International Educator and Travel PR Guru, Jackie Ciraldo, Williamsburg, NY, USA

“We get so caught up in routine and what’s ‘familiar.’ This experience has definitely taught me to take a step back and think about the bigger picture.”

Jackie Ciraldo

Jackie Ciraldo lives in Williamsburg, New York and previous to the COVID-19 pandemic she was working at a lower Manhattan PR agency that specialized in travel and hospitality. Jackie was laid off from her job in mid-March due to the detrimental effects that the pandemic had on the hospitality and tourism industry — but she recognizes that there’s a certain amount of opportunity that comes from loss, and she’s using this newfound change of pace to step back and see the bigger picture and reevaluate what she’s really interested in doing with her life.

Over the course of the pandemic Jackie has taken time to recognize what’s important to her, and what path will get her closer to her future goals — such as taking care of her relationships with family, friends, and roommates, and the importance of her personal health which can often be neglected in times of “normalcy.”

As someone who is closely integrated into the international travel industry, Jackie stresses how important travel is not only to the global economy, but to improving cultural education and providing an opportunity to expand people’s individual worlds through the enlightening firsthand experiences that come with exploring unfamiliar places.

Read more about Jackie’s COVID Chronicle, below:

What’s the biggest challenge you think you’ve faced during this quarantine situation?

“I was laid off from my job in mid-March because of the pandemic. A month ago I would have said that losing my job has been the biggest challenge but I’ve come to realize it may have been a blessing in disguise for a lot of reasons, and I’m lucky to be in a better position than most others who have lost their jobs to the pandemic.

I’d say the biggest challenge has been going so long without seeing the people I love. Sure, FaceTimes and modern forms of communication have given us great ways to keep in touch but it isn’t the same as spending time together. I just really miss all of my friends and family, and can’t wait to give them all a hug when this is over.”

“The travel industry is made up of some of the most resilient, creative and strong people, and I’m confident and hopeful that they will bounce back from this. I’ll definitely be one of the first to show my support and begin booking travel again when this is all over!” 

Is there anything you feel that this experience has taught you that you’d like to share as inspiration for everyone going through this together?

“These circumstances have turned my whole world upside down, as I’m sure they have for many others, and put things into perspective on so many levels. It’s forced me to completely reevaluate what kind of contributions I want to be making to the world and if the career path I was on was really the right one.

I’ve thought a lot about how I’d love to use my skills and experience to do something more meaningful and make a difference in people’s lives. Maybe that means working in communications for a social impact organization or non-profit. I actually have some experience in education from when I spent the year after graduation teaching English in Thailand, and have been thinking about teaching here in the U.S. for years but never took the steps to really look into it.

Lately I’ve been reading my journals from my time there, and it’s been a nice reminder of how much I loved it and how fulfilling it was. I think it can be hard to take a step back from our busy lives and our comfortable jobs, and ask ourselves if it’s really what we want and if we’re really happy.

We get so caught up in routine and what’s ‘familiar.’ This experience has definitely taught me to take a step back and think about the bigger picture. In that same way, it’s also reminded me to pause and make time for the rituals and little things that make me happy, like going for daily walks, reading, drawing, calling my mom or a friend I haven’t seen in a while – all the things I always wanted to do more of but didn’t because I was ‘too busy.'”

Morning coffee ritual on the roof

Has this experience in any way changed the way that you order your priorities?  

“It’s definitely served as a good reminder of what my priorities are and which are most important. Family and friends have always come first, but I don’t think I prioritized health enough. This has definitely been a reminder of how important it is to take care of my own health and be more conscious of the health of others. Like I mentioned, it’s also really put my professional goals and priorities into perspective.”

What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?

“I try to get some fresh air at least once a day. I’m really lucky to have a rooftop in my building, and live within walking distance of parks in Williamsburg that we’re able to safely enjoy. My daily walks through McCarren Park, East River State Park and Domino Park have been so essential to my sanity. I’ve also been reading a lot, listening to podcasts like Women Who Travel and Modern Love, practicing yoga and trying lots of new recipes.

I used to be a total art nerd in high school and have been painting and drawing for the first time in years, which has been so much fun! Daily FaceTimes and phone calls with my friends and family have been essential to keeping my spirits up as well, of course.

At the beginning of all this I was reading the news too much. Now I try to just keep up with it enough to stay informed, without getting too sucked into the the things I have no control over.” 

Sunflower painted during quarantine

Where exactly are you living right now? Is this where you permanently reside or is it a temporary living situation due to the pandemic?

“I’m living in Williamsburg, which is my permanent residence. When this all started my sister and I both thought about going to my parent’s house which is just a short drive away in Westchester. Since our parents are high risk, especially my dad who is diabetic and has a heart condition, we agreed that it wasn’t worth putting their health at risk.”

“I am quarantining with my two roommates, Tricia and Jenny. We were all strangers before I moved into the apartment in mid-January after finding each other on the Roomi app.This whole experience changed that quickly and I’m very lucky to call them both friends now. Without them and our movie marathons, taco nights and quarantine cocktails I would go absolutely crazy!”

Roomie takeout taco night

What has your community been doing to fight the rate of transmission?

“In New York all non-essential businesses are closed and we’ve been advised to stay home and practice social distancing. In order to enter any grocery stores or other essential businesses, we have to wear face coverings. We’re also advised to wear face coverings anytime we are in public and unable to stay six feet apart from others. Although, from what I’ve been seeing during my walks through parks, not everyone is following these rules. Park security has recently started handing out free face masks, though – hoping that makes a difference!” 

“I’m all about finding the silver lining in this situation, but these are tough circumstances and it’s ok to just relax and give yourself a break. Quarantine days spent in PJ’s binge watching Netflix are just as important and those spent making time for activities and hobbies we always wished we had more time for.”

What has been your daily routine so far during the pandemic?

“When it’s nice out, I’ll make breakfast and then go to my roof to drink my coffee and read. Usually, then I’ll spend some time on my job search. After that I’ll take my daily walk through McCarren and then to East River State Park, along the waterfront to Domino Park and back.

Most days I’ll do some yoga or an online workout video before showering and making dinner. Sometimes I’ll have a happy hour FaceTime with friends, but usually on week nights I’ll watch a show or a movie, do some drawing, or read.

On weekends my roommates and I might order some food and watch a movie – usually margaritas are involved (I thank quarantine for learning how to make some killer margaritas!) I try to stay productive and occupied most of the time, but I also have days where I do a whole lot of nothing.

I’m all about finding the silver lining in this situation, but these are tough circumstances and it’s ok to just relax and give yourself a break. Quarantine days spent in PJ’s binge watching Netflix are just as important and those spent making time for activities and hobbies we always wished we had more time for.”

Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any important plans you had laid out for the near future?

“Pretty much all of them. All of my professional plans and goals have completely changed – that’s one that I think may be for the better, though. I’m most bummed about all the travel plans that have been cancelled or postponed.

I was supposed to go to New Orleans for Memorial Day weekend with some friends and that’s been cancelled – although we’re really adamant about making it happen when this is all over! Also had plans to go to Portugal with my family and our closest family friends in July which has been postponed to 2021.

Traveling is such a big part of who I am and the thought of being unable to explore new places indefinitely is so heartbreaking, not to mention how devastating it is to see what a hit the industry as a whole has taken. The travel industry is made up of some of the most resilient, creative and strong people, and I’m confident and hopeful that they will bounce back from this. I’ll definitely be one of the first to show my support and begin booking travel again when this is all over!”

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View from Jackie’s apartment rooftop

Since this interview was original conducted, Jackie has officially accepted an offer to teach elementary at a charter school in Brooklyn this fall. She’s excited to embark on this new chapter of her life that wouldn’t have been possible without “losing” her job due to the pandemic.

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