I’ve started dreaming about travel.
Every morning, I wake from a dream that I’ve been swimming in the South Pacific or hiking in Italy or camping in the Thar Desert or tramping through the Bornean rainforest.
You might think that because my life usually revolves around travel, I often end up dreaming about it, but nope. I never, ever have travel-focused dreams.
And now? I’m dreaming about it every single night.
So, what’s lockdown life like in the U.K.?
I couldn’t tell you.
I literally haven’t stepped foot outside the boundaries of my house in a month.
I mentioned previously I have a health condition that could potentially put me at a higher risk to the virus, so Dave and I are staying inside to keep me safe. We haven’t even been to a supermarket.
What I can tell you is that it’s peaceful here. Strangely so. Despite living in the middle of a student-filled neighbourhood in a bustling city, I’ve barely heard a car engine in weeks. The only sound is birdsong, and at night, it’s eerily silent. If I close my eyes, I can convince myself I’m camping in the wilderness, not holing up inside while a virus rages on around me.
Last year, I isolated for three months.
Lived through a self-imposed lockdown.
This is nothing new to me.
With no idea that my previous apartment in Bristol was most likely harbouring vast swathes of mould, I fell unwell, sank into a deep depression, and stopped going outside.
What I learned from that time is that connection is everything. Rather than reaching out, I turned in and alienated myself from everybody I knew. It landed me with a mild form of agoraphobia, where, when I started going outside again, I was anxious and concerned; my comfort zone had shrunk to the size of my mouldy apartment.
And I had no friends, because I’d distanced myself from everyone.
That distancing then landed me with low self-esteem, which resulted in social anxiety and repeating the same toxic habits and beliefs in my mind.
When you don’t go outside for months on end, it’s easy to spiral.
It took many months to build myself back up, so I’m refusing to make the same mistakes again. I’m reaching out to as many people as possible during this time and trying to prevent my brain from falling apart. So far, it’s working.
The weather has been glorious here.
England just recorded its hottest April on record, so my days have been punctuated with bright blue skies and plenty of sunshine.
I’m fortunate — so very fortunate — to have a small outdoor area, so I’ve been spending lots of time outside, drinking kombucha and reading books, occasionally taking my laptop out to squint at its screen while I write another blog post about Thailand.
It’s made a huge difference to my mood to feel the sun on my skin, to top-up my vitamin D levels, to close my eyes and pretend I’m in the countryside, to marvel at how many birds and foxes are hanging out in the middle of the city.
I’m a basic bitch that’s copying everyone else.
I’m that annoying bitch that’s full of motivation and productivity.
(Working harder than I have in years)
I’m being creative as fuck.
(Cross-stitch and candle making)
I just reread those lines and was like, wow, did I just accidentally write a song???????
There have been a few articles going around about how people with anxiety and depression are feeling better, and honestly? I feel calmer than I have in years.
And I’m embarrassed to admit it because it feels weird and dickish, to be so full of peace when so many terrible things are happening in the world. I keep deleting this part of my blog post because I’m convinced somebody in the comments is going to tell me I’m a prick.
I mentioned to Dave that I wonder if I’ve had depression these last few years, because I’m so light and relaxed now and it feels so different.
Of course, I recognise that my newfound serenity comes from a place of incredible privilege.
I always thought a major pandemic would bring me to my knees and leave me unable to mentally cope, but it turns out my brain has maybe been training for a situation like this my entire life?
Let’s get on to how I’ve been spending my time in lockdown.
Last month, I shared that I’d been recreating some of my favourite dishes from around the world, whipping up some cochinita pibil and tamales for our tasting pleasure.
Well, apparently I’m missing Mexico, because I continued with last month’s theme by making chilaquiles for the first time. I couldn’t believe how easy they were to make! And they were delicious. Dave and I were surprised by how authentic they tasted. I followed this recipe.
I’ve started fermenting all over the show.
I’ve long wanted to learn how to make my own kombucha, as I spend a fortune on it every week in my grocery shopping. My gut has been ravaged by dozens of courses of antibiotics over the years, so I’m always trying to replenish my microbiome through the things I consume.
So, kombucha! I’ve bashed out batches of raspberry and blueberry flavours, and I’m having so much fun experimenting with it. Although every time I open the jar, I’m absolutely terrified I’m going to end up like this girl.
I bought a ginger bug so that I can ferment myself unlimited amounts of ginger beer. I snapped up some water kefir grains, too, for even more fermentation goodness.
And sourdough. Like everybody else, I’ve jumped on the bread-making train, and I’m so excited to start. I’ve been feeding my starter for several days and I’m going to jump in for my first attempt tomorrow. Let’s see if it will end up in the highlights or the incidents section next month.
I even had a go at making Dalgona coffee (Korean coffee), otherwise known as TikTok coffee, as it’s been huge on the platform this month. As I said, I’m spending my time in isolation mostly just copying everybody else. Dalgona coffee is basically an upside-down whipped cappuccino and it’s delicious.
As somebody who doesn’t like coffee that much, I really liked it! It reminded me of sweet Vietnamese coffee. Which is due to the sheer amount of sugar I added into the mix. Also, it was a pain in the ass to whisk by hand, so I don’t plan on ever making it again.
I’ve always wanted to find peace from adult colouring books, but I fucking hate them.
But like, for real.
I’ve always romanticised the idea of spending every evening colouring in as a way to destress and unwind, but it turns out it really doesn’t work for me. Every time I try, I get so obsessed with staying within the lines and choosing the right colours and making sure everything looks perfect that I end up grinding my teeth and giving myself a headache. For years, I’ve been trying to convert myself into somebody who has a relaxing colouring-in habit, but all it does is make me more stressed.
So, I decided to use my time in isolation to find something that doesn’t make me grit my teeth and groan with frustration.
Cross stitch! I found a starter kit on Etsy, chose a plant-themed pattern, and I’m steadily working my way through it. It’s so much fun! Finally, I’ve found an enjoyable activity to do at the end of each day. I can’t wait to do more in the future!
I’m making candles, too. Am I single-handedly keeping sellers on Etsy in business? Perhaps.
But yes, I turned back to Etsy and ordered a candle-making kit to try to learn a new skill. I love it! They were so much fun to make, super easy, and as an added bonus, I was able to use some of my essential oils I’ve had lying around for ages. I can’t wait to experiment with more scents and fill my house with dozens of homemade candles.
Last year, I bought a plant, and now I live in the Rainforest Cafe.
I’m obsessed with tropical houseplants and this month, I decided to turn to, um, Etsy, to buy some cuttings. Fun fact: if you cut a leaf off a plant in the right spot, you can place the stem/node in water or soil and it will eventually root and become a whole new plant. You can buy cuttings online for like £2, so it’s a super-inexpensive way to grab yourself some new foliage.
I bought a propagation station to put my cuttings in, and I’m also having a go at propagating some of my favourites I have at home. Free plants!
I have to be honest.
In isolation, my day-to-day life has changed very little. This is a pretty normal way of life for me. When I’m not travelling, I tend to spend long stretches inside working on pushing out blog posts from the trips I’ve just returned from.
I’d say that if there wasn’t a pandemic sweeping across the earth, I’d be doing 90% of what I’m doing now.
In some respects, a period of no travel is good for me. I have a backlog of posts like you wouldn’t believe.
In 2014, when I landed my book deal, this blog died. Back then, I had to drop everything blogging-related for a year to focus solely on writing my book, then once it launched, I suffered an acute breakdown from stress and had another solid year where I struggled to write without experiencing panic attacks.
The list of blog posts I wanted to write grew ever longer over those two years, and the subsequent four years, and I’ve never been able to fully find my footing and catch up.
There are so many places I’ve never written about.
I don’t have a single blog post about Canada, Iceland, France, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Andorra, San Marino, Austria, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Oman, or Fiji. I’ve only written one post about Vietnam, despite having spent six months there!
I’m viewing this as an opportunity to finally get up to date. If I can’t travel, I can finally write about all those trips in more detail than a mention in my monthly summaries.
Of course, I’d rather be travelling, but I’m trying to focus on the positives.
Highlights of the Month
My productivity levels are on fire: Have you noticed?
This month, I really stepped up my blogging game and published a ton of posts. I have my Patreon to thank. I set a goal that once I reached 100 patrons, I’d be committing to publishing blog posts on Never Ending Footsteps twice a week indefinitely. Knowing that you guys are paying for my content has given me a kick up the ass to make sure I’m hitting my publishing goals, pandemic be damned.
My next goal? Once I reach 250 patrons, I’ll be stepping up and consistently publishing three times a week on Never Ending Footsteps. I’m already past the half-way point to that goal!
I’ve learned how little I need to be happy: If I have shelter, food, enough income to cover said shelter and food, creative tasks to keep me busy, and a little bit of sunshine, I have all I need in order to be happy. This period of isolation is helping to remind me what’s important in life.
Lowlights of the Month
BBQ-based woes: The weather is Bristol has been sublime! We’ve just had the best weather for April since records began in 1929. Practically every single day has been full of bright skies, the temperatures have been a perfect 23 degrees, and I’ve spent a lot of time sitting outside and reading.
The one downside to all of this fabulous weather? It was perfect BBQ weather!
Wait, that’s a downside?
Given that Dave and I have resolved to not step foot inside a supermarket for the duration of the virus, we’ve had to instead opt for online deliveries from supermarkets. While this initially worked well, we had a solid period of three weeks in April when we couldn’t book a delivery. Yep, we were living off of canned food and protein bars for quite some time.
Well, we finally landed a delivery slot, and eagerly added sausages and burgers and charcoal to our order, excited to finally, finally, finally be able to make the most of this beautiful spring weather.
And then the hot spell ended.
With perfect timing, really.
The blue sky disappeared and the dark rain clouds rolled in, and I’d say it happened exactly one hour before our shopping arrived. And then it continued to rain and hail all week.
What a bummer.
Incidents of the Month
Mezcal moments: It’s no secret that I’ve been missing Mexico a lot while in isolation. I’ve been making Mexican food every couple of days and it’s been filling my stomach with joy. There was just one thing missing.
Mezcal margaritas to be precise. My favourite drink on the planet!
I decided that had to be changed. With no supermarket deliveries on the horizon, I reluctantly turned to Amazon and ordered a bottle of mezcal.
It took days to show up. Ten days of waiting with a sack of limes in hand, convinced this mezcal would make everything perfect.
Ten long days.
It was finally delivered and I excitedly disinfected the box before tearing into it.
And, well… the bottle had been opened.
The bottle had been opened and a quarter of it was missing.
I was sad.
I couldn’t even return it to Amazon because I’d need to leave the house to send it back and I was refusing to step outside. All I wanted was a mezcal margarita!
I turned to a different online store, but my order wouldn’t go through. I found another store, and that order wouldn’t go through. I found another store, and it marked my order as pending for days on end. With my arms held up in the air in surrender, I went back to Amazon and ordered mezcal from a different brand, hoping this one would be okay.
Ten loooonnnnggggg days later, it arrived and finally, I could have the mezcal margarita I’d been dreaming of. It was divine.
Two weeks later, though, I received an email. My order of mezcal had gone through. Yes, the pending order at that random online store had finally been processed and they were now sending the bottle my way. I’d completely forgotten about it and assumed it would stay pending forever.
When it arrived, a quarter of it was missing! Wait, what? Yeah. It turns out that that brand just fills their bottles three-quarters full. So now I have three bottles of mezcal.
Masa harina moments: I overestimated my cooking abilities after so many successful dishes and decided to try to make my own tortillas from scratch. I picked up some masa harina flour, meticulously followed the recipes I found online and…
It was a disaster.
It was dry, stodgy, thick, and disgusting. I think not having a tortilla press sabotaged my attempt.
What Happened Over on Patreon
Remember that time when I hooked up with three separate people in a hostel over the space of a week? No? Well, I never, ever shared that story publicly, but last month, I did on Patreon! I think this month was probably my favourite ever! I shared so many fun and dramatic stories over there.
I also made a few changes to how I run things.
I’ve changed up my $10 tier. For $10 a month, you used to get access to all of my stories plus a postcard sent your way from the places I travel to. Well, with the pandemic, I don’t see much travel in my future. To make up for that, I’ve added monthly video Q&As to the tier where you can ask me absolutely anything! I’ll still be sending out handwritten travel-themed postcards regularly, but they’ll be ones I’ve bought to support independent artists, rather than ones I’ve picked up on my non-existent travels.
I also quietly launched a travel blogging mentorship for $150 a month and I have just two spaces left for May. If you’ve been wanting to up your travel blogging game, this is your chance to do so. I’ll go over your site with a fine tooth comb and put together an enormous document with improvements, based on your long-term goals. We’ll then schedule an hour-long Skype call, where we’ll go over my suggestions in more depth and you can ask me anything about turning your blog into a business. Over time, I’ll help you rock your SEO and affiliate marketing, show you how to stand out and find your voice, and teach you how to pull in an income that’s entirely passive. I’m running this at a discounted price while I still find my feet as a mentor, so now’s the time to sign up.
Here are the stories I shared on Patreon in April:
- Bad Taxidermy Makes Me Happy: A funny photo essay about the horrifying taxidermy I stumbled across in Portugal.
- Carried Away in the Congo: The first instalment of a three-part series about the untold stories from my time in the Congo. This one was about a local who unexpectedly picked me up and carried me into a lake.
- The Calm Before One of the Scariest Moments of My Life: I spent a full day hanging out on an island in the D.R.C. that was deadlier than it looked.
- Abandoned and Afraid in the D.R.C.: Easily one of the most terrifying things to happen to me. I ended up stranded in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, without my passport or seemingly any way of getting out of the situation.
- Behind the Blogging Scenes: This super-long behind-the-scenes post shares absolutely everything that goes into writing one of my blog posts, from planning to writing to editing to SEO to competition analysis to… well, there’s a hell of a lot that goes into a single article!
- A Pickup Artist in Every Port: During my first few months of travel, I had a strange tendency to attract pickup artists. I only hooked up with one of them.
- Q&A #1 Featuring My Terrible Haircut: My first video Q&A for my $10 patrons! It features the horrifying haircut I gave myself in lockdown, where there’s a solid chunk of my hair that is many inches shorter than the rest. I also answer questions about my biggest phobia (sponges), how I got my weird nickname (Lonk), and generally fill the video with nonsense.
- The Moment That Changed Everything: A coming of age story that was quite different to my regular stuff. It’s all about finding my independence, discovering why I wasn’t enjoying travel, skinny dipping, and peeing beneath a palm tree.
If you want to join my Patreon, I’d love to have you there. Tiers start from $5 a month.
The Next Month
I’ve got lots planned for May, even though I’m fully expecting not to be able to go outside for another four weeks. Although, maybe things will improve! I’d be so happy if we were able to drive into the countryside to go for long day hikes.
Cooking wise, I’m finally going to leave Mexico and venture into Malaysia. I’m aiming to make laksa and nasi lemak this month. Ooh, and I also want to have a go at making momos! I’m also going to focus a lot on Indian food. I loved the food in India but they put turmeric in everything, which I’m intolerant to. Now, I can make all of the delicious food at home without having to endure the painful stomach cramps afterwards!
I’m going to continue riding the creativity train, too, picking up embroidery once I’ve finished my cross stitch project. I’ve also got enough wool to make a blanket, so I want to give that a go. I want to try making tie dye, as well! Tie dye is huge at the moment, so I’ll be picking up a bunch of white clothes and a handful of dye and seeing how that goes.
Plus, working and writing! I’ll be continuing to post twice a week and aiming to share plenty of funny travel stories every two or three days on my Patreon!
How was your April?