Category Archives: Moving overseas

Motivation can come from an unexpected angle!

When you move overseas it is pretty normal to expect to lose a bit of motivation and to have moments of doubts, regrets and maybe even anxiety. I am sure I have it all but I have set myself some rules.

Rule number one is that I don’t allow myself to have any expectations and anticipations. This may sound hard to do but so far I am quite good at it. Every time I feel I get a moment of ‘WTF’ did I do that for, I think of that rule. And believe me the moment just goes…

Rule number two is NOT to blame the new surroundings for anything. A simple example is the weather. We all know or can imagine that the climate of Brisbane where we used to live is close to perfection. Mark my words as I say ‘close’ to perfection! It is certainly not perfect as the summer months can be a hard slug.

If someone tells you differently, do not believe them! They may talk about a one-off mild summer, not about the average steamy one. The Brisbane summer is hot, humid, sweaty and long….. I lived through 17 of them so I consider myself to have an informed opinion.

False expectation and motivation

We arrived in Limoux, South of France and ‘expected’ to get a bit of a ‘late summer’, something like an Indian summer. Well so far, I hardly had to wear my summer clothes and am struggling to find suitable warm items to wear.

motivation, weather, South of france

Dark skies, cool temperatures and possible rain in nearby Esperaza

motivation, Limoux, weather, autumn

Breezy weather due to an active Tramontana wind from the mountains

The locals say it is not normal for the time of the year. Looking at the last two summers it is indeed not the same. So the weather is a bit disappointing and off course the following happens immediately. That nasty little monster called doubt sticks up his head and points out what I have left behind – beautiful almost perfect Brisbane weather.

Not allowed, as I said! It is not the mistake of Limoux that the Indian summer has skipped the town this year. It is what it is! I saw with a hint of sarcasm that Brisbane had already temperatures of over 30 during August and forecast is a long hot wet summer. OMG am I happy not to be there!

An ‘painful’ source of motivation

The other day something happened that stirred up quite some emotions within me. My daughter who is still in Brisbane saw that our family doctor of 17 years had passed away. Quite a shock as he was only 52. Apparently he felt unwell and just died – could have been an aneurysm. Who knows….

It made me realise that life is fragile. We have only one shot at it and it can be taken away so easily. Thinking about my GP made me realise that we need to live life when it is there. We have decided to change our lifestyle because we feel we have another adventure in us. We made the choice after years of ‘umming and erring’ and we will take every consequence that comes with it.

Even a less than perfect Limoux after-summer 😎 .

motivation, Limoux, walking, hiking, hills

At the top and feeling on top of things are great for motivation!

I am really sad about my GP. He has been absolutely brilliant on several occasions that I had a bit of a health scare. This doctor rang me at home on a Sunday night to tell me that I was resistant to the antibiotics he had prescribed. He personally changed bandages for 2 weeks after I had a skin craft as a result of a skin cancer. And he was the one who enquired about my pain management when he found I had a huge white blood cell count due to an infection.

Strangely his sudden death has given me new motivation to make the most out of this new adventure in Limoux or wherever we end up. His passing away makes me realise how easy things can turn. I am shocked and sad about it but it also gives me a boost to take this opportunity with both hands and live it to the fullest.

I just needed to get this of my chest!

See you next time to show off some ‘gems’ in the immediate surroundings….





My first baby steps as an ‘expat’ living in France

I think the word ‘expat’ is a funny word. It literally means  ‘to voluntarily be absent from home and country’. In that case I am a third degree expat as I have now left 3 countries before I arrived in France.

A bit crazy, don’t you think so? Does that mean I can’t find my way anywhere or am I just very adaptable and make a home wherever I land?

My ‘expat’ history


Growing up in the Netherlands but always with a hunger for foreign adventure.

From The Netherlands, to UK, then Australia – even a short stint in Switzerland, and now France. Officially I belong to this group of expats however I really don’t like the name . I always saw myself as a resident in Australia. While I was living in London I never even thought about what I was. And now in France the likes of us are apparently called ‘expats’.

Why don’t I like it?  Well, what comes straight to mind is Brits who live abroad but only want English things. Just think of the film ‘Shirley Valentine’. Good old Pauline Collins succeeds in making tourists extremely happy by offering them a full English breakfast. Right there in a Greek taverna on a pebbly beach, they want the full works. It made me laugh but also cringe…

There is this  Facebook group ‘Nederlanders (Dutch) in Australia’ who chose to live on the other side of the world. And you know what they do? They spent precious time on dreaming about Dutch fast food and discussing where to get it Down Under.

I am guilty of never thinking about Dutch food. 25 years in Australia and not one ‘patatje, kroket or frikandel went through my mind and mouth. Actually I made one little slip when my visiting second cousin wanted a ‘broodje kroket’ and off course she found a supplier in Brisbane!

expat, life style, Dutch food, broodje kroket

The one and only time I had this Dutch concoction was after 25 years living in Australia

And you know what? I think the food in Australia is nice, fresh and diverse albeit a wee bit expensive. Occasionally I may have had a fleeting thought about Dutch cheese but the imported stuff we get Down Under is just not the real thing. I just made do with what Australia offers. By the way NOT the plastic bricks that Australia dares to call cheddar.

expat, lifestyle, Dutch cheese

Dutch cheese – the variety is overwhelming!

Now back to the expat thing. When I was looking for a house in 2014 I saw villages that were overrun by expats. Some so bad that the French locals avoided certain times and places in their own town. Sad but true. A pity as these towns had appeal, hence all the expats who live there!

What kind of ‘expat’ do I want to be?

I like France for what it offers in many aspects. I like to meet all kinds of people – French, English speaking and other Europeans. ‘They’ say it is hard to integrate in French villages. I can tell you it would be just as hard hard in Dutch villages. You will be tolerated and accepted but you are never going to be one of them. That is the same all over the world, even in true ocker Australia. And to be honest, does that matter?

expat, lifestyle, life in france

One that considers himself true Aussie!

Since we own our house I have met and befriended several French people. According to some they are all from other areas in France than Limoux and surroundings. Well, again does that matter? They are also French after all.

I am sure my authentic Limoux French neighbours in opposite, next door and around the corner of our house have nothing against me living there. They greet me, some help me tremendously and even have keys to our house. I will never be one of them and I am not trying to be either. I am just friendly, make effort to speak and learn better French and live the way they live in Limoux.

expat, life style, Limoux, life in France

Eglise St Martin in Limoux – just a stone throw away from the central Place de la République

My first steps as an expat

During the last week I have joined a couple of expats groups and I have met some lovely people from a variety of countries. I like that but I will make sure that is not going to be my only network in France. And I am sure they don’t do that either. One of the things I have noticed in this area is that most imported people have made the effort to learn and speak French. Many of them had kids that grew up here and are french kids.

You would do yourself short by not being able to speak the local language. Still I have seen people complaining on forums about the life as an expat in France. It is not rare that they barely speak French after years of living in this country. Still they dare to complain that they could not integrate. Don’t make me laugh!

So to sum it up, here in France I am an expat because I have expatriated my home country voluntarily. For the rest I am a new resident of France who has come here to become part of the French lifestyle and enjoy this beautiful country. Anybody who crosses my path, from whatever background, will be part of that experience.

expats, lifestyle, life in France, Limoux, river Aude

The beautiful River Aude – every day and every light make it look different and fantastic for a good picture.

It is an adventure and I am looking forward to it a lot!

expat, emigration, life in France, life style

Feel free to sign up or spill something about your own experiences below!

Love to you all!

How a simple train trip can turn into a total disaster?

I decided to take a train trip for the next leg of my journey. Now there are days that simply suck. Forgive me for the word but there is just no other word for it on this occasion. I am telling you this because I recently had one of those days.

My train trip from Holland to Switzerland

It happened when I was travelling from The Netherlands to Switzerland. Literally everything that could go wrong went wrong during that trip. The combination of bad factors was more than coincidence. It seemed like the devil was involved.

I decided to go by train to Switzerland. The reason I decided to go by train was that I foresaw problems with flying. My luggage was growing in size and weight for some reason and somehow I had acquired more bags than when I started.

train trip, Switzerland, Alps, mountains

The Swiss Alps – powerful and absolute gorgeous. It takes time though to navigate them

Switzerland is a small country but because of the Alps travelling can take a long time. If you fly you still have to get from an airport to your destination and my end goal Wengen is not the easiest place to get to.

So a train it was! I searched on line and found a great train trip starting just where I was in Borne, Holland. And for a good price. My friend dropped me off at the station and off I went.

What went wrong?

The first thing that happened was a delay on the Dutch train. Not clear why but the train waited just before Enschede and arrived 5 minutes late. My connecting train was still waiting a bit further on the same platform. I ran for it but had to skilfully manoeuvre my too many pieces of luggage through a turn style. When I looked up the train had left.

It basically had just vanished. I could not even see it any more in the distance. I was not the only stranded person and in fact there was a whole group of us that. Missing this train meant my initial schedule to get to Wengen was useless. I would miss the next connection and lose my reserved seats.

I had a good old rant and the lady behind the counter gave me a new schedule based on the new times. It looked fine until I checked it out a bit better and I saw that there were 9 train changes. I was thinking of the stuff I had with me and felt my heart sinking in my shoes.

There was nothing I could do and I took the next train on the schedule the lady in Enschede gave me. I went to Dortmund, then to Mannheim and then to Rastatt, a place somewhere in the South of Germany I had never heard off.

A train trip without a train track….

I explored the schedule a bit better and saw that there was no train between Rastatt and Baden Baden. First I thought I simply misunderstood the schedule but it really said there were no train until the 26th August. As it was only the 15th, I was starting to feel really pissed off!

The reason there was no train was that due to very bad weather the train track had been washed away. There would be many buses waiting to bring all these people from Rastatt to Baden Baden.

We arrived in Rastatt and everybody had to leave the train. Dozens of people were fighting their way to the stairs realising there was neither escalator nor lift on this station. So down the stairs we went, through the tunnel and then up the stairs to be able to get to the buses.

In Rastatt I found out that the train that I missed earlier that day had broken down half an hour out of Munster. All these people had to leave that train and find alternative ways to get further as well. That would have been me had I not missed that train in Enschede.

People were pushing and getting panicked that they would miss out on a spot on one of the buses. To be honest I was glad I had done a fair bit of weight lifting in my life. I had to carry a total of 30 kilos in2 suit cases plus my camera bag and computer bag down and up those stairs. I felt really sorry for elderly people with huge suit cases. They looked around to find a helping hand but as every one had to deal with their own luggage, there was little time nor chance for that.

The train trip continues

In Baden Baden there was a train waiting and after all these people were on it the train was full to the brim. There was no place to sit and suitcases were obstructing exits and corridors.

Fortunately I had a seat but my stuff was all over the place. By then I was very thirsty and went on the search for a bar or restaurant. Only to find out it was not open. How stupid is that? They had a packed train with hungry and thirsty people and there was nothing to eat or drink.

We arrived in Basel where I had another change to make with again only 5 minutes. I knew the platform I had to go to and expected it to be next to the one I arrived. Unfortunately my train arrived on a different platform and we had a delay of 4 minutes. I had to run and push to be able to make it in time for the next train.

To my utter surprise the Swiss train was waiting for us despite the usual punctual Swiss time keeping. I enquired with the Swiss conductor and she told me that the train always waits for its connection. What about that, Germany!

train trip, Switzerland, Wengen

Swiss trains, punctual, clean and reliable.

After this trip I had two more train changes to make and I was getting more and more excited to arrive in Wengen where I would stay for a week. Of course there was no one to meet me as my friends had no clue when I arrived. I lugged my stuff through the town, slightly uphill and finally after a rather pain full train trip I had arrived at my next destination.

My week in Wengen was worth all the upheaval. I really love this place 😎 and may decide to share it with you in another blog post.

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Bye for now!

emigration, happy, at ease, train trip

Reflections on my emigration to Europe so far…..

I am sure that most people would find an emigration stressful. Off course there are different types of emigration and it makes a huge difference if your move is a consequence of free choice or to escape danger. Our move back to Europe is a result of our own decision based on assessing Australian versus European living standards.

emigration, Stradbroke Island

One of the beautiful Australian beaches. I will miss them but their memory is chiseled in my mind.

To be honest there is not much wrong with Australia. Although a couple of nasties are sticking up their head! All over it is a very pleasant country with a stunning scenery. We just have decided that we like a different scene for the near future.

We have had our fair share of Down Under, more than 25 years to be specific. It also helps that both our kids also like the idea of moving to Europe. The youngest is planning to study in The Netherlands and our plan is to attend a couple of open days in November at some Dutch universities.

Funnily as we made the plan to migrate together, so far it has been only me who has made the move. I booked my ticket to leave immediately after we would leave our house as it seemed a logical consequence?? For my husband and youngest offspring there seemed to be some reasons to hang on to Oz a bit longer. As a result they both leave on different dates after they have finished their ‘things’ 😉

Emigration and stress

I just read an article written by a psychologist about moving stress and it seems I am doing naturally what she recommends. As I have some hidden psychology knowledge in me dating from a long time ago some common sense may be guiding me here and there.

It was weird yet good for me to arrive by myself. This way I have only my own feelings to deal with and I can ease into a strange but also vaguely familiar territory. I arrived in London where I lived for 5 years and where my husband is from. There is family there and I had a place to stay. The same goes for The Netherlands where I do the round of friends and family.

emigration, Bunne, Dutch country side

Bunne. Flat as a pancake but oozing with charm. Very pretty surroundings for walking and cycling.

I suppose from that point of view it is very different from other migrants. So far there has been no stress to find a place to live and fortunately I have people to talk to. Furthermore I speak all the languages of the countries I visited so far and they are familiar to me.

Despite this both England and The Netherlands do not feel as my home. I am not a citizen in either country although I am Dutch, I am married to a Brit or own a house in France. I have no immediate rights in these countries and really at this stage I am just a tourist.

Resident status

Officially though I am still a resident of Australia. From their point of view I have just left for a holiday. There could be an issue to get back into the country as I left without having a re-entry permit. I tried to apply online before I left but the immigration website was being a pain so I gave up. The girl at the border mentioned it but we both knew I am able to apply for an Aussie visa when I am abroad.

emigration, moving, stress

Limoux – view of the bridge and the church tower in the centre of town

France is the place where I intend to become a resident but so far I have not really an idea how to go about that. This is also important for my husband because Brexit will throw a spanner in the works for him. However as my husband he has European access and we only have to make it official. This again is strange territory but I am sure there is an answer.

The joy of emigration

It all is exciting and to be honest slightly daunting but that makes it also a challenge. I love challenges…! Every official thing I manage to accomplish feels like a small victory and gives me confidence. I am not a novice at migrating either. Australia was the 4th country I lived in for longer stints and there were several more where I spent shorter periods. Norway and Greece are amongst those.

There is a difference off course to live a short period somewhere and to remain a citizen of your home country. It is not the same as leaving officially and to become a citizen elsewhere. I suppose we fall into the last category with this emigration.

While I am writing all these things and am busy contemplating the above issues, I realise it helps writing about it. Everything becomes quite clear and easier to oversee. I suppose writing is about delving into your inner feelings and thoughts and expressing them somehow in words. It makes you step back and assess not only the situation but also your way of thinking. It definitely helps me putting things in perspective.

My emigration rules

Therefore my rule at the moment is to have no expectations, to live every day as it comes and enjoy consequently the proces! I have just spent a lovely week with my sister and I am in the middle of catching up with three long time friends. I am enjoying these moments and will make the most of it 😀

emigration, Groningen, outdoors, coffee and cake

Enjoying the summer and outdoor living in Groningen.

Most of all I like to thank the people who have opened up their houses for me and made me feel comfortable. I hope I can return the favour in our house in Limoux, France

Feel free to comment, express opinions and share experiences about emigration. I am sure those considering a move may benefit from it.

See you next time!

emigration, happy, at ease



First observations and impressions of a traveler in Europe

After only 2 weeks in the UK I have made some interesting observations. Although I was in London, rather the out skirts, I have not been once into the center of London. I did not feel like it and wanted to spend the time to catch up with family and some friends. The ones who live in the East of London 🙂

Observations of English gardens

I am no stranger to London after all I lived there twice for a couple of years. So no, I have not headed to the many attractions that London offers. Instead I have had my first experience to garden in this climatic zone. The job waiting me was to trim and clear a rather overgrown part of a well established cottage garden.

observations, English garden, lush garden, flowers

A typical English garden during the summer. Lush, green and colourful and I was allowed to make my mark!

In Australia I have come across some nasty vegetation. The kind that can tear your clothes or cut through your garden gloves. A bougainvillea thorn can cause infection as I have found out several times. Some garden companies refuse to handle Bougainvillea for that reason.

As I found out the English garden can compete! Roses, Pyracanta and Berberis to name a few. All with thorns that can mutilate you!

This would not be so bad if the local council would provide adequate means to get rid of the garden waste. They think they have come up with a ‘fantastic’ solution. They charge 50 pounds for 50 bags that you can fill up and they pick them up on a regular base. Sounds like it could work.

Well just have a look at the picture below and judge for yourself! The only good thing about these bags is that the plastic used is environmentally friendly. It apparently breaks down easily….!

observations, garden waste, garden bags

Flimsy garden bags not suited for normal garden waste, let alone those with thorns!

More people obviously are not impressed – hence the article in the local paper 😯

Anyway, apart from flimsy bags my time in London was pleasant. Before I change the subject however I have noticed something else that I like to mention.

Observations of London street scenes

A while back I was discussing prices with my friend Greg in Brisbane. He said that he was very happy to pay a bit more in Australia. He pointed out that Australia was a very clean country and public services work well. I had never considered it in that way but after being in London for a couple of days I noticed how right he was.

London is rather dirty. The streets are dirty, the street signs are often so polluted that you can barely read them. Many public bins are full to the brim and people leave house hold and garden waste on the street for days.

observations, garden waste, council services

Garden waste that is left out for days for the council to pick up is a common sight

It is probably an accepted sight for Londoners but for me coming from a cleaner country, it was very noticeable. So dear friend in Brisbane, you have a fair point!

A family reunion in The Netherlands

My next stop will be Amsterdam or actually the smaller city of Haarlem very close to the capital. I assume you all know that Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. Quite often people assume wrongly that the capital is The Hague as that is where the government resides already since 1588. Amsterdam is the place where the inauguration of kings and queens take place – it is the royal city.

The reason I am going to Haarlem is a family reunion. Family in the way of cousins and cousines. We had a spontaneous reunion a  couple of years ago and we decided then that the next one would be after my return to Europe. Last time my sister hosted it and this time one of my cousins will open his house for the invasion.

It was special to catch up with all these cousins. There are no more aunties and uncles so apart from memories and old pictures we have no means to find out about our past. One of my cousins created a file with pictures dating back to the late 1800’s. Quite special.

One of my Brisbane friends lent me once a book about a Dutch watch maker family who helped Jewish people during WW2 the nazi holocaust. Their house is in Haarlem and is now a museum. My friend has asked me the favour to check it out for her and take some pictures for her to see. I will gladly do this and I am even taking along some of my family who lives in Haarlem but never have been to the house themselves.

A bit of nostalgia

It seems that my tour around Europe so far is full with nostalgia. It feels like that and it will be nice to pass some of this on to my kids who grew up without strong links to the Netherlands. Although one of them has decided that The Netherlands is the place where she wants to study! She is a Dutch citizen, but does not speak Dutch – so far. She has assured me that this will be different by the end of the year  😆

I’m looking forward to arriving in Haarlem and go a bit down memory lane with cousins and second cousins. Goodbye to London for now until later this year when we have a wedding of a London cousin. The first wedding we can go to since we emigrated to Australia 25 years ago. So quite special!

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observations, relaxation, feeling at ease




After months of preparation let the European adventure begin….

I started my European adventure in London after a brief visit to Singapore. It seemed logical to go to London first to catch up with family in law before heading to Europe. I have no concrete plans apart from ideas but they can change with whatever comes my way. Sounds like an adventure to me!

When you return from overseas after years it is easy to fall into the trap of doing the rounds to visit family and friends. Everybody likes to see you but before you know you are the one who is doing all the travelling.

Favourite destinations

We have nipped this in the butt years ago. I think it was 2009 when we introduced our family concept to give friends options where they could catch up with us. If they were not prepared to make the trip, why would we? The result is that the hard core comes to see us and the rest gives it a miss.

I do have some exceptions to the rule and this has to do with the geographical location of where some friends live. There are my long time friends in Wengen, a ski resort where I have worked a winter or two. Wengen is a favourite and I have no problem making the rather arduous trip of many hours to reach the village.

London is also on the list of places to visit. Respect to age is very likely the reason we usually make the trip to London town. We don’t really expect my husband’s mum to hop on the plane to meet us somewhere.

european adventure, casa bonita, outdoor living

Cooking up a feast in the outdoor kitchen in Casa Bonita, at Palau, Spain

Then there is my sister who has an abode called Casa Bonita, in sunny Spain. Also a favourite to visit but I tend to keep the visits to her other address in far North of the Netherlands to a minimum 😉 Although this time this destination is on my list. She lives in an authentic old farm house. I can’t wait to see the latest renovations and other creative things she usually does to houses.

After that, some time in August I will head to our own house Casa Rita in the South of France. That is as far as my plans go….

My time in London

I have been just over a week in London now and the weather was fabulous. Some call it hot but for a seasoned ex-Brisbanite this heat is not much of an issue. I was in London at the same time as Wimbledon, one of my favourite sporting tournaments. It also happened to be that my favourite tennis player played the men’s singles final and won!

european adventure, wimbledon, tennis match

Sitting on Murray Mound to watch a match on Centre court. The best way after the real thing!

Understandably I was in my element to be able to watch it in the UK time zone. Although the family had to throw in a BBQ at the same time. I still managed to sneak to the TV many times to watch what was happening. I got away with it because I was looking after new born Alfie while watching the match 😛

european adventure, wimbledon, tennis final

The latest addition to the family, Alfie at 3 weeks old watching the Wimbledon Men’s final

My jet lag was minimal as usual. I have a well travelled friend in Ghent who once told me that jet lags were overrated. He gave me some tips to deal with it and with the help of Melatonin it indeed is. Within a couple of days I was back into a routine although I still fall asleep around 9.30 pm. To be honest that was also part of my normal daily routine in Brisbane.

European adventure – a new routine

I may have to adjust some of my habits as life in Australia has an early start. Gyms are open early or 24 hours, cafes have a queue and dozens of early morning cyclist park their bikes for a caffeine shot. In London I have gone for a walk every morning and look wishfully at the many cafes I pass. Not one is open. The only signs of life in early London is the commuter traffic.

With that in mind, getting up at 6 seems silly over here. On the other hand I could also make a nice coffee at home. After all I am travelling with my own portable smallest version of a Nespresso coffee machine. Thanks to my oldest daughter who works part time in this coffee boutique in Melbourne and was for years their employee in Brisbane.

My routine in Brisbane to get up before 6 and either go the gym or for a walk seems a nightmare for many Europeans. In Australia however it is much part of the lifestyle due to hot weather and shorter days. I am sure it will adjust by itself.

European adventure – admin chores!

I have spent a fair part of the week in London sorting out all kid of admin palava. First of all I left Australia without a re-entry permit. Some may call it silly and it probably is but I just let it happen that way. Also I left without being sure about the status of my medical insurance abroad. I used to live in the UK and still have an insurance number but it may have expired. I am not automatically insured in The Netherlands either.

european adventure, bike, Amsterdam

Creative shopping in The Netherlands

So as a Dutch citizen I could be insured in my own country either through the NHS in UK or the Medicare system in Australia. Rather bizarre but so be it.

I have booked my next European adventure. Next week I am flying to Amsterdam for a family reunion near by on the 30th July. Many of my cousins will be there and so is my sister. Her farm house in far North Netherlands is my next destination on the list.

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European adventure, Noosa, Australia



Our adventure in Australia has come to an end

adventure, Brisbane, Australia

The sky line of Brisbane along the river

Our Australian adventure is nearly finished. I say nearly as some of us are still in Oz, one has left already and one will stay for a bit longer.

We have handed in the key of our house. It was a gruelling couple of weeks with a fair bit of stress. I still wake up in the middle of the night with feelings that I have to sell things I actually don’t have anymore or bring items to people who don’t exist.

It was amazing to see that after selling most of our things we still manage to ship over 8 cubic meter. And that is without the ‘famous’ sofa that I would have liked to take to our house in France. The problem was that the sofa is too big to get into the house. The width of the window is exactly the same size as the height of the sofa.

I did ask my local Limoux handyman for advice but his reply was to assess the situation ‘en place’. Not really the best suggestion. So off it went, our gorgeous sofa to a very grateful lady for a pittance!

Being a tenant in Australia

During the last 5 years we were renters. We sold our family home and found an apparent good house to rent in St Lucia. Very handy for our off spring who went to University and high school. The house turned out to be a bit of a night mare with many structural problems.

Obviously not designed by an architect but more by a ‘wannabe’ builder. He must have saved a lot of money by skipping stages in the building process. After all how can waterproofing and sloping areas for drainage purposes be important. The end of the story is that I am glad that some else owns this house. If it was a car, it would be called a lemon!

We did get to meet our landlady, the one who let us live in a house with damp problems, a whole summer without outdoor areas and an on the verge of collapse retaining wall at the back of the house. She came to assess the condition while we were still cleaning.

Now apparently tenants are the lower citizens of society and therefore the rather frumpy and grumpy grey haired owner chose to walk past us without saying a word. After all why would you interact with the people who paid your mortgage for the last 5 years? I decided that she deserves the house she owns…..

The final jobs before the new adventure begins

Selecting and packing our belongings

So the last weeks were spent on preparing a large garage sale, packing the stuff we wanted to take and cleaning to get our rather large bond back. The garage sale was a success, the removalists were pleasant and effective and the cleaning was gruelling.

In Australia it is common to have to leave your house cleaner than you get it. You can’t hang pictures on the walls and if you do you have to fix the holes.The carpet, ours with damp stains and moth damage needs a professional cleaning service and so on.

You also can’t leave anything on the premises that was not there when you got the house initially. So I took away the washing line, the compost bin, the watering hose and the more than one pot plant that was on the entry report. My neighbour was very eager to take it all.

In the end we left it in a very good state and I could hand in the keys on the due date. In the meantime we have heard that we get all our bond back. We have to do one more task and that is emptying the bins. In fact we were not really supposed to leave the bins full. Rather odd as where are you suppose to leave rubbish and recycling when you are still living there. Again my neighbour comes to the rescue and will empty both bins when the next pick is.

Big changes

So now we are officially homeless and ready for a new adventure. We were able to do a house sit for friends for the last couple of weeks. Keith, my husband who will stay a bit longer in Australia can rent a room at friends until his contract finishes. Our youngest moved in with her friend and family and is now a homestay student. And the oldest daughter lives since a couple of months in Melbourne.

Everything has changed and come to an end Down Under

Let the new adventure begin……

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Downsizing in the true sense of the word!

It has been a turbulent couple of weeks if not months lately but our exercise in downsizing has seen light at the end of the tunnel. Our house got emptier by the day and before we knew we had a very basic existence. As a matter of fact we have sold our bed before we moved out of our house and someone picked it up a couple of days later.

downsizing, making a bed

This lounge suite has been used for sleep overs many times so together with a large ottoman in front, it can be our bed for the last week

My immediate solution was to sleep on the lounge suit. Together with an ottoman it just looked like a double bed. My joy did not last long as someone bought this as well and had picked it up before I have the chance to sleep on it.

An unexpected blessing in disguise

Fortunately something cropped up. A friend of ours asked us if we were interested in doing a house sit in her house while she was on holiday. She has two little dogs and they needed looking after.

It couldn’t have been a better timing. So my answer was ‘yes please’! It also gave us our first house sit experience and hopefully a reference. It made everything so much easier. The timing of selling your furniture and having the comfort of using is tricky. It has not been easy to sell some of our things so when you get the asking price it is time to let it go. Even if it means you have to go back to camping conditions!

I am quite astounded by the attitude of the average second hand buyer. It seems that you must bargain and many people are not afraid to ask if you can deliver. People even accused me of wasting their time because I did not fulfil their wishes.

Downsizing and meeting people

There have been some really nice people and fortunately they have made a bigger impression than the obnoxious ones. One girl bought my upgraded book case and was so happy with it that she sent me a picture after she had filled it with her books. She wanted to show me how nice it looked in her apartment.

Another guy showed up with his girl friend. Both from the USA, they have just moved into a unit in West End and need many things. He is coming back for a a garage sale preview. I have been able to sell our homestay students’s desk, chair and light. He is not that impressed but he was moving out a day or so later, so who cares? Sometimes you just make do!

Buyers like this made everything worth it. I even made a bit of a friend amongst one of my regular buyers. She has bought several of my upgrade items and we got along nicely. We have in common our love for upgrading old bits of furniture. And isn’t that one of the facilitators for friendships, I remember from my Psych lectures.

make-over, upgrade, furniture, about me

Giving a old piece of furniture a make-over with chalk paint and wax

So really, after my garage sale that will take place in a week’s time most things should have gone. There seem to be some ‘unspoken’ rules to second hand selling. People who buy expect it to be cheap so high end items do not sell very easily. This may be logical as people who can afford it do not buy second hand, maybe…..?

This could mean that we had to drop the price for our sofa tremendously or take it. As we did not want to take it, – too much hassle and complications on the other end – we will have to let it go cheap I am afraid. And to be honest I did not care. Better some money than none at all.

Downsizing to the ‘max’

I realise I do not care about any of the stuff we have sold. We think we can’t do without but when it comes to the crunch it really does not matter. It feels enlightening to let it all go and to start from scratch or not at all.

We have had thoughts that things might come in handy and we could buy another house in the future….. Could or couldn’t. Who knows…..

So yes, our house echoed, it is empty and still we managed to do exactly what we always did and hardly noticed the lack of items. It is ‘downsizing’ to the max and it feels good! We even had a dinner party one night and funny enough our guests picked up the coffee table we had on loan.

It was handy that the dining set was still there!

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A sense of ‘unease’ is slowly creeping upon me!

For the first time since planning our emigration to Europe I am aware of a growing sense of ‘unease’. I don’t think it has to do with doubt or regret about our emigration plans. It actually started the other night when I received an email regarding a planned future activity. It made me clear that sometimes plans are not that ‘set in stone’ as you may think.

At the same time my husband read an article in the Guardian about some consequences of Brexit. Apparently several Dutch people who live in UK were asked to leave the UK. Despite the fact they are married to British citizens and have lived in the UK for up to 30 years. New legislation for Brexit has not even started but already now this seems to have started to happen. In the meantime it has turned out that this article was incorrect, but still…..

Add to that that I may loose my permanent residency for Australia. I am not registered in the Netherlands as a citizen as I officially left the country. I may not be welcome in the UK despite my British husband and I escaped a narrow possibility not to be able to live in France in the near future. Looking at all this together I think I may have found the cause of this unease….

What country is my home?

With all this in mind I have not only to decide where we like to live but also where we can live. I am getting this fleeting thought of how incredible ‘uneasy’ a refugee must feel. Not that you can compare my status to those people but I can imagine how this feeling of unease can have its toll and affects your sense of belonging.

I know I have the right to live in the Netherlands but at the moment I am not planning to do so. Australia permanent residency gives me the right to live in Australia although my choice is to leave this country for now. The consequence may be that Australia could withdraw my permanent residency. After having lived there for 25 years, that feels uneasy!

I guess that is exactly how these Dutch people in the UK would have felt. I am leaving Australia out of free choice but the UK was forcing them to leave. They may not have the option of becoming a British citizen, I assume. Lucky for me is that I still have the option to become an Australian citizen. Until I leave this country I qualify.

wedding, Noosa

The setting for our wedding ceremony at Little Cove Beach at Noosa

Several people including two of our friends who are immigration lawyers, recommend that I should apply for it. It feels crazy to get citizenship at this stage. I have never done it because I could lose my Dutch nationality. Since I married an Australian in 2011, I now have the right to remain Dutch while having Australian citizenship.

I don’t know if this sense of unease would disappear if I would decide to do the latter. Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn’t.

The emotional impact of emigration

So far planning this emigration has been a whirlwind of action with very little time for emotion. We have to sell everything, we need to organise our admin, our house needs an end of lease clean, my business will cease to exist and so on. It all is ‘kind of’ under control and there even seems to be light at the end of the action tunnel.

So maybe now the emotional ‘unease’ is slowly sticking up its head. If there are any doubts or regrets, its time to play a role could be at this stage. To be honest I don’t really feel doubt but the feelings I have are hard to bring home.

What I have become aware off is the habit how we take so many things for granted. It seems that everything I do regularly suddenly has got a label of ‘last time soon’! And it gives me this little pang of ache.

Some of the things that I will miss


Enjoying a coffee at our local cafe ‘Briki’. This cafe has been instrumental for our social life during the last 5 years

The loud Australian birds I hear screeching every day, the sound of the Kookaburra, the gym where I go several times per week, the friends I have made there, the coffee I have at the local cafe everyday with other gym and kick boxing fans, the abundance of colourful subtropical flowers everywhere, the gardens I look after, their owners who have become more than clients, the Brisbane river walks so nearby, the cosy 100 Acre bar across the road, the gorgeous but expensive avocados and the huge choice of international ingredients for food.

Just to name a few…..

curlews, birds

Local birds such as the stately Curlews may not be a common sight in Europe

They are all going to be thousands of kilo meters away from where I will be. And furthermore I am leaving behind my oldest daughter, for a short while the youngest and possibly my husband as well depending on his work contract.

I suppose I can expect a larger sense of unease and a few more little pangs of ache to come my way. I suppose I have to take it as it comes…

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What is your reason to NOT declutter?

Every time when I write about decluttering or clearing it seems to hit a nerve with many people. I wonder why that is. I suppose one reason could be that all of them have an enormous amount of clutter. They know they SHOULD do something about it but find ALWAYS excuses not to do so.

The reason why or why not….

I notice it when I tell people that I have been clearing a lot. I see their eyes go dark, their minds racing while thinking that it is something they really ought to do as well. Maybe people need a big reason to start this clearing process. Something like a move, down sizing after kids leave, selling a house or clearing a house after someone died.

The latter is an experience I went through myself. My mum died when I was just 21 and we had to empty our family home. I can recall at the time that I was not particular motivated. My sister and I just took the things we needed and the rest went either to ‘motivated’ helpers or a skip.

There are some things that disappeared in either the skip or someone else’s house that I regret not to have claimed but I have accepted that. I don’t know the reason for my ignorance, I was after all only 21 and obviously naif.

And at the moment I am going again through this declutter process. Not just decluttering but emptying a house totally. I have about 6 weeks left and although it is looking emptier, there are still many, many things to sell, give away or dump.

Timing it right…..

The trickiest thing will be to hang on to things we need as long as possible but being able to sell them before we need to move out. It feels a bit like a puzzle game. I sell a table and replace it with another one I have. I realise I can sell that one as well as I have another one in my daughter’s room. She just moved to Melbourne and does not want that one.

My husband fears that one day he will come home and there are no chairs anymore to sit on. If the deal is brilliant it might just go like that!

Our outdoor area has gone through a major down size. See below for yourself.

From here

outdoor table, declutter

The original setting of al fresco dining in our house – the table went to a dear friend

To here

outdoor table setting

Back to the IKEA stage – did not last long, sold within 10 minutes

To here

The last stage and this one will come with us to Europe

It shows we possessed a fair few tables and chairs and I haven’t even shown all of them. Australia is an ‘outdoor’ country and there are many spots to enjoy sitting outside. I like to create little scenes everywhere and I did collect table settings accordingly. They have all gone to different homes by now.

Sense of loss and finality

To be honest I expected to experience more emotions when parting with possessions we have owned and used for years. Funnily I hardly care. One thing after the other disappears through our front door and I am totally fine with it. When people I care about or like buy our things I do feel a sense of satisfaction and warmth because I know our stuff goes to a good home.

But I don’t feel a sense of loss when it goes. The only thing that is slowly creeping upon me is a sense of finality. We have officially given notice to our real estate agent. We are really doing this move. It is really happening!

We are selling everything and we will end up with a few cubic meter of possessions that represent a life of 25 years in Australia. Some of the stuff actually came from Europe. We will leave this country with a couple of suitcases each, countless memories and a one way ticket to different horizons.

Even writing this gives me a heavy feeling in my chest. I don’t know the reason for it. I am pretty sure that I have no doubts but the whole thing does start freak me out a bit to say the least.

I will leave it to that and keep you posted….. 🙂

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reason, moving, letting go