Over two years ago now (which I cannot believe), I choked out a tearful goodbye to life as I knew it in the United States. With one way tickets in our sweaty hands, my husband and I boarded a flight to our new home. Amsterdam. Stepping on that plane was a turning point. I’m forever changed because of it.
I reflect on our time in Amsterdam often. How in love with it I became (and still am). Yet the way that I think about it is completely different from the other cities and countries I merely visited and took vacations. When traveling, I was always looking for the extraordinary. The fabulous. The unexpected. The downright thrilling. For those reasons and so many more, I continue to travel.
But for Amsterdam I have a different sentiment. Why? Initially it was all those things. Extraordinary. Fabulous. Unexpected. And yes, downright thrilling. But as I settled in and became more comfortable, what I truly appreciated was the ordinary. It was everyday life. So wonderful and pleasant and… normal.
That’s what makes this memory different from all the others. It wasn’t the grandiose whirlwind of museum-browsing, guided tour-shuffling or extravagant dining that I remember so fondly. It was the falafel from the shop down the street that we would eat messily as we walked the half block home because we just couldn’t wait. It was the cheap wine we would drink as we sat in our window, legs dangling. It was going on dates by riding those rickety, old cruisers. Sometimes rather that ride my own, I would sit on Jaro’s rack, one arm casually draped around his waist, watching the cobblestone whiz by under my feet. It was the predictable weekend market where we would get the same lunch every single Saturday. From the same two dudes that ran the booth.
It was all the things we had to explore, learn and discover that only could have been done by actually living there. Like any seasoned traveler would tell you- Ask the café server what they order. Ask the store clerk where they go for nightlife. Always ask a local. In my own way, I became one.
The way I came to appreciate Amsterdam has changed my view of the world. For the better, I would think. My gratitude for the way other people live their ordinary lives is something I have taken with me and carry in my heart. I may have left Amsterdam, but Amsterdam hasn’t left me. It never will.
(These are some photos from our final days there.)
There are some places where we visit or live for a time that feel like home even though we are really a stranger to them. Sometimes we feel this with more than 1 place, though I think always strongest with one. Amsterdam is your “soul’s home”.
You are so right. Sometimes a place “gets you” as much as you get it. I love the idea of a soul’s home! Amsterdam is mine then, for sure.
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Thanks for the shout out!!
Julie- I just stumbled across your blog and your post on Amsterdam. My husband and I are moving to Amsterdam in Jan/February 2014 on a 2 year expat assignment. We are in the process of booking a 7 day house hunting visit. I was wondering if you have any feedback or recommendations on where we should look? Ideally we would like to be close to the City, but not no too close to all the touristy sites ( i.e. we wouldn’t want to move to NY and live near Time Square). We currently live outside of Boston. We also have an 8 month old baby girl. Would love to get any recommendations or advice you might have. Thanks! Tami
Hi Tami – Wow, I’m so excited for you to move to my favorite city! I have a blog post about expat living in Amsterdam here: https://thosedamamericans.com/2012/10/24/an-expatriate-guide-living-in-amsterdam/
and also discussed my thoughts on moving abroad in general here: https://thosedamamericans.com/2013/01/23/an-expatriate-guide-international-house-hunting/
Really, my favorite/most family-friendly neighborhoods are De Pijp and the Jordaan. We had friends that lived a few blocks from the Red Light District, but felt world’s away bc their home was on a beautiful peaceful canal and the RLD is not that imposing. So don’t rule out city centre!
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with other questions. Best of luck. xxx