As 2021 drew to a close, I spent some time looking back on the year and also looking ahead to more travel in 2022.
2021 was a tough year around the world and for me, there have been some real lows. But there were also some highs, including seeing a live volcano erupt and visiting 9 countries! In addition to the highs, I learned a lot in 2021, which feels good to me, as I like to be learning and developing.
Looking ahead to travel in 2022, I’m determined to keep exploring, so I have set myself a travel challenge to visit all the countries in Europe by the end of the year.
I shared a version of these thoughts on travel in 2021 and 2022 in my monthly newsletter (which you can sign up for here), but it was such a long email that I thought it would make a good blog post to mark the new year.
Looking back on 2021
January to March: lockdown misery
For me, 2021 started in lockdown: the U.K. was under strict restrictions for three months, followed by gradually easing rules over a few months until July.
We were all struggling, me included. I was going stir-crazy in my London flat, not allowed to leave the local area. I eased my wanderlust in the same way I had since the pandemic began: by reliving memories of exploring the world and posting travel photographs on Instagram. In 2020, I’d found a community of fellow wanderlusts there, and we supported each other through the pandemic (oh, and if you like travel photography and appreciate a colour-coordinated grid, check out my Instagram).
On the first day we were allowed out of our local area, 29 March 2021, my husband and I did a small road trip. We remained socially distanced – but we went somewhere new. I was giddy with excitement! Even watching trees flash past the car felt like a treat. After a short walk in the Sussex countryside, we photographed this Victorian viaduct filled with arches. For me, although the destination is not that exciting, this image reminds me of that intoxicating first taste of freedom and exploration.
I used this excursion to practice using my DSLR, which I’d recently inherited second hand.
May: The launch of May Cause Wanderlust
In May, I launched this blog, May Cause Wanderlust. For more on why I travel and why I wrote about it, check out my first blog post.
Creating the blog was a period of intense learning – about blogging in general, building a website in WordPress, SEO and travel writing. I did some online courses on blogging and also photography, which I’ve always liked, but technically, I knew next to nothing.
It’s been slow but steady progress since then, and I now have 35 posts, containing more than 80,000 words (more than I wrote in essays during two years of my undergrad degree in literature!).
It’s also been a learning experience to see what kind of content is most popular. Some of the most-read articles on my blog this year have been:
- 25 Photos that will make you want to take a Scenic Flight over Namibia
- Island-hopping in the Cyclades
- 11 Ways to Experience the Namib Desert
March to July: Iceland beckoned
Around March, something exciting started happening in Iceland: a new volcano started erupting in Fagradalsfjall and it was the kind of eruption that isn’t that explosive. It was also in a relatively accessible place, meaning people could hike close to it and get a great view of it – which was an exciting prospect!
I had always dreamed of seeing a volcano erupting, ever since learning about them in geography lessons in school – they are such a potent example of the power of the planet. However, I wasn’t eligible for vaccination in the UK just yet, so I had to bide my time… I watched so many videos people took in Iceland of the red hot lava flowing past them and I hoped I would be able to see that for myself.
At the end of June, I had my second vaccine dose, so I booked a flight to Iceland for a few weeks later – and I prayed the eruption would still be going when I got there! Over that period, the eruption had evolved into a period of starting and stopping, so there was a sense it was slowing down.
At the end of July, I flew to Iceland, but the eruption was paused that day. So my husband and I drove the Ring Road around for a week, hoping it would be active when we came back around. On that road trip, I revisited some favourite destinations in South Iceland and discovered some new ones.
After the Ring Road, we hiked to the volcano, but she was sleeping that day also: I saw nothing but steaming black lava. It was cool, but I was still hoping I’d see a live eruption.
The next day, I had another shot at seeing her: this time from the air. And finally, she didn’t disappoint! I’ll never forget the thrill of circling that bubbling crater, watching the red-hot lava spill out in snaking channels. Round and round we circled, me trying to capture it with my camera out of the plane window, bracing myself against the strong cold wind. The wind was so intense, I’m surprised I got any clear shots, but I got a few!
I still have more I want to write about Iceland, but here are some of the articles I have published about this trip, so far:
- Travelling to Iceland in 2021: my experience of travelling with covid restrictions
- Witness An Eruption: How To See The Volcano In Iceland
- Iceland Ring Road Itinerary – 7 days or 10 days
- Ten Top Things To Do in North Iceland
- 20 Photographs That Will Make You Want To Fly Over Iceland
July to December: travelling as much as I could!
Having so much pent-up wanderlust from the pandemic, plus not knowing how long vaccines would offer immunity, AND knowing the virus was a bigger threat in winter, I decided to travel as much as I could once I had my vaccine. Like a woman on a mission, I did as much travel as my budget and work schedule would allow!
Including Iceland, I travelled to 9 countries in 2021, including 6 I had been to before and 3 new ones: return visits to Iceland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Belgium; first-time visits to Andorra, San Marino and Luxembourg. Other than Iceland, all of this was solo travel. I loved exploring some new places, and also returning to places I love, especially Paris, which holds a special place in my heart.
I still have lots of blog articles I want to write, but so far I have posted the following, in addition to the Iceland articles:
- The 4 Top Things To Do In Barcelona
- Travelling in Europe during Covid
- Essential Things To Do In Bologna, Italy
- 7 Delightful Things to do in Glorious Lisbon
- Day Trip to Paris: Seeing the Best of Paris In A Day
I’ve also been trying to use planes less and trains more, so quite a lot of my travels in Europe have been train-based. It can be more expensive, but more environmentally friendly and also quite comfortable.
Travelling during Covid
Travel during the pandemic has its challenges. I experienced cancelled flights, which had to be re-booked at higher cost at the last minute and new testing requirements being introduced at the last minute, which added to the cost, admin and stress.
I was also travelling with the knowledge that I could catch Covid when abroad and not be allowed to travel home. I couldn’t find travel insurance that would cover the cost of an extended stay or quarantine in another country, so I had to be comfortable with taking that financial risk myself.
However, I didn’t take health risks: I always wore a mask on transport and indoors and I kept social contact to a minimum (being extremely introverted worked in my favour in that regard!).
Some Covid-related tips for travelling in 2022
- Keep checking the requirements for the destination you’re going to, as things can change at the last minute and you don’t want to be turned away from your plane or train for having missed something. Quite often you need a passenger locator form of some kind, proof of vaccination and proof of a negative test result. But many countries have changed their requirements several times, so keep checking right up to the day before.
- Take physical & digital copies of your documents – I have been taking hard copies, screenshots on my phone and having them saved or downloaded on my phone apps as digital docs. One reason for so many copies is back-up in case you lose or delete one, and the other reason is that you often have to show several docs at borders at the same time, so having them all in apps can make it slow to go through them all one by one (and you are relying on having a good signal). Being able to switch between formats can speed things up.
- Take screen grabs of your vaccine pass QR code – but make sure it is for the latest dose. In Europe, lots of places will need to scan your vaccine pass QR code before they allow you in, and if you use the UK NHS app, like I do, you’ll find it is very slow to pull up the travel pass QR code. However, a screen grab will scan just the same as the app, and it’s much easier and faster to pull up on your phone than the app is. But make sure you show the QR code for the latest dose, not the first dose, as that won’t be accepted.
- Have plenty of masks with you – and keep them in easy-to-reach places so you can pop them on as soon as you go into a restaurant or museum (everywhere I have been in Europe requires them indoors).
Looking ahead to Travel in 2022
So what are my plans for travel in 2022? Well, I just had my third dose of vaccine and I’m planning on travelling again in 2022, once this latest wave of omicron subsides.
Travel in 2022: Europe Travel Challenge
In fact, I’m on a mission to visit all the countries in Europe by the end of 2022. In August 2021, after discussing with my followers on Instagram, I set myself a travel challenge. I’ve done one of these before, and I find it a fun way to make sure I follow my dreams to explore more.
This challenge to visit all the countries in Europe is based on the 44 countries the UN classes as Europe and based on that definition, I had already visited 31 of them by the time I set the challenge, leaving me 13 to go.
I visited 3 in the last few months of 2021, so I now have 10 left to visit in 2022. These are Albania, Belarus, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, North Macedonia, Norway, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. If you have any tips or recommendations for these countries, please let me know!
Here’s to more travel in 2022!
I hope able to look back on 2021 and remember some good times. And I hope that 2022 brings you plenty of laughter and adventure!