What a year! 2020 was not what we were expecting, and I still find it hard to wrap my mind around the one million deaths and counting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Thankfully, my relatives and friends all ended 2020 alive and healthy, and the few who were infected recovered nicely. For me, 2020 was a year filled with many disappointments and challenges, but it was also a year of immense personal growth and a modest amount of blog growth too. Today I take a look back on the year that was in terms of personal life, adventures, blog growth, milestones and 2020’s top posts.
I rang in New Years’ Day in Arima, Trinidad and Tobago, and it’s still an experience I cherish dearly. That same day I boarded a plane back to Jamaica since I had work the next day, and was treated to a beautiful view of the entire Lesser Antilles by air since it was a clear day and cloudless sky. It was like watching an atlas come to life, recognizing each island by its shape which I had memorized in geography and Caribbean studies classes eons ago, and listening to my cheerful Caribbean Airlines pilot confirm my guesses for each island. I really began the year on a high. 2019 had been an excellent one for me and I thought that high would continue over into 2020. I planned to save towards my next big milestone of purchasing my first house, and another overseas vacation. If you look back at this post, you’d realize why that trip to Trinidad meant so much to me. It was my first time out of the country in over a decade! I was so proud that I purchased the ticket cash all on my own, and I felt like I was finally kickstarting my dream to see more of the Caribbean. Thus, I had my eye set on another island, Tulum or possibly even Canada to visit relatives for 2020.
However, along came CoVid-19. I’ll never forget the panic. My institution recorded the nation’s first death, and the clinics and A+E floors were empty as everyone stayed away in fear of this novel virus that spread like the plague and brought the cold dark grip of infirmity to every nation. March 10 was the day that Jamaica recorded its first case, and the semi-lockdowns ensued shortly after. Ten months later and I still haven’t fully processed that I’m living through history, and a pandemic which has spared no country. CoVid-19 not only cancelled all of my plans, but made me lose motivation to do anything, even the things I cared about. I tried my best to stay cheerful though, trying new recipes and wines etc. but it really wasn’t the same because I missed the outdoors. Towards the end of June as the restrictions slowly eased, I got a chance to explore a bit and regained my zeal for life. June was also a time of finding a new place to live since I could no longer live at my hospital’s doctors’ quarters. Anyone who has house-hunted before should know the process can be rather stressful. On June 30 I signed my new contract as a senior house officer, the second year of work for medical school graduates in Jamaica. Before that date, there was a lot of uncertainty about if we were getting promoted or not, considering CoVid-19 had set back the dates of medical school exit exams (MBBS) for the final year students. It really was a frustrating time.
Anyway, I moved from the hospital internship quarters which I made my home for a year to a new place which wasn’t really my ideal one but was convenient, affordable and comfortable enough for a startup first place. It came with some initial stress of switching over my bills and meter to the new address. I assumed duties with a new job title, even if the duties are similar to internship, being just one rung above the lowest end of the medical totem pole. Adjusting to this new team was something. I got a four month stint on a rotation I hadn’t even selected but I’m a firm believer everything happens for a reason, as I ended up really loving my new coworkers and appreciating internal medicine more than I did as an intern. This was the first time I started seeing myself possibly doing this specialty for life. To be honest, I still have NO clue what to do with my life.
That’s really all I’m willing to share of my personal life from 2020 on here, but honestly, it really was something. Nonetheless, I’m alive and healthy and grateful. Interestingly enough, I was content on most days though despite the circumstances, and I’m forever indebted to my mother and a few friends for their unwavering support.
Like I said, the year ended up not going how I’d planned but I mean, did it go as planned for anybody? I still rounded out the year with a decent amount of local adventures given the circumstances:
- Four new waterfalls: Konoko Falls in St. Ann, Noisy River Falls in Manchester, Benta and Mayfield Falls in Westmoreland.
- Two new beaches: Bob Marley Beach in St. Andrew, and Winnifred Beach in Portland. I also visited the Blue Lagoon and Monkey Island, and had a blast.
- The 2020 Jamaica Rum Festival. I’m glad I caught this festival as I’d missed the inaugural 2019 staging. It was all of 9 days before Jamaica’s first recorded case of coronavirus.
- I took the Appleton Rum Tour again. It’s not as awesome as I remembered from 2018, but it’s still a worthwhile experience. I’d go a third time.
- I went parasailing in Negril for a second time! Hurrah!
- I revisited the National Gallery, this time with company (my family) and thoroughly enjoyed the Jamaica, Jamaica! Exhibit.
- I went to the Peter Tosh Museum which was my only stint at “solo travel” this year, and also revisited the Fleet Street murals in Downtown, Kingston.
- Stayed at two hotels. I finally visited all 14 parishes in Jamaica with my stay at the Grand Palladium Resort in Hanover. I still need to see more of the parish though, just as how I need to actually explore Clarendon, Trelawny and St. Catherine properly and bring those parish tabs to my blog.
- I also dined at a few new places. Unfortunately three of the places I’d really been looking forward to turned out to be very underwhelming, namely Lashing’s Boutique, Moby Dick and Oceans on the Ridge. However, the Porch and Sora Japanese Cuisine lived up to my expectations! Perhaps I should do a recap of the places I dined at in 2020, the hits and the misses. Let me know if you’d like to read that post.
When listed this way, it sounds like I did a lot, but my bucket list is still growing and growing. I added so many more places to my mental list of local places to check out.
Blog Growth & Milestones
Adventures from Elle turned 4 years old on December 28, 2020! I started this blog in 2016 on a whim that maybe documenting my adventures may help other Jamaicans discover somewhere new, or even encourage more locals to go out and explore our island home. Thus, it brings me immense satisfaction to have been doing just that these past four years. Even better, Adventures from Elle has become a useful guide for foreigners too. I’m really happy that my humble voice can be viewed as some kind of local authority on where to go and what to do around Jamaica. I still get messages, DMs and comments several times per month of this nature and honestly, it’s not only flattering but also deeply humbling. I love this flawed but beautiful paradise I call home, so I’m happy to be an ambassador of sorts for it.
In the height of the pandemic my blog views and visitors plummeted terribly since I guess no one was searching for anything travel-related. Eventually, numbers picked back up to pre-Covid stats making 2020 my year of most ever views. I received a total of 76,403 views and 46,334 visitors for 2020, bringing my total blog views to over 168,000. That’s coming from 58,458 views and 29,942 visitors for 2019. 2020 was the year I crossed my first 100,000 reads, and I’m certain I can cross the quarter million mark this year. Most of my readers come from search engines, with over 30,000 referrals from Google search alone last year. The rest come from Facebook, the WordPress Reader, Instagram and Pinterest. Special shout-out to fellow local blogger As Told By Nella for sending lots of traffic my way for 2020 as well with her articles “10 Amazing Jamaican Bloggers You Should Be Following in 2020” and “Jamaica’s Top Travel Bloggers Reveal Their Favourite Local Travel Destinations & Covid Travel Tips.” I also had my first guest post on here by Corrie from girlandtonic.co, titled “Making Cocktails at Home 101” and she also created a signature cocktail for Adventures from Elle. 🙂
2020 was my second year of having a premium theme (I was previously on the free .wordpress.com version). I think this year I’ll finally take the plunge and make the investment to go self-hosted or at least upgrade to a business plan. While I’m proudly powered by WordPress, I think I’ve outgrown this current theme and there are lots of renovation ideas I have in mind for Adventures from Elle. Stay tuned for those changes this year. Also, I do plan to monetize and take SEO seriously for 2021, but don’t worry. I’ll still deliver great unbiased content. I refuse to give a glowing review of somewhere I didn’t like or for products and services I didn’t enjoy. I’m way too candid a person for that. However, the main motivation behind wanting to take blogging more seriously is the current lack of job security for doctors in Jamaica. That’s a discussion I won’t have on here for obvious reasons but currently, our job prospects are slim and unemployment for a few months when my one year contract expires on June 30, 2021 is likely.
Blogmas 2020 was a project I’m happy I executed well, and I gained a lot of traffic during December as a result. I enjoyed writing and sharing every one of those twelve articles, and I’m happy to have partnered with great brands, creatives and other bloggers. I created an Instagram account for Adventures from Elle. To be fair, I created the account one year ago just to secure the name but never posted anything on it until July 2020. Currently, it has a decent following of one thousand people. I’d love to reach 3,000 by year-end so be sure to check it out and follow if you aren’t already following. However, I’m currently on an Instagram break and not really feeling to go back on consistently any time soon so I’m not sure how that lofty goal shall be attained.
Lastly, I must mention the fact that I got featured on Discover! That’s like THE biggest achievement for a WordPress blogger and I’m still glowing with pride one year later. Next stop: the Pulitzer? Haha.
Favourite Posts of 2020
For 2020, I published 45 new posts. Your most read & liked posts of 2020 are certainly NOT my best work, but for some reason, these are the ones people gravitated towards:
- Ackee & Saltfish: Cooking with Jamaica’s Most Controversial Fruit (1951 reads)
- Blue Lagoon & Monkey Island Tour (1,005 reads)
- Bob Marley Beach (983 reads)
- The 10 Most Instagrammable Places in Jamaica (953 reads)
- Anatomy & Physiology of a Jamaican (894 reads)
However, if I had to share MY favourite 5 posts of 2020, they’d go as follows:
- Bob Marley Beach
- What to Expect While Off the Beaten Path in Jamaica
- Benta River Falls
- Exploring Port-of-Spain
- Exploring Jamaica’s Cocoa Industry & Artisan Chocolates
Overall, older articles still got more attention in 2020, with Gordon Town Falls getting over 3,800 reads, making it my first article to cross 10,000 reads.
If you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed my recap of 2020. Thanks for reading and supporting Adventures from Elle these past four years. Cheers to all that’s in store.
‘Til next time.