Moving abroad changed how I feel about myself

It’s been a few years since Sean and I packed up and left Virginia to move to Amsterdam on a whim and a dream. It took a lot of faith, courage, and a bit of craziness to pull it off, but we did it. We’ve been in Amsterdam since September 2014 and have built our network and found our routine.

Throughout this path, there have been ups and downs as with any major life change. I’ve felt more freedom to be myself than ever before. I realized that I didn’t know what being myself really meant until after the move.

You may also like our post on how we became expats

Who am I?

I’m the practical, straight-arrow person that likes rules. I’m the planner and a talker. I’m social in some circumstances and yet hate crowds. I go through life doing what needs to be done because it’s supposed to be done. I always do what I’m supposed to do — in school, in work, in life. Rarely do things fall through the cracks.

Moving didn’t change the core of me. Of course not! I try to always be kind, empathetic, and a good friend. But some things changed for the better, and the not-so-better.


In trying to fit in and have people like me, I tend to be a bit more braggy when something goes well. I guess I want people to think I am cool or “good enough”. It’s a silly concept, really. In many ways, I don’t care what people think about me anymore. I just want to be me. But put me with people I want to impress and I talk too much. Learning about other people is fascinating and I’m learning to listen more.

I prefer to stay home most of the time for no good reason. I guess saving euros is an okay reason, but being social is very important to me. But my introverted nature has overtaken the social part of a “social introvert”.

Lunch on the Thames River

I try to understand the ROI in going to an event. How much is it? Vs How much will I enjoy it? Will friends be there? How long is it? Because there are so many options in Amsterdam socially, I try to really figure out if it’s worth it. In Virginia, I just went. Always.

There is always something to do. I don’t have time to just sit with my thoughts. It’s my own fault. There’s work, must-do life stuff, trying to create a few new projects, and so on. But it’s all so overwhelming. Honestly, life itself is overwhelming for most people. Then I decide to throw more into it.


For the most part, I feel more confident about who I am. There is more freedom to be whoever I want to be and therefore decided that I was perfectly fine. Opportunities arise constantly to try out new things. Whether that’s through a meetup, Toastmasters, dinner clubs, dance class, aerials workshops, the possibility to continue growing and discovering a new side of yourself is always there.

Walking on the Amsterdam canals

I’m stronger and trust myself even more than I did before. I mentioned above that I always did what I was supposed to do, in my mind that meant it was always the right thing. Now, it’s so much more clear that it’s no more the “right” thing than another decision might be. I trust myself and my choices because I don’t have the pressure to please that I had before. It’s impossible to make everyone happy. I know that now. My happiness led to others’ sadness. I hate that, but my life’s path has to be in the right direction for me. As long as I’m not actively hurting people, it’s important for me to take care of myself first or I have nothing to give.

We bought a house! This is a “we” rather than a “me” but marriage is like that sometimes 😉 To feel settled and happy enough somewhere to buy a home is monumental. I never realized it but I didn’t have a desire to buy a house in the United States. Just never got that fever, if you know what I mean. To feel like I wanted roots, well, geez, even just wanting that made me feel more whole.

Sean and Jessica in their new house

Life’s a funny thing and I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of this. Kind of line with buying a house, I started my own business as a blogger/content creator. I would have NEVER made that leap in the U.S. because it’s just not what you “do”. Having the positive influence in Amsterdam of people working hard, being practical, and going after their dream, has changed my life in so many ways. I feel like I can actually succeed in whatever I pursue.

You may also want to read about how to make friends as an expat


Is it all about Amsterdam?

For me, it is about Amsterdam because it’s where I felt the most at home and comfortable. But, it’s really about starting over and having a clean slate to figure yourself out without the outside influence of others thinking they know who you are.

I just found this article from Business Insider that really speaks to this as well.

I think you have to be somewhere comfortable for you to feel that you can grow and discover yourself — or you have to be pushed to your limits. Both do the trick and I think both happened for me when I moved abroad.

Moving forward

Being proud of myself doesn’t come easy (nor does writing it down), but this is certainly one time I can safely say I am very proud of myself for following my dream of moving abroad, continuing a great relationship, and pushing through all the hard stuff that comes with both of those things.

The thing is, this is life. And life doesn’t stand still — ever! There’s no way of knowing what will happen in the future, or how I’ll feel about it, but I’m up for the challenge.

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.