The plan had been a simple one. A one-way flight to Miami at the beginning of January, where I would spend a week or so marvelling at Art Deco architecture and exploring one of the world’s leading street art scenes. Perhaps a couple of weeks making my way down US Route 1 all the way to Key West, where I would channel my inner Hemingway sipping on a Cuba Libre and get used to my new-found freedom in the Florida sunshine. Oh how tiresome unemployment can be.

But then the real business would begin. A short hop over to the Bahamas, Haiti, and further hardships to endure in the Caribbean; into the western half of South America, detouring via Panama and the Guyanas. After conquering the Andean nations, a leap over to Australia, via Easter Island & French Polynesia. Using my beloved Melbourne as a base for several months, both to catch up with old friends and to explore the farthest reaches of the Pacific Ocean. Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Federated States of Micronesia, all exotic names I have longed to visit since the very dawn of time.

Into Asia, and the sensory overload that only the world’s largest continent can deliver. Where to begin? From the inescapable chaos of the planet’s busiest megalopolises to pristine natural beauty in its most isolated form; but also Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the many other countries in the news for all the wrong reasons. I would visit The Gates Of Hell, at long last, and India must be afforded 3 months, at the very least. Asia will exhaust and exhilarate in equal measures, again: the one continent I will never understand but that will always bewilder me.

And finally, Africa: the continent of my birth, with a magnetic pull that grows stronger with each visit. Mama Africa, who offers the most challenging yet rewarding travel there can be. Where military coups, the threat of terrorism, and logistical cluster… bombs are offset by the warmth of the people and the sheer, unadulterated joy of having most of this exciting continent to myself. Africa is where this journey would finish, toasting the accomplishment of my objective in a seedy locals’ bar with a terrible lager brewed from cassava, surrounded by complete strangers and absolutely loving it.

After two and a half years visiting war zones and tropical paradises, dodging land mines and watery cocktails, a triumphant return to Europe having visited every country in the world. To Portugal, where I would open a craft beer bar with the finest selection of meats and cheeses in the land. My wanderlust sated (temporarily), I would sit at my counter chewing the fat with regular customers and nomadic epicures, making the world come to me, for once. A simple plan, as already stated.

With the necessary funds diligently saved, a very rough itinerary prepared, and one final Madrid summer to enjoy, what could possibly go wrong?

Quite a lot, it would seem, as I await the new year’s midnight chimes with a very different sense of trepidation to that which I was expecting. If 2020 represents the planned closure of several chapters of my life (a 23 year career in international sales; the wonderful life as an expatriate in Madrid…), it has also torn up any preconceived travel journal for 2021, set it on fire with a 10 gallon drum of kerosene, and stamped on its dying ashes with a pair of steel toe-capped boots.

I suspect this is partly the universe’s way of punishing me for putting together a structured plan for the first time in my life, admonishing me for not being spontaneous enough. I will accept this judgement with good grace and return to the drawing board – plans are made to be changed, after all. And so, as 2021 approaches fast, I will join the entire human race in wishing good riddance to 2020. I am excited beyond belief to have the opportunity to start a new life, to make new plans; but also to change them time and time again, and as many times as is necessary. There is no rule book anymore. There will be great adventures in 2021, and half the fun lies in not knowing what they will be.

Happy New Year – see you all somewhere in 2021!

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