Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

You can contact us at werkingwells (at) gmail . com

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Same Same, But Different

I’ve been here before.

Standing in front of my bookshelf making calculations, what to pack and what to bring.  Some things are easy.  The antique vase found in a shipwreck off the coast of Vietnam, pack into storage.  The books about parenting a pre-teen, toss.  The Lonely Planet on Ireland, bring.  We could easily spend a weekend in Dublin, right?  The Lonely Planet featuring Japan, the jury’s still out on that one.  It never hurts to be optimistic. 

Seven years ago it was much easier.  Whatever didn’t fit in a 10x10 storage unit or wasn’t important enough to carry around in a small backpack for a year, had to go.  Life right now is feeling like one of my favorite Thai sayings, “Same Same, But Different.” 

Yes, I’m dismantling  a household again, which is an opportunity to do one of my favorite activities, declutter.  But now I have a whole new calculus to consider. 

Will we need this in the next year or two, or even three? 

Is it important enough to add to our small packing allowance, 500-1000 lbs shipped by air?

This may seem generous, especially given that we’ve traveled a year with less than a total weight of 100 pounds, but now we have to stock a kitchen, feed a dog and Dylan has way more stuff than her eight year old self.  (I can’t believe we forced her to bring a piece of string, a small plastic rat, a journal and a mini spirograph as her only toys—for a year!)

The company is giving us a furniture budget and we’ll  pick up much of what we need at couple trips to Ikea.  It’s cheaper for them than shipping a container of our stuff overseas and frankly, I don’t have that big of an attachment to my furniture. 

Before it was easier to make the decisions we needed to make.  There wasn’t a companies expat policy to follow.  Andy didn’t have a job and there wasn’t the important decision of Dylan’s high school.  Which is huge for a 15 year old. For however long we are there, we want to make sure it’s a school where she would thrive, which is hard to tell on a website, or a half hour visit. 

So while this entire disengagement process feels the same; the half packed boxes, the ever-growing to-do list, and the tearful goodbyes to loved ones, there are more factors to navigate that is making it feel different this time.  Sometimes I sit paralyzed, stare at the dog and wonder where to start.  To get through this, I need to keep my eye on the prize.  Biking on idyllic Dutch lanes sans helmet, three day weekends in Frankfurt or Paris and if we can find a dog sitter, Christmas in Morocco.  Yes, the Thais understand it.  Same Same, but Different.  Which makes the flipside just as true, “no matter how much things change, the more they stay the same.”  

Andy turns 45 today and with the exception of a *few* more grey hairs, I think he's looking the same!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Going Dutch!

It’s been a tumultuous few months here at Only Planet.  In early February, at the urging of management in the US and the Netherlands, Andy applied for a Mechanical Engineering management position with FEI in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.  Within a week his company had decided not only to fly him, but Dylan and me to Eindhoven so that he could interview for the position, and we could look at housing and schools. 

Through the interview process, we thought it was very likely we’d be moving since during one interview the VP of R&D, who would have been Andy’s boss’s boss, said “Let’s make this happen.”  Right before leaving the country Andy was informed he wouldn’t get the job because they were worried that 1-he hadn’t managed a group this large, 2-he was an American, and 3-that he would only give a 2-3 year commitment to the position.  These were all things that he made perfectly clear or were pretty self-evident before we even left Portland.

That could have been that.  A nice all-expense paid trip to the Netherlands and a good story.  But there were still people who wanted Andy to work in the Netherlands, and so he stayed in conversation with the Dutch managers and received a job offer in early March.  It wasn’t for the job he applied for, but after considering it for a couple of days, he told them that he’d be interested in exploring it further. 

Then he waited for a written offer.  You know, the important bit; with salary, benefits and all.  He waited and waited.  Meanwhile back here we felt pretty sure in spreading the news to friends and family that we might be moving, and started to disengage from things like making future plans in Portland.  Yet the longer we waited, the more unsure we felt, and reverted back to making plans for staying here.

We left for the East Coast in early April and still hadn’t heard a word from FEI, except that “they’d have something Friday, or next Tuesday or in a week.” After our return from the East Coast, Andy flew to the Netherlands to sit in on meetings concerning the new position but kept his message clear; while he was happy to attend these meetings, he was not officially in the position until he saw an offer.

Well, finally this Wednesday he received a written offer and after a few negotiations, it looks like we’re moving! 

Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to be an expat somewhere, one of my fantasies was working in Africa in the Peace Corps or Geneva for the United Nations. The Netherlands, with its central location in Western Europe and fabulous infrastructure, seems as good a place as any to be based.  As you know, travel is kind of our hobby/addiction/life mission so living overseas will meld nicely with a whole slew of different types of trips.   

Here are some answers to some FAQ:

When is this happening?
Andy should start his transatlantic commute in late May.  Dylan will finish her school year at Grant and we’re aiming to leave around July 21st.  I don’t want to leave before the last Batman movie (Batman: The Dark Knight Rises) comes out on July 20th.  A girl’s got to have her priorities. 

Wasabi is not allowed to fly between May 15th and September 15th—it’s a safety measure, protection from hot tarmacs & extreme weather—so we’re planning on coming back to Portland in early September to attend a couple of important events and escort the dog over.  Fortunately there is no quarantine necessary for the pooch. We are open to having a family that would want to care for Wasabi from July 20th till September 16th.  We have a daycare/boarding option but would also like him to have a quiet home and family to care for him during that time.  Email me if you are interested.

How long will we be gone?
We are committed to at least two years abroad, and if Dylan loves her school and Andy’s happy at work, then three.

Please don’t tell us you’re going to try to home school Dylan?
God, no!  Dylan will go to the International School of Eindhoven where she will be in a middle year program for the international baccalaureate.  Once she’s 16 she can take classes and study for the IB Diploma.

So where is Eindhoven?
Eindhoven is located in the south-central part of the country.  It’s an hour and a half south of Amsterdam, 15 minutes from the Belgian border and half an hour from the German border.  If you can make it to Amsterdam, the least we can do is meet you at one of the charming Dutch cafes.

Is Eindhoven some tiny village or something?  Is it like Portland?
It’s a city of a little over 200,000 people, and is the fifth largest city in The Netherlands.  The tiny state where Eindhoven resides has over two million people.  The Netherlands is a country the size of Maryland and has 16 million people. 

In 2011 Eindhoven was named the WORLD’S most intelligent community.  I hope our dog isn’t ridiculed on the playground for being dumb! Eindhoven is where Philips Electronics was founded and the city remains a hub of technological innovation.

The only thing Eindhoven has in common with Portland is that half the year, the weather is absolutely shitty and grey.  As hard as it is to believe, it’s less sunny in Eindhoven, than in Portland.  This is where the trips in December and February to Barcelona and Italy will be a life-saver. 

What are you looking most forward to?
Travel, baby!  Given our central location, weekends in Paris (we’ve already bought tickets to see Lady Gaga in Paris on September 22nd!), a few days in Spain, a week in London or a trip to Turkey or Morocco are definite possibilities.  Also, we look forward to our US friends and family visiting and hope to see most, if not all, of you sometime during our expat years!

Are you going to sell your home?
Probably not.  Not sure yet.

So, what next?
I’ve got a serious to do list: pack stuff for storage and stuff for Europe, figure out the best way to get the dog overseas, start a new blog, work on a website, finish the 4th revision of my book, spend as much time with friends as I can, and the usual tasks like walking Wasabi twice a day and working out at the gym.