travel musings

The Highs & Lows Of 2021

2021 has been all about peeling ourselves away from the horror show of 2020 and getting back to some semblance of normality, if we can remember what that was.

In the past couple of months, I’ve been to a gig, flown in a plane, and been abroad – all for the first time since 2019!

Overall, I’ve had a pretty great year, but it’s been absolutely full of ups and downs. We’ve caught up with all our family and friends, we’ve been on countless trips, and we finally got married!

I’m now in a much better position than I was a year ago, but the first four months of 2021 were as bumpy a ride as most of 2020. We went into lockdown on Boxing Day last year, and remained unable to even leave Edinburgh until mid-April. With nothing open for those four months, I barely left the house except to go into the office once a week. And with the winter months well and truly upon us, it was horrific.

Rest And Be Thankful viewpoint, Corstorphine Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland
We did occasionally take walks like this, which we are lucky to have in Edinburgh

I worked overtime every single day until April and took zero time off work because there was no point. We had lots of things to sort out in our new house, that we should have been excited about, but no shops were open so we couldn’t. To-do lists were mounting up, and in the middle of it all, we cancelled our wedding yet again. Not to be totally dramatic, but if someone had told me in January that we would have another three months of it, I don’t think I’d have made it to the end.

But we got through it. We re-arranged the wedding for September in the hope that everyone would be vaccinated by then. Things started opening up at the start of April, and they announced the end of lockdown would be the end of April, before making a surprise announcement mid-April that we could go anywhere as long as we didn’t stay overnight.

The second the announcement was made, I made plans. I wrote down 30 weekend trip ideas in the UK, and I planned to do ALL of them. If I had to be locked indoors for four months, I was going to make damn sure not to spend any of the rest of the year at home.

We didn’t quite end up doing all of them, but between wedding appointments, seeing family, having plans cancelled, and having friends visit, we kept ourselves massively busy and made up for a lot of lost time.

By October, I was actually feeling a bit burned out. I would spend any lazy(ier) weekends feeling guilty for not getting out and making the most of it, which took up more brain space than I was trying to save in the first place (I could have maybe learned something from this post I wrote three years ago!).

Onto, then, the highlights.

Highlights of 2021

I feel like I’ve basically covered the lowlights of 2021, and I’m thankful to not have really had any others, apart from some personal drama that I’m not going to talk about on here.

Thankfully though, I’ve had quite a few highlights! In fact, if you discount January – April from this year altogether, it was honestly probably one of my favourite years.

WE FINALLY GOT MARRIED!

FINALLY!!! Ash & I set our wedding back to September (the original date was in June 2020) and restrictions were lifting – in August, it was announced that all restrictions were lifted in Scotland apart from masks, and this included, for the first time since March 2020, dancing at weddings!

Even better, my Dad had been waiting for hip surgery for months, which finally went ahead in July. It was really touch and go whether he’d be good to walk me down the aisle without his crutches, but I’m thrilled to say that HE DID!

I know it’s a cliché to say but it really was the best day. Our ceremony was more perfect than we could have imagined, to the point many of our guests said it was the best one they’d been to (not to blow our own trumpet, although really this was down to our exceptional celebrant who made it really personal with humour and poignancy).

Also possibly down to the crows who hilariously annihilated a moment of silence, or me getting a wasp stuck in my dress!

We miraculously managed to get Spud the Piper, who’s a bit of a celebrity in Scotland. The speeches were heartfelt and uproarious – my Dad had people on the floor laughing. And the evening was full of more hilarity and some amazing moments (and lots of food, which again everyone has been commenting on! All of my English friends now love haggis).

A few people couldn’t make it, such as my Canadian family, a handful of friends, and in a very last minute disaster, both of Ash’s sisters, but we streamed it all on Zoom for them and now even have a recording which a friend has turned into a wedding video for us.

We really couldn’t have asked for much more, especially when it was getting to the point that we would be happy with just a ceremony that our closest friends & family would be allowed to come to.

Quiraing, Isle Of Skye, Scotland

Skye

I absolutely loved our trip to Skye – it was fantastic to spend more than a day there, and I feel like we’ve seen most of the main sights now. Just need to take the turntable ferry and get ourselves down to Elgol – that’s a plan for next year.

Isle Of May

Where on earth is the Isle Of May? It’s an uninhabited island in the middle of the Firth Of Forth, and you can take day tours from Fife. When I say uninhabited, I mean it’s not inhabited by humans. Instead, it’s inhabited by around 90,000 puffins and hundreds of thousands more seabirds. It’s quite literally a bird paradise.

We visited towards the end of the season because it was all sold out at other times, which is a risk as we learned on our trip to the Isle Of Mull, where we missed the puffins by literally a day. Someone on our tour commented afterwards that they’d come here earlier in the year and it was so quiet now.

Quiet? QUIET?!?!? We saw THOUSANDS of puffins. If this is quiet, I want to see it busy!?

I haven’t written about our Isle Of May trip yet, but I will! It was fantastic!

Callanish Stones, Isle Of Lewis, Scotland

Lewis & Harris

As you all know by now, we LOVED Lewis & Harris! We spent five days there and explored as much as we could but somehow found time to relax too, in our beautiful B&B in the middle of nowhere. Bliss.

Read more: Landscapes & History On Lewis & Harris: A Five Day Itinerary

Llanberis, Snowdonia, Wales

Wales & the Isle Of Man

Instead of Italy (the trip that got cancelled), we went to Wales for a long weekend with friends, and then spent a few days catching up with friends & family on the Isle Of Man. This was a particularly poignant trip because it was the first time we’d managed to go over to the IOM since Ash’s best friend passed away, so it was our first opportunity to really say goodbye. It was a tough trip, but it was much needed and very, very overdue thanks to Covid.

Read more: Scenes From Snowdonia: A Long Weekend In North Wales

Icebergs in Jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon, Iceland

Iceland

I had a week of holiday left to take, which I was saving in the hope that I could go abroad somewhere sunny. *blinks* But that says Iceland, I hear you say? Yeahh. A friend mentioned that she was thinking of going alone, and I casually dropped in that Ash & I would love to go back some time. Next thing we knew, we were booking a trip! Unfortunately, Ash did not have any holiday left to take, which meant I was leaving him behind on the agreement that we would definitely go back at some point (in the summer, which we’ve been planning to do anyway).

As you’ve probably seen by now, we had an AMAZING time. It was jam-packed full of honestly mindblowing activities, from snowmobiling to exploring ice caves to chasing the northern lights. We saw countless waterfalls, bathed in the Blue Lagoon, saw icebergs in a much colder lagoon, and drove through some of Iceland’s most spectacular scenery.

Read more: The Land Of Fire & Ice: A Five Day Iceland Itinerary

We’ve taken a few more trips too, like a road trip up to Orkney via a quick zoom around the NC500, a couple of days in the Lake District with Ash’s family, an overnight stay in Arrochar, and countless day trips to countless lochs, but these are the highlights!

Langdales, Lake District, England

Challenges round-up

If you’re a regular reader, you may remember that I set a few challenges back at the start of the year to keep myself on track and give myself some purpose. As we know, 2021 hasn’t been the easiest of years, and I will be the first to admit that I haven’t done… well.

Climb the Three Peaks

I successfully climbed zero of the three peaks! Yaaaaaayy!

What makes this especially annoying is that I went to the Lake District – TWICE – and Snowdonia, yet did not climb either Scafell Pike or Snowdon. Scafell was due to time; Snowdon was due to weather. And Ben Nevis? A friend of mine actually climbed Ben Nevis while she was up in Scotland for our wedding, and she asked if I wanted to join – but I was slightly busy… organising a wedding.

So, I literally had chances to climb all three. And I failed, for different (very legitimate) reasons, all three times!

This has only served to make me more determined to do it next year. And I would love to climb all three in the same year too, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t do one this year just to have to do a re-do. Erm, yes, I am stretching for silver linings here.

Do at least one 2-week fitness challenge

I set this one while we were in lockdown and I thought it would be a productive way to distract myself from the dumpster bin fire of the UK. Instead, I could barely get out of bed until April, and then after that we were so busy that I didn’t have a routine at all. I would say that my exercise as a whole has gone up, but I haven’t specifically done this challenge. I don’t think I’ll re-do it next year, but I’ll set a different fitness challenge I think.

Make sure I can fit into my wedding dress

SUCCESS! I was so worried about this for months, but I ended up actually fitting into it better than I had originally. The shoulders had needed adjusting before, whereas this time nothing did. Woo hoo!

Travel to two countries

Well, I should have done this – but one of the trips was cancelled so that was kinda out of our control. I’d say that counts as a pretty good excuse. However, I did travel to one! So that’s a win!

(Plus, if you really think about it, we also travelled to England and Wales, so that makes three, right? Right?!)

Old Man Of Storr, Isle Of Skye, Scotland

Visit five islands in Scotland

Another one I smashed – I visited Orkney in May (technically several islands, too), Skye in June, the Isle Of May in July, and Lewis & Harris (which I’m counting as one island) and Great Bernera in August. I was hoping to get to Inchcolm Island, which is local to us, but it was one of the ones we had to skip in favour of doing things like wedding dress fittings.

Stac Pollaidh hike, Assynt, Scotland

Tick ten walks off my WalkHighlands list

Well, I’ve certainly done more than ten walks and probably at least ten that are on WalkHighlands, but I haven’t done ten from my list – I think six or seven. I’m going to set the same challenge for next year though.

My favourite hike was most definitely Stac Pollaidh – one I’ve had on my list for years!

Reducing plastic

One of my big aims this year was to actively reduce my use of plastic. I haven’t done too badly with this but there are still areas for improvement, such as taking tupperware to the supermarket to buy meat! I don’t know why I always forget to do this.

I’m also still loving the beeswax wraps I use instead of cling film, and I never, ever use plastic bags for fruit & veg. Whenever I go into the office, I use bamboo tupperware for my sandwiches. Bread is another one where it’s hard to avoid plastic, though. We’ve also bought metal or wooden homeware in favour of plastic, where possible, and I’ve bought reusable sanitary towels to avoid more monthly single-use items.

However for the inescapable plastic, I’ve started doing eco-bricking, which I messed up by not cutting it up properly. I took it all out and now I’ve managed to fit over double into one bottle!

As well as plastic, did you know that food waste causes 10% of greenhouse emissions?! This is another of my ongoing goals, as we are terrible for letting our fruit & veg go to waste. It’s something we’ve got better at this year, but it’s another thing we need to make a solid habit out of.

At the moment the topic on everyone’s lips is sustainability, and I’m aiming to write a lot more on sustainable travel and products.

Church in Vik, Iceland
Vik, Iceland

Blogging goals

Write at least 3 posts per month – I was not off to a good start with this, with the fact we barely left the house for four months. Since then, I’ve probably averaged about two per month, but then in the past month I’ve published six posts! This is my 26th post, so a little way off my goal of 36, but I did also update a lot of older posts, which was overdue.

Social media goals – 5,000 followers on Twitter, 1,000 on Instagram – I’m actually quite close to my goal on Twitter. But you know what? I really don’t care about Instagram. I decided to post every day of December to see if I would experience any growth, and within a week I had lost 7 followers. One per day! I moaned about it on Twitter, and gained more followers than that back from my Twitter friends. And people wonder why I prefer Twitter! Anyway, my experiment has gained me a measly 20 followers on Instagram, while my Twitter has gained 200 followers this month alone. Not quite enough to take me over the 5,000 threshold but that should be in the next couple of months. Despite this being a goal, I can’t bring myself to care about social media enough to worry about failing!

Anyway, if you fancy getting regular updates from yours truly, do feel free to follow along!

Get more posts ranked on Google – I’d like to spend more time on this, and I’ve seen a difference in some posts already. My Coco Chanel mansion post has gained loads of traction, plus some I didn’t expect at all like my camping in Aberdeenshire post, spending the perfect Sunday in Edinburgh, and even my post about moving to South Queensferry! Goes to show you never know what will work?

Driving towards Skye, Scotland

Everything else

Every year, I put together my favourite movies, TV shows, music & books. Here’s 2021’s:

Favourite movie: Free Guy. It took us ages to get around to watching Free Guy, but I have to say it is excellent! It’s very Truman Show-esque and a little bit Ready Player One. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s SUCH a fun movie. I howled with laughter at Chris Evans’ cameo. Actually howled.

Runners up: Black Widow. Okay, I know a few people felt a bit let down by Black Widow, but I LOVED it. Natasha’s sister was fantastic. In fact, I loved the whole plot. I don’t care. Weirdly, both films have Stranger Things actors in. Also: Shang-Chi and Spiderman: No Way Home are both excellent.

Favourite TV show: Griff’s Railway Down Under. A really fun and interesting exploration of Australia by train just before the world got turned upside down.

Runners-up: Alexander Armstrong in Iceland, Zac Efron’s Down To Earth (a lot of documentaries here?), WandaVision. “What is grief, if not love persevering?” is one of the most beautiful lines in TV ever, even if it did lead to so many memes. I also almost put the Queen’s Gambit but genuinely can’t remember if I watched that last year or this year? Anyway, that’s brilliant too if you haven’t seen it.

Favourite music: Stand Atlantic – Pink Elephant. Fantastic album proving that pop punk is not dead!

Runners-up: In honour of The Offspring being bloody fantastic live last month, their new version of Gone Away is just something else. Goosebumps everywhere.

Favourite book: The Lost Lights Of St Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford. A historical romance that focuses on the very real lives of the people who lived on the remote Scottish island archipelago of St Kilda until 1930 when the entire population was evacuated. It’s an absolutely fascinating account of the lifestyle intertwined with a simple yet complex romance story that kept me hooked as much as the characters.

Runners-up: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Brilliantly poignant and makes you consider a lot of aspects of your life and what’s really important to you.

Favourite blog posts

Here are some of my favourite blog posts from the year:
Landscapes & History on Lewis & Harris: A Five Day Itinerary
Spending A Perfect Weekend On Skye
Adventures In Assynt: My Favourite Area Of Scotland
Climbing Stac Pollaidh, One Of Scotland’s Best Hikes
The Land Of Fire & Ice: A Five Day Iceland Itinerary
Why I’m Actually Glad I Didn’t Travel Abroad Much This Year

And that’s a wrap, 2021!

I’m excited (cautiously excited) to see what 2022 brings. Last night, we decided we couldn’t go into the new year without having anything booked yet again, so we’ve taken a punt and booked a small cruise around the Norwegian fjords!!! One of my top bucket list items, I am so excited that we’ve got something of this magnitude in the pipeline!

Can’t wait to see all your upcoming adventures, thank you as always for keeping in touch. Have a great Hogmanay, everyone! And as we say in Scotland, lang may yer lum reek.

15 thoughts on “The Highs & Lows Of 2021

  1. Brilliant post and beautiful photographs. How lovely that your Dad got to walk you down the aisle. Here’s to 2022, not a year to make too many plans ahead but definitely a year of hope and perhaps a bit more normality!

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  2. Yaaay! I love reading this and hearing about your excitement (yay that you finally got married and that it was a smashing day!!)

    Do you think you’ll aim for 3 peaks again in 2022? I know you can do it!

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  3. It’s incredible that you did a lot this year, from traveling all over Scotland to getting married to traveling internationally to Iceland! Very happy to see that, despite the lows, you still powered through and made the best of it with the varying politics and restrictions from your country’s government. 2022 looks to be tentative with the Omicron variant, but we’ll have to see if things will continue to look up in the following year. Happy New Year (and stay safe)!

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  4. Wow, sounds like a lovely 2021 you had there. And beautiful pics too! I really enjoyed seeing your part of the world, me being from Malaysia and all. Wishing you all the best with your 2022 goals, and may we meet again this same time next year. Also, congrats on your wedding!

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  5. Congratulations on getting married, that’s so exciting! I have to say that goal setting and achieving during the pandemic sure looks quite different. At a time when life feels in limbo, it is essential to account for the emotional toll it can take and to avoid holding yourself to the same goals and standards that you did in the pre-pandemic world. While some have been utilising the time to rediscover forgotten hobbies, others might find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Happy New Year! I hope all your endeavours in 2022 are successful. Aiva 🙂

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  6. I loved reading this – the getting a wasp in your wedding dress bit sounds mildly terrifying though. Very jealous of your trips to Skye, Lewis and Harris too. I’d forgotten you went to the Isle of Man! That’s where Chris’s family are from and we love it there. I’ve saved the book you liked on my Goodreads to buy at some point 🙂 Hope you have a great 2022 x

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  7. Congratulations – belatedly. On any other year, that’s still a big year and you look fantastic on your wedding day. May you both have many amazing adventures and fights over who gets the window seat.

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  8. Really lovely blog and many congratulations on the wedding. Pictures of it look great! I got married too in 2021 and know how much stress you would have been going throught trying to find your way through all the Covid regulations! Iceland is a real gem of a country to visit and I’ve loved it whenever I’ve been. Your time there looked great and really makes me want to go back!

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  9. Sounds like a pretty fun year, glad you packed in a good few local adventures. Glad the wedding finally went ahead too and that it was such a fun day 🙂
    Good luck with the three peaks this year!

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