Moving Abroad Isn’t All Fun

I spend a lot of time, actually most of the time, being super positive and upbeat on this blog. I’d like to think I’m that way in person, too. But let’s be honest, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies in my life, and I would never want you to think it was.


Moving to Amsterdam is an incredible opportunity. The general reaction to us telling people we’re moving across the world was: “Oh my gosh that’s so amazing, I’m so jealous!!”…  And I totally get it. When I used to read or hear about people living abroad in Europe I completely felt the same way. And believe me, I know it is going to be an absolutely amazing adventure. But there are things that really, really suck about it, too. 


I was totally expecting to have a tearful breakdown within the first couple days, and I guess I know myself really well, because a few nights ago I stayed up all night sobbing. I was jetlagged and homesick and feeling really out of it. I was longing to feel settled, to not be living in a hotel, to be able to sleep, to hang out with friends and family… Somehow in this ridiculously dense city I was feeling alone. Luckily, I have the most caring husband in the world who walked me off the ledge (at 3 AM) and reminded me that these first few days are the worst we’ll have here. We don’t have a home, we don’t know our way around the city, we haven’t slept in days, we haven’t seen anyone we know or talked with any of our work friends… The list goes on. I realized this was all just part of the growing pains, which I knew, but sometimes it just feels good to have a really dramatic cry. You know what I mean? 


Anyway, on a positive note the last two days have been awesome. I’m pretty sure we found an apartment (it’s gorgeous and has a canal view!!!!), got our residence permits and got a European bank account. Things are finally starting to fall into place and every day Amsterdam is feeling more and more like home. 


{Photo © Liz Denfeld}

43 thoughts on “Moving Abroad Isn’t All Fun

  1. When I went on vacation for a month in Asia by myself, I felt very much the same way – I just wanted to book the next ticket home. I can only imagine how much more those feelings of homesickness are intensified for you. Your husband is a wise man though – it will only get better! Fingers crossed you'll get that place!

  2. I can completely and totally relate to you! I just moved to NYC and while it is not another country, the first few days of being somewhere new are always so difficult. I love NYC but it's hard when small things like, where do I grocery shop? where do I take dry cleaning? aren't figured out.

    I'm glad you've been having some good days – once you've moved into an apt and settled into a routine everything will fall into place!!

  3. i had the same breakdown within a few days of arriving in norway. it was a rainy day and i realized i have no friends here and it was just a hard day. it really puts things into perspective that it is not all fabulousness like some people think…but really can be difficult.

    but usually when i have days like that, i just go to bed and wake up and it's a new day 🙂

    glad you're enjoying the city and it is starting to feel like home!

  4. dramatic cries just have to happen every once in a while. jb and i were laughing the other day about our flight over here in 2010. His parents took us to the airport, i had just said goodbye to mine, and i was on the verge of crying the whole time during the drive and then we sat down to eat before our flight and his mom was like – it's not a bad thing you're moving to switzerland. and i just lost it in that chain tgif in tampa. It was none too cute. But sometimes you just need it. I'm one of those that like everything to go as plan and when it doesn't, or when i don't know what to expect – I can sometimes be not so go with the flow… that's when the waterworks come out. (:

  5. i feel you! when we moved to scotland i felt the same, until we found our flat and could actually get settled. we thought we'd find a flat sooner so only booked the hotel for 3 days, then we had to switch hotels because it took so long! good luck with the transition and i hope your apartment works out!

  6. I have a dramatic breakdown cry once or twice a month. Almost like clockwork. Life's not always peachy! Yours will look better and better. Plus, everything seems better in the morning.

  7. Aww. I don't know you (except through this blog) and I'm giving you a huge cyber hug right now. Oh life moments, I have them often – the ones where you wish you could fast forward to the time when it settles a bit. But in my opinion, the only thing that is constant is change — which means even those lonely moments change too 🙂 As you already noticed with your happier paragraph 🙂 And having a great companion definitely makes it that much better. Good luck with your move and enjoy Amsterdam!

  8. New follower here. 🙂
    I can only imagine how hard it must be moving to a country, far away from your family and friends. I've only moved out of state, and even that was hard at first. You're lucky to have such a great, understanding husband. Before long, you will feel at home and won't even think twice about it! Hang in there, and good luck with everything!

  9. i know just what you mean. when my family moved to italy, we felt so lost during those first few days in the hotel. dramatic cries are just needed every now and then! here's to your awesome past couple days – it will only get better!

  10. It's good to hear the ups and downs of a move like that. I've been dreaming about moving abroad lately. The problem is there's no job opportunities to make me do so, thus far. Maybe someday!! 🙂

  11. When I traveled to study abroad in China, I cried the entire flight over. I told myself that I had to just give it a week. If I couldn't make it, I could go home. But I gave it a week and it turned out to be the best experience. Hang in there and just take one day at a time. Wishing you the best!! You'll do great 🙂

  12. Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm kinda glad you shared that you were feeling down! LOL It was nice to see that not everything via blog world is sunshine and rainbows for you and others, as so often other bloggers feel like damn this person NEVER has a bad day! Good to know you are human too! 🙂

    Glad you are doing better. Hopefully Henry too!?

  13. Totally been there too. But the best thing, was that I cried and had a mini breakdown moving back home to CA from Germany. Sometimes you really do just need a good cry. It can be so cleansing 🙂

  14. oh girl, that was totally my life when i moved to england. there will be more moments of needing a good cry, or when the cultural differences sorta make you want to punch walls, or when you absolutely NEED a freaking american cheeseburger or tacos…its all normal and i think all wonderful..its good to miss home, id rather have a home to miss then none at all..and soon enough europe will feel like home too..which is even more awesome. if you need us (sarah, me, sophie, Jenni) we are all here to lend you some love..from one foreigner to another 🙂

  15. I'm glad things are starting to look up! It is always hard to adjust to an environment that is so totally differnet from your norm. Your hubby it right, i'm sure it will get better. And hooray for possibly finding a home!! 🙂

  16. Hi Liz,

    I can only imagine how hard it must be moving to a country, far away from your family and friends. If you ever want to drink a cup of coffee, feel free to mail me. I would love to show you 'our' Amsterdam. x

  17. when I heard you were moving to Amsterdam, all I could think about was the stress involved with the whole transition. I'm happy to hear that the first few days of adjusting are almost over!

  18. First of all, I love when people put “real” posts up and this is a good one! Life is not always fun and easy, but sometimes very difficult!

    I felt the same way when I lived in France! I was SO lonely and I just couldn't explain why!

  19. Moving abroad or moving across the country from comfort zones…we all have those transitional breakdowns. I've been there, too many times. Hope your heart is settled, your jet lag subsided, and pictures hanging all around to remind you 'you aren't alone' even though your not physical surrounded by family and friends.

  20. HUGS! I'm sending you lots of hugs via the internet right now, Liz! I wish I could give you a real hug. Honestly, I get that way too. We all have our breaking points, but at least you get to enjoy pretty views and know that your blog friends will still read even when you're far away 🙂

  21. Im glad you're feeling more settled in. You guys are going to grow and learn so much from this experience and you can always come back to Oregon someday 🙂 …you know, when country hopping, all the delicious food and wine, the culture and art gets old, Oregon is here and loves you! 🙂

  22. Ugh. Moving is always stressful, not matter where or how far you go. It's hard to start a new life and deal with having to start all over in almost all aspects. At least you still have your hubby and your puppy is safe with you guys. Things will get better, and I can't WAIT to see your new apartment! My fingers are crossed you will get it!!!

  23. when you get stressed about living abroad, just be thankful you have a husband there along for the ride! when i moved alone, i had a few meltdowns…and no one was there to calm me down! perhaps one of these days i'll have a husband to join in on the travel fun…. 😉

  24. Hey Liz –

    Take a deep breath, it will all be okay. Moving to a new place is hard but at least you have your loving husband (and puppy) by your side. In the mean time, as a former Nike employee, some friends of mine relocated last year to Amsterdam with Nike. {Lisa Bougie} They are also from NW Portland and are very much like you and your hubs (Portland foodies and outdoor enthusiasts). I know she used to work in Nike Women Retail but I know her position has changed since relocating. You should inter office email her on my behalf. They are great people – at least you would have another Portland native to help you around.

    Anyhow, hope things continue to go smoothly and just take one day at a time!

  25. thanks for sharing the not so fun parts of moving to Europe. my husband and i are considering our options with our company abroad and i really appreciate hearing about the good, bad, and the ugly. i know you're going to have an amazing time there, and you have an supportive, sweet husband by your side! 🙂

    PS. I'm in Portland!! 🙂

  26. I'm so sorry that you were so sad! I've had a few break downs since we've been here (and I am still in the same country) so my heart goes out to you. You can call me WHENEVER you are sad, if you ever need someone to talk to! Can't wait to see pics of the new apartment!

  27. Hearts to you, doll!! Miss you SO much, but I know you are going to have a blast there in no time. Let the crazy grogginess of travel wear off and you will start seeing familiar faces soon! You will own that city in no time 😉

  28. Transitioning to a different country is definitely stressful and people who haven't done it just don't understand! But I promise things will get better and soon enough, it will be home. Good luck!

  29. i can't imagine how hard it is to leave everything you know, everyone you love to move to another country. so kuddos to you for giving this a chance.

    i would imagine that the first few weeks are the most difficult but one day you will be sitting down and see a gorgeous view and you will say to yourself, wow, i can't believe i live here. this is home.

    hope the next few weeks prove to be beautiful in your new home.

  30. New follower! I know exactly how you are feeling. I just found out I'll be moving to Japan in March with my new husband. He's in the Navy so I knew it was a possibility but it is not exactly the way I pictured starting our married life! I am really excited for the adventure, but I know I'm going to have a few meltdowns along the way. I can't wait to hear more about your adventures in Amsterdam and I am very jealous of your new apartment! It's gorgeous!

    Sarah

  31. Just found your blog and loving the photos.
    I totally get how you are feeling. When we were first married we moved to Germany for 2.5 years. We cried for months and were so lonely. I even had my first child over there. (what was I thinking?) But 2 things. It was some of the best years of our lives and second it was huge in our marriage. We had no one to rely on except each other and it made our marriage super strong.
    Enjoy the adventure, I promise it will get easier.

  32. i am sure you will fall in love with amsterdam in no time, it is a great city!! loved your words about the “not-always-sunny-side” when moving abroad, i will be moving from switzerland to melbourne in november and i am kind of waiting for my first meltdown (besides all the excitment and happiness i feel).
    and by the way, your apartment looks stunning, the canal view is just priceless!! 🙂

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