All of a sudden time hits you like a ton of bricks, no matter where you’re living. It may be true that with age comes wisdom but it also brings with it grey hair, a few more wrinkles, a slower metabolism, and as an expat abroad, the desire to fit in all you’ve put on your list. The list of places to go and people to see.
Embarking on our second expat year (for the second time) in Amsterdam, after thinking we’d only be gone for one, I am more than fully aware that time is going to pass faster, like a race I want to win but eventually, will lose. Last year at this time I was packing and moving and relearning a new way of life in another country that greeted me like an old friend. Or maybe I was the old one and this country, still friendly, still vibrant, still liberal, had grown up a bit while I was away.
Holland has changed quite a bit in the last twenty years. More stores and restaurants are now open on Sundays, grocery stores are bigger and carry more options, there are actual chip cards for trains, busses and trams, and you can buy Heinz ketchup and Franks Red Hot at the local Albert Heijn. Progress, American style.
This year will be easier now that we are settled in our Dutch apartment, have expat friends to play with, know where to shop and eat, and most importantly, are even more appreciative of this progressive European lifestyle. Starting this year at an advantage, the calendar stares at me like as a foe, a more practiced opponent. Planning, my role, has taken on a new meaning this year, fitting in all the trips, the visitors, the holidays and the experiences we want to have before our time is up in this great country on this magnificent continent. And last year at this time the dollar was almost equal to the euro, and now with a new US President, the dollar has grown weaker with each passing month. This will also require better strategies when booking our European adventures.
While back at home, the US is a divided nation struggling to find a common ground at the moment, this calm yet busy and vibrant land, also not without its struggles, seems more stable and less toxic. My heart desires to stay much longer, but reality is kicking the shit out of my heart.
As the determined fighter that I am, I’ve put on my boxing gloves to battle time and the passing days as I approach what this new year brings. The kids are back to their school routines, growing older and smarter, my husband is traveling around the globe with work and I am in the background planning the downtime of their lives. Luckily for me growing older here comes with inviting distractions helping me face the ticking of the clock.
This amazing race for many expats living abroad is like tunnel vision, where most of your focus is on those adventures you want to check off, experiences you need to get in, before your assignment ends. What comes afterwards, repatriation, isn’t far away, really, but that peripheral reality isn’t allowed in just yet. For now, I am the tortoise poised to creep slowly through this year, savoring every moment, hoping I can beat the hare who will eventually outrun me and send me back home.