2020 End-Of-Year Summary &
Sneak Peek 2021
2020 End-Of-Year Summary & Sneak Peek 2021
Published December 27, 2020
Can you guys believe it’s almost the end of 2020? I’m sure it’s been a tough year for everyone. However, with widespread vaccination on the horizon, I’m really looking forward to 2021! We’re in the home stretch, and I’m ready to get back to life without a pandemic! This year has had its triumphs and its challenges, which I’ll be looking back on in this post. After that, I’ll provide a sneak peek of what you can expect for the blog in 2021.
Review of 2020
If you had told me in January that I’d only fly one time in 2020 from Seattle to São Paulo, I would’ve probably laughed. As a travel enthusiast, I never could’ve imagined being grounded for an entire year, yet here I am. I came to Brazil at the beginning of 2020 to teach English for a period of six months. My intention was to return to the US in July. Needless to say, the pandemic changed all of that, and I’m currently writing this post from Rio de Janeiro.
This year can be summed up with the map shown above. To make a long story short, I lived in São Paulo from January to April, then spent the next six months moving as slowly as possible eastward until arriving in Rio de Janeiro in September, where I’ve been ever since. I spent April and May in a strict lockdown, but I’ve continued to social distance even as Brazil partially reopened.
1. São Paulo (Jan-Apr)
During the first three months of the year, I explored and blogged about neighborhoods in São Paulo. This culminated in a short-lived mini series called São Paulo 360. It aimed to give a more in-depth look into specific parts of the city that other bloggers might skip during a short stay.
2. Santos (May)
I spent my first month of lockdown (March to April) in a rented room in the center of São Paulo but decided to move to a studio in the town of Santos on the coast. I wanted to live completely alone to avoid any possible COVID-19 transmission among housemates. During the month of May, Santos had a true, city-wide lockdown. Only grocery stores were open. I spent most of my time walking along the water, cooking, watching Netflix, and teaching English via videoconferencing.
3. Ubatuba (June)
After spending the month of May in Santos, I took an Uber with windows open over to Ubatuba in June. I continued to social distance, spending most of my time admiring the truly amazing beaches that I had mostly to myself. Ubatuba will always be one of my most highly recommended destinations in Brazil, and I can’t wait to go back someday post-pandemic.
In Ubatuba, things had slowly begun to reopen, so I cautiously began to patronize a couple of restaurants. Since Brazil is pretty warm all year, many eateries either have outdoor seating or large windows that can be fully opened, allowing for good ventilation.
4. Aparecida (July)
In July, I headed to another small town called Aparecida, where I spent about three weeks. Despite being a small town away from the coast, Aparecida appears in the world record books for being home to the second largest church in the world, after only St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. The church, known as the Santuário Nacional de Nossa Senhora Aparecida, is absolutely breathtaking with a lot of modern elements both inside and out.
5. Cunha (July-Aug)
Only about an hour or so away from Aparecida is a village called Cunha (pronounced “cuña”). Along with Ubatuba, Cunha was one of my favorite places to spend a number of weeks social distancing. Despite not having any beaches, the rural landscapes were spectacular. If a traveler wanted to experience a Brazilian small town only a few hours’ drive from São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro that isn’t on the water, Cunha is my top recommendation.
6. Paraty (Aug)
In mid-August, I finally crossed the state border from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro. After seven uninterrupted months of being in a single state, crossing into Rio definitely felt bittersweet. However, I only passed through the foothills to the town right across the border: Paraty.
Paraty is a famous colonial town with a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. The cobblestone streets and white buildings with splashes of color on doors and windows are truly unique. I enjoyed the time I spent there, but I did focus my blog post on whether Paraty should be considered a tourist trap or not.
7. Angra dos Reis (Sept)
My penultimate destination in 2020 was Angra dos Reis. This is another famous tourism destination, but I had a bit of a weird experience there. Although this waterfront town is surrounded by tiny islands with world-class beaches, the actual town of Angra is not so nice. I was a bit disappointed in that, but if you ever go, be sure to take the ferry over to neighboring Ilha Grande, which is a really pretty destination perfect for a day trip.
8. Rio de Janeiro (Sept-Dec)
Finally, we’ve come to my last destination of the year: Rio de Janeiro! I arrived by Uber from Angra dos Reis back in September and have been here ever since. Despite being based here for over three months already, I am still finding new things to see and do all the time. Rio is not a massive city, especially compared to São Paulo. However, the mountains, beaches, forests, and urban environments come together in an unbelievable way, unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been to.
Rio is truly stunning, and you should really take anything negative you’ve heard about the city with a grain of salt. I’ve never run into safety problems here and thoroughly enjoy going out whenever it’s sunny. To complement São Paulo 360, I’ve also started a series called Rio de Janeiro 360, and am still planning on adding a number of blog posts. Be sure to check it out using the image link below!
I’ve got about two or three weeks left in Rio, and I’m scrambling to do a handful of activities and bucket list items before I leave. I’ve already done about 90% of my wish list for this current long-term stay, but you could honestly spend years exploring the metropolitan Rio area and still have neighborhoods and hidden gems left to find.
So, where am I heading next, you ask? Well, since I will be here in Rio de Janeiro until a few weeks after New Year, that question will be answered in the next section, where I discuss everything planned for 2021. Check it out below!
Looking Forward to 2021
Now that this year is finally coming to an end, let’s take a look at what’s in store for the blog in 2021! Just keep in mind that everything mentioned here is tentative. My plan for next year assumes that as more and more people are vaccinated, the pandemic will finally come to an end. I’m also assuming that borders will slowly reopen and that movement will be less restricted with each passing month.
1. Salvador, Brazil (Jan-Feb)
My first plan of 2021 is to move from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador. Salvador is the capital city of Bahia, a really large state north of Rio. Salvador is known for its historic architecture, seafood-based cuisine, and gorgeous beaches. Like in all of my stops in 2020, I’m planning on social distancing while there and enjoying the outdoor attractions and activities.
2. Maragogi & Porto de Galinhas (Feb-Mar)
After a month in Salvador, I’m going to head further north to spend some time in two small beach towns. Maragogi and Porto de Galinhas are both recognized as some of the best beaches in Brazil, and I’m aiming to spend about two weeks in each.
3. Recife (Mar-Apr)
Recife is the next large city north of Porto de Galinhas, and I have to admit that my plan to spend a month there is one of the most tentative items on the list. That’s because I plan to fly back home to Seattle when the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to the general public, so if that happens earlier than expected, it might cut my time in Brazil short.
If it takes a bit longer for vaccines to roll out, I will spend some time in Recife. I have to admit that I haven’t researched the capital of Pernambuco state as much as Salvador, but I’ve heard that the northeast of Brazil is pretty distinct from the southern half of the country where São Paulo and Rio are. I’m curious about it and am hoping to be able to experience it in person!
4. Seattle (Apr-Oct)
As mentioned above, I’m going to go back to my hometown of Seattle when I can get the COVID-19 vaccine. I’m guessing that this will happen around April or May based on reporting I’ve seen, but it could be sooner or later than that. Nevertheless, I’m really hopeful that next summer will be a bit more normal. I plan to spend those months with family and friends after we all get immunized.
A spring, summer, and early fall in Seattle would be an open book for me. I’d likely try to find a couple different jobs and continue with teaching or tutoring if I can. As you can see on the blog’s US destinations list, I haven’t actually blogged about Seattle as of December 2020. It would be a lot of fun to write about my home city from the perspective of a local who’s spent the past few years abroad.
Washington State also has a ton of other cool destinations further out from Seattle. If it’s safe to, I would love to blog about a place like the San Juan Islands or even a town like Yakima or Ellensburg in Central Washington. This would be a totally new “genre” for Caffeinated Excursions, which is very exciting!
5. Montana Camping (Summer)
The one major trip I’m really hoping will materialize for summer of 2021 is a camping trip to Montana. This is something that’s been in the works for a number of years with some friends, and I think next year would be an ideal time to do it. This is the one item on my travel wish list for the decade that I’d really like to cross off next year, so fingers crossed that it works out!
6. Iberia? (Fall?)
I have Europe on my 2021 plans with a question mark because I have a flight credit with TAP (Air Portugal) that expires in the middle of next year. I’m sure I could get a refund if EU borders remain closed until then, but I think it would be the perfect excuse to spend a week in Portugal and Spain in the fall if it’s safe to.
7. Indiana (Sept-Oct)
After spending the summer in Seattle, I’m heading over to Indiana in October, and this trip is happening for sure. That’s because my cousin Kailyn and her fiancé Andrew are getting married! I am so excited to be in the Midwest with the fall colors for such a joyous occasion! The wedding has been something I’ve really looked forward to for much of this year. It’ll bring our entire extended family together in celebration!
8. End of 2021 and Beyond
After Kailyn’s wedding, I really am not sure where I’ll go to be honest! Since the holiday season will be less than a month away, I may stick around in Indiana or Chicago to spend the holidays with my extended family. Alternatively, I may head back to Seattle to spend Christmas with my parents. Assuming that the pandemic is over at this point, I’d love to get a Caribbean trip in at the end of the year, but this is just me thinking out loud.
Looking forward even further, my plan for 2022 is to move back to Asia. There is a small chance that I make the move in October of 2021, but since I’m missing the holidays with family this year, I’d really like to spend that time with them in the States next year. Right now I’m thinking about moving to Japan. However, I’m always changing plans, so stay posted for more info as 2021 progresses. Below are some pictures from my first and only trip to Japan in summer of 2007. I was in middle school then, so I’m more than ready to go back and experience the country as an adult and as a resident!
What do you think?
Does my plan for 2021 sound exciting? Maybe a little bit crazy? Am I being too optimistic about how quickly things will go back to normal next year? I want to know; leave a comment below! If you’ve been to any of the destinations listed for next year, I want to hear from you as well! Thanks for reading, and be sure to follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest to stay up to date with everything going on here at Caffeinated Excursions! Happy New Year!
This post was published on Dec 27, 2020