For the fifth year in a row, I’m pleased to write about the year in review. 2020 was very rough and as I reflect on the blog-worthy happenings throughout the year, I am taking a minute to think about people who had a particularly tougher year. For those who lost friends and loved ones due to the pandemic and other causes; those who lost their sources of livelihood and those who experienced a not-so-great year for other reasons, I truly hope that the coming year brings you an immense amount of joy and happiness and that you find the courage and strength to seek these out.
Since 2016, I have written a yearly summary of my adventures on this blog. (See posts from 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019) and since then, it has become one of the writings I look forward to getting done the most.
I have to admit though, writing the recap for this year feels a little awkward considering the year we all had, yet I am choosing to keep this tradition. Because in a way, these yearly reviews motivate me and help put certain things into perspective.
Having said that, this would be a post I would not promote on my other platforms, so if you do stumble on it, thank you for being here. Your love for travel probably led you here and I hope that this inspires you to seek out new adventures and travel differently. Also, I do hope the coming year will be better for you – and us all.
The Year in Review 2020: Month-by-Month Adventures on Travel with a Pen
Mark and I welcomed 2020 in Holy Matrimony, surrounded by our friends and family. We had a pretty interesting courtship that led to Mark moving to Lagos sometime in 2018 where we both lived until later this year.
Our wedding weekend remains one of my fondest memories. Seeing everyone who travelled from far and near to celebrate with us, some visiting the continent and country for the first time, was heartwarming. It was an absolute delight to welcome them.
In February, Mark’s brother gifted us a trip to Jara Beach Resort, an all-inclusive beach resort in Lagos. We spent 3 wonderful days at the property and I am just itching to go back!
Jara Beach Resort served as the perfect honeymoon destination for us. We nicknamed the trip ‘mini-honey’ but it turned out to be the ‘big-honey’ too. I loved our stay here and an all-inclusive resort in Lagos was something I didn’t know I wanted but needed! The food – which was delicious, unlimited drinks and snacks were the favourite parts of my stay.
I also got to take Mark on a short tour of the Nike Art Gallery, on our way to Jara Beach Resort.
March – July
By March, the pandemic was in full swing and lockdowns across the country had begun. I don’t think anyone foresaw that the restrictions would last as long as they have but 2020 was full of unpleasant surprises. Except for a 2-week stint where I had to go work at a client’s site, I have been working from home since March and to be honest, I completely enjoy doing so.
During the lockdown period, when business was slow, I decided to take on learning a new language. so I downloaded my Duolingo app again and dedicated myself to learning Swahili. I am still not fluent (not even at the intermediate level) but I am not giving up yet. One of the things I’m most proud of this year was the level of consistency that I have kept in trying to learn this language. I plan to amp that up next year with the goal of fluency by year-end.
Currently, I am almost at Day 300 studying on the app. This means I still have about 4 months to go to achieve my goal of fluency in a year. I plan to make the best use of this time. Until then, here’s a summary of this section in Swahili : Nilianza kujifunza Kiswahili katika machi mwaka huu. Ninataka kusema vizuri mwishoni mwa mwaka ujao. 🙂
After spending an extra 6 months in Lagos, in August, we were finally able to move to Nairobi. I have Fisayo A. and my managers to thank for making that happen when it did. We were able to get on a chartered flight and began the process of settling into our new life after quarantine.
Living in Nairobi has been wonderful so far even though I have had my share of homesickness and the Expat Blues. I know it’s only going to get better from here on now.
Next year, I plan to write more about what it’s like living in a new country. This is my first move and officially the longest time I’ve ever spent away from Nigeria, beating my former stint of 3 months in Egypt – which coincidentally, I may be returning to for work in the coming year. I’m excited about that and looking forward to it happening.
After spending a few weeks in quarantine, Mark and I took some time off work to explore Kenya in parts. Our first stop was the Masai Mara. We went on a 3-day budget safari from Nairobi and it was quite good. We were at the Masai River hoping to see the river crossing but that didn’t happen while we were there, so maybe, we may return next year. It also helps that we are residents now, so the entrance prices are more friendly to our pockets 🙂
In October, we spent some time on the Kenyan Coast, visiting Watamu. It was such a wonderful trip that I spent almost all my time in the months that followed daydreaming about returning to the coast. My favourite part of this trip was the discovery of sandbanks and the ability to ‘swim’ in the ocean. I also thoroughly enjoyed eating out and living my Italian holiday fantasy here.
Watamu was fantastic and had a much different (slower) vibe than Nairobi. I’m also happy that it is easily within reach via the Nairobi to Mombasa train. I’m certainly looking forward to returning in the coming year.
During October, I also got to start exploring Nairobi more. My first stop was Paradise Lost in Kiambu County – where my picnicking in the city series began. We also visited the Nairobi Arboretum a couple of times and a few nice restaurants within the city.
October also marked the beginning of the End SARS protests in Nigeria. It was a particularly tough month for the Nigerian community, especially for those at home in the country. Somehow, when I think about my country in 2020, this is the image I see. Youths out protesting for their basic right to live and an unsympathetic Government and that image breaks my heart. I wonder what 2021 has in store for Nigeria…
In November, we continued to explore more of Nairobi, visiting the Nairobi Arboretum often, Karura Forest and the Giraffe Centre.
I also connected with friends from Nigeria who moved here and some who were visiting for shorter periods. It was lovely to be surrounded by ‘home’ for a minute.
Finally, in December, we kicked off the month with a hike with friends at the Ololosokuan Nature Trail. It was a lovely hiking experience and my chance to prove to Mark that I could hike for 2 hours straight without whining. Mark was the real MVP for that trip though. Many parts of the trail were difficult for Blue to climb and he hurled our little pup on his shoulders for a good part of the hike.
Our guide, Emmanuel, was also of great help. He helped us navigate the trail safely and carried Blue through the most complicated portions of the trail. If you do plan to visit this Nature Trail, his contact is linked in this post.
Picnics at the park were also a feature of our time in Nairobi in December. We have been spending time at the Nairobi Arboretum very often since it’s the closest park to where we live and I’m getting more creative with our picnic layout and spread!
There are still 2 weeks left in December and while I don’t have any plans to go out exploring, I am open to the opportunities to do so. I will update this post if anything interesting happens between now and the end of the year.
2020 The Year in Review: Travel with a Pen in the Media
This year, I was featured in a few media publications, including an interview with Andrew Boland, The Lavender Blog and a podcast with Black Women Travel. I also managed to put up 35 articles on this blog this year. This is officially my last post for the year.
Did I hear someone crying? Not to worry, new posts will be back from January 1st! In the meantime, feel free to catch up on any posts you might have missed in the past and come say hello on Instagram if you’d like to connect with me there.
That’s a wrap from Travel with a Pen for 2020! If you’re feeling up to it, please share your favourite moments from 2020 and something you’re grateful for. I would also love to hear all about your Christmas and New Year’s plans or (travel) plans for 2021.
I look forward to interacting more with you all in the coming year.
Never Stop Exploring!