It's the little steps that count. But once in a while, you need to look at the bigger picture. Each year in December I come back to my list of life goals to evaluate what went well and what not.

I do not dwell on missed opportunities but take those as learnings for the new year. Then I emphasize all that has made my year amazing.

This year has been really challenging due to Covid (which is obviously true for anyone to a greater or lesser extent). The way it impacted our social lives and the effect it has had and still has on my business..

Add up lots of stress about not being able to find a home so having to live with our parents for many months. It hasn’t been a hassle-free year but all-in-all I really cannot complain.

For now, let’s focus on the positives in this yearly review.

Utrecht home by Zilla
Vision board by Zilla

Creating a vision board at the beginning of 2020

A Rooftop movie nights

This was my favorite thing to do in our Utrecht home. In summertime, but even more so in winter. Curling up on the couch with blankets and hot chocolate while watching a movie with a magical city centre backdrop.

Such good memories.

Sunbathe at a fake beach

Ever since I did my ‘fakecation project‘ I’ve been fascinated by anything that creates fictitious holiday vibes. I was thrilled to find out that there is a whole fake beach called ‘Tropical Islands resorts’ in Germany where you can even stay the night.

In the middle of winter, Evert and I camped out in this tropical place and wandered around in swimwear all weekend. Even though we needed to ignore all the yelling kids and forget about the bad fast-food, it was a really bizarre and funny experience.

Tropical Dome fake beach

A Escape winter and work as a digital nomad

This is the first goal I ever set for myself years and years ago. Slowly I’ve been shaping my work and housing situation to become better suitable for a life on the road.

2018/2019 – Finally took the first step with 2,5 months in Cape-town, South Africa.

2019/2020 – 6 months in Bali, Indonesia + a month in Australia to completely skip winter.

2019/2020 – Spent most Dutch winter days back home in Utrecht, but decided last-minute to do a month of digital nomad living from Rwanda, Africa.

2020/2021 – In October we rented an Airbnb in the Algarve, Portugal for two months with 3 friends, created our own little ‘co-working space’ and spent our weekends exploring beautiful beaches. Not a bad way of ‘Covid-quarantining’.

I can only look into the future with excitement about more upcoming digital nomad winter escapes.

Digital nomad lifestyle by Zilla

A Order room service and stay in bed all-day

It is funny how some of my life goals just seem to turn up on my path without any planning. In September Evert and I traveled to Greece to enjoy a short sunny holiday, when a Medicane (a Mediterranian hurricane) came to disturb our plans.

We were lucky to escape the eye but had to stay inside for a couple of days to wait out the heavy storm. Hence why we booked a more upscale hotel than normal. This was the perfect time and day to order room service and check a goal that made me feel super luxurious and spoilt.

Roomservice lifegoal
Roomservice lifegoal

A Buy a house

Life is full of surprises. I didn’t think we would achieve this goal in 2020, even though we worked so hard on finding a nice place. After months and months of doing multiple house visits and bids a week, we came to the point of giving up. Even decided on building a tiny house on wheels instead.

But then a big house with a huge garden in an area far from Amsterdam crossed our path. Before we knew it we had placed a bid and won!

If you would have told me a year ago I would want to live in Limburg I would have laughed at you. But now, even after deciding to terminate the tiny house design process – it still feels like the right place for us.

In February 2021 we will get the keys and finally have a place for ourselves.

Kasteelstraat 2 Heije by Zilla

A Stick to a routine of working out at least 3 times a week

In March, when Corona came around the corner and we were all stuck inside our houses, Evert and I made a commitment to work out from home each and every morning. Doesn’t matter how long or how strenuous, as long as we have some movement built into our routine.

At first, I had a tough time with it so I often chose to do stretch exercises of about 7 minutes. But as time went by, the workouts became easier and lasted longer.

We bought a Fitbit to keep track of things, which gave a renewed motivation boost to reach enough active zone minutes for the week: I now try to reach 150, which comes down to 22 a day.

Although I do not always reach it, I am confident to say that regularly working out has now become a habit. And most importantly, I feel fit and body confident (which definitely hasn’t always been like that).

Fit girl life goal by zilla

A Stand-up paddleboarding

Checked not once, but twice this year! First in Monnickendam in Holland, where we did a paddleboat tour over the lake and into the canals of the city. And then in Portugal to get into the amazing Benagil cave.

Stand-up paddling is a very fun way of exercise and exploring. It was less hard to keep balance than I expected (although I did not manage to keep it dry completely).

A See a leopard in the wild

Not a goal I had planned for, but what an incredible unexpected highlight. Just being in Rwanda on a Safari weekend with friends and camping out in the Akagera National Park was an adventure in itself. After crossing many Monkeys, Zebra’s, Giraffes and Hippos, this leopard made it a trip to never forget.

Safari Rwanda by Zilla
Leopard safari rwanda by Zilla

A Step behind the lens

I love Photoshop. I love color grading. I love working with and for photographers. But I’ve always felt like there was missing a piece. It took me long to realize I needed to pick up a camera myself to pour the remaining creative energy into creation.

The ‘Take the plunge’ pool shoot will forever be a special shoot for me. It represents a turning point in my life.

I will keep offering my retouch services. But now also specialize in beauty– and product photography, including moving Gifs.

Pool beauty shoot by Zilla - Amy VDM Model management
Pool beauty shoot by Zilla - Dorise Rienhart, de Boekers

A Read at least one book per month

I’ve always loved reading – devoured bookcases full when I was younger – but somehow I lost the dedication to make time for it in my days. This summer I wanted to get back into the habit and read the following books:

June – Breaking the Habit of being yourself – Joe Dispenza

July – This is Marketing – Seth Godin

Aug – Crushing it – Gary Vaynerchuk

Sept – Unshakable – Tony Robbins

Oct – Think like a monk – Jay Shetty

Nov – Profit First – Mike Michalowicz

Dec – Playing Big – Tara Mohr

As you can see these are all non-fiction personal growth books. I enjoy soaking up knowledge that contributes to a happier life and will definitely continue to read often.

Roofterrace reading
Read by the pool

A Have a retirement plan

I used to hate doing administrative work, did not like to look at my balance sheets, and had a weak money management system. When Corona hit and took away most of my income, I realized how vulnerable I am without a backup plan. It actually snowballed my financial interest from zero to a hundred in no-time.

Since March, I started reading books about money mindset and strategies that opened my eyes: You are a Badass at making money (Jen Sicero), Unshakable (Tony Robbins) and Profit First (Mike Michalowicz).

We started investing and now make a monthly contribution to our ‘De Giro’ account. Meaning fasten-your-seatbelts, because this is going to be a longterm ride.

Besides, the new house will make sure that instead of just paying rent each month, we pay a mortgage that will build up our wealth instead of depleting it. Still, a long way to go – but paying off the house is an essential piece of building up a retirement buffer or at least reduce the cost of living.

Younger us by Zilla
Older us by Zilla

I wonder what life will look like in 50 years..


Looking back, this year has been one of extremes. It might have been challenging in some ways, but those circumstances also pushed me to grow and expand on both a personal level as well as business-wise.

I cannot wait to find out what the new year will bring.

Let’s start by creating new goals and resolutions for 2021.