Good riddance. 2020 is over. The year had passed in such a bizarre way that no one had ever experienced before in our lifetime. The global pandemic wave forces us to change our plans and how we live our lives. Activities and events were brought to a halt as we learned how to live in the new norm. 

Despite all these, we survived the year! No doubt it wasn’t easy, however slowly and steadily we steered through the year, and suddenly it’s over!

So just like everyone, I thought 2020 was THE YEAR where I achieve great things (I mean, hypothetically. :p). Covid-19 destroyed my “great plans”. However, not all was grey because there is a silver lining behind the gloomy clouds. 

Just like all other years, I am going to recap on my previous year.

Checking out of 2020

Concluding 2020

Adaptability was what got me through the year. At the beginning of the year, tourism was still looking bright and cheery. I knew I could make the year work as I continue to hone my storytelling and tour guiding skills. When the first Covid-19 case hit our shore, things took a turn for the worse. All of a sudden, we, the tourist guides, faced many tours cancellations and postponements.

One of the last few tours before Covid-19 stopped our tourism. Yes, with a beer and view.

We were all hoping that it was not as severe or similar to SARS, where the tourism sector took a hit for 6-9 months and recovered quickly. Shit became real when Singapore entered our version of lockdown (aka circuit breaker) where I suffered a 100% loss of income.

All non-essential shops shutted down during Circuit Breaker.

Knowing the virus’s seriousness to our economy that had impacted many sectors deeply, Singapore’s government swiftly reacted as it introduced Covid-19 relief. Also, I was able to qualify for the Self-Employed Income Relief Scheme (SIRS). Apart from these monetary handouts, it rolled out Covid-19 related jobs to keep our unemployment rate from shooting up. With that, I jumped at the chance to be on board as a Covid-19 essential frontliner.

Work

As we entered the Circuit Breaker, I started as a Safe Distancing Ambassador (SDA). Yes, I was one of those pesky people your friendly ambassador serving my purpose to remind everyone to keep 1-metre safe distancing between groups of 5 and ensuring that you wear your mask at all times when not drinking or eating. I was secretly happy to be out and about when everyone was encouraged to stay home mainly because I cannot sit still for days and weeks. I mean I can laze there and do nothing, but do I want to be in the state? Nah, not really.

As we entered Phase 2, people could mingle in groups of 5 and more people were out socialising, the importance and meaning of the role diminished. That was when I move onto the next phase along the Covid-19 frontliner path.

I signed up to be a Swab Assistant and later got upgraded to be a Swabber. It essentially means I get to swab people’s secretion sample to be brought to the lab to get tested for coronavirus. The most challenging part of the job was the donning of full PPE, which can cause fatigue, especially in our climate. I am a people’s person because I enjoy the brief interactions with the people as I sometimes force lame jokes onto them. HAHAHA.

Local tourism is a pretty foreign concept to Singaporeans because travelling from one end to the other end takes 2 hours, and most would often think they know this country they have been living in for years. 

Singapore Tourism Board pushes the #SingapoRediscovers campaign to boost our bleak tourism market as Singaporeans started to use their SingapoRediscover Vouchers to explore Singapore! 

At the tail-end of December, I have some opportunities to conduct physical tours. It felt good to be back guiding again. Juggling freelance gigs can be tiring because of the hours and days of preparations and brainstorming, but it was all worthwhile. It was also an affirmation that this is where I want to belong.

One of the last tours of 2020.

Travel

So, I thought I had it all planned out. The travel plan I was most looking forward to was to embark on a Camino de Santiago journey and also to visit friends around Spain and possibly in other parts of Europe. 

There was also a planned holiday to Cambodia in March, which I cancelled primarily as a financial move. Besides, the coronavirus outbreak was travelling even faster than the news. Not wise. 

The holiday to South Africa with my ex-colleagues-turned-friends in January became my only trip of 2020! I remembered that we met a mother and son from Shanghai, China during our tour of Johanessburg. They mentioned that they were in South Africa to escape the Chinese New Year and the Wuhan virus. Back then, the virus sounded so far and foreign that we paid little attention to it. I am relieved we made it for the trip together because the planning took place 6-7 months prior and powered us through circumstances. 

Despite being confined in Singapore, the explorations never stop. I guess this is what that is fuelling my wanderlust. 

Dating

2020 was the year I had been most active in dating. I am attributing that to the lack of travel and interaction with people drove me to increase my online dating app frequency usage. 

That said, this was the year I experienced my worst date ever, and I had a couple of pretty good ones too. 

The worst date suggested an uncommon venue and not to mention inconvenient when accessing by public transport. It was an airy & spacious garden next to a cafe during dinner time. Throughout the 1.5 hours, instead of grabbing drinks or snacks at the establishment next door, we sat at the park and chatted n the garden as the wind started to get chilling when the sky turned dark. I was in exasperation when I got asked what my five-year plan is! It felt like I went on a no-budget interview, and I went home hungry. 

Friendships

Technology helped to bring me closer to my friends amidst the global lockdown in Q2. I connected with friends living in Singapore and overseas checking on one another. Instead of relying on news media coverages, I learnt first hand about situations overseas.

Sometimes I can go on for months without meeting my groups of friends in Singapore, and during the Circuit Breaker, we were able to organise a few virtual game nights which made the whole lockdown much bearable. 

Everyone was super psyched when phase 2 rolled around when we can finally meet up with one another! The human touch and face-to-face interaction is something that technology can never replace. Things we used to take for granted suddenly became so precious as we hung out together. 

One of the first few gatherings after we moved on from Circuit Breaker.

Health

I had remained in pink of health in 2020 although I haven’t done a full body check-up yet to ascertain that! When I start to put my health as my top priority, I realised I’ve stopped falling sick. It is called self-care! 

On the other hand, my body started to show signs prolong compromises done none other than my doings. My plantar fasciitis condition led me to seek treatment as it was affecting my day-to-day life. There also came the point that I even had to stop running for ten weeks just for my inflammation to go away. These days, I am wearing podiatrist-approved shoes to allow the condition to improve. There are days where my heels would ache like mad but other days more manageable. I am learning how to cope with it.

Two weeks before we ended 2020, I’ve developed an atrocious eye infection which caused my left eye to be red, sensitive, teary & swollen. It seems that I have maxed out my lifespan of wearing contact lenses. Thankfully, I don’t think it is too alarming the moment. I am currently on antibiotics and wearing my glasses on a doctor’s order. 

Getting active

I was actively practising yoga and went out for runs every other day in Q2 because that was the only time I could go out to get some fresh air without wearing a mask. It was probably the fittest time of the year for me.

I regret to say that the constant state of being fatigue took away my will to exercise during the last two months of the year. During my days off, I will either be busy with other engagements or I will be repaying my sleep debt accompanied with the occasional laziness.

Environmental mindfulness

Last year, I promised myself to make conscientious choices no matter how small one person’s effort can be towards the environment. 

First, I purchased my collapsible Stojo mug and collapsible food container. I even packed my own full set of cutlery for dining outside to reduce the use of disposables. . Then I started using silicone food storage bags instead of those plastic sandwich bags. I was doing a great job if I dare say so myself. 

With all the good karma points I accumulated, my current work habits offset them due to my job nature. We always have bags of trash to prevent contamination and compromise on everybody’s health. Our food came in disposable containers, and the leftovers get thrown away. I have closed my eyes on this matter for these are unavoidable, so I concurred. 

3 things I am thankful for

  • My island home, Singapore

Despite the travel restrictions, I am thankful to be living here during the pandemic, knowing that the virus is under control and most of us are law-abiding when it comes to obeying the Covid-19 rules.

  • Job transition with adaptability

Even though there are no longer any tourists coming into Singapore and God knows when our tourism sector will recover, I am thankful that I could transit into other jobs and is still able to pay my bills. 

  • Health is wealth

Health is the biggest asset, and I am thankful for this. 

In conclusion

2020, I had lost myself in the rabbit holes of watching endless shows, playing mobile games and the world of social media. I could have better spent on reading, writing or even taking up classes. However, I will not be too hard on myself because I reasoned that I was working for most of the months, so I deserve some of those breaks. 

One of the tasks I set out to do for the year is to continue learning Spanish. Thus, I’ve signed up for my online course and finally making progress! At least one thing off my list! 

All in all, the year was all about surviving. I am glad I did, and you too! We deserve a pat on our shoulders! 

Pamela Loh

Pamela, born and raised in Singapore. She is a dreamer, explorer, traveller and local tour guide.

A perfect day for Pam would be being on the road, having beers and endless of great conversations that shape a wider perspective.

Come say hi!

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Pam goes travelling