2020 Year in Review – The Year of the Virus

The year of 2020 was great for me and my husband! Despite it being The Year of the Virus, we were able to do what we set out to do. It was to be our Gap Year and a year to travel Australia with our home-on-wheels.

In 2019 we sold our house, bought a caravan, left our jobs, and put all of our possessions into storage.

Our loose plan was to do the Big Lap of Australia in a figure of 8 route. First travelling west to Western Australia (WA), then north up the west coast to Broome, then east across to Darwin, then south down through the centre, to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia (SA), then home to the Mornington Peninsula for Christmas with the family. Then up the east coast into New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (QLD).

Trip Plan A

So, although not quite retirement age, we decided the time was right. We wanted to be able to do all of those epic walks before we are too old.

We set off at the beginning of December in 2019. Pre-pandemic we had a nice time exploring the coastline from Melbourne to Perth, as well as the southern Goldfields of WA. In March 2020 we were in the desert of WA north of Perth when the first lockdown occurred, and the borders were closed. We dashed back across the Nullarbor Plain, back to regional Victoria where we spent three months parked on a relative’s farm still living in our caravan.

So, Plan A was scrapped, and Plan B became a creative exercise in random serendipity. We went where we could, crossing borders when allowed, staying put when there were no options. We went to places we had not planned to go.

The Northern Tip of Australia – Cape York Peninsula QLD

We explored, camped, swam, walked, watched wildlife, snorkeled, went out to the Great Barrier Reef, and watched sunsets, sunrises, and stars. It was hot and we loved it. We lived in shorts and t-shirts and thongs. We drank beer, made new friends, and didn’t have to wear a mask until we returned to Victoria in December. We were lucky and we knew it.

I read less because I was travelling, exploring, walking, taking photos, sketching, and writing the travel blog. The books I did read were random and not worth mentioning, chosen from caravan parks, book exchanges, op shops, or an eBook borrowed from my local library then downloaded onto my iPad. I did buy a couple of books from book shops.

I was happy that my travel articles were regularly picked up by the online newsletter Camping News. And this validated my writing pursuit that I hope I can develop into a professional job.

Of course, we missed our family and friends and felt very sympathetic during the long hard second lockdown in Melbourne and Victoria.

Trip Plan B – Actual trip 2020

We spent 373 days travelling 41,175 kilometres of Australia. We stayed in 80 caravan parks, 20 of which were free camps. We visited every state except for Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

We had a great adventure in 2020.

Searching for Phosphorescence

Phosphorescence by Julia Baird explores ideas around the things that can lift us when life gets us down.

She begins poetically with the enchanting existence of phosphorescence in the natural world. I loved her descriptions of lit-up underwater creatures and this drew me in.

Julia goes on to talk about people who seek the deeper beauty that exists in this world: storm-chasers, divers, forest bathers, silence seekers, tree huggers, cloud appreciators. I relate to these ideas as here she validates my own deeper yearnings and life pursuits.

With my smartphone handy I enjoyed looking up more information about the people and ideas Julia mentions: Nick Moir, Robert Hoge, and others.

Julia touches on feminism and her own indecision about using her hard-earned title of ‘Dr.’. Her ideas on ‘lookism’ I appreciate and needs more exploration generally.

My interest waned a little when she discusses religion but given where she was in her own precarious battle with cancer, I understand.

Returning to the initial ideas of searching for phosphorescence in the underwater world was a nice way to close the book and reignited my own sense of wonder.

Books read in 2019

I read 26 books this year of my personal challenge of 50 books. Of those 18 are fiction and 8 are non-fiction. Books Read 2019-12-27 103509

These are the books that I read and enjoyed in 2019 with my rating – three I rated 5 star:

  1. The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma – Fiction – 4 stars
  2. The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay – Fiction – 4 stars
  3. The Library Book by Susan Orlean – Non-Fiction – 5 stars
  4. The Greenprint by Marco Borges – Non-Fiction – 4 stars
  5. Attitudes of Gratitude by M.J. Ryan – Non-Fiction – 3 stars
  6. Wormwood Mire by Judith Russell – Junior Fiction – 4 stars
  7. Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion – Fiction – 3 stars
  8. The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris – Fiction – 5 stars
  9. The Book of Dreams by Nina George – Fiction – 3 stars
  10. My Life After Death by Erik Medhus – Non-Fiction – 2 stars
  11. Wanderlust by Jeff Krasno – Non-Fiction – 3 stars
  12. Vanlife Diaries by Kathleen Morton – Non-Fiction – 2 stars
  13. State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe – Fiction – 3 stars
  14. Writing Your Life by Patti Miller – Non-Fiction – 5 stars
  15. Artemis by Andyd Weir – Fiction – 3 stars
  16. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – Fiction – 4 stars
  17. Eucalyptus by Murray Bail – Fiction – 4 stars
  18. Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson – Non-Fiction – 4 stars
  19. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland – Fiction – 4 stars
  20. The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva – Fiction – 3 stars
  21. The English Girl by Daniel Silva – Fiction – 3 stars
  22. Bruny by Heather Rose – Fiction – 4 stars
  23. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – Fiction – 4 stars
  24. Homeland by Barbara Kingsolver – Fiction – 3 stars
  25. The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde – Fiction – 3 stars
  26. The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham – Fiction – 3 stars

I am yet to reach my goal of 50 books in one year. Here is my record from Goodreads over the past few years:

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Books Read in 2018

Here is the list of books that I read in 2018 with my ratings.

goodreads_challenge_2018_pic03

FICTION

  1. The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton – 5 stars
  2. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak – 5 stars
  3. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George – 4 stars
  4. Black Rock White City by A.S. Patric – 3 stars
  5. Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord – 3 stars
  6. The Vegetarian by Han Kang – 3 stars
  7. My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent – 3 stars
  8. The Quiet Side of Passion by Alexander McCall Smith – 3 stars
  9. The Other Wife by Michael Robotham – 3 stars
  10. The Nowhere Child by Christian White – 3 stars
  11. The Little French Bistro by Nina George – 3 stars
  12. Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham 2 stars
  13. Six Years by Harlan Coben – 2 stars
  14. The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen – 2 stars
  15. Scrublands by Chris Hammer – 2 starsgoodreads_challenge_2018-pic01

NON-FICTION

  1. Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari – 5 stars
  2. To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret by Jedidah Jenkins – 5 stars
  3. Staying: A Memoir by Jessie Cole – 5 stars
  4. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson – 4 stars
  5. The Plant-Based Solution: A Vegan Cardiologist’s Plan to Save Your Life and the Planet by Joel K. Kahn – 4 stars
  6. The Great Spring: Writing, Zen, and This Zigzag Life by Natalie Goldberg – 4 stars
  7. The Hidden School: Return of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman – 4 stars
  8. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising by Marie Kondo – 4 stars
  9. The Alzheimer’s Solution: A Revolutionary Guide to How You Can Prevent and Reverse Memory Loss by Dean Sherzai – 4 stars
  10. Shining: The Story of a Lucky Man by Abdi Aden – 4 stars
  11. Random Life by Judy Horacek – 3 stars
  12. 8 Keys to Forgiveness by Robert Enright – 3 stars
  13. Living as a River: Finding Fearlessness in the Face of Change by Bodhipaksa – 3 stars
  14. The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi – 3 stars
  15. Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Best-selling Memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert – 3 stars
  16. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris – 3 stars
  17. The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight by Valter Longo – 3 stars
  18. Lovelands by Debra Campbell – 3 stars
  19. Unequaled: Tips for Building a Successful Career Through Emotional Intelligence by James A. Runde – 3 stars
  20. Eat to Live: The Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Joel Fuhrman M.D. – 3 stars
  21. The Vegan Starter Kit by Neal D. Barnard – 3 stars
  22. OMD: Swap One Meal a Day to Save the Planet and Your Health by Suzy Amis Cameron – 3 stars
  23. Marcia Langton: Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton – 1 stargoodreads_challenge_2018-pic02

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2017

These are the books I read in 2017 with my ratings – 11 fiction and 14 non-fiction:

books_read_2017

TITLE AUTHOR RATING
How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease Michael Greger ★★★★★
The Museum of Modern Love Heather Rose ★★★★★
Good Morning Midnight Lily Brooks-Dalton ★★★★★
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn ★★★★★
Green Kitchen Travels David Frenkel and Luise Vindahl ★★★★★
Life On Earth Mike Dooley ★★★★
Healing from Family Rifts: Ten Steps to Finding Peace After Being Cut Off from a Family Member Mark Sichel ★★★★
Beyond the Rock Janelle McCulloch ★★★
Origin Dan Brown ★★★
Maestro Peter Goldsworthy ★★★
The Book of Joy The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams ★★★
The Whistler John Grisham ★★★
The Desire Map Danielle LaPorte ★★★
The Course of Love Alain de Botton ★★★
How to be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living Rob Bell ★★★
How to Live a Good Life Jonathan Fields ★★★
Persuasion Jane Austen ★★★
A Whole Life Robert Seethaler ★★★
The Fast Diet Cookbook John Chatham ★★★
Siddhartha Hermann Hesse ★★★
My Italian Bulldozer Alexander McCall Smith ★★★
Hiding in Plain Sight Susan Lewis ★★
Kissed by a Deer Margi Gibb ★★
The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work Jon Gordon ★★
Fight Like a Girl Clementine Ford

To sit or not to sit

Art, music, love, life and loss: a novel that weaves these themes together falls into a favourite genre for me. And obviously for many others, given that Heather Rose has won the Stella Prize for her 2017 novel The Museum of Modern Love.

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I love it when I discover something new that I had never heard about before, and I confess that I had never heard of the artist Marina Abramović before reading this novel that is inspired by her work.

The Artist is Present was an amazingly popular artwork that Marina performed at MoMA in 2010. For seventy-five days Marina sat while individuals sat across from her one after another. 1,554 people sat while another 850,000 observed from the sidelines, many coming back.

Here is a video clip from the last day of her sit. And here is another astounding video of when Ulay came back to see her after their epic parting on the Great Wall of China years before in 1988.

Heather Rose writes:

The days had been fields of faces, bright, unique, vivid, strange. …Every face told countless lives and memories and part of humanity she had never glimpsed, not through all the years of seeking.

But it is the intertwining story of Arky Levin that gives this work of fiction life and opportunity for exquisite prose.

His hands ran up and down the keyboard…He heard the theme that would run in and out of the film, threading the scenes together. Raindrops falling on leaves, a moon in the sky and this lovely melody.

He is a sad, reserved, composer of film scores: a private man who is reluctantly drawn into this temporary and unusual life that surrounds Marina Abramović as she sits and gazes into the eyes of strangers at MoMA.

Rarely do I give a 5-star rating on GoodReads. Thank you Heather Rose.