Lessons from 2020 (+ Joys and Achievements)

The year-long forced winter is ending.

We usually write a yearly wrap on the year that was. It’s typically filled with lots of travel and life and business success. This year, as we all know, was bleak.

One of the best short walks in Australia - Mount Kosziusko National Park
Kinda what this year felt like – dragging heavy loads uphill to the snowy peaks

2020 will probably turn out to be the most powerful of all. If you are attuned to the cycles of nature, you know that all ups must be followed by a down.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

Book of Ecclesiastes. (Song written by Pete Seeger)

The last time we felt such catastrophic loss was at the turn of the decade in 09-10. What is it with the turn of the decade? At that time, we experienced the GFC and the crumbling of all structures that we had with an almost bankruptcy and wiping out of our travel dreams.

That long dark enforced winter gave birth to a new version of us, this travel blog, and almost a decade of fruitfulness. I don’t want to say that as if there were no challenges within that.

Life moves cyclically each day as well as seasonally.

I’m incredibly hopefully for 2021 – for without hope what do we have – I know I have done the work that is required of me through the long, dark, enforced winter.

I’ve internalized the lessons, done massive amounts of healing, reevaluated my life and how I want it to look moving forward, including who I want to be and where my new boundaries lie.

I’ve gone through every emotion possible this past year and now feel stronger than ever for doing so. These are the lessons that have helped me do that.

Complacency comes before the fall

surfing lesson Wrightsville
Surfing lesson in Wrightsville Beach

Makes sense, right? ⁠

Down cycles come after a peak. Peaks are the easiest place for this stagnant energy of complacency to sneak in unawares. ⁠

When you reach that point, the wheels will stop turning, and you land in stuck world.

Stuck will present itself in the form of problems and losses – there’s nothing pushing it up, so things start to crumble.

The entire year before COVID we lived in a stage of complacency. ⁠We lost our focus on our values and what was important to us. We kinda entered this slipstream where we just cruised and didn’t care – or live with our normal intensity of passion and service.

It’s not like we don’t believe in living ease and simplicity – our life has taken that form for so long. It was more we lived from a place of self-indulgence.

It’s so easy to slip into self-indulgence when everything is going well and so lose sight of your true purpose. That is what opens the doorway to complacency and the eventual crash.

I know COVID has presented an unusual set of external circumstances, but had we not been so complacent, we may have been better able to handle it.

Learning this lesson has given us new vigor, and greater clarity on how to move forward. The foundation we are building now will be much stronger for the next phase of expansion. ⁠And it will have a better balance of meaningful work, fun, and ease. Yes. You. Can.

The cycle tells us expansion is next AS LONG as you change that stagnant energy. ⁠

How prepared are you to capitalize on it? ⁠

Start with complacency and make one important change to get out of it. ⁠ (Consider the next lesson)

Nothing is a given. Live for today, not tomorrow.

family travel love
NOW is where it happens

This is probably the lesson of the year for every human on the planet in 2020.

We move through life on such autopilot, thinking our tomorrows are certain and will appear in our perfectly curated fashion, just like we’ve designed our Instagram feed for the week.

Our perfectly crafted vision started to crumble for us a few months before COVID with a huge change in the Google algorithms. We watched as 10 years of hard work slowly trickled away. Then COVID came and it bled out on the floor.

Right before this (in our complacent stage) I thought we had it MADE. It thought that finally all the sacrifices, pain, and dedication to inspiring and serving had finally paid off for us.

We were going to settle into our dream community of Raleigh and finally buy our dream home we’d been planning for 14 years. Our savings were ready to go. We had plans to find long term friends for the girls and really focus on following their passions and hobbies like acting (Kalyra) and sports (Savannah).


I can’t even explain the devastation. I am sure you struggle to find the words too.

You also have had your certain plans and dreams wiped out. I feel your pain and have empathy for you.

But that is life. Nothing is a given. It never has been. Release all attachments and just live for and appreciate NOW.

Do your best each day to show up and work for your dreams but understand, ultimately, the control is not yours. Embrace each moment and be ready to adapt, pivot, pick up and progress forward.

That’s how we’ve been moving through this year – letting go of looking at tomorrow and just enjoying the NOW.

The next advice can help you learn how to pick up the shards of your broken dreams.

Use what you have in your own two hands

north florida wildlife center
How are you going to work with this?

These words from my mentor, Emily Sexton, stuck with me at the beginning of this pandemic as she relentlessly showed up as our guide to help pull us through the disaster.

“Bring it back to using what you have in your own two hands right now.”

Most of 2020 has been me pausing to consider “what is in my two hands today I can use in the most powerful way to get me through to the next day?”

Some days, that just consisted of my sitting in floods of tears as I processed so much pain that appeared, not just from this year, but from all the years.

Others, it was going for a walk amongst the trees and delighting at the squirrels or the warmth of the sun on my shoulders.

Sometimes, in my two hands were the tools that helped me refine old paths and create new ones.

I feel it has taken me entire year to figure out what I really want to do moving forward.

It actually only came to me last night. I patiently waited each day using what was in my hands until I felt the certainty in my body and soul of what the next decade will look like for us.

Phew. Now I’m excited.

Don’t Stop Dreaming

quit your job and travel
Hiking in Snowmass near Aspen, Colorado

I know 2020 was a giant mess of uncertainty and fear. As mentioned, sometimes that was all that was in your two hands – surviving that.

One thing I know for sure, and have learned through my years of living a life that thrills me, it all starts with a dream.

No matter my trying circumstances over the years, I have never stopped dreaming, even in the midst of the shit. I’ve never stopped talking about travel and the joy and purpose it brings to our lives.

We had people try to shut us down this year talking about travel and tell us we shouldn’t – absolutely no. We all need to dream, we all need to hope, otherwise we can never create something different.

Borders my be closed to countries, but they are not closed in my mind.

We have our travels planned for 2021 and beyond. While we wait we’re living them by exploring our own local area – as that was in our two hands and what was possible for us.

If you shut off the dreaming with words like, I can’t because….. then you will never find an open doorway to something better.

It’s the vision that opens up many unseen doorways and leads you to your hearts desire even if the world is telling you NO.

It’s HOPE. Don’t ever let anyone or anything tell you that you can’t hope and you can’t dream. It allows us to live fully.

Why are you not listening to your gut again?

Every major bad event of my life has had a moment (or more) where my inner voice has whispered (or shouted) “Not a good idea”, but I pushed on anyway.

Why am I still learning this lesson? It happened to me AGAIN just this week!

You silence the voice because you don’t want to hear it. You don’t like what it’s saying. You want to ignore it because there is an easier way. Or, for some reason you want to sabotage yourself or someone else.

I have been so good with this for years. I slipped up majorly with it and paid a big price.

YOU are your best solution

Butterflys in the Town of 1770
Strengthen those wings!

This doesn’t mean we don’t utilize resources and solutions outside of ourselves, it means that ultimate everything starts with you.


That way you can move through the storm with steadiness and assuredness – an inner knowing that, “you’ve got this“.

Soon enough the winds will die down and the swell will calm, and YOU will remain.

Spend every day working more on you and less on fixing things outside of you. Dig deep. Get uncomfortable. Heal. Build your confidence and evolve.

Remember the butterfly – It strengthens its wings and ability to fly as it struggles out of the cocoon.

2020 was the year we all grew our wings.

There is no escaping the hard times, it’s how you strengthen your wings, and learn how to build stronger walls.

Give time to the right people

people posing for the camera holding drinks
Drinks at our favorite bar, Brewery Bhavna with my sister

We waste so much time on people who don’t care about us, recognize our spirit, or take advantage of us for their own gain.

We let the words and actions of those people cut us up and to doubt our worth, brushing aside the words of those standing by to raise us up.

I listened to a Tim Ferris podcast where he said he’ll “ignore the 95% of comments that are good, and focus on the 5% that aren’t.”

And that’s Tim Ferris – the highly intelligent and successful person doubting himself and letting people who don’t matter rent space in his head.

This past year has illuminated who I’ve allowed to take advantage of me, whose voices I’ve listened to when I shouldn’t, who I’ve let encroach on my boundaries and consistently tell me I’m not good enough and why.

I’ve inspected a lot – processing who I am, how I’ve been in the past, offering grace, making changes, doing the inner work, and, importantly, moving through the process of “You suck as a person because” to hang on a minute… “maybe I’m okay and I’ve just had the wrong messengers telling me otherwise.”

I’ve bought them into my life and played out the story again and again because I, the creator of my life, have believed that I am not worthy or likable. I’m proud of myself for doing the deep, dark, hard work to get to this truth.

I’m working on changing my belief and am very clear now on who I want to be, how I want to show up for others, and who I want to allow in.

Cutting ties is tough, but liberating.

Now I have more time to devote to the right people. Those I feel at ease with to enjoy experiences of light and joy.

I am more intentional to be a source of light and joy, good times, laughter, and support in an intensity-drama-free zone. Because that IS what I do best.

Unless that intensity is whipping your hair back and forth to your favorite song on our record player on our dance floor. #alwayswelcome

Practice Compassion and Grace

travel with children

2020 more than ever has called for us to offer grace and live compassionately.

It’s been tough and I’ve failed many times.

“Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that  happen. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.” – Barack Obama

Why can’t we have differing opinions, yet still honor and respect each other?

2020 has failed in that regard. The division has been awful.

But on the flip side, we all probably have witnessed many examples of people in our community looking out for each other during this crisis. Supporting small businesses, dropping off care packages to each other, and asking strangers with true sincerity, “How are you holding up? I see how tough this has been for you and I’m here.”

There is also many taking the time to assess their own privileges and stories and having the bravery to do the hard work to change and be intentional to bring about inclusion for all and saying, “Not good enough,” when the injustices are witnessed.

In 2021, I’m intending to be more compassionate, offer grace, and find a common ground so we can all heal and move forward to create something better.

Life is better when lived with compassion and grace.

Collecting Miles and Reward Points are Awesome

Wahoo, travel lessons were available in 2020!!

For the past few years, we’ve been focused on US road trips. We haven’t been hyper-focused on travel hacking by way of collecting miles and reward points.

Well, we’ve been collecting them, just not trading them in for free travel.

Even if you don’t feel you can utlize the points right now – dive into the strategy to collect them.

We now have about 800,000 reward points to use!!! All of these gathered through the past few years simply by spending money on general living costs.

We can get so many free flights for that and are excitedly planning for 2021 international travel.

COIVD has kinda thrown a grenade into those plans – moving back to my lesson above that you can’t control anything and just work with what’s in your two hands.

So while we wait, we are planning, and applying what we are proactively now learning about travel hacking.

We have been learning from the following:

  • Johnny Jet has a ton of free content on the best credit cards. See his top recommendations for best credit card offers in 2021.
  • Families Fly Free is a private membership site I am a part of that has helped me outline a solid Southwest strategy.
  • Travel Freely is a great free app for staying organized and tracking card bonuses and benefits with lots of great tips and recommendations.

Find pockets of joy in the everyday

CEdar Key florida family vacation
JOY in Cedar Key

As I shared recently on Instagram, the way to being okay when the wholeness of your life feels broken, is to tap into the present – find pockets of joy in the everyday moments.

From the squirrels running in my back yard to dancing to my favorite songs on the record player, I actively seek out joy. It’s how I can say, “I’m doing pretty good” even though that bigger picture is telling a different story.

Pockets of joy and achievements in 2020!

  • My Victrola 6 in1 Bluetooth mid-century style record Player. If you follow us on IG, you know we’ve been finding some cool records (memories and stories) and having mad family dance parties.
  • Improving my health! I was in a bad state at the end of our RV road trip: tick related issues, food clogged liver, adrenal fatigue, and this hideous sleep issue which had me feeling like I was slipping into death multiple times a night. It has taken me all of 2020 to recover through a lot of physical and emotional healing therapies. I’m in such a better place now, but still have work to do.
  • So grateful for the amazing teachers, healers, mentors and friends that were present in my life this year. They gave me so many words of wisdom, insights, and support. We all stand on the shoulders of Giants.
  • This is Raleigh: We loved starting our new business, focused on our passion for Raleigh. We’ve seen incredible growth and have great plans for the future.
  • Instagram community – never in a million years would I have thought I’d say I like Instagram. Christina McEvoy, who has become a great friend this year, helped me see it from a different perspective. I learned so much through her course and mentorship. Now I love the community I am connecting to over on that platform. I still intensely dislike the company behind it and likes and hashtags, but the other stuff is not too bad! Plus, we’ve used what we learn to grow a fantastic community on our This is Raleigh Instagram.
  • Outlander – I became an obsessed fan this year, binge watching the series, reading the books, stalking Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe on Instagram, joining the waitlist for Sassenach Whisky, joining My Peak Challenge (2021) reading Clanlands, and planning a Scotland road trip for 2021!!
  • Finally getting our GREEN CARD!! 14 years of dreaming, six years of 500 page applications, thousands in lawyer fees, that little green card arrived during the lockdown. So much gratitude for COVID. Our green cards came earlier and we did not have to do the in-person interview.

Bloggers Give Back

north florida wildlife center
Love the lemurs

We’ve always believed in the power of paying it forward, and donate regularly to charities and causes we support.

This year we introduced paying a percentage of our campaign fees back into the communities we visit on our trips. We look for organizations and small, local business that support environmental and humanitarian causes.

It’s so important to leave gentler footprints when we exercise our travel privilege and consider the communities we encroach upon and leave gifts behind with gratitude and good blessings.

This year we’ve supported oyster growth in Wrightsville, fish and wildlife of Florida, lemur monkeys, land regeneration in Florida, and new tree planting in Roanoke.

You can still travel – go local

Things to do in Eastern NC
The most amazing beaches of NC

We’ve been saying this for years – travel is just the quest for a certain kind of feeling. Understanding this means you can travel from wherever you are.

We’ve also always promoted the benefits of exploring your own backyard, tapping into that feeling of travel, and allowing it to seep into your life as a priority and so open wider doors to experiences in foreign lands.

Obviously, there is more to consider with borders closed, restrictions, regulations and greater care and awareness of your actions.

We have continued to travel this year – in a responsible fashion and following all guidelines. It’s all been business focused, as we have no other choice. Our focus was on quieter destinations, enjoying outdoor adventures (as per normal) wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and eating outside.

We also pretty much just hang in our own social unit – because COVID got in the way of our Raleigh relationship building!! – and have no at-risk people we interact with.

Even if you find a new hiking trail in your local area, it will bring you a great sense of ease and connection.

Here have been our adventures:

So not such a bad year after all. We’ve definitely learned to embrace the difficult times in life as we know just how powerful they are in bringing about a more powerful SELF and future.

Read more travel hope for 2021:

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