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A Year of No Travel


photo of me by Katie Donnelly

photo of me by Katie Donnelly

I have struggled to write down my feelings over the past year. I start and never finish. At the start of all the craziness, I was going to write a quarantine diary and post updates. It never happened. We thought this was going to last a few weeks, maybe a few months. A whole year feels like one big blur. It feels so strange and so surreal a year later.

This past weekend, it was mentioned by someone that it has been a year since we had the last “normal” weekend before lockdown began. It hit me and I couldn’t hold back the tears.

At the start of 2020, I had two ski trips planned. I had never been skiing and I thought 2020 would be the year I would learn to ski. I had my first trips to Colorado and Utah and while it was a challenge, learning to ski was also a lot of fun. I saw my brother-in-law in Utah, his trip happened to overlap mine. We had talked about a family ski vacation with the kids in March/early April.

I hadn’t booked any trips to Paris for 2020 but was talking about possibly going in February. That trip got pushed out and it never happened. I had been working on a concierge series with different hotels in Paris. One for every month featuring insider tips from concierges around the city of Paris. I was writing the posts in advance to them ready to go and I was really enjoying connecting with the hotels, their staff, and learning about new places in my favorite city.

When I watched the news about the virus and lockdown in China, I never thought that could be us. I stocked up on groceries at Costco, frozen foods, toilet paper, and meats. We heard two weeks, maybe four? Not a year…

My sister celebrated her birthday out at a restaurant with my family in Florida, that weekend her party with friends was canceled. Restaurants and schools started to close with no date of reopening.

My grandmother passed away in March, she was 94. We have had our struggles in our relationship over the years but we reconnected about 10 years ago. I am grateful that we were able to talk before she passed and Emma has memories of meeting her a few years ago.

A month later my birthday was celebrated away from my family as the whole world was locked down. One of my friends called me who had a birthday the following month. She mentioned how upset she would be if the world was still locked down on her birthday. Not much changed in that month. I think it is safe to say that we all had a quarantine birthday and some of us (my sister and I both) will have two! It has only been a year but I feel like 2020 has aged me more than any other year.

The stress of the unknown and the health and safety of loved ones have always been on my mind. I watched the news pretty regularly with Lester Holt. The news of the virus and the death rates triggered sleepless nights and anxiety I skipped out of the nightly news for months.

It feels strange being a travel photographer without a year of travel. I have photographed Paris since 2010 and I know the city better than Chicago. Just a year before, I traveled to Paris four times. I feel lucky to have an inventory of photographs from all the years of my travels and my business has survived another year in these uncertain times. I always had pride when sharing my profession when people asked. I went from being laid off to creating my own dream job. Now when I tell people I am a travel photographer, they always ask how I am managing without going anywhere.

This past year has been the hardest in my business when it comes to being creative and motivated. Paris has been my inspiration and foundation of my business for ten years. There are days when I sort through photos for a project and my heart aches for Paris. I cannot wait to return. It is probably what keeps me pushing through this hard time knowing that I will return at some point and not take any moment for granted.

Along with being a full-time travel photographer, I write this blog titled Every Day Parisian. The blog was centered around the city of Paris, tips on where to eat, where to stay, and what to do, and what to pack. If no one was traveling to Paris… what would I write about? I learned to pivot quickly as I know so many of us have in 2020. This is where The Frenchify Series began last March. I am so happy it was a hit with readers. What I thought was a series that may last a few weeks, has lasted a year. Readers have even requested that I turn the Frenchify series into a book. One of the bright spots this year was the extra time I had to write and get to know my readers on a more personal level. I feel more connected with readers this year than ever before.

There are three more bright spots of this past year.

Being away from my family has been one of the most challenging parts. In a way, I feel this year has brought us closer together. We have a family text chain that is filled with photos, stories, and messages of love. We have spent birthdays, celebrations, and cocktail hours over Facetime. I have started the Cookie Club where I send my family boxes of cookies so we can all feel a way to connect from far away. Auntie Cookies and biscotti are the favorites. Emma loves to call just to say hi and she enjoys just talking about what she is learning or reading. I cannot wait to hug my niece and nephew in person. I think about our reunion often and what that will be like. We have a year of birthdays to celebrate so I know there will be a lot of cake and ice cream and so many snuggles.

Quarantine Cooking. This past year has challenged me in the kitchen. While I have always had a love of cooking/baking. I continue to learn new recipes and new cuisines I never would have thought I could make at home. I added a Recipe Master List to the blog for all my favorite recipes. I have also learned to kitchen prep and become BFFs with leftovers.

HENRI! I never thought I would be a dog mom or how much joy a dog could bring. He is napping next to me as I write this. He has brought me so much love and comfort in the past few months. I needed him more than I thought I did. I am so happy to hear from readers on how much you enjoy watching him grown and about our adventures.

I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you the future of 2021. The start of the year has felt much like 2020. I can’t wait to travel again, to be inspired, to photograph and make new memories. I have started to book and plan travel for 2021. There is a trip to see my family that has been moved too many times to count but it is still the first trip I will take. Italy is planned for the Summer of 2021 (fingers and toes crossed as this will be my first vacation). Paris will happen as soon as it is safe. ❤️

If you are struggling, please know that you are not alone. I am sending you lots of love and Henri kisses from the two of us. There are a lot of outlets to help you cope with your feelings and therapy is always a good one. You. can see someone virtually from home. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend, loved one, or stranger for help processing or dealing with your feelings.

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    • Thank you, Rose! It was not easy to write but it was important to share and to remember how I am feeling and what I have been through this last year. xo

  1. You have been such an inspiration this past year! Thank you for all your research, your brutal honesty in telling your readers how you feel and cope with everything! I look forward to more of your favorites, posts, news of Henri, and your artwork! Merci! Maria

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this – as I approach my second birthday in quarantine, I keep thinking how this year of my life has felt like the Lost Year. So many plans canceled or postponed again and again. Through it all, your blog and social media has been such a bright spot (and my beautiful calendar you created doesn’t hurt either!). And honestly, to watch how you were able to pivot your content is just awe-inspiring! Sending hugs to you and Henri, and fingers and toes crossed for all the wonderful plans that lie ahead in 2021!

  3. Thank you from Australia, your calendar with its wonderful photographs is in my study and I dream of Visiting Paris again. We are now moving into Autumn (your Fall) and we too are enjoying the company of our beautiful cocker spaniel. We have not seen our daughter for more than a year as she lives in Queensland and the interstate borders have been closed. Hopefully will see her soon. Thank you once again, love your series, so nice to read and see images of things to come. Take care and love to you and all your readers.

  4. It’s been such a hard time for the world. And it feels like it’s never going to end some days. We daughters and I were to travel to London in July 2020. We had a horrific 2019 and were hoping to kickstart ourselves back into happiness with travel. Instead, we were in lockdown, home schooling, and learning to adjust to all sorts of “new” things. We did manage a trip to Michigan’s UP and have a trip planned to coastal Oregon this summer. But, it’s certainly not Europe!
    Your blog and Instagram page have been a fun and colorful vacation for me!

  5. I was to visit Paris for the first time with my two teen daughters, sister, niece, and Mom in May, 2020. I had spent so much time thinking about (and dreaming up!) our itinerary, where to eat, and MY OUTFITS :-)! While my logical side understood, I was also crushed coming to terms that this trip was not happening in 2020 🙁 I found your blog by total accident on a night in May when we would have been in Paris and instead we listened to one of your French playlists. I had the realization with a little mind shift we could bring Paris to us! Your frenchify series really helped me through out the year and in particular how little indulgences can add up and improve your life in big ways! It sounds crazy but I know when the day comes and we are able to make the trip IRL (spring 2022 fingers crossed 🙂 we will be able to maximize the trip even more from learning so much from you on French culture, etc!!! Keep writing – and maybe even consider a series Paris 101 for us newcomers! 🙂 Thank you!

  6. Beautiful reflection, Rebecca. Like all hardship, it’s shown us parts of ourselves we would have never known. We will never forget the challenges and yes, the sweet simplicities of this past year.

  7. Curious as to what your plans are for sweet Henri when you do travel. I was lucky that when we got our Zoey she was in puppy training at the SPCA. I asked her teacher what she thought about this business that boards dogs – very expensive – and the teacher said she boards in her home. Since then, Zoey has spent as much as a month there and loves it! There are usually 3-4 other dogs and she has the best time as she is not stuck in a crate by herself all day. She literally vibrates when we get to the front door of the house as she is so excited. I hope you are as lucky.

    Kudos to you for recreating your business throughout the past year. I will be so happy when this is all over!

    • Hi Barbara,

      That is the big question about Henri! I have a very close friend that he has been seeing in my little bubble that has offered to take him with her dogs. Henri loves her and I know he will be well cared for. She won’t be able to do it every time but it will be nice to know he is with someone we love and trust for now.

      I will be very happy when this is over and somewhat back to a comfortable normal. I want my family to visit Chicago and meet Henri!

  8. This year has certainly been the year to learn to pivot. I find your "Frenchify" series enchanting. I have not yet had the opportunity to travel to Paris. My in-laws are from Berlin and I picked up many European habits from them. Things such as fresh flowers, table cloths and cloth napkins, shopping every day and good bread. Cheeses as a dessert course and always good wine. Candles, music and taking time to savor the little habits of everyday life. Sounds similar, no? I have been asked by people that don’t know me if I am from Europe. I don’t have an accent but I think that attention to detail speaks for itself. love reading your Sunday links. Some of the products you mention I have used for years. Reading your blog feels like home to me.

    • Thank you so much for your sweet words! It sounds like you have picked up some great habits from your in-laws. Cheese, good wine, music are all great additions to everyday life. You are embracing the small pleasures. Keep in touch. xo