2018’s list was a year of incredible life experience that filled my heart with joy and taught me about the exoticness and splendor of the world. 2019’s list was a bit more laid back, with some introductions to adult life and the working world… but it was stuffed full of beauty just the same.
Part of me almost feels like it’s wrong to write this list about 2020. In a year where the world has felt such overarching pain and sadness, so much loss, so much grief and anxiety, writing about my trips and blog achievements feels a bit tone-deaf. But life is not black and white, and the world has no order. This year taught me that you can feel happy and sad at once; You can feel overwhelmed and proud at the same time. You can find beauty amongst strife. So that’s what we’re going to do today!
2020 took a lot from the world, but it gave a lot too. And I, for one, am personally grateful for the impact that 2020 left on me. Here are my Top 20 Moments of 2020 (in chronological order)!
20. Having Matt Back in My Life
Okay so tecchhhnniiicaally this happened in November of 2019, but it was too new for me to post on the blog for my yearly wrap up last year, so it’s going on this year’s instead lol.
Matt and I have an interesting (AKA THE BEST) love story that begins all the way back in 2011, when I was still 15 years old! We’ve been together for most of those years, but there was a period of time where we weren’t together and (at the worst moments) didn’t even talk. 100% of the time, I was confident that life didn’t feel right without him in it. The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 were spent rekindling and rebuilding our relationship.
Not to be sappy, but Matt truly is my very best friend on the planet, and I just love doing life by his side. I literally could not be happier in my relationship! We never, ever stop giggling, but we’re also able to communicate, tackle tough topics, and push each other to be our best selves. There is never a moment that I am not grateful to have him back in my life <3
19. Seeing Hamilton with My Family
After months of bothering my parents to listen to the entire Hamilton soundtrack every time we were in the car together, in February the show came to Grand Rapids, MI! Grand Rapids is a city about 3 hours from my house, so my family got a hotel room and spent the weekend there together.
When the show began, I think I cried a little bit. And I was already sad at intermission because I knew that meant it was going to end eventually… Luckily, my dad and brother let me sit between them so that my whisper-singing wouldn’t bother any random strangers <3
18. Family Trip to Florida
Our family trip to Florida was our first big trip of the year! Of course Disney World is always hectic, but when we put 11 human beings– 3 of them being children– on one trip, there was bound to be a lot of craziness (in the BEST way).
Matt and I spent February 14th on our own solo adventure in Disney World (he had never been, whereas I feel like I grew up in the parks… I needed some time to show him around!). We experienced the mystery of the Magic Kingdom during the day, and then went to Epcot for the evening. Matt and I spent the night going to all of the countries in the World Showcase and collecting favorite regional snacks from each of them. Then we got the fanciest dinner possible in Japan!
The other best part of this trip was visiting Harry Potter World with my little cousins. We drew scars on our heads, bought wands, visited Gringotts… The whole 9 yards! Plus we felt so special when those kiddos wanted to ride the rides next to us instead of with their parents ;). My family doesn’t get to see each other a lot during the year, so spending a few days in Disney World with my cousins and my auntie and uncle was the absolute greatest trip to start the year with <3
17. Napping in the grass in NOLA
A few weeks after getting off the plane from Florida, Matt and I headed right back to the airport, this time with New Orleans, Louisiana as our destination! We had found cheap tickets online and impulse planned a trip in under an hour…. Lol.
There was nothing about our trip to New Orleans that I would have changed. We gave it a full 10/10 with no room for improvement whatsoever. Matt and I agree that despite our many adventures and planned activities (a food tour, swing dancing lessons, WWII museum, Mardi Gras Museum, etc) the very best moment of our trip was laying in the grass with each other and listening to a jazz band play in the park. Sometimes it’s the little things that make your heart the happiest.
16. Working from Home
3 days after returning home from New Orleans, life changed drastically. Michigan went into a state-wide lockdown due to the CoronaVirus (COVID-19), and I unexpectedly had my last day in the office (I still haven’t set foot in it since). While there is so much that I could say about COVID-19s impact on 2020, you all already know what happened.
I will say, though this year has been scary and unexpecting and overwhelmingly trying, there were moments where our collective suffering showed me the true beauty of the human spirit. I’ll never forget crying as I watched a livestream of residents across Atlanta, GA clapping for healthcare workers as they changed shifts at the hospital (I just shed a tear again writing this). Or the thanks and gratitude that my dad received as he donated his construction N95 masks to the local hospital so that the doctors could do their jobs safely.
Working from home came as an unexpected perk of this global pandemic (though I’m sure not everyone would agree with me). It took some adjustment time, but I absolutely LOVE working from my home office!
15. Making Mediavine!!!
I WORKED SO HARD AND THEN I ACHIEVED A GOAL AND IT WAS THE BEST FEELING EVER.
In March I created a challenge for myself: March Madness. I posted one blog post on The Foreign Fork every single day with the intention of getting enough views that I could apply for advertisements on my website and start receiving passive income on my blog.
I spent the entire month being nervous that I wouldn’t hit my goal, but I remember screaming when I had 800 people in a day looking at my website (these days, I never have a day where it even comes close to that low). By the beginning of April, the ads were live on my site. And I felt like a real life blogger!
I spent hours of March writing blog articles until 1:00 in the morning (after a long, trying day of normal work). Seeing that final number and then that teal email telling me I had been accepted to Mediavine was one of the most triumphant moments of this year.
14. Playing Fetch in the Valley with my Lilly Girl
In December of this year, we lost my sweet Lilly girl… and though I didn’t know it at the time, looking back, this is one of my favorite memories of the year: Throwing the ball for my puppy as she rolled around in fields and got dirtier than I’ve ever seen her.
I sure do miss this puppy of mine, but I know she’ll be waiting for me with her tail wagging when I see her again!
13. Saugatuck/Holland Quarantine Date
In an effort to get out of the house (that we had been stuck in for at least the last 3 months), Matt and I planned a cross-state road trip for a day of fun. We started out taking photos amongst the Tulips in Holland, MI.
Then, we went to Saugatuck for some takeout Mexican and a lake-side picnic on the beach. It was one of my very favorite days of quarantine, and watching the sunset over Lake Michigan was the icing on the cake 🙂
12. Surprise Visit to Georgia
In June, my family decided that if none of us had to go into an office, there was no reason we couldn’t be together!
In under a week, we all decided to pack up our cars and drive down to visit our cousins in Atlanta, Georgia for a week. We spent that time working remotely, swimming in the pool, and playing games in the backyard.
I mean, like I said… not everything about COVID was bad!
11. Traverse City with Elizabeth
In the middle of the summer, one of my best friends Elizabeth passed through Ohio on a road trip. Naturally, I drove down to Ohio to meet her, and we had almost an entire week of fun together! We both worked remotely during the week, and we spent the weeknights and weekends playing fun games, enjoying the lake, reading A LOT, and catching up and laughing <3
The best part of the weekend was taking Elizabeth to Traverse City, where she got to see the beauty of Michigan’s Great Lakes! Elizabeth has been a highlight on Top Moments every year since I’ve started doing them, and that is no coincidence! Every time I see her, I’m reminded that there’s someone else in the world that just gets me. Seeing your long distance BFF 4 times in 2.5 years isn’t too shabby 😉
10. Being Promoted to an Elite at ADP
I work my little heiny off at ADP, and this year, all of my hard work came to fruition! Out of the hundreds of sales reps in the Great Lakes Division, there are 12-16 “Elite Performers”. This is the highest level of sales rep you can be. And while it comes with some great perks, it also carries with it a MASSIVE quota.
In the first half of 2019, I was a District Manager. By July, I had skipped right over Senior District Manager and moved on to Elite. At this level, I’m working alongside sales reps that have been doing their jobs for over 30 years! I feel so honored that ADP felt they could trust me with such a large role, and, though it’s been an adjustment, I’ve been working really hard to make them proud 🙂
9. “President’s Club” 2020
Every year ADP hosts an event for the top sales reps in the country, and in 2020 the plan was for the trip to take place in Dublin, Ireland! And I won!!
Unfortunately, due to the state of the world, the trip was cancelled, and we weren’t able to take the trip I had been working toward all year. Instead, we were rewarded with points that we can spend on a vacation in the future, so I still received the benefits of winning 🙂
On the night that should have been our first night celebrating in Dublin, we instead had a Zoom meeting to recognize the winners… Understandable, but far less exciting than an international vacation lol. To make me feel better, Matt threw me an Irish Feast! While I was working, he made Irish stew, Guinness Cheese Bombs, and Pots de Creme. Then, he decorated my kitchen to look like Ireland, and we celebrated in the best way we were able <3
8. Seeing Where My Grandmother Grew Up in West Virginia
In September Matt and I took a trip to Shinnston, West Virginia, the town that my grandmother was born in 96 years ago. We spent 2 days exploring her hometown, and finding my great grandmother’s gravesite as well as my grandma’s childhood home, elementary school, and high school! This experience was so very special to me, and coming home to tell my grandma about what I saw was one of the very best days of the year. Her reaction meant everything!
The next day we went to New River Gorge, WV for some ziplining, hiking, and exploring. The views from the hikes were INCREDIBLE. Our world is so very beautiful!
7. Tastemaker’s Conference in Utah
Last year in 2019, I went to the Tastemarker’s Food Blog conference in Portland, Oregon. While I was there, I met Karli (from Cooking with Karli) and Alli (from Longbourn Farm), my 2 very best blogging friends. Since then, we have talked almost every single day over Marco Polo about blogging, family, and just life.
When the Tastemaker’s Conference in NYC was cancelled this year, I was so sad I wasn’t going to be able to see my friends. So… we decided to do the virtual conference together!! We rented out an Airbnb in Utah, and spent the weekend talking all things blog. Alli and I even threw Karli a Bachelorette/Baby Shower combo!
Every time I spend time with these girls, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have friends like them. The Foreign Fork has brought some of the very best people in my life, and I am so very grateful for it!
6. A South Dakota Snow Day with Lindsey
In October, I embarked on a month-long journey with my friends to work remotely at different national parks around the country. The first stop was South Dakota with my best friend Lindsey! I need AT MINIMUM 4 days with Lindsey every year. My heart doesn’t feel right without it!
We saw Mount Rushmore, fed some burros, felt like we were on Venus in Badlands National Park, visited a drive through zoo and saw like a million bears, and laughed and talked the whole time.
My favorite part of the trip though was something that surprised me. Lindsey and I went to Custer State Park for some exploration. Not only was the park absolutely gorgeous, but we visited during one of the first snow falls of the year! Seeing the snow cover the lakes and rocks and evergreens was one of the most beautiful sights I had all year long. Plus I had some pretty great company 😉
5. Canyoneering in Utah
The next stop on my journey took me to Moab, Utah, with my best friend Kayla and some of her friends!! While in Utah, we visited Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
The girls I was traveling with signed us up for a Canyoneering class, which included hiking, repelling, stemming, and pretty much anything else we needed to do to get us out of the canyon. The highlight (and most nerve wracking) part of the experience was the final repel down a 200 foot cliff. The wind was blowing and whipping me around, and I couldn’t look down because I wouldn’t have been able to continue. But when my legs touched down at the bottom, I was so proud of the journey we had just accomplished.
I don’t think my legs stopped shaking until I fell asleep that night. But it was SO worth it!! The views of the orange Utah mountains were incredible, and after that trip was over, I felt like I could do anything.
4. Hiking Out of the Grand Canyon
After Utah, we headed to Arizona. We spent a few days in Sedona, camping on BLM land and walking a labyrinth on Halloween. We also went to Petrified Forest National Park! Once we left Flagstaff/Sedona, we traveled on to the Grand Canyon.
I had known about this part of the trip for months but didn’t feel ONE OUNCE more equipped to handle it than if I had only heard about it that morning. Our mission was to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, spend the night, and hike back out the next day. To say I was nervous is an understatement, but I strapped on my big girl pants and did it.
I had never backpacked before and this was a pretty big introductory way to do it lol. To our surprise, the way down took just as long as the hike back up (I think it’s because I was so unsure of my footing that I was taking quite a while to find the right step).
We packed all of our food in and drank out of a water filter. And the hike back out was the most triumphant experience. It was fun to look back and not even be able to see the bottom of the canyon where we had started our journey that morning. I am so proud of my legs for being able to carry me out of that one!
3. Visiting Joshua Tree National Park
Our last stop on the trip was to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. I think Joshua Tree might have been my favorite national park of the trip. The boulders that make up the mountains there look like a cartoonist drew them and plopped them into real life. It is gorgeous to see the effects history has on shaping the Earth we see today.
In Joshua tree we cooked together every night, played games, and spent just about every free minute in the hot tub. It was the perfect way to end the trip.
2. Family Game Nights
This year we spent a lot of time playing games with my family and Matt’s family. They always came with so much laughter! Plus, my mom, dad, Matt, and I got REALLY into The Bachelorette. It was fun having something that we did together every week 🙂
1. New Years Eve 2020→ 2021
We spent New Years Eve ringing in the New Year with my best friend Nick and our friends from his med school program. It was only a small group (#covidsafety!), but even just a taste of a few friends together reminded me what life had felt like pre-pandemic. I forgot that it was possible to have so much dang fun with friends until 3:00 in the morning.
PLUS I REACHED A MASSIVE GOAL OF 100,000 PAGE VIEWS IN ONE MONTH. The month of December really pulled through when I reached that massive 2020 goal!! I screamed so loud and Matt and I danced and partied when I opened up my app and saw that beautiful news <3
Last year, I had 26,000 sessions for the entire year of 2019. This year, I achieved that in ONE MONTH by March. By December I had quadrupled my March number. And in all of 2020, more than half a million people viewed my recipes. What an incredible feeling! I can’t wait to see what these numbers look like in my wrap up of 2021!
And there you have it, the 20 Best Moments of 2020. While 2020 sure had its perks, I can’t say I wasn’t excited to also say GOOD RIDDANCE to it. 2021 is already shaping up to be an exciting year, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds!