Who else can't quite believe that we are back to March already? This time a year ago Coronavirus was a strange and (seemingly) distance threat and now, a year on, it is a dominant monster who has reigned over all of us for 12 months and counting. My own story over those months has been a crazy rollercoaster ride and as I write this in a beachside apartment at Umaya Village in Belize I still have to pinch myself that it led me here.
On the 1st March 2020 I was in my flat in London and I was packing. I had recently returned from a wedding in South Africa and was off again to see my boyfriend Luciano in San Francisco. Travelling was easy, carefree and we had a wonderful week seeing family and friends and visiting Point Reyes in Marin County. He was then due to come to the UK in May, I was planning an extended 3 month trip to the US from July to October and then we would spend the Christmas holidays in England with my family. That was the plan anyway.
I got back home in mid-March and all hell broke loose. The UK went into lockdown and anyone in a long-distance relationship was suddenly faced with an ugly reality...we were trapped apart from our partners and with no idea for how long.
I did what everyone else did and tried to settle into lockdown life, working from home with just my cat, Ginger Rogers for company. I watched a lot of Netflix (Tiger King feels like YEARS ago) and cooked a lot of food and really elevated my food photography skills. I wrote a couple of articles on what it was like to be in a long-distance relationship during Covid that were published in Glamour and Refinery 29, and have since given interviews in a number of other publications including Stylist, Telegraph, Metro and more. The community of other people in long-distance relationships all came together via Facebook groups to support one another and share information with the goal of reuniting with our partners. I have lost count of the number of White House press conferences I have watched live online, hoping for news of the travel ban being lifted. None came, even with a change of US President. However, through these communities, I discovered that I could get to the USA using a 'third country' option. By this point, Luciano and I had been apart for 6 long months, and he came to the UK at the end of the summer for a happy 10 days together spent in isolation in a farm cottage to comply with quarantine rules. It was during this time that we hatched a plan to make my 3 month trip to the USA happen.
I eventually left the UK in mid-October when it was still legal to do so, and travelled to the USA via 2 weeks in Istanbul, Turkey to avoid the ban. As Turkey is not in the UK or Schengen area it is legal to fly to the USA, as long as you have been there for at least 14 days. I hired an Air BnB with glorious views of the Bosphorus Strait and worked remotely with daily walks along the water and a lot of help from google translate.
It was a tougher fortnight than I had expected, as essentially it was a very long layover. I have always wanted to go to Istanbul and wanted to explore and see the sights but it just wasn't safe to do so, and therefore it made for a very lonely and isolated time. But I knew it was only temporary and after a long 15 days, finally, it was time to fly and I made it to the city by the bay!
Life in San Francisco was wonderful and I had an amazing 3 months of spending time with Luc and getting to know the city, even though we were under lockdown rules for most of it. I walked on the beach most days, experienced my first Thanksgiving, went wine tasting in Napa and rang in 2021 with some delicious Domaine Carneros bubbly. January came and it seemed a scary thought to return to the UK, so I held off and took an opportunity to come to Belize to shelter from Covid amongst the incredible surroundings of Placencia.
So here we are back in the present day, and Belize! I have just extended my time here in Central America by another month, returning to the USA at the end of March and then home to the UK in late April. It really is paradise here and I am cocooned in a bubble of sun, sea and sand. They require everyone to test negative before arrival and have strict covid protocols here so it feels reassuringly safe but also like another world to the one I've been in until now. I'll be on a call and a tropical bird will start squawking loudly in the background or a manatee will start playing in the sea in front of me. I'm working hard and spend most of the time indoors in the air conditioning except for the weekends which are full of gloriously tropical activities like hiking through the jungle and jumping into waterfalls. There is also a wonderful group of creatives here, the other digital nomads, to bounce ideas off of and get inspiration from. I'll certainly never forget my time here and would recommend anyone to come, Belize is beautifully unspoiled and it's an incredibly special place.
So what's next for the world? What will I be writing on 1st March 2022? Covid has been a huge spanner in the works for all of us and a tragic one at that for so many. I hope that the following months are months of healing and rejuvenation, and a return to a way of life that allows us all to grow and achieve again, rather than tread water. I want to continue documenting my adventures in the kitchen and beyond, serving up some food and travel inspiration and developing ways to meet my life goals on my own terms, in my own way.
What are your hopes for 2021 and beyond? I'd love to know, comment below or come find me on Instagram to chat further.