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.
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.
If you think you’d like to see more of our video please subscribe to our Youtube channel. Also very much appreciate if you press “Like” on our videos. The more likes our videos get the more Youtube exposure we get .
Finally, if you enjoy reading the blog, please keep us in mind when booking hotels, flights, tours or car rentals. It doesn’t cost you anything and it helps support us in travelling and writing the free content you see on this blog. This page will help you out with that. You might not be travelling anytime soon but if you remember us when you do we very much appreciate it.
Thanks for your continued support!
All the best to everyone in 2022! Let’s hope it’s a better year.