Today marks exactly one year since we set foot (and paw) in the Netherlands for our grandest adventure. We said six months, maybe a year, and now here we are. We'd put a check mark next to it on the ol' bucket list, but we're not done quite yet. This chapter isn't complete, and the journey's not over.
In our six month update, we spoke of novelty and the simple pleasures of life without responsibility. I think those feelings are still with us - this place doesn't give up its secrets willingly, and I think we could be uncovering them for a long time. It's exciting to live in a place that we don't fully understand. Responsibility is back, at least for Brian who is now gainfully employed, but simple pleasures are now a way of life rather than a luxury.
It's a smaller life in a bigger world. We could get used to it.
For now. These words are hard for me to be comfortable with as the planner and realist between the two of us. But this is where we are, and we are happy. Our future still rests on a few uncertainties, but fewer than one year ago.
Everything we have here is a little bit permanent and a little bit temporary. We still have the boxes and instruction manuals for everything we think we could sell if we left, and we still have a wishlist for things we'd like "if we stayed longer."
Of course not everything has been easy. I've struggled with my motivation to learn Dutch, but this has been a goal of mine for a very long time, and I will just have to persevere. Perhaps new resolutions can be made in March for January's that have already been broken. Of course they can.
I've also faced a lot of rejection in my job search. Thankfully, I'm married to someone who could stand out on the street corner for five minutes and land a job (I'll let Brian tell you about that). I know there's a perfect fit out there for me, but again, perseverance is the name of the game.
I know that family and friends miss us, and we do too. Some have been able to make the journey to visit, thankfully, and that's reassured us that we're really not that far away. It's fair to think that being away from "home" a whole year would make me miss it, but I surprisingly don't feel homesick.
The meaning of home has changed for me, and I use it to describe just about any place: Edmonton, Canada, Haarlem, The Netherlands, our apartment, and even hotel rooms. You know, home is where the heart is. The word "home" the way I use it has become confusing, and Brian has to frequently ask me, "where do you mean?"
It's complicated because I feel through-and-through Canadian, but I just can't imagine what it would be like to move back. I don't check the Edmonton news any more, but I've been putting off finding a Dutch salon because I'm still loyal to my girl "back home." Every day that I walk down the cute little streets on my way to the grocery store, I think, "how could I ever give this up?" Sometimes it feels like an either-or, but my life is different, and I'm different and I think the road ahead remains uncharted territory.
I'm better for this. I'm stronger, more driven and less apologetic. I have more faith in myself, and every time imposter syndrome creeps in, I think about what we did and how far we've come in one year. It is possible to do something crazy and for everything to turn out fine. Better than fine. Better than ever.
I am not exactly sure how we made this happen, but we took action on a dream and it worked! Whenever there was a road block we went around it, through it, or over it. Sometimes things were challenging, but only in a "first-world problems" way.
Before we left Canada, I heard of a place where people ride bicycles more than they walk and drive and eat more cheese than any other place on earth. A place with tulips, windmills, and canals. A place that should technically be under the sea. The letter G in this land sounds like "hay" with a lot on saliva in the "h." Fries come with mayo. People are blunt in their opinion, sometimes smoke cigarettes, eat lots of fried food and all this while on a bicycle (sometimes they do, I am serious). They remain happy, fit and beautiful.
This year I really put myself out there. I spoke a lot of "Dutch" to strangers and thus I joined a group of locals in a squash league. I play a few times a week, speak Dutch and often drink a beer nearly seconds after exiting the court. Random interactions and luck led to job interviews as the following characters: skipper of a ship, supervisor at audio company, voice actor for a cell phone app, commercial flight simulator hardware and software support. The later of which is my new role for at least seven months! My training was in Dutch and I am the only native English speaker on my team. My mind is expanding in healthy, natural ways and also adjusting to the shock that my co-workers really do eat piles of bread and cheese for lunch... daily!
We are living how we want to and it's interesting and exciting to be in control. To be honest, I do miss the snow, coniferous trees and uh... hills (it's really flat here). There isn't a day I don't think of Edmonton and my friends and family. Thank you all of continuing to read our stories and follow us!
This is how Nougat feels after one year in The Netherlands:
So what's ahead? We don't know! We hope to settle in a little bit more, and do more travelling. The mental barrier around distance still plagues us (for Canadians, everything really is far away, even within our own country), but it's delightful to realize (over and over again) how reachable the rest of Europe is. Otherwise, we're living well and still winging it. From our house to yours, thank you for following our adventures and being our friends.
We hope to keep entertaining you whether near or far. Let us know in the comments if there's something you'd like to see from us. Proost!
~ Erica ~ Brian ~ Nougat