The Year of “Oh No”

Couple and dog on a blue couch, surrounded by plants in front of a colorful bookshelf.

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I have a confession to make.

At the end of 2019, exhausted and burnt out, I made a New Years resolution that, in hindsight, may have doomed the entire world: I wanted to travel less and spend more time at home, baking and taking long walks and watching birds in the backyard.

Yep: I put that out into the Universe, and then the Universe was like “oh, dip?” and here we are, in month 976827682768 of the worst global pandemic in over a century. Alexa, play “Be Careful What You Wish For.” (BTW: I had to Google this, but it turns out that there is a country song with this title, along with, weirdly, an “erotic thriller film” starring one of the Jonas brothers. What the what?!?!)

Anyway, you guys, I’m really sorry about… you know *gestures broadly at everything*

But you’re probably wondering: was it all worth it, Lia?!?! Did you get your stupid wish and spend 2020 taking long walks, watching birds in the backyard, and baking bundt cakes??

And the answer is … kinda. Let’s get into it.

Estimated Reading Time: 35 minutes

Looking for more year-in-review posts? We’ve been writing them every year since the beginning of our travel blog. Here they all are, or just pick a year:

2020 by the Numbers

Before we dive into the details, let’s start with a quick summary of how the year went. I promise that only some of these are made up.

This is my home office! It's filled with travel things, from postcards to globes to smaller globes to travel-themed cups to a big scratch-off map. Yes: I literally wrote a gift guide for myself and then bought everything on it.

Practical Wanderlust

  • Team Members: 10
  • Blog Posts Published: 27
  • Books Published: 1
  • Total Readers: 2.06m
  • Total Page Views: 3.02m
  • Traffic Compared to 2019: -24%
  • Gross Income Compared to 2019: -16%
  • Months that Net Profit was Negative: 4
Girl in yellow jacket in San Francisco, California crossing the street, with a view of the Bay Bridge in the background.


  • Existential Crises: At least 5
  • Domains Purchased: 3
  • Succulent Pups Collected: 2768728627
  • Succulent Babies Grown: 92768
  • TV Shows Binge-Watched: 18
  • Best-Selling Books Written: 1
  • Bundt Cakes Baked: 0
  • Take-Out Dumplings Consumed: 983
  • Long Walks Taken: 582
Jeremy holding Mulan in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, in front of a lake.


  • Sourdough Loaves Baked: At least 30
  • Cookies Baked: At least 300
  • Cakes Baked: 4 (vegan almond olive oil, black forest gateau, thunder cake, yule log) plus 24 cupcakes (almond cakes filled with orange curd and topped with ginger buttercream)
  • Woodworking Projects Completed: 4 (herb garden, cloud shelf, mountain shelf, trellis, dog feeder, birdhouse)
  • Podcasts listened to: 60 hours
  • Piano songs learned: 23
Dog in a hammock on camping trip


  • Tricks Learned: 15 (Sit, stay, down, high five, shake, meerkat, up-up, off, jump, speak, don’t speak, don’t jump, find it, watch me, touch)
  • Bully Sticks Chewed: 267
  • Stuffies Destroyed: 20
  • Tiny Bits of Stuffing Strewn Across the House: 9268296787
  • Dog Beds: 5
  • Chairs Claimed: 2
  • Seasonally Themed Outfits: 6
  • Camping Trips: 2

Hang on … who’s Mulan?? Let’s get to it!

Kissing in front of Cinderella's Castle at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Remember when pictures like this DIDN’T cause visceral feelings of anxiety and sadness? Ahh, February 2020, we were so innocent then.

The Beginning of 2020: The Glory Days

January, 2020: a new decade. The world was bright and full of promise. Jeremy and I were happily settling into our new rental home in Oakland, complete with a big backyard and a dedicated office – no more working in a corner of our living room behind the couch!

Our travel blog had never been more successful, but I was feeling burnt out after a year filled with 26 trips – that’s one trip every two weeks on average, if you’re number-crunching – and I wanted to spend more time at home (*cringes in hindsight*).

Little did I know that I’d already learned the first of many humbling lessons of this year: there is such thing as too much of a good thing, and I had reached my limit.

The starry-eyed wonder of hopping on a plane to visit a new destination had faded to a feeling of routine. I’d said “yes” to too many incredible opportunities, and I wasn’t giving myself a chance to savor the excitement of planning a trip to a new place. I was dangerously teetering towards the brink of feeling ungrateful for the ridiculous, amazing, and incredible opportunities that my job as a travel blogger afforded me.

Plus, I felt like a real hypocrite working towards a zero/low-waste lifestyle at home… only to hop on plane after plane.

So, a couple of weeks after I turned 30, we tied an anchor to ourselves to help us stay grounded and at home… in the form of a cuddly, fluffy puppy.

Black and white puppy in front of a snowy cabin in Lake Tahoe, California.
Meet Mulan! This fluffy bundle of joy joined our family in January 2020.

Meet Mulan

I’ve always been a self-proclaimed cat person, but I fell head over heels in love with Mulan before we even met. Jeremy and I were browsing adoption listings, and I saw a blurry photo of her on the website of a local shelter (the wonderful Jelly’s Place in San Pablo, if you’re a Bay Area local looking for a new friend). All I knew about her was that she was rescued from a meat farm in South Korea and that she was named after my favorite Disney movie, but something deep down was telling me that this was The One.

Sure enough, the moment I picked her up, she snuggled right into my arms and gave me kisses. Never in my life have I been anything other than supremely grossed out by a dog licking my face … until that dog was Mulan.

I’d only felt love at first sight once before, when I caught sight of Jeremy for the first time looking like a tall drink of Ginger Ale with his red beard set ablaze in the evening light. With Mulan, it was a different kind of love – but it was intense.

We turned in our adoption application immediately, only to find out that literally everyone else at the shelter was doing the exact same thing. Mulan was the most popular dog at the shelter that day by far – turns out she was giving snuggles and face kisses to everyone! (We’d later discover that she has the power to make every single person she’s ever met feel like she’s their favorite human in the entire world .)

So we showed up a few days later, armed with paperwork from our landlord showing that we were welcome to adopt a dog, to beg our case and convince the shelter that we’d be, like, really great dog parents. We had a huge backyard! I worked from home! Jeremy spent years working as a handler at a doggie daycare! Please, please, PLEASE pick us!

It was a little creepy, but it worked. The shelter let us take Mulan home on the spot!

…. which we were entirely unprepared for. We bee-lined for the pet store on the way home, frantically Googling things like “what to buy to keep a puppy alive.”

The next few weeks were a blur of late-night wakeup-calls, potty training, leash training, crate training, trips to the vet, and researching. Neither of us had ever adopted a puppy before, and we were ill-prepared for how incredibly difficult it would be. As Mulan wailed and scratched at her crate at 3am for the millionth night in a row, we found ourselves wondering if we’d gotten ourselves in way over our heads. Was it always going to be this hard?

But after a few weeks, we all adjusted. Soon Mulan was our little adventure companion, tagging along with us on hikes and even riding along with Jeremy on his bike commute to school each day.

Since then, we’ve come to see Mulan as more than just a pet or even a beloved companion: she is a member of our family, and we both feel as though she is our child. We are responsible for her health, happiness, and safety, and it’s through us that she learns how to navigate the world. Training, socializing, physical activities, and exposing her to new experiences all helps grow her confidence while also helping to stimulate her mind and keep her body healthy.

We’re also incredibly fortunate to live in a dog-friendly place: Mulan is welcomed everywhere from our favorite cafes and restaurants to the local shops in our neighborhood. We bring her with us nearly everywhere, and she’s made friends all over Oakland!

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