Life in Europe – 1 Year In

Where to even begin with this post?! I mean, seriously…where do I even start? It’s been a year. We’ve been here a year. Well technically it’ll be a year on Friday, but still…a whole year. It’s hard to wrap my mind around.

A year ago, we stepped on a flight leaving out of Baltimore (after a flight from KY to MD) and into, at the time, the unknown. 8 hours later (or something like that) we stepped off the plane on a whole new continent that we hadn’t been to before, in a new country, ready for a new adventure. And an adventure it has been.

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Our first 5 months here consisted of living in a hotel, traveling (A LOT), and trying to learn our way around the customs and traditions of Germany. Things like stores being closed on Sundays, paying for restrooms, paying for water at restaurants, the dinners out that last hours, and driving as fast as we “like” on the autobahn (which isn’t as true or fun as you would think) were all new to us. After 5 ½ months in a hotel apartment, we got a house. A spacious 3 bedroom + to make all our own (well except for no painting, no major construction, etc.). We spent the rest of the year “settling in”. A year later and I feel like we finally feel settled, feel a part of our little community, have good friends that we can count on, and have things figured out.

And traveling. We’ve traveled more in the past year than I think we have in the span of our lives. We’ve learned more history, more culture, more information in the past year than ever before. We’ve seen the not so good parts of history up close, seen the gorgeous scenery of several countries, and have had one incredible trip after another. This first year taught us, more than anything, how to adapt, how to go with the flow, how to work with what we have. And, as much as it may seem like an “on the go” lifestyle, we’ve really slowed down in a way. We’ve stopped and smelled the roses for lack of a better phrase. We’ve taken so much more time as a family, exposing not only ourselves, but our children to different ways of living. One of the most incredible things was my older son telling us, at 4 years old, about The Colosseum and what used to happen. At 4 years old.

We’ve traveled to 11 countries, visited 14 castles, we’ve seen more churches than I can even count, seen the Tulips in The Netherlands, the Tower of London, the Dachau Concentration Camps, the filming locations for The Sound of Music, The Pantheon and Ancient Rome, and so, so much more. We’ve been to Oktoberfest, a whopping 7 cities (some of which had multiple within the city) Christmas Markets, and numerous cultural festivals and events. We’ve really tried to be involved and be a part of the culture in Germany. To celebrate with them, mourn with them, understand their history, culture, and what is important to them in life.

Even with all of that, we are still just living our life. We live our everyday lives. My husband goes to work in the morning, our oldest is starting school (just preschool, but still), both boys go to playgroup, I read and write every day, and we chat with friends over coffee or dinner. We just happen to be in Germany. I think this might be when I just get mind boggled the most. When I’m making that afternoon cup of tea or curling up in the evenings with my family. When I look at my backyard and it hits me…we are in Germany. This is when I count my blessings.

It’s hard to believe that we have our “home” days. That we aren’t always out adventuring, discovering new places, seeing more and more. I think that’s kind of the strange assumption that is made when you see someone who is able to move to a foreign country for a few years- that they are always going to be traveling. But that is just not the case for us. For us we have to have that down time. Not only do work and our boys make that a necessity, but it’s also just a quirk to us. We are homebodies by nature and so we usually need to have a little bit of home time in between all the travel, and it can’t just be a couple nights. Plus, there is adventure right in our backyard. There is so much to do and see right nearby us that it makes our home time weekends still full of fun.

This first year in Germany has been an adjustment, a whirlwind, an adventure. I can’t wait to see what the next two bring us.

Round the Kettle Ep. 22- Entering February (finally!)

Oh hi. It’s been a while since I’ve done a Round the Kettle chatty post. They are still happening (as if you were really worried ha-ha), but I really felt the “workload” of the Christmas Season at the end of November and through December. I didn’t want to inundate your feed and email boxes with a ridiculous amount of posts, so I let them go until after the New Year past. This is probably going to be a “thing” that I do every year while we are in Europe. There is just so much to do and see around Christmas Season that I want to share, that they just aren’t possible.

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Let’s start with a little catch up…how are you doing?

So, a brief catch up…as you will now know we spent our New Years in Rome on a weeklong holiday that still seems just so surreal in my mind. I can’t believe that I can say that I’ve been to Rome…just like I can say I’ve been to Scotland, London, Dover, The Netherlands…I mean the list goes on. It’s even more surreal and reflective as we are starting to come up on our one-year mark of living in Germany (that post is coming up this coming week). It’s funny because we are just living our normal lives, day to day, and then going on these incredible adventures that we only dreamed about.

I digress…

January passed by as January always seems to, dragging by, giving all of us that New Year’s funk at the end and making us wonder…will February ever come?! Don’t worry, February is here, and we’ve all survived. In a way January wasn’t too bad for me this year, a couple rough spots here and there, but overall pretty good. But February? I anticipate February being a rough one. We’ve got quite a few changes coming our way starting on Monday and I just feel like settling into a new groove is going to be…interesting. Our oldest is starting his preschool program, my husband has been much busier with work in January and into February, and I’m trying to figure out what our “normal” is going to be moving forward once again. It’s all good things, but it just means we’ve got a bit of a transition to make.

With that being said, I am going to be taking a little step back from the blog for a couple weeks in February. This week there will be posts as normal, and then there will be two weeks where I am not going to have any blog posts going up. I will be active as normal on IG/FB, but in terms of blog content, it’ll be quiet. I really try to take a week or two weeks “off” a couple times of year as I find that it helps me quiet my mind and refresh my brain. I’ve been writing pretty consistently for a few months now without a break (I posted a 14 posts in December where I normally average 9-11 posts a month) and I really just need to take a minute, not stare at a blank word document, and just breathe. February tends to actually be a pretty good time to do this as it is slow and quiet as it is (we aren’t traveling at all this month) and with these couple things changing at home, I need to just be able to focus on life.

How was your January? Did you have a good month or are you just ready for February?

 

Feeling Settled

Ah…home. We are home at last and home for a while…at least until next month. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be home. To be in our home, with our furniture, our bed, our kitchen. In fact, it feels so good it has me reflecting back to how I’ve actually felt over the past few months. That and our new neighbors and I have been discussing the overseas move process (they have just recently arrived).

Regardless of how you move, where you move, when you move, doing an overseas move is tough. And honestly, the hardest part is that everyone on the outside looking in tells you how great it is, what an opportunity, you must be so thrilled, etc. While that is true and is the correct assumption in most cases, most people on the outside overlook the actually move portion. We (myself included) all focus on “OMG you are going to live in Europe, that’s so awesome! You’ll get to see all these things, you’ll get to do so much, such a great opportunity” and yet there is also the whole concept of experiencing culture shock, upheaval of your routine, time difference, being apart from family and friends, looking for a home in a foreign country, not even to begin to mention the amount of time it takes for your household goods to come.

We’ve been lucky, I’ll not deny that. I feel like my outlook and my attitude has really been a game changer (notes for future moves!), along with the fact that we weren’t staying in a standard hotel room, but a hotel 1-bedroom apartment. We’ve also done a bunch of traveling (as much as we reasonably could and then some), BUT I’m not going to try and tell you that this has been a walk in the park. And honestly, I think the thing that I struggled with the most was not having a home. Not having our things. Not having that “we’re settled” feeling.

When you don’t have that home base, that place that you know you are going back to, your own bed, your own furniture, it makes a world of difference in your psyche.

I’ve come to realize that having the home feeling, the home comforts is important. It doesn’t have to be a lot, it can be one or two things, it can simply be a place, but we all need to have that feeling. I’ve heard a lot about “home is who you’re with, not where you are” and yes there is a large amount of that is true. We had our little family and that was a lot, but still, there is something to be said for having YOUR OWN PLACE. Somewhere that is yours. Somewhere that you can have your own belongings, deal with your own food, clean in the way you’d like to clean (whether it’s doing it yourself, hiring someone, whatever).

So, we are finally getting that feeling of being settled. Of having our home. Of being able to cook full meals, clean every day, spread out the way we want to, let the boys carry on how they want to, and just generally relax. While our home isn’t fully done, we are still waiting on all of the wall décor (another story for another day), it feels like home. I feel like I can breathe. We’ve been doing playdates, figuring out our routines, trying to see how everything fits together, and just overall enjoying our time.

While we may not be traveling this month, or until the end of next month (hopefully!), there is a certain level of bliss of “just being able to stay home”.