Personal Stories

2021 in Review: A Year of Home, Travel & Writing

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Ah, 2021. A year of potential… and a year of potential wasted. Isn’t that what most years are? Full of hope and promise – some of which is realized and other of which is squandered.

Without covering current events too much, I think it’s safe to say we all hoped we wouldn’t be where we are now. Wouldn’t it be nice for everything to just be… “normal” again? Admittedly, there were some normal things that we should change if we’re going back that way, but I think we’re headed in a new direction anyway.

As you might imagine for someone who’s livelihood is built around travel, 2021 was an interesting year. I saw my best traffic ever in the early summer, as millions of people locked out of Europe and Asia flocked to Alaska and Hawaii. Then, as waves of the pandemic rose and crested, I saw my business struggle – again – to where we are today.

I wish I had a crystal ball to know what’s happening next – I’d have a lot of great content about that destination, for starters! But I don’t so I’ll keep doing what I do: traveling when I feel safe, and sharing stories to inspire you to travel when you do.

By the numbers, 2021 included:

  • Visits to country (the U.S.) and 14 states (one more state than 2020!)
  • 62 days on the road including 16 flights
  • 68 new blog posts and 55 updated blog posts (123 total)
  • 1.8 million pageviews on my site, or about 150,000 people per month
  • 11 new websites – eight of which I started myself
  • 2 new team members, growing us up to a team of four

With that, let’s dive in to a recap of each month and what I got up to – just in case you weren’t following along that closely on social media 😉

(P.S. In case you’re super curious or love time travel, I’ve posted these recaps for 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2020.)

January: Hunkered Down on the Houseboat

As you might recall, 2021 started out much as 2022 will do: with a huge wave of infections. As the Bay Area was one of the most conservative cities in the country for restrictions, it was no surprise to us that we were basically on lockdown for the first few months of the year.

We took that time to enjoy being home, spend time with our neighboring marina cat, Chloe, and make big moves to try and grow our businesses in the coming year. I watched a lot of sunrises and sunsets and got motion sick from winter storms a few times, but that’s the good and bad of life on a boat!

February: In Fort Bragg

In February, we set off on our first trip since the 2020 holidays when we had flown out to see first my inlaws and then my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas, respectively. The destination: Fort Bragg, California.

While we’d been to Fort Bragg briefly on our Mendocino trip a few years back – and I had of course driven through as part of driving the PCH back in 2014 – I had never explored Fort Bragg on its own. We stayed in Noyo Harbor, which felt very familiar for us boat people, but also got out to do some hiking and rode rail bikes for the first time.

It was just a short weekend trip, but wonderful to get off the boat and explore somewhere new. On the way home, we took the scenic route all the way down Highway 1 (the PCH) instead of the faster inland route.

March: Among the Pinnacles

One weekend day in March, I spontaneously proposed heading down to Pinnacles National Park; it’s one of the parks within a few hours of the Bay Area, and I figured there was no place better to get outdoors and breathe freely.

After waiting in traffic to even access the park, we were lucky to find a parking spot – it was no joke that the National Parks were hugely popular with visitors this year! We went on a few short hikes, and something got into me: I fell in love with this tiny, unusual park and knew we had to return.

Late in the month, we both got our first dose of the vaccine (J&J), which also helped us feel better about starting to get out and explore more.

Dating back to December, Mr. V and I had been (virtually) viewing and making offers on houses in Cleveland, Ohio. We signed the papers for our first/new house in late March – and knew that we were definitely starting a new chapter soon! We celebrated with an outdoor meal at a local restaurant we’d been wanting to try.

April: Last California Adventures – and Hawaii!

After closing on our house, we decided to take the month of April to 1) pack up, 2) have a few last adventures, and 3) take a long overdue trip to Hawaii.

Our first adventure was a second trip back to Pinnacles National Park. There was one specific hike I wanted to do – High Peaks – so we drove down one night, rose early, and accomplished the hike by midday. We then drove over to Monterey and spent another night; the following day we splurged on a whale watching tour before heading home. Having those last few memories from California will always be a highlight to end our time.

In addition to soaking up California, we spent a week in Hawaii. You see, Mr. V was supposed to have his bachelor party in Hawaii in May 2020. As you can imagine, that didn’t happen, so in February we decided to take the leap and plan a trip anyway. We opted for an Airbnb rather than a hotel, and private/outdoor activities as much as possible. Thanks to Hawaii’s foresight and a strong commitment to public health, we arrived mid-month when cases were well-controlled – and presumably, everyone arriving was negative thanks to testing.

Our week in Hawaii was delightful, with plenty of distanced sunbathing, a few dips in the Pacific, celebrating my birthday at a great Tiki bar, renting a Tesla Model 3 to explore Oahu, and hiking Diamond Head. Oh, and we tried parasailing for the first time – an item on my 40 Before 40 list!

We returned from Hawaii to pack up the last of our items and set out East on a road trip to Cleveland.

May: Road Tripping to Ohio

The month rolled from April to May while we were on our road trip. That trip included stops in Reno, Great Basin National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Vail. We didn’t have much time in Vail (and the weather was snowy!) but I heartily enjoyed every other stop we made. It reminded me how much I love the West, living and exploring there. It was certainly hard to descend from the Rocky Mountains, looking out across the expanse of the Great Plains and knowing how much “flat” was in our future.

We spent the rest of May at home, waiting for our stuff to arrive. The only other major note is that about a week after arriving, we adopted two cats from the Cleveland Animal Protection League. Annabell and Romeo have made our home so much more lively and really made us a family.

June: Settling In

We didn’t do much in June, by way of travel. We took a day trip one day to Chagrin Falls, a small town south of Cleveland – and we did several drives to IKEA as we bought new furniture to fill our big apartment within our house. (I didn’t mention it, but part of the reason we purchased in Cleveland was that our house is a multi-family unit, and our mortgage is paid by our tenants.)

We spent time bonding with our new kitties, relaxing on our furniture once it finally arrived (six weeks after they took it!), and getting used to the humidity. I did a lot of running in a few nearby parks, one of the highlights of living where we do in Cleveland.

July: New Mexico/Jersey

July was all about the new states – New Mexico and New Jersey, that is!

Mid-month, I booked a last-minute trip to New Mexico for the Virgin Galactic launch; I was accepted as media to attend the event, which required a lot of driving and some very late nights and early mornings. But, it took me to a new state (New Mexico, obviously), and watching the ignition sequence on the VG space plane was one of the most impactful moments of my year. I got teary-eyed!

Late in the month, Mr. V and I hopped in the car and made the 8-hour drive to New Jersey to see some family and friends that live there. It was a relaxing at-home-ish kind of weekend staying at their vacation home on the beach, and made us dream of moving somewhere new.

(To be honest, I haven’t loved living in Cleveland – it’s just not the right place for me. While I’m not sure if that will mean relocation again in 2022, it’s certainly on our minds.)

August: Alaska, Part I

August (and September) were the most exciting travel months of 2022 for me. This is because I had not one but two trips planned to my favorite place to visit and write about: Alaska.

I set off mid-month on a 10-day trip to Alaska with John Hall’s Alaska. It was a guided, group tour – not the way I typically travel, but definitely a new way to experience Alaska. The itinerary also included some places I had never been (or hadn’t been since growing up there) like Valdez, Wrangell-St. Elias, Talkeetna, and Kantishna. All this trip did was inspire me to plan trips to even more Alaska destinations in the future!

Upon returning home, I hunkered down for about two weeks before setting off again…

September: Alaska, Part II

To kick off September, Mr. V and I boarded a plane to Alaska for a 2.5-week trip – the longest trip we’ve taken since our multi-month journey in 2016. We visited a ton of places: Denali, Anchorage, Girdwood, Juneau, and Sitka, plus took a seven-night cruise with Alaskan Dream Cruises. While this was a very different experience than my last Alaska cruise with Uncruise, it showed off some incredible parts of Alaska that I had never seen: Glacier Bay National Park and Petersburg among them.

After spending so much time on the road – and away from our kitties – we were glad to return home for a long stretch at the end of the month. I also entered my most productive phase ever on this blog; I wrote or updated 55 articles in the 82 days between our return and December 15th.

October: Home & Visitors, Part I

As mentioned, October was a welcome month at home. We didn’t do much, but we did have our first visitor in a series that marked the autumn season. Mr. V’s best man came out for a week, and we used that time to explore Cleveland a bit. We visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, went to our favorite tiki bar, and did a bit of sightseeing.

Other than that, I spent most of the month working. I realized that many of my sites (so many sites!) needed updates as we move toward 2022, and began a huge push with my team to get as much of that done as possible. We’ve been hard at work since!

November: Home & Visitors, Part II

November was much like October; I thought about combining them into a single header but didn’t want to minimize how much happened.

We had two more sets of guests in November: Mr. V’s mom and her husband came out in early November, and my own family visited for Thanksgiving. (The opposite of our holidays last year where we went to see them.) It was nice to have houseguests and use the excuse to get out and explore – back to our favorite Tiki bar, back to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! – but we were glad to have the house to ourselves as November came to a close.

December: Vegas & Home Holidays

To cap the year’s travels, I had one last trip in December: it was a press trip called “Neon to Nature,” based out of Las Vegas. We had the chance to explore some incredible sights in Sin City, but also got out to do some serious adventuring. I tried UTVing, got a badass Harry Potter-style scar from riding dune buggies, went glass kayaking, took a hike in the incredible Valley of Fire State Park, and rode rail bikes under the stars. It was a seriously cool trip that I can’t wait to share about in the New Year.

After that trip, I came home and hunkered down. Mr. V and I celebrated Christmas at home, together, just the two of us and our kitties. This seems like the right move, what with the latest news about the pandemic, and I’m glad we got to enjoy our house to ourselves with our big (real) Christmas tree – that’s still standing in the corner.

And that wraps up my year, both personal

Top Life Moment of the Year

Adopting our cats, Annabell and Romeo!

While Mr. V and I knew we didn’t want to have kids right away after getting married, we didn’t realize how important it is to have some other life in your house as a couple (other than plants) – at least for us. These two kitties have brought us so much joy in the time we’ve had them, I can hardly express… you pet owners know what I mean!

You might be surprised that buying our first house didn’t make the cut for this one, but we have big plans for real estate

Top Travel Moment of the Year

Watching the Virgin Galactic launch.

After many years of waiting and writing about it, 2021 was the year that space tourism finally took off… Literally!

I feel really grateful to have been present at that moment in history – which was truly moving to be held.

Top Writing Moment of the Year

Gosh, this is a hard one. I didn’t have as many momentous writing opportunities this year, in part because I stopped pitching for work off of my sites.

How about…

Launching my London blog – and watching it grow.

On January 1st, 2021, I launched a new blog about London: London On My Mind. (I also launched ~9 other sites this year 😂)

While the site hasn’t been a rocket ship like some in the past, it has grown in a healthy, sustainable way – especially in light of the pandemic. I’m really excited to see how much it can grow in the coming year (my team and I are doing a 31-day sprint to kick off 2022) and as travel returns to normal levels… someday?

And with that, there’s not much else to say. This was a long year – and a tough one. But it was also filled with hope, promise, and opportunity. I have no doubt 2022 will hold much of the same, and be much of the same. Here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year.

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

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