My first visit to Holland was when I was 14 years old. At the time, I was living with my parents and 2 brothers in Germany. We were an American military family stationed in Germany, and from time to time we would take advantage of living abroad and explore the surrounding countries. I remember that initial trip to Holland with great fondness. We of course hit some of the top tourist “hot spots”, including the Keukenhof ( http://www.keukenhof.nl/en/ ), and the Madurodam ( http://www.madurodam.nl/en/ ), and I can also still see both my brothers and I playing on the sand of the North Sea. It was a great time, and I could have never known back then that one day I would marry a Dutch guy, and that Holland would eventually become more of a “home” to me than just a place to visit.
The next time I returned to Holland after that initial trip so long ago, I was 39 years old. I still approached this beautiful country with fresh eyes, and wanted to go see all the tourist “hot spots” all over again. My then fiance easily obliged and was the perfect host in his home country. We traveled around to many different cities in Holland, he showed me all the places that were important to him while he was growing up, and it was really special watching him reminisce as we went back to many places he had not been to since his childhood.
Over the past 6 years, Erik and I have been back to Holland many times to visit family. With each visit, I start to see the tourist in me evolve into more of a “local”. I no longer have the need to go see the “hot spots”. Along with spending time with our family here, Erik and I have established friendships in Holland, and so it is now more about going to have dinner or drinks with our friends and family, then it is about sight seeing. There is a sense of comfort and fondness that goes along with that that is hard to put into words.
In fact, as we enjoyed a wonderful dinner last night with friends, I was telling them all about our day in Amsterdam, and walking by the Anne Frank house. One of my friends, who has lived in Holland almost his entire life, said that he has actually never been to the Anne Frank house. Neither has several other people from Holland that I have had discussions with. At first, I was shocked to hear that, and then it got me thinking: we are usually not tourists in our own hometowns, no matter where we may live in the world.
I can relate to this idea. I currently live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas, and when I talk to people about that, usually one of the first things they say is, “Oh, where JFK was shot”….or “Oh, Southfork Ranch is in Dallas” (any “Dallas” fans out there?!)….and then I say, yep to both of those things, and then I say no, I never go to either of those places. Have I been to them? Yes. Once to both, but that was years and years ago. I really never think about the history of Dallas or Fort Worth as I am going about my daily life there. It is just “home”. I am sure all of you living in New York City, or Los Angeles (or name really anywhere), don’t think about all the significant places there that people plan their vacations around. Am I right? Strange a little bit if you really think about it, but it is just the way it is.
Maybe we should all take an annual “sight seeing” tour of our own hometowns to reacquaint ourselves with our local history. Could be fun, right? Then again, the feeling of “home” is not about the hype or taking a million pictures (although, you know me my friends, I LOVE taking pictures no matter where I am! 😉 )……, but “home” is more about quality time with the ones we love.
I feel very lucky that I now have two places in the world that I consider “home”. Not maybe in the physical sense, but in the emotional ties that I feel. My first is my physical home in Texas, and my second is my feeling of “home” I now have in Holland. I am so glad to be here once again, and be able to share my adventures (and pictures) of Holland with you in the next few weeks.
With Love & Hope from Holland…..Happy Monday!