“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way again.”
– Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
Six months ago, I said farewell to Amsterdam, my home for nearly seven years and a city that I came to know as my own. It’s amazing to receive something so unexpected. The Netherlands. Who knew that I would end up feeling at home in that little country in Northern Europe.
I miss it and I miss who I was there, Carly in Amsterdam. Much has changed, but that’s what life does. I am thankful for the experience and the fact that Marcus boarded that one-way flight to Portland with me. If I could bundle up my favorite things about Amsterdam, I’d happily pay an extra baggage fee for these:
The people. My friends, colleagues at World Press Photo, the friendly waitress at our favorite restaurant, the neighbors who safeguarded my packages while I was at work, the Turkish grocer and his family, the Dutch in general. Pragmatic and refreshingly, brutally real.
The lifestyle. Biking everywhere. Coffee with a cookie on the side. Customer service without frills. The rhythm, routine, and slow(er) pace of life. The ease with which you could find yourself in Cologne, Brussels, or Paris. Waking up every Saturday morning to a delivery from De Krat. The Kinderboederij.
The social system. I would happily pay much higher taxes to live in a society that takes care of its people and infrastructure. Where people see themselves as a community rather than isolated individuals that need freedom above all else.
The ongoing sense of wonder. Amsterdam is so beautiful and not a week went by where I didn’t stop to appreciate it. The canals, the architecture, the history. As I would ride along, sometimes I just couldn’t believe that such a place exists and that I knew all the small alleys and bumps in the road.
There could just as well be a list of things I gladly left behind. Or a list of things in Portland I wouldn’t want to give up again. But at this six-month milestone, I’m happy to reflect on what it was and why it meant so much.