I have lived abroad with my husband Clint for almost 5 years.
Most of my life has been spent in south-central Texas in cities along the major vehicular vein of Interstate 35. I grew up in San Antonio, a large city with a strong cultural identity despite the human flux that accompanies the four U.S. military bases in its city limits.
For university I traveled 45 minutes north to Texas State University in San Marcos, which is now one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. San Marcos is my Never Never Land. I spent a fantastic blur of 7 years there, during which I could be found on my bike flitting between campus, dimly lit local bars, and the clear, sweet, blessed waters of the San Marcos River. The river and its headwaters, rich in history and protected wildlife, flow through campus; spend enough time there, and it will become your religion, gospel, and savior, too. (I highly recommend the visually stunning documentary Yakona, which shows prehistoric and modern life from the river’s perspective.)
Clint, then my boyfriend, and I decided that, even though we love San Marcos, we had nearly exhausted our opportunities there, and so we made the half-hour migration many of our college friends had made north to Austin. Our life in Austin was fun and fulfilling, though I did not love spending more time sitting on the city’s highways and less time on my bicycle. Austin is a wonderful city to live in, but its traffic can be a living nightmare, and city officials cannot seem to cobble together a public transit plan that Austinites are willing to approve and fund.
We had lived in Austin about a year before I was accepted to the JET Program. Clint and I decided to get married, and two weeks after our wedding we relocated to the northern Tokyo suburb of Saitama. Living in Japan was my dream; I had visited a couple years before for the first time and knew I had to return and stay for a while. Just before leaving the U.S., I had earned a Master’s in Applied Geography and was offered a job with a local NGO that would have been in line with what I wanted to do professionally. I abandoned the beginning of a career in a field I had worked hard to curate my own niche in. That’s crazy talk for many people, but living in Japan satisfied me so deeply, as if I was scratching a cosmic itch only I knew how to get at.
We spent 3 and half years in the Tokyo area before Clint was offered a job — a wonderful job — in The Hague. The timing was good, and the opportunity to work and live in Western Europe was too great to pass. It’s difficult for Americans to break through the sleek exterior that is the European Union and its visa requirements (namely that you be an EU citizen). If you ever get the opportunity to do the same, seize it!
We relocated from Japan to the Netherlands in March 2015. The Hague is just the right size for us. We can bike across the city in half an hour, and the population size and density is not overwhelming. Once or twice a week we bike at least 20km to see what surrounds our new home. We don’t know how long we will live here, but for now, it’s exactly where we are supposed to be.