We leave in ten days. Still don’t know how.

by renegademama

“Mac, THIS IS THE CRAZIEST SHIT WE’VE EVER DONE.”

“Honey, I’ve been with you 18 years and this doesn’t even rank in the top ten.”

I guess he has a point, but dude. This is fucking nuts. We just got a place to rent in the Netherlands. As in, yesterday. So the day before yesterday, we were thinking we may have to delay our arrival date. That woulda sucked.

Look, I know people do complex things, but selling all your shit and moving to another country with kids really has a lot of moving parts. Who woulda thought?

Schools, housing, bank accounts, immigration application, cell phones, health insurance, drivers’ licenses, tax implications, shipping your shit overseas, getting to the actual other country, figuring out what to bring, getting from the airport to the town, getting the keys to the house, and then, once you arrive, remembering it’s an empty house because it takes 8 more weeks for your shit to arrive.

Sooooooo we arrive in Amsterdam July 6 with our four kids. We rented a VAN because that’s all we fit in, and we’ll drive to a hotel in Haarlem for 2 nights. The next day, we’ll get the keys to our house, and then we’ll head to Ikea to buy a sofa bed and beds for the kids, and pray to god they can be delivered that day so we have somewhere to sleep. DOES THIS STRIKE ANYBODY ELSE AS A SHIT PLAN?

Whose idea was this?

 

It’s funny how things change when you’re in the middle of them. They seem to get, well, super real.

A few times a day, I ask myself or Mac: “What the fuck are we DOING?” He laughs.

Are we really doing this?

Is this actually going to work?

If this works it will be a fucking miracle.

You know that feeling when you’ve been thinking and packing for a family vacation – and packing and thinking more – and you finally load into the car, throw it in reverse and know you’ve forgotten shit but you just can’t care anymore, so you just hope it isn’t anything tragic?

Yeah, I feel like that, only if I DO forget something, it could be a massive fucking problem. Like, I’m on the wrong continent to fix it. That kind of problem.

I’ve surrendered. I’m at the point now where I’m saying “Okay, we have birth certificates, passports, immigration paperwork. FUCK ALL THE REST.”

I suspect this also a shit plan.

 

The hardest part of this move, however, is not the moving parts. It’s hurting people I love, which is really happening a lot lately. Goodbyes, real goodbyes. Grandparents with a voice that cracks as they ask Arlo to write them letters.

“Where will you stay?” asks Grandma.

“Right here,” George says, patting Grandma’s heart.

Tell me you can watch that without bawling.

That’s a really shitty thing, isn’t it? When you know something is right for you, for your family, so right that you just couldn’t shake it for years, no matter how hard you tried, no matter how many times you told yourself “You can’t do it.” “It’s too hard.” “It’s irresponsible.”  “It will hurt your family.”

We tried to dodge it. We tried to not go. But it because like a fire in our guts, this all-consuming thing that raged harder the longer we tried not to extinguish it, until we couldn’t take in anymore. We knew we had to go. And yet, in doing so, we are harming others. We are taking grandkids away. It feels unnecessary sometimes, ridiculous.

It feels so fucking self-centered. Funny how a thing can feel like all those things and still be right.

 

People have been asking me why we’re moving. They seem to want a clearly defined REASON. People assume we have a job change. That’s not it.

I want to answer the question, “Why are you going?” with the words, “Just for life, mostly.” To live, pretty much.  But that doesn’t go over well. Confuses people more.

And yet, that’s kind of all I can say. First of all, I spent a year in Spain from 1999-2000 and always, and I mean always, wanted to return to Europe. I didn’t return because I had Ava.

That dream went into hiding, mostly, poking its head up occasionally. Mac had the same dream, though he’d never lived there.

Why have we had that dream? Because we want to experience something else. Because we want our kids to experience something else. Another way of living, breathing, thinking, speaking.

We just felt like we wanted to DO SOMETHING. Try something new. Check out what it’s like to not live here.

And for the last few years, we found ourselves simply existing with no end in sight. We worked all the damn time to barely survive. Barely cover our bills. Barely keep from drowning. Is there another way to do life? Are we allowed to try? Could we just do it?

We started looking at retirement as the time when life was going to get easier, when we’ll live freer. And then we started thinking about how sad and risky that is, because who the hell knows if we’ll get to live that long?

We began thinking about our deathbeds, about how we’ll feel if we never tried doing a thing that lived in our guts and souls as the path for our families.

Look, maybe this is just a midlife crisis. Let’s not rule that out.

Y’all. We were feeling dead and just wanted to fucking do something. Is that enough reason?

 

And I’ll be real frank with you all right now:

I am extremely nervous about where our country is headed. I am not at all convinced we can defeat Trump and his authoritarian regime. We elected a democratic House and they aren’t doing shit. Congress is our last line of defense and they are cowering. They are cowards. The disgust I feel.

So yes, we’re getting the fuck outta here to see if it gets better in America so we can come back. I hesitate saying this because, well, let’s just say not everyone in my family is politically aligned, but also because I’m a white middle class woman. I ain’t even the person they’re coming for. Yet.

But yeah, we want out. That’s it. Period. We want out.

I feel ambivalence about this: Indescribable relief to get the fuck outta here, and deep guilt for getting the fuck outta here. A friend said, “We need people out of here, to remind us of other ways of living.” Yes. But I think of people who want to leave and can’t. Fuck. There’s no right way. There are no answers. I am deeply grateful. I don’t know. This is all so complicated.

But I can promise you I’ll keep writing and I’ll keep voting and I will keep fighting these fucking fascists with my words. I hope getting distance from America will allow me to understand her better, see her more clearly.

I realized while sitting at the foot of the Grand Tetons, staring up at those snowy peaks, the sun cutting through the trees – my beautiful, wild, scrappy country – I fucking love her. And that’s why my heart is broken.

If I hated America, I wouldn’t care about her being brutalized like this. And yet, I’m saying goodbye anyway. For now, at least.

God, nothing is simple, is it?

Here we go.

somehow my overall mood don’t even know how exactly

***

A relevant excerpt from my book

“Sometimes I would imagine myself on my deathbed, looking back on my life, and I would feel – I mean really feel – that this life is all we get. These years, one shot, ninety years if we’re lucky. And I’d grow so terrified of just not doing anything that l would grow almost frantic.

And yes, standing among those other mothers, I was searching for meaning, even when nobody was looking – for connection, purpose, color – some taste of recklessness in a neighborhood of neutral tones. I’ve always been looking for Barcelona.”

 

28 Comments | Posted in Netherlands | June 25, 2019
  • Sally

    Nothing is ever totally okay. Ever. There is always someone unhappy. Roll with it as much as you can. I hope your amazing adventure is satisfying and eye-opening and relieving. Maybe that’s what all that hassle is about in moving, it’s not letting you get into the false-sense that leaving the shit show that is America will be the resolution of any and all problems. You do still have kids.

  • Liz

    Girl, I get it. I so do. I know it’s scary, but you are following your heart and it’s the right thing. I’m excited for you and can’t wait to hear about the new stuff and adventures! You are LIVING! Do it!

    • Tauri

      I am so excited for you!
      Totally appreciate your explanation, and feel ya completely, but also no opinions matter except yours and Mac’s. You do only get one life. How beautiful to be open to something bold!!
      And please do keep writing. I am Facebook lazy and forwarding your stuff is the bulk of my status updates.
      All the best girl.

  • MC

    You are incredibly fabulous. I’m proud as hell of you for doing this – the right thing. My spouse is an American expat and I’m a dual citizen; we live in Canada because of so many reasons. Even though it would have been infinitely easier for me to move down there versus getting all his papers and possessions and shit from Texas to Toronto.

    I would do it again, every time, forever. Because it’s the right thing for us.

    Europe is going to be the right thing for you. It’s scary as hell and complicated and you know what? I think “We have the important crap fuck the rest” is a solid plan. If it won’t matter in a year, it doesn’t really matter.

    You’re going to be okay.

    You’re going to be more than okay – you’re going to be fabulous.

    And I, a stranger from Canada (who loves your blog and bought your book, which helped me realize I needed therapy bad (and I got it, so double thanks!))….

    I am proud of you.

  • Amanda

    I am glad you are paving the way and documenting as you go. You are so Brave! Reading this sparks my fire. Wait up! lol

  • Buddy Grizzle

    You’re doing what I hope to be doing in a couple years. So, thank you for opening the conversation and paving the path for the rest of us. I just don’t think I can raise my 300 babies here (I just had identical twin boys in January at age 45, and I have a 6 year old). I can’t wait to hear all about your grand adventure. Good job, woman.

  • Lindsay

    Please just keep writing and telling us everything. You’re just getting started.

  • Taryn

    You’re living my dream. I’m divorced, legally obligated to share the children once a week for next ten years. I am trapped. You are free. Please write often and tell the world about your new life, I’m anxious to read about the dream I don’t get to live.

  • Joelle

    Totally get it. And good for – it’s so hard to go but I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it. My husband and I have a dream to build a small home on our acreage, mortgage free and only work part-time. CANNOT WAIT.

  • Peggy

    Janelle,
    My dear, as a 61 yr.old white middle class woman with 4 children and two dear grandchildren.
    I would tell you get out while you can. God bless you,Mac and the kids.
    Have a new life,see new places learn new ways.
    I took my children to Europe. Go.
    Please write. Hand on heart,you’ll always be here.

  • juliep

    It’s so brave, scary and cool. So cool that you, Mac & your kids are moving to Europe. It’s so easy to stay stuck. Just turned 50 & am afraid I will die without really living my life. So excited to hear all about your venture!

  • Malee

    I’ve been lurking for a while. I really don’t know how you manage to write all the things I’m thinking but way better. I guess that’s why I’m not a writer.

    I know exactly what you are feeling now. We’ve been in the same place for 10 years now and it just feels…like we need a change, for so many reasons that are hard to put into words, even though we love it here (CO). We are going to Thailand (where my family lives) for 3 months this winter. We still don’t know what we’re doing with the house and pets. My husband is going to start looking for job transfers to Europe. It’ll work out, I think, somehow.

    Being half way around the world from my family, I can tell you that it’s not easy, but it will be ok. Facetime is a wonderful thing. You need to do what’s right for your family.

    Best of luck!

  • Kate

    This is EXACTLY shat I needed to hear today. Thank you for writing every word of this. I too am on the verge of doing something fucking crazy and almost got talked out of it today. I want to walk away from a decent paying job, good health insurance, cash in my 401k and be a stay at home mom. It truly is the right thing to do. Will I be working at McDonald’s when i’m 80? Probably. You described every fear I’ve been thinking lately. “Is this selfish?” Maybe? There is always a sacrifice. Thank you for sharing your fears with us. I think what you are doing is brilliant and brave and I am behind you 100%

  • Katie

    Listen, my husband and I sold EVERYTHING and moved to Europe with our 4 children 7 years ago. I have zero regrets. But I understand your panic completely. We are both really free wheelin types, and we didn’t have our house secured until a week before we were set to leave. If I can give you any advice, let me tell you this. Buy the mattresses from IKEA and bring them home with you that day. Then you can always just camp out on the floor until the beds are delivered.
    We spent a lot of time in the Netherlands. It’s a great place to raise kids, that’s for sure.
    Feel free to email me if you need any other advice, and good luck!
    Xo
    Katie

  • maria

    HA! You could’ve picked any country and you pick the shitty tiny dot on the map where we live… the place we’re tryin’ to leave… the irony!
    I wish you all the best J!!!

  • Ashley Hanlon

    Oh god. I am crying. Crying SO HARD. Because we moved closer to his family in England to help them out, and it’s so lovely being near family, because my family is a disaster zone and to have a family that you see every Friday for fish and chips with grandpa is fucking amazing and I love it.
    But.
    England is really close to America now in the fascist state stakes now, and I’m Scottish, and my country is looking like its in better shape. Sort of. And.
    My Britain seems to be dead.
    And I’m so fucking British.
    And I want it back or I just… Idk. I want to not be here.
    But his family.
    How do we make all the people man the barricades? I want my country back. Or I guess. We come and live with you too. Just a big enclave of sad people who wish they were home.

  • Keisha

    I am really excited for you guys and hope that you continue to share this wonderful journey will all of us. I say cheers to always doing what you feel is best for your little family and whatever it takes to make life enjoyable and easier to LIVE.
    Good luck!

  • Cath

    Crying as I read. Moved family from Australia to the States, with hopes of moving back (with a new baby, are we fucking insane?). Feelin’ all the feels at all the times, but it’s who we are. You got this, it’s scary what you’re doing but amazing.

    You got this.

  • June Nery

    We did this 11 years ago. You need to let shit go. You are going because you want something different. If you try to recreate your US life in another country you all will be disappointed. We moved to a small Mexican village, no bank, basic school and very basic medical access, unless you were driving for an hour. Sounds like you will have access to everything, IKEA close by…even more reason to not sweat what gets brought along and what gets left. Birth certificates, passports, immigration paperwork…and credit/bank cards” that’s it, you can make up the rest when you get there. Skype, facebook video calling, whatsapp, you’ll get chances to “see” everyone you love. Moving abroad is an amazing gift! Congratulations for going after your dream 🙂 I look forward to reading about your adventures.

  • Alexandra van Dam

    This is probably way too practical but Ikea wont deliver the dame day. You can however rent a “boedelbak” (a cart for behind the car) for a few euro’s but you’ll need a hook (and rentals hardly ever have one). Why don’t you order online at Ikea.nl and choose deliverytime and date in advance?

    Also check “durf te vragen haarlem” en “buy/sell haarlem” on facebook for cheap temporary stuff.

    X

  • Catherine Forest

    I’m so with you… This is the reason why we sold everything and have been living in a bus full-time for 5 years with our 3 teenage daughters. It’s very hard. Family and friends are hurt, we struggle with the idea of roots sometimes, but we are LIVING. It is all totally worth it. You are in the toughest part of it, but I promise it gets better. And you feel so free on the other side.

  • Laura

    American living in the UK here! It’s likely too late for this advice, but most people regret shipping furniture and stuff over. Much better to just pack clothes in suitcases and buy the rest when you get there.

    Ikea will let you choose a delivery date when you do an online order – so do that instead of your hope they deliver same day plan!

    You will ease a lot of stress for yourself if you rent an airbnb for your first week. Then you will have breathing room for getting everything you need in your house. Don’t forget to factor in that shopping is totally different in europe. Many stores close at 6 (or sometimes 4pm!) and aren’t open at all on Sunday. You can’t just pop to target for a frying pan and roll of toilet paper at 11pm.

    Also search FB for netherlands expat groups, people there will be able to help with a lot of the logistical details!

    Get a US google voice number so that you can receive text messages and voicemails on a US number. One of the worst things about always being a US tax resident is you have to maintain a financial life in America to a degree and you will find countless times where you have to have a US credit card, address, phone number, etc.

    Aaand you will figure it all out, piece by piece! Feel free to email me if you think I might be able to be helpful!

  • Sanne

    Good luck with the big move! I recently discovered your blog and I am actually Dutch, so if you have any questions, just let me know 🙂

  • Madeleine Blumgart

    This is so exciting!!! I moved to Paris alone after college and stayed 5 years. My husband is there now and I’m going to move back there soon. I have a loving family here in California and have had the same “why?” and “but you can’t leave your family” reactions from many people. Leaving has nothing to do with your love for them. I fully understand that guilty feeling that you’re abandoning them coexisting with the wanting to fly and explore feeling. Go with it! Your kids will grow and evolve so much, and it will be so good for them to expand their worlds.

    Yes, it is tough to separate grandchild from grandparent…but at least they have enough of a foundation and relationship for George to say such an adorable, sweet thing. Plus, they’ll have that as roots grounding them back to the US so they don’t forget their homeland, and someone to call when they get homesick.

    America will always be here. You can always come back. That’s our privilege of being American and able to travel freely. I came back after five years, and it was like everything had changed and nothing had changed.

    When I read that you always wanted to go back to Europe, I wanted to shout out loud, Go!! You are a mother of four, you deserve to do something for you that will also be fun for the kids!! The world is big, let’s all explore it!

    Sorry for the rambling message. I feel passionate about this. What would the world be like if we all just stayed in one place for our whole lives?

    Enjoy and thank you for sharing your journey!

  • Mel

    I have been following your blog since I was pregnant with my kiddo about 6 years ago. It was very much oh thank god someone else isn’t into pretending it’s all magical. As much as I love my kiddo I am still me an imperfect person trying to get through life. I read your whole book this evening and I ugly cried, snot and everything. I’m not usually a crier.thank you for your honesty and being real. You help us mothers out there sometimes realize we are not alone in this.

    Wishing your family the best in your new home.

  • Veronique van Gelderen

    You know that poem by Elizabeth Bishop that starts with ‘the art of losing isn’t hard to master…’? It’s been on my mind lately and your post brought it up again. In practice, I think it’s f.ing hard to master. I just woke up from a dream of you in Paris, at a dinner party in a park, beneath huge heavy stone statues of American presidents, hanging on thin cobweb-like threads, swaying in the breeze above the diners. Sounds about right, reading you now. I got curious whether you were already here, and how it was going. There is a nice beach party in The Hague this afternoon at 2. Wanna come?

  • Leslie

    Shoot I just looked at mold maker jobs in the Netherlands. Lol. We actually looked in England first. Your husband is a steel worker right? Is it fairly easy for journeymen to get jobs there? I am super interested. Can not, and I mean CAN NOT wait to hear the details about your move!

  • Katie

    I hope IKEA the answer and you all have beds! Looking forward to hearing about your new adventures