Have you ever taken a quick 3 hour trip to Amsterdam and ran into your high school friends on a side street? I have. However, this was just weird. What were the chances that I’d run into Maddie and Kent (friends of mine for the past 15ish years) as I was strolling past a quiet Amsterdam canal? That’s the beauty of travel – it never ceases to surprise me as every corner brings another unexpected discovery. As you wander through the winding streets, gawk at the famous sights, and relax at the quaint cafes, you are exposed to a blend of history and culture that leaves an everlasting impression.
For the second time in the past year, I travelled to the Netherlands last week in order to visit Knut at his school in Rotterdam. As you know from my last post, we spent the majority of my trip in Italy. However, we did spend a few days enjoying meals with friends in Rotterdam and making the always exciting trip to Amsterdam. The last time I went to Amsterdam, it was 40 degrees and raining the entire time. Luckily, this time it was 75 and sunny and I could not have been happier. We spent our quick afternoon in Amsterdam visiting the classic tulip market and walking by the Rijkmuseum, then grabbing coffee and a bite to eat at what has come to be our favorite Amsterdam cafe – Café Hans en Grietje. Although in November we ate upstairs and had a fabulous view of the canals (yet still enjoyed the warmth of being inside), this time we were seated outside and were directly across from a canal. Needless to say, it was amazing.
Later, as we were walking through Amsterdam, I commented on the name of the “Victoria Hotel” that greets all who exit Amsterdam Centraal Station. Knut responded, “You know, you’re a little obsessed with names.” And he’s right. I have this strange fascination with what I consider to be the most important word we ever speak – our names. I’m constantly wondering what people’s names are, why they were named that, and what that name means. I suppose it stems from a deeper interest in people, fueling my desire to travel.
On that note comes the most enjoyable part of every trip. More than the food and the sightseeing and the relaxation, I appreciate the people. Rotterdam has not proven to be my favorite city in the world, but the people I’ve met there are some of the best I’ve encountered while traveling. Twice now Knut’s good friends have invited us over for a home cooked meal. This time, I jokingly said I expected a 4 course meal – and they didn’t disappoint. We walked into Melvin, Joep, and Thomas’ apartment greeted by a candlelit dinner, a relaxing “fire”, and three 20-year-old boys preparing the most elaborate meal I’ve seen college kids execute. Thousands of miles away from Easton, I felt comfortably at home in the Netherlands.
I think that’s what’s so interesting about travel; whether you run into your neighbor from home on a side street in Amsterdam or share a meal with some people you’ve only met twice, there’s a feeling of mundane normalcy in every foreign city. The language and the sights may change, but every city is just a place filled with interconnected names; names that become faces and faces that become people who come to define our experiences.
Travel is about more than checking off a list or posting cool photos on Instagram (though I admittedly have a wish list and post what I think are cool photos), it’s about experiencing the world and the people in it. They say the well traveled are wise, and that wisdom comes from a greater understanding of humans that is obtained through exploring this amazing world and its abundance of cultures. Although I’m nowhere near that yet, I know it’s somewhere I’d like to be.