What can I say about the hustling, bustling, cycling city of Amsterdam, Netherlands? I had much more to say than a tweet could carry. I’m on a train now headed for Paris, France; leaving the leafy city behind. Landing in Amsterdam, the first city on my list of visits for this European tour, was intense.
The time change was a shock and quite frankly really difficult to adapt to, right away. My girlfriend and I landed in Amsterdam at six in the morning, while it was midnight back home. Needless to say, we were exhausted; but we made a pact to stick it out for the day and only fall asleep when the sun goes down, to make the adjustment process easier.
It’s still a bit of a struggle even as I type right now, to keep my eyes open. Mainly, because we went out last night to the gay pride festival celebration the city was hosting. We didn’t know that would be the main event of the weekend in Amsterdam, but it was tons of fun, regardless. The gays know how to party.
Our first day was spent walking around, exploring the city and trying local cafes. Going by foot, harnessing the reality of my surroundings, filling my breath with new air, gave me so much hope for a fresh perspective along this journey I’ve embarked upon. You won’t get the same intoxicating experience from riding around in cars or staying cooped up in a hotel. I’ve never seen so many bike riders in my entire life. The culture of Holland can truly be captured through exploration and simple conversation with the local people.
Everyone in Amsterdam speaks English, and that was the most endearing part of experiencing this city. We could ask for directions, recommendations, and just have extended conversation with the people around us. This made for a great remedy for a curious mind. You learn so much about yourself when you travel based on your interactions with people.
You could gravitate toward the most amazing experiences through positive dialogue while traveling, or become consumed by unfortunate situations and grow frustrated at the entire journey. Staying calm and being aware of your surroundings is so crucial I can’t stress it enough. I could shout it from the mountaintop, how important internal peace and awareness is while traveling. It’s helped me through many sticky situations.
There are times when the language is not comprehensive and maybe signs aren’t easy to read, so you feel lost, confused, and small. But, you figure it out, and life goes on. You can breathe through anything. As a young woman traveling with one other woman, I have to be on high alert at all times. That doesn’t mean I walk around paranoid. It just means that my traveling partner and I are each other’s eyes and ears while we breeze though foreign lands, facing foreign challenges.
It’s helpful to stay in touch with some sort of purpose during this month long pilgrimage. I’ve been writing every day, getting thoughts and stories down to build a collection of works to study and refine. I want to become a better writer so that one day, I may publish quality material for all the world to take in. Going from city to city by train and going by plane will be head-spinning. In the meantime, I feel I could stay grounded through knowing I’m collecting priceless experiences and documenting them along the way.
I expect to find a spark while traveling through these next eight cities. One I didn’t have before. I don’t have any hard-hitting expectations for this journey. I simply want to take it day by day, doing all I can to follow the right signs. My next stop is Paris, France.
The last time, and the only time, I was in Paris was ten years ago and I was too young to drink. I was on an educational tour where we had a tour guide who led us around from six in the morning to sun down; going from museum to cafe to museum with a large group. It was an entirely different experience than the one I’m probably going to have this time around.
I’ll be staying at a hotel with one girlfriend, waking up on my own time, exploring the places I choose to. We’ve already booked tickets to the famous Moulin Rouge, and I’m so excited for that. As I gaze at the land that swiftly passes through the window of this train, I imagine a fabulous future in Paris, where they speak the language of love.