So here we are living the Dutch life. Rain and all. Can you believe it has been a week? Actually it has been a little over. This is my first instalment of Dutch life. Somewhat more relaxed, iPhone snaps not photography works of art, nothing super profound. The posts where I will share our transition into this flat land of tulips, patat (chips and mayonnaise), exciting environmental policies and fun traditions that I can’t wait to experience with my five crazies. Maybe a few Franisms, stuff that makes life easier with 4 kids. You can take or leave them.
You know I like the deep thinking, story telling type posts but I am not always exploring what goes on in my head and connecting dots. I live a fairly normal life with all the things that go with having a husband who doesn’t know how to put the lights in the light basket and darks in the dark basket. Maybe he’s colourblind, I don’t know. My kids race each other on their bikes as they revel in the exhilaration of cycling on the roads. It scares the b’jesus out of me, shit, have I done the right thing moving them here? I like that they feel that kind of freedom so I ignore my fears. I think this is probably normal fear. They also tip boxes of lego out every.single.day and seem to want to be at the fridge or in the cupboards on the hunt for food NON-BLOODY-STOP.
My neck has been stiff for the past three days so my return to running is on hold which is a bugger because I want to do a trail run in December. I am not eating enough vegetables and I really need to drink more water. I am happy that I haven’t had a wine for the past two weeks, am writing loads (obvs.) and am getting out in the woods. I still want to shift the all that cheese I ate while travelling and I got a flat tyre on my second bike ride. Yep, plenty of mundane here in between the thoughts and bursts of creativity. That’s why the creativity and hiking are so important to me…it nurtures the insides, the loner, the daydreamer, the soul. It keeps me steady.
I’m not sure what we are classified here. We are not expats this time around as the kids and I hold Dutch citizenship. Nor are we immigrants like my parents were in Australia. I guess we are nationals. Although we don’t yet speak the language and we are not riding on the roads with the same carefree abandonment that the Dutch seem to be able to do, sometimes three to a bike. I am not joking friends. Woah!
Let me tell you a little about our village. It’s called a village but it’s a combination of the city, suburban and country life that we know in Australia. I can walk 10 mins one way to the city, 10 the other way to the country (woods) and I feel like I live in a suburb. We have a market that operates two days a week from 9 – 4 which means shopping for fresh produce from growers is simpler. Do you know how much I love the smell of basil? Or a simple Caprese salad? So very much much. Of course there are ‘coffee shops’ and I seem to smell that wacky tabacky more than I remember last time we lived here. I don’t want to shelter my kids from life so I choose to acknowledge it honesty in a mater of fact, this is what happens and why kind of way. Look at that. How very Dutch of me. Matter of fact, I like it, it looks I am fitting in already.
What do you think the first thing I did was when we arrived? Straight after the house inspection appointment (it seems you need an appointment for everything in Holland). Hint: we had been on the road for 4 months. House keys handed over and I hightailed it straight to the local beauty salon. Fresh eye brows and a hot rock massage and oh my it felt good. I am embracing that feeling.
I adored Ireland, you know I did, wholeheartedly the people and the landscape. Ireland was pure grace. A gentle time. A long overdue winter. But I’m happy we’ve landed here in this village that has what we need for everyday living. I realised while we were away that as much as I love the idea of a sustainable farm life it is not for us right now. Maybe it will never be, but jeez I admire those who live like it. So we’ll make the best choices we can from within our Village life. We need the infrastructure to support our daily life so that we are free to work on other things. Get some stuff done with a lifestyle that fits along side it.
My friend asked me how we found our house and decided on the area. The area we decided on because of the bilingual school, the big cities were too expensive and we couldn’t live in an apartment again with 4 kids. That worked in the lead up to saving for our travel but the four kids are getting too big to share one room permanently now. Greg needs to travel for work so public transport to the airport is important. I read on the 1 million women Instagram page recently that Schiphol, Amsterdam’s airport is among the 4 airports in Holland that will be powered by renewable wind energy in January 2018. That’s a little bit exciting isn’t it. The entire train system already runs on renewable energy and this happened a year faster than they had anticipated. Greg thinks Europe is headed for a golden era. We noticed a lot of investment in solar and wind energy while we travelled and policies to back it up seem to be following.
We applied for the house while we were in Portugal. You thought I was just having a morning cuppas in the beach car park and lolling around on the beautiful beaches didn’t you? I also had to call agents and organise video tours of houses. I know a lot of people couldn’t imagine renting a house sight unseen but how bad could it be? As long as there weren’t vermin. Eeek! I had that once. We rented our terrace in Sydney sight unseen and there was a resident rat. I’m tough but vermin can.not.do. GROSS. It still makes me feel sick.
We arrived here with bated and excited breath. Just quietly, the camper was a phenomenal life experience, but it was time. Too hot in the tin shed over summer in the South. Back to the house…in we walked. No bath, ok I forgot to check that. Furnished? Debatable. It didn’t seem to include many beds and one set of shelves for the entire house. Oops again. I had known we would need to buy mattresses but now we needed beds too. I’m looking around the tiny kitchen a little perplexed. Hmm ‘is there an oven?’ I ask the agent. Apparently not. ‘The Dutch gave up cooking years ago, but the microwave is a combi-oven’ he tells me. WHAAAT? Dude, I have four kids and I’ve been dreaming of slow cooks, we bought a glorious pastel green Le Creuset slow cook pot in Rome as a souvenir. AND I do not even want a microwave in the house, that baby is going to the shed (together with the ugly prints on the walls). Why no microwave? I have a fear of microwave energy. In fairness, Dutch cooking is often done on the stove and we had been so excited to see gas hot plates that we just presumed there would be an oven. It seems that after 5,057 house moves I’m still making mistakes. But, there were no signs of vermin or damp so I feel like we are winning.
The living area is downstairs and there is one of those gorgeous, huge European style windows that literally sits on the footpath. It’s one of my favourite things. I can see and feel the life as it passes by on bikes and on foot but I’m tucked into my own cozy nest. I don’t really do small talk easily, I like my quiet space. That’s why I can’t be bothered with growing my Instagram account anymore, a lot of commenting and small talk seems required. Conversations, a bit of wit, yes, but endless small talk, not for me. I don’t have the energy or time for that and there are the 4 kids. If we have mutual interests and a connection awesome but I don’t need to chase likes and follows, or play the games. I get bored with one dimensional use of IG and bots. We all have different needs and intention with SM I guess. I’m adjusting to what feels right for me.
We are also right by a school and the grounds are open out of hours and during holidays so it is a perfect front yard. There is a side gate that leads to a shed so the bikes do not have to enter through the front. All the little bonuses that make the perfect compromise. One thing I learnt during my time in Sydney was that you always compromise something. Location, facilities, space, neighbours, commute etc. So we now choose based on the foundations we need for the lifestyle we want. I am an excellent re-framer like that. I also wear rose coloured glasses by the way. I am serious. I will always find the positive and romantise a situation. Well, except for the rat house that went from bad to worse.
Move right in:
My neck is probably sore from our decision to move right in. One thing I have learnt from those 5,057 house moves is that you are better off moving right in so you can start living. Putting pictures up, getting the beds you need, sorting your spare bed situation, unpacking your boxes and suitcases right from the get go. If you have unpacked boxes laying around months later you probably don’t need what’s in them.
My mum has already been to stay and I have one of my favourite people arriving with her family in September so we need beds. Living overseas in a country where people want to visit is all kinds of cool. People come to stay at the beginning or end of their holidays. They are usually in an awe filled place, eyes and minds stuffed with wonder and excitement, relaxed, it’s a good energy that comes in and out.
We visited IKEA, we even had dinner at IKEA. At least they use real crockery and cutlery. We didn’t go nuts. After having sold everything and reducing the things we own to just what we love and need I’m not about fill my house with crap and storage ‘solutions’. But we need to live here, so basic shelves and beds are important. The op shop had none. We also moved the fridge into the living area and bought an oven. Somethings can’t be compromised. The microwave is in the shed, that is a win for me. When I wanted to downsize (at 40 not 60 years of age) the three things on my big de-owning wish list were: the car, the dryer and the microwave. Greg gave in to the dryer right away but the other two would take time. Live in a camper for a decent chunk of time and you will realise that you don’t need a lot of things. Furnished doesn’t seem to include a TV here either FYI. We haven’t bought one and that is sweet music to my ears, literally music. I can’t stop listening to Kate Miller Heidke, I get a bit obsessed with albums. Nightflight is such a beautiful one. It’s a bit melancholy but a good one for the deep reflective mood that I am in. We do have a dryer, apparently that is included in a furnished house. We also have a huge drying rack which will get more use.
It’s a bit like Christmas unpacking toys and treasures. We don’t have much stuff but we love every single piece. There are stories everywhere not random purchases. Like the venetian mask one. There is nothing stored. Unless you count the two boxes of photos I didn’t get to in Australia. It’s nice only having one thing on your ‘to sort’ list because that means more time to write, more time to dream and more time for fun stuff. I may or may not sort them. I am done with that phase for a while. I spent a good few years thinking about stuff and I have other things I want to think about now. I realise they don’t urgently need to be organised.
There is danger for me in organising and needing to have everything in its place – it can get kind of boring and a little about control. Of course there is a difference when you are living in an organised way. I am up with that. I am a little bit impressed with my washing set up. Three bags: darks, lights, socks and towels. Everyone is responsible for putting their own in. I won’t wash what’s not in there. Nor will I ‘inside out’ as Jimmy calls it anyones clothes. If you don’t have the courtesy my dear family to ‘inside out’ your own clothes then expect it back the same way. In time, the kids will be responsible for picking up a bag of washing and putting it in the machine and hanging it. That seems the natural flow on.
A friend and I were discussing pocket money recently, mine don’t get paid to help. Not yet. My oldest starts high school this year so maybe for him soon. Before that though I think it’s more important that they learn to contribute because it’s the right thing to do. I want them to learn to do so without the expectation of something in return. Doesn’t it feel good when we do something kind and helpful? They learn to save by saving the money they receive from their grandparents, they watch their bank accounts slowly grow. Tommy umpired soccer last year so he added the money he earned to his savings. He also kept our accomodation budget while we travelled. They don’t go out alone really or shop and if there is a school camp or excursion I’ll give them what they need. So no need to worry they are not deprived by not having pocket money and they are still learning how to manage and save money. They are also learning to contribute, to be responsible, independent and to do things for others. Plus, frankly I’m not spending my days organising and cleaning up after 5 other people. I have my own stuff to do – they have to learn.
Getting set up meant getting wheels. There’s real magic when you find yourself living in a way that makes you smile from ear to ear. That’s how I feel being back on a city bike. For me this is one of the most wonderful things about living here. I can cycle everywhere. the shops, the market, the station, the school, the woods, the dr, the pharmacy, the yoga studio all the essentials. And it’s simple. It makes life simple. I love simple. It suits us and our life. I have never loved having to drive everywhere. Some people don’t mind but it does not work for me. I think we have a good fit here. It feels like we can stay put. Dare I say, I think we can plant roots…ok until the wind blows again. You know I follow the wind right!?
Here is a cool difference. Obviously backyards are not big here and generally they’re not full of grass. Mostly they are full of pot plants. This guy is mowing the nature strip. Imagine Greg’s delight when he spotted this, no nature strip mowing. Of course I think along the lines of WOW! That’s thousands of sheds that don’t have lawnmowers in them and it’s a job for this guy. It also seems that you need a degree to read the bin schedule. Seriously, there are about 10 different types of collections a month and there is an SMS notification system to remind you of what needs to go out. Grrrr notifications…I don’t do those. I have a silent iPhone. Truly. I don’t do excess noise.
There is a lot I have loved about this settling in time. I know it’s a honeymoon phase and difficulties will surely follow but so far I am not seeing the warning signs that were glaringly obvious in Sydney. Then again I didn’t move for greener grass this time either. This time we are in our natural flow, not searching. The signs are good. Here is one of my favourite things. Zoë, my girl who makes things is using two Ikea boxes as storage because one small bookcase wasn’t enough for her notebooks and treasures. She’s also in the process of making a cot for Lucas who is so very happy to have unpacked his baby Isabelle. She lives in one half of the loft with the laundry and Tommy has the other half.
I guess if you hang around here you must like long words. I just can not seem to get it under 2,000 and that probably breaks every blogging rule. Meh! I am a rule breaker from way back. That’s why I call this a journal because it seems to fit better. I find the words blog and blogger hard to identify with. I also hate the word bucket list but that is another story. Do not take my opinions personally though. I just want to practice saying the things that I don’t like out loud and in words, respectfully hopefully. I’m tired of passively disagreeing. Expressing opinions is hard work for me. I like reading others though because sometimes they piss me off, annoy me or make me feel uncomfortable. Sometimes it is because I disagree in which case I want to feel confident and courageous enough to share my own opinion (good courage, the courage that helps you grow not hustle). Sometimes, it’s because I feel like I am being judged so I either need to let that go or at times I need to look in the mirror…is it something that’s hitting home? It’s all part of finding a voice and being honest which I’ll need if I want to stand up and also if I want people to relate to my book. Look at that..there I go again delving into the thoughts and wondering about them. I better finish up this one.
Just the housekeeping:
Excellent. All caught up on my writing goals for the week. I’m thinking I will update Dutch life posts on Wednesdays and one of my Mulling Over The Thoughts posts on a Friday. There it is, in writing. A commitment to myself. I’m not sure I’ll be sharing posts on Instagram with my big thoughts. As I have probably alluded I am sort of paring that channel back to spend more time here. I want to keep that simpler, not as big an emotional commitment.
P.S. I love the comments (conversations). Thank you. I will get to all of them when I spend the time on them intentionally. Sometimes I need to mull them over so that I can come back with as much care and heart that you’ve put into them.
I never have expectations of where my ship will land. I just throw myself to the wind and grow the armour I need as the kinks appear. I do move forward though, propelled by the wind remember. Sometimes I crash. I get back up. I don’t advocate changing things up for the sake of change. Coasting is cool if that works for you. I just have this great desire to find stuff out, to seek new paths. I can’t really control it. I’m feel myself when I surrender to it . Following that curiosity keeps me in my heart-space.
I could be safe and not open this writing door or I could try and I’ll probably learn something new. For sure I’ll grow because I’m doing it for me, anyway the wind told me to 💨 . I can’t argue with the wind.
“Rarely do “safe” and “life expanding” come wrapped in the same package. Growth is scary, unpredictable, emotional, and sometimes fraught with failure. But safe choices, ironically, do not guarantee safety or a life without fear…in ten or twenty or sixty years, make choices now on which you can look back and say “I created this life.” Not, “I settled.” ~ Pamela Penman. The Safe Option a lovely read on Simple Family Travel.
And more practically:
“Done is better than good” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert’s mother’s motto “because perfectionism can murder creativity. I always credit my mother with teaching me this important lesson — that it’s better to have something completed than something immaculate.” I love EG. I actually think perfection can murder more than creativity.