My boyfriend lived in 5 different countries
In this blog post, you will get to know my boyfriend Michel a bit better! Michel has lived in 5 different countries so far. Besides living in other places, Michel travels a lot for his job. What’s it like to move around so much? What does the word ‘home’ mean to him? And does he still enjoy traveling with me? Let’s find out in the interview!
1. Hi Michel! Tell us a bit more about yourself?
Hi explorers! I guess you all know me as Brenda’s other half (or the guy who usually tries to run away whenever Brenda takes a photo!). I am 33 year’s old and the youngest of 3 brothers. I hold a Belgian passport. However, I have only lived there a few years of my life. Like Brenda, I am a bit of a travel junky! Unfortunately, I do travel more for business than for pleasure. Beyond traveling I have a passion for golf, food and getting together with friends. That last one usually involves getting on a plane.
2. You lived in 5 different countries. Where have you lived and why?
17 May 1986 – July 1993 + September 1997 – August 2012
My parents are Belgian but traveled abroad for work before I was born. They initially settled in a small village on Lake Maggiore in Italy. It was calm and the weather was amazing. I understand why they never went back to Belgium! During my childhood, I had the honor to attend a European School. I met children from different countries with similar backgrounds to mine. This made getting to know other cultures very easy. I was lucky enough to study in English and Dutch. Even though Brenda says my Dutch is still quite rusty!
After school, I did my Bachelor and Master in Engineering in Italian just to challenge myself a bit further. If you ever have the chance to go to Varese, it is a beautiful area with different angles. In the summer you can enjoy the lakes and hike in the mountains, while in the winter you are only a short drive from some of the best ski pistes.
San Diego, North America
August 1993 – August 1997
Going to San Diego was a unique opportunity for my parents to go work for a few years. Those nice sandy beaches of California. Who wouldn’t go? Although short, these four years have had the largest impact on my life and partially shaped me to be who I am.
I only have happy memories of us enjoying the good weather and always being out and about. At that age there was no stress about anything but being a child. Whenever I go to the US, especially on the West Coast, I often have this feeling of being at home and ease. I am very happy my work allows me to go there quite regularly!
September 2012 – December 2015
I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Like my parents did when they were young, I moved abroad for work as well. As an Aerospace Engineer, I had the unique opportunity to go develop rocket engines so I could not let that pass! Living in the UK was nice. The food and weather is not like in Italy, but people compensate that by coming together in cozy pubs and eating comfort food with a good old pint of beer.
My UK trajectory eventually led me to meet Brenda! I was working for a small UK division of a US corporation while Brenda was based in the division in the Netherlands. She was made responsible for the Marketing of our UK facility and she came to visit us. I was the lucky one selected to show her around! Funnily enough, everything was very professional on that trip. We only started dating 18 (!) months later.
January 2016 – May 2019
Back to the roots, you might say…The company I worked for in the UK offered me the opportunity to work in the Netherlands (Brenda here I come!). This was only 30 min. drive from the city my father grew up, Antwerp. As I was in the area, I thought I would take the opportunity to go live there.
Antwerp is an old medieval city with a lot of history but also with a young and vibrant spirit! Thanks to its history and the port it is very international and has a lot to offer. I still really enjoy driving into the city seeing the old cathedral and the new high-rises and museums from a distance.
Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands
May 2019 – current
After a few years in a city, it was time to move to a calmer place and settle for the first time. Brenda and I were looking for a small city where we could buy a house with a garden and relax a bit. Bergen op Zoom is where Brenda is from and actually was an ideal balance between city, nature and also in the middle of two major airports (Brussels Airport and Schiphol Amsterdam). This is important because I currently work in the UK and travel abroad every other week.
3. What does the word ‘home’ mean to you?
Home for me is a feeling more than a place. It’s when you feel comfortable in the environment you are in and can relax and be yourself. This is when I am with family and friends enjoying each other’s company over a good meal. When in Italy my friends and I always meet up to have a large dinner together. This can either be in an Italian Osteria or Agriturismo or at home. The most important is to share the moment together.
4. What’s the best advantage of living abroad?
When you live abroad you tend to want to explore more, especially in the first years. Every new thing you discover feels like a mini-holiday. This can go from a park around the corner to a newly discovered café or restaurant. Sometimes I just enjoy walking through a new neighborhood and admiring the architecture. I’m a bit of an architecture/history geek! I like to understand the origin of the buildings/city and try to look up pictures on how a place used to look.
Another advantage of living in another country is that you learn how to become more confident in the environment around you and also how to adapt to it. I love that every location has a different culture and way of living. I like to learn and emerge into it, bringing that little secret away with me when I move away again.
5. Is there a negative consequence of living abroad?
While traveling and living abroad might seem the ultimate dream to some, there are some drawbacks to it. One of the main things I have learned is that you have to be able to let go at a certain time of people and items. Family and friends you might have seen every week, suddenly you only see once a year. Social media allows me to stay in touch, yet I feel that this doesn’t give the same type of relationship as real social contact.
Another hard part is being there for my family. Our family currently lives in 4 different countries (Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, and USA). We try to get together at events such as Christmas and Summer vacations. It would be nice to spontaneously pop by my parents or brothers for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, that’s not possible!
6. Since you have moved a lot, do you still enjoy traveling?
I could not do without it. If I am too long in one place, I get bored. This, however, doesn’t mean I cannot settle. In fact, even though we have bought a house my job continuously allows me to travel. Brenda and I always talk about where we want to go next.
Sometimes you don’t need to visit another country to have that feeling of getting out of it. In the weekend, Brenda and I usually end up exploring our local area. The diversity of what can be found outside our cities is immense. Adventure can be waiting just minutes from home!
7. If you were confined to one country for the rest of your life, where would you go?
This is a hard question as for me the place is not the most important! It is the memories and experiences I have in that place which count. I have no particular attachment to a single place. I also have not seen enough of the world to make that choice. There is so much of Asia and Africa which I have not yet explored. Maybe ask me this question again in about 30 years from now, haha!