The year is coming to an end and with it we think about how to ring in the New Year. 2021 was another year where our lives were massively impacted by the pandemic. While we finally got vaccines, we still not only had to practice social distancing but also had lockdowns again and borders remained closed for most travelers worldwide. Will 2022 be different or will it be “2020 too”? And is 2021 a year we do want to look back on?
When I look back on 2021, it feels like a big blur. Austria was in a very long lockdown – from November 2020 until the end of April 2021, with the exception of a few days around Christmas time. Nevertheless, we were lucky and among the first countries to get vaccines. After almost a year, I made it back to Thailand and was able to enjoy a bit of “freedom” until the second wave hit the country. Compared to the years before the pandemic, I travelled much less. With the exception of some shorter trips within Austria and the trips to Thailand, boarding a plane has become something almost “special” again.
I have to admit that in summer I had a bit of a slump which may have also related to the pandemic. I guess, we all are just trying to overcome this period, somehow function at work and get things done. But I had the feeling that even when I took some time off, I just felt really exhausted and uncreative. Mental wellbeing is not a big topic in Austria, we have a very different way of looking at mental healthcare than Americans, for example. The pandemic has cast a spotlight on it: people are drained, overworked and many of us scared. But we do not talk about it. I guess this state of mind may be due to the fact that we lack a definite timeline for the end of the pandemic. In 2020, we thought once we have a vaccine, everything will go back to normal. Now we have multiple vaccines but there is still no end in sight and we slowly realise that Covid will be part of our lives for a very long time.
Nevertheless, I do think that 2021 is worth looking back on. When I consider the severity of the situation we are all in, I think we have to hold on to the positive aspects. If you can spend time with your family, do it and appreciate it. Many have lost loved ones or still are unable to see them because of travel bans and locked borders.
I walked through areas of Bangkok which are usually crowded with tourists and locals – I saw many places shut down permanently, but I also got to experience the city in a way which was very special. In Lumphini Park, it felt that there were more lizards than human visitors, I saw my favourite cafés reopen and positively looking forward and I got to experience the positive attitude of Thais even in the most difficult times.
Furthermore, I do think it will make us all stronger. In sports they say it is all about the comeback. If you fall, how do you get up? We may have had a slump, but how did we come back from it?
It may have not been the most exciting year, but I do think it is worth taking a closer look and finding the small positives this year has taught us. 2021 definitely showed me to appreciate the little things: The taste of a coffee from a proper cup in a café, reuniting with friends I had not seen for months, helping out and being there for others when I can and being grateful for those who care about me.
I wish you all a Happy New Year – may you be happy, healthy and with the people you love.