7 Lessons Learned in 2020

2020 aka Jumanji aka Unprecedented Times, however, you describe it, I believe there are valuable takeaways from this year. Here are my 7 Lessons Learned in 2020:

1) Love Prevails.

Social distancing guidelines didn’t stop us from finding creative ways to celebrate each other. I’ve attended so many fun Zoom birthday parties and even a Zoom wedding! My favorite part about virtual gatherings is that I don’t have to think about a commute. I just roll right into my bed and spend time with the people I care about and love.

2) Cultivate untethered happiness and inner peace by living in the moment.

One of my biggest realizations this year was that my happiness was mainly tied to my travels, events, goals, etc. – which in essence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But the emptiness I felt when all of this was disrupted wasn’t healthy. This emptiness propelled me to search hard for internal happiness. I realized that true happiness is meant to be cultivated in the moment and not tethered to plans.

Here are some ways I got to a place of inner peace:

Lots of at-home yoga

The YouTube channel, Yoga with Adriene was a saving grace for me! Adriene’s videos have a special way of making your body and soul feel good. She has hundreds of videos for any emotion or ailment you’re going through from anxiety to back pain and everything in between. I also attended my good friend, Malaika Maitland’s In your Element Yoga Therapy & Journaling Series. This series was inspired by the elements of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. I loved having an intimate community to practice yoga and process emotions together.

Finally got around to scrapbooking

I have hundreds of pictures printed from my travels over the years. I’ve been meaning to use the photos to scrapbook for a while now but never had the time. Our societal pause gave me the time to reflect on old adventures and relive them as I got crafty.

Walks around the neighborhood & Trips to local parks

Whenever I was feeling overwhelmed with varying emotions, I realized it’s because I unknowingly spent days inside my apartment. I consciously and actively made efforts to take walks around my neighborhood for purposes other than a grocery store run. I also took weekly trips to Saint Nicholas Park to get my nature fix.

3) Being yourself is always MORE than ENOUGH.

I launched my YouTube Channel earlier this year with hopes of documenting all my exciting travels that were supposed to happen in 2020. For a large part of the year, I had minimalal energy and decided just to focus my creative efforts on my Instagram as that’s where the majority of my online community was based.

In August, my friend and popular YouTube Food Vlogger, Mike Chen reached out to me to film a Soul Food in Harlem vlog for his channel. Filming was so much fun, but I was a little nervous about how I would be perceived by Mike’s 3+ million subscribers. I went back and forth about whether I should read the thousands of comments. I ultimately read some of them and they were overwhelmingly positive and hilarious! Beyond the many comments matchmaking Mike and I, people loved my camera presence, my personality, and wanted to see more of me. They enjoyed me so much that my subscribers shot up from 200 to 2,000+ over a few days.

While I do know that the best validation is internal validation, the response from this video reminded me that 1) I need to produce more video content 2) being myself is just enough. There’s comfort in knowing that no matter how much my social following grows there’s no need to change who I am. Authenticity always wins.

4) Support your friends like you support major companies.

There were so many small businesses impacted by the pandemic. This year more than ever I felt there was a huge collective push to buy from small businesses.

One of my best friends, Carolina Ramirez launched her lifestyle photography business, Visuals By Caro. This past year, she has helped me create content for some of my major brand campaigns including Greyhound and Lyft. She is a creative genius and inspires me daily. Contact her if you’re looking for a lifestyle photographer in NYC who can capture your magic!

5) Beauty can be found in your own backyard.

If you would have told me the only country I would visit in 2020 was Ghana, I would have looked at you sideways. Prior to the pandemic, I had plans to travel to Japan, Colombia, Rwanda, and the Philippines. Although it was soul-crushing for me to cancel those trips, I know it was just a short-term sacrifice for the greater good and it led me to gain a new appreciation for domestic exploration.

Here’s how I refamiliarize myself with NY (my home state):

Despite being born and raised in NYC, I never really took the time to thoroughly explore NY state, which has so much to offer a nature enthusiast like myself. One of the things that brought me a lot of joy this year were weekend getaways and hiking my way through different areas of NY. Here are some of the highlights:

Day trip to Anthony’s Nose in Hudson Valley

Can you believe this beautiful view is only a 45-minute drive from Harlem?!

Weekend Getaway to the Catskills

You probably see Getaway cabins all over your IG timeline. These cozy cabins are worth all the hype. They provide you with everything you need to unplug and zen out!

Read more: Getaway Cabin Experience in Catskills East

Weekend vacation to Niagara Falls, NY

I have a thing for chasing waterfalls and visiting Niagara Falls has been on my bucket list for years. The Canadian side was closed during my visit, but there was so much richness to explore in Niagara Falls NY anyway.

Read more: Guide to the Niagara Falls NY

Weekend Escape to Lake George, NY

Lake George is another beautiful area in upstate NY. We rented a massive AirBnB with a stunning view of the mountains. This house made me want to buy a vacation home in Lake George! During the weekend, we went on a challenging hike on Buck Mountain and took a day trip to Vermont to visit the Life Sculpture Park and go kayaking.

Weekend in the Hamptons

The Hampton Hunnies took Sag Harbor by storm! The food, the views, the decadence was everything I needed from a Hamptons trip!

Orchard Beach

I haven’t been to NYC beach since I was a child! I’ve been spoiled by visiting some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But this beach was better and cleaner than I expected. I didn’t get in the water. I was just happy to be by the water

6) Getting dressed up is a form of self-care.

When NYC went into Phase 2, outdoor dining was allowed. It felt so good to get dressed up and have meals at my favorite local restaurants.

7) Stay open to change. Everything works itself out in due time.

Once I decided to relinquish control over my life and stay open to change, so many major life shifts happen. This included me getting back into public health after working for a few years in marketing and purchasing a home in ATL, where I’m set to move to early next year!

On a travel note, two of my favorite trips this year all happened on a whim on two weeks notice:

Yellowstone National Park

Over the summer, I called my college mentor who now lives in Montana. I was craving a quick getaway and wanted to visit her. She and her husband were going to be away for the summer in Martha’s Vineyard, but she offered me her house in Bozeman while she was away. I was so grateful for her generosity! Bozeman was stunning and it was a great starting point to travel to Yellowstone Park, the 1st National Park!

Spontaneous Trip to Big Bear Mountain

My travel blogger bestie, Josh and I are both Libras. We decided to do rent out a beautiful house in Big Bear Mountain and have a hiking weekend. We hiked Castle Rock Trail twice because it was so beautiful!

In a strange twisted way, 2020 was a prosperous year for me. It feels strange writing this knowing the great loss and pain we suffered as a global community. And, through that pain was even more gain as it served as a mirror into the soul of our society and inner-being. It bought things to light that we could no longer hide from and allowed for true healing to happen. And for that I’m grateful!

Let me know about your 2020 wins and lesson learned in the comment box below.

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Jewels Rhode

Frequent Flyer. Chief Enjoyment Officer. Helping you make your travel dreams a reality!