I can hardly believe I’m writing this blog post. What started as a silly remark about a year ago, grew into a wish for somewhere in a distant future, and turned into reality within three months of deciding to pursue this dream: we’ve moved to Scotland.
After years of daydreaming about living somewhere quiet, not being able to decide where in the Netherlands that would be, and slowly realising that we kept comparing every place we could think of with Scotland, Matthijs suggested that we might consider moving countries. This idea seemed so silly, that we started calling it our ‘fifteen-year plan’, something we would be able to do when we were older. We had it all thought out: what kind of work we would do once we moved here, what house we would live in, what our daily lives would be like. And gradually we started falling in love with this vision of what our lives could be. So much so that we turned this idea for a faraway future into a three-year plan. But then my physical therapist asked me: “Why wait?” And that escalated our fifteen-year plan into a right-now plan.
Since Brexit, moving to Scotland is not as easy as packing up your life and crossing the sea. We had to find a way to qualify for visa to live and work here. With my profession - being a photographer and writer - getting a skilled worker visa is nearly impossible. How do you prove that you’re at the top of your field? I wouldn’t know. And I also truly don’t care about being the best of the best. So this part fell completely to Matthijs. He had to find a job. And not just any job, but one that met all the requirements to apply for a skilled worker visa. We expected this part to take a while, but it turned out to be one of the simpler parts of this process. The company Matthijs has worked for nine years has an office near Aberdeen, and when he casually informed if they had an opening, they were about to have one. So that was sorted within a month. Well, then the visa application process needed to be done, and that took some time. But we got there in the end.
In the meantime, I spent all my time getting ready to move: a massive spring clean, putting our house up for sale, arranging movers, and many more things I’ve already forgotten. It was a lot. Especially since Matthijs still had to work full-time. Oh, and there were so many forms to fill out. I think it’s a conservative estimate when I say we were both working eighty-hour weeks. Respect for anyone who does that for their career, because I’m glad we only had to live through this for a couple of months.
While arranging our move, our lives were still happening. Most importantly: we had to tell our families and friends that we were leaving. Soon. Which came as quite a surprise, because we hardly told anyone that we dreamt of moving to Scotland. We tried to see most of them before we left. Which was quite a challenge with busy thirty-something calendars. Our old bunnies had reached the end of their lives, so we had to say goodbye to them. Which was sad, because they had been with us for nearly ten years. But also a little convenient, because they were much too fragile to travel this far. And then there were some unexpected things to deal with as well. Like the fact that following your dreams is not just fun and games. To build a new life, you have to leave your old one behind. Not only in the way of sorting through everything you have accumulated throughout your life, but also in giving up routines, and having your friends close by. On top of all the practical work, this brings a lot of emotional labour as well. But we managed and got through, and forgot to notice the entire Spring season in the process. And then we said goodbye to the Netherlands on the 21st of May.
And now here we are. Two months after we arrived in our new country. Living a life the extreme opposite of what our life used to be. We went from a fifth-floor apartment along a busy road near the city centre of Utrecht, travelling by bike, public transport or electric car, having everything and everyone close by, to a small cottage with a large garden, two cars, no public transport, and the nearest supermarket at a seventeen-minute drive’s distance. From constant noise, to complete silence most of the day. From deciding what’s for dinner right before we wanted to eat, to planning groceries at least four days ahead. From friends living close by to only knowing our neighbours and colleagues. But I have no regrets. Most days I wake up and need to remind myself that this is our life now. But when I realise that we got here, so much sooner than we could ever have dreamed of, it makes me so happy. Even though building this new life is not glamorous or easy, or going as quickly as I would want to, it is exactly what I hoped for. And the beauty will come once we’ve settled in.