“The stars glitter from afar. Feel their beauty pierce the heart. I dreamt about you long before we met” – Tim Wheeler.
As the year 2020 fades out of view, many of us inhabitants of planet earth wish the year hadn’t started, hadn’t existed and could be banished to the dustbin of history. We cannot do that. Marty McFly and Doc were living a pipe dream which never came to fruition. With the “don’t stop living” mantra, and in my personal selfish mindframe, there has perpetually been a need to show the good side of life, polish over excrement, to live in the moment and to remember that tomorrow never happened. Tomorrow is unpromised. Nobody allows us that privilege. Today is all we have.
“Tomorrow is too late” – Léonide Moguy.
Tomorrow is the 1st January 2021. I will dustbin out 2020. Goodnight Irene. I’m pretty glad to do that. This isn’t a long blog post, as I’m done with that for a while. Nobody reads the last 9,000 words of my 10,000 word blogs anyway. I simply list my top 20 and bottom 20 happenings this year. Stay safe everyone, stay mask loyal, we will beat the Coronavirus Crisis and have something new to look forward to.
“Reality reflection. It’s a long long way from here to there” – Paul Van Dyk.
On 1st January 2020, I awoke in Bournemouth in England. It was my first New Year’s Eve and Day in that town since leaving it two decades ago. At the time, just 12 months ago, I had no idea that there would be a global crisis caused by a deadly virus, which came from China, one of the countries I spent a hell of a lot of time in, and glorified. Many times over.
“I’d love to get you on a slow boat to China” – Dee Dee Bridgewater.
I was with two Polish friends in Bournemouth that day and we also watched two football matches live in London on the same day (Championship – Millwall v. Luton Town / Premier League – West Ham United v. AFC Bournemouth). After that, I returned to Poland and then in February I travelled to Africa, where I visited 5 new countries and 3 repeat countries (Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and South Africa, Netherlands, Botswana). It was a fantastic trip, but at the end of that trip, my travel friend Malina and I were mask loyal. It was Malina’s foresight that made her and I be the only two with masks on our three flights that day.
“I don’t care if I’m here tomorrow” – New Order.
We flew from Cape Town in South Africa to Windhoek in Nambia. Then from Namibia to Luanda, Angola and then to Amsterdam and finally from Amsterdam to Warszawa in Poland.
“They passed us by, glory days” – Bruce Springsteen.
When we landed back in Poland on 22nd February 2020, we had no idea that the world would be in chaos and that would be my last trip of the year. That’s life…
Got to carry some stairs to get near enough.
I need some wheels to move you around.
I’ve borrowed some tools to chisel you down with.
A thousand ways that make you statuesque” – Louise Wener.
I have now been a travel blogger in three different decades and in fifteen different calendar years. I’m also now 40.
Here in negatives and positives are my 20 / 20 of 2020…
Negatives in 2020
1.I haven’t seen my family at all in 2020.
2.That is only the second year in my life when that happened (the other one is 2010 – I lived in Australia – it’s pretty far away).
3.I haven’t been to my home country, Northern Ireland at all in 2020.
4.That is only the third year in my life when that happened (the other ones are 2010 and 2013 – I was travelling a lot and living in Australia and Hong Kong – they’re pretty far away).
5.I was hit by a moving train in a freak accident and should have died. It’s hard to know now if this is a negative or a positive – you see I should have died this year. The doctor and the peeler were shocked I survived. I had 3 days in hospital and was saved from having a brain stroke by luck. The blood in the first x-ray showed that it was in my brain. My the second and third x-rays the doctors were shocked. I could have lost my memory, my life. I still cannot believe what happened. God decided my time wasn’t up yet. It’s as simple as that for me. It wasn’t my time to die.
6.Some of my heroes died this year – Diego Armando Maradona, Harry Gregg, Paolo Rossi. Rest in peace.
7.I haven’t visited any new cities, towns, villages or countries since February 2020. That’s the longest period in my adult life that I have done that.
8.We all became mask loyal. Yes it is easy to do, but still annoying. I want to breathe and show my bake (face).
9.We all became online video platform loyal. Don’t kid yourself that online parties are inspirational. They are NOT. Pressing refresh, needing a password to “join a meeting”, apologising for shit connections, grey screen loyal, muffled voices and forgetting you have no pants on Whereby or you gave the boys a nipple slip on zoom. It’s just better down the pub.
12.I usually visit 10 – 15 new countries each year. This year, only 5 new ones.
13.I got food poisoning in South Africa.
14.I lost my phone, taking with it many photos and videos from my travels.
15.AFC Bournemouth were relegated from the Premier League in England. Only on the last day and by a point since Aston Villa got 4 points from their last 6. We lived the dream from Division Four to Division One. It was over.
16.I still received no apology from the culprit who caused my depression. I pray daily for it. Suicidal. This will never change until I get the apology.
17.I won’t reach my target of 200 countries aged 40 (I am currently only on 186. It will take a long time to add 14 more now). I set that task in 2017, 3 years ago so I had time to do it but I mostly stayed in Poland.
18.Northern Ireland lost a play-off final at home to Slovakia, denying us a place in Euro 2021.
19.Depression doesn’t get any easier. I felt suicidal the same amount of times as in 2016.
20.Restrictions everywhere – opening hours, ages of people who can go into shops, mask loyal, flights cancelled etc. I could go on, but we will leave it at 20.
And here are photos to match those points.
Now onto my selfish positives…
Positives in 2020
1.I released two of my books, Backpacking Centurion Volume 1 and Volume 2.
2.I have another book on the way, Backpacking Centurion Volume 3. After that, I have 3 other books started – The Black Album, a GAWA Book and a Book on Moving To Poland.
3.I visited the Victoria Falls for the first time (and from two countries).
4.I watched my football team AFC Bournemouth this year (1st January 2020, I was at the West Ham United match).
5.I hiked to the top of Table Mountain, South Africa.
6.I visited the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
7.I visited 5 new countries in 2020! (Hard to believe but true – Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho)
8.I visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on a tour of Robben Island. I had wanted to do that for a long time.
9.I successfully helped organise and run business seminars about sales, trends and marketing English seminars for a company in Katowice. Thanks to Jack for this opportunity.
10.I met Polish footballer Weronika Zawistowska and saw her in three stadiums. This lady is something of an inspiration.
11.I taught English online for the first time in my life. It’s nowhere near as good as face to face. I continued to work online for travel companies such as Culture Trip.
12.I studied Polish online for the first time in my life. It’s nowhere near as good as face to face.
13.I saw the Northern Irish rock band Ash live in Warszawa, met all three members of the band and got photos with them all!
14.I was featured in over 20 articles in Polish media and videos for Hello Poland and Go To Warsaw. I’m never shy about that and pretty proud of it. Those who dissed me in life – they didn’t do it.
15.I was featured on the Belfast Real Podcast and the John Freakin Muir Podcast talking all about my books and my travel days. Please give them a listen – I really enjoyed doing them!
16.I have a new quiz and teaser section on the excellent football podcast “Stick It Up Your Ballacks“! Please tune in and listen – the guys are excellent!
17.I was featured in two newspapers in Northern Ireland about my book release – The County Down Spectator, Sunday Life and Belfast Telegraph. Nothing excites me more than promoting Northern Ireland to the world.
18.Glentoran won the Irish Cup. Yeah I know we did that loads of times, but any silver lining in a cloud eh?
19.My Polish football teams did okay – Legia Warszawa won the league and KP Starogard maintained safety and security in the third league level in Pomorskie. It’s great with my Polish mates to see this.
20.I have now been a travel blogger in three different decades, and in 15 different calendar years. Crazy.
So as you can see, the positives should outweigh the negatives and we should be grateful for that in our lives. I don’t party like mad on 31st December 2020 and I won’t expect 2021 to be any better. Life does what it always does – it carries on regardless. I am lucky to be alive.
Here are some videos I was part of in 2020 –
Hang tough, hold on tight and we might just meet again in 2021. Don’t know where, don’t know when. But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.
“Some might say that we will find a brighter day” – Noel Gallagher.