Monday, February 04, 2013

Back to Canada

It's been a fantastic seven years in the Netherlands, but it's time to move on. I moved here with the intention of creating and growing a business, and I gave it a pretty good shot. In the meantime I managed to meet a girl, get married and become a dad to Juliana. Mel and I have discussed this decision for a long time, and for many reasons we've decided it's time for us to move. We've chosen Canada as our new home. I once wrote a post about leaving the USA back to Europe and find it enlightening reading that post years later. Because of that, and because someone may actually read this blog, I've decided to outline why it's time for me and mine to go back to Canada.

Last December we welcomed Juliana Jade into the world. It's fantastic being a father, I am really enjoying this new job. One very unexpected side effect of becoming a father was the immediate change in long term planning. When it was just Mel and I, long term plans meant deciding where we would go skiing the coming winter. Now we are both thinking in terms of schools we want our child (and perhaps children) attending and which culture we want them to grow up in. Asking these questions made us realize that the Netherlands is not the answer. Neither of us is Dutch, and we feel it’s really important to establish a family identity from a cultural perspective. I grew up in Slovakia and then Canada, and know first hand the complexities of children and parents identifying with different cultures. Think 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'. Since I am Canadian and Mel American, it may seem that we have yet another clash on our hands. It turns out however that Mel and I identify with one and they same culture, let's call it the 'great lakes' culture. For me it's southern Ontario and for Mel Michigan. There may be a line on the map and an annoying wait at the bridge, but the culture on both sides of lake Huron is nearly identical.

When I came back to Europe 7 years ago, I was leaving NYC. I had enjoyed my stay in NYC but it was time for me to leave. Combine that with not having any family on that continent, it made sense to come to Europe. I was not done with Canada however. I remember giving my Canadian cash to some friends saying I had no idea when I would be back, but that turned out to be quite short sighted and silly. I have found myself back in Ontario almost every year since then. Whether it was for a wedding or a detour while visiting Mel's family. Somehow I have put roots down in that area which are strong and lasting. I suspect it's my 'other family', the guys whom I spent my university years with. It's been almost 10 years since I lived in that area and yet I can't seem to get rid of them. They insist on sending Christmas cards and sharing pictures of their kids. :)

Speaking of family, yes I will miss being close to my Mom, Dad and brother. That's the biggest downside for me, and it's significant. I do hope to get my brother out to Canada for a longer stint at one point, he hasn't lived there since he was 7 or so and it would do him some good. My parents keep talking of traveling around the world and such so perhaps we'll see as much of them in Canada as we would in the Netherlands. This will be tough but we'll just have to work hard to make the best of it.

Europe, including the Netherlands, is going to financial hell and asking my wife and I to pay for it. I feel as if we are financially discriminated against in this country. That sounds harsh, but it seems to be that this is a state best left for the very wealthy or the poor. The very wealthy have countless opportunities to use loopholes and financial trickery to hold on to their wealth. There is a reason IKEA uses the Netherlands for their tax scheming. The poor, or perhaps those just getting by are supported by the state to remain out of poverty, and sometimes beyond. A friend once told me, when your child is born, put them on the social housing waiting list. This way when she is old enough to move out of the house, she will be eligible for a great downtown apartment for next to nothing. That just doesn't feel right to me.

In the immediate term I see taxes going up, benefits disappearing. It feels as if the Netherlands is in a bi-polar state, not being able to decide whether it's capitalist or socialist, but is suffering from the downside of both. Taxes of a socialist state with the costs of a capitalist one.

They say you only live once and it goes by fast. I therefore don't intend on spending all of it doing the same thing. I've been in consulting for a decade now, and most of it I've spent working on Microsoft stuff, and more narrowly: SharePoint. There are folks out there who can dedicate their whole career to one thing, I just don't think I can be happy being one of them. I feel that there is so much more to learn, to discover and to achieve.

I've learned a lot running my own business. It made me grow up real fast and take responsibility like never before. I now look back at being an employee, and at the discussions I had with my boss(es) and realize what an ignorant punk I was. I'm very happy with the path I have been on up to this point, but it feels like it's time for a change again. What that change will be I don't know. I do know I love technology and its ability to change the world, so I'm not going to become a gardener or something. I do like the energy of small businesses, so perhaps a start-up would be a good place for me. In any case, I have a feeling I may be leaving SharePoint behind. Let's see.

Nature, do we miss it. Both Mel and I love the outdoors. We met rollerblading, we made great memories hiking, skiing, skydiving, canoeing, horseback riding, camping, etc. We thrive in the outdoors. The city of Amsterdam has been fantastic and we've enjoyed exploring its nooks and crannies but I think we both get a bigger kick navigating a river in a canoe or sitting by a campfire. We want our children to know campfires, clear lakes and rivers, fishing with a reasonable chance of success, afternoon hikes through real nature, wildlife (not just mice) and the spirit of adventure and peace that comes from setting out into the woods with nothing but a backpack and a day to kill. We haven't been able to find that in the Netherlands.

For all these reasons and many more, it's time for us to say goodbye to the Netherlands and start a new chapter of our lives in Canada.

In my next post I will go into the practicals of where we want to live and what YOU can do to help. :)

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