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Pondering a Life in Balance

Houses on Fields' Edge

This morning as I took Oli for a long walk, I was deep in thought.

An old friend had seen the recent New York Times article I’d shared on Facebook (The Dutch Way: Bicycles and Fresh Bread); he had popped up out of the blue to ask a few questions.

At first I thought they were simple to answer.

Surely I’d been asked them before.

Well, no. Not exactly.

When I traveled back to the US last summer, many people asked how we were doing and how did we like living in The Netherlands.

Surprisingly, no one followed up to either one with Why?

Basically they were looking for a great/good/okay answer followed by another great/good/okay response. It isn’t that they didn’t care, they just…umm, weren’t interested in details?

So when our friend asked, ‘What’s it like living in that less car-centric society? Do you like it? Is there anything you miss? Just curious,‘ it took me by surprise.

After parking at Daughter’s Dutch voetbal club in Sassenheim (30 minutes drive north of our home in The Hague), while she headed off for practice Oli and I took to the paths for fresh air, exercise and solitude.

Man and Nature in Peaceful Coexistence

As we meandered through the trails, I turned the questions over and over in my mind.

Farms and fields butted up to a nearby neighborhood, typically Dutch in that a few larger homes mingled with a few dozen smaller attached homes and a single apartment building.

In the midst of the park carved out of the farmland and treeline lay a small lake, fed by the canals that ran through the fields and alongside the homes and the voetbal club in the distance. Sheep grazed and ducks paddled quietly as young children whizzed by on their bicycles and adults strolled with their dogs.

Slowly the answers began to come to me.

I truly enjoy living in this less car-centric country where I drive far less than ever before.

I do make the trip to Sassenheim twice a week, to some other town or village for the weekly game, and a couple times to one or more of the nearby towns surrounding The Hague. Often I am in the countryside, taking in the vista of flowing fields with trees and windmills dotting the horizon.

For the most part I can walk, ride my bike or jump on a tram, bus or train to get where I want to go. Depending on the time of year and our schedules, days can go by until I use the car. The car has ceased to be the vehicle in which a large chunk of our time is spent, and has returned to merely being a form of transportation.

I love that I live in a city but in less than five minutes’ walk I’m in one of three densely wooded parks that go on and on, connecting to still further forested parklands.

Scheveningse Bosjes

It’s a marvelous balance of urban and rural: museums, concerts, restaurants, shops, art galleries, exciting ‘happenings’, as well as nature in abundant forms close by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s only ten minutes’ walk to the Scheveningen harbor and bustling city beach. Ten minutes by tram and we’re sipping a drink and chatting at one of the cozy seaside cafes on the boardwalk leading away from the busier downtown beach.

Solitude at Sunset

 

Fifteen minutes by bike and we’re on the most gorgeous trails winding through dunes alongside quiet beaches to the north and south of town that remind me of Cape Cod.

 

 

 

Leaving Edam for the Zuider Zee

 

I love feeling connected to earth, water and sky no matter where I am.

I love that I live among a people who treasure adventure, traveling afar and exploring the world we live in.

I love the balance among work and play, family and friends, active and reflective, the creative and the practical.

In short, I love the life we’ve built here.

What do I miss? Family and friends back home, and mountains and hills. But I get my fix every so often.

 

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