When my husband and I realized that we were each other's 'The One' back in 2000, his memorable comment to me (after the memorable proposal of course!) was 'This life is gonna be a roller-coaster!. He wasn't wrong. But in a good way, not in the way roller-coasters make me feel.
We currently live in Portland, Oregon, on the Pacific NW of the US with two children and a black Labrador. I write the blog Hibiscus Bloem.
Moving between countries or living overseas hadn't been in either of our life plans. Both of us originate from the UK (me London and him Brighton) and within months of our first meeting I was on a 3 month trip to study in Florence, Italy. When I returned to the UK, he had a job offer in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. He moved and six months later I followed. Leaving my London job and finding another in Eindhoven. Packing up home and loading almost everything I had into the back of a Ford Escort. We embraced a slower pace of life, cycling everywhere, coffee on terraces in town (no Starbucks grandes 'To Go' back then), ice cold beers in the town square after work, trips to Amsterdam, drives through Belgium, France or Germany at the weekend, all this while planning our wedding back in the UK. We loved our years living in the Netherlands and made some fantastic friends, bought a beautiful home, had a gorgeous little boy, and loved the quality of life that the Netherlands has to offer. Two years later an offer came along that we couldn't refuse, and with our little 2 year old little boy in tow, we were heading for the first time to Portland, Oregon.
The two years we lived here first time around went by in a flash. Looking back, two years was absolutely not long enough for us. After 6 months settling in and finding our feet, we had a year of really enjoying everything Portland had to offer, and then the final six months was a transition period of preparing to move back to the Netherlands. But for a number of reasons - my husbands job at the time was more suited to being Europe based, our son was the right age to start Dutch school, my mother became sick back in the UK - we felt it was the right thing to do. And so we settled into Dutch life again and two years later added a little girl to our family.
Our son spent 5 years at a local Dutch school and was immersed in all things Dutch - from riding bikes without helmets, to the love of pannenkoeken (pancakes) and spoke Dutch like a local (unlike his parents!). And now... he says he's forgotten it all, which is probably a half truth. I'm sure if we were to be immersed in Dutch culture once again, it would all come flooding back. My daughter, who left the Netherlands when she was 3, has no memory of her first three years living there. Our kids sound more American every day.
When the opportunity arose to move back to Portland for a second time in 2011, we were thrilled. We always felt as though we hadn't spent enough time here first time around. Portland (and Oregon) is a fabulous part of the US. Particularly this city - also known as The City of Roses or Bridgetown (with 12 bridges crossing the Willamette River). With a culture of wonderful food, wine and beer (54 breweries, and counting!!). The city has a mix of rejuvenated warehouses and old buildings mixed with sparkling energy efficient offices and apartments. Farmers markets sell local produce throughout the year. 90 minutes driving one way gets us to the coast and two hours the other way to the mountains - we've skied on a Friday and been at the beach two days later!
We've always made it our mission to enjoy and call home wherever we may be living. Living life, exploring, getting involved. Never acting as though it were a temporary arrangement. This makes life more focused and we are not hankering after a life we've left behind. Yes, there are definitely things we miss about the UK and the Netherlands. But we aren't in limbo waiting for a move back anywhere. We've seen friends feel so unsettled in their lives away from their home country and they made as many trips back 'home' as financially possible. The hardest part is missing family and friends that have known you for years, that you have grown up with and have all the best stories to talk about together. Where your children would now be playing with each other. With each move you are basically starting again. Introductions, invites for coffee, small steps in making new friends. It takes a while. I believe it helps having children as you then have the immediate community of school and activities that bring families together. And for the children, moving such distances means they don't have a close circle of friends that they've grown up around. This can be tough, particularly on older children and I think we underestimated how much impact this would have, even on our younger ones. However, our daughter, now aged 5, often asks when we are moving again and can we go to a new house!
So, this is where we are now. Each move we've made we saw as an adventure that we grabbed with both hands and felt so excited about what lay ahead of us. Who knows if another move will come up and we'll think about that if and when it arises.
But this is home, right here, right now, and we are living it and loving it.