I’m an ideal immigrant, as I’ve never been prone to homesickness. When I was seven and on my first girl scouts camp, I remember laying on my bunk and listening to the other girls sniffle. They kept waking up our poor sleepy camp leader, asking her to call their mommies. Wimps, I thought, and I fell asleep to the sound of wind howling outside the log cabin.
But now, almost 20 years later, I’ve picked a very peculiar kind of the common disease: altitude homesickness. I first became aware of my condition when I was biking up the bridge that crosses the highway on the way to the Loonse en Drunense Duinen.
All of a sudden my eyes could see kilometers away: the windmills, the cows in the fields, the rooftops of the apartment houses on the north side of our city. I looked down to the cars passing by. Down. It made me grin from ear to ear.
Not because I felt superior to the individuals opting for high-emitting vehicles instead of the green joys of biking (which I also did), but because I no longer felt like I was trapped in a crappy 2D Nintendo game!
And I’m the keenest fan of life in 3D. I loved Guatemala – because of the insanely high volcanoes shadowing over the colonial towns. Norway – the unbeatable combination of steep ascents and the deep blue fjords. Austria – having a lunch break from snowboarding, marveling at the snowy mountaintops.
I’d got my diagnosis. The next step towards healing was rehabilitation, naturally. Since I wouldn’t be able to fully recover before reaching a country with an actual topographic map again, I had to improvise.
I took up climbing. Here, in the middle of the lowlands, where the highest points of the city are probably the piles of trash at the recycling center.
Tilburg actually offers amazing facilities for a climbing rookie. For starters, the Sports Center organizes top rope climbing crash courses that are free of charge for the gym members. Once I’d uncovered the secrets of the figure-eight knot and belaying devices, I was free to attend the weekly trainings of the university’s alpine club – oh yes, it exists!
I’m not entirely sure if the medicine I chose will help me in the long run. In the next place I’ll be able call home, I’ll long for the mountains of Norway – and the climbing halls of Tilburg.