2018 – My year in review

Sean and Jess at the peak

A funny thing happened in 2018: we didn’t have any trips planned at the beginning of the year and then I ended up flying on 26 planes and traveled for 117 days this year. I wasn’t really sure how that all happened, and then I took at look at what we actually got into in 2018. We went to 5 different travel industry or blogging conferences, I followed Sean along on 2 business trips, and everything else was “just because”.

Just because it was our anniversary or birthday. Just because I wanted to visit my family in the United States. Just because we wanted to get out of the city. Just because we wanted to visit a friend while they were in Europe.

It wasn’t all about travel, though. Other interesting things happened this year. Some good, some exciting, and some heartbreaking. Let’s just dive right in, shall we? For ease, I’ll write everything chronologically.

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Paris right before Valentine’s Day

Paris in snow

We try to get to Paris each year, though it doesn’t always happen. It’s pretty cheap if you book ahead of time and take the train, but I’m not sure if that is something we will continue. We’re more interested in discovering more places rather than seeing the same ones over and over again unless we’re seriously in love with it. I’ve never been in love with Paris, but it does intrigue me.

We went to Agape which has one Michelin star. It was the first time we went out of our way to try a restaurant like this. It was delightful, and a nice introduction to the world of Michelin-starred restaurants.

A Wanderlust For Life officially became a business

KVK Chamber of Commerce Amsterdam

In February 2018, A Wanderlust For Life got a KVK number and a VAT number. This made me feel a bit more legit since I’m famous for having imposter syndrome. Now, the brand creates invoices and has an accountant. It makes some things a bit harder, but I’m constantly learning on this journey of being an entrepreneur!

Barcelona to catch up with a groomsman

Barcelona streets

One of the men in our wedding now works for a company based in Barcelona and he has to come over to our side of the world every once in a while. So, we make time to take a weekend and catch up with him if we can.

This was a bit of a rough visit because, although we discovered Cinc Sentits, which was incredible and still ranks top 3 of the best food we’ve ever had, I got food poisoning from a touristy spot the next day at lunch. That made the evening we were to spend with our friend very difficult. I stuck it out through dinner, taking one bite of each dish and sipped on some ginger tea the whole time. Then, spent the rest of the evening and night ridding my body of bad food while Sean and his friend were at a wine bar right by the apartment. I was so happy he was nearby if I need him. But that was one of the worst food poisonings I’ve ever had.

Oh, the unglamorous side of travel!

Planned on going to the U.S.

I had time off and plans with the fam in March and then the “Beast from the East” blew in and cancelled my flights. Then there were no flights for a day or so and my whole trip got cancelled because it was a 4-day visit. So, I went back to work to keep those vacation days for when I could try again. Luckily, I got my money back pretty quickly. That can always be a pain, but I try to fly with reputable airlines and that can make things a bit easier.

For our surprise anniversary, we went to…

San Sebastian

The Basque County and La Rioja, in Spain. We spent some time in San Sebastian which was incredibly charming. To walk around that area was fun and the views of the water with the beach were just awesome! I discovered I’m not the biggest fan of tapas, partly because it gets way crowded, and partly because the different restaurants have different rules and I just couldn’t figure them out. But I’m sure if we were in town for a while, I would have discovered my favorites and it would have been easier. Here’s a video of a little self-guided pintxos tour we did.

For our anniversary dinner, we went to Kokojxa and we absolutely loved it. Loved it so much that we booked for another night before we left. I’m pretty sure we got the best seat in the house that second night and we were basically treated like family! We would go back in an instant if we make it back to San Sebastian.

We also went out to the La Rioja region for a relaxing holiday, so there were no big moments or anything. Just calm times and super chill.

Trablin International Summit in Krakow

Bike tour group in Krakow

Our first conference of the year started in April and went through the first week of May. And it was our first trip to Poland. Part of the reason we go to so many of these things is to see old friends, make new ones, learn about the industry, and discover a new place. We took a bike tour and a food tour (video). This is also where we discovered our love for trying a fine dining version of local specialties.

We had a lot of fun and the town is simply charming. We are hoping to go back to uncover even more about the city and the area.

To Lisbon for a birthday (and delicious food)

Lisbon Belem

After a year of being away, my friend Edna (from expatedna.com) finally returned back to Europe! For her birthday in May, she wanted to meet some friends in Lisbon (video) since she hadn’t been before. “Awesome!” I thought. I’ve been to Lisbon before so I could recommend some things. We all had a good time eating and drinking and exploring different areas. It’s so nice to be able to take some time to do that.

Traverse in Rotterdam

Traverse 2018

It might be in the Netherlands, but since it was a conference, it felt a bit different. It felt like a little getaway. We enjoyed our overnight stay at The James Hotel, take a look on Booking.com if you are headed to Rotterdam soon. It was new and looked nice for a good price and we even got our friend Silvia (who runs the blog heartmybackpack.com) to stay there, too. Since she lives in Norway it was nice to be neighbors if only for a night. So many other friends came to the Netherlands for this conference as well. It was like a little reunion!

Press trip to Hamburg

Hamburg Warehouse district

This was a funny trip because Sean was off to Hamburg, Germany for a concert with a friend and when I reached out to the Hamburg tourism office, they invited me along for a press trip since I was already going to be there. I am so glad I went! Not only did I get to hang out with Sean and our friend for a while, I got a whole new perspective on the city, met some other great bloggers, and enjoyed eating the incredible food. Here’s the weekend trip to Hamburg post I got out of it. We’ll be back in Hamburg soon for a conference and I can’t wait to take Sean to the delish places I discovered while there!

Overnight trip to Groningen

Groningen in the rain

We’ve been meaning to get to Groningen, but since it’s in the very north of the Netherlands, we never made time. An opportunity came up to work with Omio, so we used their platform (which we’ve used a couple of times previously on the website, but the app was new to us) and booked our train for the end of June to the province and city of Groningen. The weather was not super cooperative, but it was still a lovely getaway with a surprising number of delicious places to eat. This city is a great one to meander through. Use your feet and just walk. You don’t have to go to Amsterdam for stunning Dutch architecture.

Shameless plug, check out Omio whether you are traveling by plane, train, or bus around Europe. We mainly use it for trains in places where there is no way to decipher the local train website. But it’s super handy for all modes of transit! We were a fan already so we were happy to work with them. That’s the great thing about blogging, you choose what’s best for you and your audience!

An insane July awaited us

I quit my office job and went full-time into blogging. Someone who was staying with us moved out. Sean went to the U.S. for a week and a half. We took a 2 week trip for a conference and for vacation. It was just a crazy month filled with lots of emotions, including relief, excitement, anticipation, sadness, and so many more.

Taking the risk of full-time blogging was a decision that was in the works for a long time. While it hasn’t been a quick success as I had hoped (what is?), I’m still working at it and every person that reads this blog gets a little invisible-but-totally-there hug from me.

Vienna, Bratislava, Ostrava, Brno

Overlooking Vienna

Three countries in the span of two weeks — so much fun! Flying into Vienna, Austria was easy and quick and it was the first time I’d been back since my very first trip to Europe (or even out of the U.S.!) in 2001. I was a bit sentimental about the whole thing. We wandered and ate. Didn’t have an itinerary at all. That felt good, but then I always feel like we will miss something awesome. FOMO is real, people. My favorite part was hanging out with our friend Carly of Austrian Adaptation. She knows this city incredibly well and is an all-around awesome person. We sipped wine spritzers (a first for us!) and ate a ton of food while hanging out in a winery that has the most amazing view (above).

Overlooking Bratislava

Bratislava, Slovakia (above) was an important place to visit because my grandmother kept talking about it and how my grandfather took a picture on a bench with a statue. I wanted the same picture…and got it! My grandmother was so pleased with it. Sometimes it’s just the little things like that. Bratislava (video) was charming. We got an incredible view at the top of a building with a fancy bar called Lemontree and Sky Bar, visited the castle grounds, and had some incredible food.

Ostrava, Czech Republic is a cute little town with a very walkable old town and easy transportation with the tram. I wish we had explored a bit more than we did. The conference took most of our focus. But we stumbled upon a great restaurant. The ambiance was incredible, the food was even better, and the service was so kind. It’s called Moravská chalupa if you find yourself in Ostrava.

Jessica in a hot air balloon

The press trip I was assigned was to the South Moravian region of the Czech Republic. I fell in love, guys. Head over heels. I know I was on a press trip and you see all the good parts, but I’m someone who can see through all that, but this place… Ug, I’m dying to go back and take Sean since he was unable to join me. Brno was awesome, and going out into the wine region was breathtaking and so much fun. I can’t get over it, I’m hoping we have the opportunity to go back in September and partake in the wine harvest. How fun would that be?!

Oh, and that picture up there? That’s just me on my first hot air balloon ride! Check out the video below…

Finally some chill time

Rotterdam houses

Because July was filled with insanity, I decided to not really travel in August and buckle down and get some work done. One of my favorite posts is from the press trip to Brno, so I wrote that in August…actually all my Brno posts I wrote in August.

The only trip I took this month was with some girlfriends to Rotterdam. The city impressed me enough in June that I thought it would be a great spot for a girls’ weekend. Obviously, we started in the Market Hall to eat and get drinks. Come to think of it, we mainly just walked, ate and drank. Meh, sounds like a great girls’ weekend to me!

A trip back to the United States

grandma baking

Since my flights were cancelled in March to make a visit back to Virginia, I kept my eye out for other flights that weren’t too expensive. Ended up getting a direct flight with KLM (yay miles!!) so it was easy peasy. A big reason for my trip was to see my grandparents. You just never know how long you have with anyone, but obviously, age is something that you have to watch out for.

We had a great few days and even made apple pie with my mom and grandma while my grandfather watched. A few days later we lost my grandfather. The whole situation was heartbreaking. He had an accident, then 3 days in the hospital/hospice, then he left us. The only silver lining was I spent a ton of time with my entire family, aunts, uncles, mom, dad, brother and of course, my grandmother. It was not the trip home I hoped for, but then again, I’m glad I was there when it all happened. To leave family after that was incredibly difficult, but I also really wanted to get home and try to feel normal again.

A whirlwind trip to London

Daytrip to Richmond from London

I left the U.S. on Monday night to return home Tuesday. That Thursday morning, I flew to London with Sean because he had to go for work and I was making it a work trip as well. Met with the nicest people at a PR agency in Richmond, caught up with the wonderful Brittany from The Sweet Wanderlust, and climbed the O2 on a gorgeous day! Again, life being funny. Tragedy followed by excitement.

First trip to Asia

Jessica overlooking Hong Kong street

Oh my goodness. It was 2.5 weeks at home and then we were off to Hong Kong for just over 2 weeks. What is this life? Well, that’s Sean’s work taking him there. It was our first trip to Asia for both of us. Sean didn’t want me to miss out, so I bought my KLM ticket (because, miles and points) and we flew direct. Gotta love that. I just have little patience for layovers…especially when the flight is already so long.

Going along on a work trip kind of sucks. Some of you probably have dealt with that. But since he was working on Hong Kong time, but still trying to liaise with those on Amsterdam time, it made for late nights. But it was still an epic trip!

Thanks to Marco Polo I discovered some amazing spots for insane views. They sponsored a blog post for best views in Hong Kong. Thanks, guys! Finding a way to incorporate work into a trip like this is awesome because when you appreciate a product anyway, it’s just handy. I also got to take a food tour courtesy of Eating Adventures and this was great because I hadn’t spent a lot of time on Hong Kong island yet. I’m so glad I went and Sean is, too.

Back to London

London phone booth in the fall

I loved my 3 weeks at home after Hong Kong. It was just what I needed. Getting back into a routine is refreshing after not knowing when we can grab dinner or what time we need to get up. But, the World Travel Market was calling my name and I had a bunch of meetings set up. This was the first year I felt like I had myself put together. Many of the meetings went well, but we were talking about 2019 for the most part, so I’ll be soon following up with those organizations and getting some plans laid down for the year. This is how last year started, too. I got freaked out because we didn’t have much planned, but then everything that you are reading happened!

Visiting a new continent

group riding camels in the desert

Africa wasn’t on my list of must-visit places, but when Trablin decided to have their conference there, I figured “why not?”. We focus on Europe on this blog, but Marrakech makes an easy trip from Europe, so it made sense to visit. It was a whole new experience. From having a hammam, to visiting the desert closest to Marrakech for an overnight trip, to going on a Marrakech food tour (of course!), it was all very nice. I even wrote a more personal post about how I felt throughout the trip. Please give it a read and let me know if you’d like more posts like that.

Trablin is also my favorite conference. It’s more intimate and the organizers are the best and kindest people. They want it to be a win-win-win for everyone and you can tell.

Back to Asia

Singapore views

Not even one week after getting back home from Marrakech, we were headed to Singapore. This was a trip I was most excited about. I’ve heard so many amazing things and my friend recently visited and gave me a list of things to do and places to go. Thanks to her, we popped into Operation Dagger and loved it. That bar is unlike any other and you must go when in Singapore. Again, it was just over 2 weeks there and the warm weather was nice, but sometimes a bit too warm and it loves to rain there. The indoor malls are great for an escape but they are easy to get lost in. The Hawker Centers are everything. You have to go and eat there. You just do. Because I’m all about the views, I went up to LeVel 33 and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to look over Singapore. It was epic!

Home for the holidays

We were home from the second week of December onward. There’s just something about being home, in our house where we can decorate for the holidays, handle some housekeeping, and make plans with friends before they jet away. For Christmas Eve, we baked and prepped cinnamon buns to have Christmas morning. All day Christmas day we stayed in PJs and watched Michael Bublé specials on YouTube, then a bunch of couples travel vlogs on YouTube. Eventually, we got to Netflix, but YouTube can be seriously addictive! We are going to be posting many more videos in 2019, so go ahead and subscribe and click the little bell you’ll see to get notified of new videos.

For second Christmas, Boxing Day, or the day after Christmas, whatever you call it, we made proper eggnog and went to a friend’s house to outdid themselves in every way. It was the most lovely evening with good food, great company, and an all-around festive atmosphere.

We’re ready for 2019

One of the best things (and most fun) we did over the Christmas break was to make plans. We are going full-force on the blog and in our life. I cannot wait to see what 2019 has in store, but we’ll also be working hard to make great things happen as well!

Wishing you love and travels and a happy new year!

Jessica Cutrufello wearing a green floral dress, glasses and pink lipstick

Hi! I’m Jessica, an American who made Amsterdam her home in 2014. I share European gems through food and memorable experiences. Want to know more? Head to my about page or check out my YouTube channel.

Travel with us - Tuscany October 2022