Saying goodbye to the Netherlands, December 9, 2014

Four months ago, I got on the plane to Vancouver, and left behind a distinct chapter of my life. I said goodbye to living with my parents and being with my friends back at home. There was a certain idea in the back of my mind driving me, the realization that life doesn't just suddenly start, no one pushes you, or tells you when you start to try to be who you want to be. We grow--but we have to uproot ourselves first. The only way to start living the life you need to live is to start trying. 

This thought resounds in my mind as I part ways with another period of my life today. December 9, 2010 marks the last of my 3 months in the Netherlands, and the end of this chapter. Though spontaneous trips across Germany, Austria, Belgium and Scotland dotted these 90 days, the last three weeks I've stayed within my new home, letting this chapter blend into the next, letting these stories meld and sink into one another.

I've spent so much time in isolated silence these past 3 months, fumbling with broken German to form connections with strangers, relying on maps to get me around, and never hearing my own language. Three months of traveling on trains in silence, only listening to the voice in my head. Among silence, I found so much growth, and found so much of myself that I never saw inside of me. There was the quiet soul suppressed beneath the loud laugh and the heavy smile, there were the eyes that darted across landscapes, the young man who found piece of himself that was still searching for something. The person inside of me was  eager to tap into the lifeblood of Europe, of the land, of the farms, of the rivers, or of the earth.

However, these past three weeks staying in the Netherlands have shown me so much about how we make new homes for ourselves. This not-so-foreign-anymore country had me singing in a pub, watching my teacher sing American 70s hits. It had me drinking too much wine, riding against the cold wind on my bike with my friend on the back screaming "I feel so alive!" between slurred screams, only to fall in a puddle moments later. It had me sitting out my window, watching the ripples in the moat vibrating like constant drumbeats across the water. As my time ran out, suddenly it had me feeling like I belonged here, in a place I don't even speak the language. It had me feeling comfortable here, for the first time, only to leave the feeling as soon as it came. 

As the sun faded earlier today, I rode my bike under the typical gray Netherlands sky, a subtle yellow pervading the clouds between the green fields and the barren trees. Camera around my neck and stroopwafel hanging off my wrist, I breathed the smell of the fields in for the last time as I pedaled along. When I got here, I could barely hop onto my bike, but today I rode right through the street, left hand steering, right hand pointing my camera to capture my last glances.

These pictures are my goodbye. In the midst of the sadness, there is the looming thought of all the hugs I have to give. I have a family at home waiting and a life to chase. I have a new chapter to begin, with a Christmas at home, and boxes waiting to be packed until I move to Boston for all of 2015.

Goodbye, Netherlands, it's time you loosen your grip on me.