Expressing gratitude in 2020 is a tricky thing to navigate.
Iq wasn’t sure if I should share my thoughts on the year knowing that it was unimaginably horrible for so many people.
And for others mental health was such a struggle. And so I don’t want to contribute to that.
Although this site is about the best food around the world, it’s also about raw, honest sharing.
It’s not just recipes, or lists of traditional foods but also the ups and downs of my unconventional lifestyle.
This isn’t a post about everything being amazing and me conquering life.
There have been some casualties, and me realizing that I need to change some things asap.
And it’s about taking a moment to be thankful for everything I have.
I chose not to settle down, grow up or whatever people want to call it. And this year it all came to a head. In some ways it was amazing and other ways I still feel a bit lost.
But for all of it I’m grateful.
And I feel that I’m coming out of the year a much different person. And I hope a better person.
Before it All Went Down
This is the last photo of me in Gibara Cuba, a small fishing village most people don’t ever think to visit.
I was traveling solo and jumped on a back of a truck to visit for the day. I had grand plans of writing my own guide to Cuba.
I wanted to spend the year visiting all the places that make me love the country so much.
When I returned back to my casa in Holguin I heard the country had four cases and the anxiety began.
Should I leave? Or stay?
Eventually I shared a 12 hour taxi back to Havana and booked a flight home.
I thought I’d be back in July. I love summer in Cuba so it wasn’t much of a sacrifice.
I’ll admit, I don’t deal with things like most “normal” people.
I saw how anxious people were, constantly watching the news and feeling helpless.
So I did the opposite.
I needed to quarantine in my childhood bedroom for 14 days. I created my own safe bubble by instating a media blackout.
Unless there was a cure I didn’t want to hear anything. I put my head down and worked… a lot.
I figured I would make the best of these 3-4 months by working on things I never had time to do.
I started a 30 day splits challenge and almost got there. Started reading. Starting walking.
I’m stubborn. And as you can see a bit controlling. And maybe a bit in denial?
Here’s What I’m Grateful for in 2020
This year I really pushed myself to focus my energy on work. I shared 14 videos on Facebook and YouTube.
If you watch YouTube, I’d love you to subscribe here.
I really felt like this year was a reset for me.
On my 43rd birthday I wrote about how I was able to let things go and confessed to my unintended tax evasion, which contributed to a massive debt that I was able to pay off as my mother took me in rent free.
I had time to really think about the direction of the site now that it is over a decade old!
I’ve said it many times but my biggest supporter is my Mother. She is the reason I was able to have the confidence to leave my job to travel.
And this summer she went everywhere with me.
She became my producer, printing out all my itineraries, calculating driving times, taking photos of me, eating whatever I asked her too and giving her feedback on food.
Learning video was stressful. And she ignored all my b*tchiness, bad moods and general crankiness from being burnt out.
She has the patience only a mother could have. I couldn’t have done it without her.
My family allowed me to use our group chat to post my videos, which they all shared immediately. They gave me support, advice and anything else I needed.
And I’m especially grateful for the time I’ve had with my sister and her family.
Raising two kids under four is insane! I don’t know how she and her husband keep their sanity.
But spending time with them has been one of the greatest gifts. Seeing them develop personalities and learn new things is such a joy.
I decided on my 35th birthday that I didn’t want kids. I still don’t.
But I appreciate my sister taking one for the team and giving me nephews.
Amazing Partners Who Supported Me
I know it’s very fashionable to hate on “influencers” – a term I really hate. I consider myself a content creator as it reflects the amount of work I do.
I don’t aspire to be a Kardashian so I find “influencer” a distasteful term.
And while there’s been a lot of discussion about the authenticity of paid programs I am incredibly grateful to have amazing partners.
When I approached Tourism Nova Scotia with the video series they did not mandate a single thing.
We agreed upon what towns I wanted to visit and that’s all.
They didn’t even give me suggestions as they wanted me to find what I liked best.
Everyone wanted me to explore the region as I would on my own, acting as a resource when I had questions, but nothing more.
I am thankful to work with people who trust me enough to allow me to create work that would be the same whether I was paid or not.
I am so proud of the work I created this year. It has been some of the most fulfilling in the last ten years.
A New Community
I haven’t always been active on the Bacon is Magic Facebook page, mostly because of the algorithm – Facebook doesn’t like to show your work in the newsfeed unless you pay for it.
But this year when I started created videos for Facebook everything changed.
My first video about Yarmouth has 100k views!
Over the last six months Maritimers have been so supportive, sharing my work and giving me ideas for where to travel.
Learning to shoot and edit video is hard. But people’s positivity kept me going.
In 2021 I’m going to keep with the weekly series. Although my hope is that those who watch YouTube will subscribe to me there (hint hint!).
I’m still going to be active on Facebook because I love checking in with everyone daily but one of my goals is to build a YouTube channel.
The Things That Were Hard To Swallow
I think I was doing really well living in the moment and embracing this temporary life…until the beginning of the end.
When we finally heard that soon we’d all get a shot that would cure the world I had a hard week.
It felt like a countdown.
In my province they estimate that my age bracket will be scheduled for “summer.”
What does that mean? Start of summer? End of summer?
How long will I be here???
I fixated on that for a week. Something I cannot control. And it really weighed on me.
I finally decided I have to force myself to get back in the moment. If anything we’ve learned how fleeting life and time can be.
I don’t want to spend 9 months waiting.
I need to live life.
The Slow Erosion of My Relationship
I have been a bit protective of sharing my relationship with M. Although I announced him as my Cuban secret, I didn’t want the site to become about him.
Moving to a long distance relationship was intense and difficult. Making a cross cultural relationship work was hard enough.
Neither of us wanted a long distance relationship.
And yet we had one.
In the beginning we tried to stay in touch a lot. But in lock down we ran out of things to talk about.
And him getting to a wifi park to call me was even harder as Havana locked everything down.
Gradually the calls were less frequent. And we started drifting apart. I was so focused on work. He was focused on making enough money to survive.
We lost something in the distance. And so I recently ended it.
He’s an amazing person and I learned so much from him. But I don’t think I’ve ever had more respect for him as when I told him it wasn’t working.
He accepted it, told me he thought I was a good person and still wanted to be friends.
I will go back to Cuba. I still have a dream to write a guide to the places I love, the ones most don’t know about.
Who knows what will happen with us.
I have learned this year the future is one thing I cannot control.
Failing at Balancing Life and Work
When I first came home I worked 7 days a week. I woke up at 6am went for a walk, and then sat at my laptop until 6pm.
I stopped to make lunch but otherwise I was staring at my laptop all day, every day.
It made sense at first as I was in lockdown and I had all of this unlimited wifi I never get in Cuba.
But then when my hopes of traveling in July changed to November and then January I didn’t stop the pace.
Pushing myself to do as much as I could on the site was the only thing I could control.
And it got out of control.
It wasn’t just my mother telling me I was working too much and needed some downtime. Soon I was getting it from people who knew me offline and online.
The challenge is that I created a job out of what I love – food and travel.
And so when you ask me about my hobbies I like the cook…and then take photos of my food…and share it with everyone.
So yeah it’s a slippery slope.
I’m still working on this. But in 2021 I plan to only work 5 days a week…I think. And I’m trying to plan more time with friends.
But admittedly this is going to be hard. Because I love my job.
And yet I don’t love how I was walking a tightrope of burnout for months.
I was exhausted for a long time. And I’m just coming out of that haze.
I know to produce my best work in 2021 my brain needs to rest. So this is a big priority for me.
Since I can’t control what’s going on with the world I’m going back to taking a break from media. Hearing about cases every day doesn’t help me.
I am launching a new weekly video series on January 1st so it’s a good time to subscribe to my YouTube channel!
Sorry I had to get that in one last time!
But I’m really going to focus on being in the moment and cherishing my time here…even if it’s winter and I’m already cold!
I’m done waiting. Life is here and now.