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My 2020 Year in Review

It’s that time of year again, and what a year it’s been… It barely seems 5 minutes since the start of 2020, and yet at the same time it feels like its been the longest year ever. I’m sure we can all agree that this year has been truly awful. Coronavirus has taken over the world, countless countries have experienced large lockdowns, and hundreds of thousands of people have sadly died from this horrific virus. What started off as a new year and a new decade filled with hope and excitement in January quickly turned in to a nightmare by the time March rolled around. The world changed before our very eyes and there was nothing we could do about it but stay at home and watch events unfold around us. Here in the UK, the entire country went into lockdown on 23rd March and has never really recovered since then. We had a couple of months during summer where restrictions were lifted, but now we are stuck in a never ending tier system of differing rules and regulations where nobody knows what they are doing.

 

 

It’s been a tough old year, hasn’t it? A couple of months ago I was hopeful that, by the end of the year, most of this would be over and we could enter 2021 with optimism and hope, but now I’m not sure I feel that way. Despite the good news of a vaccine being rolled out quickly, I still think we are going to be stuck in lockdown for most of January and February, but I hope that things will start to lift by the spring. I have tried so hard to remain positive but lately I am really struggling, and I am not ashamed to admit that. I miss seeing my friends and going out for dinner, I miss my old job and the buzz of working in the travel industry, and most of all I miss my family who I’ve barely been able to see this year.

Despite all of this doom and gloom though, there have been some positives that have come out of 2020. I bought my first house, I became a qualified TEFL teacher and I still managed to visit London, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Norfolk and the Brecon Beacons this year. I learnt to appreciate the smaller things in life and I found a new love for my local area here in Oxfordshire, enjoying my daily walks and exploring the Cotswolds as much as I could. Although when I look back at my 2019 Year in Review it makes me want to cry (!!) I am still excited to be sharing my 2020 round up with you. Let’s start right at the beginning, before Covid-19 spread across the world, before Zoom quizzes were a regular occurrence, and before the words unprecedented, furloughed and social distancing were floating around…

 

January & February

 

Back in January I celebrated my 27th birthday by taking a trip to London with my sisters. We had the loveliest day wandering around the city and heading to the Tutankhamun Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery which was amazing! We stopped for lunch in Chelsea and then headed to a secret Harry Potter bar for cocktails in the Dungeon which was amazing. It was my sister Sophie’s 21st birthday at the end of the month so the Harry Potter treat was a double celebration, but we also enjoyed a spa weekend in Cheltenham and a trip to Liverpool to see our family at the end of January. Little did we know that would be the last time we had the majority of our family in one room together before the world would change forever!

 

March & April

 

 

As we all know, March was the month where the world totally changed and the country went into its first full lockdown. I was told to work from home from mid March anyway, but on 1st April I was put on furlough for three months. At first it was lovely to have some time off work and be paid 80% of my salary, but the novelty soon faded and before long I was feeling stupidly bored! I kept myself busy by enjoying my 1 hour of daily exercise, found a new love for reading books (I’ve read 35 this year!), and started a TEFL course to teach English as a foreign language, something I had thought about doing for ages but never found the time until I was furloughed. I think being in lockdown really taught me to appreciate what I have, not what I don’t have, and it made me stop and think about life for the first time in a long time. I was so used to going on trips left, right and centre, and going through life at a million miles an hour, but being forced to stop and stay at home made me appreciate the smaller things in life.

 

May & June 

 

 

May was probably the most exciting month of 2020 as my sister Hannah and I bought our first house!! We completed and got our keys on 1st May, after our offer had been accepted back in November, so our purchase took a whopping six months to go through but we were in the middle of a pandemic so can’t complain too much! We spent the majority of May & June doing up our new house whilst we still lived at home, painting every room, ripping out and laying new carpets, re-landscaping the garden and fitting new front and back doors. Being on furlough was the perfect time to do up my house without having to take any annual leave so the timing actually turned out brilliantly and it gave me so much to focus on at a time where I was feeling lost without my job. May also saw us celebrate Hannah’s birthday (lockdown style) as well as VE Day where we enjoyed an afternoon tea with our neighbour over the fence and listened to Vera Lynn on repeat. I also spent time going for long walks around the Cotswolds, where I live, and enjoying the amazing mini heatwave the UK experienced in the early part of this summer.

 

July & August

 

 

July brought my dad’s birthday and our first meal out as a family at a local pub once they finally re-opened as lockdown ended. At the end of the month Hannah and I finally moved out of our family home and into our brand new house which we love! I also spent the majority of July volunteering in my local community, collecting prescriptions and shopping for vulnerable/elderly people in my town, as well as doing over 1000 hours on-call for the NHS volunteer responders which I signed up for at the start of the pandemic. Volunteering gave me a real purpose at a time when I needed it, and I still volunteer today helping out as much as I can. Unfortunately July was also the month that I was made redundant from my job in the travel industry after three months on furlough. I was absolutely gutted to have lost a job I loved so much, but I was so lucky that I found a new job just a week after being made redundant, at the estate agents where I worked for five years between the age of 18 and 23! In July & August two of my cousins, Amy & Emma, also came down to stay at our new house and it was so lovely to finally see our family after a rubbish few months. My lovely friend Rachel also came down to visit and I took her on a mini tour around a few of my fave places here in the Cotswolds which was super fun!

September & October

 

The only time I managed to squeeze in a couple of day trips and overnight stays was in these two months, and I certainly made the most of being away from home for the first time since January! In September I visited the Brecon Beacons with my parents as we took part in the Four Falls Trek for the Pituitary Foundation, and the weekend after I went down to Norfolk for a mini break with my family and was reunited with my lovely nan which was amazing. My other nan and grandad also came down to stay with us in September for my mum’s birthday, and my aunty and uncle stayed in a hotel in nearby Burford, so it was nice to spend some more time with our wonderful family. In October I took a day trip to Bournemouth with two of my closest friends and their little girls. It was super quiet as it was after the school half term and we had the best day wandering along the beach, having fish & chips at Harry Ramsden’s and running in and out of the sea.

 

November & December 

 

November saw us enter another national lockdown here in England, with all pubs, restaurants, shops and leisure closed again for four weeks. I spent November doing nothing but reading books and enjoying my daily walks again, as well as finishing my TEFL course and gaining my teaching qualification. I went to a couple of our local garden centres and we put our Christmas decorations up early to try and cheer us up a bit. My sisters and I were due to go to Edinburgh in November but our trip got cancelled so we are hoping to visit next year instead. In December we had a wonderful Christmas together just the five of us, and even enjoyed some beautiful snow here in Oxfordshire which made our tier 4 restrictions a bit easier to cope with!

 

My 2020 New Year’s Resolutions 

 

As you can probably imagine, half of my 2020 new year’s resolutions were no where near close to being completed this year with everything that has happened because of the pandemic! But let’s take a look at the resolutions I set myself at the start of January to see what I acheieved and what I missed out on this year.

I want to buy a house – SUCCESS – I am so happy I managed to achieve this and finally get on the property ladder! My sister and I absolutely love our little 2bed semi in Oxfordshire and it’s been the highlight of our 2020.

I want to focus on my new job – FAIL – Sadly being made redundant from my dream travel job has meant I have failed at this one!

I want to travel to 5 countries – FAIL – I made it to Wales, so that counts as one country, right?! After visiting 7 countries in 2019 and 9 countries in 2018 I didn’t think 5 countries would be that hard this year, but that was before a global pandemic occurred!

 

 

I want to start working out 3 times a week – SUCCESS – Hooray, something I have actually manage to stick at this year. Lockdown really helped me to focus on my fitness, with my one hour daily walks and three 30min workouts a week helping me to gain some routine and structure to my day whilst I was on furlough, and I continued it for the rest of the year too.

I want to start dating again – FAIL – lol, we are in a pandemic, it’s hard enough to meet people at the best of times without the shops/bars/gyms being shut too. Maybe next year I’ll get better at this one but I’m not holding my breath 😉

 

I hope that 2021 brings hope and optimism for us all and that we are able to enter this new year feeling excited for the future once Covid disappears (if it ever does!). I’ve decided not to write any new year’s resolutions for 2021 because I don’t want to put any pressure on myself and I think I did well this year to hit 2 out of 5 of my goals all things considered. It feels very weird not setting myself any goals/resolutions or even having any travel plans set in stone as I usually do at this time of year. I simply wish that, by this time next year, all of my family and friends will still be here with us, and that they will be healthy and happy. I hope that we don’t have another year where this horrible virus rules every aspect of our lives, and I hope that we all get through it as best as we can.

So I’ll sign off now and wish you a happy new year. Here’s to a happier and healthier 2021 for us all!

Love Jess x

6 of my Top Travel Highlights from 6 Years of Travel Blogging

Hi everyone,

I hope you are all keeping safe and well during this global pandemic! We’re on day 479800605 of lockdown here in the UK and I’m writing this on the eve of my blogging anniversary. Tomorrow marks six years since Journeys with Jessica was launched, and I still pinch myself every year when the date of 27th May comes around! If you’ve been with me since the start, you’ll know how much I adore travel. I have been lucky enough to explore some amazing places in the world; from 5-6 week stints in America and Australia to inter-railing adventures across Europe and long weekends in the UK. As I’m approaching six years of travel blogging, and as I’m not going to be travelling anywhere for the foreseeable future due to Coronavirus (!!!), I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and share six of my top travel highlights for each year my blog has been running. Here goes!…

 

Bank Holiday in Barcelona, 2014

 

 

Back where it all began, the first holiday I ever blogged about, and the reason I started my blog in the first place! A long weekend away in Barcelona with two of my best friends was exactly what I needed back in May 2014, and I have such fond memories of this Spanish city. La Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter, the beach – I loved it all! Granted, I spent most of the three days throwing up and recovering from an almighty hangover/alcohol poisoning/sickness bug so I didn’t get to see too much of the city, but I eventually returned five years later in May 2019 with my sister and got to do it all over again (minus the horrendous hangover because I am old now hehe). Pic from my most recent visit because I didn’t have Instagram back in 2014!

 

A Week in Cornwall, 2015

 

 

I spent a week in Cornwall with my family back in July 2015 and it was one of the best family holidays we have ever been on. My mum and dad have taken me and my sisters to St Ives almost every year since we were babies, and for that reason it remains one of my favourite places in the world. We hadn’t been to St Ives for a few years until we spent a week there in 2015, and it made me fall in love with it all over again. The weather was amazing, the beach was bliss and the scenery was stunning. The cobbled streets, long sandy beaches and gorgeous blue sea makes St Ives the perfect place for a UK summer beach break, and I am itching to get down there again when lockdown is over as my last visit was for New Years celebrations back in 2017!

 

An American Road Trip, 2016

 

 

The holiday that really kick-started my love for solo travel was this American road trip back in 2016. I quit my job and flew to Los Angeles on my own then travelled with Contiki from LA to NYC on an epic 28 day adventure across 23 states and had the absolute time of my life! I made life long friends on this group trip and it was the best way for me to dive into a totally new style of travel which would soon become one of my favourite ways to explore the world. Highlights included helicoptering over the Grand Canyon, parasailing over Daytona Beach, running around Walt Disney World, partying in Las Vegas and sightseeing in New York. I would love to go back to America one day to explore the other side of the country and I would also like to visit Canada too!

 

Must See Menorca, 2017

 

 

This was my first press trip with my blog and I remember having to pinch myself on the way to the airport because I could not believe that I was about to embark on a group trip with 50 other travel bloggers in beautiful Menorca! I was selected to attend by the team at Traverse Events and the Spanish Tourism Board when I attended Traverse 18 in London and was so excited but also super nervous! I needn’t have worried though, everyone was so friendly and welcoming and I made amazing friends on that trip who I still talk to now most days. We spent two full days conferencing and then the other five days seeing all that Menorca had to offer. As a child I had been to Menorca 3 times between the ages of 8 and 12 (it was the first place I ever went abroad!) but re-visiting it as an adult made it even more special and I would love to return again some day.

 

My Mediterranean Cruise, 2018

 

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Doing the Titanic pose all by myself cos this Rose doesn't need a Jack in her life 😎 I've been home for just 24 hours and I'm already missing being at sea 🌊 Words can't describe the amazing experience I had on my first ever cruise 🚢 I was so nervous before going as I suffer so much with travel sickness (ironic as I'm a travel blogger) but luckily I was absolutely fine and kept well the entire time! It's only now that I'm home I'm suffering with motion sickness despite being back on land! What is THAT all about?! 😩I think it means I need to book another cruise asap, I'm a total convert now and loved waking up in a new place each day, but my favourite thing was spending hours looking out at the blue waters, with nothing but the ocean staring back at me 🐬 Can I go be a mermaid again please? #cruiselife #titanicpose #takemeback #marellacruises

A post shared by Jess Buck|JourneyswithJessica (@jessica16_x) on

 

I had always been curious about cruising and a bit weary of booking one, but when my family suggested a big get together for my mum’s 50th and my grandad’s 80th birthdays how could I refuse?! 12 of us decided to book together and we chose a Mediterranean voyage with TUI’s Marella Cruises which was the perfect choice for a first time cruiser like me. We sailed on a round trip from Dubrovnik to Dubrovnik, passing Kotor, Kefalonia, Messina and Valletta along the way, and we had the most amazing time. It totally opened my eyes to a new way of travel and I loved waking up in a new destination every single day. I would really love to do another cruise some day soon, but maybe in a few years time once Covid has well and truly passed – the thought of being stuck in the middle of the ocean on a ship gives me so much anxiety!

 

An Australian Adventure, 2019

 

 

Probably my most favourite trip of the last 6 years, and definitely the most memorable, is my 6 week Australian adventure that I embarked on last year. Starting in Melbourne and ending in Sydney, I explored Adelaide, Alice Springs, the Outback, Cairns, the Whitsundays, Brisbane and Bondi Beach in between and had the most amazing time! I did a mixture of group and solo travel, as well as reuniting with friends I had met on my Contiki around America back in 2016. Highlights included snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, sleeping under the stars in the Outback, driving the Great Ocean Road and admiring Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. This trip felt totally life changing for me and it came at the perfect time – it gave me my confidence back, it helped me fall in love with travel again and it opened my eyes to just how amazing our world can be! Australia, you have my heart. <3

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed going back in time with me and reliving some of my travel adventures from the past six years, it’s certainly made me realise how lucky I am to have visited some of these amazing places. With everything going on in the world right now though, I’m more than happy to take a bit of a travel break and can’t really see me wanting to go abroad until all of this is over, which makes me think 2021 will perhaps be the next time I venture overseas. Don’t get me wrong, I’m missing that feeling of packing for my next trip and getting excited to tick new destinations off my bucket list, but if this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to appreciate what is right in front of us.

I have spent the past ten weeks enjoying long countryside walks in my local area here in Oxfordshire, reading book after book in my garden, and just trying to take things back to basics by appreciating the little things in life. I am so grateful that my family and friends are all happy and healthy, and I can’t wait to visit them when we are allowed to travel round the country again. For that reason I want to focus my energy on planning UK adventures for the rest of 2020, if we are able to, and I’m eyeing up a trip to Cornwall in the autumn and perhaps an Edinburgh Christmas market getaway too, but who knows what will happen between now and then?! In my six years of travel blogging, this has definitely been the weirdest one yet, but Journeys with Jessica is still going strong, and that’s all thanks to YOU, my lovely readers. Here’s to the next six years!

Love Jess x