Standing in the expanse of Jordan’s Rum desert in early February, anything seemed possible.
We had just visited the magical ‘Rose City’ of Petra, an incredible testament to human ingenuity, where temples carved into red rock centuries ago still stand.
There, we met a fascinating New Zealand-born nurse who had married a local Bedouin and lived in a cave after meeting him while travelling in the seventies. Perhaps our own story would have ended similarly if we’d taken up a sprightly, kohl-eyed young man on his offer of dinner in a modern, TV-equipped cave.
We drove through nail-biting mountain passes and floated on our backs in the Dead Sea, caked in grey mud. In Jordan’s capital, Amman, we tasted the best hummus of our lives and heard tales of Lawrence of Arabia’s feats.
The start of a new decade, 2020 was to be an “amazing” year. There was a collective sense that it would hold great things: we would achieve more, be better, tick more far-flung destinations off our bucket lists.
Of course we had no idea what was about to transpire. We knew of a deadly flu-like disease in Wuhan, China, but the novel coronavirus was far from a classified pandemic.
Within weeks of returning home, everything changed.
On February 28th, the UK confirmed its first case of the virus passed on inside the country. On March 23rd, the word “lockdown” entered common lexicon as Boris Johnson told us to “stay home” to “save lives”.
Ambitions of hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro and travelling to Japan evaporated as a collective madness over stockpiling toilet roll swept the nation. But seriously, what once mattered became irrelevant.
With all the distractions of modern life stripped away and confined to the same four-walls day in, day out, many people were confronted with thoughts and feelings that had long been kept under the surface.
While NHS staff and key workers battled on the frontline, those of us fortunate enough to be working from the safety of our homes began asking the more existential questions, like “what really matters?” and appreciating the qualities of “slowing down”.
As the year went on, things opened up, only to shut down again. Moments of hope, followed by mutant strains.
For many 2020 brought an abundance of fear, heartache, loneliness and weariness. But it also taught us, to appreciate our health, our loved ones and our planet. It was a year that changed the world, and a year that changed me.