Looking Back at 2021…and forward to 2022
I always say that I do these year end posts as much for ourselves as I do for readers. It allows me to reflect on the past year and compare what we achieved against the expectations we had for the year.
I actually cut and pasted the paragraph above from last year’s post.
How about these 2 other paragraphs:
…But things are not normal and we don’t feel normal. The town is very quiet. There are curfews in place, bars and restaurants are empty, the streets are quiet. There are for rent/for sale signs everywhere. And every time there’s a good piece of news (vaccine!) there come more bad news (a variant of the virus) and uncertainty. Will we go back to “normal” in 2021? Or is this, or a variant thereof, the “new normal”?
2020’s been like a bad movie. It’s shown how fragile our lives and economies are to events. And anyone who remembers the response to past events and disasters has to be disappointed by the lack of unity in the world this time around. 2020 was ugly. As Lissette says, the only thing we need now is to be attacked by aliens. “If we’re attacked by aliens we’re totally fucked”.
If I’m cutting and pasting from last year’s post it’s because it just feels like nothing’s changed. We’re in the same position with, it seems, more questions than answers. A year later the new variant is Omicron and it’s sweeping through the world like a tsunami.
I’ve heard a bunch of people say that there’s a silver lining with Omicron: that it’s mild and that contracting it will build up everyone’s immunities to Covid. And that Omicron might be Covid’s last gasp. In fact, just yesterday South Africa (the first country to report Omicron) reported that cases had dropped and that they were going to ease restrictions. That’s really great news.
I’m sceptical though. Every variant has been related but each has been very different – from the level of transmissibility, the way it affects the body, to the way it responds to vaccines. The only thing we know for sure it that the more Covid is out there, the more chances are that it mutates into new and different variants. That’s what’s happening. So maybe Omicron won’t be the bad one, but what if the next variant, or the one after that, is just as transmittable as Omicron (about 4 times more transmittable than the original and/or other variants) but also 4 times more deadly?
We’d be, as Lissette says, “totally fucked”.
So although I’d like to be optimistic I’d rather work on the worst case scenario. I think we’ll have Covid around for a while and that we’ll be going from crisis to crisis.
And that scenario is what I’m building our travel plans around going forward (I’ll be covering that further below).
Anyway, I have our year to summarize:
A quick Recap of 2021
January – April
We picked up our identity cards from the oficina de extranjeria in Antequera. Our 1st TIE cards in Spain (TIE or Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero = Foreigner’s Identity Card). We were pretty excited about that.
There was other bureaucracy: getting our padrón (a certificate showing us as having registered at the local town hall), talking to a Spanish tax advisor (we’ll have to start filing Spanish taxes in 2022), and getting our digital certificates (and going to Velez-Malaga to get it authenticated). The first year of settling in Spain means a lot of paperwork.
Other than that we spent a lot of time organizing our townhouse. I bought an electric drill and drilled a lot of holes (I like saying that). I became more of a handyman in 2021 than any other time in my life doing all kinds of handyman work: caulking, painting, drilling, screwing, assembling new furniture, putting up tarps for shade in our yard…
Covid was high and there were a lot of restrictions in place, including restrictions on inter-provincial travel. There was a hiking group that I wanted to join but even they were closed because of all the restrictions.
We spent more than $500 on plants, pots, earth and rocks. With Covid still high and restrictions still in place we spent most of our time in the garden. The weather was starting to get very warm and we started finding it hard to walk around Nerja wearing masks (outdoor masks were mandatory).
Spain was still closed to foreign visitors.
In late May we were able to make appointments to get our 1st doses of the Pfizer vaccine. There was a light at the end of the tunnel!
June was a good month.
We had our first vaccine dose on the 2nd of the month and the second 21 days later. We were vaccinated.
On June 7th the government announced that vaccinated foreign tourists could enter Spain. On June 26th we officially no longer had to wear masks outdoors.
It felt like life was starting to get back to normal.
July – September
Ouff, summer on the Costa del Sol is hot and humid. And nobody told us about the mosquitos – nasty Asian Tiger mosquitos that attack you relentlessly during the day. And we saw our 1st cockroach in the kitchen, a huge thing that looked like it had eaten the previous night’s leftovers. Holy shit.
I got him a few days later, crushing him with Madhur Jaffrey’s 750 page World Vegetarian cookbook.
July and August were our least favorite months because of the weather. And forget sightseeing anywhere, it was just too hot. September was also hot but we finally started getting cool nights.
A great month. Sunny and dry with temps in the low 20’s. Mosquitos almost gone. Covid had almost disappeared and capacity restrictions for bars and restaurants came up to 75% (the highest since the start of the pandemic).
The weather meant we were a bit more active. We went to an Octoberfest festival in the nearby town of Torrox, our first social outing in what seemed forever. I also had my 1st hike in almost 2 years, hiking 1508m El Cielo near Nerja.
Something happened during that hike. Something got in my l lungs on the way down and I starting hacking and coughing non-stop. For more than 3 weeks I was coughing up phlegm and felt like shit (it wasn’t Covid).
I spent 3 weeks visiting my mom in Mexico. The theme of this trip was Mexico’s “Pueblos Magicos” – special towns designated by Mexico’s Tourism Authority as magical for their beauty, cultural richness and historical relevance. On this trip we visited Tepoztlan, Taxco, Valle de Bravo, Bernal and Tequisquiapan (all Pueblos Magicos) as well as San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City and Queretaro.
It was a fantastic trip. Besides seeing my mom again (the first time in 2 years because of Covid) the “Pueblo Magico” theme was great. We loved almost all the towns we visited. We’ve decided we’ll visit more Pueblos Magicos in other parts of Mexico in the future.
It was just before flying back to Spain that I read about a new Covid variant. A few days later they named it Omicron (what a stupid, horrible name. I think of the French president whenever I hear it).
Back from Mexico, Lissette and I started a new diet and workout regime. We’ve lost weight and feel good. The sickness I had contracted hiking El Cielo was taken care of in Mexico with some antibiotics (I might have had a bacterial infection of some sort) and I feel better now than at any time over the last few months.
In mid-December we picked up our renewed TIE cards. So we’re residents of Spain for at least 2 more years. By 2025 we will hopefully have our permanent residency in Spain.
I hiked El Torcal at the end of December. A great experience.
Then there’s Omicron. As I write this, numbers are exploding in Spain as they are everywhere else. All official festivities for the holidays were cancelled, everyone I’ve spoken to is depressed. It’s hard not to feel as if we’re right back where we were when we started 2021.
Celebrating the Holidays
Even during the best of times Lissette and I have always preferred to spend the holidays by ourselves and do our own things. With Covid we’ve amped that up even more.
So we decided that we’d have a Food/Wine Challenge: I would plan Christmas dinner, Lissette would plan New Years.
Lissette kicked my ass.
My Christmas dinner
Lissette’s New Year’s dinner
Lissette’s dinner was French inspired and she paired each course with a Spanish wine. She went to a whole other level:
Lissette’s meal was the best food I’ve had in years (maybe ever). And we had a great time with all the wine tasting. Much better than going to a restaurant.
We’ll have a re-match at the end of 2022 and I’ll have to step up my game.
Our Plans for 2022
As I mentioned up top, I don’t think Covid is going away anytime soon. Two years into it we’ve decided that we can no longer let it dictate our lives. We need to work around Covid and make the best of it. That, for us, means travelling again. We’ll always be cautious (we always follow the mask protocols despite the dirty looks we sometimes get from other expats*) but finished are the days that we try to ride out the storm.
*I’ve mentioned it before: the Spanish will almost always follow the mask rules but expats here (Brits, Dutch and Scandinavians) it seems can’t be bothered. Which pisses me off to no end – we’re in a foreign country. If the locals can follow the rules don’t you think us foreigners should?
2020 was the year we organized our visa and moved to Spain, 2021 was the year we organized our new home and solidified our residency. 2022 will be the year we get back to travelling and discovering.
Our first major trip will be a 3 week (approx.) train trip through Spain that will have us exploring places like Toledo, Avila, Segovia, Salamanca, Burgos, Zaragoza and Barcelona. That might be sometime over the next few months.
We’d like to do a similar train trip of northern Europe in the summer when it gets too hot in southern Spain. Nerja has beautiful beaches, but we’re not beach people. If we can get away for the majority of July – September we’d be pretty happy. (Note: anybody out there want to do a house exchange?).
Later in the year I’m hoping that I’ll finally have my Spanish driver’s license (something I’ll be working towards this year). If so we intend to do some road trips discovering smaller towns and less touristed areas of the country.
In mid-October I’m hoping to go back to Mexico and do another “Pueblo Magico” trip with my mom in another region of Mexico.
Finally, after 2 Spanish hikes in the last quarter of 2021, I’ve got an objective of at least a hike a month in 2022. I’m starting with that tomorrow (January 2nd), with the 7 hour hike of Almendra (Almendra is a peak in The Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Natural Park just outside of Nerja).
On top of all that we want to continue getting back in shape and we both want to work more on improving our Spanish.
Those are a lot of goals. Some might not pan out but we’ll do our best.
New projects on the blog (and where we call for your support)
We didn’t do a lot of travelling this year and I wasn’t as busy with new content as I normal am. But if there’s one thing I really enjoyed it was working on Youtube videos.
I wrote earlier this year about being a new Youtuber.
One of the things I’ve spent a lot of times doing is going through old videos and photos and creating new videos with them. An example of a video I just did:
We’ve also experimented with videos where I (and Lissette) actually talk. This is new to me and I’m less comfortable. How many times have you read somebody’s blog and liked it – until you see them on video and realize that you actually hate their face? I don’t want more people hating my face. These kind of videos are still a work in progress as I figure out my comfortable balance of live narration vs voice overs vs text labels. But you’ll see much more of these kinds of videos as we go forward and visit new places.
You might like this one. Start around the midway point when the beer is starting to have effect.
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All the best to everyone in 2022! Let’s hope it’s a better year.
See our Year end review in Mapping Spain: Reflections of a year living in Spain
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Tanja/the red phone box travels
yeah, it seems 2021 was a lot like 2020 and now 2022 is even worse, now there’s even war in Ukraine. Personally, my 2021 was great. I changed my career, got a new job, then another great job (that I do now). We renovated our flat. Kids grew and gave us a lot of happy memories and many, many, many tiring nights. We went on a couple of family day trips around Croatia but also to two day trips abroad (Italy and Slovenia). Then I managed to fly and to visit my best friend in Germany (first flight in over two years) and so 2022 looked bright but now we are all very worried and sad about the people from Ukraine. I was a child when my country experienced war so … it is horrible to see other ppl going through it now. yes, there were other wars too but when things are closer to home ppl worry more, that’s normal. anyway I hope you manage to fulfill your travel plans for 2022
Hey Frank, happy new year to you and Lissette! Good round-up you put together and yes, going into 2022, it does seem like a bit of the same old, same old! Well glad to hear to hear that you’re aiming to take some concrete steps to make it feel kind of normal….. WTF that means!
I just got back from a month in the Canary Isl. (Tenerife & La Gomera specifically) and i think you guys should try and get yourselves there….. you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you stay away from the resorty areas and i think there would be plenty of material for your blog!
Forget about the tacky resorts. …..it’s mostly for the Brits pkg tourists.
It was really all about the hiking and i tell you buddy….. you can easily get in your 2022 objective…… if you want some place to get in a dozen jaw dropping day hikes, all in one month ….. check out both these islands….. I’ve hiked in a lot of spectacular places but i was really blown away by the landscapes in these islands. I managed to get in 10 hikes, between 10-15km in a month. Weather was fabulous, accommo options were superb, food was decent. And you don’t even need to rent a car as the bus system is really great to get around.
I was impressed at your dueling New Years dinner competition! Quite obvious that Lissette was the STAR chef! But a tip….. as I’ve learned in France, the salad comes after the main course!
Hi Don! So nice to hear from you. Funny enough we had lunch today with a couple of German bloggers who just spent considerable time in the Canary Islands and who (like you), loved it. Yes, I definitely have to get there. I’ve seen photos and it really looks gorgeous. And they have direct flights from Malaga in the 140 Euro (return) range so it couldn’t be easier.
10 hikes! That’s a lot of hikes. Did you hike with a friend? by yourself? or find hiking groups?
I don’t know if you have a Facebook page with your hiking photos but would be interested in seeing it if you do.
I think you have me sold on the Canary Islands.
For the salad, Lissette read different versions: that it can come before the main course as a palate cleanser or after as you mention. But she agrees with you that the usual protocol is to serve it after the main course. How are you enjoying life in France? We’re hoping to get there in 2022.
Hi Frank….. no surprise at your German blogger friends raving about the Canaries. I would say that 90% of the visitors (especially on La Gomera) were Deutsch. On Tenerife i based out of Puerto de la Cruz, a small pleasant city on the north side and there seemed to be thousands of German retirees escaping the northern winter.
I mostly hiked solo except for a couple occasions when i hooked up with some Germans and a Dutch lady…… who i think i might have caught covid from!
It’s funny but i also noticed that something like 60-75% of the hikers out there were between 50-70 years old…. i never expected to see that!
You should be able to get a cheaper flight out of Malaga. I only paid €105 from Marseille. ……try the spanish budget airline called Volotea.
Hmmm, interesting Don. We see a lot of older people here along the coast as well but I guess that’s expected…but in the Canary Islands I don’t know why.
Thanks for the details, sounds interesting. I don’t know how Lissette would keep busy though, she’s not a hiker. Maybe it would be a solo trip.
hey Frank, Happy New Year! Well, yeah right now it all feels as low as it has since the pandemic began to be honest. although we can now leave the country and come back which is nice. i am with you, it’s time to stop letting the pandemic dictate our lives and so I have some big travel plans on the table for 2022, although they may yet get pushed to 2023. still a lot of hurdles to jump before it happens so im staying tight lipped until at least I see how the omicron variant plays out. There is still a bit of hope that it may have a fast growth and a fast drop. let’s see what the next month brings because now in Australia we are over 40,000 cases a day which is so much more than any day before mid-December where our worst day might have been 3 or 4k. all the best to you and Lissette of course. As far as I’m concerned wearing a mask in certain settings (ie indoors) is common sense so that to me says enough about those not willing to do it. For what gain? I really don’t know.
Happy New Year to you Andy! I wish you a great year of travel as well as blogging!
I agree with you about the masks. I get that people aren’t happy wearing them outdoors. I’m not. My glasses fog up and I get sweaty. But I don’t want to get sick and I especially don’t want to get Lissette sick. When I hear people spouting off about their personal freedoms (especially when it comes to wearing masks indoors) I just think they sound selfish. Really, how difficult is it to put on a mask when you step into a store? The problem is that it’s become a political thing.
Anyway, stay safe and all the best Andy!
Good to hear of your adventures, Frank! And how perfect that the left-over eating cockroach got smashed by a cook book…
We’re back in Spain for the holidays, in Seville, and glad to be here, finally! Plans keep shifting, of course. We didn’t have the big family gathering we expected, but at least we can see people in small groups. And here in Spain so much of life happens outdoors! I am glad to see Spain is requiring people to mask up, even outside. We’ll be back in France in February, and hopefully the current surges will have calmed down by then.
Keep working on that driver’s license, because we’re all looking to get out and about in another few months!
Paul & Paula
All the best to both of you in 2022 Paul. Happy that you made it back to Seville and saw family.
Let’s hope we all do more travelling this year.
Hi Frank, nice round-up of 2021. Good that you got back to hiking! We wish you all the best with your travel plans in 2022! I think we are lucky in Europa, as far as we can travel between countries. These days we are always nervous before a trip, but once on the road it gets easier (not easy though…). Greetings from Berlin!
All the best in 2022 Natascha. Hopefully we meet up soon.
You might want to consider doing “Almendron” near Nerja. Gorgeous 8 hr hike that I’ll soon write about (better than El Cielo)
Always enjoy your Blog!
Hopefully you get to do some more traveling. We are coming January 16th thru to April 15th to finally get there to look for a place to live in Malaga. It’s been 2 years for us trying to get there lol. Hopefully be there permanently mid summer!
Will check out your u-tube videos..Happy New Year to both of you and stay safe!
Congratulations! So you have your visa and now looking for a home? That’s great.
If you need any help let me know.
No not yet we are just coming to find a place first. Then coming back to Ontario sell house. If we apply for visa before we come we would have to pay Capital Gains on the house so we will sell house then apply hoping to be there by mid summer permanently. Love to meet up with the two of you if circumstances allowed..pick your brain on a few things..lol in the meantime stay safe and safe travels!
Are you sure about that Capital Gains law Alana? If it’s documented as your primary residence it shouldn’t be an issue. It was questioned by the notaries when I sold my condo back in 2017 because I had left the country in 2014. They considered me a “non-resident”. But I was a resident for tax purposes (always filed my taxes) and had previously filed a form with my accountant specifying that my condo was my principal residence. That solved the issue. I was lucky to have an excellent tax accountant.