Our Reflection on 2020: Exit45 Travels

Published Categorized as Travel Blog
Biloela Heritage Park
J&P Biloela Heritage Park

Wow, what a year 2020 has been! It was certainly not the year we expected or planned for…

2020 has affected us all in one way or another. Whether directly or indirectly, no one has gotten through COVID unscathed. It’s been a really tough year and, like many of you, we were happy when 2021 finally arrived

With 2020 behind us, it’s now time to reflect and wrap-up the year. Here we share our ups and downs with travel, a new business adventure, and our personal lives, and plans for 2021.


“So far, 2020 is like looking both ways before you cross the street then getting hit by an airplane.” 

– Unknown –

Our 2020 Travel Plan

For the first time in our full-time travelling adventures, we had a detailed plan for the first 5 months of travel.

In October of 2019, we stumbled upon a fantastic deal for a 30 day cruise from Mumbai to Venice for March 2020. The itinerary was fantastic, the price was right and we would finally get to see the beautiful beaches of the Maldives and the ancient ruins in Petra, Jordan.

In addition, this would be one of our first opportunities to really do some travel in Europe together. We were finally going to be able to travel throughout Italy and see Venice, Florence and Rome. From Italy, we would travel around Romania and Bulgaria.

We spent most of December and January planning our 2020 travels around this cruise. Knowing we wouldn’t have Wi-Fi on the cruise and couldn’t “wing-it” as we normally do, we planned every aspect of our travels until June in great detail.

We had to organise all our visas, our month of travel in Sri Lanka, 3 days in Mumbai, each of the 12 port stops during the cruise, our accommodation, flights, train tickets, tours, car hire etc. in Europe.

In January, prior to our departure for Sri Lanka, we watched as the numbers of coronavirus cases in Wuhan began to rise and as the Chinese government imposed measures to keep residents within the city’s borders.  We spoke at length about it but without any real concern for our own travels.

We were ready for our 2020 travels to begin!


Overview and Statistics of Our 2020 Travels

2020 Map
2020 FF

1 Month in Sri Lanka

When I first suggested travelling to Sri Lanka, Jonas showed little interest. After repeatedly ‘bringing it up’ in general conversation, he agreed to go if it was a place I really wanted to visit. As such, we agreed to go for the month of February, just prior to boarding our cruise in Mumbai, India.

I spent months planning the trip to ensure the best experience for us both and we were not disappointed. From the people, to the food, to the beaches, to the cultural history, it is a country that has so much to offer. 

Our trip to Sri Lanka was an unforgettable experience and it’s definitely a place we will go back to in the not too distant future.

Read More Here: Planning Your Holiday to Sri Lanka


Mumbai, India

India is a country that has always held an interest partly due to the cultural differences, but also because we both love Indian food. While we found this huge city chaotic and overwhelming, we also found it fascinating with its impressive colonial buildings, and vibrant atmosphere.

As we only had 2 days in the city prior to embarking our cruise, we packed as much into those 2 days as possible. Diversity is what Mumbai offers in trumps. History, tradition, culture, spirituality, poverty, opulence, modernism and amazing cuisine. Mumbai is definitely something you should see with your own eyes.

This taste of what India has to offer will certainly bring us back to discover other parts of the country.

Read More Here: 2 Day Itinerary for Mumbai

Street Scenes Mumbai India
Typical Street Scenes in Mumbai, India

Cruising on Costa Victoria

We were about 2 weeks into our Sri Lanka trip (mid-February) when we heard reports of an outbreak of coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama.  There had also been concerning reports of cases confirmed in Italy and other parts of Europe. 

Even at this stage, we weren’t too concerned about our own cruise but regardless, we contacted our travel agent to ask for an update on whether our cruise would be going ahead as scheduled and what safety precautions would be taken at embarkation. Colleen Baez at Avoya Travel (huge shout out – she is amazing and we highly recommend her for cruise bookings) responded to our email very quickly and all seemed positive.

We again contacted Costa directly once we arrived in Mumbai to confirm the cruise would still depart on 28 February. We received confirmation and a reiteration of the health screening process upon embarkation.  They also stated that if we chose to cancel our cruise, we would not receive a refund.  Cancellation for us then was not an option but we were confident in the fact the cruise would not sail if there were concerns over safety.

Our cruise turned out to be a cruise we would never forget and the beginning of a very uncertain time for us.

Very shortly after embarking on Costa Victoria, the pandemic exploded in Europe exponentially, and as we were on an Italian cruise ship, many of the scheduled cruise ports on our itinerary gradually shut their borders to us. Our itinerary changed on almost a daily basis with news of countries not allowing us to disembark and new cruise ports being added in lieu of. While we got to visit unplanned places like Dubai, we missed out on many of the places we were looking forward to the most. Places like the Maldives, Israel, Aqaba and Venice.

Eventually, the inevitable was to happen and the Captain announced the first suspected / confirmed case of Coronavirus of a passenger on board.  We were forced into lockdown in our cabin for the last 8 days of the cruise not knowing how or when we would leave the ship.

As it turned out, the Australian Government, in conjunction with Costa Cruises, had organised a repatriation flight to Perth, Australia for us both due to us registering our Australian passports with Costa. At no stage did we get an opportunity to discuss with anyone whether we wanted to return to Australia or head North to Sweden to Jonas’ family.  The decision had been made for us and upon reflection, considering the current Coronavirus statistics in Sweden and the rest of Europe, this outcome was for the best.

Read More Here: Cruising During Coronavirus: Our Experience On Board Costa Victoria and One Day in Dubai: Must See and Do

Costa Victoria
Costa Victoria

Quarantine in Perth, Australia

After 8 days of lockdown on the cruise ship and then nearly 30 hours of intense travel on buses and planes with passengers from other cruise ships with a lot more COVID-19 cases, we began our 14-day quarantine requirement in Perth. We can both honestly say, this was the hardest thing we had ever had to experience.

Our “5 Star Hotel” room was anything but. We endured our stay in a tiny room with no balcony or windows for fresh air, no chairs or table to sit at, no view from our window, and the only water available to us to drink was from rusty pipes (yes, the water was brown and smelt and tasted of rust) in the bathroom. We spent 24 hours a day in bed sleeping, watching TV, reading and even having to eat in bed.

In addition, for the first week, the food had no nutritional value at all i.e. no fruit, vegetables. We were served pies, sausage rolls (always cold) and lots and lots of sweets and cakes. Thank goodness, enough people complained that we started to get bottled water each day and also a piece of fruit.

We could hear a man on our floor screaming to be let out of his room and later found out that person was a War Veteran who was extremely claustrophobic and suffering from PTSD. Ambulances came and went all day every day as one by one our fellow passengers (many elderly and in their late 70’s and 80’s) in quarantine developed coronavirus symptoms and were taken to hospital.

On day 3 Jonas developed a temperature and felt generally unwell. Over the course of the next 24 hours, his fever got worse as did the aches and pains, and a constant cough. We called reception to ask if we could get a doctor to our room, but we were refused as they were busy.

Later that day, I started to develop very different symptoms such as extreme tiredness, loss of taste and smell, headache and breathlessness. At this point, we suspected we both had coronavirus but at no stage were we tested to have this confirmed.

After about a week, we both started to feel well again although extremely weak. After 16 days of quarantine, we received a phone call telling us there was a bus waiting for us downstairs, we were to pack ASAP and we were being taken to another hotel where we would stay until we could get a flight back to Queensland.

Our new hotel room was pure luxury compared to our quarantine room and the food was exceptional. We spent the next 5 days wandering around Perth enjoying the fresh air and exercise. On the morning of our flight, our airline, Jetstar, went into receivership and we didn’t know if we still had a flight or not.  Eventually, we received confirmation our Jetstar flight would still be operating and we headed to the airport knowing the ordeal was nearly over.  Never have we been so happy to arrive back in Brisbane!

Perth, Australia
Perth, Australia

Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Home, at the moment, is the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, and a one hour drive north of the state capital Brisbane.  The “Sunny Coast” is a truly beautiful place and many people would say we are blessed to be in this wonderful region during the pandemic. Beautiful national parks, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, cute country towns, beaches are abundant and easily reached within a 1 hour drive.

Read More: 26 THINGS TO DO ON THE SUNSHINE COAST, AUSTRALIA


1 Month Road Trip in Queensland

Inevitably, after being home for 4 months we started to miss our travel lifestyle. We have always talked about motor homing around Australia one day so we decided to investigate the rental costs and possible itineraries.  Due to the Queensland borders being closed, we decided to take the opportunity to explore Queensland more and planned our one month road trip from Brisbane to Cairns and back down again FOR August / September.

We loved the freedom motor homing gave us and it was wonderful to see and enjoy what Queensland really has to offer.  Our Brisbane to Cairns road trip was everything we imagined and more. From tropical beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, waterfalls, natural rock pools, gorges, quaint country towns, rolling hills and national parks, Queensland has it all. 

Read More Here: Motorhome Life: The Ultimate 1 Month Road Trip from Brisbane to Cairns

Map of Qld Trip

Positives to Come Out of 2020

Time With Family

As most of you are aware, we sold our home prior to our travel departure. Luckily for us, my mum has a large home where we have our own room and our (now very few) belongings stored.  We have been living here on the Sunshine Coast with her since our return to Australia. 2020 has given us the opportunity to spend more quality time together than ever before in our lives.


Travel Blog

With so much free time on our hands, we finally decided to bite the bullet and start our travel blog “Exit45 Travels”. We have discussed the pros and cons of this many times over the course of our travels but this was the perfect opportunity to get the blog up and running prior to starting back on our travels (when it eventually happens).

It has been a very steep learning curve, but one which I have really enjoyed.

Exit45 4

Health and Fitness

Initially when we arrived back on the Sunshine Coast, we filled our days easily with editing photos, catching up with family and friends, and cooking.  Lots and lots of cooking which meant lots and lots of eating.  As the scales slowly started to creep upwards, we both realised this was not sustainable so we started a health kick with more exercise and less naughty foods.

The result has been slow weight loss for us both over the course of the last 6 months or so and we both feel much better for it. We have managed to find a little of that weight over the Christmas and New year’s period but for the most part, we have sustained our healthier eating regime, and we are still walking 5 km each morning. 


Cooking

As we travel, we collect recipes of our favourite meals from different countries.  2020 has given us the opportunity to try some of these out. Indian and Vietnamese food (in general) has become favourites, as has Jonas’ cinnamon scrolls.

Ever since I have known Jonas, he has always grown chillies and made hot sauces.  He has got back into this is a big way and can often be seen in the kitchen experimenting with various recipes for chilli sauces, marinades and BBQ sauces.  All from home-grown chillies.


Travel Within Australia

In Jonas’ early backpacking days, he travelled extensively throughout Queensland (this led him to decide to do his university studies here).  I, on the other hand, did what lots of other young Australians do – I headed for Europe. As such, I became a tourist in my own home country with a Swede as a travel guide.

North Burnett, Queensland
North Burnett, Queensland

Slow Down and Enjoy the Simple Things

The one thing we have had in excess this year is time! Time to read, catch up on TV series on Netflix, cook new recipes, grow herbs and vegetables, do courses online, learn how to do new things, exercise…..


Plans for 2021

Unfortunately, our plans for 2021 are a very unknown quantity at the moment. With Australia’s international borders closed to travel and no known date for reopening, we will sit tight and wait to see what will happen. We will not leave Australia before we have had the vaccine and other countries in the world also have this available to their citizens. Our health and safety is our priority….

However, when borders do open up and it is safe to travel, we will resume our travels again.  We are very excited about getting out there again and exploring more of our beautiful world.

Some of our other plans for 20201 include:

  • Continue producing quality content for Exit45 Travels blog.
  • Seeing more of Queensland.
  • Continue to live a healthier life with our daily walks and healthier eating habits.

In Summary

In retrospect, 2020 wasn’t all doom and gloom. It started out with some wonderful travel opportunities, doing exactly what we wanted and planned to do.

Initially upon our forced repatriation to Australia, our (my?) emotions were all over the place — fear, panic, stress, frustration. Travelling is one of our main passions in life and our freedom to travel where we want, when we want is hard to let go of.

It has been a rollercoaster of a year, but at the end of the day, every experience in life is what you make of it. Personally, rather than focus on the negatives and what we ‘can’t do’, we’ve tried our best to be positive, grateful and happy for what we have and what we ‘can’ do!

Sure, this hasn’t been our ideal year, but it definitely has been a productive one, filled with lots of love and laughter. 

The one major lesson we have taken from 2020, is you should never take anything for granted!


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OUR REFLECTION ON 2020 EXIT45 TRAVELS

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By Peta Wenzel

We are Peta (Australian) and Jonas (Swedish/Australian), a couple in our mid 40’s / early 50’s who have been travelling the world fulltime since January 2018. We met and lived on the Gold Coast, Australia and spent many evenings researching and watching YouTube vlogs about travel and dreaming of the day we would retire and be able to enjoy a lot more travel ourselves. Over the years, a number of events happened to family and friends and an opportunity arose which made us decide to not wait but to instead take a “Gap Year”. We are now in our 3rd year of travel and still hunger for new adventures and embrace the uncertainty that comes with full-time travel. If you want to know more about who we are, why we choose this lifestyle and how we do it, please follow our adventures and see how you can do it too.

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