amsterdam, expat life

{Getting Real}

After a month in Portland, I’m back in Amsterdam. I arrived yesterday morning to gloomy skies and an empty apartment. Corey was at work and Henry hadn’t been dropped off by the dog walkers yet. I was already in a pretty bad funk, but the jet lag and the fact that I’d been really sick for a week and just flew 10 hours with an ear infection didn’t help. Work has been crazy busy and my trip home was packed full of activity. Lately it’s felt like I haven’t been able to shut my mind off. There are so many thoughts consuming it every minute of every day. That’s not very weird for me, but it’s just that lately all the thoughts are conflicting and being at home really made me think about this experience (living abroad) and how I feel about it. It’s probably no surprise that I’m not really sure how I feel about it – some days I absolutely love it and feel like the luckiest girl in the world, then others I miss Portland so much my heart aches and I have an undeniable longing for “normal” life. This morning, when my jetlag woke me up at 2:30AM and wouldn’t let me go back to sleep, it was like I had been transported to one year ago when we had first arrived in Amsterdam. It felt dark and lonely. Foreign. I hadn’t been home in 9 months and almost forgot what it felt like to be in the U.S. – to live in the U.S. Spending time with family and friends and having everything be so easy made coming back here really hard. Harder than I was expecting. So what did I do? I just started sobbing. Uncontrollably. The weight of this life so far away from everything I know and from so many people I love was feeling too much to handle. No doubt the lack of sleep and stress had everything to do with it, but let’s be honest, I needed a good cry. I’m feeling a little better now, although I’m very aware it’s going to take me a week or two to get back into the groove of things and feel like myself again. I hate to come back from my blogging hiatus on such a sad note, but this is real life for me right now. I’d hate for you all to think it’s always rainbows and butterflies over here – no no, it’s far from it. But when my mind feels clear I know that this experience is worth all the prices we are paying for it. We are blessed beyond measure.
On a happier note, I have truly missed this community so much. I wanted so badly to find the time to blog and read all of your blogs and comment on them, etc, but every day was so jam-packed I simply couldn’t find the time. Hopefully my schedule will allow me to get back on track the next few weeks – I have hundreds of photos from this summer to share! Thanks for sticking with me and sorry for the rambling today 🙂

43 thoughts on “{Getting Real}”

  1. oh no – I'm so sorry! I think we all do have those moments, though, so don't feel too alone in that. being sad doesn't mean that you're not grateful – it's possible to realize you're lucky AND to want something else at the same time! there's no shame in that. it's totally normal and understandable. that being said, I hope you see sunnier skies (and clearer ears!) soon 🙂

  2. I did a year abroad my senior year of college in England (Nottingham actually. Too bad it was a couple of years before Megan). And I know exactly what you mean. It wasn't until I got home after the experience was over that I realized what an amazing time it was and that I wish I had not been so homesick while I was there.

    Basically I wanted to let you know that I think your feelings are totally normal. I'm sorry you are feeling a little blue, but I hope it gets better soon.

    And if it makes you feel any better, I have been totally jealous of your travels this past year. To get to experience all that with your husband, when you have money must be wonderful. I was a poor college student that traveled alone or with friends and stayed in nasty hostels. It was gross… don't do it. 🙂

  3. My heart is with you Liz, I completely understand. Even if it isn't outside the US, my current life and transition to New York (with so many stops/living situations/heartaches in between) have me feeling the same way. Such a blessing, but so hard at times too. Just know you aren't alone! xo

  4. I'll be praying for you to settle back into your routines because that's always the best way to get over homesickness. I can't wait to see photos from your trip and all the exciting things you have planned for this fall. 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing this!!
    Although not living abroad, it feels like it sometimes. After moving to CT from MI- it's been foreign to me. I haven't clicked with the people. And I miss my Family something terrible.
    This scenerio sounds all too familiar.
    Eat Cake

  6. yes-leaving home can feel like that. but then when you find you routine again and see your friend in the place you call 'home' for now-it is all well again. hope it comes quickly!

  7. Hi – I guess you have articulated what is not that surprising; homesickness is a very powerful emotion made all the worse by sickness and jetlag. I am so sorry. When I think of living abroad this is what I would be most worried about; the missing home. However as you say after a few weeks you will find a new groove and deep down you know that. I admire your honesty and I hope that things ease up. Busyness helps, for sure. I read another blog called 'The Littlest Things' which is written by Sophie. She lives in the UK but is Australian and whenever she returns from home the same sentiment is there. I guess the problem is we all crave the excitement and challenge of living in a new country, but also we simultaneously need the comfort of home. Wish there was a way to do both!!
    Lou x

  8. Thanks for sharing your heart Liz and being genuine as always 🙂 I think it's totally understandable why you're feeling like this now, and there's no need to apologize for it, just let it be and I know things will go back to normal soon. Even though I know that's hard when you're caught up in this place of not really knowing what normal is or even what you want it to be because I'm sort of in that place right now too…but it is what it is, and you're so right, we are definitely blessed! Looking forward to more blog posts now that you're back, I've missed reading your blog! 🙂

  9. Hi Liz! I hope the next few weeks get a little easier for you adjusting back to life in Amsterdam. Just think; when you look back on this experience you'll be so thankful that you went through it all – and you’ll feel even stronger that you were able to get through the difficulties of it, too 🙂

  10. i am sorry you are feeling a bit blue–and i think sometimes a good cry can jut make everything feel so much better.

    it is always hard to leave family but you will be back in your groove in no time. and just think of all the memories you are making living abroad, it will be something you never forget 🙂

  11. I hear you. It's hard to explain to people who haven't lived abroad that life abroad is still 'life' – with bad days and good days. Thinking of you as you re-integrate into life in Amsterdam. At least Henry's home now! Dogs (and wine) are the best cures for homesickness ever.

  12. I'm so sorry. I know that feeling and actually I am going through the same feelings right now. Some days I feel SO blessed to be living in Paris but other days (like today) feel so awful and lonely and its hard to keep the tears back. Being away from home is such a hard things and a big price to pay to live abroad and follow dreams but you just have to keep looking forward to the next amazing day that will make these bads ones worth it..or at least bearable. I hope you feel better soon!

  13. Oh liz I wish I could give you a big bear hug right this instant! Thank you for your honesty in this post and please know that it's completely normal. It's funny as recently I have realized how funny of a concept and how true as well it is to be “thankful for your trials”. They will make you so strong, your marriage strong, and will build such a foundation when you do return home. But they sure do stink when you're going through 'em. I pray you find more and more comfort and peace right where you are. Even though I know how tough it is to be away from your family, and in particular momma. Sending you tons of kisses and a bunch of bear hugs. xxoo

  14. Oh Liz! I am so sorry you're homesick. Sometimes I feel so homesick even in Atlanta – I don't know how you do it that far away. Thank you for sharing this. I hope it gets better as you continue to settle back in.

  15. oh my dear friend do i understand this feeling ALL too well. I have been in it for a couple days now (no doubt because the weather is changing so rapidly to cold again..not that it was ever HOT, but you know what i mean). Like you said, it will take you awhile to get back into the expat groove..If it makes you feel any better, i have felt a lot of comfort in knowing you, and our friendship. You and i are SO similar in that we arnt OMG IM OBSSESSED WITH LIVING ABROAD I WANT TO STAY FOREEEVVEERRR, which i sometimes feel is how a lot of expats are..and then i feel weird and stupid for not being so in love with this lifestyle..I appreciate every moment, every journey, every travel experience (HELLO HEN DO IN ITALY) but the day to day is not something i enjoy, and i never feel like i can fully express that without people judging me for not being obsessed with living abroad. Everyone is different, and while i wouldnt change this experience for the world, that is not to say i dont miss home so much sometimes and the american lifestyle that i dont have my sobbing moments as well. SO thank you for being real Liz. Love you girl, and i am going to give you the biggest hug when i see you next week! xxx

  16. I have felt like this too and know the contradictions you feel. But out of experience know this: And I'm sure you will feel better in a few days. Remember that everything looks greener on the other side. This is no cliche. It's the truth. So when you come home to everything you have missed and people you love, and in that high note, put your life abroad in perspective, of course it's going to feel like a drag, because you were coming home. But you were there as kind of an outsider, not fully there in the sense of having having a rent, work, the same thing everyday, the same complaints about living at home, etc. Just enjoy the time you have left oversees, truly embrace it because home will always be there. Embrace your life as an Expat for now. Many people would love to be in your shoes,including me! Much love, patricia

  17. I'm so sorry to hear you're having a rough adjustment! I know I'm not a “real” friend of yours or anything, but I do feel for you. For me, living 400 miles from home was hard, I can't imagine how you do it on the other side of the globe! But I REALLY appreciate your honesty on this. I always have the travel bug, and the desire to live somewhere, anywhere far away and exotic. It's really good to hear the other side of it. The difficult, non-glamorous side of life away from the US. While it certainly doesn't make things easier for you, it's really good for us at home to hear this and to be grateful for what we have here. Thank you for your honesty and for still, even when you are down, touching my life!

  18. i should think you'd find it no surprise that i love and appreciate your honesty in this post. it can get lonely in blogland out on that honesty limb…so thanks for joining me out here! i think part of why i appreciate this so much is because i've been guilty of looking at your life and lusting over how fabulous it seems. and you know what, Liz? it IS fabulous. but that doesn't mean it doesn't get hard to bear. it's an incredible blessing to get to live in beautiful Amsterdam with your lover and your pup, but it's so hard to be away from everyone you know and love. i get that. Texas is no Amsterdam, but i get the “your life is so fabulous!” comments all the time, so i know how refreshing it can be to reveal the other side of the coin.

    i'm sorry you're so “in it” today. but i'm glad you got the release of a great cry. sending you big hugs and a smooch on the cheek. see? —> XOXO

  19. I've been reading your blog for a while and have loved all of the beautiful pictures and experiences that you have shared, but this is the first post that made me want to comment. I have been living abroad in Spain for a little over a year (my husband is in the Navy) and have gone through these same feelings. I absolutely love it, but there are times when it is a challenge, just like life in the States, and there are times when it is more difficult. That feeling can be made even rougher by the fact that I can feel very disconnected from “home” in the States and many people can't relate – I get a lot of comments such as “it must be like a 3-year honeymoon!” and I never want to seem ungrateful for this amazing opportunity. Seems like life abroad brings some of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Hope happier times are headed your way soon! Meghann

  20. Oh man, I think just about every few months for the past (almost) 3 years I've needed a good 'expat life' cry! It's such a wild mix of excitement and frustration. Glad you're back in Amsterdam and can't wait to hear about your adventures back home! xx

  21. Expat life is a conflicting one. I find going home makes it much harder. I find when I'm finally getting into the swing of things in a new place, the worst thing to do is spend an extended period of time at home. It always makes returning that much harder.
    Thinking of you as you settle in again and find your groove.

  22. Living abroad is hard! I did it for 6 months in Canada and it was a bit easier as I knew when I was coming home. There are always moments when you feel so homesick and then others when you feel amazing to be lucky enough to experience life in another country. Glad you are feeling a bit better now and I am sure in a few weeks you will be enjoying all things Amsterdam! We all need a good cry sometimes!

    Looking forward to seeing all your photos!

  23. I can kind of relate to this, having lived abroad before, and being a Military spouse now and moving ever 2-3 years. I always feel a little conflicted too, because while I do love the adventure and the experience of living in new places and experiencing new things, I always long for home, and to put down roots. My dad advised me to think of myself as a potted plant; I still have roots, I'm just mobile! 🙂

    Charity @

  24. Homesickness is a funny thing. Most of the times I've been back in CA, I'm ready to run back to Germany after the first day there. Then my mom comes over here for a few weeks and I'm a wreck after she leaves, ready to book the next flight back to the States. I've heard other expats express much more eloquently than I about this odd, in-between us expats live in. There's really nothing else like it. Hang in there and take care of yourself. I do think this crazy life we've chosen for ourselves is worth it, no matter how hard it seems at the time.

  25. I totally know what you mean, girl. I'd lived in Seattle (Pacific NW, represent!) my whole life before moving to Boston last year for school at 21 years old. And just this month I moved to London for study abroad, so I can understand the whole living abroad thing. I haven't been back to the US since moving here, and honestly, so far I love being here, but I think once I get back to Seattle, it will be so hard to leave again to go back to Boston. I know it's still in the USA, but something about getting home after being away… you know?

    Hang in there, it'll settle back down again. Just needs time. 🙂

    Plus, how lucky are you to be able to live abroad?? If I ever get a little homesick, I just think about this and immediately feel so lucky and blessed.

    Style to Stage

  26. Ah! I'm sorry you're feeling down about the distance! I think you should do simple things that you love about Amsterdam to remind you of what's made you fall in love with it to begin with. I have a friend who is an international flight attendant out of Newark, New Jersey and she often gets homesick because she travels so much. I always tell her that most things stay the same here back at home. She's missing things that will be here and the same when she gets back. The people you love won't love you less and the little things of “normal” you love will still be there for you next time. Your travels won't be forever, but all the things that comfort you will be there a long time. I know you'll get past these feelings and crying SO helps!

    Thanks for sharing such an intimate post. It's nice to know things aren't always peachy for other people too! Feel better soon 🙂

  27. Liz, I hope you feel already better right now. Sometimes a good old cry is all you need… Living in Australia and so unbelievably far away from home makes me really sad sometimes as well. Especially when friends are getting married, new babies are born etc. I feel really really far away. But as I chose to live this way I am trying to find positive things about it… and I know you also do. Allow yourself to feel sad when you are sad, to be homesick when you miss your family and friends – but then, put on some shoes, take Henry and walk along the pretty canals in Amsterdam! And I am sure you will feel happy again soon! Sending you a big hug! Kristina x

  28. Oh these feelings are so familiar. When I have had friends and family visit they are reminders of home and it's so much harder than when you're immersed in the new and amzing place you live and all the wonderful things about it. I'm glad you're feeling somewhat better after a good cry and hopefully some hugs from the hubby and puppy will put a smile back on your face. The greatest gift of living abroad, apart from all the new adventures is realizing how lucky we are to have the people at home whom we love so much. What an amazing gift we're given to truly understand and appreciate what so many people take for granted. xo

  29. I am so glad you are back. I missed reading your posts on a daily basis. Thank you for coming back and being honest. That's why you are one of the blogs I love so much. You somehow mix true reality together with beautiful stories of your life abroad!

  30. I wish I didn't completely understand where you are coming from, but I do. It is an expected part of returning back to Germany after a few weeks stateside now that I will feel down and depressed and utterly confused. It sucks most of all because there is no simple answer. I miss my family and friends terribly and after 4 years away now feel sort of disconnected from the life I had back home and some of the friends I have had for years. Surely jetlag does NOTHING to help matters when you are already feeling low. I would say a long walk around your beautiful adopted home city might help and you are so very lucky to have Corey and Henry by your side, sending you a BIG hug from Berlin 🙂

  31. Thoughts go out to you! I recently just moved to Spain and have experienced that completely low feeling. It's a hard balance to want and have both worlds, but I have faith that you know how to balance it all. Thank you for being a true blogger and showing that this is real life and it isn't always pretty. Sometimes you need a good cry and a day filled with only your favorite things. Take time to get back to normal and remember that everyone in the blogging world is supporting you.

  32. ugh I can't imagine sister. I can barely move 15 miles away.. Thank goodness for Corey and all the wonderful memories you are making. It was a pleasure to meet him a few weeks ago and so fun to run into you 🙂

  33. I lived abroad for 6 months, and know exactly the feeling that you're describing. It's so easy to get caught up in the adventure and excitement, but in those quiet moments, your mind and your heart can feel so much aching for HOME. But isn't it nice to know that home will always be there? And to know that you are NEVER alone!

  34. Sweet Liz – I hope you are feeling better! Thank you so much for your transparency and honesty. It is truly so refreshing and so REAL. Moving from Florida to Princeton has been quite the adjustment for me too, and lately I have found myself in the middle of more than a few meltdowns. Being away from home, from friends and family, and the comfort of your “normal” life is such a struggle. And one that may not get easier. But remembering the wonderful blessings of it, and the exciting experiences that you have with your hubby are definitely something to remember. Sending a big hug to you today!! xoxo

  35. Sweet Liz, thanks for sharing this and allowing your blog readers to love on you. As a new momma, all I can say is…enjoy this season for what it is. Someday you'll be back to normal life, sitting in your house all day long with a brand new baby on your lap and it will be wonderful and beautiful and hard. You'll be the happiest you've ever been even though you won't bother getting dressed on most days, and you'll stare at your baby and tell them all about the time you and daddy lived abroad and had a million adventures. This is a special time, and a season to be cherished. I know you know that already, but I just wanted to remind you 😉

  36. Beautiful words and I'm sorry for your aching heart. I can relate as I lived abroad in college. Sometimes you feel worlds away but just remember you are not. And try to relish in every minute – because you will be back in the U.S. living one day and you will look back on your days abroad and long for them. You are a beautiful writer and I absolutely love your blog. Thank you for being so vulnerable. Please know I am praying for you that you will find peace where you are and a contentment. I know it can be tough, but you have so many readers who truly care about you 🙂 xox

  37. I hear ya. I've been experiencing similar feelings after spending the summer in Oregon (yay Northwest!) and then coming back to Germany. One thought that has helped me: aren't we incredibly lucky to come from a place like Oregon, a place that we miss! This thought doesn't always snap me out of my funk, but does remind me that in a strange and beautiful way it is a blessing to miss a place as well as our friends and family because it means that these are precious, wonderful things. Helps me create a space of gratitude and thankfulness for that homesickness to live.

  38. Liz,
    I too “get” what you are saying. We moved to the Netherlands (Eindhoven) from Portland in July and while it's fun and glam to travel as much as we do–it's taken this move to realize how different it is to be a traveler than an expat. Whole different worlds. Also, as much as your friends who have moved from one part of the US to another can empathize, it is SOOO different to be in a land where you don't speak the language, where the laws apply to you but don't make sense, and where you're never on auto pilot because the culture is not your own.
    For many reasons, we are having to leave the Netherlands–we couldn't get a school to work here for our teenage daughter and it's illegal in the NL to homeschool–didn't even cross our minds before leaving the US that would be an issue. Our dog never even got to come over and we have only seen him once in four months–ugh. As Pink Martini says “Hang in there little tomato” and know that no matter what you do–you've had a great adventure–but great adventures have moments that make us cry as well as laugh.

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