March 2020: Dallas, Chicago
One day home from Paris and I left for Dallas. Did I mention 2020 was going to be a crazy jam-packed year of travel for me? Little did I know that this would be the last business trip of the year for me, that my job in Atlanta a week later would be cancelled with one days notice, that all of my work booked and confirmed through September would cancel in one week in March.
March 10th I went to my last event in 2020, Shellac at Lincoln Hall. I got my hair dyed and told my stylist “no cut today, I can wait a few months.” She moved to Iowa a few months later and now I cut my own hair. I scrambled to do my job virtually. Illinois announced its first shelter in place order on the 21st. The grocery stores in Chicago near me were out of meat, pasta, rice, and flour.
April 2020: Chicago
I tended to the seeds I had fortuitously ordered back in January, made (awful) homemade tortillas when the city ran out, and drafted custom-fitting masks for my boyfriend and I. Work evaporated.
May 2020: Chicago
Suddenly we had to grocery shop and feed ourselves. When you travel most weeks with a business expense account you don’t own a rolling pin and don’t know how much chicken should cost per pound or which aisle to find rice. You don’t need a car to go grocery shopping because you don’t really buy groceries. Suddenly being home all the time meant that I actually finished a bottle of dish soap and shampoo. All of our utilities went up.
It rained all spring, limiting our walks and bike rides and keeping us inside. Then the protests and looting started. Helicopters and drones circled overhead at all hours because I live in the same neighborhood as Chicago’s mayor. Despite the Walgreens on the corner being broken into, and feeling anxiety and uncertainty we are lucky and privileged to be able to stay home.
June 2020: Chicago
Work picked up. The garden kept growing and I was home to take care of it for the first time in ten years of growing in this yard. Chicago continued to have curfews and the mayor took to raising bridges to downtown, suspending public transport, and closing offramps into the loop.
July 2020: Chicago
The beaches were closed all summer, but I was able to bike to Lake Michigan and watch the waves (and the guards protecting the close order). I got the hang of making bread and taught myself how to de-bug a zucchini plant and my cucumbers grew past my 8′ trellis. I saw my mom and sister for the first time since 2019. David stopped in Chicago on his way to Europe and we discovered the problem with meeting outside for a picnic when businesses are closed—no public bathrooms. I scribed a COVID-19 Summit.
August 2020: Chicago
I finally looked around and felt like an unintentional homesteader. Clothes on the line (nowhere to buy quarters for the laundry machines), cutting my own hair, pickling, making pizza dough. I’m pretty good at this lifestyle, but it’s not what I want to be good at.
September 2020: Chicago
I took to picnicking just to get outside. This might have been the last time I saw a friend in person in 2020.
October 2020: Chicago
Fall is the best time for biking in Chicago and all of the people who bought new bikes this year discovered that too. I tried to find places to go where there weren’t people, but they were everywhere.
November 2020: Chicago
By November I finally pulled up the garden and made a tent over cool weather veggies in the garden to try to make the fresh produce last as long as possible. Thanksgiving was canceled, which meant I was responsible for making turkey for the first time in my life. Picking up turkey dinner to reheat was the answer, but was one of the most stressful experiences I had experienced in months.
December 2020: Chicago
Buster got his second home haircut of the pandemic, I got the sewing machine I’d been researching to buy for years, and the lettuce tent got its first test of structural integrity.
It looks like 2021 will be more of the same in the US, but this time I’ve learned it’s not worth nursing seedlings for four months in a city apartment. I guess that’s my line in the sand.
I thought about making a new “year end” post every year. Even up until today I thought I had only missed on year of these but it looks like the last one was in 2013. Yikes. It’s funny to start this back up again in a year which looked to be my biggest year of travel yet. Until March 2020 I had seven international trips planned—mostly for work. It’s what I had been working toward since I started traveling for business in 2010. In one week in March all of that fell through. I can’t complain though, I’ve been very lucky and even managed to get out of the country three times in 2020 before the US finally figured out what the rest of the world already knew about COVID-19.
January 2020: London, New York City, Mumbai
By January 3rd I was already on a plane to London. I stayed in Shoreditch for the first time, visited the Mary Quant exhibit at the V&A, the Tate Modern (all special exhibits were sold out!), and finally took a stroll through The Barbican where all of my dreams of a brutalists future world came true. Shoreditch is very inconvenient to the museums, but made it easier to catch up with my boyfriend from my days living in Newcastle in the 90s.
My trips to NYC are often short, sometimes only 24 hours. I made it to The Met’s In Pursuit of Fashion and Frank Lloyd Wright Textiles: The Taliesin Line, 1955–60 exhibits and managed to ruin my brand new dress at work while cutting apart foamcore to make a sign.
Toward the end of January I set off to Mumbai with a fancy year-long business visa and an empty suitcase to bring back fabric. The last time I was in Mumbai I stayed at the YMCA, but this time I figured I could do a little better. I flew in a few days before work started and stayed in Cuffe Parade near Colaba so I could walk around to see sights. This business trip was rescheduled so many times that by the time I had a real ticket I only had a week to book a hotel and plan my time and most of the cute places I found were sold out. Hopefully I will get another chance to come here in the coming years. A highlight was fabric shopping in Mangaldas Market and wandering around alone like I used to in my RTW days.
As embarrassing as it to admit on a travel blog where I am known for riding in the back of a cage for 24 hours through bandit country in Africa, when you travel this much for business you become loyal to certain brands. For me, it’s United and Marriott. Once you get to Platinum and Titanium respectfully you get so many perks that it’s worth it to stick with them. However, all of the Marriott properties in Mumbai were an hour in traffic from the sites so I stayed at perfectly fine local hotel.
February 2020: Mumbai, New York City, Paris
My jobs usually last 3-5 days tops so this two week stint was an interesting change for me. Sadly, it was in a suburb called Navi Mumbai so once I checked into the Marriott up here my world became commuting 30 minutes by car, eating thalis in the vegetarian cafeteria, and learning all the differences and similarities in this work from my Indian colleagues.
I was home for a week before heading back out to New York City for five days. Because I go to NYC so much I have had a membership to MOMA for a few years. Obviously my favorite thing to do anywhere is to go to museums, but with the increase in tourism globally they are getting so crowded to be almost unnavigable—and MOMA is one of the worst.
Two days to unpack/repack and off to Paris. So spoiled. Even so, all of us in Paris kept saying “I’ll see it next time” when we felt too tired to go out. We had another trip planned for the summer and we knew we were going to be back for even longer. I had a 3rd trip besides that planned to Paris in June as well. There is plenty of time! Why rush!? This is also when COVID started getting more real—the first time I heard contingency planning come up in a meeting, and when I started hanging back from getting into elevators full of tourists, and when I moved galleries when a woman kept coughing next to me in the Marche et Demarche exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. We all thought COVID wasn’t really going to affect us, but the day after I flew home the Louvre was shut down.
Traveling Through 2020 is continued in Part 2…
Spring came and… it is still here in June. There’s little bits of trees and flowers filling the air and getting in my eyes as I bike through the Northside of Chicago. I don’t have seasonal allergies, except that I suddenly do this spring. My dog Buster’s happy to be outside exploring again, and we helped mom out with some of her Spring jobs (usually I’m the family tech lead, hooking up modems and testing iPads and not cleaning leaves out of the gutter). Our Mother’s Day Chinese meal at Yu’s left me with good omens for my Dallas trip the next week.
I find myself in Houston for work quite often, usually in the suburbs, but this time it was downtown Dallas. Going in May meant it wasn’t too hot yet, and we ate at a fun burger place near the hotel just past a rundown place that one would assume to be abandoned until she saw the lit sign for “Jade” spa. I couldn’t help but think those quote marks were on the wrong word in the name.
Weather in Chicago is fickle, and in April I decided it was not freezing enough to make the ride to The Chicago Botanical Garden in the Northern suburbs. It wasn’t snowing but there were no leaves on the trees, we fought a lot of wind and the occasional drizzle. One positive part of the ride’s timing was seeing so many deer. Without leaves on the trees it was easier to spot all kinds of wildlife and the deer were fairly aggressive about guarding their space along the North Branch Trail.
I didn’t grow up in a sports family. Sure, my mom watches every Cubs game but that’s just part of being a Chicagoan. I wrote about traveling through southern India to see the Bears embarrass themselves in the Super Bowl a few years ago — also just my responsibility as a Chicagoan. Hockey, I like. Hockey I chose for myself. Soccer… Soccer?
Sometimes you wake up at 6:30am, ride your bike across town, and shatter your iPhone on a sidewalk just to watch your boyfriend’s favorite team win the championships. Well, one of the championships. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about soccer, it’s that there’s always another championship, another game, another something to win.
Last year we had the polar vortex but this year feels worse somehow. I spent one glorious day outside in Houston before starting a work gig and people were outside having picnics and genuinely looked not miserable like us northerners.
Chicago has been dreary all December—we received something like under 30 total minutes of sunshine during the first three weeks. I need sunshine! To make matters worse, I was blessed with great work this month… in Minnesota. Three trips to Minnesota in December with my days home in-between dreary and cold was not the way I wanted to start this long Chicago winter after last year’s horrible and long Chicago winter.