Here we are, January 1, 2021. If I look back at the goals that I set at the beginning of 2020, I didn’t do horribly…yet there are so many that simply weren’t possible due to the pandemic. I wanted to embrace hosting and entertaining in our new home, attend more creative networking events in DC, plan a trip to Europe for fall 2020, and be more intentional with planning a meaningful social calendar.
Well, no surprise here, those didn’t happen. But I did meet a lot of my goals: creating morning and evening routines, pursuing creativity without monetization, minimizing within our home, increasing freelance and blog income, cooking more intentionally, and more quality time with Adam (ha, perhaps we even got more than we bargained for).
At some point today, I’ll sit down and write down my goals for 2021 but for now, let’s take a look back at 2020…
2020 by the Blog Numbers
Blogging Through a Pandemic
Well, I ended the year with 129 blog posts and 18 newsletters (not bad given I started my newsletter in August!). I covered my top 10 posts for the year just the other day so you’ll want to check out that list for the most popular posts of the year. However, for the purposes of this look back, it’s interesting to look at the last post I wrote before the world fell apart: A Rural Virginia Day Trip: Flowers, Whisky, and Antiques. Kind of fitting now that we know 2020 was all about the day trip, right?! But within days, literally the first day people really start working from home, I updated this older post, 5 Tips for Staying Productive While Working From Home, and took to the over-washed, over-sanitized hands with How to Treat Dry Hands: Aquaphor is a Miracle Cure.
Embracing a Dark, Moodier Style
This year, I also switched up my photo editing style. It’s no surprise I like moodier, more editorial photography. I mean, have you seen my wedding photos? I’m loving how much more cohesive it makes everything feel…and am fighting the urge to go back and re-edit the photos for all of my old travel guides (I won’t, but I want to).
The Products Made for the Stay-at-Home Life
Also, it’s always interesting to see the products that readers are loving each year. For 2020, my top sellers were the Commando Faux Leather Leggings, Down Comforter (seems like an odd top seller…except that y’all loved this post!), H&M Ultra High Shaping Jeans, Madewell Curvy Jeans, and budget-friendly Oaxacan Dresses (an awesome dupe for the much, much, much more expensive Mi Golondrina dresses).
A Big Change to Kick Off 2020
One of the biggest changes of this year was starting a new job (yes, I have a full-time job and do freelance work in addition to this blog!). I had worked at an agency for over 2.5 years, primarily on hospitality clients. I loved my work, my colleagues, my clients — and working from home. However, a recruiter from a small tech start-up reached out in November of 2019 and, given that working in tech had long been a goal of mine, I decided to pursue the opportunity.
I was offered the job in mid-December and accepted it knowing that it would be a big change. I’d go from working from home, only going on-site for client meetings, bouncing from project to project throughout the day, and serving as the only writer on my team, to managing a small team of another writer and designers, working in-house, and commuting over an hour each way to work in the office each day.
I’ll be honest, the month and half that I was commuting to the office was ROUGH. It did provide me opportunity to work on freelance projects on the metro each day but I was waking up at 5 AM each day to shower and do my hair, then go to a 6 AM barre class, then rush home to get on them metro by 7:45 AM. I had no time for my own life.
So, the work-from-home nature of the pandemic was a silver lining that allowed me to dive further into my job, actually dedicate more hours to it since I wasn’t only in the office from 9:30 AM to 6 PM-ish. It’s been a challenge to learn how to navigate managing a team for the first time entirely remotely but I certainly have more positives to be thankful for than I do negatives.
A Year for Unexpected Launches
Despite everything, I actually had two exciting launches this year — neither of which I entirely expected.
Weekly(ish) C’est Bien Newsletter
I started a newsletter, C’est Bien, this year! (PS you can sign up here!) A newsletter wasn’t on my list of goals for the year but, as I started to read more newsletters, I realized it was a format that my content creation was missing. There are so many links, short thoughts, and awesome finds that I want to share, yet I don’t always have a place for them in a blog post since I typically don’t do link round-up posts anymore. A newsletter has been the perfect home for those items and I always love hearing that y’all are enjoying it, too.
E-Design: Heather Bien Interiors
And, in an even more exciting and full-circle launch, I started my e-design firm, Heather Bien Interiors. I actually began my career in interior design right after college and it’s always been something I’ve wanted to return to. I often receive design questions from followers so I decided to start designing in an official fashion. I’ve helped about a dozen clients thus far and I’m pumped to expand in 2021 (I’m booking for January now, so reach out if you’d like to work together!).
Making the Most of Staying at Home
When we started staying home in March, I (not surprisingly) fully embraced making the most of this time. From making cocktails to baking to perfecting my coffee game, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen — and embraced shopping with local food businesses while I was at it.
I worked on countless home projects and started gardening. I even took up some unexpected crafting hobbies. You can find most of my social distancing posts here to really dive into what I’ve been up to during the pandemic.
The Trips I Took and All the Cancelled Flights
All the Trips that Got Cancelled
We were somewhat fortunate that we don’t tend to book more than a season or two in advance but that doesn’t mean we weren’t without our cancelled trips. We kicked off the beginning of the pandemic by cancelling a trip to Las Vegas in March. There were weddings — and therefore trips —in Nashville and San Diego cancelled. A bachelorette party in Rosemary Beach, FL. An anniversary trip to Savannah. A summer weekend in Rhode Island.
We even cancelled a trip to Portland in June, rescheduled it for the first week in October, cancelled it again, then did finally rebook it for the last weekend in October (that’s a travel guide I still haven’t gotten around to writing…we knew we slipped that trip in right before the world would shut down again so it hasn’t seemed terribly relevant to write a travel guide right now).
The big cancelled trip was 8 days in Mexico, which would have started in Mexico City and ended in Oaxaca. Thankfully, it’s been rescheduled for this summer and I’m optimistic it’ll happen.
Where We Did Go
Despite the many, many flight credits we’re now sitting on, we did have a few trips that happened. We kicked off the year in Brooklyn and then visited The Greenbrier for a post-Christmas trip. I went to Miami for a girls’ weekend at the end of January and we went on our annual Pennsylvania mountain weekend at my brother-in-law’s family’s place over President’s Day. Right before everything shut down, we snuck in a trip to New Jersey for our nephew’s bris and Richmond for my sister’s baby shower (people are seriously rapidly reproducing in 2020).
Once the pandemic started, we stayed put for a few months before getting tested and heading down to Urbanna to see my parents. Over Memorial Day, we ventured back to our wedding venue, the Farmhouse at Veritas, for a rescheduled birthday trip from April (I’ve found bed and breakfasts are a great place to travel and feel safe!). We did fly a few times during the pandemic, including one way to Texas (with a road trip back!) and to Colorado over the summer. We visited friends in Virginia Beach and, like I mentioned, made it to Portland, ME.
Over the holidays, we did lots of quarantining, testing, then quarantining again — something that was definitely worth it to see family but that I cannot wait to be done with. It felt like we’d gotten into a groove over the summer in the fall with seeing friends safely and then we had to give it all up for weeks at a time in order to spend the holidays with family. Yet another reason I can’t wait for 2021.
Now, What’s Next for 2021?
Like I mentioned, I’m going to sit down today to come up with my goals and plans but, for now, let’s say I’m going to leave it mostly open. Sure, I’m hoping to plan a few big trips, excited to grow my freelance and e-design work, and take on new projects in my day job. And, of course, I’ll write an entire post dedicated to goal-setting but, y’all, let’s just hope for a semi-normal year.