Almost 16 months have passed since my last post on my Facebook fan page and even longer on Instagram! I never planned for such a long break, but the longer I waited to get back into the social media saddle the more anxious I was getting about posting something there.
In the meantime, I have received messages from some of you asking if I was ok. For that, I want to thank you!
So, am I ok? I guess as ok as anyone can get in the current World circumstances. We’ve all been put to a massive test of patience and mental endurance and despite everything that has been going on I am proud of myself for remaining positive and staying afloat. However if I said the last year was easy, I would definitely be lying.
Last year in March I watched my business, which I have been building for 6 years prior to the pandemic, crumble to a mere fraction of what it was like in 2019.
All in a matter of a few weeks. I went from an all-time high, being one of the most-read travel bloggers to barely 30 thousand views a month.
Where is in a Faraway Land now?
16 months in and the traffic is still nowhere near the recovery level, that I had hoped it will reach, but I remain hopeful. Needless to say, my motivation level has hit an all-time low.
I didn’t abandon my website though. I’ve worked too damn hard to give it all up just like that. I did however hide away from social media.
I even deactivated my Facebook for a few months, because of all the negativity I was seeing, and I couldn’t handle it anymore.
Over the last year, I worked tirelessly on my Italian Dolomites Guide. It’s still not finished 100%, but I don’t think it ever will be. It’s an ongoing process.
In the search of a home base
Well, ironically 2020 was supposed to be my year off from traveling. After changing countries and places, meeting new people, and saying goodbye to countless friends, whom I met along the way, I experienced a bit of travel burnout.
I’ve been saying for at least a couple of years prior that I need a home base, where I can return to unwind from my travels.
I have already slowed down a bit in 2019, after the very intense year of 2018, half of which was spent either sleeping in a tent, a van or a bunk bed somewhere in a mountain refuge.
After another intense summer season in the Dolomites hiking Alta Via 1, Alta Via 2, Alta Via 4, the Dolomiti Brenta Circuit and many more day hikes and via ferratas I had a plan to settle in Chamonix in the French Alps for the winter season.
I wanted to rest, work on my skiing, learn ski touring and just be in one place for a while.
Housesitting in London
With the change of circumstances, I ended up housesitting instead. I spent the rest of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 near London taking care of Monty the dog and two cats.
I have done the same housesit the previous year and have grown very attached to the animals. It was the perfect arrangement and a calm welcome into 2020.
Not a bad alternative to being honest and as it turns had I moved to Chamonix I would have been placed in very strict lockdowns that were introduced in France at the end of Q1 of 2020.
Having my life turned upside down
After housesitting on and off for a couple of years and saying goodbye to many dogs I was finally ready to have my own furry companion on my travels. In January 2020, after a long search for a reputable breeder, I got my match and was waiting for my fur-ball to be born!
He came into this world on February 7th, 2020, and immediately stole my heart. Yes, I am now a full-on dog mum and I am not ashamed to admit it!
After the London housesit ended and a short ski trip to Chamonix, where my friends and I still joked about the whole media blow-up of the pandemic, I got into my van and drove to Poland to meet my new friend.
As soon as I crossed the border into Poland in March the borders shut and I got stuck. My partner was still back in the UK and we were separated against our will for 4 months, neither of which was planned for.
Luckily, I had my family in Poland to fall back on but staying with my parents for the next couple of months was anything but easy.
As much as I love them and get along very well with them, at a certain point in our lives living with parents isn’t ideal. Simple clash of opinions, characters and the generation gap are all real.
Welcoming the new family member
In all this madness there was massive excitement about the new pup joining the family. At the end of March 2020, I finally got to meet him and take him home. Let me now properly introduce you to Jasper, the new member of In A Faraway Land.
Jasper (named after one of my favourite places in the Canadian Rockies) is an Australian Shepherd and I chose the breed because of its character traits as well as endless energy levels so he can keep up with me on all the hikes I do.
As it turns out I had trouble keeping up with his energy level instead.
For the first few weeks, he kept me awake during unsociable hours, drove me to tears a few times thanks to his sharp teeth and stubbornness.
The next few months turned the point of my existence into caring for him, training him, walking, feeding etc. It was a nice distraction from everything that has been going on with the World and my crumbling blogging business.
I didn’t expect it to be easy, but damn if any of you think about getting a puppy then mark my words…think twice. I am not sure if I would go through it again, even though now he is the best dog I could have asked for!
Puppies are so overrated, and their cuteness very quickly disappears behind the curtain of endless responsibilities. The fact that it fell entirely on my shoulders, as my then partner was in the UK, didn’t help either.
The silver lining
With no end in sight to the pandemic, I made a swift decision to rent a place in Poland and hunker down for a while. Initially, it was only supposed to be until the end of 2020 but I realised that COVID is not going to disappear anytime soon.
There was definitely a silver lining in my situation. After all, 2020 was supposed to be my gap year from travelling so I could focus on other things, finally take care of a few minor health issues I had to tend to for a while.
This was all made possible because I was forced to slow down! It also worked out well with getting a dog. What I didn’t anticipate, was the lack of income that will come with it.
The Polish government came up with the most ridiculous rules of who deserves the help and who doesn’t. Each time a new regulation came out, that was omitting the type of business I am in, I was getting more and more frustrated.
Ironically, even though Poland is still a relatively cheap country to live in, the rent isn’t, so my expenses were higher than when I was travelling in my van.
Thanks to the awesome community who visits my site though (thank you, yeah you!), I still managed to make just enough money to pay the bills and I was lucky to have some savings in my bank account when the traffic got slow.
When 2021 came I was ready to face a new reality and excited about the future! Like any other person on January 1st, I started an intense weight lifting program, swore off sugar from my life, and jumped on a high protein diet.
As I am approaching my 35th birthday this year, my plan was to be in the best shape of my life! Is it a sign of a mid-life crisis?
It all quickly backfired when by the end of that month I developed intense stomach pains. Two weeks, four ultrasounds, an x-ray and countless blood tests later and I was lying on an operation table on Valentine’s day with a diagnosis – appendicitis.
After the surgery, I was very determined to be back to my old self as soon as possible. In March, only a couple of weeks after the surgery I started doing 16000 steps a day on average and I kept that pace throughout April and May, slowly adding workout programs to my days.
Whilst today I still sometimes feel the pain in my scar, I am glad to report I have put it all behind me. Unfortunately, my endurance needs to be worked on, but I will get there too!
What’s in store for the rest of the year?
In mid-June, I packed my belongings into my van, which now has been slightly converted to accommodate Jasper, and hit the road again.
My first stop was a brief visit to Germany to see a couple of friends. I spent a few days in the Austrian Alps with one of them, where we hiked and stayed in mountain huts. I can’t tell you how good it felt to be back in the mountains again after a 15-month break!
My Plan B for the summer was to travel around the Swiss and Austrian Alps, but when Plan A came to a possibility, I pondered over for a few days what to do.
My travel plan for summer 2021
Now you are probably wondering what is plan A?
I always dreamt of visiting the Lofoten Islands in Norway. I waited in anticipation for Norway to open to non-essential travel. In the meantime, I almost lost hope that it will.
Ironically as soon as I made it to South Germany I read in the news that Norway is now accepting fully vaccinated travellers! Getting the COVID vaccine has finally paid off. To be honest, anything that will stop an intense fourth wave is worth it!
At the end of June, I set off on a 3500-kilometre journey driving all across Germany, Denmark, parts of Sweden and finally Norway all the way to the arctic circle and making a few stops along the way.
I am happy about escaping the current heatwave that’s going across Europe and so is Jasper, although he was less than excited about travelling long distances each day!
I am now writing to you from Lofoten Islands, where I docked on July 14th, just in time for a massive storm that hit the islands. Lucky me! My plan to make it here before the midnight sun ends backfired slightly. All I have seen so far are clouds and endless rain…well apart from the first evening, when I hiked up to Reinebringen.
I hope to spend a couple of months here hiking as many trails as possible (when the weather finally clears), this time with a companion of my furry friend, who loves hiking just as much as I do!
And just like that
Here I am in 2021, after more than a year of ups and downs with a new friend in my life. Figuring out my career path and still without a home base but getting closer…one thing I know for certain is that my future home will be somewhere close to the mountains.
I am ready to share with you all the new content I have released on my site during the last year, so please check back with me on my Facebook or Instagram page every now and again!
Once again, I want to thank you for sticking around, for using the affiliate links on my site or simply browsing through it. It all helped me stay afloat and I really appreciate the continuous support! Lots of love! Marta ….and Jasper!