The idea for this trip came out of this unsettled feeling we got to have more and more. I wanted something else. Excitement. Unpredictability. Getting to know myself better, especially under different circumstances. As I look back, I was indeed deeply dissatisfied with my life at that time – but those things are hard to admit to yourself when you lead the exact same life as you did when you were still very happy with it. Everything changes, you know.
It’s not that I necessarily wanted to leave the Netherlands. When I was fifteen I had emigrated to the south of France together with my parents and sisters and I know from experience that reality is harsh, and not full of sweet, sunny dreams, like many people would like to believe. If I were to have been born in the United States, my own country would have been enough for the adventure I was longing for, but the Netherlands is simply not as large and pristine. And there’s no way wild camping is allowed.
Although I did not really want to leave, I haven’t missed much either, these past four months. That’s how long we’ve been on our way now. In the beginning I felt a little displaced and uprooted, but that may have been caused more by our constant moving. Man is not used to that. Although now I see that differently.
Recently, I flew back to The Netherlands for a week. The reason: finally, after more than five year, we had sold our old house in the town of Kampen. That’s where we used to live before we moved to Amsterdam. I had the honor to sign the papers at the notary’s office and with that the ability to some of my most dearest people again. That was incredibly nice and special. Obviously these visits differ from the ones when you’re able to do it every week – which you then however rarely do.
The Netherlands – it’s the greatest
But how awesome it was to be back. Man, what a great country it is. Lattes in nice coffee shops made me intensely happy, as did a tour through the supermarkets which held all the products I like so much (Dutch peanutbutter! Stroopwafels!) and watching a good indie movie in a cozy cinema. There’s so much and everything is so well thought out. And how perfect did every place look, I noticed. Not at all what I was used in Morocco, or even in Portugal. When I walked into a bathroom at Schiphol Airport, after having just arrived from Agadir, I imagined myself in a five star hotel. (Obviously this effect disappeared quite quickly because, hey, I hadn’t been gone for THAT long.)
Once back in Morocco I struggled. I missed the place where I came from. The Netherlands, and everything in it. I missed that ‘everything’. Those lattes and cinemas, and so much more. Kinda crazy, because earlier I had told myself, no, I had actually learned, that you don’t really need this ‘all’. I had felt it was true. I knew it. But there I sat, all sad about things I used to have had all my life, only not right now – while being in the most amazing places and experiencing this adventure that I was so ready for.
Had I imagined it all? Were the fun and happiness of the past four months nothing more than a mirage of my survival strategy? My coping mechanism to deal with so much change? It felt like it wasn’t, but anyway: I decided not to worry too much. Of course I was allowed to mis The Netherlands, and everything and everyone in it. Not too strange, when you’ve happily lived there for 31 minus two years. And if it were to turn out that I don’t want to be living this traveling life after all, I could always return.
After two days already I felt totally fine again. At home – in Morocco. Because that’s the place where I now travel. In no other way I could experience freedom as I do now, and at this moment I don’t want to have it any other way either. And would I sometimes long for my own bed during my seven day visit, now I sleep like a baby again.
Where is our place in the world? Sometimes where we have always felt at home, and sometimes where we ourselves create some kind of home. Because sometimes that’s necessary, though it’s really not easy. Because, well, things change. And they’ll always keep doing that.
(Oh, and I have now agreed with myself that surely we can incorporate some spending budget for a flight to The Netherlands, every once in a while. When I want to. Because things are also never black and white.)
This article has previously been published in Dutch on 365dagensuccesvol.nl