IMG_5450 2021 Travel Retrospective: Poking Our Heads Out Travel
El Retiro’s historic Our Lady of the Rosary church, decked out for the holidays

For us, 2021 travel was all about regaining some lost ground.

Now that it’s all but certain that the Covid-19  coronavirus will be endemic, we’ve pretty much resigned ourselves to a life with Covid in some form or fashion. And as dedicated travelers, we’re figuring out what that means as we try to regain some of the freedom to roam that we lost two long years ago. Last month we put down some of our thoughts on the topic in this post:

Covid-19 in 2021: Five Lessons for Travelers

Our 2021 travel focus was on Colombia adventures, but we also began to ease – very cautiously – back into international travel. And we had a great year!

FEBRUARY: Escaping the Big City

After almost a year of pandemic-ing in Medellín, Colombia’s third-largest city (with five months under one of the world’s strictest lockdowns), we needed a change. Exactly a year ago we made the move to El Retiro, a small town high in the Andes about a 45-minute drive outside the city. (We actually moved in late December of 2020, but didn’t get around to this post until February.) A year later, not a day goes by that we aren’t immensely grateful for the clean fresh air, slower pace, and quaint colonial charm of El Retiro!

El Retiro, Colombia: Our New Home Sweet Home

JUNE: A Retirement, and a Return to Colombia’s Caribbean Coast

IMG_2738 2021 Travel Retrospective: Poking Our Heads Out Travel
Retirement bubbles!

I finally hung up an almost-four-decade career as a public relations/marketing exec and writer on June 16. The writing bug is still with me, though, and I’m hoping to launch a couple of long-gestating projects in 2022. We’ll see!

After a homebound start to the year, we made a return visit to one of our favorite places in Colombia – the stretch of Caribbean coast from Santa Marta east, through the spectacular Tayrona National Park. Along the way we made some new discoveries and found our nirvana, Casa Tayrona Los Naranjos.

Visiting Colombia’s Caribbean Coast

JULY: A Fresh Take on a Familiar Haunt

In May and July we took the plunge and made our first international trips since the pandemic began – two separate visits to Austin, Texas to see family and help our mom with her big move to a retirement community. In the process, we had some interesting new experiences in this city that we’ve both come to know so well.

New Discoveries in Old Austin

AUGUST: Hitting the Road

The highlight of our 2021 travel experience – by far – was the month-long road trip we took in August to a broad area in eastern Colombia. Our goal was to visit as many Pueblos Patrimonios (officially designated heritage towns) as we could. We were able to cross 7 off our list: San Juan de Girón, Barichara, Monguí, Socorro, Villa de Leyva, Guaduas, and Honda. It was a wonderful trip that opened our eyes even more to Colombia’s incredible culture, stunning natural beauty, and wonderful people.  We’ve already starting planning for the Big Colombia Road Trip of 2022!

Screen-Shot-2022-01-01-at-2.06.07-PM 2021 Travel Retrospective: Poking Our Heads Out Travel

The lovely old town of Barichara was one of our favorite stops:

Colombia Heritage Towns: Barichara

OCTOBER: Sun, Sea and Diving on Aruba and Bonaire

With Covid at a pandemic-era low, October seemed like the perfect time to book a beach getaway. We’d visited Curaçao back in 2019, so now we were ready to round out our tour of the Dutch ABC Islands with a trip to Aruba and Bonaire.

The ABC Islands: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao

DECEMBER: Colombia’s Isla San Andres

In early December, we made another relaxing beach getaway to a Caribbean island without having to leave our own country. Isla San Andres is a vacation playground for Colombians, but it’s little known to travelers outside the country. We had a great time exploring this beautiful island!

San Andres, Colombia: An Off-the-Radar Gem

With 2021 travel behind us, what’s next? 

Remember last New Year, when life-saving vaccines were beginning to be rolled out? We all hoped that 2021 would be the year that the world would get the upper hand on Covid-19. Who could have imagined that we’d still be dealing with this ghastly pandemic going into 2022? And that we’d now be in the throes of the fastest-spreading Covid-19 variant yet, with record-high case numbers around the world?

At this writing, almost 5.4 million people have lost their lives to this terrible virus – and just about all of us know someone who died, or whose family has been terribly altered by Covid. It’s an almost-incomprehensible tragedy. 

But there are plenty of reasons for hope as we enter a new year.

As alarming and disrupting as the new Omicron variant is, the world is in a much better place with Covid than it was this time last year. Vaccination is finally having a real impact in many parts of the world (with big exceptions – don’t get me started on vaccine inequality). There are some encouraging signs that Omicron causes a less serious disease, at least among the fully vaccinated. And because it’s so incredibly contagious, Omicron seams to be peaking and then declining a lot faster than other variants in some countries and leaving hordes more people with natural immunity.

We’re keeping a close eye on this, of course – and the Omicron situation is changing by the minute. But at this point we’re optimistic enough that we’re going through with our long-delayed and twice-cancelled trip to Spain in February. A lot can change between now and then, so we’ll see (we have refundable plane tickets).

We are so grateful.

No matter where we roam, we never lose sight of how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful and safe country, to have vaccinations that offer good protection from serious illness, and to have the ability to travel when health and safety measures allow it.

We also want to give a special shout-out to our fabulous house/pet sitters: Jenny Lincoln, Alex Davis and Ryan Gleason, Kat McKay, Lacy Harden, and Francisco y Martha at Pets Pro. This year’s excursions would not have happened without you, and you gave us tremendous peace of mind knowing that our fur kids were safe and happy. And Rosie and Tango thank you for all the cookies!

And finally, we thank you – our readers – for sticking with us and for all the kind comments you’ve made over the past year. Here’s a little musical send-off for you: 

To you and your loved ones from John, Susan, Rosie and Tango:
Feliz Año Nuevo! May 2022 be your best year yet. 

37 Comments

  1. Happy New Year Susan & John –
    I’ve greatly appreciated travelling vicariously with you. This has been much, much needed!
    Wishing you both a happy, healthy and travel-filled 2022!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Donna, and the same back to you 🙂 Hoping 2022 brings you everything you’ve been dreaming of. Cheers!

  2. It’s great that you had a year full of travel, John and Susan. I can’t wait for your Big Colombia Trip and that one to Spain in February! I hope things go well for both of you throughout all 12 months of 2022.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      All the same back to you and your loved ones, Bama! I just know that 2022 is going to be a much better year for all of us. Keep your fingers crossed on the Spain trip – ha! Jury’s still out on that one. Take care!

  3. Fascinating blog, as usual, Susan, but the really interesting sentence was: “I’m hoping to launch a couple of long-gestating projects in 2022.” Now, you’ve got my attention! I can’t wait to read them — “read” is the operative word, right? If not, good luck with whatever it is. Keep on keeping on with this joy-filled retirement thing you got such a jump-start on!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Glen!! Ha, it remains to be seen whether these projects (which are mostly just thoughts whirling around in my brain) come to fruition. For now, I’m trying to separate the act of writing from the act of working – they’re still pretty entwined. Thanks for the good wishes, and all the best of the New Year to you and Pat!

  4. You had a few fabulous adventures last year, loved following your blog. Lets hope 2022 is an even better and safer year for everyone. Happy New Year.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We’re very hopeful about 2022 – onward and upward! Hope you guys have a fantastic new year 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Meg! Same back to you – here’s to an adventurous and travel-filled New Year!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Same back to both of you and your sweet mom/mom-in-law! Cross your fingers for us about Spain. We’re still hopeful we can go.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Indeed – we made the most of it! Happy New Year to you two 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      THANK YOU – Happy New Year right back to you!

  5. I love this post and my husband longs for a return visit to his birth place (El Bagre). He lived in the area, then in Chile for 6 years before the family moved to the San Diego area! I remember when you wrote about your move from Medellin to the quieter El Retiro. I love your pics of Colombia and I can easily recall a few winter visits to La Ventana in Baja (for windsurfing and board sports–I feel that pull even now–as I live vicariously through your tropical, warm images. I believe you are very right about the future of the pandemic and glad to read Colombia is slowly getting out of its clutches. Here in the Inland NW, most rural areas don’t require masks and we can move about freely. Many of my family members who were vaccinated are testing positive for covid, and we believe its the omicron variant hitting us all. Both my hubby and I have felt a little sickish but have not been able to get tested, and with omicron, if you don’t test right at the first symptom, it doesn’t have enough viral load to show. If we all just get this, maybe this coronavirus series will end and take a bow. BTW, I am super intrigued by Isla San Andres! Sorry for the long comment, Happy New Year and continue to enjoy life and be safe!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hi Terri – hope you two are feeling better! I think it’s a safe bet that all of us will get this virus at some point (if we haven’t had it already). Still wanting to believe all the latest reports that seem to indicate Covid will keep getting weaker and weaker. I guess we’ll see! And hoping you and your hubby can get back to Colombia one of these days. I looked up El Bagre and it’s not too far from us, in Antioquia.

      Happy New Year back to you both, together with good health and lots of great new experiences!

      • Thank you! Were are feeling great and not only did we have the original version of covid in 2020, we’re fully vaxxed and are still healthy (if a little out of shape). I told Hans about where you live and he remembers where it is. Too cool! Sounds like a blogger meet-up in the making some day!

        • John and Susan Pazera Reply

          That would be awesome! Let’s make it happen 🙂

  6. I enjoyed following your adventures via your social media posts. I look forward to what’s to come in 2022. I think my favorite photo from your year is that of the Adirondack chairs. I have a deep-seated love of the chairs and we have 5 of them in our backyard that Abi saved and restored, each a different color. Of course, ours don’t have an ocean view. Ha! Ha! Safe travels and stay healthy!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Aww, thanks, Patti! Likewise, we’ve really enjoyed following you two and your journeys on social sites and your blog. I just know in my bones that 2022 will be a great year!

      That shot of the Adirondack chairs is one of my favorites from that trip! They seem to be universal. That was on Aruba and we also see them all over Colombia I’m sure Abi’s restorations are beautiful. Same back to both of you – here’s to safe and healthy travels in 2022!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Sue, and all the same to you and your loved ones! We are doing the same 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Alison! Absolutely wishing the same to you and Don. Happy 2022 – onward and upward!
      – Susan

  7. You’ve had a pretty fulfilling 2021 and exciting prospects this year. I hope your international trips will materialize and that your next Colombian road trip is a success as well. Happy new year and new adventures!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Same back to you and Mark, Liesbet! Hope our paths cross one of these days. Feliz Año Nuevo!

  8. I have absolutely loved following along on your Colombian adventures this year, and am very excited to see what 2022 holds for you 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Hannah! Likewise, we’ve loved following your adventures in your back yard – just making us want to visit England more and more! I think we can all look forward to an even more fulfilling 2022. Happy New Year!

  9. I love your look back and share your optimism about future travels. Malcolm and I have booked three weeks in Italy in September (fingers crossed) and are working on a driving trip from Maine to Nova Scotia in June. The US is somewhat challenging right now because of worker shortages. Yesterday we called ahead to our hotel in South Carolina (visiting in two weeks) to make sure they are still full-service. Thankfully, they are right now, but no guarantees. Cheers to you guys for a beautiful 2022.

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