It’s hard to believe that fall is almost upon us. We had a feeling this year would drag on, but it turns out it’s still been flying by. It’s already been 5 months since we took a humanitarian flight out of Medellin back to the US! Today we’re going to get you all caught up in this post about life during quarantine time.
A Serious Change of Plans
We had big plans for summer 2020. Like, really big plans. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that they revolved mostly around live music. We did meet at a music festival and got engaged at a Phish concert, after all…
The plan was to see a few music festivals and about a dozen Phish concerts all over the country. It ended up being a summer of “quaran-streams” with our favorite bands instead.
We had already booked several flights for our big summer of music. Thankfully the airline was very easy to deal with and we got all our points back to use for future travel.
Like many people around the country, we decided to turn to nature. We spent a lot of time in the great outdoors this summer, which has been very helpful to our mental and physical health.
Being trapped in a small apartment in Medellin for several weeks was tough, especially on me. I get seriously itchy feet and just love getting outside. Rachel does as well, but she was able to handle the lockdown much better than I was.
So how did our plans end up changing and what did we end up doing instead? Let’s see if I can rack my brain and give you the rundown!
A Summer of Virtual Shows
Our original plan had us traveling to Chicago for Memorial Day weekend to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our favorite festival – Summer Camp. It ended up getting postponed until August, and then flat-out canceled for 2020.
Still wanting to honor the momentous occasion, the festival held a virtual party. Yours truly and the other Camp Counselors chipped in with video intros and memories for our favorite acts. It was a fun weekend reliving some of the best SCamp moments of the past 20 years.
From there, we had planned to travel down south to see the Disco Biscuits in the Caverns. We’ve always wanted to get to this venue and were super bummed when they had to postpone these shows as well. They are now scheduled for Labor Day 2021.
The Biscuits did their own live stream from an empty ballpark in Philadelphia. They also streamed classic shows every Wednesday night. Actually, there was music just about every night!
Mondays were Umphrey’s at first then changed to moe. Phish has been doing their “Dinner & A Movie” stream every Tuesday night for months.
The Grateful Dead did “Shakedown Stream” on Fridays and “One More Saturday Night.” Add in “Never Miss a Sunday Show” with Widespread Panic and we always had crunchy jams!
There was lots more virtual music this summer. Our favorite avian bands both put out excellent virtual events. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong did Home Fest in lieu of their usual Dome Fest.
Goose really stole the show with their Bingo Tour, though. It was the most creative and fun musical event we participated in during this strange summer. We didn’t get a bingo, but we did enjoy jazzercise class with the band!
This has been a very difficult time for those in the live music industry. We fully support the Save Our Stages initiative and recommend you check them out as well. Without music, we have no idea how we would have coped with all the crap that 2020 has thrown at us!
I’m happy to say that we did end up seeing some live music this summer, but more on that later…
Quality Time in the South
Our original plan was to spend most of June with Rachel’s family between Tennessee and North Carolina. As it turns out, we ended up doing that for over 3 months.
We’re very grateful that her mom and step-dad let us stay in their beautiful mountain house outside of Asheville, one of our favorite places.
Interestingly enough, we actually didn’t spend any time in the city this summer. With no shows and most places only doing carry-out, we had no need to make the 20-minute drive downtown.
Instead, we looked to the great outdoors. I played more disc golf this summer than I had since college! There are a few courses within a short drive of the mountain house and another good one in Johnson City.
Speaking of Johnson City, we finally hiked Buffalo Mountain. You can see it from Rachel’s mom’s window but she had never climbed it! It’s a great hike with amazing views of the area.
Back in Asheville, we discovered Lake Powhatan. This little lake in the mountains has a small beach and a few nice hiking trails. It’s hard to believe we had never gone there before!
We also made a few day trips up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the scenic overlooks and a few hiking trails. We’re so fortunate to be able to spend so much time in this beautiful place.
As a matter of fact, we love the Parkway so much that we’re working on a big blog post and video to help you make the most of this scenic American road! Stay tuned.
Another highlight of the summer was getting to spend a lot of time with our friends and their two kids. We drove out to their house on several weekends and also went to the Nolichucky River together one day. I have lots of fun being cool Uncle Sasha with the kiddos! They especially like it when I fly “Dronie,” as they call it.
4th of July Camping Trip
We had planned to go to the Peach Music Festival for the 4th of July weekend. Obviously that didn’t happen, so we joined some friends for a camping trip instead!
They booked a campground in South Carolina that was a scenic 2-hour drive from us. It was actually my first time visiting the Palmetto State.
The day was spent playing in the river, drinking White Claws and smooth drinkin’ beers. Speaking of smooth drinkin’ beer, that was basically the catchphrase for this summer thanks to the Doom Flamingo Power Hour stream.
Not far from the campground was a really nice winery. They were having some lame boomer party for the 4th complete with over-the-top patriotic songs and a mediocre fireworks show. We made our own fireworks that night and just enjoyed a beautiful sunset with friends.
We pretty much only go camping for shows and festivals, so it was nice to go just for the fun of it. It was even better because our friends had all the gear and we just had to bring an air mattress and a cooler full of beers. Thanks, guys! That’s some real Southern hospitality for ya.
A Great Smoky Mountains Vacation
Our original plan for our 5-year anniversary was seeing Phish at the Gorge. Our favorite band at our favorite venue. You can imagine how bummed we were when those plans got nixed.
Rather than sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves, we decided to improvise our lives a bit. Not wanting to fly or spend a ton of money, we looked closer to home.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just a 2-hour drive from Rachel’s hometown. Since neither of us had really seen much of the park, we decided to spend a whole week exploring the area.
We spent four nights in a beautiful cabin in the woods and then another three glamping in an RV for the first time. It was an incredible trip and a huge highlight of the summer. You can read all about it in Rachel’s detailed guide to a Great Smoky Mountains vacation.
I’ve been collecting my Phish ticket stubs for almost 20 years. I actually have most of the 100 Phish shows I’ve been to. I made scrapbooks with the stubs and photos for all my shows up through 2013 but had a box full of stuff from shows since then. The summer of quarantine seemed like the perfect chance to finish up this project!
I printed over 100 photos and then spent about $100 at Michael’s on a scrapbook, stickers, markers, and more. We stayed up real late during our Smoky Mountains trip putting the book together, and it looks awesome!
I’m not sure if I’ll keep scrapbooking. For now, I’m just wondering when the next Phish concert will be!
In addition, I finally made a nice album with our wedding photos as an anniversary present. I just used Walgreens’ website and it turned out great!
Another huge project was organizing my “digital closet” – all the photos and videos from a decade of traveling. With less writing work this summer, I had time to finally edit a mini-documentary.
Here’s Part One of our “10 Years of Travel” video, in case you missed it!
Last but not least, we boxed up about 30 old concert and festival t-shirts and sent them to a friend. She’s going to make a quilt out of them and we’re pretty excited about it!
Road Trip with Little Bro
It’s always nice when family joins us on our adventures. Most of our family members visited at some point while we were living in Bali. One of my brothers and his girlfriend also explored Mexico with us earlier this year. I was excited when my youngest brother expressed interest in visiting us down in Asheville. We had to show him the travel ropes!
With the few days that my brother and his friend were visiting, we gave them a great Asheville experience. We went kayaking on the French Broad River, hiked along the Parkway, checked out the street art, and enjoyed hot chicken and craft beers.
Since they had room for us in the car, we decided to catch a ride back to Michigan. After throwing my back out on the long trip home from Medellin, though, I wanted to break up the long drive.
It’s pretty much halfway between Asheville and Grosse Pointe, so we decided to spend a few nights there. We booked the “Yome Away from Home” yurt, which had its own porch complete with a hammock as well as a fire pit.
We took the scenic way there, traveling through the Cumberland Gap where three states meet. It was a long and windy road up to the overlook, which provided fantastic views of the area.
With our one full day in Berea, we hiked a few different trails. One led us to a small waterfall, which was refreshing on a hot summer day. The other was a bit more difficult and took us to several more scenic viewpoints.
With it being my birthday weekend, my mom offered to treat us all to dinner. We booked a socially distanced table at the historic Boone Tavern and enjoyed a fantastic dinner. Seriously – these were the best fried green tomatoes ever!
We had a good time showing my brother and his friend around. It seems like the travel bug is biting him a bit!
Next up was a stop in my hometown of Grosse Pointe. We just had a few weeks there so we tried to make the most of it. There were backyard hangs with my old friends, trips to Belle Isle, and of course some classic Detroit Coney Island hot dogs and Bell’s beer.
One weekend, we joined some friends for a camping trip up north. We went rafting on the Pine River and came back for a cookout and campfire. It was lots of fun to go camping in the Mitten and something we’ll do again next summer.
My mom bought a cottage up on Lake Huron in Lexington a few years ago but we hadn’t made it there yet. We fixed that this summer by making two separate trips up there. On the second one, we invited my friend and fellow digital nomad Sergio, who I met on the Selina road trip last year.
Sergio is a YouTuber and an excellent videographer. I love hanging out with fellow video nerds so we can geek out about our gear. He and I both recently bought the DJI Mavic Air 2 drone, so we had lots of fun flying them together. He even put together an awesome video that you can check out here.
We had a great time swimming in Lake Huron, walking around the pier, and then grilling and having a campfire at night. It’s a nice little escape for a quick getaway. Now if my mom would just install some WiFi, we could stay there for more than a few nights!
New Gear, Who Dis?
Our original plan was going to be an expensive one, that’s for sure! Since all the shows and festivals got postponed, we ended up working a lot more than expected. We also haven’t paid rent for several months thanks to family.
With all these extra funds available, we decided this summer would be a great time to upgrade our gear. We took advantage of Tennessee’s tax-free weekend and bought a bunch of new gear from a local sporting goods store.
After a few hours of perusing, we ended up with new backpacks, hiking boots, proper jackets, thermals, warm socks, and even a pair of tye-dyed Grateful Dead flip flops for this guy!
We also decided to upgrade most of our electronics. I got myself a brand-spanking-new 16 inch MacBook Pro and am loving it! It came with a free pair of Air Pods so I paid the extra $90 to get the pro set. I also finally ditched my iPhone 5s in favor of the new SE. I feel like a whole new man!
Rachel upgraded to the iPhone 11 and got a DJI OM 4 gimbal to improve her set-up. I bought the Media Mod for the GoPro Hero 8 that I use along with a Rode VideoMicro microphone, so expect to see a big difference in our videos moving forward!
That’s not all, though! I also got an Apple Watch to track my workouts now that they’re done at home. I also picked up the DJI Mavic Air 2 (the aforementioned drone) and absolutely love it.
Working and Working Out at Home
For many people, working from home has been a huge adjustment. This hasn’t been the case for us, as we’ve been digital nomads for 5 years now.
What was an adjustment for us was learning how to work with other people around. When we’re on the road, it’s usually just the two of us. I bother Rachel from time to time but we’re able to be productive nonetheless.
When living on top of family members for months at a time, this becomes a bit more difficult. It seemed like any time we sat down to work on something, someone wanted to talk!
It’s fine as we had a good time catching up with family and friends, but our blog and YouTube channel have suffered. We’re looking forward to having our own space again so we can hone in on creating new content.
We’ve been going to a gym for over a decade now and it’s been an important part of our lives. While some gyms have re-opened, we didn’t bother with that this summer.
Instead, we turned to home workouts. I’ve been doing a lot of Yoga With Adrienne videos and I love her lessons. We were also doing different cardio and strength-training workouts but got sick of having to pick a new one each day.
Rachel found a 30-day online fitness program called Ripped30 and we decided to give it a try. We do a few different videos each day totaling 30 minutes of exercise.
There are HIIT, yoga, strength, and agility workouts. It’s a good mixture and each day is different. We finished one round of the workout plan but took days off here and there to travel. We’re going to do 30 days in a row once we get settled in our next home.
If you want to get in shape from the comfort of your own home, we highly recommend checking it out! Coach Marc has a free 7-day challenge where he sends you an 11-minute workout video each day. It’s perfect for digital nomads because you don’t need any equipment, just a mat. Click here to check it out and sign up for the challenge!
The Return of Live Music!
You didn’t think we would go an entire without seeing some live music, did you?! While it wasn’t the epic summer of tunes we had planned, we still caught a few shows.
First up was a Phish cover band called Gunslinging Parrots at the One World West Brewery in Asheville. You had to stay at your table and wear a mask when going to the bar. It was definitely a bit odd but we were just happy to be rocking out to live music again!
When our favorite bands started announcing drive-in shows, we hoped we would be able to catch one. The stars aligned when Umphrey’s McGee announced two nights in Chicago.
I sold my brother’s old MacBook that I had for the past year and used the money to buy us a pass. My cousin drove the four of us to Chitown and we stayed with a friend for the night.
The logistics of getting in and parking were a bit of a disaster, but once we got to our rightful spot we had an awesome night of socially distanced rock. Thanks to Team Umph for bringing live music back!
For the past ten years, Phish fans have converged on Denver on Labor Day weekend for the annual Dick’s run. It’s one of the biggest weekends for the fan base. You can imagine the collective disappointment this year when it got canceled.
We decided to come out to Colorado anyways to visit friends and national parks. It was our first flight in five months and it was fine. Southwest didn’t sell middle seats and everyone had their masks on.
Upon landing, it looked like we were in Beijing. This was due to the haze from the wildfires. The haze remained for most of our drive west the next day.
Then a cold front came in and we actually got snowed on at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Fire and snow in just one day! How Colorado is that?!
We spent a week visiting both Black Canyon and the Great Sand Dunes. A friend joined and we had a blast exploring the state.
Since it was too cold to camp, we looked to Airbnb instead. Thankfully we found some awesome places at the last minute! It might have been the best “tent” ever.
In addition to the national parks, we played disc golf, soaked in hot springs, and visited St. Elmo ghost town. It was an epic trip and one we’ll be writing about in more detail soon!
For now, check out this quick drone video of our Airbnb in Crestone, CO!
I’m typing this post from my friend’s backyard in Denver. We’re staying with him this week to catch up on teaching, blogging, and visiting friends.
Next week we’re going to rent a car and go stay in a teepee near Rocky Mountain National Park. There are more wildfires burning, so fingers crossed we still get to enjoy some of the trails and viewpoints.
At the end of the month, we’re flying back to our beloved Puerto Vallarta. We plan to self-quarantine for a few weeks just in case. That certainly isn’t a problem with our rooftop pool and ocean view!
Right now, we have our place reserved until around Thanksgiving. If the usual high season folks come back as planned, we have to find our own place. That, or fly back to Asheville and spend the winter there. We’re just going to see how the fall plays out.
With daylight savings time and a change in our incentive pay, our jobs with VIPKID aren’t looking great this winter. Rachel is working with a new platform called Langu and is enjoying it so far. I think I’ll apply for another teaching job this fall as well.
Teaching English online is still the fastest way to become a digital nomad. The industry and strategies for maximizing your income and keeping things flexible are changing, though. Be sure to watch Rachel’s free masterclass to learn how you can get started.
My freelance writing work has dried up as no one is planning travel. I went from almost being a full-time travel writer to being pretty much out of work. That’s been the worst part about this year for me.
On the bright side, it frees me up to create more content for our site! If there’s anything specific you’d like to learn more about, please leave a comment or send us a message. We want this blog to work for you!
We’re going to remain cautiously optimistic about next year, but are being honest with ourselves that things probably won’t be back to “normal” for quite some time. Our fingers are crossed that we’ll be able to see live music and travel next year!
If you made it all the way here, thanks for reading this long-winded recap. It was nice reflecting on this summer a bit, which was actually a pretty great one.
We didn’t see Phish a dozen times, but we did get to spend quality time with family and friends. While we didn’t make it to Europe or back to Asia, we explored our own backyard. I crossed two states off my list and a few national parks. All in all, we had a pretty awesome summer to be perfectly honest.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this a memorable summer. We hope to see some of you on the beach in Mexico this winter. The first round of tequila is on us!
How was the Summer of ‘Rona for you?
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