When I decided in January 2022 to go abroad for a few months, I had no idea what a huge impact it would be.

After 22 years of taking care of my children with much love and dedication, now seems the time has come to make my dream come true. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to live somewhere other than the Netherlands. I’ve always had itchy feet. Now that my kids are adults and choosing their paths, I felt I have no more excuses to stay home. So I decided to apply for a b1/b2 visa and leave for the US. In the preliminary phase alone, I mumbled daily ‘What the fuck was I thinking, why did I want this again?’. Why did I want this so badly? No idea! But I also knew that if I didn’t go now, I would never leave the village where I was born.

I left my ‘huge’ house behind and, after a long journey, moved into a small two-bedroom apartment with two roommates. After twenty years of living alone, this took some getting used to. While the men worked at night and slept during the day, I tiptoed around the apartment during the day because I didn’t want to disturb anyone while they were sleeping.

You may think that moving to another ‘western’ country is not that difficult. My English is quite good. How hard can it be, right? I thought so too! But, gosh, how wrong was I when I went to the supermarket?

I grabbed the car and already made a mistake when I wanted to put the automatic transmission in first gear. There was no clutch or gear. Grinning, I put the car in D. I can do this, I thought to myself. Until I drove down the street. Seeing so many road signs made my head spin. I started to realize that at home a lot of things are done on autopilot. Here I felt like I had to stop at every sign to read what the traffic rules are. Not to mention the traffic rule: first come, first go. In the Netherlands it is simple, everything from the right has priority. Not here. Here you approach an intersection and whoever is first at the stop sign gets to drive first. Another strange rule is that at red traffic lights, one can turn right. 

The drive to the supermarket took less than ten minutes, but it felt like I traveled around the world again when I finally put the car in the P position in the parking lot in front of the supermarket. I grabbed my shopping bag and confidently stepped into my Walmart adventure.

Do you recognize that? That you ‘just’ run into the store to grab some products for dinner? Forget about that when you move to another country. I didn’t recognize anything and yet again my auto-pilot was switched off. It took me 45 minutes to find the right sour cream. I’ll spare you the details of the rest of the shopping list. In the end, it took me an hour and a half to put together one meal, with some help from Google. I didn’t recognize any brand. Even cucumbers look like zucchini here. It felt like learning to walk again.

After a week and a half, my poor autistic head was spinning so terribly that I longed for home, for my autopilot routine. My cat and child. I never expected to miss my old, boring life so much. I had a complete brain overload.

This has to change, I muttered to myself. The next day I decided not to be so hard on myself and take a total off day. With a bottle of water and my phone, I went to a nearby forest. No people, no English, no incentives. My brain sighed in relief.

Walking in the quiet nature where I only had to put one foot in front of the other allowed me to switch back on autopilot for a while. Oh, how wonderful this felt. This was what I needed. Back in a rhythm. Work, eat, sleep, nature. I found a rhythm in my new life and the thought of going back home receded further and further.

This would be all right, I thought to myself. Until….we decided to drive from Portland to Phoenix…..

To be continued…..

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