A whole new world abroad

A whole new world abroad

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I’ve never been a person with a passion for travel. I grew up in a working class family that never took vacations, and as an adult in the U.S., I rarely visited places just for the sake of visiting them.

I’ve never been a person with a passion for travel. I grew up in a working class family that never took vacations, and as an adult in the U.S., I rarely visited places just for the sake of visiting them. Yes, I’d been up and down the entire East Coast, had seen parts of the Midwest, and had been to California, but when I traveled, it was primarily to see a friend or family member and checking out new places was a secondary consideration.

My husband grew up in Africa and Europe and as an adult traveled frequently on business. For the most part, he was happy to put down roots and to stay home. We occasionally took proper vacations and did some tourist stuff but mostly we invested our time and resources elsewhere.

And then we moved to Belgium and everything changed. Here we were at the crossroads of Europe and there was so much to see and do that we hadn’t experienced before. Even small trips became adventures and we hit the road and rails.

We have been here nearly two years and in that time we’ve visited Delft potteries, the famous Keukenhof Gardens, and the windmills at Kinderdijk in the Netherlands. In France we’ve toured castles in the Loire Valley, spent a week immersed in Paris, and admired Monet’s gardens in Giverny.


In Germany, we thoroughly enjoyed the zoo, parks, and nature museum in Karlsruhe and the Christmas market and atmosphere in Aachen. We wore out our feet and nourished our souls during a week in Rome, visiting museums, ruins, and soaking up the city’s atmosphere.


In Belgium we have headed to the Ardennes and visited castles and citadels at Namur, Dinant, and Bouillon and kayaked the Lessee River. We strolled the beach and boardwalk at Knokke-Heist, visited the enchanting gardens of Annenvoie, climbed the steps at the Butte du Lion in Waterloo, remembered the Battle of the Bulge at Bastogne, glided along the canals and soaked up the atmosphere in Brugge, checked out the shopping in Ghent, visited the Christmas market at Antwerp, escaped last summer’s heat wave in the Grottoes of Han, learned about Flemish history at Bokrijt, and wandered the back roads of Belgium on our way to the Chievres Air Base.

In Brussels, we’ve visited museums, churches, markets, parks, and the Grand Place more times than we can count, and we’ve taken the kids to Walibi, Kessel-lo, the Atomium, Mini-Europe, Oceade, and Technopolis.

In England we’ve gone to Canterbury, explored Bath, visited Wells in the spring, wandered through the Cotswolds, been awed by Stonehenge, spent an afternoon in Windsor, hit the highpoints in London, and spent a day in lovely Portsmouth.

I think I have visited as many places in the last two years as I did in the previous 20 in the U.S. And with 17 months left in Belgium, there are many places we’d still like to visit, some requiring substantial travel (Spain. Ireland. Eastern Europe) and some close by (Why haven’t we spent some time in Amsterdam?).


When we return to the U.S., I hope we don’t leave our traveling days behind us but take the spirit of adventure home with us and explore the vast sections of our home country that we’ve never really seen.

The beauty of being an expat isn’t just that you live in a whole new world abroad, but that familiar places in your place of origin become new when your mind has been broadened by life in a foreign land.

V-Grrrl  / Expatica

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