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Living so far from home, leaving everything and everyone I knew six months ago, it’s easy to feel like I’m missing out on things from time to time. I see from Facebook or Twitter that people are going places and doing things I would probably be doing if I were still stateside and my first instinct is often to feel like I’m missing out. Wait, wait, I know what you’re thinking. Let me get there. It’s easy to want to fall right back into the life I was living before and to have the people, things, experiences that I’m familiar with. The challenge is to turn that feeling into the drive and motivation to do something completely different.

This past weekend could easily have been filled with the feeling that I was missing out, that I should have been somewhere else. You see, every summer since 2004 I’ve made a pilgrimage across the dusty Mexican borderline to enjoy a weekend of friends, fun, sand, ocean, and music. After seven years, it had become tradition. There was no question where I would be on that weekend every year as it was one of the best times of the entire year for several reasons. Even having moved to Europe I still got the question (even asking myself) if I’d be in Mexico this year. Eventually I decided I would skip it. Instead of paying all that money and traveling all that way to do something I’d done seven times before, I’d spend the weekend enjoying my life here and doing something new. So, here’s how the three-day weekend went:

Saturday I took a day trip to Maastricht which is in the southernmost part of Holland, bordered by Germany and Belgium and about 2.5 hours from Amsterdam. My first stop in the city was the VVV office for city info and a walking map. It took three hours to walk the 1.5 hour route as I took every opportunity to look up and around, take pictures, veer off track when something caught my eye. I must say that Maastricht is, so far, my favorite city in the Netherlands that I’ve visited. There is so much history there, great, old architecture, and a nice vibe (away from the shopping street).

Sunday I went to Oosterpark for a few hours with a picnic and a book to enjoy the beautiful weather and a shot of vitamin D. And today (Monday, a bank holiday) I joined a group of expats for a 12k-ish bike ride from Amstel Station to Muiderslot, a medieval castle to the east. It was a long ride, but went much better than my bike-to-work adventure. The group split up and wandered the castle and grounds for a few hours. Despite the cloudy and drizzly weather it was a great way to spend the day.

There were still times this weekend when I got emails from Mexico or saw pictures and posts of the great times people were having, but I reminded myself that rather than feeling that feeling, I should focus on the here and now. For me this is a good lesson, not just for this experience, but for life in general. Since we can’t be everywhere all the time to do all the cool things in the world, we have to live in, enjoy, and make the most of every moment. Never in my wildest dreams would I have pictured myself living in Europe, taking day trips on the train or riding my bike to a castle. Better make it count.

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