The Lost Year: What Comes Next?

A photo of Nomadic Matt alone on a beach
Posted: 10/19/2020 | October 19th, 2020

When you look back at 2020, what do you think you’ll remember most about it?

For me, it will be the lost momentum.

When the year began, it looked like it would be the Year of Matt (take that, “Summer of George”!). TravelCon was gaining a reputation as a “must attend” event in the industry, this website was on track to have its best year yet, and I was finally going to build a life for myself in Austin: I joined social clubs, took cooking classes (and even one on gardening), and signed up for volunteering. I planned to date and was even thinking about buying a house later in the year.

Life was falling into place.

Then, COVID swept through the world and wrecked everything in its path.

Now, as 2020 takes its final lap, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that those plans from the start of the year won’t be realized. The pandemic still rages in America. Many businesses remain shuttered. Companies — especially in the travel space — are closing for good. There’s massive unemployment. Most of the world’s borders are sealed (especially to Americans). Plus, you also have wildfires, racial inequality, a looming Supreme Court battle, and an upcoming election. It’s a mess! This year’s been a shit show.

Unlike other countries that had full lockdowns and strong institutions to control their outbreaks, we had mixed messages from the start (we got 50 states and 50 diffierent policies.) and couldn’t even stay inside long enough to flatten the curve. Masks have become a political lightning rod that people are fighting and killing over (And example 3 and 4 of many).

And I heard “COVID is a hoax” enough on my road trip to make me realize too many this problem is here to stay. (And that was all before Trump got COVID!)

I don’t believe the United States is going to get COVID under control anytime soon. Like a fever that has to burn itself out, there’s nothing that can stop it at this point. It will just be wave after wave until it’s over.

Last month on my drive back to Austin, I began to ponder the remaining months of the year. What would I do with them? Could I salvage any of 2020?

Everything I want to do here in Austin is still closed (as it should be given the virus).

I fault no one for wanting to lock themselves inside until there is a vaccine.

And, when you have a family or are married or retired, it might be easier to stay home. You have others to lean on. Or maybe you have a house and space to spread out. You might even have a backyard!

But what if you live alone? Single? What if you were hoping this was the year you found love? What if you live in an apartment with no outdoor access? What happens when the loneliness becomes too much?

“COVID fatigue” is bound to set in.

And I am fatigued.

I know I have it much better than others. Millions are suffering much worse. I recognize how lucky I am to even have savings to draw upon to continue to support my business and keep my staff employed. I know I’m lucky to even have a job. I don’t have a brick-and-mortar business that requires rent. I was able to get a couple of loans to keep things going, I can still afford my apartment, and I don’t worry about my next meal.

But that doesn’t make my own struggles any less important to me. They don’t cause me less anxiety when I see my savings depleted, business not improving, and my social and dating life ground to a halt.

I mean what happens when the money is gone? What happens if TravelCon can’t take place in April?

The anxiety keeps me up at night.

When so many others refuse to do the right thing, it all seems so futile. Society only works when we work together. And it just feels like this country is coming apart and that all the sacrifices we made were for naught.

Everything feels hopeless right now. I’m just so mentally exhausted.

So, I’ve decided to take action.

Next month, I’m moving to Mexico for the winter. A few of my friends have moved there and I’ve decided to join them after the election.

I know it’s weird to want to move during a pandemic – and Mexico has its own problems – but, in many ways, it’s better than Texas.1 According to my friends, people wear masks more and the virus is taken more seriously.

And, while I still don’t plan to frequent massive gatherings or anything, if I’m going to be confined somewhere, I’d rather be confined in a more tropical setting, closer to the beach and the water.

As I said, I know others have it much worse than me. I count my blessings, but as I watch so much of what I built — professionally and personally — crumble (and as someone already prone to anxiety that once caused panic attacks), I need a mental break.

I don’t know how long I’ll stay there. Heck, by the time I plan to go, the world may have changed again. If 2020 has reinforced anything, it’s that a lot can happen in a day.

But I have a chance to end the year on a high note.

And I’m going to take it.

1 – I’ll get a COVID test before I go and then another after I arrive. I will wear a mask, avoid crowds, wash my hands all the time, and social-distance while there. A number of travel insurance companies now offer medical coverage related to COVID so I’ll be getting a policy that covers that too.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years.

My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel — and I think will help you too!

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