And then suddenly, after more than 16 months we are in Berlin, Germany. Getting ready to board our last plane and head back to Dutch soil. Our journey that started in September 2016 ends at the same place where we started at that time: Amsterdam Schiphol. There is no denying it: we are going back.
The same people who dropped us off are waiting for us and before we know it we’re having our coffee and it’s like we never left. It is just crazy how fast things can go. We exchange stories about the highlights of the past 1 1/2 years, but most of it is known. That’s what you get with all the technology of today. Even if you walk in the middle of the rainforest in Malaysia, WiFi is never far away.
It’s over, our world trip is officially over. We have postponed this moment as long as possible, but the money has officially run out. Time to get used to the Netherlands again.
Coming back from long-term traveling is different per country. Each country has different rules and customs. But some experiences might be the same. This is our story of how we came back to our home country and how we experienced that.
Registering back in the Netherlands
Before we went on a trip we deregistered from the municipality. The general rule in the Netherlands is that you must do this if you are going away for more than 8 months. This can differ per municipality, but with our plan to travel for at least a year and maybe longer, this was applicable anyway.
If you are registered incorrectly, you can be fined for this. And since everything is registered digitally these days, it has become a lot easier to discover this. When you return to the Netherlands, you must re-register as soon as possible, preferably within five working days.
Another reason, or benefit, to deregister for us is to avoid paying insurance. Yes, we needed insurance, but the normal insurance doesn’t cover it all and is really expensive (240 Euro per month for two people, 2880 Euro for a year). A special insurance for backpackers is needed and it costs only 1200 Euro per year. Normally, you would have to pay the 2280 and 1200 together, but if you deregister, it’s only 1200 Euro. That saves a lot of money!
So when coming back, the first thing you need to do is register. It’s Monday morning and we go to the beautiful village of Ferwerd to register with the municipality. We have printed and completed all the necessary papers so that this can be arranged as quickly as possible. It is often also possible to arrange this digitally using your DigiD. The advantage of a small village is that we are helped immediately. Our papers are reviewed and accepted.
They can’t process it here, but the papers are forwarded to Dokkum and we will receive a message when it’s all arranged. We ask how long this will take and it will take a few working days. Don’t arrange anything else before this is completed, because otherwise, you will keep going around in circles.
As said before, we have health insurance that is between 100 to 120 Euro per month. Because we are back in the Netherlands and registered back into the municipality, we need to arrange the general insurance and get rid of the backpackers’ insurance.
According to the ladies at the municipality, we can immediately apply for health insurance. We choose one and immediately apply for health insurance via the Internet in the afternoon. A few days later we receive a letter that they checked and we are not registered in the Netherlands.
In the meantime, we have already seen that the change has been made, but this probably just crossed the check. We call after it and they will perform the check again as an exception to the rule. They asked 7 Euro per person for this, and we had to do it ourselves. But after some small demands, they will check it again.
A week later we receive a confirmation for one of us that the application for health insurance has been successful. That’s crazy because we should have two. Just call the insurance company. The person in question indicates that the check has shown that one of us is not yet registered. But we had already been in touch about that. Now we have to apply for it again, send proof of registration (that 7 Euros again), and hope that the health insurance will be accepted.
Yeah, not going to do that. We cancel both requests and look for another insurer. Two days later we receive a confirmation with a policy and not much later the health insurance cards.
Social Benefits And Work
After coming back after 16 months of travel, our bank account is pretty empty, so it’s time to start looking for a job. To bridge the period until we have a job, we try to apply for social benefits. But this doesn’t go according to plan. First, the digital software totally abandoned us. The support desk didn’t believe me until I showed a 10-page document with screenshots and explanations.
The reply was this: “Okay, I will send you the paper version.” It takes us 2 weeks to deliver everything on paper in a very old-fashioned way, but afterward, we finally go to the municipality for a meeting in good spirits.
This conversation shows that it is not so easy to get benefits these days. We already knew that we would get much less because we live with relatives. But there are many more conditions that we do not actually meet. For example, we resigned ourselves from our jobs before our trip and you will receive a penalty for that.
We also consumed our assets much faster during our trip than is the norm. For a couple it is only about € 480,00 per month; this money is for food, drink, shelter, etc. So if you have spent more money, you will get a penalty for that.
Besides that, they also looked at our assets and possessions and that is another penalty because we have too much.
The guy said, “Don’t see a penalty as a bad thing!” But it is. Each penalty would cause a long period of waiting for money. The number of penalties is a lot and that would mean we would have to wait between 8 and 12 months before we can get some social benefits. The amount would be very low.
We conclude that the period during which we will be cut is longer than the time it takes us to find a job. Based on all this information, we decide to withdraw our application. Fortunately, we have had more success with the job search. In no time we both have a job interview in the city where we want to live. Both jobs agree on a starting date that gives us the opportunity to get used to the country again and to look for a place to stay.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands has a lot of people without work, enjoying social benefits. We worked for a long time. I started working when I was 19, rarely took extra days off, and rarely took a sick day. But when you try to enjoy life before your pension, you don’t have to expect any benefits.
Finding A Home
Before we went on a trip we sold our house (and all the furniture) to make a fresh start. Now that we are back we can temporarily live with relatives so that we can register and look for a home. It’s a bit of a vicious circle, because for a job you need a home, but without a job, you can’t get a home. In the city where we want to live, we cannot register with the housing association, because we do not (yet) live in that municipality.
Soon we focus our attention on real estate agents and private individuals. However, the housing market is a bit overheating, making us miss most houses due to high demand. Many brokers also want to see the last three salary slip along with the corresponding bank statements. We do have this one but from over two years ago. So we have to wait until we are through our probationary period and we have to deal with an extra deposit.
A house becomes available in a new construction project that was actually completely rented out. But we get a call asking if we want an option and if we can then provide all the documents as soon as possible. A copy of the employment contracts is sufficient in combination with registration at the municipality and a copy of our passport. And this time we are lucky, we are approved and have a house again!
Getting Used To The Netherlands Again
In between all the commotion of work and housing, we also have to get used to the Netherlands and the fact that we are no longer traveling. No longer thinking about where you are going in a few days or which sights we will admire tomorrow.
No more eating at those nice local restaurants, but at home at the table with a large plate of dull Dutch food. When we go into town to stock up on winter clothes, we see how little has actually changed and how quickly it feels familiar to walk around again.
One of the big benefits of coming back is getting those things you can’t get in other countries. So we go wild in the supermarket and buy everything we haven’t had or couldn’t get in the past period. Pepernoten, Christmas treats, and Easter eggs, it all goes in the shopping cart. But the new thing is also quickly gone and we miss all those exotic products from Asia.
On the train or bus, you are confronted with ‘real life’, everyone is busy with work/study/hobbies. Also so crazy, you can just understand everything and everyone. The contrast with our travel life is great. When we stare out the window, we think back to all those train and bus journeys we’ve taken all over the world.
During our travels, we try to avoid the Dutch. Not because we hate them, but because we have those at home a lot. Also, they understand us and the English we speak… And we understand them. Being back we notice what we missed: People staring right passed each other, silence in the train, people minding their own business, and everyone is rushing (mostly because of money). We got out of that for 1 1/2 years and we learned there is more to it than work and money.
It’s crazy how a region so far away has become so familiar. In conversations with others, we notice that many people find Asia quite exciting. But we see all those nice little restaurants, those beautiful temples, that one beautiful mountain road, those friendly people, or that one wonderful beach. We have started to feel at home everywhere and are no longer easily impressed by ‘the great unknown’.
Our Experience Of Coming Back
The best thing to say about our experience of coming back? Don’t! But sadly this isn’t always possible. But when you do decide to come back, be ready for some challenges. Not only administratively but also mentally.
After our challenges of coming back, we can say one thing with certainty: going on a trip is more fun than coming back. That may also have to do with the fact that you don’t know what you’re going to experience. You have dreams of all the beautiful countries you are going to visit and are full of anticipation.
Coming back from a trip around the world is a completely different story. You need to recover from everything you’ve been through and prefer to talk non-stop about all your adventures. Everything you need to arrange takes you out of your travel world and pushes you face-to-face with the facts; the journey is really over.
In terms of bureaucracy, it is also a lot more difficult to come back: Unsubscribing, selling, and other matters take a day. It took us 2 months to come back and connect everything again.
We certainly have no regrets, this trip was the trip of our lives. And although we are now first busy finding a place again and getting everything on track, we have not traveled far yet. We have already created a new savings target which we will hopefully be able to fill in the near future. On to new opportunities, possibilities, and adventures!
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