2020: My Year of Unplanned Adventure
According to the Cambridge Dictionary:
Adventure (noun): an unusual, exciting, and possibly dangerous activity, such as a trip or experience, or the excitement produced by such an activity
It's been a weird year for all of us and, like many others, a lot of things in my life haven't turned out how I'd planned them. My 2020 has been full of uncertainty, fear and stress, and at many times I've felt entirely overwhelmed and helpless by everything going on around me in the world.
Yet despite all of that, this year has also been full of many unplanned adventures, and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the positive moments this year has brought me. A lot of these aren't necessarily the typical adventures I've been writing about here on the blog, but they are all "unusual" or "exciting" moments from 2020 that I wanted to collect in one place.
Experiencing my first "Apple Wassail" (18 Jan)
On a cold and clear winter's night, Dreda and I got a lift into the Devonshire countryside to attend a Wassail – a ceremony in an apple orchard in which we sung to the trees to bless them with a good crop in the following year. This particular wassail was a celebration of the "microbial ecology of cider making," and included "a new wassail song which was sung, not only to the apple trees, but to all those things that constitute the microbial ecology of cider-making" (more information can be found on Simon Pope's website). In a very "pre-COVID" moment, a "wassail bowl" of cider was passed around for us each to sip from, as bonfires burned during sunset. This was quite possibly the most British event I have ever attended.
Hiking in North Pembrokeshire with Expedition Society (28 Feb - 1 Mar)
Back before social distancing and face masks, I had a great time exploring the Welsh coast with a group from the University of Exeter's Expedition Society. The 60 mph winds were definitely scary, but we survived everything Mother Nature threw at us and had a wonderful time. I absolutely love being by the British coast and this trip was no different.
Red Dress Hash in Paris (8 Mar)
My parents met 29 years ago at the Hash House Harriers, an international non-competitive running club (that involves a lot of drinking). I took Brett to his first (family-friendly) Hash run in Exeter in Autumn 2019, but he didn't get a taste of what the Hash is really like until we joined my parents at the Paris Hash's 1000th Run celebration weekend. Running through the streets of Paris with over a hundred people in red dresses was definitely a highlight of the trip – it's safe to say that Brett passed this relationship test!
Moving back home for lockdown (16 Mar - 1 Aug)
As borders in Europe began closing due to coronavirus, my family rushed back home from every corner of the world. When I got the ferry back to the Netherlands on the 15th of March, I had no idea I would be back home for four and a half months – the longest I've lived at home since leaving for university in September 2015! Inviting Brett to come stay with my family was a risk, but I'm so glad he decided to join us. We were lucky that the Netherland's first lockdown was pretty relaxed, so we got to enjoy Hashes around our neighbourhood, long cycle rides to the tulip fields and cocktail nights on the deck. Working on my master's dissertation remotely was definitely a challenge, but I was very happy (and privileged) to be home and safe with my family during those first crazy months of COVID-19.
Cycling to Amsterdam and back (Jun 23-25)
On our 100th day of being together in the Netherlands, Brett and I cycled 50km to Amsterdam, where we spent three days exploring the city. Due to travel restrictions from coronavirus, the city was beautifully free of tourists. We had an incredible time visiting museums, cycling along the city's canals and enjoying the warm weather. On our final morning, we got up at 5am to take pictures at the Rijksmuseum. We had the whole of Museumplein to ourselves, a magical moment that likely would have been impossible in non-corona times. On our way back to Voorschoten, we cycled through the dunes along the coast, one of my favourite routes to cycle in the Netherlands. At 72km, this is our longest cycle ride to date.
Trips on the South West Coast Path (Aug - Dec)
A highlight of this year has been getting to enjoy the South West Coast Path with Brett, Ashlynn and friends. I never planned to stay in Exeter after finishing my degree, but I have loved using this time to really explore the beauty of Devon and Cornwall. Brett and I have camped on the coast path three times now, on three very different stretches of the coast. And we're already planning our next adventure for sometime in the new year!
Getting into film photography
In our first week in the Netherlands, Brett bought a folding film camera from the 1920s and shot his first roll of black and white film. For his birthday, I bought him a film developing tank and the necessary chemicals so we could learn how to develop B&W film together. We then proceeded to completely ignore both the camera and the chemicals until our last week in the Netherlands, four months later. But since then, we have shot and developed over twenty rolls of B&W film on three different film cameras. It has been lovely getting to learn this new skill together and share it with our friends. I love that we help support and inspire one another to grow as photographers.
Moving in with Brett (30 Aug)
Having never lived with a boyfriend before, this was a big step – and one I never thought I'd be making after dating someone for less than a year! But after being together throughout the first lockdown, Brett and I knew we wanted to find a place together back in Exeter to weather out what we expected was going to be a challenging winter. We've been living together in our own flat now for three months and it's been absolutely wonderful. After sharing a house with 3+ people for so many years, it's been lovely having a space we can really make our own.
Finishing my master's degree during a global pandemic (23 Sept)
This was quite the adventure and one I think I'm still recovering from. I am proud of myself for what I managed to achieve despite the craziness of finishing off my degree during a global pandemic. Fingers crossed all this hard work eventually pays off with an actual real-life job!
Learning drops on the silks
One of the things I've missed most during this year's lockdowns is aerial silks classes. Since starting aerial classes in Spring 2019, I have loved being up in the air, feeling myself getting stronger week-on-week. This year, I have learnt how to do multiple drops on the silks, which is always a nerve-racking yet exhilarating experience. I don't have decent pictures of the drops, so here's a fabulous picture from the Halloween Choreography workshop, in which I learnt my first ever routine to music!
Wild camping on Dartmoor (18 Sept & 3 Nov)
Brett and I had our first experience wild camping together on Dartmoor, on a very last minute trip to the moorland near Ivybridge. We ate dinner by the Butter Brook Reservoir, said hi to some cows, then pitched our tent in a very exposed section of moorland (which taught us a lot about how not to choose a pitch). With this trip confirming our tent could withstand strong winds, we went back at the beginning of November for our second camping trip on Dartmoor, this time with lots more layers of clothing to keep us warm at night. Spending so much time immersed in nature while camping with Brett has definitely been one of the best unplanned adventures that this year has brought me.
Experimenting with self-portraiture
Throughout the first lockdown, I enjoyed having the time to experiment with different styles of self-portrait photography. Since being back in Devon, I have loved getting to put on my favourite red dress and take self-portraits in beautiful places we visit on our adventures. To read more about my self-portrait photography, check out this blog post!
First Christmas away from my parents
While I normally go home for Christmas, due to visa concerns, this year we'd planned for my parents to join me and my sister in Exeter where we could celebrate the holiday season together. Unfortunately, like many families, covid derailed our plans and prevented us from travelling to be with each other. I'm very lucky that Ashlynn could still make it to Exeter and we have enjoyed having this time together to go on hikes and curl up under layers of blankets on the couch. This picture was taken on film during our Christmas tree decorating call with our parents, a very 2020 moment.
Starting an adventure and photography blog
I've been feeling a little uneasy about my relationship with Instagram, especially over the last couple of months. Looking for a different way to share my photography and stories, I decided to start this blog, which has definitely been a mini-adventure in itself! I've really enjoyed writing about our hikes and I look forward to sharing more adventures in 2021!
If you managed to get to the end of this article, thank you so much. I hope that whatever craziness this year brought you, you were able to have some adventures, even if they were untraditional ones. All my love and best wishes for the new year.