How we’ve (really) been handling the pandemic

Most days I feel that I have to create very specific content to make money, stay relevant, and be on the top of Google’s mind. And sometimes I just want to chat…I used to do that on Instagram stories and, for some reason, have become rather shy.

I think many of us have changed throughout the pandemic and I’m no exception. There have been positives and negatives, some growth and some habits I need to break. I’m here to talk about those things, because, at the end of the day, we’re all just people trying to get through this insane time.

Pacsafe Citysafe mini backpack Italy orange grove

This photo was at our last normal event before lockdown in Sicily.

At first when we had to leave Sicily in the middle of March before we were able to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary, I was devastated. Who knew when we’d travel again? Who knew when the world would be safe?

But, being a highly sensitive person and an introvert, I ended up loving the idea of staying home. I felt bad. I was feeling exceedingly good, was loving the new food options, and having no responsibility to get properly dressed. It felt wrong to feel good about that.

jessica making a video

I did my best to keep up with my YouTube channel throughout the pandemic. I even tried to teach how to make some great cocktails. That totally flopped! But, you know what? I had fun, and it was an experiment, there’s nothing wrong with that. Besides, we discovered some great drinks!

I think we stayed inside (except to take trash) for 8 weeks. I was so excited with my first day out that I made a vlog! 8 weeks at home just not healthy. We aren’t in the center of Amsterdam and have green spaces fairly close by and it’s not an overpopulated area, so walks are completely fine to take.

It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions, but for the most part it’s been pretty good. Once things started to get better in June, we went into the center, filmed some videos, took a couple staycations and loved having the city not packed with tourists. (I love tourists! It just gets a little too crowded at times.) We filmed about street food in Amsterdam, our staycation in a houseboat on the Amstel River, and even did a neighborhood guide in the Jordaan. Things were looking up…and somewhat normal.

Jessica holding herring with title of 5 street foods

We went through the puzzle phase and the sourdough starter phase. While making actual bread was more frustrating than expected, I’ve found some epically delicious recipes for the starter. My favorites are the sourdough chocolate chip cookies, the sourdough pancakes, sourdough banana bread and we’ll soon try the sourdough brownies…and I really want to see how a sourdough banana oat pancake recipe will go.

In the Netherlands, we were never required to wear masks until June when it was necessary for public transportation, and only a week or so ago is it now required in shops. So, when numbers started going up, we wanted to get out or else we knew we’d be stuck at home for a while.

We, optimistically, planned our Tuscany trip that was cancelled in April, for August. We worked with a dream company, and had such a fabulous time that we are planning a small group tour for October 2021 that you can join! All the details are here.

Two weeks flew by in a flash of smiles, food, wine, and stunning places that I couldn’t believe were actually real. Then we were back home and stayed home for 2 weeks.

At the end of those 2 weeks (hello, self-quarantine!), we were supposed to work with a tourism organization in Belgium, but about a week before, Belgium went orange for us, we went orange for them, and it no longer made sense to go. Goodbye, paycheck.

walking through aalsmeer historic garden

I ended up taking a 2-day press trip with Amsterdam & Partners instead. I love working with them because they help me discover new places or new spots in places I know. This time it was Haarlem and Aalsmeer. Everyone loves Haarlem, and Aalsmeer was mostly new to me and I got to play around in the new flower attraction called FloriWorld. Why did it take so long to have a year-round flower attraction in Holland? Who knows!

We had the travel bug again. You have to remember that while travel is definitely a privilege, when it’s part of my job, I typically travel at least once a month (averaged about 100 days away from home a year), and at the same time the year before I went to Oslo, Strasbourg, Italy and Hong Kong in the span of 6 weeks, it’s a big jolt to be home for so long.

That’s why we worked so hard in Tuscany to create content, and it’s why we were determined to finish the Sicily trip we had in March. We worked with another incredible company for an impressive week in Sicily, while creating a ton of travel content. At the end of the day, we are a travel blog and also run a travel YouTube that needs to be updated regularly to continue generating income and to gain interest.

Self-care, TV, and a tight group of friends has been important. We watched all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and got completely sucked into Marvel’s SHIELD. We are re-watching our favorite shows because it’s a source of comfort. I’ve tried to stay connected to my friends in Amsterdam with the very occasional outdoor meet-up but mostly video chats.

I have a friend who is serious about self-care and has been pretty influential for me. I’ve recently hired a nutritionist to help me find what the best foods are for my body. We’ve done pretty well prepping for this, but now we’re in the middle of it and it’s going quite well! I still have a lot of work to do in the self-care department, but it’s one step at a time and I’m proud of myself for that.

There are really good days when I feel motivated, excited, and hopeful. Then I have days when I think, “What’s the point?” “When will this end?” I see the whole thing as a rollercoaster and I’ve learned to go with it. Some days completely suck. And I have gone through a long period of keeping everyone at bay, only being on social media for work, and just trying to focus and keep my head on straight.

I’m still hopeful, I’m still taking time for me, and I’m proud to be able to recognize when I need that…when I need all the noises to stop.

I think the future is bright. I’ve already done one online conference and I kind of liked it! I mean, I missed hanging out with my friends, but it was still really great. I’m looking forward to more things like that…like virtual WTM and more. One thing I’m pretty proud of is investing in myself. Early in the pandemic, I trusted one of my favorite YouTubers to teach me the secrets of YouTube. It was an investment that I hesitated to make, but was more than worth it. More recently, I invested in a course to watch how one YouTube creator (whose filming and editing style we love!) creates their vlogs start-to-finish.

I’ve also invested in some creature comforts recently like a salt lamp, aromatherapy oil diffuser, and a weighted blanket. Soon, I’ll have curtains so I can dance all around the living room and people won’t be able to see me! Curtains are typically thin/white/sheer in the Netherlands and it drives me nuts. I figure we’re home for the foreseeable future and we want to be as comfortable as possible.

What’s in store for the future?

I hope to pick back up the habit of learning Dutch and spend some real time on it. It’s so easy to keep putting it off but I’m constantly disappointed in myself when I don’t work on it, so that’s a priority.

I also want to get ahead on blog posts and videos so I can have all of December to do VLOGMAS!! I’m so excited about this and have so many ideas. Subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss out!

A Wanderlust For Life: the blog will have more posts on a couple new pieces of luggage from our favorite brand, more from Amsterdam, and of the Netherlands in general. Videos until December will all be from Sicily!! How exciting! I can’t wait to share this stuff with you.

Hopefully, if things get more under control around here, we’ll do some more exploring and share more with you. As always, the almost-live stuff is on our Instagram, so check us out over there.

That was a lot but I just wanted to sit down and write you this note. If you join our newsletter, you get an email a month with updates and you are welcome to join that little club.

Thanks for reading. See you soon <3

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