Past Perfect Continuous (Subject + “had” + “been + present participle)

I’d been hoping to find my way to Amsterdam ever since I decided to go to Prague. The Netherlands has always fascinated me, probably going back to when I read the abridged version of ‘Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates’ when I was a kid.

The picturesque canals, the amazing bicycle routes and all the funky architecture — it was a magical world that occupied plenty of my youthful imagination. 

The past perfect continuous is a tense that I find difficult to explain its usage. One of its two functions is to indicate an ongoing event, usually with duration, that happened before another event. The other event, the thing that happened more recently, just uses the past tense.

I went to Amsterdam. Simple. Now I’m on my way back to Prague to start my next chapter in life. But the significance of the journey is what deserves the past continuous. 

A trip to the Netherlands had been running through my mind for months prior to my arrival there last Wednesday.

Although my self-confidence is often lacking and has probably held me back from fulfilling my maximum potential, I have to admit that I’ve worked hard and accomplished a fair bit in my life. It’s hard to say that when I currently don’t have a job or own a home, but I certainly have had successes that I can look back on fondly.

I spent my university career rising through the ranks at the student newspaper, becoming a prolific and multi-talented writer which culminated in starting a (briefly) successful magazine.

Then, I almost immediately launched into a career as a small-town sports reporter, broadened my overall creative skillset, and after two years came back home on an upward trajectory in sports media. 

But all this was career or career-adjacent in its focus. I’d taken myself out of my comfort zone repeatedly (okay, with the size of my comfort zone, constantly) but it was always tied to ambition. Buried away inside of me was a desire to challenge myself for pure passion, and travel was the way to do it.

My first trip was inspired by my friend Ji, who I met at my job at SFU last year. Over the summer, I went with him to Korea and Japan, as a smooth introduction to my newfound hobby of discovering the world.

After that, I took it a step further by going on my own to London for two weeks. I was determined to embrace every moment, be outgoing, say ‘yes’ to every opportunity and I… immediately hit a wall.

Deciding to go on a hostel pub crawl my first night, after an overnight plane ride in which I hardly slept, turned out quite poorly. Not even experiencing English pubs, but instead drinking free coloured water ‘shots’ at bland chain bars, I ended the experience finding myself miles away from my hostel at a club, completely alone and with a dead phone at 4 a.m.

Throughout the night I had tried desperately to not get separated from the small group that I had started the night out with, only to slowly have them disappear and be left with all my hopes on having a team to find the way back with, on the shoulders of two young Australian girls. They were ultimately ‘picked up by blokes’ and I was left abandoned.

After I was kept from having a good night’s sleep the following day thanks to a (not so romantic) rendez-vous in the bunk above mine in the middle of the night, I was left feeling hopeless about being able to survive abroad.

Thoughts of someday being able to move overseas were dashed before they had even started.

Although the trip improved from there — I saw some amazing places and fulfilled some lifelong dreams — I lost faith in my chances at being able to connect with others and fully enjoy the experience.

It wasn’t until my last few days, on a trip up to Edinburgh, that I regained some hope. Taking a desperate last shot at socializing with a hostel walking tour, I ended up meeting four extremely nice travellers who were all on their own and we all connected in a way that I hadn’t yet encountered. 

Paige, Beatriz, Sneha and Luna were all incredible people from across the globe and despite us only being together for a couple of days, they really inspired me to have the confidence to not stay in my current situation purely out of comfort.

Luna was from Amsterdam but had spent a year studying in New Orleans, which allowed my brain to click into the possibility of doing the same but in reverse. After coming home, finding myself jobless and looking for a new adventure, I began researching ways in which I could potentially move to Europe.

I eventually came across the Language House in Prague and while I was travelling to Amsterdam, I decided that I was going to try to stay overseas next year and move to the Czech Republic. A few days later, I met up with Luna for an evening in her hometown and felt as if life had come full circle.

Although the exhaustion of solo travelling started to weigh on me at this point in the trip, Amsterdam was an amazing city full of both the expected beauty of the canals and unexpected wonders of the surrounding rural areas. I equally enjoyed the madness of the bicycle stampede in city centre as I did the rustic windmills and captivating wildlife which lay hidden behind my hostel.

Another use of the past perfect continuous is to give the reason, continuing over time, for a past event. I had been looking for a new path in life and I was guided there by Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Prague.

There are still a lot of question marks about what is to come and I have a lot of anxiety about getting a long-term Visa, but I am optimistic about the future and should have a lot of my concerns alleviated soon. My brief solo travels in Europe are complete for the time being, but a new life is just around the corner.

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