Currently sitting in my room in Amsterdam talking to Dan, back in Calgary, who travelled around Europe a year or so ago and was going to let me know a good place to stay if I go to Rome. Also talking to Janelle, who ate a cow heart and fried guinea pig in Peru the other day on her and Maxim’s six week adventure in South America. Been talking on and off a lot with Chrissy, who took the semester off school to go on wild ass adventures and surf a lot in Southeast Asia. There’s been a number of snapchats from Blaine (and Jared and Brett and Kyle), who also took the semester off and is currently livin’ la vida loca in an all inclusive in Mexico, and is then heading off to Thailand. Before I left, a bunch of folks gave me suggestions about their favourite places in Europe that they’ve travelled to. Lots of people are of course back home, who say that they’re really jealous of the ones like me who are on an international adventure. But of course most can’t constantly be on the move, and sometimes you’ve gotta be in the regular old routine of home livin’. Adventures can still happen at home though, and your fun in different continents will happen, if you want it to. Ya just gotta not throw money away on stuff (and pints of beer), and save it for plane rides and cultural exchange and new scenery (which can be hard – especially the beer part). It’s really cool though, how so many people (our age? every age?) find a way to travel around the world and see some new things. Whether it’s by means of studying, volunteering, backpacking, family vacationing, or whatever else, we find ways to get places. And with this whole “Internet” thing, we can all share our experiences with each other and stay connected in all corners of the world.
These aren’t original thoughts, I know, but, I thought I’d write a quick note about it anyway.
got lost on my way to a store where i could buy a router (because our internet is so incredibly broken).
spent 20 minutes trying to choose the proper router.
after choosing one, realized i forgot my wallet, so i had to head back home.
got home, turned back around, bought the router. learned that if i open the box i can’t return the router (which is so stupid).
managed to break my bike on the way home, so i walked it back with me. (i think i can fix it though, so that’s good).
realized that my computer charger is definitely 100% broken (it’s been on the fritz for awhile), so i then had no internet or battery.
didn’t fix our internet, because it’s a lost freakin’ cause.
finally, the last straw, i put on my favourite pair of jeans and then viola, they ffffffffccccccckkkinnnnng ripped. fsadfkajsldfjasldfkj.a;lfj209348/.
it was a very sunny day and i went on a run in a beautiful park that i had never been to and am about to go eat pizza and drink wine with some lovely people, so it’s not all awful. but man, i feel like today my life is an episode in a bad sitcom.
(shoutout to the friendly austrian boy across the hall who let me use both his computer charger and his wifi.)
(A FEW DAYS LATER..)
It’s funny, the day that all of these thing broke, I started to miss home quite a lot. I was walking in a hurry to get to my Apple Store appointment (because my computer charger broke), and I stopped into a Starbucks (for wifi, because my data ran out and I was lost) and ordered a coffee and caramel brownie. I found an overwhelming sense of comfort in the familiar decor and overall vibe of that Starbucks, and was briefly transported back home to the Brentwood Starbucks that I went to far too often during lunch breaks to order Caramel Frappuccinos back when I was fourteen.
Anyway, I started to miss home because I was frustrated with my day, and then I realized if I were at home and got frustrated with my day, I’d instinctually dream of places that are far, far away. The power of both nostalgia and wanderlust, they can get to ya.
You hear from everyone that travelling and studying abroad is “the best experience of your life” and that “there’s nothing better” and “it’s life changing” and blah blah blah blah you really ought to go. You think yeah I bet it’ll be fun, sure why not? You get to go on a little adventure and see really cool cities and drink different beer, and apparently it’s the greatest thing ever, so sure, I’ll take your word for it, society. And then you arrive and you’re like “wow cool I live in Amsterdam (or Singapore or Edinburgh or wherever it is you go), this is really incredible, everything is so beautiful and amazing wow!” Then you realize that you have no friends, you don’t speak the native language, you own zero furniture so your room is depressing and your internet is broken. You’re intimidated to just go meet people and you don’t really know what to do with yourself, so you spend a lot of time reading and doodling. You’re still having fun but it is by no means the best experience of your life (yet) so you’re kind of annoyed at the people that made the experience out to be way better than it is (so far), but you keep moving forward because that’s what we ought to do. And then, at some point, things pick up and you meet people that you can have real conversations with. You meet one who likes Tame Impala as much as you do, and you meet another one that shares the same academic interests, and you meet another who reminds you so much of your friend from home that you love them automatically, and you meet another who’s fashion sense is so on point and another many who you have not much in common with but you just love being around them, and all of a sudden it feels like you have a little community here. And everyone you meet is from a different corner in the world, which is the coolest thing. And you think, ok cool, this is it, it’s starting now. And then you start to bump into people you know on the streets and you notice yourself doing things you wouldn’t have done a month ago. You strike up conversation with anyone you see in your building and you buy tickets to a music festival ten minutes after meeting the people that invited you to join them. And it’s not forced, it’s a genuine interaction and you just feel comfortable meeting anyone because a social boundary has disappeared. And it’s remarkable. And then you talk to your new friends (that you met three days ago but you already feel close to) about how cool the entire experience is shaping up to be and then some random drunk Dutch man comes by and starts to do some weird snap-clap-dance move and he sits down and he just keeps snapping and clapping and instead of making shifty eye contact with each other and thinking “we gotta get out of here,” you just snap and clap and laugh.
It seems smart to make at least a rough plan when you travel somewhere. That being said, you shouldn’t travel with the expectation that things are going to according to plan, because, chances are, they won’t.
For the four of us who organized a daylong trip from Amsterdam to Leiden and then to The Hague, via bikes and train rides, we definitely had quite the entertaining day that definitely didn’t go as we had expected.
We joked that the series of unplanned events all started when one of us (I won’t name names) cursed in a church. Nothing was open when we arrived in Leiden at 10 in the morning – we forgot that most of the Netherlands closes down on Sundays – so we entered the one building with open doors, which was a huge, historic church in the middle of a service. After a few minutes of feeling sort of awkward and out of place, we left and one of us (I still won’t name names) almost loudly slammed the door shut and as a reaction she whisper-yelled, “Oh! Shit! …. I just cursed in a church! Oh! Shit!”
We then walked and talked and laughed around the sleeping city and enjoyed our lunch by a canal while the sun peaked through the clouds. After lunch, we got on our bikes and started to ride to The Hague. Seven or eight kilometers into the bike ride from away from Leiden, Anne’s bike seat managed to fall off of her bike. Quite uncomfortably for Anne, we then biked to the closest bike shop, which was back in Leiden, who told us they couldn’t help and to go to a second bike shop. At the second bike shop, we were told they couldn’t help and to go to the first one. So, we resorted to our skinny girly arms to force the seat back in place. When that didn’t work, Anne cathartically used a hammer, which of course, didn’t work either.
Anne put down the hammer and after eating some chocolate, (because everything is better after chocolate) she hopped on the train to The Hague and we hopped on our bikes to start the cycle journey (again). Kira was determined to find a coastal bike path that she had read about in a tour book. We asked and asked, and no one knew what the hell she was talking about. But, after some time, we found the path, the sun found us through the clouds, and we biked along the bright coast of the Netherlands.
One particular favourite moment of mine during the ride was when Viola went the wrong direction on a bike path and ended up awkwardly stumbling into a bed of flowers to escape the oncoming traffic of locals on their bikes that all tried to not laugh at her. That image isn’t going to be escaping my memory for a long, long time.
We were close to The Hague when the bike path signage seemed to disappear, so we decided to follow the road signs that appeared to take us to the centre of The Hague. When we began biking on the side of a 70km/hour freeway, we decided that maybe following the road signs was a bad call. We turned against traffic and pushed our bikes on the prickly foliage back to the bike path. Back on the safe path my stomach sunk a bit when I realized, that of course, I dropped my phone on the freeway. So, I tuned out the honks and shaking heads of disapproval and ran back to the spot on the side of the road that I had taken this picture:
Luckily for me, the phone was scratch free on the grass as opposed to smashed into thousands on the freeway. We got back on our bikes, and arrived (finally!) in The Hague and found Anne. To go with the theme of the day of visiting places when nothing is open, it was the evening by the time we got to the city, so, very little was open. We didn’t go to any churches, and instead wandered in the rain until we were too soggy to keep exploring and stopped for a bite to eat. The server got my order wrong and accidentally charged us too much for some of our food, but we just laughed. The soup was warm and the wine was cheap, so we were happy.
As they say, when you’re travelling, if you don’t ask yourself ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ at least once, then you’re not doing it right. I’d say, with that mindset, the day trip we had that fine Sunday couldn’t have been done better.
Mac deMarco is a really big deal here. I’m not surprised, but I think it’s kind of funny, because he’s from the little Edmonton, Alberta. I remember in high school when some of my friends loved him and would go see him play in grungy bars in Edmonton.
Anyway, he is playing here in Amsterdam tonight at one of the biggest venues in the city and the show has been sold out for a long time. I figured it was a lost cause to get a ticket and totally forgot about the show until like an hour ago when I turned on my iPod and automatically started listening to his newest album. I have spent the last twenty minutes or so refreshing the ticketswap page to try to get a ticket, and finally got one!
I won’t ever forget last July when we saw him play at the now-closed-down Republik in Calgary. It was a quintessential summer night. I bought a shirt with a head of iceberg lettuce on it. We rode in a bike rickshaw from Republik to Broken City. We danced and laughed, a lot. A bunch of new friends were there, that have become very close, very important, old friends.
And tonight, I’m going to this show with new friends, that could likely become close, important, old friends really soon.
Live music, man. It brings people together, creates such amazing memories. I love it so much.
The streets in this city have a sense of ordered chaos, with perhaps more chaos than order. Any traffic rules appear to really just be guidelines, with mopeds speeding in the bike lanes, the bicyclers leisurely criss-crossing paths at the uncontrolled intersections, and tourists stopping dead in the middle of the street to check their map, or maybe use their selfie-stick for a group photo on a picturesque canal bridge.
The pubs and café’s are filled with all sorts of people enjoying the final August moments of sun and relaxation, with a Juliper in one hand and a rolled cigarette, or maybe an Amsterdam guide book, in the other. Colourful flower baskets hang from windowsills and families have picnics while floating down the canals on their small, wood finished boats.
On an almost daily basis for the past two weeks, I’ve seen Dutch frat boys with their combed hair and coordinated navy blue blazers and khaki pants participate in initiation fraternity rituals throughout the centre of the city – drinking beer in the morning, yelling chants, struggling to transport couches in shopping carts to who knows where and setting off flares in the wee hours of the night.
As many say, the streets are the arteries of the city, and Amsterdam’s streets are surely pumping with energy. Even the quieter streets have a gentle, charming buzz, with young girls perched on the side of the canal eating lunch, and even younger boys biking home over the uneven cobblestone road, causing their bike bells to softly jingle.
There is something special about the fleeting days of summer in any place, but here, in the lively mixed streets of Amsterdam, the end of August seems to be particularly wonderful.