Every time I travel, I discover a new reason why I love travelling.
Everyone knows that I’m addicted to travelling, but no one, including myself, can really explain why. There are many reasons to it for sure, and I guess it is a continuous self discovery process. I started out thinking that perhaps it is because I love looking at new sights, the famous landmarks that I have only seen in movies or heard people talk about. And it could have very well started out that way when I first set my foot in a foreign land on my own as a wide-eyed girl discovering new places. However, my last trip to Amsterdam a couple of weeks back made me rethink of this notion – that there is definitely something else to travelling that makes it so dear to me, apart from simply seeing new famous places.
Before the said trip, my first visit to Amsterdam was six years ago. It was my first travel out of Denmark when I was studying abroad in Copenhagen. And back then I liked the place alright, but apart from the Mexican burger and the Samurai fries we had there, nothing made quite an impression on me to make me want to visit the city again.
So when the offer came to go for a road trip to Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago, I jumped at the opportunity not because I was in love with the place and had been having the urge to visit again, but more because of the company and the spontaneity of the situation (we came up with the idea on a Wednesday night and left for the 10-hour drive on Friday morning).
However, something startled me when we reached Amsterdam. When our car entered the city centre, my breath was taken away immediately by the sights of the canals. And when we were walking on the lamp-lit streets by the water, I started to wonder how in the world I could have not fallen in love with the city the first time I went there.
I became so curious that I searched through my pictures from six years ago (thank goodness that I was such a Facebook photo upload maniac at the time that it was not very hard to locate them). And what I realised was that back then, the canals might have been just as beautiful, but I did not have the time to appreciate them. We went for a weekend trip and tried ticking off as many places of interests as possible. My head was probably too busy buried looking at the paper map to figure out the direction to our the next place of interest (and mind you I take twice as long as normal people to figure out my directions owing to my infamous lack of sense of direction). The only time I had my head up was probably when I wanted to take pictures with the canal, which means that my back was facing them.
This time, we went for the same duration but did not have any list of places to visit, and ironically, I felt like I saw so much more by seeing less. We might not have made it to the famous Van Gogh museums or gone in to the Anne Frank Hus, but I felt very much present at the time. I realised what mattered were not how many things I got to tick off my list, but these little big things that I saw or felt in between that made cherish the trip very much:
The sight of the very aggressive Amsterdam cyclists and the feeling of being so scared to death every time we walked on the street.
How my rain-stained lens captured this photo of my friends admiring the city.
And how colourful we looked the morning our Airbnb host cancelled on us the night we were supposed to stay at the place.
Or our excitement upon arriving at the flat that we booked in replacement, which we could only afford courtesy of Airbnb (more on this in the next post).
And as I was browsing through my pictures from six years ago, a gush of fond memories came rushing to me. It was not, however, the memories of the world-famous painting by Van Gogh that I saw while rushing through to finish the museum nor were they the fact that I have been to the popular Anne Frank’s House that appeared in the movie “The Fault in Our Stars” a few years before the movie was produced. Instead, they were the memories of sitting in a cramped train compartment for 16 hours with my travel mates eating nothing but nacho chips and leftover sandwiches from our school.
And the time when we squeezed into a gigantic clog outside a souvenir shop.
And perhaps my favourite memory of Amsterdam was when my friend and I decided to pedal through the canal to enjoy the sights…
But had no idea how to parallel park that we spent half an hour maneuvering our boat until one very kind stranger decided to help us by pulling our boat to the side of the canal.
So what started out as an almost reckless trip turned out to be pretty amazing. I get to know my new friends more, remember the memories that I had with old friends and learn something new about myself.
I certainly have Amsterdam and its beautiful canals to thank for that.