When the contract of my apartment ended last summer, I decided not to find myself a new place. Instead, I lived with friends while I finished working for my former employer. In October, I was without a job and without a house, and I left for Switzerland. I so needed to see mountains after a whole summer in the Netherlands. After that, I went to France, then back to the Netherlands for a week or two, and then to Belgium and back to France.
I bought a large suitcase, filled it with my daily life essentials and gave away all that didn’t fit into charity. I put the suitcase in the back of my Renault Twingo and that car contained all I owned. Scary and liberating at the same time. Less fixed costs every month, less security. Freedom to go wherever I wanted, but where did I want to go? Meeting new people while hardly seeing the ‘old’ friends. Answering people asking me when will I come back to the Netherlands with ‘no idea’ sometimes led to hurt feelings, while others only felt respect.
We’re living in March now, meaning I have been living this nomadic life for six months. Well, nomadic… I stayed most of the time with a host near the French Pyrenees. At this moment I am back in the Netherlands for 1.5 weeks to prepare for my next big trip to Scotland. I returned from France, and I already miss living between the animals. And waking up with views over to the Pyrenees. I ate more baguette than in all of my life before France, and strangely enough, I even miss French bread. I made important life decisions in France and I feel like I returned as an updated and slightly rounder version of Paulien.
This way of life has brought me much good. I feel so free because I learned that I can find a home wherever I go. I no longer feel like home can only be in the Netherlands, just because that’s where I grew up. I am spending a lot of time trying to figure out what makes a place feel like home to me. I think it’s feeling connected to people and nature. Having a routine. Knowing what roads to take without needing sat nav. Recognizing the woman behind the counter in the supermarket from my previous visits. Being recognized by the guy in the internet café so I don’t have to make a fool of myself every time I try to ask for WiFi in French (I still don’t speak French).
The only thing in this life that I struggle with is being so far apart from my friends. Calling someone feels so different than watching a movie together while eating way too much chips. I find it really hard that I can’t practically help friends that go through a rough time by walking their dog or cooking for them. I miss spending the night at my friends’ places, I just find staying over sooo cozy. It’s hard building a similar friendship in a country where you don’t speak the language and where you don’t know where to meet people that could be potential friends. It’s hard to build a friendship when you know you’ll be leaving soon anyways.
But still, I wouldn’t be happy living in the Netherlands just to see my friends more often. No, I think this is just a price I pay for my freedom. And now I am in the Netherlands I enjoy spending time with my much-missed friends soooo much more!
I am feeling very grateful for the lessons I learned, the people I met and the places I saw in the past six months. I am looking forward to what the future will bring.