I began to put this monthly summary together for June then remembered I hadn’t published one in May!
That was deliberate.
There are so many important conversations and movements taking place in the world right now that I simply couldn’t bring myself to write a tone-deaf post about how my life is tough because I can no longer travel.
I decided to take a step back from publishing in June to instead focus on donating, signing petitions, and supporting the Black Lives Matter protests from afar. And Bristol was in the news! I was so proud of the protestors of my adopted home for toppling the Colston statue and chucking him in the harbour.
At the start of May, my laptop broke.
Talk about bad timing.
Due to the pandemic, delivery times for Macbooks were stretching out for as long as four weeks, which is just about how long it took to receive mine. Then it was faulty out of the box, but that’s a story for a time when I’m feeling more whiny.
What that means is that I spent much of the past two months attempting to run my business from an iPhone and a seven-year-old Chromebook. Let’s just say that meeting my deadlines proved to be a bit of a challenge. Let’s just say I never want to write a 4,000 word blog post on a phone ever again.
Still, ten weeks later, I’m back in action; back at it again! So let’s dive into how I spent my May/June.
The most exciting news I have to share is that I started leaving my house again!
In May, the British government loosened up restrictions so that residents could now jump in a car in order to get some exercise in. I took full advantage of this and set about hiking my heart out around Southwest England.
I’ve long said that one of the reasons why I decided to move to Bristol over London was due to its accessibility to nature.
Within a short drive, you can be in The Cotswolds, the Mendips, the Wye Valley, and a dozen more areas of stunning natural beauty. In other words, you’ve got several hundred walking tracks to trek along — ranging from short nature trails to the 600+ mile Southwest Coast Path.
It was about time I started exploring more of them.
The vast majority of our hikes took place in the Cotswolds on sunny weekdays, when there were few people around and the views were magnificent.
Our first challenge was a nine-mile hike, which ordinarily would have been an easy walk for me, but man alive! It felt like my muscles had been reduced to something that resembled strips of uncooked bacon, flapping inside my skin casing. I’m atrophied, guys. I’d honestly guess I’ve got in maybe 50 steps a day over the 10 weeks of lockdown, so all of this unexpected movement left me struggling.
Still, that was just motivation to hit the hills more often and start building my strength back up.
While I was all about the crafting in April, I’ve found little time to dedicate to it since then.
Apart from this painting.
Dave loves all things campervan and wilderness, so this month, I decided to paint him a scene of exactly what he’s spent his lockdown fantasising about.
In April, I shared my adventures in bread-baking and fermentation, and the month before that, I tried my hand at Mexican food, whipping up cochinita pibil, tamales, and chilaquiles.
Throughout May and June, I continued the food theme and tried my hand at making even more of my favourite dishes!
Samosas, momos, pho, bun rieu, nasi lemak, jerk chicken, lamb tagine… I’ve developed such a passion for cooking while in lockdown that I find myself counting down the days until I can rustle up something new!
This is 32.
Happy birthday to me!
I turned 32 in June and to celebrate, I had to get a photo with me and all of my closest friends.
Obviously a pandemic is not the perfect backdrop for a birthday celebration, but I made the most of it regardless. It was a chilled-out day, filled with good food, ridiculous photoshoots, and plenty of sunshine.
My new hobby for 2020 is roller skating.
And it turns out I’m terrible at it.
I know everyone reading this will be like, well, no shit, Lauren, you’re a clumsy motherfucker.
But it was surprising to me!
I’m a decent ice skater and I spent a solid five years rollerblading around town when I was younger, so I fully expected to take to it within a matter of minutes.
I did not at all!!!
I am very bad at roller skating!!!!!!
It turns out I can’t even skate the twenty feet down our driveway without windmilling my arms and rolling out of control. Maybe I need to get back to roller blading instead? I thought roller skating would be easier! It’s not!!!!
Still, at least my skates are beautiful.
What Happened Over on Patreon
I have a Patreon! In recent years, I’ve learned that my storytelling posts no longer do well in the world of travel blogging. They take days to put together and I make no money from any of that work, making it a poor use of my time from a running-a-business perspective. I started a Patreon as a way for you guys to help support my creative work while receiving funny travel essays in return.
And wow, have the last three months been busy. I published over 40,000 words on my Patreon over that time, which is around half the length of my book! I’m exhausted. Here’s what I’ve been sharing:
- I Thought Dave’s Dad was Batman: I well and truly embarrassed myself while participating in the Dean family quiz night.
- Why I’ll Never Make It as an Influencer: The response to this post absolutely blew me away! I’ve never had so many likes and comments on a Patreon post before. It’s all about how I’m the absolute worst at trying to be an influencer.
- I Bought 68 Years’ Worth of Tea I Don’t Like: Not even clickbait.
- The Stories Behind My Favourite Travel Souvenirs: Why do I own an enormous guinea fowl that’s the size of my torso? What made me buy a giant antelope horn that wouldn’t fit in my backpack? Why do I feel drawn to oversized souvenirs?
- Vietnam Changed Everything: A write-up of my 10-day motorbike trip around the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. I’d never written about this incredible experience on Never Ending Footsteps before, despite it being one of my most formative adventures.
- Everything from the Camino de Santiago: 14 long-form stories — one for every day on the Camino. I was thrilled by how much everybody enjoyed reading these super-personal diaries! Each day, I shared around 2,000 words on my day of walking, publishing unseen photos, so many gory details, and a detailed look at what it’s really like to undertake a long-distance hike hike.
My Patreon costs $5 a month and for that, you receive access to all of my favourite untold travel stories, gain behind-the-scenes dives into the reality of life as a travel blogger, and get to read all 60 of my previously-published stories. You can think of my Patreon as a second travel blog — one that’s ad-free, focused only on travel stories, and gets way more personal than I’m comfortable doing here.
I put all of the money I earn from my Patreon back into my business, although I occasionally donate the revenue to charity. In February, I donated the entirety of my Patron income to Mission Rabies and in May, I donated it to Black Lives Matter U.K.
Highlights of the Month
A weirdass birthday: A pandemic party! I turned 32 in June and decided to celebrate by taking a bunch of embarrassing photos with my favourite plants.
I had a lovely day overall, with most of my gifts based around houseplants and crafting because both bring me so much joy right now.
My birthday dinner was particularly well-orchestrated, as my sister sent me a cook-your-own-burger kit and ordered one for my family to put together at the same time. We rustled up our meals together over Skype and half-way through, somebody from my favourite pub in Bristol popped over with some surprise birthday cocktails!
It made a strange birthday feel so magical.
My first time leaving the house: At the start of May, I realised I hadn’t been outside my front gate for over two months. Fortunately, the restrictions on exercise were soon lifted, and I took my feeble body out into the hills.
It felt so good to get back out in nature.
Getting to see my blogger friends succeed: I mentioned at the start of lockdown that something I wanted to do throughout these strange times was support my blogging friends!
I was so excited, then, to see my friend Kristin of Be My Travel Muse launch her very own clothing brand! Wanderbabe Clothing marries fashion with comfort and throws in a huge helping of sustainability. Most of her clothes are made using solar energy and 10% of all proceeds go towards supporting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
I’ve been wearing my goal digger sweatshirt and pink moonrise leggings non-stop since she sent them to me, and even received compliments from friends when I wore them to the park! Her beautiful clothes are soooooo soft and comfortable! Go check them out and show her some love.
The best Sunday roast: I was scrolling through Instagram on a Saturday night when I spotted one of my favourite pubs had a few takeaway roasts up for grabs. Of course I wanted to get my hands on those! We texted back and forth with the landlord to put in our order, then found ourselves devouring one of the best roasts in the city the following morning.
I got to see my parents: When my family all received negative COVID-19 tests, it felt like the perfect time to see them. I ordered a couple of tests for me and Dave — my worst-and-very-dramatic fear is asymptomatically infecting my parents and killing them — and when they both showed negative, we felt comfortable enough to drive over to see them.
We spent a fun-filled weekend hanging out with my family, venturing into London to see Dave’s brother, and enjoying having a greater sense of normality in a world gone haywire.
A blog traffic return: This month, my traffic and income began a slow and steady climb back towards its normal levels. A traffic boost from Google saw my ad revenue jumping back up to 70% of its normal levels, and I even made a dozen affiliate sales from people booking future trips.
It’s far too early to assume things will return to normal normal, but I’m feeling optimistic.
I’m feeling fortunate to live in Bristol: The southwest of the U.K. has been barely touched by COVID-19, and I feel so grateful not to be living in the epicentre of it all. We’ve had just a couple of deaths in Bristol over the past three weeks. Of course, it hasn’t altered my behaviour and I’m still taking a ton of precautions.
But it feels good to slowly let out my leash. After spending a solid three months inside, I’m meeting friends outside for weekly picnics and wine in the parks.
Lowlights of the Month
A full month without a laptop: The pandemic makes for some seriously extenuating circumstances, but shelling out $3,000 on a new laptop and then realising you have to wait over a month for it to be delivered? When having access to a laptop is the sole thing you need in order to run your business and make money? I was tearing my hair out at times!
Most of all, I was frustrated I couldn’t hit my deadlines. I try to publish every few days on my Patreon and here on Never Ending Footsteps, but without access to a laptop, it felt impossible. I tried to compose 4,000 word blog posts on my iPhone and everything ended up taking 20 hours longer than usual. I basically achieved nothing in May because of it.
Giving myself no downtime: In April, I was all about having inside-based fun. I was learning how to cross stitch and embroider, propagating my plants, cooking some of my favourite dishes, making candles, and hitting all of my work goals.
Last month, it all fell apart. Without a laptop, I had to make do with trying to run my business from my phone or wrestling with Dave’s seven-year-old Chromebook. I simply had no time to just sit down and read or try to pick up a new creative hobby.
I honestly wish I’d given up, accepted I wouldn’t be able to work in May, and spent that time enjoying some much-needed downtime. Instead, I spent 15 hours a day in front of my phone, working my ass off, and not achieving anything by the end of it.
What a waste of time.
Agonising over my future: As I’ve watched New Zealand clear out its COVID-19 cases and seen Kiwi friends’ lives return to normal, it’s led to a hell of a lot of debate.
Dave and I spend so much money on rent in Bristol, all so that we can live in the heart of this vibrant city. Right now, we’re receiving none of the benefits that come from that.
Knowing that wonderful New Zealand has no community transmission and that people there are living a normal life, going to restaurants and concerts and sporting events… well, it makes me feel pretty envious.
In the back of our minds, there’s the knowledge that we can have that, too. Dave can return to New Zealand and I could potentially move with him as his partner. We’d be able to set up a home there.
When I speak to doctor friends in the U.K. and they predict the pandemic lasting for three or four years, it leaves me wondering if it’s time to move to the other side of the world.
I’m not ready to leave Bristol right now, but New Zealand sure is looking tempting.
Incidents of the Month
I have no idea how to look after cacti: I find caring for needy, tropical houseplants easy these days now that I’ve figured out what each one needs. I fall apart, though when it comes to succulents and cacti. The second I water them, they die, and when I don’t water them, they also die.
I couldn’t stop laughing when I wandered over to my cactus this month and spotted it flailing over the edge of the pot, accurately showcasing my mood throughout 2020.
Date night cupcakes gone wrong: Dave and I decided to make vegan red velvet cupcakes for a date night back in May, so I gleefully bought all of the ingredients.
We mixed everything up, then realised we had quite a dilemma on our hands. Because the only sugar we had in the house was cubed. And, well, that doesn’t really work for baking cakes.
And so, in the middle of our date night, we sat at the kitchen table and pounded 500g of sugar cubes with a mortar and pestle, one by one, trying to grind them into granulated sugar.
It took over an hour and it was not at all the definition of A Good Time. Nor was it quite what we’d had in mind for our romantic date.
A car breakdown: We’d spent all morning researching where to head to on our very first hike. We’d decided on a lovely spot in the Mendips, packed our bags, and set out for the countryside.
Well, we would have done, if it weren’t for the fact that our car wouldn’t start.
Yep, our battery was totally-and-perhaps-not-surprisingly flat.
My Next Steps
I have no idea what July will bring, but I’m keeping my optimism levels high. I’m hoping for a craft-filled month with plenty of outdoor time.
In terms of travel, I have to say that knowing much of Europe is available to explore is suuuuuper tempting, but I’m trying to be more ethical with my travel decisions. I don’t need to travel and my desire to do so should not take precedence over other people’s safety.
But that’s okay — it just gives me a reason to explore more of my homeland!
(Safely, responsibly, and away from other people).
I’ve never camped before, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to try, so I plan on dipping my toes into the water sooner rather than later. I’m aiming to try out wild camping for the first time in July, and I’d love to set out on a week-long walk, carrying a tent and food and everything else I’d need.
One of my goals for 2020 was to buy a campervan and head out on a European road trip, but with that now off the cards, I’m considering renting one instead.
That way, I could set off on a drive around the countryside, hiking and exploring beautiful places in the U.K. I’d likely head to Cornwall or into Wales, but I’m also contemplating taking the car ferry to Ireland for a road trip.
Who knows if it would even be enjoyable? I’d be avoiding beaches and anywhere with crowds, cooking in the van instead of eating out, and generally masking-up and staying away from humans as much as possible. Does that sound like a fun vacation to you? ‘Cause I’m not so sure about it.
I’m going to be launching a new business this month, too! There’s no time like the pandemic to try my hand at something new. And you guessed it! It’s going to be houseplant-based. I’ll have more to share on that next month.