family. We weren’t about to get anyone sick if we could help it, so we voluntarily isolated for two weeks prior to both trips.

Although, two weeks after Thanksgiving I did manage to sneak in a day trip to Santee State Park for some hiking and biking before we started isolating again for our Christmas trip!

Orange leaved tree reflected in sinkhole pond in Santee State Park in South Carolina
Santee State Park Sinkhole Pond

For Thanksgiving, we drove 16 hours from South Carolina to the far side of Missouri. We spent Christmas in Nashville. Thankfully, we were in the suburbs and only felt the shockwave from the bombing. All the damage was downtown. It’s been a rough year for Nashville….

And now as I write this, I am chilling at home, and we’ll ring in the new year from the comfort of our couch with cheese and crackers and sparkling grape juice!

Silver Linings of My Travel Year in Review

All said and done in 2020, I actually explored a lot.

I didn’t leave the continent, or even the country, but I still experienced some fantastic moments: swirling cloud-filled valleys in Shenandoah National Park; watching the summer storms roll in from all sides at the beach on Tybee Island; and watching Civil War memorials fade into darkness at sunset at Antietam National Battlefield.

My wanderlusting travel soul is satisfied for now.

stone war memorials fade into darkness as the sun sets at Antietam National Battlefield
Memorials at sunset at Antietam National Battlefield

I checked the following off of my bucket lists:

  • 6 new US States
  • 2 new National Parks
  • 6 South Carolina State Parks
  • Mt Mitchell, highest peak east of the Mississippi River
  • Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s mountaintop home
  • The Greenbrier Resort’s Hidden Bunker Tour

So while this year didn’t go as planned, it challenged me to find ways to stay safe and sane during a pandemic and beat back depression. I embraced the idea of exploring near my own home, and it opened up a whole new list of destinations waiting to be discovered.


With 2020 in the rearview mirror, I’m ambitiously planning for travel in 2021. Even with the vaccines getting approved and distributed, I don’t anticipate travel being back to normal until the 2nd half of 2021 at the very earliest, and even that will look a little different.

And! I’ve had an entire year to add to my epic Australia trip, both vacation time and budget, so here’s to a new year and hoping for some truly awesome experiences in the 2nd half of 2021!

What are your 2020 silver linings? Share your positive highlights in the comments!

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