amsterdam, expat life, happiness

{On Amsterdam.}

The time has come. I knew it would, and I’m actually surprised it took this long… I miss Amsterdam… Real bad. This week it has hit me like a ton of bricks and I must admit tears may have been shed. It’s not that I don’t absolutely love our life here in Portland, but truth be told I think I’m finally just now coming to terms with the huge changes that have happened in our lives the last 5 months. It all happened so fast it felt like we were just riding the wave of excitement. The dust is settling now and I’m looking around and realizing how much has changed. And it’s taking me a second to gather my thoughts and feelings and emotions on how I feel about it all. 

I mean, obviously I’m happy. I’m overjoyed to be home in Portland, thrilled to be in the same city with (most of) our families, and I’m ecstatic to be expecting our first baby (p.s. it’s a girl!). But part of me is mourning the loss of life in Europe. Of everything from being in this little bubble of life with Corey – just me and him figuring out a new continent with no friends or family – to hopping on planes and trains and traveling to some of my most favorite places in the world. I miss little things like fresh squeezed orange juice in every shop and market, I miss big things like the sheer gorgeousness of Amsterdam – where every corner you turn around is more picturesque and truly breathtaking than the last. I miss our apartment and I miss Christmas time in Europe. I miss walking and biking everywhere (yes, even in the cold!). I miss Sunday brunch at Le Pain Quotidien. I miss the great friends we made (and not knowing when I’ll see each of them again is heartbreaking). I’m a nostalgic person in general, and I tend to romanticize the past and long for the future. It’s something I’m very aware of – and even when I would sob for Portland while I sat in our living room in Amsterdam I KNEW that the second we returned here I would be sobbing for Amsterdam. And here I am. Doing just that. 

The most comforting thing that comes to mind is this… Well, there are two things. One, we can always go back. And we will. Our dream is to return when our children (God willing) are school age so they can live and breathe the incredible culture in Europe. But more importantly, this saying: Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened. I’m trying to change my perspective and instead of mourning the fact that we’re not there anymore and we are moving on with our lives in so many ways –celebrate the fact that we were so incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity to live abroad, grow so close, learn so much and make some of the most amazing memories of our lives. 

You’ll always have a piece of our hearts, Amsterdam…
{Photo © Liz Denfeld Photography}

21 thoughts on “{On Amsterdam.}”

  1. Beautiful post Liz. Knowing you will return but get to spend the most important times of lives (having your bubba) with your families nearby will definitely be more significant over the next year, more so than freshly squeezed OJ. Maybe ask Santa for a juicer for Christmas!! Travel is wonderful, but we desperately miss our family and know they are missing out on so much having us far away. Loving your weekly bumpdates, you are looking gorgeous with a bump!! xx

  2. What a great post, Liz. I studied abroad last year in Marseilles and still find myself surprisingly homesick for France and Europe. I particularly like what you wrote, “I’m a nostalgic person in general, and I tend to romanticize the past and long for the future.” I too am very nostalgic and I find it hard to live in the present and enjoy my current lot in life (even though it's fantastic!). I wish I could be less nostalgic but it's not something I've mastered yet.

    P.S. Glad to see you back in blogging world!

  3. I can totally relate! After studying abroad in Florence for a semester (not the same as 2 years, but still!), I was actually really excited to be home…initially. Once I started back at school in the fall, I began missing Florence and living abroad more than anything. I think it was because every day there was different, I was always seeing something new or meeting someone new. But you're 100% right, it'll always be there and we were both so lucky to have had that experience! It'll just make it even more special to go back and visit someday!

  4. Oh my gosh, I was JUST reminiscing over my time in Europe (it's on my blog too!) so I totally understand how you feel. Leaving Europe always feels like a break up. I know you'll be back and Amsterdam will always be there to welcome you and your family with open arms!

  5. I'm studying abroad in Oxford, England in January-March, and I'm actually already a bit scared that I'll be yearning for it again once I return to the States. It just seems so inevitable! Your Amsterdam and Europe adventures seemed to be absolutely life changing, so I'm not surprised that you are going through this right now. Once the baby comes though, I'm sure you'll be so busy being enamored with her that Europe will be only in the back of your mind! 🙂

  6. I know what you mean, so much so, that we're trying to move back to Europe!! We have been back in San Diego now for 3 years (after 2 yrs in Switzerland) and it just feels right to move back. We have a baby now, and we always said that same as you that we'd wait until the baby is school age to move back, but the opportunity has presented itself (hubby's old job is available again), and we're thinking, what if this opportunity doesn't come around again. We have to take the chance now!! So fingers crossed that he gets the job! and best wishes to you as you continue to adjust to life in Portland and the arrive of your baby daughter (!!!). Hoping all your future Europe dreams come true 😉

  7. Oh Liz, often times I have the same breakdowns. My husband's job has taken us all over the US and as anxious and reluctant as I was to move to each city, I cried every time we left. I long for the memories, the comfort, and most of all the friends we have made. It hurts to not know when we'll reconnect but it calms me to know that I have SO MANY vacation homes all over the world – and that any one of those homes will always have open doors for us. That's the best part of having friends scattered all over. I feel for you!

  8. Ahh repatriate life. I can relate in a way as I grew up in Europe due to my dad being in the USAF. Moving around military bases overseas was 'easy' as it was all I was used too. But that big move at 17 to go 'home' to the US was the hardest one I ever experienced. Granted making that move as a TCK (Third Culture Kid) and as an expat returning home is slightly different, the same elements are the same. I believe you said it best with: Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened. Plus its okay to be sad and to miss things and its is also okay to enjoy every moment of this new part of your journey of life.

    ps. Congrats on having a girl!

    Bonnie Rose

  9. Stephen and I were JUST talking about our lives in the UK last night and what we missed about it. I miss it being just him and I so much. I think that has been the single most difficult adjustment. FIguring out life together, just him and I, was so amazing. And that quality time…ugh I miss that even more. I love the quote you put in. so true.

  10. I'm a nostalgic person by nature as well. (There are times where I catch myself missing Gabon – that has to tell you something!) It's funny how they say moving abroad can make or break marriages — while I'm not sure it's quite so drastic, there is something to say about really learning to be a team when you have no one else to fall back on.

    (And sometimes I see your instagrams about buying furniture, etc and I wish I had a little of that too.)

  11. I'm the same- I want everything and everyone from all the different compartments of my life- all the time!!

    But, as you said, you can go back. Life in Portland looks and sounds lovely- but it doesn't have to be forever. Being an expat and travelling with your children(and all the experiences that involves) is one of the biggest gifts you could give her (them).

  12. I read this post and felt such an overwhelming sense of knowing exactly what you're talking about. I studied in London last year and absolutely fell in love. Leaving London was the hardest thing I've ever had to go through, and I was a completely useless sobbing wreck for a straight 48 hours until I had no more water to expel. I went back to school in Boston and yearned to go back to Europe.

    I managed to go back this summer after graduating for 5 months for an internship, and it was the best time of my life. It's over now, and I'm back in Seattle with my family, but having left this time, I'm just so grateful for the experiences. Like you said, be grateful it happened. I'm sad, but at least I know now what I want and where I want to be. And I'm a much more different and better person for the experiences.

    Also, I'm a PNW girl as well (Seattle), and can honestly say that if America is where I've got to be right now, I'm glad it's here. 🙂

    Melanie x
    Style to Stage

    P.S. Congrats on the baby news!!

  13. I can relate so much to this post, it makes my heart heavy reading it! For me, it's such a good reminder to enjoy our time abroad because I know I'm going to have so many similar thoughts when we move back. I love that you're planning on being back when your kids are older though, something so exciting to look forward to! And you're so fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends, especially with your growing family. 🙂

  14. Oh the not walking every where and the quick dinners was the hardest part for me to adjust back to! I can totally relate. Your life is changing so much but all of it is so good! So excited for you all!

  15. Hi Liz- Quick note as I'm flying out the door. I read this post a while ago and it was so 'loaded' for me, I didn't have time to respond quickly, but kept meaning to. Long story short, I just moved home to Vancouver from London, and can relate to everything you put so nicely into words. I wrote my own few posts about it, each time I'm experiencing these feelings. The writing definitely helps! Anyways, without boring you, I was venting to a family friend at dinner a few weeks ago, and the next day she found this in the Vancouver Sun- I think you'll find it interesting, as nobody really prepares yourself for the reverse culture shock. Who knew it would be this hard to come home to a place you know and love hey?

    Here's the link:

    I hope you're doing well. I know I have good days and bad days, and it'll all get back to normal eventually, but the funny thing is, that feeling of normalcy is almost what I'm the most scared about! Congratulations on your pregnancy!



  16. Liz I can't even imagine…we were only there for 4 days and I miss it (but definitely not to the extent that you do of course)! It truly is as beautiful as you describe it to be…you and Cory are SO blessed to have freaking lived there! I'm sure Christmas time is amazing there and everything covered in snow?! It seems unreal how it could get any more beautiful!

  17. This post almost had me crying!! You expressed your feelings so poignantly. My boyfriend and I lived in Denver for 2 years, with no friends or family and it was such an incredible experience– learning a new city, finding an apartment, and with no friends or family. I'm very nostalgic, and like you, I romanticize the past and long for the future as well…. I cried for Cleveland in Denver, and cried for Denver when we moved back to Cleveland (where our family and best friends are). There's nothing like sharing the totally novel and life-changing experience of life in new surroundings with your partner, and it's definitely something to mourn and grieve for when it's behind you. I totally identify with your feelings of happiness in being home with family but also a bittersweet feeling about the memories you've made as couple in another place. I love your outlook about it though. It will always be the most special, sacred place for you and Corey! Thanks for sharing this :o)

  18. I just stumbled upon your blog. I love that you got to experience Europe in that way. We did the exact same thing and coming home was hard. It's been 20 years since we came home and in a few months we are going back for the first time. Our daughter was born over there so the trip is to take her back and show her around. I know you will miss it, but someday (maybe not as long as we waited) you can go back and experience it all over again. Until then cherish the memories because you did something that few people get to do.

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