Not to put too fine of a point on it, but 2020 sucked. I know, I know, it sucked for absolutely everyone, some more than others. But, no Schneiduk PigFish wrap up of 2020 can start by saying anything other than “2020 sucked.”
Things started off badly. Robert was horribly sick the first few days of the year with horrible migraines, a high fever, a hacking cough that just wouldn’t quit, and an inability to breathe unless he was sitting or standing. Like sicker than he has ever been in his entire life. Like I was wondering if we needed to find a hospital in Bogota sick. Did he pick up covid in Europe or Vegas? We will never know….
Then, on the first day Robert really felt better, he got pick pocketed by someone using the bird poop trick (spit on someone, grab a tissue to wipe it away, have your team members steal stuff while the victim is batting your tissue away). That was fun. Not. At least his phone was cheap and his wallet only had one credit card, one debit card, his driver’s license, and a small amount of cash in it. We really enjoyed it when the bank initially wouldn’t cancel his credit card because he wasn’t calling from the phone number on record because, you know, his phone had been stolen.
Then, I got sick. Not as sick as Robert, but sick enough to be pretty miserable. (I was tested for covid antibodies in the summer and didn’t have any, so either we didn’t have covid or the antibodies were gone by the time I got tested.)
Around about March, after some lovely days in Cartagena and the Galapagos, things were finally starting to look up. Then, covid hit. That sure put a crimp in everything all around the world. And, obviously, ended our travels for the year.
After months of boredom, anger, and despair in the United States, I got to experience the “best in the world” American health care system. I was having chest pains while we were staying in Minnesota. So, I did everything right. I got on my insurer’s website, found an in-network doctor, and made a video appointment. The appointment lasted a whopping 13 minutes. And the bill was $495 dollars. No, that is not a typo. No, I am not kidding. So, I called the billing department and got one of those automated messages. And, I kid you not, the first thing it said was “If you are an attorney, press 1.” An EKG, a stress test, a CT angiogram, and nearly eight thousand of dollars in bills later (we were personally responsible for nearly three thousand dollars of those bills), I was given the all clear via — believe it or not — a letter. My doctor’s office couldn’t even be bothered to pick up the phone to call me with the results. I don’t know why that should surprise me — I never even saw a doctor in person, and some of the bills were from doctors who I never even spoke to who apparently were “required” to read the test results at the hospital before my actual doctor was provided the results. Best. Healthcare. In. The. World. Not. The only good news out of this process was that I learned that I have zero — literally zero — buildup in my arteries in spite of years and years of living off of pizza, bacon, french fries, and white wine. Apparently that rumor that garlic helps keep your arteries clear must be true…
Still, even with all that, our year was significantly better than some peoples’ years. At least we didn’t have jobs to lose, didn’t have jobs that required us to put ourselves in harms way, didn’t lose any friends or family to covid, and had the funds to ensure a safe and comfortable home and food on the table. And, while we did have to buy some scratchy store brand toilet paper, we never ran out! We are so very thankful for all of that.
So…let’s move on to the questions we answer at the end of every year.
Do we regret retiring, selling everything, and traveling the world? Well, we still don’t regret retiring, and we will never regret traveling. But, for the first time ever, we do somewhat regret selling everything and traveling full time. It sure would have been nice to have a base to have headed back to when the world closed down. In light of that, we are seriously considering buying a “base” for the future. You know, a place that will always have a supply of toilet paper and Clorox so we never need to worry about that again.
Did we manage to stay on budget this year? Yep, although we weren’t as under budget as you might think. We were way over budget after our three weeks in the Galapagos and we had planned on several cheap months in South America to even things out for the year. That obviously didn’t happen. But, even after buying exorbitantly expensive emergency charter flight tickets back to the U.S., paying all my outrageous medical bills, and renting an insanely expensive furnished apartment in Minneapolis (and a much more reasonable place in New Orleans), we ended up being just a teeny-tiny bit under budget. Not being able to do anything fun sure helped.
Where did our money go this year? Nearly 30% of our budget went to hotels and rent. Ouch! About 25% went to health care. Don’t even get us started on that again . . . . Unbelievably, almost 20% went to food and beverages even though we haven’t set foot in a restaurant or bar since March — groceries in the U.S. are expensive, and even more expensive when you are ordering things from Instacart, paying the Instacart upcharge on things, and tipping the people who deliver your groceries. No other category was even close to those three. And, as usual, we can’t overlook the “fun” expenses, even though they weren’t so fun this year. Over $1000 in cleaning and paper products. Over $400 in various cookware to supplement what was in the furnished apartments we rented in the U.S. to help keep Robert occupied — and, boy, did he put that cooking equipment to good use. It was worth every penny. Nearly $400 on various streaming services to entertain us while we sat on the couch day after day. Over $300 on face masks, as the standards and styles kept changing and most of the ones we bought early on in the pandemic were ultimately discarded because they didn’t have enough layers or nose wires or the like. Over $200 in Christmas decorations in an attempt to make it feel more like Christmas. And, over $200 in jewelry making supplies to keep me occupied. I miss the days when our “fun” expenses were crazy bathroom fees and foreign exchange fees…
What did we miss the most this year? Well, I think you can guess. Travel. Dining out. Going to bars. Seeing friends and family. You know, the same stuff that everyone else that takes covid seriously is missing this year.
What is on tap for 2021? Who the hell knows? It all depends on when we qualify for the vaccine and when travel is safe again. We have a lease until mid-April and have no idea where we will be after that. Will we find a place to buy? Will we stay in the apartment? Can we stay in the apartment? Do we really want to spend summer in New Orleans if we don’t buy? We will have to wait and see.
And, now, on to our final thoughts for 2020 (which are far fewer than normal this year).
At the start of the year, we joked that we had adopted a “new state of cleanliness.” In a nutshell, it meant we weren’t very clean. Well, that sure had changed by the middle of the year.
The way the U.S. reacted to covid was beyond depressing. The fact that there are still people who think the virus is fake and who refuse to wear masks is infuriating. The fact that Mike Pence and Ted Cruz and Nancy Pelosi got the vaccine before doctors and the fact that Florida is having senior citizens camp out all night in lines to get the vaccine is beyond infuriating. The fact that millionaires think a $600 check is generous when food lines are miles long and people are on the brink of eviction through no fault of their own makes my blood boil.
For the few months we were able to travel, we were shocked at how many travelers failed to bring reusable bags to the grocery. We always travel with one and don’t understand why others don’t.
The wine in Colombia and Ecuador is really, really bad. I don’t understand it. It was bad enough that I finally learned to like mojitos.
We have finally found a starch that I don’t like. Plantains. They are on nearly every plate in Colombia and Ecuador and I just don’t see the point.
It is very weird to stumble upon a band playing in a park and seeing their “venmo us at X signs.” Oh 2020, you changed just about everything.