Coming Out of the Fog

This is the longest I’ve ever gone without publishing a new post on this site. Even the stress of moving to Germany or being hospitalized for two weeks wasn’t enough to keep me from posting somewhat regularly. But that changed with all this crazy lockdown stuff. It’s been so stressful, so emotionally traumatic, that I was barely functional for almost two months. Luckily things are finally getting better though.

Puzzles are the answer

Some people started baking a ton. Others turned to jigsaw puzzles. Apparently I was in the puzzle camp. I bought about 15 puzzles over the course of almost two months, and I did almost nothing else.

I averaged about four days to complete a puzzle, and it turns out, it was a great way to calm the mind. While the world was imploding and the internet could easily send me spiraling into a panic attack, I was grateful to have a fun distraction.

I learned that puzzles with huge swaths of cloudless sky of almost the same color throughout were painful. So much so that I didn’t even finish a couple of the puzzles. It was supposed to be fun, not something that made me want to rip my hair out, so I gave myself permission to not complete those.

Here’s a look at a few favorites, plus some of the unfinished ones.

Seychelles puzzle
Somewhere in the Seychelles
Iceland puzzle
Iceland waterfall
Monument Valley puzzle
Monument Valley – one of the puzzles I didn’t finish because the sky was torture
spices puzzle
Spice table – this one felt like doing several mini puzzles

The sad state of travel blogging income

I mentioned a few months ago that this whole situation took my income down with it. At the worst point I was averaging $10 a day, and I think my lowest day was $7. I earned less than $300 the entire month of April.

And that was depressing.

I spent years building up Travel Made Simple into something I was (and still am) really proud of, something that was helpful to thousands of people every day. It got anywhere from 350,000 to 550,000 pageviews per month. To have traffic plummet to less than 40,000 pageviews in April was devastating to me.

I felt like my core had been ripped out. Not only was my biggest passion – travel – off the table for the foreseeable future, but my income disappeared too, since the two are linked. And with no real idea of when the travel industry might even attempt to recover, I was really struggling.

Luckily things are very slowly starting to pick up. Some countries are opening up again, and people are hesitantly planning trips. Not a lot of people, and not very far, but traffic and ad rates have increased a little. I’m still talking about a pathetically small income – as in I’m still probably earning less than $1000 in June – but any increase is a good sign.

I’m also finally getting back to work on the site, including getting some blogger friends to write some itineraries for US destinations. I feel like people in the US (where most of my site’s audience is) are more likely to travel domestically in the near future, so hopefully some of these posts will help them out.

Atlanta Food Walks review
The Atlanta Food Walks tour is a must if you’re in Atlanta

A new website

At the beginning of March, I bought a new domain. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a food site for years, but I could never get myself to actually do it when I felt like my time was better spend working on Travel Made Simple.

But with almost no income, and almost no control over it, I decided to focus on something else. It was slow going because most days I was just in a big stress/panic fog, but slow is better than a standstill.

The new site is Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches! Please click the link and check it out!

I don’t have a ton of recipes up yet, but so far it’s been really fun coming up with new ideas. I have a list of dozens more to try out, some reasonable, some really wacky. Maybe you’ll enjoy the chicken quesadilla grilled cheese sandwich recipe? Or the asiago, prosciutto, melon grilled cheese sandwich? Or the chicken Caesar grilled cheese sandwich? And don’t worry, there are lots of choices for the vegetarians too. (Nothing vegan yet, but I’ll get there eventually.)

It’ll be a long time before the new site even has a chance at earning any money, but I’m hopeful I can get it there.

Mexican chicken quesadilla grilled cheese sandwich recipe
Mmmm… Chicken quesadilla grilled cheese sandwich…

Travel plans

My psyche needs some travel. I need to remind myself that it is still possible, that even though I can’t go far right now, it’s a baby step in the right direction.

Andy and I have planned a one week trip to the Rhine Valley in western Germany to see a bunch of castles. I haven’t been to the area, but Andy has, and we’re looking forward to taking things slowly, sipping some wine, and admiring the castles along both the Rhine River and the Mosel River.

Everyone’s comfort level is different, and I understand that some people are still barely leaving their homes here. But my mental health needs this, and we will of course be following all rules for health safety. I’m not looking forward to wearing a mask for a 5 hour train ride, but we’ll manage.

And I want to point out that Germany is doing sooooo much better than the US with regards to the virus situation. I wouldn’t even be considering this if we were there.

Pfalzgrafenstein castle on the Rhine River
Pfalzgrafenstein: one of many castles along the Rhine River

Berlin update

Since late April/early May, Berlin has been slowly opening up more and more things, from schools and shops to restaurants and bars. Some things are still closed, and there are restrictions for the places that are open. We are required to wear masks on public transportation and to enter shops. I was finally able to get a haircut a couple weeks ago, while both the hairdresser and I wore masks. Restaurants and bars have limits on how spaced out tables have to be, among other things.

But I see all of this as positive progress. A big part of my panic during March and April was about how much of life came to a grinding halt. I’m happy we can now eat out occasionally at our favorite restaurants, though we’re still not going often. I’m also happy our favorite wine bar is open again, and the weather has been nice enough to sit outside for a drink.

The virus numbers have increased due to these openings. It’s to be expected really. But it’s nothing extreme, and Berlin (much of Germany, really) was never at crisis capacity in the hospitals. In fact, hospitals in some parts of Germany even took in patients from France and Italy because they had plenty of space to help out.

So while I do worry about another spike that’s drastic enough to shut things down again, I’m hopeful it won’t come to that.

For the first time in months, I’m cautiously optimistic about how things are looking here.

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