Every few minutes - the streets explode with fireworks on and before Dec 31's night of Netherlands nuttiness.
  • 68 million Euros spent on personal fireworks this year, without including black market purchases
  • 7 million Euros in damages, mostly arson
  • Over 800 injuries (loss of eyes, fingers, burns), including two Dutch policemen who had fireworks shot into their van
Every few hours - the building's common front door, shared with my otherwise awesome upstairs neighbor, explodes with her comings and goings.

Every few days - explosions of a more metaphorical kind...

There are intense explosions of longing for:
  • my home country
  • my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, friends
  • exes past and partners future
  • actual customer service
  • steel-cut oats (seriously - please send some)
  • interesting sports
  • a shared joke with someone with a shared history,
  • books under $15 and bathrooms over 15 square feet (4.52 square meters)
  • something besides bread for lunch
  • interesting sports
  • nature

Laid Back radio guy

Yet these are met equally and regularly with explosions of excitement, exhiliration and new experience, brain-expanding opportunities that come about only via travelling, with almost every day offering a chance to see the world with new eyes and hear it with new ears:
  • Portuguese New Year's Eve - cod and 80's music
  • a male Indian version of Elaine from Seinfeld ringing in Christmas Eve with completely carefree (and even more completely, rhythm-free) joy
  • passionate Italians and dispassionate Dutch
  • Australian writing partners and American football partners
  • Dutch pastries and red-light pasties
  • house parties that always end up as living-room dance parties
  • discovering new music from Laid Back Radio from Belgium to Novaplanet in France
  • cafes in Amsterdam that are cooler and cozier than anywhere else
  • culture and a sense of history that dwarfs North America
Such is the plight of the voluntary expat, so nothing above should be seen as a complaint nor a boast. The trick I suppose is to balance it all out, and find a way to soothe the soul when the corrosive explosions occur.



It's fairly ironic that the worst part of travel is, well, travel.

While it may sound glamourous to say I'm heading to Paris, London, Barcelona, Zurich, Prague all in the months of December and January....well ok, it is a bit better than Red Deer, Lacombe, and Edmonton, I'll grant you that . But the act of getting to each place is a little less enviable.

Where to begin? On the Eurostar from Paris to London, on a train made only for those under 5'6", I'm seated directly facing the world's most affectionate couple. I'm not sure what the Chinese word for Schmoopie is, but I'm pretty sure they said it every few seconds. I'm also not sure what happens when one of them has to go the bathroom, but it must be devastating. I don't think they did, actually. But after watching them, I sure had to.

Glamour also wears off quickly in places like the
Paris Metro, when you're being packed like Twinkies into Oprah's mouth, and having someone cough directly into your cornea. Or on the famed London Underground, where at 8:45am on the 9-hour day back home (see newspaper headlines above), a 30-something guy, without sound or warning, expels the most massive amount of vomit since Britney Spears' last album. Had I been standing a foot closer, I would have been wearing it the rest of the day.

So next time someone tells you, whether they're bragging or just plainly recounting, that he/she is jet-setting around various overseas locales, take heart that you may actually be enjoying a much more pleasant ride while couch-surfing at home.