Tuesday, 12 January 2021

My 2020 in Review

Every year I like to take that rainy stretch near New Year's to look back at what we got up to, set some goals, and see if we delivered on our intentions from the previous year.   I do this mostly for myself and sometimes re-read earlier years. I also like to share it with friends and family that might be interested walking down a recent "memory lane".

The way I worded it in 2017: "It is both a time to remember "oh ya! we did that THIS year?", and also a means to inspire ourselves to do more of the things we like, and better, and not become complacent. It also, in some years like this one, is a reminder of how short life can be and a chance to honour the passing of important people or institutions."

I'm not sure why but I didn't do this in 2019 (and I wish I did). I do have a running record of our activities and it seemed like a "normal" year, with no loss of family or friend, manageable health, and an increased participation in some little hobby interests (eg. participating as a citizen in many phases of the Granville Street bridge public consultation).

2020 Overview

I always try to do the "if x was the year of travel/graduation/new job, 2020 was the year of y".  There is just no ways around it, it was the year of COVID-19.  It changed how we worked, it cramped our main hobbies and it took the life of at least one loved one.

That said, a few minor things went our way.  We decided to take an early vacation to Nevada, California and Utah right before COVID kicked into gear, so ended up not feeling as deprived of adventure as many. However, even before that, in January we had several losses on the friend and family side.

The rest of the year was like a roller-coaster as it was for everyone else and we lost more family and friends as we tried to just get through the year injecting as much local adventure in where we could and keeping our own stress levels in check.  We really needed to change our patterns but it was a very anti-social year, and in many ways we achieved new levels of inactivity and boredom. Trump will not be talked about in the sections below btw.  So here goes.

My select chronological set of cell phone pics from the year.

Friends and Family

I'm going launch right into this one as it was mostly not a positive.  Like everyone, we saw far too little of our friends and families. We definitely took liberties when the health officer allowed us to lower our guard but on so many levels this was the opposite direction for what we wanted as we feel negligent typically in this area in "normal" years. 

In early January, my aunt Jean passed away (my mother's sister). This was early enough that a proper service was held which I'm very thankful for (especially for my uncle Lorne and my cousins).  She was a very nice woman, and someone I only have fond memories of, many through the words of my own mom.  

Shortly after that, a junior co-worker of mine from a previous job of mine decided to take his own life. This was someone I bonded with during my time at that job and thought about often afterwards (before and after he died).  I still don't quite know why, but of the many deaths I'll associate with 2020, this one may have hit me hardest. His death occurred right as the fear and confusion around COVID started kicking in. A celebration of life would have happened if just a week or so earlier but never did occur. This was just the first of many such events that never happened this year for our family and I feel really complicates closure. 

In March, Laura's father (Dick Langs) passed away unexpectedly.  The effects of not being able to be with her mother or have a formal event are still unfolding. 
During one of the low alert periods we did drive to Nelson and joined the bubble of her sister's family but we were all so desperate to just enjoy that, we didn't unpack Dick's passing much and perhaps that was the right thing at that time.

Laura's father was someone I did not get to know as much as I would have liked, but I feel fortunate to have had as a father-in-law. I never felt judged by this super kind man (which seems like a thing that happens to other men).  I feel there were common interests that we never got to discuss due to limited time. There is a lesson in there somewhere. An eye-opener for me was how strong my wife is as I watched her cope with the waves of emotions.  Her journey with this is not over but I am amazed at the grace with which she handles it and am pleased she now "Zooms" with her mom almost daily which is a positive new thing that came of all of this.  My wife never met my mother, so it not wasted on me that the few meetings I had with her dad are precious.

My aunt Liesbeth (my dad's sister) passed away in May. She had health challenges but it still was a rapid chain of events from what I understand. She also was a gentle soul and being younger than my dad, added to a bit of selfish anxiety for me regarding him. Being in Ontario and someone that didn't travel much, we didn't know her well, but she always felt like family as soon as we were in the same room.  I don't know how my dad is dealing with it but I should probably ask.  The thing is just that these days we always try to share positives to keep each other buoyant and it just feels weird to bring it up.

Right under the wire of 2020 ending a very distant acquaintance now, but someone part of my once tight BCIT class and still in my work network, passed. He was young, possibly depressed, and for some reason it added to the feeling this was just a shit year for certain things. It was like the other bookend to how 2020 started.

Although it was kind of spotty, we did manage to get out for some trips with friends to the mountains or an alfresco meal between lockdowns, but it was just way too little and I miss this social pillar of our lives.

Needless to say - when possible, we aim to see more of our family and friends.  I feel generally more distant to all of them and I do not want that stretch of time to pass where it is even harder to reconnect.  This is a priority for 2021.


I need something light,...let's talk about what we did this year that aligns with our usual objectives.  Travel is one of our biggest shared hobbies and we love planning, executing, and remembering it. 

We could not have timed our "biggest international" trip better.  COVID was being talked about when we were in Vegas, but not before.  We sort of categorize trips as either big ones (Europe, Asia etc.) or small ones which would even include Hawaii maybe and certainly week long max US city trips like Chicago,.. or maybe a longer BC roadtrips.  Las Vegas turned out to not just be our biggest trip of the year,.. but it behaved like one.

Honestly, I though it was going to be a throw away. Laura had never seen Vegas and it seemed time, but I hate the place... Somehow it was an amazing trip.  We did the highlights of Vegas cheeze, but the extended trips from the hub were phenomenal and some 'sites of a lifetime'  for sure. I am so grateful that we fit this one in when we did (photos).  I love desert and think that people that go to Vegas and don't got further afield are nuts! This trip included:
  • The Strip highlights: Neon museum, Fat Elvis 
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Mojave Nation Preserve
  • Zion National Park
  • Valley of Fire
  • Beatles Cirque du Soleil
  • A random brunch with Laura's friend Rob!
From there, the year became what I think it did for many of us in BC (my co-workers in particular maximized this),.. a cat and mouse game of how to responsibly get out into BC when the authorities and communities were open to it. 

Even a basic car camping trip seemed like a precious treat, especially with the hoards flooding into the areas that WE tend to frequent historically in the summer (and the weird restrictions and booking systems that came along with COVID). Here is where we managed to get to:
  • Lac le Jeune - car camping
  • Manning Park - car camping and hiking
  • Whistler - with our friends Peter and Olivia when restrictions relaxed (with WAY too many other peple up there that simply did not give a shit)
  • Gibsons - just checking it out and keeping to ourselves
  • Nelson - to visit family and I did a longish rail trail ride (my only bike trip of the year!)

We only fit in one standalone backpacking trip (with Brenda, Andy, and Maria) and I'd say that was a situation of quality over quantity.  No bike trips,... which are often my faves so if there is a way in 2021 to safely do that,.. that will be a priority.

The other big trip was with Wendie and Pete to Yoho and Glacier National Parks including an overnight backpack trip on the Iceline trail. I had only ever been through that area on tour with my band in the 90s and wow was it an amazing place as was the roadtrip and cabin in Golden we stayed in.

Day Trips

More than ever, day trips (after work or weekends) played a big role in our mental well-being and maybe we "improved the system" a bit so I've broken that out as a separate thing. 

Without commuting to work as much we needed exercise so reasoned out that if we were working from home (and the same place) we can get on the road faster AFTER work (we also dramatically increased daily walking from and around our place).

This year we did far less of the 5+ hour hikes that usually shape our year and more of the short and local hikes including SFU based ones and some easy access North Shore hikes.  It was fun to re-aquaint ourselves with those and safer since we could not go in bigger numbers with people outside of our bubble.  We did tons, (like 2 a week at one point).

We also bought a proper bike rack so could drive further out for some new areas like Pitt Meadows and areas of Surrey for some exploring by bike.  These were great additions and something we want to do more of.

In both cases, we also started to get smarter about packing food which kicked off a renaissance of al fresco eating for us. This was one of the great take-aways of 2020 where we now bring dry padded seats with us everywhere (and a food kit), and enjoy the great outdoors more than ever for a nice lunch or dinner.


It is difficult to know where our work lives were going before COVID forced a right turn in everything.  There is no doubt that some of the content of what I did changed in part to the "how" we would work given provincial restrictions.  The business I work for serves the public so any growth trajectory was hit hard. We were able to stay open as the need for alternative transportation categorized us as a necessary service. However, this was not before we needed to conduct some temporary and permanent reductions unfortunately.

Like many companies this year, employment related government subsidies were well used by our management team (aka my manager) and thankfully my role was not impacted as a result.  The slowness of the world however was reflected in the type and content of work we got up to.  I volunteered to take a temporary 4 day work week at the tail end of the year. It just made sense and something I wanted to explore and understand about myself for down the road in life.

Laura's work also continued but unlike me, she remains working from home 100%. Because I'm 50% home now and for a month or so at the start was 100%,.. I'm amazed our arrangement worked so well right out of the gate.  With us both on calls etc. I would not have expected that.  Much of that is owed to Laura who seems content working in the "lesser workstation" in our apartment kitchen (IMO) which she can just pack up and hide away at the end of the day.

I never liked working from home in past jobs. I like the separation, but this exploration of that was not as bad as I thought. That said, whereas all the jokes are around what people do not get up to when unsupervised,.. I found myself initially doing longer days, taking no breaks and for the type of tasks I would chip away on,. it probably was not needed and went unnoticed. I'm a bit more ok with it than I used to be as a concept, but I don't feel the world is easily going back to non-permeable barriers between work and home time any time soon.  2021 feels quite up in the air on many fronts for me and my place of work so I don't want to speculate too much or bank too much on things going the way I want.

Our Extended World

A complete shake-up in the world triggered an array other noteworthy events and behaviours for us.

Wanderung (the hike club I started in 2002 and now semi-participate in as a board member), had to be paused. It is effectively a tool for connecting strangers in carpools.. so,.. kind of a no brainer, but after 18 years running, it did feel a bit odd knowing those group trips would not be happening and potentially keeping people safer. 

I had been getting more involved and interested in "urbanism" for lack of a better word so some of the changes to the city like pop-up-plazas, improvements in Stanley park for recreation, and opening up outdoor patios for restaurants were a welcome diversion and of great interest to me.  I've always felt that the city was not doing enough for people outside of their cars and hope some productive lessons have been learned and will lead to permanent changes.  I love street closures and more thoughtful use of public space.

The one project I was deeply following, blogging about, and attending engagement events for was the Granville Street Bridge improvement plan.  IMO, the opportunity is massive and it is the single most obvious impediment in fluid transportation across the city. In January of 2020 the unquestionable "best" option of several was chosen from the design choices. 2 months later, they had to de-scope it due to city budgets into phases (the second of which may never happen) and, to me, defeated the entire purpose of the key feature... removing gradient for unpowered vehicles (wheelchairs, pedestrians, bikes).  I'm still disappointed and feel this is short-sighted!  I think critics will have more legit ammo to knock the costs if it remains a half measure and we might see less positive sway for travel choices as a result.

We also endeavored to move the needle in the positive direction on our impact to the planet. We flew less, and drove less but I question if that was a really a deliberate choice that will stick. We carpooled less too... so presumably our friends were doing more trips with less people...

We bought more of our food from ethical sources such as Fisher Otto and a Sunnyside Farm CSA subscription. We also incorporated food  shopping into our daily routine which allowed making more smaller trips by foot, and closer by, and leaving the car at home. 

I can say we have gotten more into the concept of re-use and repair but that seems still like a tiny dent in the seemingly massive amount of garbage and recycling we seem to generate. The Soap Dispensary etc. is something we like to support but seems to have such a narrow scope and impact given our needs.  This needs more work in 2021 especially as I learn just how misleading current recycling systems in our area may be.

I was trying to reign in spending in general this year but not sure yet how that has gone as I did buy some big items that hopefully make 2021 less one of spending.


For us personally, this was not a year of notable injuries or illness (thankfully). That said, it was not a healthy year. The extra time generated by COVID did not translate to more home exercise at all,.. it has led to us consuming more online content than in the history of earth.  Contact me if you want Netflix recommendations...

I gained weight, got further out of shape, and do not feel great. Though I don't know how it happened,  we started to dabble in far less meat consumption. We are not vegans, or even vegetarians, but in 2019,.. we were major carnivores. Honestly, I do not feel any health benefits, in fact kind of the opposite, but I do think it is balancing out our diet better for variety, moderation, and the environment.  This year we did do way better on a goal we never pull off and that is expanding our repertoire of recipes. Our food planning and cooking has made a move in the right direction.

I feel generally that this year wore on people mentally more than they are acknowledging (and statistical markers all show this).  I've observed that others are not as sensitive to this as I feel they should be and some, completely unaware that people around them are struggling as much as they are. It doesn't seem as if they don't care, but they are failing to see it. I felt like I was doing fine up to a point but have to admit, I feel pretty fragile and listless so do hope for a better next year though I'm not expecting the flip of a calendar to trigger any meaningful movement in the root cause of all of this (even with a potential pandemic vaccine on the way for end of 2021).


Who the hell knows. That might be the real sign of how 2020 went,.. it seems hard to plan ahead and settle on a path. 

I feel that the conservative way to view vaccines is to expect, at best, by 2022 we can be social and travel more. The job loss and economic toll on governments will be in full force by then though and I for one do not underestimate the magnitude of that at all. For that reason, I am cautious about making too many plans. To think otherwise feels too optimistic.

My goals this year will be a bit fortune-cookie-ish:
  • Keep flexible - roll with it, expect nothing but seize opportunity to mix things up
  • Stay healthy - every year I fail to really get in shape but I need to address a few issues including this golf ball in my shoulder.  I must turn around my exercise lethargy, especially for my joints.
  • Communication - with friends and family far more frequently.  We are getting isolated.  Games nights, etc.
  • Keep the following trends on the DOWNWARD trajectory:
    • driving (and fuel consumption)
    • spending on non-essential or non-experiential things
    • animal based product consumption
  • Keep the following on the UPWARD trajectory:
    • Batch cooking.
    • Alfresco dining (and having the supplies with us).
    • Daily walks.
  • Bike trips before all else (when safe and acceptable)
  • Understanding CoV waste processes and improve our impact