In response to my last blog on the subject of whether to stay in Amsterdam or move on, I heard back from a few people who lived abroad and eventually repatriated. They all shared the same sentiment – they miss the international life and long to do it again some day. Some may wish they’d never left while others are looking or waiting for another opportunity. I don’t expect I would be any different if and/or when I choose to go back to the states. The experience of living abroad feels like something that, if you enjoy it, you can’t just turn your back on.
Another reader commented that my post made the choice seem so black and white. That my only options were to stay forever or leave forever. That’s not quite what I meant. What I feel I am deciding is not only if I want to extend a work contract for a job I enjoy, but more importantly whether or not I want to start putting down roots here in Amsterdam. It isn’t about meeting someone, getting married or starting a family. It’s about making a home for myself somewhere in the world, living (not just working) in a place that makes me happy.
My apartment is pre-furnished in a fantastic location with a beautiful view but it’s not mine. Clothes and a few photos on a shelf are the only things I keep. So while the address is where my mail goes and the bed is the one I lie my head at night (when I’m not traveling) it’s not really home. It doesn’t represent me or my taste. It lacks certain comforts and isn’t a place I’d spend money on improving or tailoring. Whether it’s for another year or two or indefinitely, do I see myself making a home here in Amsterdam? Finding a place I can make my own. Will Amsterdam ever feel like home? That’s what is playing in my mind. I am looking for the balance between living in the moment and building a future.
Writing this and taking the time to think I realize that so far people have been my main emotional connection to this place. Maybe that’s why it is so hard to watch them go. Without a home, without committing to calling it home, without my own roots, without family, the friends I make are what ground me in Amsterdam. As those people leave, the emotional connection diminishes and I start to wonder if this is where I want to be.