What a year 2020 has been for international travel and explorers like myself.
Unsurprisingly, the travel and tourism industry has been one of the sectors hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. It put a halt in so many people’s travel plans, including my own. After many cancellation emails later, I’ve come to accept 2020 was just not the year for international travel. Though it has been disappointing in many ways, 2020 has inspired me to get my head down and make plans for my future trips in the year to come.
A number of projects I had lined up were cancelled due to the pandemic. One of which was an ultra marathon I had planned to complete in the Kalahari Desert. I’d been excited to follow in the footsteps of local bushmen and journey across sandy riverbeds, outstretched grassland and scorching desert in Botswana. The soul-fulfilling adventure was one I had been training for and I was gutted to find out it couldn’t go ahead. But, it is a relief to know I am not alone in my disappointment as I am certain many others, like myself, have been left feeling disappointed at some point in 2020.
So, to make up for lost time, I have created an exciting travel agenda for 2021. I have a number of adventures in the pipelinealong with three continents and I can’t wait for you to join me on the journey.
So, what will next year look like for me?
I’m hoping that by April, borders will have opened up and travellers will be back out adventuring across the land, and reconnecting with the region and its people again.
Around this time, I should find myself back in Colombia. I’m no stranger to the Colombian landscape and if you have been following me for a while you will know I spent time there last year exploring the Jurado area. I vividly remember the humidity of the air, the friendly mix of indigenous people and the stark loneliness of arriving in Jurado, a town in the North West of Colombia, near the border with Panama. Colombia is the gateway to South America and the second most Biodiverse country in the world. For this reason I CANNOT WAIT to head back to the pacific coast side of the country and attempt the Darien crossing for the third time. I look forward to reuniting with the beautiful country and people, and tackling the challenge ahead.
After my time in South America, I plan to head towards Pakistan where I will follow the Indus river across the country. Starting in the Tibetan area of China, the river crosses into the Northern Region of India in the disputed area of Jammu and Kashmir, before it heads into Northern Pakistan.
The Indus river stretches the entire length of Pakistan. I will begin in the North and follow the river South to the city of Karachi where it merges with the Arabian Sea. My feet are itching to explore this new landscape after ‘chill-out’ time 2020 has blessed me with. I have no doubt that this mission will be challenging, but it will also be full of history lessons, incredible landscapes and abundant wildlife. The river is an essential part of Pakistan's economy and is the country’s main water supply, and I cannot wait to learn more about this part of the world!
I am then going to return to Europe where I will explore the life of Migrants close to my home in the UK. As I am sure you are aware, Calais in France (the doorway to the English Channel ) has been home to an increasingly prominent migrant crisis in recent years. Everyday migrants, who have fled their homes across the world, attempt to cross the English channel in hope of finding a more secure home and brighter future. I am sure their stories are often heartbreaking, and their journeys long.. But by spending some time in Calais with the migrants, I hope to learn a little more about their lives and their struggle.
Once I have spent some time with the migrants in Calais, I aim to hitch a ride with them on the often dangerous and treacherous trip across the English channel. I plan to film my experience and shed some light on the lives of displaced people and the many challenges they face on their journey to the UK.
I don’t expect this experience to be easy, but I will gain new insight into how these people live, and how they can be supported. To learn a little more about the migrants in Calais, or to donate to their cause follow this link : https://care4calais.org/
Travelling with a purpose is important for me. Whether it be learning more about biodiversity, spreading awareness of local animals, people or culture, on every trip I hope to uncover more about myself or the world we live in.
I’m sure like me, you have felt trapped and disappointed by the challenges that 2020 has brought about. I never imagined 2020 year would plan out like it did. Despite the unexpected cancellations, it has reminded me of my love of travelling, and why I chose this lifestyle in the first place. I feel a renewed sense of excitement and anticipation when I think about the adventures in the year ahead.
It feels like forever since I last found myself in an unknown land, drinking beer in a rural bar, or floating down the vast expanse of a glorious river somewhere. Now, more than ever, I look forward to hitting the road once more.
2020 has been a stark reminder of how important it is to grab every opportunity that comes your way and make the most of all the experiences you have. I hope like me, your notebook and calendar is full of wild travel plans and unpredictable adventures - here's to 2021 being a little more adventurous and exciting than 2020….
Happy New Year everyone!