First of all, I thank my loyal and kind readers who return to On My Canvas time and again. Without you, this blog wouldn’t be this positive, experimental, and inspirational place it is becoming. I appreciate your company and promise to keep this platform as peaceful, honest, fun, and informative as I had intended on Day One.
To stick around to see for yourself, subscribe to my Friday newsletter. There I send weekly updates, my writing, best thoughts of the week, things I have been reading, off the hook travel tips, stuff I’ve been watching, and my life updates, too. It is the best way to stay connected with me.
If you like the kind of ideas I share, you will find that newsletter informative, enjoyable, and compact. So go here and subscribe now, or use the subscription box below. Welcome along in this journey of travel, discovery, and personal growth 🙂
Now let us talk about 2020.
On top of all that information, this piece will list the highlights, mistakes, and learnings of 2020.
Table of Contents
- The Year That Was 2020
- My Main Words from 2020
- Goals I had set for 2020/My 2020 accomplishments
- 2020 Accomplishments Continued…(Things I achieved above and beyond the goals I had set for myself)
- Goals I had set for 2020 and I couldn’t complete.
- How I handled Things I Had Struggled With in 2019
- Learnings in 2020
- Goals and Plans for 2021 — What can you expect from On My Canvas?
- Surprise Surprise.
The Year That Was 2020
2020 had started with the end of my twenty-day Myanmar trip. I had conveniently arranged the journey around Christmas and new years’ eve. After enjoying the golden sunrises and the rich fish curries of Burma, I returned just in time to soak in the sun of Southern India.
My partner has been in Bangalore for a couple of years so this city has been my base(Head to the end of the post to read how this is going to change.). But I didn’t plan to be here for more than a couple of months. The idea was to stay put for a little bit while exploring the places around, blogging, and then heading out for a long journey either in North East India or out of India.
Traveling, learning, and writing on the go is my way to life.
But January had no whiff of what was to come. We explored one hundreds-year-old coffee estate in Yercaud and admired the town of Salem twinkling below us from a high treehouse. After Yercaud, I collaborated with a local travel company to visit a remote waterfall in Sharavathi Valley.
Shuttling between writing and traveling, I didn’t realize the year was shifting in a direction unprecedented.
Due to personal circumstances, my partner and I decided to get married. Marriage was never on our cards but some aspects of life were going to be peaceful as a married couple. So we tied the knot.
The wedding month of February was a tough time. But we didn’t let the month go without heading out. We visited the BR Hills in Karnataka for yet another jungle adventure.
After the short road trip, I buckled up to work. I also wanted to focus on becoming a better partner and a peaceful living companion. (Expect a lot of pieces on relationships and letting go this year.)
But it had only been two weeks of March when coronavirus spread like a fire running wild through the jungle. Everything stopped. We couldn’t meet our families and friends. Cars and buses disappeared from the roads. Businesses lost their minds. People returned to their towns; homes got empty in big cities. Bars, restaurants, parks, theaters, and offices closed down.
Every travel mode was shut.
Each oncoming day felt similar to the one that had gone by. There was nowhere to go upon waking up, no one to meet, and no plans for the evening.
Exercise got limited to climbing the three stairs of our building up and down. We couldn’t get massages or hair cuts or take-outs. There were lockdowns and night curfews so driving to new places wasn’t an option. Physical get-togethers turned into zoom calls. I talked to friends and hostel mates I hadn’t seen in years.
My friends who were planning to visit me postponed their trips indefinitely. Some urgent bank and real estate admin work got prolonged for months.
Personal and house chores raced against professional work. Whenever we called home, there was advice on where not to go and what not to do. Constant apprehensions about whether our loved ones were taking care of themselves kept us on our toes.
I have lost count of phone calls and messages that conveyed news about a relative or a friend’s parent or a distinct cousin who got the virus. Some of them didn’t survive.
Devoid from social life or any positive travel experience — not to mention the hopelessness that enwrapped the world — my partner and I often argued while struggling to adjust in our 300 square feet space on a rooftop. But we stuck together, created two different workspaces in our tiny house, discussed everything freely with each other, and tried taking each day as it came.
I will be honest about my response to the virus.
For the longest time, I didn’t let myself believe that anything had changed. To the fury of some of you, I even wrote an article on how coronavirus didn’t matter for we were as happy as we wanted to be. Some people got angry(rightly so) and some understood what I said. I’m sure I must not have put my thoughts properly for not everyone appreciated them the way I meant. Maybe people were going through things I couldn’t understand. A few criticizers were the ones who get angry at everything on the internet.
But my idea was if we have a roof on our head, food on our banana leaves, and loved ones secure, we have no reason to fret. The time needed us to stay calm to help those who were in real need.
How can I complain about not getting a massage or canceling a trip when people walked thousands of kilometers to reach their homes? They neither had a roof to spend the nights on the road nor did they know if they would get the next meal.
We didn’t have to appreciate our life because kids in Africa don’t have food. But it was a simple scenario of appreciating what we have when so much
was is lost. I was thankful every day.
It is easier said than done though. Our minds were just doing their jobs of preparing for fight or flight. Would we survive? How would we come out of such a huge tragedy that continues to strangle the entire human race? What about the homeless and the poor? Where did the family members we were planning to see at Diwali go?
Amidst all the loss, I tried to believe that everything would go back to normal. And was the past so glorious that we wanted it to return? I am guilty of appreciating the clear skies, animals wandering free on the roads, zero traffic, and some social relief for I like my me time. Those months in the lockdown were like an updated version of the Vipassana meditation course(it wasn’t that isolated but there was no burden of maintaining a social life.).
What we really wanted was the businesses to open so people could earn and eat. And children back to schools for I came to know they drove their parents crazy. And to finally be able to step out of our homes without the fear of catching a dangerous virus. (Some people got it even when they were inside their house.)
Everything together really messed us up. I tried to hold on.
When my trips and collaborations got postponed or canceled, I convinced myself everything will happen in due time. Freelance writing projects were paused indefinitely as organizations didn’t have money. But I knew more will come. Travel startups I planned to work with shut down. But what could I do?
Instead of thinking about what couldn’t happen, I buckled up. As some of you readers might know, I read, wrote, and published. That I have a patient and extremely positive partner helps more than you or I can imagine.
But after the first few months, the toil and fatigue of limited social connections, staying put in one tiny house together 24*7, working while managing house chores, and the negativity in the world started getting to us. I missed exercising, and mental health suffered amongst all the restrictions.
A lot of positive things also happened though.
Freelance clients poured in. My blog readers increased. And the world started opening up bit by bit.
As the lockout loosened up, my husband and I went on drives and ate outside once a week. He cleaned, and I cooked. Rather than arguing, we had started giving each other more space. We paid our house help extra, let go of her, and decided to do all our house chores ourselves to maintain morning privacy and peace. Now we were not dependent on any external help.
Armed with surgical masks and face shields, I flew to finish the urgent tasks. But seating was not allowed at any Mumbai restaurant, and police closed Marine Drive as if there was a military crusade. (I understand that those restrictions were mostly precautionary but what about those travelers who had to go to Mumbai to get important work done?)
It rained a lot, and I spent my last night at the airport. Mumbai airport was underprepared to accommodate travelers. I slept in the open outside the airport on the floor amongst huge cockroaches. When it rained, people rolled their baby strollers only to return a few minutes later. There was nowhere to go.
I scolded the entire battalion of guards and police standing at the gates of the Mumbai airport for the service(or the lack of it). No-one seemed to care for even the old people, pregnant women, and the tiny children in cradles.
And the time was such that everything looked darker than it was.
I got the Mumbai work done though. And when I returned, I finished writing 180 pieces on my blog — to mark the blog’s third anniversary. [Amongst all the posts, these pieces are the most relevant to the current times: traveling during the pandemic, isolated accommodations in Coorg and Madikeri, why we should enjoy our work, 47 things to make someone happy, why getting out of the routine is important too, and how to prepare for the worst times.]
After dealing with mostly good (but one weird) freelance clients and getting a couple of fiction stories rejected, I headed to Chikmagalur for a month to be in the mountains.
Chikmagalur was a breath of fresh air. I always sleep better in the countryside, and as soon as we arrived there, my mind calmed down. We focused on relaxing and being easy on ourselves and each other.
I hadn’t taken my laptop purposefully. I stretched in the sun, exercised, read for hours every day, and we traveled to new places daily. There were mountain ranges we hiked, lakes we ran to, temples we admired, and fishes we devoured. We also did a lot of bonfires and drove to obscure cornfields. I slept so well that all the negativity dissolved and left me.
When we returned to Bangalore in October, I was peaceful.
You saw me publishing less in the last three months of 2020 because I had to do a lot of other stuff. I wrote guest posts, stories, and personal memoirs, recorded podcasts and gave interviews(some I have linked below or head to my Press page to see), updated my social media pages and scheduled posts, read, cleaned up the stuff leftover from the year, freelanced more, made plans for 2021, traveled within Bangalore to see some places I hadn’t explored yet, met friends, played and exercised, and continued focusing on becoming a good partner and a kind human.
As we had gone to a nature stay near Bannerghatta National Park right before Christmas, we decided to stay in on New Years’ eve. Somehow slowing down at the end made sense. We drank wine, watched movies, and looked forward to the upcoming times.
Now on this positive note, let me list the lessons and accomplishments from the year 2020 more objectively. I have also written down the goals for 2021. And there is a surprise at the end so read carefully.
What Were My Main Words for the Year 2020
My best words and phrases of the year 2020 were: patience, perseverance, let go, work, write, read, just be, run, cook, in due time, laugh, love, partnership, have fun, happiness.
My worst words and phrases of the year 2020 were: fighting, regret, waste of time, recurrence of same issues, mental loops.
In the article on the highs and lows of 2019, I had written my goals for 2020.
Let us see how much I accomplished.
We are all doing the best we can. Though we seldom believe so.
Goals I had set for 2020/My 2020 accomplishments
1. Sharing trustworthy information
As promised(at the end of 2019), I read reliable sources, research papers, and shared only the information I trusted.
Sharing for the sake of it is creating noise.
2. Traveling to offbeat places within India and outside India
2020 didn’t give many options to travel.
When the lockdown opened, I stayed in a Chikmagalur coffee estate and spent a month hiking in the lesser-known places of the area. I am yet to write about the ghats of Chikmagalur and my conversations with the forest officers there. Stay tuned.
Oh, I also saw Bhoga Nandeeshwara temple near Bangalore, explored a lot of places within the city, and stayed in the vicinity of the Bannerghatta National Park for a few days. (Then there was that trip to Mumbai which was urgent and restrained but I still had fun.)
It would be safe to say that this year was all about getting to know more about Karnataka.
(Traveling to the far and unknown was one of the roadmap items from the three-year anniversary blog.)
3. Picking up sustainable and local-community-driven projects
As a writer and traveler, I had promised to create opportunities for locals and work with companies that support the local community.
In all the travels mentioned above, I always stayed at homestays(except a few times when we put up in government properties for the safaris). I worked with community-run travel companies. We tried to eat as much as we can at small and family-run food joints.
I also tried out a lot of sustainable farming projects in and around Bangalore. (Expect a long post on the places to get local and medicine-free groceries and personalized food items curated with love.)
Most of my freelance clients were NGOs, woman entrepreneurs, meditation groups, and regional travel organizations.
In 2021, I will focus on working with sustainable corporations. My travel writing would be concentrated around environment-friendly ways to commute, see, and live. (We don’t have a choice apart from becoming planet conscious. If you don’t believe me, watch Our Planet.)
4. Restoring the balance between Personal Development and Travel Writing
I want to share my learnings from life, travel, and discovery on On My Canvas. The idea is to break centuries-old social restrictions and self-imposed limits to look beyond what is shown to us.
In my efforts to do so — and as promised last year — I wrote about daily life, doing what we love, setting goals, and starting small. I also went deep on how to create an enjoyable career, why success is all about fun, and how to be prepared for the worst. Then there is a collection of my life learnings, quotes I love, and questions to ask ourselves. I also penned down a list of life-changing books and my career-change journey.
And these are only some of the inspirational pieces I put out.
On average, I published one growth and one travel article every week— For most months. (Part of roadmap items as per this piece on the three-year anniversary.)
I hope I have given you a lot to think about and many travel goals.
When we travel we realize we don’t know enough; when we learn, we want to see more.
Let me know if you have some specific topics you would like to read about.
5. Create a Dependable Income From Freelance writing
In 2020, I worked with six new clients. I have a trustworthy and continued relationship with five of them.
Things I achieved above and beyond the goals I had set for myself
2020 Accomplishments Continued…
1. Wrote 54 new articles on my blog in 2020
I’m not happy with all of them but I’m satisfied with a lot. I have realized the more I enjoy writing a piece, the more fun read it is.
2. 85 percent growth in newsletter subscribers
I’m pleased with the way numbers are changing. Thank you all for subscribing and reading. (Again, one of the road map items from the anniversary blog.)
3. Read a lot of fiction and non-fiction books
I write because I read. I also read to know better, understand the science behind humans and our planet, and to travel vicariously. (Here is my list of life-changing books.)
4. Rising affiliate income
The affiliate system slowed down in January 2020 after having picked up around December 2019. But as the coronavirus passed, the affiliates started shining again. More on affiliates in the upcoming months. (One of the road map items from the anniversary blog.)
5. Wrote to write good and not to please anyone — mostly.
6. Changed the visual design of the blog
How do you like the new look? And soon I’m going to further personalize the home page and other category pages. So do come back to check out the colorful surprise.
7. Appeared on podcasts and interviews
Gaining recognition and audience through popular print, video, and social media is on the list of every writer and blogger today. So while I focus on writing for most of the year, I keep aside 2-3 months to appear on other platforms.
You can go to my Published Work and Media page to read the interviews and the podcasts I recorded. (Again, one of the road map items from the anniversary blog.)
8. Guest Posted twelve articles on renowned travel websites
Some of the important ones are,
- Things to do in La Paz, Bolivia – Amateur Traveler
- Why Himachal Pradesh is one of India’s safest states for solo female travelers – Lost With Purpose
- Must See Places on Your First India trip – Passing Thru
- What To Eat In Dharamshala – The Winged Fork
9. Updated all Social Media profiles and scheduled articles, long write-ups, and quotes on them.
Though I am not in favor of posting content on social media for the sake of it, those who were following my pages must know that I was sharing helpful articles and stories I read, my own articles with contextual descriptions, and quotes. If you don’t follow me yet, connect with me on my Twitter and Facebook page.
(Again, one of the road map items from the anniversary blog.)
10. Penned down short stories and personal memoirs
I love writing stories and personal essays. Big plans in the upcoming years. Stay tuned.
11. Exercised a lot and took care of personal health and well-being
For what is more important than just being.
12. Cooked abundantly for my husband and myself
— and not just simple curries and one-pot dishes
And the biggest of all,
13. On My Canvas readers have grown (3x)threefold from January 2020 to December 2020. Now I am talking about more than 40,000 people reading the blog every month. It feels great to have more eyes on the content I am writing.
Don’t get me wrong. Numbers don’t mean anything. But they do give an assurance that what I write connects with people and this assurance inspires me to write more. And the more I write, the better I write. It is all connected, you see.
Goals I had set for 2020 and I couldn’t complete.
How I handled Things I Had Struggled With in 2019
Referencing the lows of 2019, let us see the noise I could get rid of.
1. Getting influenced by social media and others’ journeys
Almost under control.
Social media is designed to make people feel narcissistic, and it overpowered me at times in 2019. I compared my life with others’ and took everything at face value.
But 2020 was different. Apart from the beginning of the year when I scheduled Instagram posts, I didn’t pay much attention to the social platforms. People asked me why I had disappeared. The reason was simple — I want to focus on writing and growth and not on the incessant shallow roll of pictures and write-ups about how amazing everyones’ lives are.
The truth is that there will always be stuff that people will do, and we wouldn’t, at least not at that time. But information on social media doesn’t come with these statutory warnings. I reject the idea of feeling less about myself and being under constant pressure to post. For what? So that influencers can earn money, and I click a picture every time before I eat?
I’m joking. I have never paused to eat even when I was active socially(and that wasn’t for a long time). But as I wrote more, I completely forgot about Insta and other platforms, and I was happier. Then came the last quarter of the year, and I updated my Facebook and Twitter pages and scheduled articles and informative posts and visuals there.
The idea is not to reject social media completely but to carefully choose what to see and share. If you don’t follow me yet, connect on my Twitter and Facebook pages to receive my articles, things I read and watch, opinions, and colorful quotes. I only share the posts I believe will add value to the readers’ lives.
I won’t ask you to follow me on Instagram as I have uninstalled it from my phone for now. And I don’t regret it at all 🙂
2. Expecting things to go faster than they generally do
3. Setting unrealistic deadlines
I continue to create a list of 500 tasks in a day. Only on some days though. For I also happen to make realistic deadlines many times.
But after trying both, I know for sure that only a small to-do list, which ensures more green checkpoints, is sustainable long-term.
The best approach to create a task list: Pick the most important task for the day. Add 1,2, or 3 more items in the order of decreasing priority. You should only add as many that realistically fit in the time left after finishing the priority one task.
I also block my time in the morning for the first piece of work. So for about 4-5-6 hours, neither do I check my phone nor do I reply to emails. I focus on the first thing until it gets done. When first is out of the way, I relax and continue to pick up other to-dos or read or play and end my day early. (Do read my best work from home tips.)
4. Not having proper goals at times
This year I made sure to write down goals for the week and the month in advance. Then I drew out daily and weekly tasks in line with the respective goals. Whenever I had a predefined list of things to do for the day, I started my day in the right direction from the morning itself.
With clear goals, things got done at a faster pace than they would have if I just kept picking items from a pool of pending tasks. Also with clearly expressed timelines, I knew how much and what I could get done by a certain time. There was no need to worry about the hundred things to do then. The schedule took care of it all. (Suggested read: how to achieve your goals: 12 Principles)
5. Not appreciating myself enough
I’m still getting better at thanking myself for being who I am and for progressing so much every day.
My Learnings in 2020
The most common feeling we all shared in 2020 was the perception of being stuck in space and time. In the process, we learned a lot. But I still have a long way to be able to appreciate and understand it all.
Here are some of my main lessons from the year(and here are my lifelong learnings),
- Patience is the key to a happy, good life.
- 80–20 principle works. Focus on the most important 20 percent to get more results in less time.
- Everything takes time. Now see number one.
- Mostly we are over-worrying ourselves over things that never happen.
- Fretting over things out of control is as futile as telling a monkey to sit silently.
- People only change if they try to. Else expect everyone to be the same as they were twenty years ago.
- Cutting off negative relationships and toxic people early on is essential for happiness.
- There is no right and wrong in relationships. At least the other person might not be counting the deeds or reciprocating gestures as you are. So let go and do what you feel.
- Do whatever it takes to be happy.
- Don’t be mean.
- You don’t have to compete with anyone, especially not with yourself.
- Deep breathe often. (The mind gets out of flight or fight mode and relaxes when you inhale deeply.)
- Do one thing at a time.
- Thinking about the past won’t get you anywhere. Get out of the loops now.
- Giving space to each other is essential to have a peaceful life with your partner.
- Keeping our body active – dancing around, playing, behaving like a child, jumping, running – is the least we can do for ourselves. When our body moves, we feel better. Sitting on a chair continuously for hours was never our natural way of living.
- Each one of us settle on an individual happiness level after an emotional high or a low. But we can rewire our brain to change that constant/level.
- Small accomplishments should be celebrated. Else you will never be able to draw out your journey, and it will all look like an inky puddle.
- You don’t need approval from anyone. Neither do you have to be regretful nor sorry for who you are(I learn this every year in a different way.)
- It takes a few seconds for everything to change.
- We can do anything under a deadline. But we should choose our deadlines carefully.
- Traveling to new places is as essential as living at a place. But there is no point if you don’t open up to possibilities or accept the mishaps as part of the journey.
- The ego always kills. Kill it first.
My Goals and Plans for 2021 — What can you expect from On My Canvas?
On My Canvas would continue to be a platform for inspiration, growth, love, and travel.
1. Pushing myself in life and on my travel journeys
Challenges create the best stories, the best lessons, and the best kind of life.
I would go far and near. Expect to see more offbeat and adventure travel stories. I will share with you the best of what I learn.
2. Moving past my fears, making progress despite them.
This year is about letting go of some fears and doing what makes me uncomfortable. I’m excited about the stories that will follow.
3. Expect more practical advice on everyday living and the way to find answers to some of life’s questions
The ideas has always been to learn on the journey and share here.
Drawn from my experience, comprehended from books, and, needless to say, backed by science and research(wherever applicable), I will write tips and solutions that would help me to live a happier, healthier, and more holistic life.
Some of the upcoming titles I’m writing about
- Sustainable and community-run travel companies in India,
- Lessons from the Japanese Ikigai,
- How it is to travel as a brown woman,
- Wildlife of Karnataka,
- What I do to improve myself every day,
- How can you make your relationship more peaceful,
- What are emotions and how can we manage ours
I hope these titles provide an understanding of the ideas I will share in 2021. Do send me an email if you want me to write about a topic or a question. The query might intrigue me, and, if so, I will be happy to share my thoughts on it.
4. Continue creating a peaceful life and share what I gather along
Over the years, I’ve realized that the most important is to stay peaceful and calm. Neither do we have to be in a constant rush nor is anything so important that we loose our sleep over it(as long as we have a cover over our head, food, and our loved ones secure).
Life’s greatest purpose is to be. Expect detailed experiences and thoughts around inculcating peace.
If you want to see the world or break social boundaries or get a practical and offbeat outlook at things — then hang on and read more of my stories. I hope I won’t disappoint you.
Do lookout for the next newsletter and the upcoming articles. I’m going to share a big change in life.
Just a hint, I wouldn’t be based out of Bangalore anymore.
Thank you for reading my work and for accompanying me on this journey. Hope you have a wonderful 2021 filled with love, laughter, peace, and prosperity. Hasta Lleugo.