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Last year I was writing this post from my childhood bedroom in Newfoundland, and today I’m writing it for my beautiful apartment in Mexico City. On the whole, I would say things have gotten a lot better in a year. But let’s dive deeper into that.

Atlantic Bubble Summer

After spending a few incredibly depressing and lonely months quarantining in Newfoundland, things actually got a lot better right after my 31st birthday. I met a guy on Tinder from New Brunswick, which led to his sister adopting my foster dog Layla and my first Atlantic Canada road trip of the summer to bring her home.

I was devastated to say goodbye to Layla. She became my best friend during quarantine, but a dog makes little sense for a girl who wants to live a life of travel. And while it didn’t work out for the guy and me, it did for Layla. She has a wonderful home in Fredericton, and I happily follow her adventures on Instagram.

Spending the previous months at home working on my blog writing domestic content was tiring, but it paid off in dividends for the rest of the summer. I came back to Newfoundland and did my first press trip with the Tourism Board in Central Newfoundland. This is something that I used to dream about, so it was a huge moment for me.

Plus, I discovered that Central Newfoundland is actually SUPER cool. We hiked beautiful trails, had campfire dinners by the sea, went on epic whale-watching trips, rafted down rivers, and I finally got to see Fogo Island.

That trip was shortly followed by my second (and first-ever paid) press trip with the Nova Scotia tourism board. Another huge win and overall amazing experience. Aside from crashing my rental car on the way to Nova Scotia, the trip was great. I finally got to discover the beauty of Cape Breton for my own eyes, and it did not disappoint.

While I was grateful for the time to discover my own backyard, my heart was still yearning for adventures abroad.

Back Stuck in Newfoundland

A million and one ideas ran through my head during quarantine. Should I buy a van (I almost did)? Should I go to Europe now that it’s open? Should I go to Mexico?

I decided that I was going to move to Portugal. They had done relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic and were open for tourism in the summer. But given the world’s uncertainty, I wanted to secure more than the 90 days you get as a tourist.

I applied for a one-year working holiday at the end of August, but bureaucracy is bureaucracy, and it took about two months to come. The wait was painful. I was back (literally stuck without my passport) in Newfoundland, and things were becoming depressing again. I was dealing with family drama, a lack of community, and overall feelings of self-doubt.

I was in a bad place mentally, which led to a near-drowning experience while trying to get my cold water diving certification. I won’t go into the details, but I passed out under the water and came to as the instructor was calling the ambulance to the scene. I’m so grateful that the instructortor was able to save my life, but I was shaken up from the incident.

I already knew that I had to get out of Newfoundland, but if there was ever a push I needed, it’s a near-death experience. Life is truly too short to live somewhere you’re miserable.

Thankfully my passport came back a couple of weeks later, and I booked my flight to Portugal. Unfortunately, things were getting bad in Europe again.

Oops, I ended up in Barbados

On my way to Toronto (where my flight to Portugal was from), I got a phone call from the airline letting me know that the country was closing to non-residents and I wouldn’t be able to go. I was already on ease about going there with the situation, so I canceled my flight and scrambled to find somewhere else to go.

My friend Nicola had recently moved to Barbados and told me about life there. It was virtually covid-free, open, and full of sunshine.

I booked my ticket, got my negative Covid-test, and set off to the Caribbean.

After three days of quarantine, I was free and out in the sunshine with friends. I was happy. I was ecstatic. I was so ready for this new chapter of my life, but the universe had other plans for me.

I was out with friends shopping for bikinis when all of a sudden I felt faint. We chalked it up to heat exhaustion, and I went home to sit in the AC. But shortly after I had a chill so bad I had to put on all my sweaters and blankets.

My immediate thought was that I had Covid (despite having multiple negative tests), but after a few days of severe headaches, nausea, and weird skin rashes, I knew it was something else. I called an at-home doctor, and she told me I had dengue before we even got the test results back (which confirmed that I did in fact have it). Bad luck, hey?

Dengue fever is one of the worst things I’ve ever endured. I spent two weeks straight in bed and suffered from brain fog for another week after. But I survived.

And the second part of my time in Barbados made up for the first. Life in Barbados was incredible. I made amazing friends, went to the beach every day, got over my new fear of diving, drank way too much rum, and spent my days sailing on boats and dancing at night.

I fell in love with the Caribbean lifestyle and had full intentions to live in Barbados for the foreseeable future, until just after the New Year when an outbreak happened. The downside of living in a place with no covid is that they take it very seriously when there are any cases. Lockdown was imminent.

Me and 3 friends decided we were going to go to the nearby island of Dominica to wait it out. Unfortunately though, one of those friends seized his back surfing and was unable to move the day our flight departed, so it ended up just being me and a guy I started dating about a week before.

Non-solo travel in the Caribbean

While fleeing to a country with a guy you barely know sounds exactly like something I would do, in hindsight I probably should have known it wasn’t going to work out. But either way, I knew it would make it a good story.

Hopping from one tropical island to the next sounds like the perfect setting to fall in love, right? One would think so, but I also think it’s super unhealthy to spend that much time with one other person when you first start dating. We did EVERYTHING together. We worked together. We swam in waterfalls together. We cooked meals together.

And when you’re traveling full-time with someone, it’s like dating on steroids. Think about how much you see someone when you start dating them. A few times a week? So when you’re spending 24/7 with them and doing all these amazing things together for the first time – well, you can imagine it leads to developing feelings for someone really quickly.

But the weirdest thing about this experience for me was that I never fell in love with him. I kept having to ask myself “Am I in love with this person?” but I wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong; I cared about him a lot. But something in our relationship was missing.

And the feeling was mutual.

He told me on our last day in Dominica together. As we were driving up a mountain with the emergency gas light on. Cue anxiety.

Now at this point, the rational thing to do would have been to say thanks for the good times and go our separate ways. But we had tickets to fly to Antigua the next day and for some reason decided to keep traveling together.

Relationship aside – Dominica is an amazing island to visit and we had a wonderful time there tuntil the last day. It’s a nature paradise and the best island in the Caribbean for adventure seekers.

Antigua

I don’t think it’s realistic to go from being romantically involved with someone to being their friend the next day; at least it’s not something I’ve ever been able to do. He wasn’t particularly good at it either, so things pretty much continued as is.

Antigua on the whole was a nice experience – we ended up meeting a fun group of friends at a hostel and enjoyed many day parties as the island had a 6 pm curfew due to rising numbers. It seemed like things were only going to get worse, so we were looking at other options for places to go.

We had been planning to go back to Barbados but the longer the lockdown dwelled on, the further away that idea became. We had an amazing group of friends in Barbados and a group of them were planning to go to Costa Rica so we decided to join them – as friends.

My intuition was screaming at me not to go.

Santa Teresa: Where relationships go to die

We all went to Santa Teresa which is a beach town on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. I was there three years prior while backpacking Costa Rica and had a good time, but it’s changed a lot in just 3 years.

Moving to a small surf town full of beautiful people with your kind of ex-boyfriend is probably the worst advice I could ever give someone. My gut told me not to go, but I didn’t listen and felt like I was fighting against this invisible wall the entire time I was there.

Our relationship was hot and cold the entire time, and it wasn’t just ours either. I watched two of my other friend’s relationships fall apart as well – ones that were much stronger than my own.

Santa Teresa has a hookup and party culture. There’s a lot of places like this in the world. And while I’ve enjoyed them at times – in this particular period of my life, I don’t think there could have been a worse place for me to be. It triggered my worst insecurities and I was on a downward spiral.

I wanted it to feel like it did in Barbados before we left, but what I was holding on to didn’t exist anymore.

There’s only so much suffering someone can inflict upon themselves. After three weeks, I came to my senses and left to the redeeming part of my time in Costa Rica.

Ps: 99% of people I met in Santa Teresa absolutely love it. My negative experience there is mostly a reflection of my own issues, so don’t let that deter you from visiting if you like surf and party towns. I’ve just come to the realization this year that I don’t, and I’m grateful for that learning experience.

The silver lining of Costa Rica was getting the opportunity to go and stay at Bodhi Surf and Yoga for a week before I left. I can’t think of a better place to clear your mind. We spent our days doing yoga in the morning, surfing for hours in the afternoon, and having thoughtful conversations over delicious meals. I left feeling clear-headed, ready for a new adventure in Mexico.

If you ever need to clear your mind, go to a yoga retreat.

Amazing Mexico 

At the end of March, I moved to Mexico, which was without a doubt the best part of my year. And ironically, I had ruled out Mexico just a few months ago. I went to Quintana Roo a few years ago and didn’t find it particularly special, but the rest of the country is so much better.

Everything aligned for me as soon as I got to Puerto Vallarta. I moved in with two amazing high-vibe humans the week before the anniversary of my dad’s passing. We were looking for somewhere to co-work and stumbled across this wonderful cafe run by a man who was also a medium. He invited us to an event that Saturday.

I knew nothing about mediums or if I even believed in them, but as soon as the session started, I felt this intense energy flow through my body. He immediately connected with my dad I got answers to questions I had been wondering for years since he passed – it was truly one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had.

The same week moving there, I walked into a bar and met a group of friends that invited me to go camping in the woods in the middle of nowhere. While that may sound like the start of a horror movie, it ended up being a magical evening and led to one of my favorite friend groups I’ve ever met traveling.

Living in Puerto Vallarta was pure magic. I started getting way more work, making more money, wonderful friendships, and amazing memories. I had to take time each day to think about how grateful I was to be there, and I couldn’t stop smiling.

I left this month. Not because I wasn’t happy, but it just felt like the right time to go. Rainy season was starting, most of my friends were leaving, my lease was up, and there’s still so much out there I want to see. Puerto Vallarta was a beautiful chapter of my life and I’m forever grateful for the time I had there, but I’m excited for a new one to begin.

Two viruses, one near-death experience, heartbreak, a medium, beautiful friendships, six countries, and hundreds of incredible memories. It’s been a hell of a year.

I was in a bad place when I wrote last year’s birthday post, but today, I feel like I am in a really good mental space. I’m writing this post from a beautiful apartment in Mexico City and am about to go meet a group of friends to go on a boat trip. I feel grateful for everything that’s led me here.

I couldn’t guess where I’ll be writing this post from next year – but I can’t wait to find out.

About Author

Lora Pope is a travel content creator who’s been wandering solo for over a decade. She lives a nomadic lifestyle and is on a quest to visit every country in the world - always on the lookout for new adventures, epic hikes, and dogs to pet.

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1 Comment

  1. Lora – of course, I remember most of these things happening in real time, but it’s lovely to read it back as a whole, succinct year and see how you forged your way through. So glad that your year ended up so good! ♡

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