I took a deep inhale, and a deeper exhale before I typed a word of this update.
I think that says everything we need to know, remember, or otherwise think about 2020.
I’ll start back in January of last year, and chronicle how the year unfolded for me amidst the madness of everything that occurred in my own life and the vast world around me.
Traveling in the beginning of 2020
At the beginning of 2020, I was at a professional and personal crossroads. I’ve always placed undue emphasis on my own ambition and career goals, above everything else in my life. And those ambitions were crumbling, crashing down at my feet after some steep career disappointments in 2019.
2020 was the marked shift in my decision to stop pursuing a full-time American job and focus on my own endeavors. I decided in late 2019 that, if I didn’t land a full-time job offer, then I would take some of my savings and fly to Thailand in the first part of 2020. I had plans to travel in the Southeast Asian region, but had little preference for visiting any one country over another (except for budget, that is). I’m on a long-term journey to visit all of them, remember?
Luckily for me, one of my childhood friends was 100% down to travel to Thailand with me. We had an absolutely amazing time! I shared some of that experience and my advice for people who want to visit the Land of Smiles on Sarah L. Travels.
But, because she works a more traditional job, she had to go home. I didn’t.
So, for the next three-ish weeks, I was solo in Cambodia and Vietnam. And it was an absolute rush.
If you’ve considered traveling solo as a woman and have no clue if it’s for you/how you’d go about that, I have a free solo female travel guide. You just have to subscribe to From the Aisle Seat, my Friday travel newsletter, at this specific link and confirm your subscription to get it in your inbox.
For obvious reasons, that time in Southeast Asia was cut short. I was in central Vietnam, staying in Hội An (HIGHLY recommend!) when I visited the famous hand bridge. I met a girl on that tour who told me Hanoi, the next stop on my itinerary, was on lockdown after a socialite spread the virus on her flight. I was on a flight back to BNA a day or two later. I catalog that experience hour by hour in this post on Sarah L. Travels.
The main comment I want to make about that day is this: my complete peace at leaving when I did and how I did came from the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit alone. You may not believe the same things I do. That’s fine. But I know with certainty that nothing about that day in my life was my own intelligence or foresight. It was protection from God that saved me money, time, and stress. I am so grateful to Him for that.
Home not just for a good time, but a long time
Like many, I assumed I’d only be at my Mom’s house for a couple of months at most.
I’m still here.
It’s the end of March 2021.
How wrong I was. How wrong most of us were.
For those first couple of months, I focused on growing my travel blog despite huge losses in web traffic and income all through the travel industry. One of the ways I kept focusing on that is by trying to improve the reader experience on my site.
I completely redesigned the website, which is now a much better reflection of its writer, its content, and what its readers look for.
I also started an email newsletter, From the Aisle Seat. This was a huge win for me! I’d wanted to do this for a year, but felt like no one would want to open my emails or read what I had to say. It’s still very small, but people open it every week. That means the world to me.
And then, it was time to figure out what else I needed to be doing.
Career pivots, and seeing myself as an entrepreneur for the first time
You see, I knew a couple of months into blogging in 2019 that I’d never be a full-time blogger. I have too many interests outside of content-based business to only blog. So, I leaned into my other interests during such a challenging year.
I launched my recipe blog, Ease into Vegan, which I’d first started dreaming of in Fall 2019. It still needs more recipes, and I’m behind on updating it. But, I’m farther now than I was before!
I also joined Skillshare and started taking online courses like crazy. I love that I can type any Adobe program into its search bar and find tons of courses that will help me use the software I pay for every month. Skillshare courses helped me redesign Sarah L. Travels, learn more about Adobe Illustrator, and the fundamentals of UX design.
My first week home after traveling, I bought my first stock. This decision was the beginning of what looks to be a long-term love of investing.
It fascinates me. I want to learn everything I can about money: how it moves in the markets, what it means to different people, how it changes by culture. I know many people have no interest in or understanding of the stock market, because I used to be one of them. Now, I can’t imagine not having a portfolio or following news about the markets.
Aside from all of the above, I dreamed like nothing could stop me. This, and deep prayer, are what got me through the emotions and re-emerging memories during the racial reckoning of summer 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, Covid-19 stay at home orders, and a steep change in my plans.
Among those dreams are many business ideas, most of which I won’t share with you here. But, I can say that two of those dreams are big goals for 2021.
Starting the seasoning blend company
My seasoning blend, currently called i love tofu scramble (I thought that was cute, because the blend loves tofu scramble. Also, Love is a family name on my Mom’s side. Might rebrand later.) is now an existing company. But, the product is not yet launched in the market as of the time this post is written.
I wasn’t sure I’d pursue this idea until I felt a deep sense of peace at the prospect of monetizing one of my longtime recipes.
Everyone that’s tried it before I formed the company has loved it and encouraged me to pursue it, which I’m so grateful for. I pray it can make customers’ mornings a little easier and tastier!
Making goals for 2021
Although 2020 is technically in the rearview, many aspects of 2021 feel exactly the same. But, I’m more hopeful than ever before about my life, walk with God, and career prospects.
Launch the seasoning blend
Number one on this list is to launch the seasoning blend in 2021. I’ve already put up thousands in startup costs. I need to recoup said costs and want to make some form of steady income this year. That would take immense stress off my life. We’ll see what happens! It’s in God’s hands.
If you want launch updates and to try the blend when preorders become available:
- Thank you! And
- You can do that here!
Aside from launching ILTS (what I call the blend shorthand) my current goals for the business are:
- Sell 1,000 jars in the first six months after launch.
- Vet co-packers to outsource manufacturing, which will involve getting the recipe precise at a large scale.
- Design a minimal line of merch about the blend (mainly a t-shirt comes to mind).
Write more and blog less
As I share in the about page on this site, I have quite a few writing ambitions. I know the majority of these will take years to come to fruition if they do at all, but there are short-term goals I have for writing in 2021.
I want to cut back how many blog posts I publish here, on Sarah L. Travels, and on Ease into Vegan. Instead, I should map out which content will be free on these sites, what will be pitched to publications, and what will be set aside for later books.
This is a very delicate balance, and I know I won’t always get it right. But, it shows tremendous growth for me compared to how I used to write.
Pitching publications with article ideas is a tough confidence battle for me. But, it’s one I want to challenge in 2021. That’s part of the reason this website exists. I want a space to have a general portfolio, which I was lacking before. There will be a specific page for my clips on the main site!
Aside from online publishing, I want to finish my children’s book so it’ll be ready to pitch to literary agents in 2022. Historical research for my novel takes a back burner to that for now.
Prioritize my relationship with God more this year
It is embarrassing to look at my academic and career accomplishments, then see how pitiful my knowledge of God is. No wonder I’ve struggled so much in the past, then wondered where God was, despite knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt I’m saved by grace.
This year, I want to start reading the Bible in full, with a concordance, in order, and analyze its cultural and historical contexts with its words. This will probably take years, because the Bible has 66 books and over 1,000 chapters. And I’m not rushing it.
Keep running, and run more often
I’ve never, ever been the athletic type. There were so many moments growing up where I would have given every talent I had to be like the athletic girls that were thin and blonde and always had boyfriends.
But that’s not me! And that’s okay.
That being said, I’ve come to enjoy running in the past couple of years, and want to do it more often. There’s really limitless potential in this area for me, because I’m still at square one with running regularly.
Read 100 books in a year for the first time
I didn’t even know reading 100 books a year was a thing until 2020, but now I want it to be my thing. You can see my progress on my Goodreads profile and here on my personal blog!
If you ever want to know what I’m currently reading, you’ll find it in the sidebar on this site or in your inbox if you subscribe to my book newsletter!
Create and launch a personal website
Done! You’re on it right now. Then again, this reflection and goals post is being written at the end of Q1…
Oops. Life happens.
But, I can say that this was a good decision, because I love my personal website! I was worried it would be redundant or pointless, or feel like a chore. It doesn’t. At least not yet.
I see now that I really needed a space for self-publishing whatever I want outside of travel and food. Medium wasn’t cutting it for me, so here we are! I’m excited to see the role this website will have for my writing, other professional stuff, and more personal matters.
Test recipes for my future cookbook
Just because I’m a good cook and baker doesn’t automatically make me a good recipe writer. In the same way a cook and baker gets better with practice, my recipe development and writing skills can, too.
As long as I’m at my Mom’s house in Nashville before travel returns, I want to take advantage of that to refine my recipes and make them better.
The cookbook probably won’t happen for a long time, if it ever does. So, I’m taking recipe development one meal at a time!
Grow portfolio by researching new sectors
My investment portfolio is performing well, and I want to diversify it more! It’s currently biotech heavy, which is a sector I find really interesting. But, I’d like to learn more about other sectors now.
I currently have no plans to sell off my biotech stocks, and am not giving any investment advice here. I do know I’d like to look more into e-commerce and travel stocks, because I already have at least some knowledge about these sectors from firsthand experience.
• • •
These are some lofty goals and focuses for a new year, but I feel more ready than before to take them on. I’m curious to see how all of the above will turn out when I sit down to write my 2021 reflection + 2022 goals. Hopefully that will happen at the beginning of Q1 instead of the end…
What are your goals for this year? Are you into making goals, or would you rather go with “Whatever happens, happens?” Drop a comment below if you want to share your thoughts.