On Friday, May the 13th, Dwight and I ventured off to breakfast. I checked my workout pants pocket: phone, ID, no debit card.
“I left my card at home,” I said.
But when I returned home, my debit card wasn’t inside the deep pocket of my travel backpack where I’ve kept it since we’d left the States. I’d lost it.
I checked my bank account:
$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)
$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)
$-39.60 (Spar City Witte)
Someone found my card and had repeatedly used it at a corner store (where I probably dropped it). It had only been an hour.
This incident describes part of how I’d felt while vacationing in the Netherlands for four weeks.
It was an explicit balance of stress and relaxation.
The stress began week one when I found out there was no clothes dryer. I would have to hang clothes on a five-foot clothes rack. This may not sound stressful to you, but for someone like me, who successfully washes, dries, folds, and puts clothes away every Sunday, this immediately interrupted my carefully organized routine that I maintain to avoid stress. By week two, I realized it would take three days to use a small European washer and several clothes hangers to achieve what I usually did in one day.
Stress compounded week two when we didn’t grocery shop for the week. No groceries meant no food, and no food meant buying food at restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or multiple runs to the grocery store. Consequently, because Dwight worked from one to ten at night, if I wanted groceries, I’d have to do it alone. Shopping by myself wasn’t an issue; fitting this into my existing schedule was.
These new stressors occurred in between finishing Spring semester, starting Summer semester, agreeing to be on a work committee, and taking on an editing client—all manageable tasks when I’m completing household tasks under normal structured circumstances.
But these weren’t normal or structured circumstances.
I needed to rely on strategies so the stress wouldn’t build up in my body and turn into uncontrollable anxiety. I immediately scheduled a virtual yoga class with a studio in Jacksonville. Unlike being in Costa Rica, where the serenity of the mountains calmed me, in Rotterdam, I needed an organized practice once a week.
Because I’d been working hard on balancing my microbiome in relation to my digestion system, I noticed when I was eating too much sugar or too little fiber. Unlike in Panamá, I didn’t have to wait until my belly was bloated to know when I’d gone too far. Instead, I began no-weight workouts with an exercise app; I had to meditate to stay calm; I had to journal. I had to work hard to be balanced in this new environment.
Without these practices already in place, it would have been easy to spiral when I lost my debit card, and I almost did. I was angry at myself for being careless in another country. But you know what? I first settled something in my mind, and then, out loud:
“I am not about to let this f**k up my day!” I said to Dwight but more so to myself. “I’m going to get my nails done.”
Did I choke back tears when the bank representative asked me where I was located and then the country and then my zip code—twice? Yep. Did I wallow? Nope.
Instead of spiraling into an abyss of anger after playing twenty-one questions with customer service, I thought rationally. I am not without. I have another bank account to transfer and use money. I am not lacking because of a mistake, and I’m not some sort of dolt because I made an error.
The reality is in between dealing with the stress of unexpected events, I’ve done the following:
- eaten authentic Belgian waffles in Brussels, the way Belgians intended,
- tried premier chocolate from a chocolatier in Brussels,
- visited Gieethorn, a wealthy town built around a canal,
- watched sex workers solicit clients in Amsterdam,
- drank shots at the nine degree below Ice Bar,
- viewed Jesus’s (alleged) blood captured in a capsule,
- toured the city where In Bruges was filmed,
- eaten at a myriad of outdoor cafes,
- photographed tulips on the last day of tulip season, and
- walked an average of six miles per day.
It’s super easy to get caught up in one or two bad events, right? But we can’t let a few negative encounters dictate our entire experience. Overall, I’ve enjoyed living in the Netherlands. Sure, there were unexpected cultural shifts for living our lives; however, there were more “good” days than “bad” days. Was washing clothes half the week a pain? YEP! Was eating an authentic Belgian waffle worth it? ABSOLUTELY!
I’ll check back in once we leave our next destination: Croatia. Until then, I hope you enjoy these photos.