This is, I guess, my 2020 year in review. I’ve made it through to the end of the year, and I’m feeling pretty thankfully to have survived both personally and professionally after a rollercoaster of a year.
I’ve ended up back in Madrid with my husband, in what seems like one of the last places on earth you can still go to a bar, a gig, a gallery, even the theatre.
But as proud as I am to have survived the year, and watched my business turn 2 years old earlier this month, I can’t help but feel more than a touch of survivor’s guilt.
My industry, hospitality, has been decimated the world over. Mexico City recently banned the sale of alcohol over Christmas clearly not getting the memo that prohibition was a failed experiment. Bars and restaurants have been forced to shut, often with just hours notice, the financial impact of this is crippling and too many places won’t survive being shut down a third time and my heart breaks for the industry I love and adore.
Whatever the problem or cause of a spread, the answer seems to be to shut down hospitality without much thought as to how to adequately protect or compensate those businesses that are being closed down through no fault of their own, often overnight. Businesses that have pivoted and jumped through the numerous hoops to survive and keep their staff in jobs, just hung out to dry and all those that operate around them penalised too.
This has been a weird year, where everyone’s life has been turned upside down, mine included. But I’m also very conscious I’ve had a very different 2020 experience to most.
Perhaps if I wasn’t already on the road when the world went to shit, and if my home wasn’t in the epicentre – making everywhere else look safer in comparison – I may have done things differently. If I was at home when all this first happened maybe I would have stayed put but as I started on the road, I ended up staying on it.
Perhaps if I’d qualified for any state support I might have sat things out and waited for the world to start spinning again. But back in March I didn’t feel like I had much choice but to try and make the best of a bad situation, continue trying to work for as long as I could, and continue staying safe and moving until forced to stop.
Many people will want to forget 2020 with good reason, but I have lot I want to remember and when I do I feel a certain amount of survivor’s guilt for not having it as bad as many.
The memories of living in the Caribbean with my family for 3 months while marooned on an island during the first wave was life changing. I spent precious time with an adored uncle who may not have too much left and living as part of the most beauty family, it was time I’ll cherish forever and getting to know my little Antiguan cousins as young adults not little kids was beyond cool.
Being able to be there for my family when they needed me, and hang out with my little niece when my sister got sick and to play bad auntie was ace. Dancing around like a loon to Hamilton tracks, buying illicit items like milkshake and heels (I didn’t know they were classified as heels, they just looked cute when she tap-danced in them in the store) – and learning to love walking their dog and being back in the town I grew up, literally around the corner from the house and the open fields where I spent my formative years and catching up with old school friends was fun.
I was there to see my niece climb trees and pick up an award for her dance achievements, I got to see my other nieces and nephews too. I saw my brother’s girls learn how to ride a bike, enjoyed my nephews picking me fruit and flowers and listened to Kareem read and his impressive dinosaur knowledge and enjoyed how big they’d all gotten and how much personality is busting out of them all.
I decided not to go back to Spain after that as I would not then be permitted to travel to Slovenia where I needed to be for work, instead I rode my luck to avoid lockdowns, I stayed in London, drank margaritas with my margarita twin on an East London window ledge, imbibed home brewed booze in a London field with a fellow drinks geek, dressed up in Carnival costumes in what would have been Notting Hill Carnival weekend and spent time with friends I rarely have that much time to see.
Sadly my international rendezvous with my husband in Portugal wasn’t to be, but I did manage to surf the green list a good amount of times and take a break from gritty London living and save some bucks by disappearing to Athens for a week or so at a time. I came back to London for work and hung out with friends I adore, I went on a last minute trip to Santorini with my cousin for his birthday (booked less than 24 hours out). That was a super cool trip with a kid I love so much and it was more than nice to spend that time together just me and him – swim in the sea and drink wonderful wine.
Sweden called for my birthday celebrations and I took my niece and sister on their first adventure out of the 1km radius where they’d spent the previous 6 months and we walked and talked and saw some sights. That trip ended abruptly when the green list changed with a moment’s notice, I got stuck in London for three weeks during the November lockdown and hated every moment.
Spending money to rent a place in a city like London when you can’t see anyone or do anything was a little low point, but I got a ridiculous amount of work done in those three weeks, lock down is good for productivity at least…
Unable to fly directly home to Spain despite no longer living in the UK, a work trip to New York was my ticket home. The tricky bit was getting there, with no directly flights allowed, a detour was needed. And Mexico ended up providing the perfect detour. Almost three weeks in Oaxaca – the home of Mezcal was an unexpected adventure I’ll never forget and one the best drinks trips I’ve done in years. I even managed a sneaky trip to the beach and learned to surf, did some yoga and bared all.
Doing it all solo was weird, I’m pretty independent but I don’t usually travel for so long by myself, I’m usually with a group for work for longer trips or solo just for short breaks.
So it was awesome to actually meet another person in real life after over a month solitary, I connected with a friend I’d met on twitter earlier in the pandemic (Trevor from Nomadic Backpacker) and we had one night ‘out out’ in Mexico City. We didn’t quite get into the speakeasy I’d discovered but we did manage to reenergise each other and drink whisky and Mezcal until dawn. This dude has stories for days, can’t wait for his book to come out 😉
And the penultimate stop on the rollercoaster of 2020 was New York, and well I always love New York! Shut downs and restrictions don’t change that – for me it is still one of the most incredible cities to feel alive.
After the obligatory quarantine and multiple COVID-19 tests, I went to a Vida Americana exhibition at the Whitney, skated on a Brooklyn rooftop, enjoyed magnificent martinis outside in Manhattan, saw the holiday lights and had a meeting or two to help make sure business continues to roll in 2021.
So all in all, this won’t be a year to forget for me, it’ll be one to remember. For all the twists and turns, I’ve seen more of the world that I was expecting, finally prioritised my health and fitness again, spent more time with my family than would I ever normally would, and then got to come back to home to my husband in Madrid, one of the last cities on earth where having a drink indoors at 10pm isn’t illegal.
That’s not to say this year hasn’t been hard. Working through a pandemic when the world is losing its shit has been tough and there’s days you want to curl up and give up. But fighting through, keeping busy, trying to find the silver linings in all the shit has been worth it. I’m just so sorry too many have already not survived this year, and many more will struggle this bleak bleak winter.
Here’s to spring or summer and brighter days ahead for everyone – keep looking for those silver linings!