Teenage years are possibly the first period of self-realisation in one’s life; a time when we gradually begin to contextualise our position in the world and discover the many facets of ourselves that will construct our future being.
In my case, it became unavoidable that I would have to acknowledge the fact that I had developed a passion of stringing words together in (occasionally nonsensical) sentences. Whether it was in my own personal journal or on now-forgotten blog posts, writing accompanied me through the ups and downs, ins and outs of my teenage years. It coaxed me when life was incomprehensible, it sheltered me when I needed an escape, it grounded me when I felt like I was losing myself.
While I wrote my fair share of inner teenage angst, daily happenings and whatnots, writing fiction somehow found a way of creeping into my life. In writing my personal thoughts, I relied solely on the words flowing through my mind. However, fiction was an entirely different matter. It forced me to flesh out characters who had walked paths that I had hardly made a dent in. And through that struggle of expressing feelings that I had never felt before, I realised that I would need to begin saying ‘yes’ to more experiences, to be less afraid of what could happen, to stop living a safe life where I knew that everything I did was the classic, docile move.
In an accumulation of various factors, I began to say ‘yes’ to a variety of different opportunities and experiences. I have found myself embracing life more than I ever did before, chasing wild adventures, wanting to weave my own personal tales before I invested myself back into the writing of fiction. And in one of such spur-of-a-moment decisions, I found myself booking a train ticket to Amsterdam with hardly any knowledge of the city and not a soul that I knew who lived there.
It was a solo adventure – my first true solo adventure. While I had performed the act of travelling alone a handful of times in the past (as in taking the plane/train on my own to meet someone at my destination), this trip was the first one that I had organised independently from start to finish. And for the first time in my life, I felt nervous before the trip, nearly convinced that the whole escapade would amount to nothing.
How awfully wrong I was.
No matter how short your journey, traveling has a way of changing you as a person. Each interaction and experience morphs you in an unpredictable way; it goes without saying that you return home a slightly different person. In my case, I returned more liberal and outgoing than ever. Whether that is considered a positive or a negative turn of events is perhaps debatable, but in my eyes, it simply happened and I gladly let it happen. Do I still feel out of place when I step into a café alone? A little. Do I still weigh out my other options before approaching someone for help? Definitely. But the nervousness I feel in these situations has lessened quite considerably since Amsterdam. For now, I plan to follow this new character development (responsibly, don’t you worry) and see where this path shall lead me in life.
Now to the more concrete matters of Amsterdam. Follow me as I relive the highlights of my trip. Enjoy! (Hopefully it’ll encourage you to visit!)
Imagine. You step out of the Amsterdam Centraal Station. The sun shines down at you and you look up, blinded by the rays – not a single cloud in sight. A small smile curves on your lips, perhaps you’ll fall in love with this city after all. A few steps forward and you reach your first pedestrian crossing in Amsterdam. You cross, barely skipping out of the way of an incoming bicycle. Little do you realise that moments such as these would haunt you throughout the entirety of your stay. Trams, bikes, cars… All vehicles merge, the roads crisscrossing: an utter mash up of infrastructure.
If “sex” isn’t a word you become overly accustomed to over the course of your Amsterdam stay, perhaps you should be wondering whether you are in the right location at all. Your trip becomes a series of ‘first times’ (not the one that that comes to your mind). First sex museum, first sex show, first sex shop… Sex hardly seems taboo in this city.
“Let’s go to the Ice Bar,” say your newfound friends. You hardly need convincing. Yet another first time to add to your list. That night you down two shots in ice glasses as you stand in a room of -10ºC. It becomes obvious now why they handed you thermal coats and gloves at the entrance. The remainder of the night is spent wandering the streets, eating chips and sitting by the canal.
The Anne Frank House is a must and it reminds you that her diary is a book still sitting in your to-read list. There is something tangibly tragic about the house and the former residents’ stories. You leave with a heavy heart and a head full of “what ifs’.
The Heineken Experience becomes one of your favourite museums in the space of 3 hours and the fact that the entrance ticket includes three beers certainly doesn’t hurt. After an afternoon of wandering through interactive presentations and learning about Heineken, you realise with slight amusement that this is perhaps the best advertisement ever created by the company. Heineken will always have that special je ne sais quoi in your heart from now on.
You’ve seen Amsterdam in the sun and the rain and both are just as beautiful, are they not?
The infamous I Amsterdam sign stands in the background and this is the best shot that you could take of it, considering the horde of children clambering over the letters. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad of a compromise considering the basin of tulips that you also managed to capture.
Coffee shops in Amsterdam have two extremely different vibes you realise. One offers neon lights, dark shadows and unfocused eyes wandering around the room. The other serves warm coffees, sweet pastries and unfiltered light shining onto the tables.
You leave the Van Gogh Museum (and Amsterdam) with a much better understanding of the artist. He becomes more real, more vivid in your mind and your appreciation of his artwork grows. Certainly, his life ended tragically, but his dedication and drive for art must be commended.
And so that concludes a rollercoaster of a trip. Thank you Amsterdam for all that you have taught me.
Till we meet again.