2021 – Year in Review

2021 – Year in Review

Well last year’s review feels like it was about 10 years ago at this stage! It’s so surreal to think that just a year ago our lives were completely unravaged by the pandemic that we’ve all become so familiar with now. 

It wouldn’t have taken much for 2021 to trump 2020 it seemed at the foot of last year, so let’s see how we got on shall we? 


When the new year struck, and we weren’t magically transported back to the beginning of 2020 I was thoroughly underwhelmed.

I spent the month immersed in painting. Both for my own leisure and in preparation for the next Sip and Paint sessions. Before they kicked off, it was time for my very own lockdown birthday, which I had yet to experience the sheer joy of. Whilst hosting a dinner ‘party’ with family in the living room isn’t far off how I would usually celebrate, being the recipient of cards and virtual greetings from friends and family near and far made me feel truly showered in love. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and without the intervention of any news, basked in the normalcy of it all. 

I taught 3 sunset Sip and Paint sessions over the course of the month which was a joy in the bleak rainy days of January. 

my Sip and Paint set up!


I joined online workout classes to tackle my lockdown weight gain which all of a sudden felt slightly out of hand this month. Wrapped up in jumpers and blankets throughout the winter I hadn’t really noticed, but as the post-holidays and birthday euphoria cleared up, the fact that none of my regular clothes fit was quite sobering. My work and hobbies were all very sedentary so in hindsight, it shouldn’t have been as big a shock to me as it was! The classes thrice weekly, whilst very challenging, were a really great physical outlet to channel my energies into.

Alongside this, in the spirit of cupid (being the hopeless romantic that I am) we threw a Valentine’s themed Sip and Paint session on IG live. It was our first class of this kind which was open to all and it went well! I joined what turned out to be a very fateful clubhouse room on Remote Working. Simultaneously, I began mentoring with Creative Access and also got a mentor myself! It was a huge learning curve in both capacities that had and continues to have a positive impact on me. I’d highly encourage mentoring if you’ve ever considered it!


With rumors circulating of a return to office in June, and a fresher outlook on lockdown life thanks to working out, I was motivated to do anything possible to stay working remotely. I started researching and exploring options of anything I could realistically learn to do online in the upcoming months. At this point, the web development course I had bought years prior was giving me major evils.

Ever the course lover, I bought a TEFL course in order to Teach English as a Foreign Language online. This was something I quite fancied upon finishing University, but at the time I didn’t feel quite ready to take the plunge and I had decided to join the traditional workforce instead. Funny how things work out ey? I began the course with high hopes, which were quickly derailed. I put the TEFL on the backburner and sought about exploring remote job websites and firing off applications. ‘It’s a numbers game after all’, I would tell myself as I saved yet another tailored version of my CV.


After 5 years loc’d up (overdue update pending), and 28 years of life with my natural hair colour atop my head – I decided to bleach my ends. A very small act of rebellion but I honestly felt like a whole new woman as a result! It’s crazy how much physical changes can impact how you feel. This in combination with the workout gains I was starting to see had a lot of positive impacts at a time where nothing around me felt very positive at all.

Society reopened with a bang, but I wasn’t really feeling joining it. I had become accustomed to embracing my homebody spirits and attending events on Zoom. I loved the flexibility of being able to leave whenever I wanted with no commute and faking wifi issues if I’d had enough of interacting for the day. I continued virtual hangouts on all of the platforms, deep diving in YouTube and prepping for Sip and Paint classes.


I appreciated quality time with family now more than ever. With no leads on the remote work applications, I was feeling a little worn out, hopeless and deflated. I took a break from the search. General overwhelm and health concerns saw me take a break from Sip and Paint classes as well, and slowing down in general.


With the ominous return to office pushed back yet again, my yearn to make the transition to remote life was reinvigorated. I picked back up the TEFL and progressed through TEFL modules with such intensity I was slightly concerned I was going to reinstate my RSI! I had to complete it by September to avoid paying extension fees and the frugal queen in me was determined to not incur a penny more on the course. I worked hard to overhaul my portfolio with advice from my mentor. Meanwhile, Love Island’s return provided some much-needed escapism after long days at work, rehashing course work, and proofreading job applications.


I reemerged into post-covid society. After months of saying no to things since the ‘re-opening’ in April. Going out for the first times were a very surreal experience. The world looked the way I remembered it, but it felt surprisingly much more hostile to me. 

I was very anxious to be in crowded spaces, and the lack of mask-wearing was an ongoing concern. I didn’t understand how the information we received from the news subsequented in the behaviour that I was seeing out and about. From my point of view, it seemed very much like we were not ‘out of the woods’ yet, but according to the streets, we very much were. This definitely took some time to assimilate and fall in line with. 

Keeping consistent with workouts and taking care of my diet helped bring some normalcy in a time where everything felt very far from it. I put worries to the side and was able to enjoy meeting up with new virtual friends and pre-pandemic connections. I saw so much of London and visited places I have always wanted to. I guess nothing brings out the YOLO in you than being cooped up inside for months on end – self-inflicted or otherwise.

baby’s first tube since March 2020 – surprisingly vacant on this occasion


I passed my TEFL! In undertaking the course to teach English as a foreign language I discovered that I myself actually do not speak English. Or rather, as a native – I speak, but have no idea which tenses, phrasings, or conditionals I am really using at any given time. All my time editing colleagues writing whilst working at Mercedes was not quite the qualification I had given myself credit for in my head!

Other notable August events: Attending the most beautiful wedding at Kew Gardens whilst feeling like a princess, having a London spa overnight, and visiting Manchester.


This is when I restarted my remote job search in earnest. With my TEFL under my belt, I started applying to platforms to teach English online. One video application, I must admit, is still in progress because I’m terrible. 

I continued being out and about, enjoying the pleasantly surprising September weather. My steps were higher than ever as I became obsessed with a new app – Street Tag. This app converts your daily steps to points which are allocated to your team. The team with the most points at the end of the period wins prizes for their team’s primary school. Yes, I know I know, I’m super cool. If you want to join the winning team let me know! 

I started decluttering my room with the fervent but unsubstantiated hope of departing the country by the end of the year. Vinted’s constant TV spots finally infiltrated my brain and I listed some clothes I could bear to part with online with the plans of becoming the next ‘Nasty Gal’. As you may be able to guess, I have yet to sell anything to date!



I saw ‘love of my life’ Alfie Enoch once again in his latest show, Romeo and Juliet at The Globe, and washed the quite frankly odd adaptation down with far too much red wine courtesy of Vagabonds. I hosted old Uni friends in London and visited Brighton for the first time in eons. Seeing all the artists showcased on the coast got me all fired up to start creating for fun again since putting down my paintbrushes in May. I dined in the heavens, and had my last day in office before attending the baby shower of a close friend. I finished off the month at the Van Gogh exhibit – my favourite part? Reclining in the projection room. 



I handed in my notice. I quit! 

I got my first remote job ever which I found on itsatravelod.com. Coming across Andrea and her platform in February really set my whole year on a different path. Everything from that point onwards was towards the goal of being remote by the end of year. Countless late nights, early mornings, and a small breakdown but I did it. I booked a (cautiously flexible) flight and handed in my notice. 

I spent the month kind of orchestrating my own goodbye tour encompassing meeting up with my nearest and dearest and enjoying London. Going to more places I had always wanted to but didn’t make it to in the summer, like Sushi Samba. I also continued to single-handedly prop up Vagabonds Monument. It’s truly a delight if you have yet to visit!

As the days until my take-off drew ever closer I was full of so many emotions, but the main feeling was excitement.



This month saw me finding my feet in my new job and surroundings. After a wobbly start, I slowly began to find my rhythm and ground on terrain that had felt so unsteady, and enjoyed celebrating Christmas and New Year’s with friends old and new.

The island is certainly very different to the last time I was here, but as are the circumstances that I am here under. Ever since I touched down I feel like life has been happening faster than I can document it. I had so many plans to capture everything on the blog and Instagram, but even though I’m in a holiday destination, time doesn’t feel endless like it usually does on holiday. Understandably because I’m not on holiday, I’m just ‘living life’ but in a new location.

I have tried to remember back to what it was like the first months when I relocated to the Netherlands without much avail. If only I’d started the blog a little earlier to jog my memory! Navigating this new island life has already been more turbulent than I could have anticipated it to be and highlighted a lot of areas for self-improvement. That said, I can already tell it is going to be a massive growth opportunity.

To end, as I traditionally do, in conclusion – this year saw me reach one of the goals I never thought possible. I am now a remote worker which even a month in, and one paycheck under my belt, still feels crazy to say. Whilst I have been giving myself a hard time for all the things I haven’t done since I’ve landed – I can at least take a moment now to recognise that I have achieved something for myself that a year ago seemed straight-up impossible to me. I was manifesting on instagram – goodness gracious.

Life out here has felt very fast and furious, and it’s been very easy to feel like time is getting away with me. Time has always been such a determinate factor in a lot of the goals I’ve set myself, which I should really try to let go of as the past two years have almost made time feel inconsequential. Heading into next year and what will be the last year of my twenties, perhaps I should fear the pressure of time less and take solace that it’s the one constant that we all have. Perhaps there’s something comforting in time always continuing to tick, even when it feels like the world is upside down and also on fire.

I have some provisional plans to travel next year, but I am not so foolhardy as to assume that they will go off without a hitch.

I’ll be making 0 grand statements for 2021, as I can see where they got me and the earth last year. All that pressure on 2020 at the start of a new decade saw the year implode. For next year, my one wish is that it is less awful for the world than this one. That’s it. That’s the wish.

Charlotte Gray, 2020 Year In Review

In the essence of last year’s sign off – Dear 2022, I am creeping into your arms quietly with nothing but the utmost respect. Let’s see what you have in store.

Charlotte Gray
Charlotte Gray

Thanks for spending some time Up and Away with me!

I’m writing here to keep track of not only my travels to new places, but also my daily journeys through learning, loving and life.

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