Last Updated on May 6, 2023
Happy New Year, everyone! We made it through another pandemic year! Who would’ve thought at the beginning of 2021 that twelve months later, parts of the world would still (or again!) be in lockdown, that new variants of the virus continue to emerge, continuing to disrupt our daily lives.
And who would’ve thought that I’d be homeless by the end of 2021. I certainly did not foresee any of these things, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Since my Year in Review has become quite long again, I decided to break it up into two parts, like I did last year.
In part I, I’m looking back at the first six months of 2020, which I spent almost entirely in the U.S.. I took two domestic trips, got a life-changing vaccine (honestly, my day-to-day life changed so much after I got my jab back in April!) and I was bitten by a dog (something I definitely could’ve done without).
Stay tuned for Part II, which includes me giving up my home of three years in New York City, a new country visited (finally!), and… spoiler alert: a bad case of COVID.
January: Germany and New York City
I rang in the New Year with my brother, my sister-in-law and my nieces at their house in Germany, which was in full lockdown at the time. It was a far cry from the previous New Year’s Eve, which saw me stumbling out of a techno club in Brooklyn around 9.30 in the morning, completely oblivious to what a hell of a year was ahead of us.
This year, I didn’t have much optimism when we started the New Year. I felt a bit lethargic, but mostly frustrated about the ongoing pandemic and lockdowns. There was uncertainty about my income, my ability to maintain my place in New York City, and in case tourism would still be “on pause”, having to find another job. Not knowing if or when I’d be able to get back to working and traveling wasn’t how I’d hoped to begin 2021, but it was what it was. I didn’t even feel like making any goals, resolutions, or looking back at the previous year to see which of my goals I had achieved, like I usually do in my annual review.
However, I tried to make the best of the situation. I felt incredibly grateful that I’d been able to return to Europe for the Holidays and that I was spending Christmas and New Year’s with my family. Germany was supposed to be in lockdown until mid-January, but an extension of the lockdown was anticipated. I had to make a decision: Should I postpone my flight to NYC and spend more time with my family or should I return to New York?
After a couple of weeks of helping my siblings with homeschooling, I decided that it was time to go back to New York, where I had barely spent any time in 2020 (other than during the seemingly neverending lockdown in the spring).
I tried to resume my tours in New York, but there is just not a lot of demand for them in the winter months, not even in non-pandemic times, and so I ended up making only $364 with that part of my business, and didn’t make a lot other freelance projects either. I tried to make the most of being back in New York and treated myself to a visit to the Guggenheim Museum which I had almost to myself and spent hours wandering the streets of NYC – including a bitterly cold half marathon (my 10th one since I started to run one every month back in May 2020).
A winter wonderland hike
Because of the strict lockdown in Germany, I was not able to see as many friends as I usually see when I visit my hometown. The province where my brother lives even introduced a strict rule that non-essential travel was only allowed within a 10-mile radius from your home.
Despite all the obstacles that these restrictions created, I was able to visit a friend who was hunkering down at her parents’ house in a beautiful part of Germany, and that I was able to see her (only a couple of days before flying back to the U.S.) was special, but made even more special by the fact that a snowfall a couple of days before my visit had turned the area into a true winter wonderland. We went on a long hike in the forest, had deep conversations and simply enjoyed each other’s company.
As mentioned above, the lockdown restrictions in Germany made it almost impossible to meet up with anyone who was not part of our immediate family. I left Germany not knowing when I’d be able to visit again (mid-September, in time for the Berlin Marathon, was the tentative plan, depending on how the pandemic would evolve…) and I would have loved to see more of my friends.
The strict lockdown also made it pretty difficult to entertain my nieces and nephew, who were on their Christmas school break, but all the places we’d usually take them to were closed: Christmas markets, indoor playgrounds, waterparks, ice skating rinks, theaters and cinemas. Since contacts outside the family were also supposed to be kept at a minimum, they couldn’t even see their friends.
February: New York City
February was my first taste of a New York City winter in a while. I’d spent some time in NYC in December 2019 / January 2020, before I went to Australia, but it never even got cold enough for me to get my thick winter coat out. This year definitely made up for the last couple of winters that I had skipped: snow storms and frigid temperatures were a good reminder for why I usually spend the winters in warmer climates. I toyed with the idea of spending a couple of months in Mexico, but uncertainty about insurance (not every travel insurance covered Covid, and with the ones that did it was still not clear to what extent hospital stays / treatments would be covered) and the fear of ending up with Covid in a hospital abroad made me reconsider and I ended up doing what I deemed the more responsible thing: stay put in New York and wait for my turn to get the vaccine before making any travel plans.
I tried to make the most of my time in NYC. I braved a couple of snowstorms and ventured outside to take photos (NYC snowstorms still amaze me, even though I’ve experienced quite a few over the years. But we just don’t get snow storms like this in Europe). I had regular cooking cooking dates with my friend Adam (including making the TikTok pasta, which went viral at the time), I had my first restaurant meal in months after indoor dining reopened mid-February, I froze through an outdoor brunch, reconnected with a couple of old friends, and ran my fastest half marathon to date on a sunny winter day. I even had my first local catsit since the pandemic started, and I saw a cool immersive art exhibit at ArtecHouse, an innovative art space I’d been wanting to check out for a while.
I got a loan
I got approved for a small business loan, which I did not expect to get. But it came at the exact right time (see below)!
February was a horrible month in terms of work. I just couldn’t find any work. I got zero bookings for my tours, I made barely any money with the blog, I hadn’t gotten any freelance writing projects in months. Financially, it was a scary anxiety-inducing month, and it was such a huge relief when I got the notification that I was approved for a small business loan.
March: New York City
With spring approaching I was hopeful that I’d get more bookings for my tours again, but they were still far and few between – not enough to even cover my monthly expenses. Despite the challenging time for travel businesses, I decided to create a new tour which I was able to launch after a few hiccups. But launching a tour does not guarantee any bookings, and I wasn’t able to gain much traction for it – but then again, I also didn’t get a lot of bookings for my established tours.
When I wasn’t busy researching for my new Brooklyn Tour and trying to work out the best route for it, I spent time with friends, enjoyed my first indoor brunch in 14 months, I went ice skating and I tried out a new sport: kickboxing. Indoor fitness classes were allowed to resume this month, and I signed up for kickboxing classes to supplement my home workouts and runs. Kickboxing definitely kicked my b*tt!
Surprise deliveries & a vaccine announcement
I was surprised with two unexpected deliveries this month. First, I was sent flowers, and then I received an amazing care package filled with candy and with a very thoughtful gift.
On Monday, 29th March, it was announced that the eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine was expanded to anyone over the age of 30 – starting the next day, 30th March! Knowing that I’d be vaccinated very very soon filled me with happiness and a feeling of relief.
I can’t think of a single worst moment, but March was another month with very little income, and even though I tried to keep my spending at a minimum and still had enough savings to hold me over for a while, I couldn’t shake off the anxious feeling about my financial situation.
April: New York City & Upstate New York
April started off in the best possible way: I got my COVID-19 vaccine on the first day of the month. More on that below under Best Moments. April is also the month when, in my opinion, New York City looks the prettiest, because everything is in bloom. Tulips, cherry blossoms, magnolia trees, daffodils – you get spring vibes everywhere, and while I always love being in New York at this time of year, I felt like I was even more appreciative of the spring bloom after having spend pretty much all winter here. I spent a lovely day photographing the spring bloom at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and enjoying the cherry blossoms there without any crowds (what a difference from pre-Covid visits when Cherry Esplanade was always packed with people!).
I also took in the spring flowers in Manhattan, spent a weekend upstate, and, for the first time in months, felt an uptick in bookings for my tours. I was so thankful for the efficient and rapid vaccine rollout in the U.S., which seems to be far better organized than most other countries, as it enables at least domestic tourism. And that’s exactly what I did, too: As soon as I got vaccinated, I booked my first – domestic – trip!
A weekend upstate and getting vaccinated!
I was up quite late the last night of March, and a friend of mine texted me about available vaccine appointments for the very next day (every day around midnight, new vaccine appointments were added on the vax scheduling websites). I didn’t hesitate – I booked an appointment around 1am for 6 hours later! Not only did I nab an appointment, but it was also for the vaccine I was hoping to get: Johnson & Johnson, which required only one shot. Since I am terrified of needles, the thought of having to get two shots had frightened me, and knowing I’d be done after one jab was so comforting. I cycled to the vaccine site at 6.30am, stood in line in the pouring rain for about an hour, and then I was done! What a relief.
The following weekend, I celebrated my vaccine with a trip to my friends’ house in the Catskills. We toasted to being fully vaccinated with champagne in their hot tub, and we went on the first hike of the year. After not having been able to go upstate in 2020 at all, it felt great to be spending quality time with my friends, enjoy good food and good conversations, and enjoy a beautiful spring day outside.
The worst moment of the month was probably when I updated my income spreadsheet, and I saw just how little money I’d made in March. I still don’t feel like I’m over the worst when it comes to my earnings, and I just hate having to worry about money. That said, I know I have enough savings to hold me over for a few more months.
May: Utah & NYC
May was an amazing month. It was the month when it felt like everything was going back to normal. I traveled to Salt Lake City for a dogsit (my first Trustedhousesitters sit since the two dogs I took care of in Australia in February 2020!) and it was such a good trip. Salt Lake City almost made my list of cities in the U.S. I haven’t been to but really wanted to visit (it was a tie between Milwaukee and SLC, in the end Milwaukee made it on my official list) and I was enamored with the stunning scenery surrounding the city: the Great Salt Lake to the west, and mountains surrounding the city on almost all sides.
After my housesit ended, I extended my trip and visited a couple of National Parks that I’ve been wanting to explore for a while: Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. During my time in SLC, I was also able to explore quite a bit – I took the dog on daily hikes, I took a day trip to Park City, and I went to the Bonneville Salt Flats with Idaho, the pup, who I hope I’ll get to take care of again.
Upon my return to New York City, most COVID-related restrictions were lifted. Most restaurants and bars were able to operate at full capacity again. Mask mandates were lifted. It felt glorious. I could feel that people were traveling more again because I noticed that I got considerably more bookings for my tours. I was still not able to make a living off my tour income, but I also got a bunch of unexpected freelance writing work – in fact, I scored more freelance writing projects than in the past twelve months combined, and my first blog collaboration since 2019! I was elated, and for the first time in 2021, I felt hopeful and optimistic about the rest of the year. So optimistic that I spontaneously booked a trip to Europe for August when I came across a great flight deal.
Road tripping in Utah
I’ll always remember Utah as my first post-COVID trip, and even though it wasn’t the comprehensive Utah National Parks trip that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time (that trip will happen eventually though, and include Red Reef, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Escalante, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands), it was a great introduction to one of the most scenic states in the U.S.. I got to tick two parks off of my travel wish list: Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. Dead Horse Point gave me huge Grand Canyon vibes, and I loved the epic views over the canyon that majestically rise on both sides of the Colorado River. Arches National Park – with over 2,000 natural sandstone arches – felt like a photographer’s dream. I’d met up with a follower of my blog / Instagram, who I’d been chatting with for a couple of years. She drove up from Arizona to hike with me for a couple of days. I have met quite a few followers and readers over the years, and this was yet another one of the times that me incredibly thankful for the people this website and social media have brought into my life.
We went to Arches National Park twice: on the first evening, we hiked the Delicate Arch trail, a popular trail to do at sunset, and it didn’t disappoint. The next morning, we were up bright and early to hike the Garden’s Devil Trail, a 7.8 mile hike that passes eight arches (we did 8 miles in four hours) and then spent the rest of the day stopping at scenic viewpoints in the park and doing some shorter hikes before driving Scenic Byway 128, which follows the Colorado River, in the afternoon, mostly resting our feet.
But I also enjoyed the solo hikes I did around SLC: I saw an amazing sunset over Salt Lake City when I hiked the Living Room Trail, the Bonneville Salt Flats brought back memories of all the Salt Flats I visited in South America, and Millcreek Canyon gave me winter vibes when I reached snow after hiking uphill for a while. I also encountered snow when I went on a short hike in Park City, and I loved that I was able to take the pup I was looking after on almost every hike (she loved it!). And last but not least: I got to meet up with some travel friends! I went on a brewery crawl in SLC with my fellow travel bloggers Matt & Matt, and my friend Erin showed me some cool bars and restaurants, with a burlesque show in a speakeasy as the grand finale of my trip.
Bitten by a dog
Unfortunately, the return to dogsitting wasn’t 100% positive. Looking after Idaho in Salt Lake City was the first dogsit I’d traveled for since the beginning of the pandemic, but I also hadn’t done any local dogsits in New York. Towards the end of April, I finally started getting some requests from potential new clients and I was stoked. After a Meet & Greet with the owners, two lovely girls, I thought I’d have an easy time with B, the dog I agreed to look after. And it was an easy sit indeed, since he barely wanted to go outside, and when he did, he wanted to go back inside after a few short minutes. But then his anxiety showed one evening when I wanted to pick him up to put him on the bed, and he bit me. It was a horrible bite, and the wound kept bleeding all night long. I was in agony. It took a couple of weeks to heal, and I wasn’t so sure anymore about taking on new clients… Luckily, I had already agreed to look after a friend’s dog at the end of May, and him being the sweetest most loving dog helped me get over the panic of being bitten again. I did turn down a request for another dog with anxiety tissues though.
June: New York City & Tampa, Florida
June would have topped May in terms of how many amazing things I did, but sadly, I was in a bit of a weird state emotionally, and so I often found myself thinking about someone who I had a crush on – but who I deep inside knew wasn’t good for me and wouldn’t work out in the long run. To keep a long story short: I ended things at the end of June.
I thought May was an activity-packed month, but June was even busier. From Pride celebrations to hosting visitors, checking out new sights in NYC, and even fitting in a short trip – June felt almost overwhelmingly busy. I remember saying to a friend: “It feels like I went from Zero (aka Covid lockdown) to 100 (social commitments and work) – but it would’ve been much nicer to be able to settle back into ‘normal life’ gradually, at a slower pace.” However, I don’t want to complain. I like being busy. I’ve always liked being busy. And I like being a social butterfly.
So what did I get up to in June?
Besides running tours (I ran 12 tours in June, which made it my busiest month in 2021 so far, but was not a lot compared to pre-COVID summers), I was busy with deadlines for freelance articles, tried to watch as much of the EURO 2020 soccer tournament as possible, and my social calendar was filled with a ton of fun NYC activities: the KAWS exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum with two of my favorite people, a rooftop BBQ, a beach day at Riis Beach in the Rockaways, and trips to Central Park. I also splurged on lots of restaurants and bars, eating my way through some places I’ve been wanting to tick off my ever-growing NYC bucket list (I will never make it to all of the eateries on that list, even if I ate out seven nights a week!)
When my out-of-town visitors arrived, more sightseeing was added: ferry rides to marvel at the NYC skyline, a trip to the Vessel (not knowing it’d close for good not long after our visit!), a stroll along the High Line Park, and a visit to Chelsea Market. We also checked out two places that were new to me, too: Little Island, a new park in the Hudson River that resembles a small floating island, and The Edge, a new outdoor observation deck. I wrote about both in this article.
I just love being out and about in New York and to take in this vibrant city. Seeing it busy again, seeing restaurants and bars packed with people, seeing people dance in the streets – all of it made my heart so full.
And then there were a lot of PRIDE-related activities: I joined the Trans March, the Drag March, the Queer Liberation March, and my friends’ annual Pride Brunch which I’ve been going to since 2014. Pride weekend also saw me attend my very first dance party since New Year’s Eve 2019 (it was strange and being in a full night club felt slightly wrong, but I embraced every minute of it!).
Oh, and I went to Florida! The trip was mainly to see a friend who was visiting from Europe and who I hadn’t seen in 15 months, but we managed to squeeze in a visit to the fantastic Dali Museum in St Petersburg and some beach time in Clearwater.
We’re doing group activities again!
Every single moment I spent in a group environment gave me so much joy. We had a BBQ, we had a group trip to the beach, the Pride Brunch with 14 people, a dance party with several friends… and I found myself in big crowds several times (during the Pride marches). I thrive in group environments, and I didn’t realize how much I’d missed being surrounded by a bunch of friends until I was able to experience group gatherings again.
The emotional rollercoaster I found myself on was something I could’ve done without. Other than that, June was absolutely amazing!
You can read Part II here: