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  • Writer's pictureAnna Lauri

So, I have a place in Haarlem...

Today marks one full month since I landed in Holland. On the advice of the therapist whom I worked with in integrating my experience in Peru… I arrived with no real plan.

“I don’t care that you go. I think you should. Just don’t go with a plan. Your plans have helped protect you. You’re not that little girl who needs to strategize herself to maintain safety and minimize chaos. You have the tools you need to go.”

Perpetually a planner (I mean, this alone is a key to my success in business, traveling schedules and maintaining a full social calendar)… this assignment was more than a challenge. Every day I had to resist the urge to dive deep into research, to make lists, to strategize. Each morning I would have to do my best to suffocate the loud, booming voice that I’d grown used to barking the orders, based on logic, safety, patterns, generational programing and traumas. With each passing day, my anxiety would rise - that alone was setting me into a tail spin. I’ve now been off doctor prescribed anxiety and depression meds for almost 2 years…and found myself feeling like I had at my darkest and heaviest moments before. I took note at how strong the grips of conformity, safety, predictability had on me, my thoughts, my actions and my outcomes. I recognized how and where those hooks were in me (maybe even noting the size, shape, and color…if you know…you know... and I know you're absolutely laughing now).

With as much as I noticed, I just noticed more. I’d try to meditate if away, sleep it away, drink it away… but the hold remained. I cried, a lot. I was ready to go home. To be safe there.

But I didn’t.

I kept meditating. “Things are working out for me.” “The Universe has my back.” “Everything is happening in perfect timing for me.” “I expect and welcome miracles.” “I trust, and surrender that I’m being divinely lead.”

Each day, I’d listen quietly to hear the quiet voice of my heart, my own knowing (while also surrendering I might not know or understand why).

In the second week, I spent time in the Scheveningen area of Den Haag. Sounds of sea gulls, the smell of the salt in the air, the sand and waves just steps from my Airbnb. I quickly found that housing was going to be an issue. I could barely get in to see anything. I’d submit requests to view a rental, to find that the showings were “booked completely” likely in moments of it hitting the Dutch version of Zillow. Finally… I got in to see one, a stone throw from the beach. Views from two balconies. I loved it. Yet, there was resistance. I wasn’t sure why. I’ve grown up by water, the beach is home…the water calms my soul in ways I can’t describe…and I am ALWAYS (and I do mean always, down for a boat adventure). Surely this is it!

I told the landlord I’d sleep on it. I was headed to Haarlem and then on to Amsterdam for two much needed nights with Pearl Jam.

When I arrived at my hotel in the Centrum of Haarlem… I thought… no, this is it. This is what I dreamed. This feels familiar. This is it. In some random way, I feel like I’ve been here before, whether in a dream, a past life or some deep intuition of where my life would eventually take me. "How do I live here?", I thought.

Housing in Haarlem…is infinitely worse, more scarce and it seemed more competitive than in Den Haag. At about the 1/6 of the size of Amsterdam…but a close commute in, it’s a popular destination of folks leaving Amsterdam. I meet with a couple of Makelaars (Dutch real estate agents).

Their message was dire, at best. I decided I’d take a week, look on my own and circle up with them after giving it my best shot…maybe find a temp place to live as we diligently looked together? Or maybe just go home, and have them look remotely for me, so my $160/night hotel living didn’t drain my account too quickly.

I still had the option of the beach flat, on the fourth floor. Was still negotiating that lease. And, I had found what what could be a perfect temporary spot... spendy at 2250 EUR with a three month minimum lease, but I could register and get the residency permit application started.

With a couple of back up plans (I know, I know...) I harnessed my inner bad ass, real estate broker hellbent on finding her client (in this case me) the house of her dreams… and I’d fight like the most beautifully disguised bull until she could call it home. I got all of my documents together, my pay stubs, my checking statements, my savings statements, copies of my passports, I wrote love letters to my prospective landlords and outlined the visa process and the obstacles that entailed. And I started calling.

I got a same day appointment within minutes of a listing being posted and was literally shocked. I walked over to the address…I wanted to make sure it was WHERE I wanted to be. I trekked right back to my hotel…and emailed the makelaar all of my documents, letting her know that as long as this place looks as good in person as it does in pictures, I wanted it. I loved the area, I already scoped out where it was in location to all the things I wanted and needed. It checked every box. It needed to be my home. I told her I was looking forward to meeting her in an hour.

Walking in confidently, but sooo nervously, I told her and her colleague about me, what I did and why I was relocating. They showed me around - but frankly I didn’t need to see it. I knew it when I walked in. This. Was. Home. They asked if I had time to meet the landlady. I wanted to proclaim, “you’re goddammed right I have time to meet her!” Angelique came downstairs, asked where I was from…

to which I said…”ironically, I’m originally from and was born and raised in Holland, Michigan. I was a Dutch Dancer. My mom still has my wooden clogs I danced in every May.”

Pretty sure that’s what sealed the deal. Angie left and Jennie said she’d be back to me that night.

And there began a 5 day stretch of crippling anxiety, doubt, fear and waves of emotion and tears. In my world, a contract isn’t a contract until it’s FULLY executed. Without all those signatures, you have an idea that could well fall apart should someone else better, more charming or with a better offer should swoop in.

From that Wednesday, I had to tell the landlord at the beach flat... I needed to pass, my heart was elsewhere. Fuck. What if that was all I could get? And I'm walking away.

And then, I walked to the area of the temporary house. It's not at all where I wanted to be. I asked if I might be able to do month to month. She responded, that they decided to go with someone who was ready to sign. Fuckity, fuck, fuck. Now there were no alternative plans. All of my eggs were squarely in this basket.

The first of August was a Monday. The draft we’d been reviewing and negotiating on FRIDAY was dated for the 1st. I didn’t sign this contract until 10am on Monday, hours before I would get keys, days after I blindly sent the wire for the deposit and rent. Literally the 11th hour…moments before I was considering extending my hotel stay bc what if this doesn’t work? But that thinking…that thinking was my planning.

So I got the house, I’ve moved in and started navigating

all of the other obstacles…errr…opportunities… that has followed. Slowing my anxiety is diminishing. That voice of my heart is ever so gently getting louder. And every day I remind myself to trust, to surrender and to expect and welcome miracles. And I also am keenly aware, I needed to shed the plans, the backups... for it to work. I really had to trust.

Here's a little video of the neighborhood, approach to and the Anna-i-ifed version of my flat. It was cute before... but with some editing of their decor, rearranging and adding to it, it's starting to feel like home. Now, if I could get internet at home... but honestly I think the staff at the cutest little boutique hotel / hostel / cafe and coffee shop will probably miss seeing me twice a day, every day for the last 11 days.

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