Here it comes, in a blink of an eye, we have come to the end of the year again. Without saying, 2020 wasn’t what we all had expected. A year we never expect to turn out like this. Definitely the worst year ever for me. 2020 also brings up the 5th birthday of Seeing The World In Steps! Starting out when I was in Prague around April 2015, I hope that we will hit many more milestone together going ahead. As we welcome 2021, I would just like to do a little post summing how my 2020 have been in terms of travelling and Seeing The World In Steps. I would also like to share a little of my thoughts and my travelling outlook for the year and what I have planned for the year ahead. A little picture when I last flew in February, would face shield and mask be here to stay forever? Hopefully not!
Trips in 2020
I would consider myself extremely lucky that I still managed to squeeze in 2 trips at the start of the year before shit hits the fan! Remembering the target that I had set for myself at the start of this decade, I gave myself a target to visit 32 new countries by 2029. While I barely did any travelling this year, I still managed to add one new country and one new city to my list. Manila! From my trip in Jan! 31 more to go in 9 years! Seeing The World In Steps is currently on 29 countries and 96 cities!
A February weekend getaway in Bali turns out to be my very last trip. The last time I flew! That 5 days of fun and friends made in Bali turn out to be the most memorable! Living life with no regrets, this whole year simply show us how we should not take simple things in life for granted. Reflecting on myself personally. I have learned a lot. Simply packing a couple of shirts and hopping on a plane for a weekend getaway might not be that straightforward going ahead. We have to cherish what we have.
COVID-19. Coronavirus. These are the topic of the year! It certainly affects everyone on this planet somehow, somewhat. It is safe to say that things will never be the same. Sadly, seeing the stats now worldwide, we are no better than we are at the start of the pandemic and in my opinion, we went backwards! In the travelling aspects, we are looking at “health passport”, travel declaration, COVID Swab test etc etc in the future. As a Singaporean, we are badly affected, with virtually no domestic market for tourism, we are stuck. Our little red book, one of the world most powerful passport with visa free or visa on arrival to more than 190 countries and territories, turns to a meaningless notebook deadweight for the past 12 months.
On the bright side, most of the people are more health conscious now, we pay more attention on personal hygiene, to cleaning up, washing our hands. Hopefully people are also more civic minded! Wear a mask, stay at home when unwell, cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. I am also glad to see some positive changes with respect to travelling and hope that it will be here to stay. More enhanced cleaning on high touch points on planes and hotels, ala carte dining instead of buffet. More covers for food and drinks. Single use toiletries and items seems to be the way ahead and to stay given hygiene concerns. However, we also have to take note. While focusing on hygiene, in 2020, we didn’t do well on the eco friendly aspect. All the plastic and masks, we contributed lots of waste this year!
COVID 19 and 2020 also brought around one more change in my travelling world. The monetization of Couchsurfing. I guess all good things come to an end! Notwithstanding the monetary consideration to access the app now and to send requests. Bringing the aspect of “money” seems to make the whole idea and platform “paid”. It takes away the whole original idea of having like minded people, striking up friendship while on the road, to pay it forward. That is something that I really love and enjoyed, for the past couple of years! I had made so many good friends all around the world from CS. A bed in Philadelphia? A home cook goulash and potato pancake in Brno? I had it before! Pure friendships over common interests. To explore the world.
Revamp of Seeing The World In Steps
On the other hand, the coronavirus and lockdown meant that I had extra spare capacity. With travelling all but grinds to a stop. It got me working while stuck at home! Something that I had overlook for a long time. I finally got to revamping this blog! For those who have been following my travels, you will probably see that Seeing The World In Steps have a new look roughly a couple months ago. A more cleaner, modern and brighter interface is here! Compared to the old one which looks really tired after 5 years. I hope that you guys love this interface, any thoughts on it would be prefect. I love this new look so much. Although the effort to edit all 300 over past posts that I already have was a chore, I would wish not to do anytime soon again.
2020, can also be known as The Year of Staycations! Literally a record breaking year! I have never done so many hotels stays in Singapore before in my life! It turns out that from the moment Singapore allow local stays again, I have tried a total of 6 different hotels! Some of them, I even stayed more than once! Upcoming I have Andaz Singapore, Pan Pacific Singapore and Mandarin Oriental planned up in the coming months. I am definitely somewhat, a little hotels expert in Singapore now! A recent status match to Marriott Bonvoy Platinum also got me to trying out some of the Marriott Bonvoy properties that we have here in Singapore. Besides creating some content when there is no travelling, it also allows me, the extremely deprived of travelling Singaporean, to bring back some form of normalcy! You can find some of my staycations posts and reviews below.
Hilton Diamond continues to be my primary go to chain and hotel loyalty program. I do have to say Hilton have done a great job during this pandemic with their policies. They have come up with the best pandemic policies and status extension among their peers and still have generous promotions throughout. Like the double nights and double points that we have now. They have done a reduction of requirements for clocking status in 2021 as well as flat wide extending current membership tiers till March 2022. You only need half the nights to retain your status for the upcoming year.
With regards to my status, I have done 36 nights with Hilton this year, abit with the double elite night promotion, but still surprising. I have all but retained my Diamond status till March 2023, since those 36 nights that I stayed will all roll over to 2021. Only 30 nights are required to clock for Diamond in 2021. Going forward, I will only need 60 nights in two years. From 1 Jan 2021 to 31 Dec 2022. I will then have Diamond status till March 2024.
GHA Black! This is my secondary status and one that I am increasingly finding value in. Despite barely using it, they simply extended my status to 31 Dec 2021. I love how unique their program is. You do not earn points but Local Experience every time you stay at a new brand under them. Or when you retain the membership level every year. These Local Experience are pretty valuable. You can easily extract value of over 100 over dollars for a single one. Just check out Keyaki Brunch for 2 or even a dinner at Capella, which I went for recently. Seeing how I do not need stay as much at Hilton next year. I can see myself trying out GHA properties especially if it is a new brand to earn some Local Experience.
Having tried Marriott properties recently due to the Status match, it certainly grew on me! Especially given their outreach and they have more luxurious properties as well. Thankfully, I have a friend who kindly extend her employee discount for me and I can see myself trying them when the above options doesn’t fit my plans. I am also thinking about qualifying on another hotel chain for status if I am able to get some travelling done in 2021
Travel Plans for 2021
Much of them are being brought over from this year. 2020 was supposed to be a year of wanderlust, where I had huge plans and trips. Hopefully, I will be able to do them in 2021. As of now, I have a business class ticket to Istanbul on Singapore Airlines. A Qatar Airways Qsuites ticket that I got on the cheap from Colombo to Tokyo. I also got some hotel vouchers in Bali where I purchased when they were having fire sales to get cash flow.
Then there was the dream of being on the inaugural Air Travel Bubble flight to Hong Kong. I was supposed to fly on the inaugural before it gets cancelled the night before. I am still hoping to head on the first flight out to Hong Kong when it starts again. Hopefully in Jan or Feb.
With that, I wish that everything will be back to normal once again soon and please give me a holla if we ever bump into each other in Turkey, Japan, Bali or Hong Kong in 2021. Stay safe everyone! We will defeat this pandemic and soon enough get back to Seeing The World In Steps! STAY POSITIVE WHILE TESTING NEGATIVE!