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14 Reasons I Can't Wait to Move to The Netherlands

I read a lot of expat blogs. Like a boy scout I like to be prepared. A theme on them this week seems to be about what people miss the most about their home country while being an expat. Since, I am trying really hard to become an optimist, I have decided to focus on tthe things I can’t wait to move to Holland for. Here is my list, in no particular order:

  1. Loek, I am looking forward to living with my verloofde for the first time and you know all that goes into living with your spouse. Plus, I kind of love him and miss him terribly.  

  1. Living in our brand new apartment will be nice, neither Loek nor I have ever lived some place brand new. I can’t wait to decorate!

  1. Never driving. I am not a good driver, I don’t enjoy it and I am very much looking forward to not having a car. Which of course means, I wont have a car payment, car insurance or pay for Petrol. (That’s right, look at me being all European in my terminology.) Of course, if I buy the Vespa of my dreams, I will have to pay for some of this list again.

  1. My European body. No car= walking and bike riding. Also, I plan to eat better and only have Frites once a week. Frites Fridays as they will be known in my house.(Frites are Dutch Fries).

  1. The art and architecture. I have studied Art History most of my life, so I am excited about being so near to the Dutch Masters.

  1. It’s freaking Europe! Europe is amazing because, you just have to hope a train and you can be in an entirely different country, will wonders never cease.

  1. I can’t wait to be cold! I know, my Southern friends will always give me grief for this. I have always been in the wrong place, I can’t stand to be hot. I only like to be outside when the temperature is below 80. I mean come on, you are talking about the girl who went to Russia in February, twice...

  1. A better work /life balance. Thanks to Holland Daze, I can accurately tell you that the Dutch are given at a minimum 20 vacation days a year. Vacation Days, not sick days! On average, The Dutch work 1378 hours annually, American’s 1768. I am very much looking forward to not working too much.

  1. Gezellig which wikapedia says is  “A perfect example of untranslatability is seen in the Dutch language through the word gezellig, which does not have an English equivalent. Literally, it means cozy, quaint, or nice, but can also connote time spent with loved ones, seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness.”

  1. I have to grow up, my Mom is a whole ocean away.

  1. Learning Dutch, I have always wanted to be bi-lingual. I think total emersion is the best way to go.

  1. I'm going in business for myself. Time to make my own hours and play by my rules.

   13. The flowers, oh the beautiful flowers.

   

    14. All the new things I will get to try, and everything new there is to discover.


I leave in 68 days, I can’t wait for this adventure to begin.

26 Things Before I'm 26

I saw this idea on a blog I just started reading, The Lighthouse Keeper,  and I thought, hmm I should make a list like that. I love lists! The particular blog was 25 things before turning 25, but since I turn 25 in less than a month, I decided to get a head start. So without further ado, here you are:

In no particular order:

1. Move to Utrecht.

2. Be able to communicate in Dutch.

3. Get married, I'm engaged so this isn't a huge jump.

4. Take up ballet again.

5. Find a core group of friends in my new country.

6. Develop a sense of personal style and dress accordingly.

7. Learn to bake and cook in my Nederlands kitchen.

8. Start my tour guide business.

9. Learn to sew.

10. Go to Paris. (I went when I was 11, but the Louvre was on strike the whole time)

11. Write letters to my friends back home.

12. Get back to the weight that feels best on my frame.

13. Read 100 new books, including some classics.

14. Start making metal jewelry again.

15. Book my honeymoon, we probably wont go right after the wedding.

16. Learn how to share, I was practically an only child.

17. Become an expert bike rider.

18. Attend Amsterdam Fashion Week.

19. Knit a sweater.

20. Learn the art of light layers.

21. Eat better, I have a horrible diet.

22. Start bringing in money again.

23. Continue adding to the retirement fund.

24. Laugh more.

25. Get over my fear of boats.

26. Stick to my plans.

What do you want to accomplish before your next birthday?

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Attachments, Part 2 of Stuff Series

Monday, I started talking about the effect that possessions have on some people's decisions to move, especially abroad. Today, I want to touch on my own personal attachment to things. 

For me, I have never been terribly sentimental. I don't look at photos from my childhood that often and I prefer to look towards the present rather than the past. I think that people tend to equate stuff with having it all and want people to know that they do. For me, my show items were always my cooking, art and books, I wanted people to know how well read I was.

I think my upbringing has a lot to do with they way I feel about things. My mom has collected flamingos for her entire life. Every time there is an occasion which calls for presents, she gets something with a flamingo. Because of this, I think I have decided never to collect anything. My grandmother is also a borderline hoarder. Don't get me wrong, I love her and I inherited her messiness, but I have no problem throwing stuff away. If something of mine gets ruined, I either don't replace it, or I get a new one. I'm also incredibly cheap, unless it comes to food. So I never want to spend my money on too many things.

Of course, there are things that I love and have felt like they were worth packing away in boxes to move across town. Books mostly. But with the high cost of shipping things to Holland and the constraints of air travel, I have had to make some serious choices. As I mentioned on Monday, when I was in Holland, I left 4 boxes worth of stuff at Loek's current apartment. I took with me a bunch of clothes and boots that I knew I would not wear again before it was time for me to move. What also made the cut: All 7 seasons of my favorite show, Gilmore Girls,  a peacock print I got in Venice,The New York Times Essential Cookbook by Amanda Hesser, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Like I said, I love to cook! 

Of course the Lorelei's made the cut. 

As of now, I have packed one of the duffels I mentioned in my last post. (The smaller one), In it, I have packed my mother's jewelry box that my real dad gave her. (We don't have a relationship and this is the only thing I have that he gave anyone) As well as, my K stamp and calligraphy pen that I got in Italy, the new bike bedspread I bought, some clothes I won't wear in the 76 days I have left here, and my copy of The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis. 

My next post in this series is going to be about what else made the cut. Stay tuned. 

 Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Let's Talk About Stuff Baby!

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=809

 

It always takes me off guard when more often than not, I tell someone I am moving to the Netherlands and marrying at Dutchman, they ask me not about my upcoming nuptials or what I am going to be doing once I move there. Instead they say “OMG, I could never do that, what about your stuff?” As if their possessions weigh them down and are therefore I am supposed to be weighed down by mine.

 

Let’s talk about stuff shall we? Currently, my fiance lives in a one room apartment that is about the size of my current bedroom. It works for him, but we are moving into a brand new apartment that is currently being built in Utrecht. It is about 65sq meters or for those of you use to American, 699sq feet. Not big, but not really bad for a one bedroom apartment. There are going to be two of us living there. Loek already has a sofa, desk, entertainment system and coffee tables. As well as, an oven the size of a microwave, a 4 burner stovetop and a washer. (You get a box when you move into most apartments in NL, it is up to you to add the floor and appliances) We are buying a new bed because something in the apartment has to be my style as well as a new closet or two because Loek’s is falling apart and I love me some clothes.( Very Undutch I know.)

When I leave the States in October, I will be taking Atticus as my personal Item, a carry on doctors bag by DVF, I die, I got it for 60! Then I am checking two rolling duffels, one is the biggest suitcase per cubic cm I could find.( A Kaitlin packing tip: Duffels fit more than traditional suitcases) With these three bags, I plan on taking all the stuff that matters to me in the world. Okay, maybe that is not entirely true, I left 4 Albert Heijn sinaasappels (oranges) boxes of stuff in Loek’s apartment when I visited in April.

My DVF Bag

 

In the next week, I am going to do a series about how I chose what to take, how I freed myself from my possessions and how I learned that stuff doesn’t really matter, it is the experiences you have and the person you love that make you who you are. I would love to hear back from you as to your struggles with stuff, or how you were able to purge your junk.
 

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Loek and Kait, An Engagement Story

Loek and I got engaged in April while I was in Holland. We had talked about wanting to be engaged before I made the big move across the ocean, so I had an inkling it was coming. Before I left, both Loek and my mom were acting a little suspicious. I spent the entire time in Holland waiting for it to happen.


On Saturday the 9th, we decided to go to the Keukenhof. The Keukenhof is this huge flower park in Lisse, the town where Loek grew up. It is a popular tourist attraction in Holland that is only open from the beginning of April until Mid May; when the flowers are blooming of course. (Seriously, it is beautiful.) It is also the most crowded of any place I went in the Netherlands. In my mind when we were traveling to the Leiden Train Station where you catch the bus to the Keukenhof, I thought that this would be the perfect place for Loek to propose. Then I saw the crowds. For those of you who have actually known me for a long time should know that I have no problem with being the center of attention, but I am very much a private person, unless you know me very well. So the thought of Loek proposing in front of all these strangers, made me very nervous. But still, the Keukenhof is beautiful. We spent about 4 hours walking around the park, I ended up lobster red!  

Flowers at the Keukenhof

After we finished looking at everything, Loek announced that it was time to leave. Leave! Maybe I was wrong, it doesn’t happen often. Loek then informed me that he wanted to show me more of Lisse. We had already been there earlier in the week to see his parents, but had really only seen the street where their house is. Loek took me up the street to the opening of the forest. The trees were pretty spaced out and while I have an obsession with trees, after the beauty of the Keukenhof, this forest was slightly disappointing. After about 5 minutes, we came to a clearing where there was a quaint little farm, complete with ponies and two giant pigs. I remember thinking to myself at the moment we came upon it, that it was an odd place for a farm to be, in the middle of the wood. We walked a few minutes more and suddenly standing in front of us was a small castle. Kastel Keukenhof and we had the grounds all to ourselves. Loek suggested that we sit and rest on a bench for awhile. It was there that he got down on one knee and proposed. That’s right at a castle! Apparently, I asked Loek if he was serious. It all happened really fast, but was the best moment of my life thus far.

It seems that, Loek and my mom had been conspiring because he had asked her permission to ask for my hand. A few weeks before I left for Holland, my mom and I went ring shopping just for fun. I had seen the perfect ring and my mom had apparently taken a picture of it and sent it to Loek. My mom went back, got it and sent it to him. I mean he paid her of course. Now let’s talk about this ring.It is a cushion cut peridot, my birthstone, surrounded by small diamonds. It is unique enough that I love it, but also not very ostentatious. Which is good because, the Dutch are not very ostentatious. I love it. And, it didn’t break the bank.

I am very excited to be getting married to quite possibly the sweetest man on the planet who I know loves me, . Loek and I have not started wedding planning yet, because we have so many other things in the immediate future to figure out. All I know is that it will be taking place in Holland, and I promise to keep you updated on the plans as they unfold.

 

Preparation Tuesdays- Atticus Edition 1

I am bringing my cat to The Netherlands with me. His name is Atticus, he just turned a year old and he thinks I am his mother. Not in the normal way that people claim their pets are like their children. You see, I got Atticus when he was very young, too young in fact to be away from his mother.


I found Atti on Craigslist, yes I know, I should have gone through the ASPCA or Humane Society, but really I just skipped a step. Atti was up in Braselton, a good hour away from Atlanta on a good day. I drove up after work to see this kitten when he was about 5 weeks old. I feel in love and was told that they would hold Atti for me until he was old enough to be away from his mother. ( His mother was a stray cat that had her kittens in the peoples bush). I had just made it to my exit when I got a call, saying that the kittens were being taken back into the woods by their mom and that they had managed to grab Atticus, if I wanted to come back and get him.

I drove all the way back to Braselton, stopping along the way to get some cat milk substitute at the pet store and a syringe,(he wasn’t on solid food yet) I came home on my lunch break everyday for 2 weeks to feed him his fake milk in wither the syringe or in a bottle. You can see why Atti thinks of me as his mommy.

When I decided to move to Holland as opposed to having Loek move to the States, Atti was a huge factor. I could not imagine leaving him, but I did not want him to have to be quarantined for 30 days. Luckily, there are ways to get him to the country without having to do that process.

If you are planning on moving a pet. Your first call should be to the Consul of the Country you are planning to move to. They can provide you with the necessary forms you need to have completed by an USDA accredited vet.( It would also be a good idea to ask about any fees you will have to pay at customs for your pet, thank you Holland for being 0!) The Netherlands requires an EU Form 998 Veterinary Certificate. Atti will have to get a rabies shot as well as a few more vaccines and a microchip. This has to been done 90 to 21 days before we depart. Be sure to check the specifics for where you are moving. You then have to get the form certified by the USDA. You should send this in at least 2 weeks before departure.

After looking into what is required to bring your pet over by the country you are choosing to move to,you should then start looking into what airlines will actually transport your pet over. For me, I did not want Atti to have to transfer planes, so I choose to go with either Delta or KLM, as they were the only ones to offer a direct flight from Atlanta. In the end, I chose to go with KLM, even though really they have a partnership with Delta, so it isn’t a huge deal. I choose KLM because they are in charge of pets at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, and also because they had the best flight time. I will be landing in Amsterdam at 1:05 pm , local time on October 5th.

The last thing that you have to decide, is where to keep your pet on a flight. I debated for a long time about where to keep Atti, with me or in the cargo. In the end, I decided that with such a long flight, Atti, myself, and the other passenger's would be happiest if he was not in the cabin with us. You see, I was on an hour long flight on my way back from Philly after my layover from Amsterdam and there was a dog on the flight. Worst flight of my entire life. I also have to purchase an airline approved car carrier.

So far, I have not gone through the process of getting Atti moved, but I will keep you updated as I move through the steps.

 
Yes, that is my fiancee in the picture, and no, Atti is not actually that huge!

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I Have My Ticket!

I just wanted to stop in for a quick moment to say that I have my ticket! I am leaving Atlanta on October 4th at 10pm. Everything is happening so fast! I am leaving in 83 days! I miss Loek soo much so I am super excited that in 84 days I will get to see my fiancee again! I never want to be in another long distance relationship again, it is really hard. So freaking excited! 

This amazing flickr photo was taken by: caribb

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Preparation Tuesdays, only slightly less painful than Preparation H!

I realize that a lot of people are interested in just how one moves to Europe from the States. This is a difficult task if you are not in the military, have a job that few in the world can do, or you are not in love with a European who is willing to sponsor you. Even meeting one of these simple requirements makes the task of moving your entire life across the Atlantic Ocean difficult. Each Tuesday, I plan to discuss the ways I have prepared to take this big step:
 
 
 
They say best things in life are free, but they wont move you to Europe. That’s right kids, you need money. For me, I needed money for my visa, about 1300 US. Money for my plane ticket about 1200 US, because of my adorable cat Atti, I needed to fly only certain airlines and I wanted a non stop flight. Money for Atticus’ vet bills. Enough savings for my insurance there for about 6 month and enough to continue paying off my student loans for 6 months. You see, with the type of visa I have, I can’t work until my residency visa is approved so my poor fiancee is stuck supporting my ass, 1950’s style for about 3 months, or longer until I can find a job. Any additional money I can save in my time here will go towards buying a new bed in Holland, trust me, we need it; and paying for our wedding, which will happen at some point in 2012. (Don’t rush me, one life changing step at a time). I will also need a new winters coat.

I just really started saving for my move in mid April. I had some other expenses I had to pay down first. I am really lucky that I have very little in the way of bills, about 500 a month, including my current car payment. Right before I went to Holland in Aprik, I moved back in with my mom, so that was almost an entire paycheck a month going back in my pocket. I am very lucky that my mom has been allowing me to live scott-free because she knows how much I miss Loek and the sooner we are together the better.

I have thee pieces of finical advise that have worked wonders for me. Even if you aren’t planning a transcontinental move, I think they can work for everyone. Here are my suggestions.

1. Know where your money goes. Write down all your spending for a month. I mean everything. I have a magazine obsession as well as a redbox dependency that I kicked to the curb after seeing how much money I was spending. Did you know that you can easily waste over $100.00 dollars in just eating your lunch out? Find out where you are hemorrhaging money and put a stop to it. Look for better alternatives, for example: I now check out magazines for free from my local library. A big place that you are spending money is probably where you live. If you are renting, do you really need a place that big? Probably not, just wait until I post pics of the size of my new apartment in Holland!

2. Pay yourself first, or out of sight out of mind. If you are like me, and you pay different amounts out of different paychecks, it might not work for you to have an amount directly deposited into a savings account each month. What I do instead, is work out a budget for each paycheck as to my expenses, some free just in case money and finally the amount I would like to save. I then schedule a transfer for the day I get paid so that the money will go into my savings account.
 

3. Have something you are planning for. You are not going to save nearly as much money if you start savings account just because you feel you should. For me, being able to be with Loek everyday is more important than a new pair of shoes or a few beers out at a restaurant. Have something in mind and you will be amazed at how easy tiny sacrifices can be to make.

What are some of the ways you save money? Leave a comment, seriously I would love some input here.

 

Image: graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Let Freedom Ring! My last 4th of July as a US Resident.

Today is the 4th of July, also known as Independence Day here in the United States of America. The 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays, when fireworks go off it instantly reminds me of days spent going to downtown Lawrenceville with my two best friends. We would all pile in the back of Christy's moms Surburban and arrive hours before the festivities. Us girls would walk around, but when the fireworks began it was magical.
This is the last 4th of July I might ever spend living in the United States. I put this enormous amount of pressure on myself to really due it up right. Last week, I was so worried about what I was going to do because it is my last that I completely lost sight of the true meaning of the holiday. That people fought and died so that we could be free. That freedom includes my ability to move clear across the World to be with the love of my life.  
In case you were wondering, this is how I spent my Independence Day weekend:  
Saturday, I spent a long day in bed. Then I watched the food network all day long. Sometimes it feels fantastic just to enjoy the art of doing nothing.  
Sunday, again I woke up late, then The Lord of the Rings was on tv, and I am a girl who loves Middle Earth. I also went suitcase shopping with my mom, lets just say, I came, I saw, I dropped some cash, but more about that later. I then went with my mom to meet some friends at the fireworks in Old Town Norcross. They were pretty good but they didn't have my favorites. What I call spermies, because after the burst they go off in white little curly cues. Yes, I'm kinda gross. Oh and, I had a freaking awesome snow cone. Mango and lime!  
The 4th: I woke up freaking early and went with my mom to go see Larry Crowne. It was both adorable and inspiring. I left with 2 things, one, I want to go back to college, I never actually got my degree so maybe the University of Utrecht is in my future and two, I really want Loek and I to get a vespa! I then went and got the suitcase I had my eye on yesterday, because I was still fawning over it today. We had some family friends with their 4 year old come over. Oh, and I forgot, I made cupcakes! and of course I talked to Loek. All and all, it was a perfect weekend!
How did you spend your 4th?        

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New Bed Spread!

Loek and I have slightly different design aesthetics, after all he is male and Dutch; which basically means he is very logic and utilitarian in his choices. I on the other hand, am an American. Even though, I never thought of myself as a consumer driven person, according to Loek- I want too much. But more on that later.
When I move to Utrecht, I will be moving into a brand new apartment. Now, most places in the Netherlands, when you rent them that means basically you get a box. It is up to the tenant to put in the floor and the light fixtures as well as any appliances. With so much to think about and the possibilities being endless; is it really a wonder I change my mind hourly about what I want our place to look like?
While I was in Utrecht in April, Loek and I decided on what bed we are going to buy for our new place. Our only new furniture purchase for a while because we have a wedding to plan and I will be unemployed for a while. Since then, the conversation about the color of our room has been endless. Our room is going to be tiny but with two huge windows so light will not be a problem ( ie, it will not feel cave like). 
Finally yesterday I took the plunge and bought a duvet cover from Urban Outfitters- thank you summer sale and free shipping to my house in the States, now I just have to decide what color to paint the room. What do you think readers? 

As a complete aside, Urban Outfitters had fantastic customer service today. I bought this yesterday for $79.99 and when I showed it off today it was $49.99. They are crediting the difference, that is awesome! So nice!
Image from Urban Outfitters 
 

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