A place for discussions for and by cis and trans lesbians, bisexual girls, chicks who like chicks, bi-curious folks, dykes, butches, femmes, girls who kiss girls, birls, bois, aces, LGBT allies, and anyone else interested! Our subreddit is named r/actuallesbians because r/lesbians is not really for or by lesbians–it was meant to be a joke. We’re not a militant or exclusive group, so feel free to join up!
Oh, my sweet friends. I want to reach through whatever screen you’re reading this on and hug you, or maybe braid your hair and fix you a drink with fresh mint in it and let you tell me about all the ways 2020 broke your heart. And I want to promise you that 2021 will treat you better. I hope it will.
But we’re still in the middle of everything that 2020 ushered in, and it’s not going to suddenly reset because the Gregorian calendar has turned over. There is no clean slate this year. We have to drop the illusion that we’re in control of what happens to us next—that if we just make the right choices we can have the life we deserve. I’m sorry I can’t give you all the life you deserve. Or even a hug. I can just congratulate you on surviving what may have been the hardest year of your life, and encourage you to stick it out with us a little longer.
Because, though some of us might be feeling that everyday is grindingly like the last one, we’re actually in a time of tremendous change, and 2021 will be different from 2020 in some key ways. We’ve moved through what some astrologers have dubbed the “Covid cluster”—that once-in-a-lifetime crunch of planets in late Capricorn, sign of restrictions and responsibility, of doing what you have to and not what you want to. That was a game changer. That was intensely difficult. And that particular piece of astrology, while it’s informing what happens next, is over.
As we move into 2021, new themes are popping up that have more to do with tension between the old world and the new—do we cling to the past or rush toward the future? I’ve heard of people who survived a tornado and when all was clear emerged from their basements to astonishing sights: one house completely demolished while the one next door was unharmed, while yet another had been picked up and set down a few blocks over. Bits and pieces of the old world sat uncomfortably next to the new. They wandered through their neighborhood in a state of grief and wonder, not knowing what familiar landmarks would be gone or rearranged. If nothing else, 2021 will be a year of rewriting our maps.
Last year I posed some questions we might need to answer in 2020. One that still feels appropriate for 2021 is this: “How do we envision what comes next?” This year (and particularly this month) is heavily dominated by Aquarius energy. Aquarius demands change—specifically that we question the rules and structures of our society. Aquarius is the queerdo revolutionary of the zodiac—against assimilation, for free love and collective liberation, willing to be unpopular in pursuit of a better, stranger world. Both planets that have to do with society and its rules and beliefs (Saturn and Jupiter) are newly in Aquarius, and the Sun will meet them there this month. Mars, planet of hissy fits and catty vengeance, finally moves out of Aries but runs smack into a square with Saturn. When these two clash, it has all the subtlety of Dawn Davenport denied her cha cha heels.
Which is to say, we are moving out of a year of crisis and toward a remapping the world, which won’t come without some conflict. All year we see the theme of tradition vs. revolution, of old vs. new, of responsibility vs. freedom. And our allegiances may not be as clean cut as we think they are—is the kind of freedom we’re looking for the freedom to risk other people’s lives so we can party without the inconvenience of masks? This year will complicate any belief system you hold that needs only one right answer, only one good way to be. We are moving out of a need for security and toward a need to experiment — which might mean failing, dusting ourselves off, and trying again. It might mean breaking with an ideology that doesn’t allow for change or nuance. It might mean finding new friends. Whatever it means for you, expect this to be a year of surprises. And if you are aligned with any kind of movement for collective liberation, this is a year to get serious about the limitations of your imagination. Aquarius asks us to escape the limiting perspectives that trap us in “that’s just the way the world is,” and the tensions of this year ask us to better understand what is and isn’t possible.
I’m excited for the changes this year brings, and I have some exciting news to announce! First, if you want a much deeper dive into how the astrology of 2021 will affect your sign, hop on over to my Patreon for the complete download. It’s easy to sign up for one month and change your mind later if you don’t want to stick around—I won’t be hurt! And if you’ve been waiting for a reading with me, my books are finally open again so grab your spot now as I’m often booked at least a month in advance.
I’m also thrilled to announce I’m offering two new classes this year! Two of them! Both live on Zoom—one for astrology newbies and one for those who want to level up and use astrology as a healing tool. Check out my live Astro 101 class here, and my Healers and Weavers apprenticeship program here; registration for both closes soon!
I wish you beautiful acts of bravery and experimentation in all your relationships this year. May 2021 heal your heart and help you remap your world.
Redraw your map:
Heteronormativity believes in all our needs being met through the couple, but queerness takes a goddamn village. And often, that village is a hot mess. So let’s talk about “community.” What communities are you a part of, whether you like to identify with them or not? What communities do you feel betrayed by? Which ones are literally saving your life right now? What failures have you experienced in community? These themes are coming up for everyone right now, but they’re especially important for you. In redrawing the map of your world, you need to address the core question of who you’re showing up for and who’s showing up for you—and why we mess it up. Part of your work this year is to learn why you can forgive and keep going with some people, and why you can’t with others. Part of your work is to remember that collectivity will always challenge you, on some level, even as you want it—you’re going to feel more in control of your life (and therefore safer) when you can act without stopping to get consensus approval. And yet—you need your community, and they need you. This is the year to work it out a little better than you did last year.
Redraw your map:
If you’re being totally honest, you’re happiest when your relationships don’t have a lot of upheaval. You love the familiar, the comfortable, the predictable presence of the people you love. However your relationships changed in 2020, you’re probably still indignant about it, still unwilling to let go of their past forms—even if those changes were for the better! It takes you time to get used to new maps. So in this year of continuing change, when Uranus, planet of change, is still in your sign and stirring up trouble with all the planets moving through Aquarius, you’re being invited to notice where you do want change. Specifically, what about you do you want to be more visible? Are you trying to step into more leadership in your work or your friend group? Or do you need to take on less and open a space for others to come forward? What relationships help you feel capable and strong? Who do you trust to hold your vulnerability? If there aren’t at least two people on that list, how can you change that this year? What relationships drain your energy? What boundaries have you set in them? What boundaries do you need to set? 2021 is going to keep rearranging your relationships, but not all the changes need to be bad, I promise. Your job is to stay honest about what’s giving you life and what’s become a burden. Your job is to hold onto what you actually need and learn to lovingly release the rest.
Redraw your map:
This is a year of growth and change for you, and most of it will be aligned with what you already know you want. You’re growing toward a future you can imagine, but 2021 wants you to stay aware of what is marvelous, unfamiliar, and even unimaginable in what you thought was familiar. Your map this year doesn’t need to get totally redrawn as much as defined: your existing map has many possible entries and exits, roads overlapped on other roads, landmarks that go by many names, possible future roads that haven’t been built yet….this is a year of making choices, of clarifying, of committing to certain paths and not others. And you can only do this by getting curious about why—what do you gain by delaying choices? Where do you feel that deep sense of truth that can help you decide? What stories are blocking you from feeling into that intuitive sense of rightness? Who’s helping you unlearn those stories? Who might be reinforcing them? You will always be love the questions more than the answers, but this is a year of making firm commitments. Let your sense of wonder and curiosity guide you.
Redraw your map:
Whether you name it or not, the pain you’ve experienced shapes you. The pain of 2020 has reshaped your relationships, your daily routines, and even how you hold and move and love your body. In redrawing your maps this year, take time to commemorate the places where you’ve been hurt. Leaves flowers at specific landmarks. Rename the streets. Let yourself cry. Hold your beloveds in your body, in the way you are kind to yourself, in the way you let yourself rest. Remember that it’s hard work to feel grief, to remember what is lost, but that crying is an act of alchemy: it rearranges the places that pain has claimed for its own. Remember you have the power to reshape yourself in collaboration with your past, in collaboration with what you love. You have the choice to keep aligning with healing, and that doesn’t mean going back to a way of life that didn’t really serve you—it means renaming, reclaiming, and learning to love your current shape. Only then is real change possible.
Redraw your map:
When you were younger, you might have confused getting positive attention with being loved. Even so, attention never really filled that empty feeling. Whether you were single or partnered, friendless or wildly popular, it was hard to shake a feeling of deep loneliness. This year, you’re being asked to grow up a little. And I don’t mean that in a shaming way, like “grow up and stop feeling so lonely!” I mean that in a profoundly loving way: Grow up and start claiming that loneliness as something you need to address for real. Grow up and recognize you can tell the difference between what’s nourishing and what’s a temporary thrill. Grow up and learn how to choose the kind of love that sees you in all your wholeness—not only how you dazzle and impress, but also how you’re sometimes kind of selfish or ordinary or boring. Love that may not shower you in praise, but does keep collaborating with you, keep prioritizing what you can build together, keep showing up for the project of growing up together. Are you ready to grow up and commit to being loved this way, and to offering that kind of love? Are you ready for loneliness to be just one chord in your symphony, and not the diva running the whole show?
Redraw your map:
When we talk about revolution, I don’t want you to think about something as literal as violent overthrow of the government or as meaningless as an advertisement for a new kind of soda. I don’t want you to think of the hippies in the 1960s, I don’t want you to think of the antiglobalization movement in the 1990s, I don’t want you to think about anything that was ambitious and failed and became a slogan for capitalism. Instead, I want you to think about what you see happening in your everyday life that’s giving you a glimpse of how the world could be different. I want you to think of what small acts you could be doing regularly to support this change. I want you to notice where in your body you hold the stories and trauma of oppression. I want you to start moving your body in ways that offer release. I want you to start understanding your own healing as part of and in service to collective healing, which is the same thing as revolution. The map you’re making in 2021 is a map of devotional, restorative, audacious, unthinkable, somatic, and deeply personal interventions that will help you show up as a mentor, as a healer, as a friend to those who are trying to change the world. If you are descended from enslaved Africans, I encourage you to check out @TheNapMinistry for guidance and support. If you’re descended from white settlers, I encourage you to question your need to produce and perfect instead of being and being with. If you’re in any other category or in many categories of identity, I want you to remember that what you demand from yourself you will demand from others. What can you offer yourself, instead, that will also benefit others?
Redraw your map:
Ah, Libra, what a sweet change this year brings you! Many of the pressures of 2020 are easing for you, and the new Aquarian energy is stimulating your need for creativity, playfulness, and romance. If the current map of your relationships is a little too weighted toward other people’s needs and interests, 2021 is the year you start balancing this out with more emphasis on what gives you life, whether or not your friends or lovers share that interest. You are learning about your own desire nature this year, and I’m not just talking about sexual desire but about what makes life joyous for you. Do you remember joy? Do you remember the paths that take you there? Is it time to map out some new ones? I recommend trying your hand at anything that feels like it might be really fun but maybe not exactly productive or worth your time. Make some really bad art. Write some incredibly self-indulgent poems. Dress up and take selfies. Play some silly, time-wasting games. As long as you’re having a lot of fun, it’s worth doing. And if it feels strange and frivolous to be prioritizing fun at a time like this, remember that joy is what’s going to keep us going. Flirtation, romance, and exciting new friendships are also good compass points for you this year—don’t feel that any of them need to get too serious, though. Practice being in the moment. Practice sharing passion and playfulness for the shared endorphin boost. 2021 will have its pain and obstacles, but your main responsibility this year is to stay aligned with joy, and how joy opens up a space of possibility.
Redraw your map:
Let’s talk about your past. Maybe you had an idyllic childhood with only good memories, but more likely you’re carrying some kind of wounds from your early life into all your adult relationships, including your relationship to yourself. Aquarius, key energy of 2021, isn’t any easy one for you—it’s all future-focused and excited about what’s possible, while you’re holding the scars of what went wrong. You have the wisdom of the past guiding you, which can make you suspicious of any progressive project that looks too idealistic, that seems to ignore the traumas and obstacles that arise when people try to work together to change the world. And yet, it’s time to redraw your map. Not to erase or ignore the wisdom you hold, but to allow for the possibility of the future looking different than the past. This means drawing deeply from your roots, but aiming yourself at an unknowable future. This means holding your pain with love and attention, but not letting it tell you what your future will look like. This means making family with those you trust and letting your witnessing of each other redraw all the maps you were given—maps that told you what parts of you weren’t worth loving. 2021 will be a year of intense change for you, and you may not always welcome it, but you can always choose to align with what heals your heart and keeps you able to trust and witness.
Redraw your map:
You are quite good already at redrawing maps—no sooner have you drawn one possible map of your life than you want to draw a dozen more. So what this year is asking from you isn’t to lean into your flexible, adaptable, adventurous side, but rather to notice what you’ve been overlooking when you fly off into a new adventure (or flight of fancy). There are problems that you can solve if you sit with them, give them more of your time and attention. There are conversations you need to have that you’ve been avoiding. What will help you feel ready? What gives you the courage to look more closely at the present moment? In this year of Aquarius energy there will also be eclipses in your sign, so this is a year when anything you’ve been trying to ignore is going to come up and demand your attention. Start now, and start small. Remember that you have the power to connect, to act, to call a damn friend when you’re thinking about them. Remember you can use your words and not just your imagination. Get specific about what you’re trying to make happen this year. Get up close and personal. Listen more closely to what the people you love are telling you. Let yourself be surprised, and then let yourself be still long enough to be surprised again.
Redraw your map:
You are so talented at being able to do without. You’ve got a map of where you’ve stashed only the most essential supplies and when the shit hits, you’ve got your bug-out bag and you’re ready to roll. In intimacy, this means you’ve got a lot to give and you don’t always remember that you get to receive as well. The thought of asking for care might even feel distinctly uncomfortable. But the map you’re drawing in 2021 asks for more than scarcity mindset, it asks you to recognize the value of abundance. What could you accomplish if you had not just barely enough (money, love, support, feedback, learning experiences, sex, food, etc.) but more than enough? Enough to share, enough to trust that you won’t be out in the cold if you take a risk or take a break? Having enough material resources may or may not be in your reach, but what about having more than enough inspiration, love, and trust? What about having more than enough creative ideas and people to share them with? What about risking more vulnerability in your closest relationships and seeing what grows from these acts of courage? These are your goals for 2021—to increase your capacity by increasing your resources, so you can be prepared for all the surprises to come.
Redraw your map:
However 2020 reshaped your world, now is a time to start asking yourself what you’ve given up to stay in some relationships, and what you’ve given up by drawing back from others. Specifically, this year asks you to question the logic that intimacy (or independence) means making big sacrifices: you’re damned if you’re loved and damned if you’re lonely. Old experiences of rejection have taught you what you needed to learn. Don’t knit them into a tight, itchy sweater of I Will Never Truly Belong Amongst the Humans and commit to wearing that one outfit until you die and being buried in it. Instead, consider what you are maturing into and how the people who may have hurt or disappointed you are also maturing. You’re all a little older and some of you may be much wiser now. As you embrace this year that calls on your specific gifts and perspective, remember that what you’re learning about possibility is that it can’t be all or nothing—that you are capable of adapting to changing circumstances, and capable of learning how to feel safe even if you’re uncomfortable.
Redraw your map:
It’s normal that as we age we start to give up on certain dreams—we’re not all going to be astrophysicist opera singers with a side hustle of hip-hop dance. But what happens to the parts of you that are still attached to the motions of the planets, to singing, to expressive dance? For so many of us 2020 was a year of dreams deferred, or maybe cut off entirely. Maybe you’ve learned to do your dreaming as pure fantasy, getting high in the bath tub or binge watching gorgeously designed TV. I’m not saying that 2021 is the year you’ll get to be all you’ve ever dreamt of, but I am saying it’s worth reconsidering some dreams you’ve given up on. Specifically, now is the time to clearly map out how you get in touch with your deep intuition, to what restores and heals you. If you have a way of accessing those, you don’t need a clear map for anything else. When you’re feeling lost, point yourself in the direction where you find beauty and hope.
Last Updated on
When I put together my annual travel reflections for 2020, I did not expect such a massive post, but somehow, despite a global pandemic, this year was anything but boring. In March, when I returned to the U.S. from Australia, my first big trip of the year, just in time to see New York City shut down completely, I assumed that it would also be my last trip of the year. However, I ended up traveling quite a bit – and even ticked a major item of off my travel bucket list (you’ll have to wait until the second part of my 2020 round-up to see what that was) – something that I did not foresee at all.
While I did have some amazing travel experiences this year, I want to keep things real here though and also mention the darker moments – of which there were many. I lost almost all of my income, my tour business came to a halt, I witnessed Covid-19 first-hand and had a rough time in self-isolation for nearly three months. I am sharing my highs and lows of each month below, so read on to find out what I got up to from January till June 2020:
January: New York City, California and Australia
I started 2020 in a techno club in Bushwick, which I left around 9.30am on 1 January, and slept pretty much through all of the first day of 2020. This was the longest I’ve stayed out in a very long time. Since January is low season in New York and it tends to be very cold, I had scheduled only a few tours and spent the rest of the time working from cafes until it was time to leave New York for my first big trip of the year in mid-January.
I started my Australia trip with a little detour – knowing that I’d have to fly through LAX, I added a weekend in Southern California to my trip, visiting friends who live just south of L.A. After a low key weekend with some hiking, workouts, good food and lots of catching up, it was time for my first new country of the year: Australia!
A whole new continent. Considering that Australia was on the original itinerary for the Round-the-world trip that I left on in 2010, but for some reason never made it there, it was a pretty special moment when I finally landed in “Down Under” ten years later than expected.
I started my trip with a few days in Melbourne and a weekend in St Kilda by the beach, took a day trip to Phillip Island during which I got to get up, close & personal with wallabies, kangaroos and koalas (and declared that this had already made the trip for me!) and drove the Great Ocean Road.
Sydney was my second stop, and I immediately fell for Australia’s largest city – I cannot wait to go back and spend more time there.
Spending time in Southern California
I hadn’t seen my friends Jen & Chris since 2016, when I looked after their adorable pooch Henry for almost a month. I still have fond memories of my time with Henry during that month (September 2016) and was excited to spend a long weekend with them during an extended layover on my way to Australia. Jen showed me a few spots in Orange County I hadn’t been to yet, took me to my first ever kickboxing class, we went hiking, and made pizza in their wood-fired pizza oven. All of that, plus Henry snuggles, made this a fantastic weekend.
Driving the Great Ocean Road
I had to give myself a little pep talk to convince me I’d be fine driving not only on the “wrong” side of the road, but to also have the steering wheel on the right side of the car, which feels foreign to me. Because we’re not talking about driving just any road – we’re talking about driving a narrow, winding road with so.many.curves. But I knew that taking an organized tour of the Great Ocean Road instead of driving it myself wouldn’t cut it for me, and so I overcame my hesitation and rented a car in Melbourne. I hadn’t driven on the left side since I lived in England – I’d guess the last time I drove there must have been around 2009 – but it came back quickly to me and I gained back my confidence after only a few short kilometers. I would’ve never been able to experience the Great Ocean Road the way I did on this drive, and I’m glad I did it. The rock formations in the ocean were spectacular, the sweeping views never got old, and seeing the Twelve Apostels at sunset was incredibly beautiful.
Every moment spent in Sydney
I purposely chose to start my Australia trip in Melbourne and not in Sydney – I just had a feeling that from what I’d heard and read about Melbourne, it was “my kind of city”: lots of street art, a thriving coffee culture (the coffee capital of Australia!), and interesting neighborhoods, some of which had a similar feel to my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn. And yes, I did enjoy my time in Melbourne. But when I arrived in Sydney, I fell for the city instantly.
There was just something about Sydney that Melbourne didn’t have. The weather was better, the beaches were nicer, the neighborhoods were just as eclectic and diverse as Melbourne’s, and there was so much to see and do! I started my visit with a scenic coastal walk in Manly (thanks for the recommendation, Katie!), visited a flea market in Paddington, had amazing food, had superb coffee, and replaced the hat that I assume was lost at LAX (see below).
Arriving at the airport to check in for my flight to Australia and finding out I don’t have a ticket
When I arrived at the airport to check in for my flight to Melbourne, I was told that I only had a reservation, but not a ticket. My jaw dropped. “What do you mean I don’t have a ticket???”. The agent explained that apparently, the booking had never been confirmed.
A few weeks before my departure date, I had in fact noticed that my credit card was never charged for the flight and contacted Qantas. I usually call an airline when I have a question or problem with my booking, but I saw that Qantas had a SMS chat option to contact customer service and decided to use that instead of calling, because then I’d have everything in writing. Well, I am glad I did! I pulled up the conversation with the Qantas agent on my phone, in which I was reassured that I had a valid booking and my payment had gone through, and the check-in agent was able to get me on the flight that I had booked. Crisis averted! I also want to mention that Qantas was absolutely amazing to fly with, from customer service to meals on the plane to comfort, and every communication ever since.
Losing my hat on the way to Australia (before even leaving the US)
This wasn’t a big deal, but it was annoying. I’d traveled to L.A. with my beloved travel fedora, and by the time I arrived in Melbourne, I noticed that the hat was gone. I assume that I left it at the airport in LA while I was waiting to board my flight to Melbourne.
February 2020: Australia
February was amazing. I started the month in Sydney, where I packed in so much in my week there that I was grateful for the break the Whitsunday Islands gave me afterwards. There, I snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef – definitely a bucket list item! I also signed up for a skydive on a whim, which turned out to be a highlight, despite my huge fear of heights. I then flew down to Brisbane from the Whitsunday Coast and ended up loving the city much more than I thought I would. It made up for the rained out days in Byron Bay. From Brisbane, I flew to the West Coast – which I’d been deliberating over for a long time. Should I include Western Australia in my itinerary? Australia is such a huge country, I quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to fit everything into my trip, but eventually I chose Western Australia over the Outback for one simple reason: the quokkas! (see below in Best Moments). I also got to look after two adorable Rottweilers just south of Perth which was a welcome break after four weeks of fast-paced travels.
There were so many highlights in February, from celebrating my 10th “quitversary” (I walked out of my corporate job in London on 1 February 2010) with some bubbly and new friends outside Sydney’s Opera House, to touring vineyards in the Margaret River wine region in Western Australia to falling in love with Fremantle, a port city just south of Perth. I also saw some amazing art: the art museums in Sydney and Brisbane were world-class, and I saw a Keith Haring & Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit in Melbourne that wowed me. And let’s not forget the wildlife: seeing kangaroos in the wild in Western Australia was a travel dream come true, and snorkeling with turtles in the Whitsundays was as amazing as all my other turtle experiences.
Taking quokka selfies on Rottnest Island
Ever since seeing articles filled with funny and adorable quokka selfies, I knew I had to go get a quokka selfie when I’d finally make it to Australia. One of the first things I did after booking my flight to Oz was researching where these elusive quokkas live. Rottnest Island. A quick look at GoogleMaps revealed that these unique little mammals lived on a small island off the coast of Western Australia. Waaaaaay out of the way of any of the places I had tentatively put on my itinerary! The detour would include a six-hour flight and a 1-hour ferry ride from any place I had on my itinerary. And it’d be an expensive detour.
But it had to happen, and it was so worth it! My visit to Rottnest Island ended up being one of the highlights of my Australia trip and not only did I fall hard for the quokkas – I also fell in love with this tiny island, which is just 7.3 sq miles (19 sq kilometers) big. Rottnest Island was one of the most beautiful places I saw in all of Australia.
Overcoming my fear of heights and skydive
I have a huge fear of heights, and skydiving was a thing that I always listed as something “I’d never do”. Well, never say never! I signed up for a skydive on a whim in Airlie Beach on the Whitsunday Coast simply because the photograph outside the skydiving operator’s office looked so pretty and because it was fairly cheap, especially with the conversion rate to U.S. Dollars.
I am so glad that I took myself out of my comfort zone, because the skydive was incredible. The flight up to our jump height was already worth the money – the view over the Whitsunday Islands was breathtaking – and I gladly admit that I would’ve been happy to just go back down in the plane instead of throwing myself out of it, but my instructor made me feel so safe that I felt positive about surviving the jump. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect that day, and the feeling of jumping out of a plane is something I won’t forget anytime soon.
Visiting the Whitsunday Islands
Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef was a “must do” item on my Australia wish list, but it turned out that visiting the Whitsundays is quite pricey. I absolutely don’t regret splurging on the experience – it was a perfect mini vacation during my travels around Australia, and I loved swimming with sea turtles again and seeing a beautiful Maori Wrasse close-up for the very first time.
I had a difficult time deciding if I wanted to sail around the Whitsunday Islands, base myself on one of the islands, or base myself on the mainland and take a trip from there. Basing myself on the islands was the most expensive option, so I decided against it, and sailing seemed to be quite intense (uncomfortable bunks and a lot of time on a small boat). I think I ended up with the best option: a resort from which we took boat trips to several snorkeling spots and of the course the stunning White Haven Beach.
Not having a debit card
My debit card for my “travel funds” bank account expired on 31 January, and my new card did not arrive before I left on my trip. That meant I had to use my credit card for my entire trip – something I didn’t necessarily want to do (it took money out of my “day to day expenses in New York” account instead of my “travel account”). But I managed, and luckily I had enough money saved in that account that it wasn’t the end of the world.
Falling out of a boat and killing almost all my electronics
Yup, I fell out of a boat. When we arrived at the Paradise Grove Resort in the Whitsundays, we were transported from our speedboat to the resort in a small dinghy, and somehow I lost my balance when we hopped out of the dinghy into the shallow water, so that I ended up falling into the water. I would’ve just laughed it off, had my tote bag not gotten wet. Even though I reacted quickly and got it out of the water within seconds, my electronics all got wet and not all of them survived: my Kindle Fire, my portable charger, some of my charger cords – they all died.
March: Melbourne and New York City and NOT Guatemala
I began the month in Melbourne and I ended the month in New York City – and not in Guatemala, as I had originally planned. I was going to return to New York City for a quick job and two conferences and was supposed to fly to Guatemala mid-March. This was going to be my anniversary trip – the trip to celebrate a huge milestone: 10 years of Globetrottergirls.
I don’t need to tell you what happened: COVID-19 brought the world to a halt. I had monitored the spread of the virus while traveling Australia, fearful that it would shut down New York City the way that it had shut down Wuhan in January, but my friends back in New York told me I was being paranoid and dramatic when I left them panicky voicemails from the other side of the globe (Australia). New York City wouldn’t be shut down, I shouldn’t be worried, they assured me. Of course I was worried though, because my tour business is very much reliant on tourists coming to New York. And my fears turned out to be not unfounded: New York City did shut down. Guatemala closed its borders. My business died. My travel blog traffic tanked. My income took a huge hit.
Let’s look at the best and worst moments of the month:
A special visitor in New York City
I was scheduled to be in New York for less than two weeks and had quite a hectic schedule during that time (two conferences, meet-ups, work) but when a good friend told me she could schedule her visit to NYC to coincide with my extended “layover” in New York, I didn’t have to think about it: YES! COVID-19 was starting to spiral out of control, but we were still able to enjoy some fun New York moments: we visited the Vessel, which she hadn’t seen yet, and took a spring stroll around Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery. We had NY-style pizza slices and a yummy dinner at TimeOut Market and we indulged in Levain’s Cookies and Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding, trying to suppress the bad feeling we were both had about COVID-19. For me it was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to go to Guatemala, for her it was the fear of not making it down to Florida and getting back to Europe. Read on for what happened next in Worst Moments below.
COVID-19 bringing the world to a halt
Three days before my scheduled flight to Guatemala, one of the hotel owners in Guatemala, who kept me up-to-date about COVID-19 related travel restrictions in Guatemala, informed me that the government had extended their travel ban for foreign visitors to US residents. The next day, American Airlines canceled my flight. For a moment I had considered trying to bump up my flight to arrive in Guatemala before the travel restrictions went into effect, but in the end, I decided not to tempt my luck. What if I got stuck in Guatemala? (Side note: That’s what happened to hundreds of travelers, and in retrospect, I am glad I got stuck in my lovely apartment in Brooklyn instead!)
My friend was able to get out of New York City, but she never made it down to Florida to visit family and friends there. Instead, she flew back to Europe earlier than planned, on a crowded flight with people scrambling to get back home.
April: Stuck in New York City
April was a difficult month. New York City was hit hard by the Coronavirus, and watching the infection rates and growing death numbers every day was challenging for my mental health. Being thousands of miles away from my family was also not easy. Seeing friends contract COVID-19 (including some severe cases) and two people die from the disease was anxiety-inducing. I spent 22 to 23 hours a day self-isolating in my apartment, only leaving the house for grocery hauls, exercise, and to delivery groceries to my friend who had fallen very ill with COVID-19. My income had dried up almost entirely. The blog only makes me money when people read it, and nobody wanted to read about travel while stuck at home, not knowing when we’d be able to travel again. Almost nobody was paying to have travel content written. And my Brooklyn tours? Well obviously they only make me money when I can run them. I felt completely crushed. What I had hoped was going to be my financially most lucrative year yet was shaping up to bring me close to bankruptcy.
A care package from Germany
This one goes into the category “kindness of strangers”: A follower of my blog and Instagram had seen that I was running out of my international chocolate supply (I am not a big fan of American chocolate) and decided to send me a huge package filled with all of my favorite chocolates: different kinds of Ritter Sport, all sorts of Kinder chocolates– it felt like it was Christmas and my birthday on one and the same day! I would’ve appreciated a care package like this at any time, but during these trying times, it felt particularly special and I was grateful every single day for the sweet treats that gave me comfort. Looking back, I am still amazed by the kindness someone who barely knew me showed me.
A care package from Germany!
The uncertainty of COVID-19
My mind was constantly racing in April, with thoughts like: Would I be able to keep my apartment? How many more months would I be able to pay rent? When would I run out of my savings? When would tourists be able to return to New York City? When would people start reading travel blogs again? Would I end up in one of the makeshift hospitals that the city had set up? Would I die from Coronavirus if I got it?
There was a lot of fear and a lot of worry. The uncertainty was dreadful.
Witnessing COVID-19 firsthand
As I already mentioned, several friends and people I knew got sick with Coronavirus and two people died from it. It was an emotional time with lots of tears.
Seeing New York City during COVID-19
I love New York City so much, and I was devastated to see “my” city hurt so much. Restaurants closed, theaters closed, shops closed – basically, all life had disappeared from the streets. Seeing a vibrant city like New York so silent, literally shut down, was heartbreaking. Instead of chatter in the streets you’d hear sirens all the time. Seeing “morgue trucks” outside the hospitals, hearing about people having their lives destroyed – it was devastating. I wrote about what it was like to live in New York City during COVID-19 here.
May: Still stuck in New York City
We started May with over 162,000 cases of Coronavirus in New York City, and over 13,000 deaths. Looking at the numbers every day was mind-boggling, especially since so many other countries had managed to contain the virus. New York City, however, had more cases than 190 countries. The good news was that it finally looked like case numbers were slowly declining – NYC seemed to have passed the peak. This month, nobody I knew got sick.
After a long and difficult April, May was also much easier for me personally. I had gotten into a good routine of working, exercising, and socializing either online or with the folks in my “COVID pod”. I didn’t feel lonely, I kept myself busy with work (mainly going through the roughly 1,500 articles on Globetrottergirls, deleting irrelevant articles and updating outdated content, but I also managed to get a few freelance projects). I got used to this “new normal” and kept myself entertained with Online Experiences and cooking and baking – including a 3-week sugar detox after indulging a bit too much in sugar in April thanks to the above-mentioned care package. I had excellent pizza several times this month (pre- and post-detox), I went to my friend’s house for a dinner after she recovered from COVID-19, I met another friend for socially distant runs, I took a virtual coffee experience, I had picnics in the park, I watched a couple of TV shows that I enjoyed (Derry Girls made me laugh, and Normal People made me cry a few times). I went on long bike rides around Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens and even made it to Staten Island once. It felt amazing to have the ferry almost to myself (no tourists!).
I also made the decision to spend the summer with my family in Germany, which meant this was going to be my last full month in NYC for a while.
Making it through a 21-day sugar detox
Even though I’ve done this detox several times in the past, I still find it incredibly hard to cut out sugar and carbs completely for a full three weeks. But challenging myself to do it and seeing that I am able to function without sugar feels like a huge achievement every single time. Plus:
Finishing a half marathon in Coney Island
The Brooklyn Half Marathon was supposed to happen mid-May, but due to COVID-19, it had to be canceled. The organizers set up a virtual half marathon instead, which means anyone can run 13.1 miles, no matter where in the world they are. Not only did I sign up for the half marathon, but I challenged myself to run a half marathon while on the sugar detox, during which I usually don’t have a lot of energy because I exist almost entirely on vegetables. I ran all the way down to Coney Island, and admittedly, I didn’t run very fast, but I finished.
Seeing friends IRL
After not seeing any of my friends for what felt like YEARS, I slowly started to see a few close friends in May. Having actual face-to-face hangouts instead of just Facetime and WhatsApp video calls felt amazing. I consider myself a social person and not being able to socialize was the hardest aspect of the shelter-in-place order for me.
I can’t think of a single horrible moment. I think I put things in perspective in May: I (still) have money, I have a nice apartment, I have access to delicious food, I am healthy, I have people in my life who care about me – I honestly have nothing to complain about.
June: New York City and Germany
After nearly 90 days of self-isolation in New York City, I was more than ready for a change of scenery. My family had already asked me back in April to come to Germany and stay with them, and I thought about it for a long time before I agreed to it. The most important thing for me was not to put them at risk, which is why I decided to wait out the peak of the infection rate in NYC. It was announced that the city would loosen quarantine restrictions in June, and I was hoping that by the time I’d fly out, travel restrictions would be eased.
Unfortunately, by early June, not much had changed in New York City. The city began its reopening, which would slowly roll out in four phases, on 8 June, with wholesale, manufacturing and construction work being resumed, but everyone else was still under shelter-at-home order. Germany, on the other hand, was much further ahead already, with life being almost back to normal (except for face coverings being required inside stores and restaurants). Travel restrictions were still in place, which means US citizens were still not allowed to enter the EU, but since I have a German passport and my trip was considered essential, I was able to leave the U.S.
Just before I left for Germany, the protests following the George Floyd killing started to go full force in New York and in other cities around the U.S.. It was an interesting time – on the one hand, I was excited to see so many people get involved in the #BlackLivesMatter movement and speak up against systemic racism and police brutality, on the other hand I felt extremely anxious about crowds gathering and a possible new spike in COVID-19 infections, after months of shutdown and the city just starting to reopen. Knowing that I’d put my family back in Germany in danger by exposing myself to the virus, I was only able to watch the protests from the sideline.
Every time things like this happen – another black person dying unjustified, people taking to the streets and making their outrage known, but things normalizing eventually and people seeming to forget about the horrible injustice in this country.. until the next terrible thing occurs – I feel so hopeless about the state of the world and my adopted home country: America. Nobody should feel discriminated against because of their race or the color of their skin. Nobody should experience violence because of their race or the color of their skin. Nobody should be killed because of their race or the color of their skin. And yet, it is happening again and again.
I truly hope that time around, things will change for the better. I hope that white people become more introspective and face their own racism, often ingrained through upbringing and societal norms. I hope that white people will educate themselves on the issue of racism and that police departments around the U.S. will restructure their training process and the way they handle arrests. This will not be a quick change, but if the protests of June 2020 lead to long lasting changes, it’d make me happy.
Reuniting with my family
Easily the best moment of the month! After months of uncertainty about when I’d be able to see my family again, it was such a relief to arrive at my sister’s house. An even bigger relief was to make it through 14 days of obligatory quarantine upon arrival in Germany without developing any symptoms of COVID-19. I’d worried I may have been exposed to the virus on my plane ride to Europe – see below for why.
The flight from NYC to FRA
After the first flight I booked was canceled by the airline on short notice (less than two weeks before the departure date!), I decided to pay a little more and book a flight with Delta Airlines, mainly because they promised “extra safety” on their flights and social distancing measures. The flight was via Atlanta, a big Delta hub. The first flight was okay – the middle seat was left empty so that I had some distance between me and the other passenger in my row.
On the 9-hour flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt, however, I was shocked to discover to have someone sitting right next to me. When you book a flight thinking social distancing isn’t going to be a problem but then find yourself so close to someone that your legs and arms touch frequently on an overnight flight – not great. I convinced myself that I picked up COVID-19 on the flight – after I’d been so careful the weeks prior to my flight, so that I wouldn’t get anyone in my family sick. I was extremely frustrated about this, and spent the entire flight stressing about bringing coronavirus to a part of Germany that had only seen a couple of COVID cases and zero deaths. I was so relieved when I finished my 2-week quarantine without having developed any symptoms.
Stay tuned for the second part of my year in review.. The second half of 2020 included some travels around Europe in the summer, and my return to the U.S., which included an unexpected trip to a new-to-me destination.
Ellie Diamond, Asttina Mandella and Ginny Lemon from Drag Race UK season two. (BBC)
The Drag Race UK season two queens are finally here.
After feverish anticipation, frustrating delays and the small matter of a global pandemic, Drag Race UK season two is ready to spread its tuppence all over your screen.
Returning 14 January on BBC iPlayer, the new season will see RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Alan Carr and Graham Norton preside over a diverse new cast of queens, including the franchise’s first Welsh and Scottish contestants.
Expect glamour, spook, vocals, veganism and a whole lot of regional dialects for RuPaul to smile and nod at.
The twelve competing queens are: Tayce, Joe Black, A’Whora, Tia Kofi, Ellie Diamond, Sister Sister, Veronica Green, Bimini Bon Boulash, Ginny Lemon and Asttina Mandella.
Also announced Wednesday (16 December) was Drag Race UK: Queens on Lockdown, a mid-series special uncovering how the queens spent their time during the long, pandemic-mandated break in filming.
Tayce, 26, from London via Newport.
Drag Race UK’s first Welsh queen is a “girl on the go” who describes her drag as “modelesque, very villainous, dark, punky, edgy… a sexy owl here to peck your face away with my claws”.
Well-known on the London drag scene, Tayce is “here, queer and ready to let these girls have it”.
Like a few girls this season, Tayce has an aversion to the sewing machine, but doesn’t expect that will stop her from making it to very end “by hook or by crook”.
Joe Black, 30, from Brighton.
Joe has been performing for 13 years and comes from the world of burlesque and cabaret – “all ostrich feathers and glitter and strippers”.
She is bringing “all the eye shadow and the wonky eyebrows of the traditional seaside drag, with a bit of haunted glamour”.
A’whora, 23, from London via Nottinghamshire.
A’whora is the “fashion queen of the London scene” determined to prove that she’s a lot more than just her incredible looks.
“I wanna walk into a club and people be intimidated”, says the plastic surgery enthusiast, whose next procedure is getting her “fingers done”.
Tia Kofi, 30, from from London via Essex and Nottingham.
Tia Kofi is one-third of drag girl group The Vixens, but is entering Drag Race UK to “Beyoncé myself”.
Proud to be representing British queens of colour, Tia Kofi is bringing you “end of the pier Blackpool”.
“She’s live singing, she’s all dancing, she’s camp, she’s glamour, she’s also a mess.”
Ellie Diamond, 21, from Dundee.
Standing 6’4 out of drag, Ellie is “a really big queen – literally – in a tiny little pond”.
She joins Drag Race UK season two having performed outside of Dundee only once before.
She currently works in a drive-thru, and describes her drag as a “cartoon character came to life”.
Sister Sister, 32 from Liverpool.
A Sister Sister show is about “wacky monsters going for it”, inspired by old-school, Victoria Wood-style British comedy.
She can sew, turn a look, dance – although “not well” – and is here to represent a unique part of Liverpool’s drag scene
“You have the gorgeous queens of Dragtown, you have the queer scene who like to get down dark and dirty, and then you have me just plonked in the middle.”
Veronica Green, 34, from London via Rochdale.
“Gorgeous, goofy and professional”, Veronica Green has been in the industry as a theatre and opera singer for 15 years.
Although her dream of singing in Wicked hasn’t come true (yet), she’s ready to take the Drag Race UK crown.
“I am the most competitive person I know, and I will fight you on that if you disagree.”
Bimini Bon Boulash, 26, from London via Norfolk.
“East London’s bendiest b***h,” Bimini grew up in Norfolk but is now a staple of the capital’s “diverse, vibrant, colourful” drag scene.
Incredibly, Bimini invented veganism “about seven years ago”, and fancies herself the dancing queen of the season.
“I wanna show that you don’t have to be shady, be super b***hy to prove that you’ve got something.”
Ginny Lemon, 31 from Worcestershire.
Fancy a slice? Ginny Lemon is the “hairiest woman in showbiz” and “the only non-binary drag queen in the UK… with a sense of humour”.
Her ideal look is a “90s daytime TV presenter on acid”, she’s bringing you a “down o earth, working class sense of humour”.
“You’ll get high energy, madness, the unplanned.”
Asttina Mandella, 27 from London.
A backing dancer for the likes of Hercules and Love Affair, Pussycat Dolls, Little Mix and Kanye West, Asttina is trained in ballet, tap, jazz, vogue, whacking, hip-hop and street dance – but she’s also “a big geek”.
“Now it’s my time to be on the poster,” she says.
“I’m Serena Williams and Naomi Campbell if they had a baby, plus Azealia Banks at the same time.”
Cherry Valentine, 26 from Darlington.
Cherry Valentine only started doing drag a year ago, but tells her haters: “I’ve been doing it as long as I need.”
“She’s glamour, she’s club kid, she’s dark, she’s gothic,” she says of her drag.
When she’s not serving body and face, Cherry is a qualified mental health nurse, something she credits with helping her on her drag journey.
Lawrence Chaney, 23 from Glasgow.
Inspired by Lady Gaga, Madonna and Michelle McManus, Lawrence is “every single stereoytpe you are thinking right now of what a Scottish person is”.
“I’m almost the fat b****d of drag from Austin Powers,” she says, and is here to represent the big queens.
“I really wanna show that a big girl can enter the competition and really showcase the inner beauty and the outer beauty that we all heave. Not wear leotards with fringe on them.”