This year marks the end of our 3rd year in the Netherlands. This year has been interesting to say the least. It has probably been our most isolated year since we moved here. We saw few neighbors, went to basically no stores or restaurants, didn’t travel, my husband didn’t go to the office more than a dozen times during the entire year, I saw very few other parents and only went on to school grounds a dozen or so times and our son spent half of the school year at home with almost no interaction with any kids except during digital classes or meetings. Our daughter was the only one of us who probably had more social interaction this year than any other due to a special relationship that wasn’t going to be slowed down by Covid. In a lot of ways, we really felt that we were being cheated out of the experience of living abroad this past year. We tried to make the most of it-we tried to get out and enjoy the nature areas around us, tried to get together with friends a few times that felt safe, tried to have fun with special occasions and holidays. And while I think we did succeed with that for the most part, for about a quarter of the year our efforts were overshadowed by a huge cloud of uncertainty as we tried to determine what the end of this year would bring-would we stay or go. And if we went, where would we go to and if we stayed, how would that impact the future. A decision like that is hard enough for adults but factor in the impact on your children, and it becomes agonizing. This coupled with worries over how our decisions would impact our families and an enormous amount of stress and time pressure on my husband as he navigated the next chapter for his business made the first part of this year very tough. And while the decision to stay finally became clear, it brought with it a whole new host of decisions and uncertainties about what happens in the next couple of years and beyond which made this year an emotionally challenging year to say the least.
While closing a very big chapter of our lives by making the decision to stay and to sell our house in the States rather than return last month as originally planned feels strange, we are feeling pretty good about our decision to spend more time living here. This has been an incredible experience for all of us. While it isn’t always easy to deal with the uncertainties, the volatility and the complications that come with living in a foreign country and an expat community, it has really opened our eyes to the wider world, to all the possibilities out there (which is sometimes a problem itself) and to the fact that you can feel at home and build a life in many places. And while the complications and uncertainties are not over, we are looking forward to making the most of our time here, to continuing to learn more about the world and explore new places, to meeting and spending more time with the amazing people in our community and to continuing to grow through this experience.
And now, it’s time to revisit those goals from the start of this third year:
- Take some family bike excursions to work up to a several hour biking trip in the spring/summer – while we skimped a little on the bike excursions leading up to it, we did bike to Kinderdijk a couple of months ago as a family. That is about a 2.5 hour roundtrip excursion. It was a lot of fun and there were hardly any complaints. Now that we know we can do it, we have plans to try a few other trips in the future.
- Visit more places (I’m not giving up on this one; I just need Covid to cooperate!) – it didn’t cooperate! This year was almost entirely tripless thanks to lockdowns and closed borders. However, we tried to make the most of what we could do by taking a short trip to the south of the Netherlands, taking a few driving excursions and most recently taking a day trip to Belgium.
- Complete a couple of artistic projects that I have worked up as well as a cross-stitch that I have been doing on and off for about 20 years (mostly off which is probably the problem) – the cross-stitch is nearly done! I think I need about 2 more days. As to the other artistic projects, I only worked on one or two.
- Walk for an hour at least 3 times a week – I did this with no consistency. In the fall, I did some walking and biking. In the winter, we did take several walks in the evening but they were not an hour long. By spring, I completely gave up on the weather and just took walks here and there.
- Play tennis weekly with another couple and with moms at school (again I need Covid to cooperate) – and again, it did not. Tennis courts were closed most of the year. We do not have open courts available to play, so if the facility was closed, there was no playing.
All in all, I would say I did alright on last year’s goals but not great. I did add a few goals in recent months-working on Dutch and Portuguese and learning to play the piano. I have been doing pretty well with those things and have been pleased with my progress. I also decided to complete the Everest Challenge offered through my kids’ school. It involved a lot of flights of stairs in a 1 month period, but I did it.
So, what are my goals for year 4?
- Continue to progress with Dutch, Portuguese and piano.
- Get back to a consistent workout plan to lose some extra weight and get in shape.
- Read at least 1 book a month.
- Travel and visit a few more places in the Netherlands that we want to see (for goodness sake Covid, give a girl a break!)
- Take more bike trips
There you have it-another year in the books and now on to year four. To all of you that have come along for the ride through this blog during these past three years, thank you! I hope you have enjoyed yourself and gotten a small glimpse into life as an expat, and I hope you will continue to tag along as we move forward. Here’s wishing all of us a fabulous fourth!