This monthly recap was supposed to be about how I spent a month in Lisbon and how that city fits the criteria I put together for my new home base. Instead, COVID-19 broke out in full force and I was faced with the decision to ride it out in Lisbon or fly back to Belgium on the last commercial flight.
I chose the latter.
When I arrived in Lisbon, everything was still open. I went to a meetup on my first night in the city and managed to squeeze in a few pastry shop visits before the government started putting restrictions in place.
I took my own precautions and spent my last week mostly inside, only leaving the apartment to get groceries.
My Airbnb in Principe Real was great but the WiFi not so much. My host had arranged for someone to come over and fix it but I have to admit that with the evolving situation at the time, I was a bit too worried to let a stranger in.
Still, it took more than two days before I finally decided to fly home. Knowing that I wouldn't be able to get much work done over there was one of the things that swayed me. Other things that affected my decision were
- not knowing how long I'd be stuck if I did decide to stay in Lisbon.
- not knowing if I'd be okay not seeing another person for weeks at an end.
- thinking it would be easier to get medical help in my home country if I needed it.
I spent my first two weeks in Belgium in quarantine at a flat close to my where my parents live. When that period was over (and I also couldn't stay there anymore), I took up residency on the couch and slowly converted the kitchen table into my work desk.
Since I became nomadic at the start of the year and don't have my own place anymore, this was the only option and I'm beyond grateful that I can stay with them. Not only has being here taken off some of the financial pressure (I'm not exactly making a proper income anymore now that travel is as good as non-existent), it's also quite nice to be cared for a little, enjoying mom's cooking and not saying no to the many cakes she brings home.
While a lot happened in March (I ended my month in Berlin, was in Belgium for a few days, flew to Lisbon, flew back home), most of those things were in one way or another related to the virus situation.
Because of that, because I spent April at home, and because it's hard to even remember which things happened in March and which things happened in April, I decided to combine both months in this monthly recap.
So what have I been doing, now that I can't travel anymore?
Or rather: have them canceled on me.
Lisbon was supposed to be followed by Malaga. Given how bad things were in Spain, it was clear even before I came back to Belgium that Malaga wouldn't happen anymore. Ryanair canceled my flight and I'm still waiting to get the money back – as are many people who've had the same thing happen.
Some work trips I had lined up for spring had already been canceled, the trade fair I would attend in Denver wasn't going to happen anymore, and when it became clear that leisure travel from Belgium wouldn't be possible until at least the 8 of June, my city trip to Porto with mom went down the drain as well.
I'm still waiting to get the money back from my Porto and Denver flights as well.
On the last day of April, the Sziget festival in Budapest was canceled. Earlier in the month, the Belgian government already had announced that there would be no music festivals in Belgium this summer.
I currently still have two trips planned for this year: one to London in July, and one to Bangkok in October. London will likely get canceled but I'm still hoping very much that October will happen, fully realizing it's more realistic to assume that it won't.
Preparing the blog for better times
The current crisis has been hard on the blog, my main and until very recently sole business. Traffic took a dive, my ad income all but dried up, and many affiliate “partners” have simply stopped their programs or changed commissions to 0%.
I had a decision to make: would I keep doing what I was doing, would I take a step back, or would I invest knowing that travel will be back?
After talking to a bunch of people, I realized the best option for me was actually a combination of all of those things.
I'm working more closely with Kitty, a lovely lady who's been helping me research and write for about a year now, to publish more content again.
I've taken on an intern who'll help me share some travel inspiration on Facebook.
And I've hired someone to help me update and improve old posts.
Having these people allows me to keep the blog going and make it better (at least, that's the goal) while it also frees up time for me to do other things. Which brings me to the next point…
Creating a Patreon
Patreon is a platform that allows people to support their favorite content and other creators. Creators can put together different membership plans and everyone who signs up gets exclusive access to the things included in the plan that they sign up for.
I was hoping it would be a good way to connect with those of you who've been following the blog for a while already but have to admit that so far, only one person signed up.
Maybe I haven't promoted this well enough. Maybe I'm not offering anything of interest. Maybe it's because all of these years, I've struggled to get real personal here in public, rather than sharing practical information and tips.
Either way, I'm still happy that I put this together and will be thrilled when more people sign up and we can get some live Q&As and other cool things going.
Launching a new business
When I started Wonderful Wanderings, I was working as a copywriter for an international publishing house. Writing has always been my thing and my love for it was also why I started this blog now 8 years ago.
But running a blog as a business takes a lot more than the writing of articles and the last 6 months or so, I had started to miss “just writing”.
In a sense, this crisis with the lockdowns turned out to be some sort of blessing in disguise for me. Yes, I had to drop everything I had planned for this year but at the same time, it made me question what I was doing and whether I wanted to continue doing what I was doing in the same way for months and even years to come.
The uncertainty of when the blog would become profitable again combined with my desire to go back to my writing roots made me launch LetMeWriteThatDownforYou.com, my new copywriting and content strategy business.
I've been working on it for a few weeks now and have already found my first clients. It's thrilling, it's exciting, it's scary as hell, and I'm looking forward to growing it.
If you know of anyone with a business that needs new website copy, feel free to send them through :-)
As I won't be able to leave the country until at least June 8, I'll spend May the way I spent April: working, walking, working out, and eating. As things change so rapidly now, I probably won't plan anything before June, hoping it will then be clear when and where I'll be able to travel again.
Now over to you. What have your last two months looked like?