November 7, 2014

EXPAT LIFE: WHAT I DIDN'T TELL YOU ABOUT MY FIRST DAYS IN THE US


California is like paradise. It's the perfect place for a vacation (what Spain or Italy is to most of Europe I guess) with the perfect weather year round, mountains to the east and gorgeous beaches to the west. It also couldn't have been more different from the gray and rainy place I grew up in. So today I'm linking up with Holly from Full of Beans and Sausages to shed a bit of light on my first days as an expat in this surreal state. 

Anyone who can read Dutch will probably already know from the very first post on this blog, but my flight to the US didn't go exactly as planned. I had booked a one way ticket around two weeks before (which made my actual time to say goodbye very short) and was in for a long ride: I had to fly from Brussels to London, London to New York and lastly from New York to San Diego. As long as I would arrive safely, without too much difficulties entering the country as a K1 I would be happy. Or so I thought. Turns out entering the country was the easy part. Getting to San Diego, not so much.

I've never had problems with flights before so for fate to throw that in my lap at that specific moment was a low blow! I had been waiting at the gate for almost five hours when they announced that the plane couldn't depart due to weather problems. Panic. I had no idea what to do, who to call (I didn't have a US cell yet) or where to go. Following the crowds I waited for my luggage and then waited in a long line for two hours with my three suitcases. How I managed to stay upright and get on a plane to LA at 10 pm I don't know but by the time I arrived at LAX in the middle of the night I was exhausted. At that point I hadn't washed in a day and a half and didn't look at all presentable anymore. So the flight to San Diego at 6 AM couldn't come soon enough. 

Ciders galore // Sending wedding invitations // finding new snacks I love // spending time with Ace

I guess the bumpy ride getting here reflected my emotions on moving, because those last few days before I left were spent with a heartache. Choosing to be with Nick meant leaving everyone else behind and even though I wanted to live abroad I had never planned on being THAT far away from my family. I was so happy when I saw him at the commuter airport in San Diego that morning, obviously he hadn't been able to sleep and we were both one big mess. 

To be perfectly honest, those first days were a roller coaster ride. I went from being extremely happy to being really sad in just seconds. I had expected it to be an 'easy' transition but I have never been as homesick in my entire life as in those few weeks. It was all a bit overwhelming. 'What have I done' was a frequent thought running through my head followed by 'how am I going to make this work'. I'd been to San Diego a couple of times already, but somehow that exciting feeling you have on a holiday when everything is interesting and fun had disappeared. This was to be my life now and I had never felt so foreign. I had also never felt so ungrateful. I got what I wanted and wasn't I supposed be happy? And who complains about California? Add the fact that I had a wedding to plan in less than a months and it's enough to drive anyone insane. Thank god for Nick, or I would have gone insane!

Thinking back to that time now, I probably went through a period of mourning. I hadn't properly said goodbye to Belgium because I had been too focused on what was coming next and crossing the Atlantic, well it hit me right in the face. Of course there were good times too! We were able to catch up without any time limits, watched shows together and had after work drinks when Nick came home. I found my favourite ciders, we barbecued A LOT and sat by the fire at night. I also got to play with the new puppy and I my parents would arrive only a month after me for the wedding. 

And right now? I can actually say I'm finally starting to feel at home. I have a routine, I know how most things work and I started loving living so close to the beach. We sometimes even go twice a day and have bought wet suits for the winter... which makes me think I'm turning into a real Californian! 

It feels weird writing this down and reliving those memories and feelings. I guess that feeling of missing home never really goes away, does it? 

6 comments :

  1. Missing home never goes away, you are right :( it felt as though I could have been the one writing this. Apart from the wetsuit in winter thing - we don't need those here in Canada in winter!! I definitely went through that period of mourning too.

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    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one... It sometimes feels as if what you are going through is not normal, but it's good to read stories from fellow expats who've been through the same!

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  2. My first few weeks as an expat were also such a roller coaster - one minute very happy, the other questioning my very sanity for leaving EVERYTHING behind for love. I've been here for 2.5 years now and I still go through days where I just miss home and everything here seems just a little bit more difficult to manage, but I think at the same time this is the best decision I've ever made. And it always feels good to read about others' experiences and to see that these feelings are normal!

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    1. I definitely agree that you need to hear sometimes that these feelings are completely normal... because no one really understands what you're going through unless they've gone through the same experience :) But it's definitely one of those situations where I just wouldn't have been myself if I hadn't done this and it has taught me so much!

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  3. In 2001 I moved to the US to be with the woman I fell in love with on line. Well, "moved" to the US is a misnomer... I eloped. Only three of my friends knew. Nobody in my family did. Now, almost 14 years later, I still regret the way I left. I never really got to say goodbye to the people and the things I love about Belgium. Now, we've gone back 4 times for vacation in Belgium, and every time when it is time to come back to the US, it tears me apart to leave everyone and everything all over again.
    Missing home never goes away. Some days are exactly as you described... you're fine, you're happy and a second later, you miss home so much it hurts.

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