2020 Review; A Round-Up for My Goals, Travels, Life and Finances

2020. Wow. Well no-one saw that coming. I thought about skipping my year recap this year because it’s been such a tough year, but I want to keep myself accountable so I have to do it. At the end of every year, I’ve been trying to recap on my year and cast a light on where I’ve succeeded and failed. Then the following week, I write a list of plans and goals for the year ahead. Then I can see where I fell short and what I need to work on to stay on course.

So, how did 2020 go? Pretty badly as a planet to be honest! My monthly revenue dropped 90+% at some point during the lock-down, that was lovely. My wedding, my travels, my business and my life, like everyone else, has been put on hold. But we still have glimmers of light here and there. So let’s have a look.

Read the shirt
2020 Review; Read the shirt!


First, my 2020 timeline. What did I get up to through the year?


I ushered in the new year in a tent on an Argentian mountain, on an expedition trekking Aconcagua, South America’s highest mountain. Counting down the seconds and drinking cheap fizzy wine out of a plastic beaker. It was a fun way to start the year, but it turned a little darker. One of my best buddies went blind on the mountain and was evacuated off in a helicopter**. So even reaching the summit felt a little less important knowing he was hurt. But after failing to climb Aconcagua the year before, this was an important victory. The failure had knocked my confidence badly, so I was relieved to right that wrong. This meant I had now summited 4 of the 7 Seven Summits. Denali was due later this year (yeah right).

**Thankfully, Anthony has since made a full recovery and is back drinking too much red wine in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Aconcagua Summit
On the Summit of Aconcagua, South America’s highest mountain


After getting off the mountain, I flew back from Argentina to Thailand. I spent some time with my fiance before in mid-February I was off to Cairo, Egypt to run my adventure tours to Socotra, Yemen! Socotra is perhaps the most beautiful island in the world, but it’s tough (and expensive) to get to. From my years in the region, I have some strong contacts in both Egypt and Yemen so now visas, and flights, are manageable so I brought 2 groups to Yemen in February and March, both via Cairo.

Tour to socotra
Our group at Qalansia beach, Socotra, Yemen!


In between groups, I flew my Mrs to Egypt so we spent a lovely, luxury 3 days in Cairo together before I took my second group to Socotra. The second group included my mum! So that was a special time together in Yemen indeed. Both groups were so much fun, and I made real genuine friends with new people. I loved it, and I really hope I can repeat another trip to Socotra in 2021!

socotra tour
Socotra tour (with my mum!)
How to spend 3 days in Cairo
The Top 5 Sights in Cairo


And then the world began to change. We took the last flight out of Yemen (yikes, that was close!). And one of the last flights back into Thailand. I celebrated my mum’s 70th birthday with her in Bangkok. Soon she would fly back to Northern Ireland to ensure she was in a safe bubble at home. I hunkered down in Thailand with Jaa, and began what would become my longest stint in one country since 2005. Wowzer.

Celebrating my mum's 70th in Bangkok, Thailand
Celebrating my mum’s 70th in Bangkok, Thailand


So this is what normal life looks like? Truth be told, I kinda liked it. While the world was engulfed in COVID, Thailand locked-down internationally. No-one allowed in, and generally speaking, Covid kept out. So with just a week or 2 of an actual domestic lock-down, life continued very much as normal in Bangkok and beyond. You just couldn’t leave the country. I am grateful that I was in Thailand during the crises.

So what did I do? Focused on getting fit. My buddy and I decided to train to run a marathon later in the year. He was overweight and out of shape, but we begin training hard. 7 sessions a week etc.

I reconnected with my partner which was beautiful. I began to love Thailand all over again. And I consolidated my friendships with some cool people in my life. We managed a weekend away in Chonburi to top it all off.

Weekend away in Chonburi, Thailand
Weekend away in Chonburi, Thailand


Ok, so it appears Covid may be here to stay! Ok, I can’t do any travel but I have to do something. I became obsessed with not wasting my free time that Covid forced upon us. On a whim I decided to cycle 2000km from the Malaysian border in Thailand’s southern province, then the whole length of Thailand until the Golden Triangle. The Burmese/Laotian border in the north would be the final stop. This decision gave me and my 2 buddies who would join me about 2 weeks to get some bikes (I had never cycled before), some gear, and try to condition our asses (we failed that part). Let’s do this!

thailand cycle
Our plan was hatched!


2 weeks of training later, and we were off. I started the cycle on July 1st. Took a 2 day pit-stop when I made it back to Bangkok, the half-way point. Then another 6 days north from there. Cycling the length of Thailand ended up being more than 2000km. I lost the use of the little finger in my left hand for about 3 months after it, and my ass was bleeding by the end (TMI?!). But we made it. And it was one hell of an adventure!

We finished it up with 3 days in Chiang Mai to celebrate. Lovely.

cycle thailand
Cycling in Thailand


I had been slowly working on the legalities of building a house in Thailand throughout 2020. August was the month the plan began to come into reality! Finally, we signed the contract on the land in Northern Thailand. I’m now the proud owner of 300 Square Wah (1200sqm) of land about 15 minutes south of Chiang Mai city centre. Yaaay!

Buying land in Thailand
My land in Chiang Mai!


Another month of no international travel due to Covid, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t travel within Thailand! It was Jaa’s birthday so we did an amazing trip to Koh Yao Noi, and then 4 days in Khao Lak too. I had never been to either area in Thailand, and both surprised me with how beautiful they are. Also, one of the few benefits of these testing times – no other tourists!

Khao Lak things to do
Our Khao Lak Resort balcony @ the Devasom


Into October, can’t believe it’s been 6 months of this new crazy world. I was training hard for next month’s charity event, but I did find time for my first ever Bangkok Staycation. Where Jaa and I spent 3 days in Bangkok in the Siam Hotel, maybe the best hotel in the country! The rest of the month was just running, and running, and running because…

Bangkok staycation
My Bangkok staycation itinerary; The Siam Hotel on the Chao Phraya River


November was the month we did our charity ‘Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai’ ultramarathon. 200km run over 2 days. Starting at Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai on Friday 13th November, and finishing on Sunday 15th at the White Temple in Chiang Rai. We raised money for families in Bangkok affected by Covid and funded over 6,000 meals for Klong Toey Slum. The actual ultra marathon was tough! But we did it!

2020 year review
We did it, 200km later in Chiang Rai!


My first international flight of the year. December marked my announcement of my next big challenge, rowing the Atlantic ocean, 100% unsupported. Only man-power, 2 hours on rowing, 2 hours break. 24 hours a day. For 7 weeks. No support boat. Ouch. I had to fly from Bangkok to London to attend a sea survival course, and I used all my air miles to experience a 1st class suite on an aeroplane before. It was AMAZING (and 140,000 Airmiles!!)

And because the row starts in Lanzarote in February 2020 (new date), I got to see my family for Christmas and New Year. An amazing end to a tough year.

Experiencing First Class for the first time!
Experiencing First Class for the first time!
Johnny Ward mum sister
My mum and sister at Christmas


They say “A goal with no plan is just a wish” and it’s so, so true. With that in mind, every year n January I write a kind-of plan/dream/goal for the year ahead. Writing it scares me, but it also makes me accountable for my life. It’s all too easy to just drift. And another year passes. A year closer to death. A year closer to it being too late to realise your dreams. So I try to avoid that, even though it’s terrifying. I wrote my 2020 plans here. But in short, they were:

Alcohol: 75 TOKENS; Only drink on 75 occasions throughout the year

Success. In 2019, I drank far, far too much. And looking back, it wasn’t just 2019. 2018 and 2017 were bad too. And probably long before that. It was starting to effect my life. Self-esteem. Confidence. And of course, reducing my productivity and training. It was a problem. I had to start tracking my drinking before it got too much out of hand. My father (who I never met) was an alcoholic, as was all his family. It’s in my blood. So last year I decided to allocate 75 tokens. Each token is one drink or more on a given day. 1 glass of wine at dinner, or 2 bottles both equal 1 token. If you’ve never been ‘a drinker’, 75 times drinking in a year sounds easy. If you have been a drinker, or currently are one, you’ll understand.

Anyway, I did it. 50/75 tokens used. I’m going to stick with this drink tracking for life. I’m happy about this result.

Climb Denali (North America’s highest mountain)

Massive fail. Expedition booked. Money paid. Trip cancelled for COVID. Now my row across the Atlantic has been delayed due to Brexit, I probably can’t climb it in 2021either. Ouch.

Increase my net worth by $100k

Done. I had a great Q1 with the blog and SEO which allowed me to reach my goal. All through the summer, business was brutal. Barely breaking even. But the start and the end of the year just about saw me through.

Buy land in Chiang Mai

Yes!!! Done! A lot of paperwork, a lot of lawyers, countless flights back and forth from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. But done. The biggest success of the year for me.

Run a Normal Marathon

Fail! Again! I did the 200km ultra marathon, and the 2000km cycle. But I failed in my goal to do a normal marathon. The truth? I think I’m scared to commit to the training of a normal 42km marathon, and I’m scared of the result not being as good as I hope and people expect. Need to fix this. Massive fail.

Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai ultramarathon
Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai ultramarathon; The starting point at Doi Suthep

Health in 2020

One of the healthiest years of my life. I reduced my drinking by more than half. And because I was stationary and my travels were so limited, I had a chance to eat properly, track my diet and train regularly. As I mentioned above, I managed to the ultra and the cross-thailand cycle. I also did min-challenges like 50 workouts in 50 days. Ran a sub 19.01 5k (not that special, but a big deal for me).

Mental health? Up and down. The physical health was great, and life was pretty good too. I suffered the same anxiety and helplessness that we all did during COVID. And not being able to see my mum and family was tough of course. Nor being able to do our Mudita Adventure charity trips, or my onestep4ward hard-core adventure trips. I love those so much and get to meet so many cool people. Losing those was tough too.

Koh Yao Noi weather
You can see the storm clouds forming, but all day the weather was great until then (October 2020)

Finances in 2020

My goal every year is to try to increase my net worth by $100k. It’s ambitious, and I fail often but it gives me the accountability I need. It stops me from frittering away my money on business class flights, or a nice car in Bangkok. I try to stay focused on my financial goals. Travel died from March until now so advertising revenue and stuff it way down. It’s slowly on the way back I think (and hope).

Anyway, long-story-short I think I reached the $100k increase. It would be close anyway and that’s more than fine. Crypto helped, my properties helped. It all adds up. I can’t get a mortgage for my house-build next year, so I need to stump us cash for the build. Right now, I still can’t afford it, so that’s a bit stressful. I’ll have to figure it out one way or another.

building a house in thailand
My Chiang Mai house plans (that I still can’t afford)

Work in 2020

I used to time in Thailand during COVID to look long and hard about my blog. So much sh*tty content. So many awful blog posts. I’m working through revamping all my old content so it’s actually useful to people. 200 blog posts redone, about 500 more to go! That should help increase my traffic, and therefore my income once people start searching to travel again. Other work stuff? Zero public speaking. Apart from my Socotra Tour at the start of the year, no other cool adventure trips. Our non-profit managed to build 3 more classrooms in our partner school in Tanzania with a private company in Canada finding it (thanks TurnipHome.com!), so that was great. Although I couldn’t attend as I was stuck in Thailand with no passport.

Life in 2020

Considering COVID, it was pretty good all in all. My relationship with Jaa got stronger. My friendships with a group of people in Bangkok got stronger. But missing and not seeing my family was tough. And not having our group trips was tough too. 2020 wasn’t easy, but I had it much better than most being in Thailand. I know that.

Travels in 2020

Despite COVID, I visited 5 countries this year:

Traveling to Socotra Island Yemen
2020. You were tough, thanks for the lessons. Next.

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