After having travelled for the first time to Amsterdam in the summer of 2014 (during Shaneka and my adventure dubbed “The Euro Tour 2K14” ) we fell absolutely in love with this city – the atmosphere, the beauty and the friendly people we met. It was decided unanimously that we had to return again but with busy University schedules we waited until our Christmas break and set off.
(Apologies for the poor picture quality in this article guys this was 3 years ago raw and unscripted!!)
Lesson 1 : Girls Plan and the Gods laugh
When travelling back from Amsterdam in the summer we had taken the coach, the cheapest but also longest way to travel. As we were both on a serious budget we thought we’d stay awake all day get seriously tired and use the coach as an 11 hour night’s sleep to walk up in Amsterdam in the morning. Now if there is one thing travelling has taught me it’s to never pre-plan your sleep on a form of transportation. If it happens… lovely but plan it and the universe will conspire to make sure you’re fucked.
Lesson 2: Poverty meets Privilege in the Strangest of Places
We were fucked. Our coach in the summer had taken the channel tunnel train that connects England at Dover and Calais in France. This meant you were contained and could stay on your warm comfy seat. The coach this time was taking the ferry which means you ARE FORCED to get up and walk around. Even though you were happy and asleep. Even though you haven’t slept in two days. Even though it’s December and -4.
It was like something out of Alice in Wonderland, being on this rocking party boat soo tired and exhausted, surrounded by loud pop music and what felt like a thousand middle class and mostly white kids off on group ski tours and gap yeaaars and lads holidays. Not having many people in our social circles who had ever been skiing it was interesting to see all these people who obviously KNEW that the ferry did this because they were so used it. (No hate I promise )
Lesson 3: Climates really do Change
We were down but not out when we arrived. The coach station is quite a ways out of the city, and despite looking like some post-apocalyptic outpost (Hunger Games District 12 much!) it was easily accessible from a single tram. When we got to Centraal Station the first thing that struck us was the cold. If you are from England or a similar climate be warned winter in mainland Europe was not to be fucked with for whilst their summer was warmer than what we experience in London Amsterdam winters make our look like a joke.
Lesson 4: It’s all in the Differences
One of my first memories of this trip was seeing this sign and being struck by the difference in attitude towards drugs – in London we joked, and definitely within our social circles, people are so afraid of being incriminated themselves that dangerous drugs can run around on the streets. I feel that people will remain silent because of the ambivalent relationship with the police in the UK. It seems such a small thing but we had never seen a police warning sign with this tone or openness.
I guess to me it’s an important memory because it’s a symbol of what travel is about – question your normal – expand your perspective – find the differences in places that feel most familiar and find the similarities in the places that feel most exotic.
Lesson 5: Why you go back
Our hotel this time around was a lovely place called Hotel Casa 400 which I review here. It was an interesting trip for us because we were staying in a different a part of the same city and couldn’t rely on walking so much due to the weather. We were forced to get used to the metro system and found ourselves taking different forms of public transportation even going back to our first hotel from the summer and seeing that area again with different eyes.
People all have their different standards for what makes an experienced traveller but for me and Shaneka it’s definitely gaining confidence as an inhabitant of a city. At first we always walk everywhere to get a feel for the quite ordinary parts of the city where all you need is a good map. This time it was nice to level up into taking different kinds of transport – getting lost – getting found – trying to read strange signs with strange names for unknown places with only a destination and a heap of faith in your corner.
Lesson 5: Travel to grow your World not to escape it
This last one I have only recently started to come to terms with. It took my life to move on after this trip for me to gain this hindsight. At the time of going I had been suffering from huge amounts of stress, with my University work, with friends and at home. Amsterdam was to be my great escape from it all, a chance to go a bit wild with my best friend. Which we did – and enjoyed. Coming back however my mood did not improve and my mental health started to suffer. This was because my problems had not magically gone away. I had. And now that I was back they hit me with a vengeance.
Now as I say everyone is different and some physical and/or headspaces do need to be escaped but before you go anywhere really ask yourself why you want to go and what you hope to achieve from going. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life as it has led me to some amazing places so I guess the lesson within in this lesson (Lessonception O.O) is to always USE your experiences positive or negative and to grow from them.
… Always grow.
Hope these lessons gave food for thought and an enjoyable read
What are some Lessons you’ve Learned from Travelling?