I decided this past year to stop traveling around the world on speaking tours primarily because I had visions of people saying, is she still doing that? But I overlooked one huge downside to my decision:
I wouldn’t be visiting Holland on a regular basis anymore!
When my husband left diplomatic service for the private sector and we repatriated to Vancouver, Canada, I never figured I would lecture ever again. Until one day, in our first year back and out of the clear blue, I had a fax (yes, that’s how long ago it was) from my original publisher in Singapore: a group in The Hague called “Outpost” was interested in inviting me to Holland to keynote their first Global Conference.
Immediately, I called my best friend who was living in Holland at the time and asked her to investigate just who this Outpost group might be. At the same time, I played a heavy guilt card on my husband (who was travelling more, if that was possible, in his new job) that it was time for me to have a go at getting out of town.
Shell Outpost as everyone knows, became the role model for all the corporate spousal organisations that have followed since. It turned out that a survey had revealed my very first book about being an expat wife was very popular with Shell spouses. Who knew? Not me. I always have claimed I have a life I don’t personally participate in!
Shell kicked off for me over ten years of coming over to Holland from my side of the world to speak to so many groups, I had to really think hard to remember them all.
There was the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in the early days; the American School of the Hague (twice); and the International School of Amsterdam (also twice). Expatica.com, a great site I contributed articles to on a regular basis, organised a conference or two (I think one was in Rotterdam).
Then there were the women’s clubs: the American Women’s Club of Amsterdam (twice); Global Connection (also twice); Connecting Women in The Hague; the European Professional Women’s Network and of course, Shell Outpost in The Hague (too many times to remember after that initial conference).
The list (and I know I’m forgetting others) doesn’t do justice, though, to how much fun I always had visiting Holland and how much I miss it.
From my very first trip, where I insisted (even knowing I have no sense of direction), “oh, please don’t go to the bother of picking me up at the airport” because I would rather catch a train and go in the opposite direction of The Hague... to my last one, when my non-stop KLM flight back to Vancouver was the only flight on the board at Schipol Airport to be cancelled that day.
|Robin travelling in traditional style in Amsterdam|
Finally, they say a picture is worth a thousand stories. This one of me sitting in a Dutch bakfiets which was my means of transport to my AWC meeting by my hostess made it to the cover of my re-issued wife book. I was certainly glad my hostess was very fit as I watched the streetcars whiz by me in the opposite direction.
Too many stories (Queen’s Day celebrations one year in Hilversum would be an entire blog posting on its own) and too many memories (most of them involving getting lost!)
One day, I simply must get back, as my good friend and partner-in-expat-writing crime Jo Parfitt is living in The Hague inspiring new authors.
And where does her husband work? Shell, of course. What goes around definitely comes around!
Author and ExpatExpert Robin Pascoe doesn’t travel anymore so she created an on line global lecture tour at www.youtube.com/robinpascoe