2020 was not the year for the travel industry and as COVID-19 spread through the world this year, travel was one of the first things that got shut down. We canceled so many trips this year that would have seen us in Europe and throughout the US. In the end, we went back to the basics of travel and directed our explorations to places on the West Coast of the US near our home base in Portland and near my parents’ new home in Southern California. We drove a lot more this year instead of flying and stayed closer to home. But the lesson I learned this year is that travel can still be amazing even when you don’t go super far. There are so many places to explore near where you live and anything that includes exploration can be counted as travel. So looking back on my travel favorites of 2020, there is nothing too exotic but I actually did end up having great memories of our travels this past year, even in the scope of everything that 2020 threw at us!
Favorite Travel Moment
Way back in January, which seems like 10 years ago now, before COVID overtook the world, Nick and I went to Las Vegas for the purpose of doing a long weekend dedicated to amazing food. We ate at so many amazing restaurants that have long been on our list in Vegas and enjoyed a long weekend, eating and wandering around and genuinely enjoying the best of Vegas. It was such a relaxing weekend and one of the last moments of the year that I remember before the pandemic became our focus. I look back on that trip as perhaps the last moment of a pre-COVID world and I’m so glad we did it when we did!
Favorite Reoccurring Travel Moment
After over a decade of spending a lot of time (and living for 2 years) in Hawaii, we went to Hawaii in early March before COVID shut down flights across the country. It was our last trip there before my parents moved to California in May and turned out to be our goodbye to Oahu, an island that has been in our lives for a long time. We didn’t know at the time but it would be our last time there for a long while as we’re not sure when we’ll back in the Islands and it for sure won’t be the same as my parents no longer live there. But after countless trips to Hawaii, our trip in March was a lovely goodbye to a place that will always be a large part of our story.
Biggest Travel Surprise
I’ve never been a big fan of Southern California and even though I’ve been a lot, it wasn’t until my parents moved to Pasadena and we started spending a good amount of time there this year that the area has started to grow on me. I was genuinely surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed spending time in Southern California and exploring new areas in that part of the state.
Worst Travel Moment
On January 1st of this year, I was actually traveling home from Myanmar and the trip saw me go through Shanghai and Beijing, which looking back now considering COVID was already spreading in China at that point is a little scary. To put it lightly, the trip home from Asia on the first day of 2020 was an absolute nightmare. Looking back, it seems a bit like foreshadowing for what was to come in 2020, but I’d have to say that day, traveling home was my worst travel moment of the whole year. It was struggle after struggle, including cutting my knuckle open and having blood spewing out all over my white luggage mid-trip, so yea, let’s just say I should have known what was coming based on that first day of the year.
Best Hotel Stay
We’ve barely stayed in hotels in year but before everything changed, our stay at the Vdara in Las Vegas in January was a delightful few days in a beautiful hotel with gorgeous views out over Las Vegas.
Most Emotional Travel Moment
When my parents moved to Southern California in May, most of their plans for the move had to change last minute because of COVID. They ended up shipping quite a bit of stuff to us in Portland beforehand and we planned to drive from Portland to LA to help them get settled while bringing lots of items for the move as it was harder from them across the ocean to bring as much. The weekend that we drove to LA for the first time was the weekend we were supposed to be in Iceland and of course that didn’t happen. It was also the first time we had really left Portland since the pandemic began. That day driving South, I’ll never forget the feeling of what felt like freedom. Barely anything was open on the I5 that first trip down and our car was packed to the brim and the drive was long but honestly, I remember feeling so emotional. We were traveling again for the first time in months. We were going somewhere and that felt incredible.
When we got to the Grapevine, the passes through the mountains and foothills just about an hour North of LA, we drove through in this sort of trance. The wildflowers were in bloom and the hills were awash with purple and yellow like I’ve never seen. It must have just been the time of the year or our awe in exploring again or seeing a new place where my parents would move to, but that section of the drive particularly I remember just feeling so emotional. Travel can still be beautiful, even close to home.
Most Beautiful Destination
In July, we took a day trip up to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. I’ve been wanting to get up to this area of Washington State for a long time and I’m so glad we made it happen this Summer. Driving through this area was breathtaking, from ocean beaches to dense evergreen forests to lakes tucked in between mountains. The whole peninsula is so beautiful.
In August, after another trip to Pasadena to see my parents, we took the California Coast route North from LA instead of the I5 and it was truly so beautiful. The landscapes along the California coast are so unique and really has to be one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. From Santa Barbara to Big Sur, if you ever get the chance to drive this route, you most definitely should!
As the US was the only country we explored this year, I guess it takes the top spot. I have realized this year that while international travel is always such an amazing adventure, seeing my own country more, especially exploring more in depth on the West Coast, has been really rewarding. It’s important to see the places near your home, places that might not seem all that exciting but that still have something to offer. The US is so diverse and even up and down the West Coast, there is so much to see and I can’t wait to keep exploring!