As we were interviewed for a Dutch Travel Magazine last week about our Move under the Sun I reflected a bit on the last 5 years. I looked back and I knew that squeezing our lives into a suitcase and leaving our native Holland was the best decision that we could have possibly made. Because when you move away, when you turn your life into a journey filled with uncertainty, you ‘grow up’ in unexpected ways.
You face new challenges, you get to know parts of you that you didn’t know existed, you’re amazed at yourself and at the world. You learn, you broaden your horizons. You unlearn, and after coming down and embracing a few lessons, you start growing in humility. You evolve. You feel homesick… and you shape memories that will stay with you forever.
From the moment you decide to move abroad, your life turns into a powerful mix of emotions – learning, improvising, dealing with the unexpected… All your senses sharpen up, and for a while the word “routine” is dismissed from your vocabulary to make space for an ever rising adrenalin thrill ride. New places, new habits, new challenges, new people. Starting anew should terrify you, but it’s unusually addictive.
That’s why, when you get a few days off and fly back ‘home’, it strikes you how little everything has changed. Your life’s been changing at a non-stop pace and you’re on holidays and ready to share all those anecdotes you’ve been piling up. But, at home, life’s the same as ever. Everyone keeps struggling with their daily chores, and it suddenly strikes you: life won’t stop for you.
When someone asks you about your new life, you lack the right words to convey all you’re experiencing. Yet later, in the middle of a random conversation, something reminds you about ‘that time when’…, and you have to hold your tongue because you don’t want to overwhelm everyone with stories from your ‘other country’ and come across as pretentious.
Lots of people will tell you how brave you are – they too would move abroad if they weren’t so scared. And you, even though you’ve been scared, too, know that courage makes up about 10% of life-changing decisions. The other 90% is purely about wanting it with all your heart. Do you want to do it, do you really feel like doing it? Then do it. From the moment we decide to jump, we’re no longer cowards nor courageous – whatever comes our way, we deal with it.
You soon realize that now, most things and even some people in your life are just passing through and you instinctively play down the importance of most situations. You perfect the right balance between bonding and letting go – an everlasting battle between nostalgia and pragmatism.
Living abroad, makes one realise that ‘normal’ only means socially or culturally accepted. When you plunge into a different culture and a different society, your notion of normality soon falls apart. In the same time the simplest task can become a huge challenge. Processing paperwork, finding the right word, knowing which companies to hire for various jobs. There’s always moments of distress, but you’re in the long run filled with more patience than you ever knew you had in you and accept that asking for help is not only inevitable, but also a very healthy habit.
But still, food such as kroketten, a song, a smell. The smallest trifle can overwhelm you with homesickness. You miss those little things you never thought you’d miss, and you’d give anything to go back to that place, even if it were just for an instant. Or to share that feeling with someone who’d understand you,
But in general the I’ll-be-back-feeling erodes over the years.