MOVING ABROAD

6:00 PM

travel

One of the most asked questions that I get is "Why did you move out of your country?" followed by "Why moving from sunny Portugal to the horrible Dutch weather?".

And even though the short answer to that is "for love", in fact, there is so much more to it.

When you decide to move out of your country, most people assume that you couldn't be more excited for a new adventure. But in the place I was at at the time, it didn't feel like that at all. If a side of me was assured that moving was the only decision to make in order to continue living a happy life, the other side of me was just hurting and telling me this would be the hardest thing I'd ever have to do.

Talking about this subject is, to me, something very personal and deep. These were very intense times. And even though a lot of you may judge me as being overly dramatic, remember I was only twenty at the time - we're talking about a kid here.

postcards

A short while after we bought a house and moved in together, David told me that he wanted to move out of the country, experience new challenges and find a better life quality in general. For one reason or another, the Netherlands seemed to him like the place to go. And so he did.

It was in the middle of July, eight years ago, that I saw my long-term boyfriend pack his bags and catch a flight to the country where we live now. It took me about nine months of living in a distant relationship with the one person in the world who makes me truly happy, to get my sh!t together and actually take the big step. The whole process was complete sh!t though.

We've kept in touch every single day and the visits were as frequent as possible. In 2010, I traveled to the Netherlands for the very first time. The original intention was to get a hold of the country before moving in. But in fact, it happened the other way around.

You see, in my naive mind, the Netherlands was this calm and quiet place with only green fields full of cows, sheep, and windmills. And it is. However, I had just flown to the middle of this overcrowded city called Amsterdam, where there were bikes, tourists, strange languages being spoken everywhere and all the time. Everything was just too much for me. Starting everything from zero didn't seem like an appealing idea anymore, and I just felt myself collapsing into an overwhelming state.

All the time I had spent alone in Portugal, David would tell me wonders about the country and how certain he was that I would identify with the people and the way of living. But, what I felt instead when I arrived was a profound sense of emptiness, of not belonging. Realizing how much happier he was living here made me lose my hopes that he would ever want to go back to Portugal. My heart burst into tears realizing that we simply had two different paths to take.

Even though it sounds very stupid now, at the time I could only see myself as a stone in his shoes, not allowing him to move forward comfortably, because I didn't feel ready to abdicate from everything I had just gotten - a job that I liked, a new house, an adult life. So, I went back to Portugal after this month of experience decided to never again set foot in the country which had stolen my soul.

Looking back I can say for certain that this was the hardest thing I did so far. The most hurtful at least. It took me a long time to actually disconnect from myself and realize that what David had done was not only for himself but to actually build a good foundation for the both of us. For our future.

Going back to a routine in Portugal wasn't easy. I would surround myself with friends all the time, trying to compensate for the fact that I didn't have the one person I truly wanted. Even so, at the end of the day, I just felt so empty and alone. On the nights that I could sleep the record was four hours, when alone I didn't want to eat and just embarked on bad habits without even realizing.

It took me a while to understand how much of a dark place I was really at and the reasons behind it. Slowly, I started disconnecting from everything. I couldn't see a happy future for myself in Portugal anymore, and even though leaving my friends, my recently bought house, my dog, my family and everything that I knew behind completely broke my heart, it was nothing compared to being away from David.

With all the time to think things through, the feeling of not belonging in Portugal grew in me, and I realized how much I needed a fresh new start. So, after long and deep conversations with some of my friends (thanks Rui for listening to my depressing rambles at the time!), I finally packed my bags, said goodbye to everyone and move to Amsterdam.

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While my brother was driving us to the airport I just burst into tears like never before. From that moment on I cried a lot, if not every single day for about a month or so. Even though I was so happy to be with David again, the move also left a taste of grief in a way that I can't quite describe.

It took me a solid two years to finally make my peace with this country. To stop complaining and comparing both countries. To feel completely comfortable and understand that this is where I need to be. This is where I am the happiest and I would never exchange this or do it any other way because even though it hurt and it wasn't the easiest way of doing things, I actually learned the most valuable lessons.

I still love Portugal in a very special way and there's always a knot in my tummy and teary eyes whenever I see that beautiful light that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. But the truth is, is that I don't see myself going back anytime soon. Reasons for that are so many that I feel like I should leave it for another post sometime in the future, in case you're interested.

For now, I can only thank David for having the balls that I didn't have at the time. For always being by my side even when I was at my worst. If it wasn't for having you in my life, my world would spin in a completely different way, and I have zero interest in knowing how it would have been.


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