Worlds Apart: International Living

I’ve been an “expat” since August of 2014, and I’m still figuring out how to cement my new lifestyle and place here in Amsterdam. This quest to be a global citizen has been a whirlwind ride. I left California, set my sights on Europe and just went for it. If you’re an expat or an aspiring expat like me, you understand the challenging road. Traveling back and forth to the States every three months until I could secure a Dutch visa, renting out rooms in places where I knew nothing, and finding ways to earn an income legally while I worked on getting a resident status is a feat I still can’t believe I figured out on my own. I have a lot of empathy for those trying to gain some sort of status in the United States; it’s not easy.

Now I live with an ocean between homes. As I flutter in between, back and forth between time and space, I think about all the places I’ve lived, and experienced. Seeing possibilities is a funny thing. Four years ago, I never would have envisioned the life I lead now. In Amsterdam of all places. Now I can’t imagine living any other way. When I left Los Angeles for Madrid on a one-year student visa, I had no idea what my life was going to look like in the following six months much less the following year. All I had was this crazy faith that I was going to land right where I needed to be.

Now here I am, an accidental creative freelancer doing what I’ve always wanted to do. The angels were smiling on me when I was searching for a visa class. The DAFT terms forced me out of my comfort zone as an employee and into the world of entrepreneurs. It’s a scary, exhilarating place I’ve found myself in. Over the past, four years I’ve managed to live in a country where I’d never been, didn’t know anyone or speak the language. I’ve settled on where I’d like to build a foundation, and I have clarity on what I want for my life.

Still, lately, as I ponder where I am and where I want to go, my life feels like a collection of phases, snapshots, chunks of time. It especially feels that way when I’m entrenched in one reality then head to another one that’s completely different. The cultural differences, time-zones, different groups of friends and family, career opportunities, it’s a challenge to feel stable when going back to the United States for a few months a year. My whole sense of reality shifts back into my “American Amber” consciousness. I get into a certain zone with different focuses and priorities, and I often lose sight of the routine and lifestyle that I am building in the Netherlands. A friend of mine who lived in Spain for three years complained of reverse culture shock when he returned to the States. I understand what he meant now because being in the States changes my whole perspective of, well almost everything.

However, as time goes by it’s getting easier to acclimate quicker in each place, reverse culture shock is real but manageable the longer you live abroad. Possibilities give way to new realities, and a new way of living comes into view. Borders start to disappear, and the fear in you begins to dissipate. You’ve got this whole co-architect of your life thing.

Are you an expat trying to figure it all the chaos and settle into your new life? Do you aspire to live an international life but don’t know where to start? We want to hear from you in the comment section!

Til next time.

XXX -am

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