I always knew I wanted to see the world. I sure took my time before actually taking that step. My friends from college had been to places all over the world. I remember hearing all their amazing stories throughout college. I never went anywhere in college. I went to class, to work and saw my boyfriend. I lived vicariously through their stories and pictures. Someday I told myself I would take the leap. I knew how hesitant my family would be, the world’s a dangerous place are you sure you really want to go they would say.
It wasn’t until after I graduated from college and had been working in the real world that I thought about it again. I had a goal to see the world. It was still there. I mentioned it to my three friends from college. The same ones who had traveled all over the place. They were done for a trip and so the planning began. The destination changed over the planning and we decided on Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I knew I wanted to go to a place they had never been. That way we could experience it together. But we weren’t kids anymore. Life happens and my best friend Tess told us that she was pregnant! It was great news and we were all so excited for her and her husband, Sean. Obviously, that meant she could no longer take the trip but would be with us in spirit. And then our group was down to 3 which quickly became 2 as another friend let us know he was in grad school now. And then there was 2 and before I talked myself out of this trip I purchased my ticket. I committed I knew I was still going to go. And life happened again. My friend informed me that he quit his job a month before our trip so he wouldn’t be going anymore. I understood, he wasn’t happy with what he was doing and chose to be at a better place. Of course, I supported their decisions all of them.
But I still had my ticket and I am terribly stubborn. I knew I would still make it happen and I prepared myself for the conversations I would be having with my coworkers, family, and friends who would try to deter me from going. I put on a brave face that I was excited and would have no problem visiting another country all by myself. On the inside, I was terrified. I thought about all the things that could go wrong. People warned me to beware of pickpockets. Am I going to be robbed I wondered. Still I knew I was going.
Navigating the airport on the day I was supposed to leave was an adventure. I checked in early that morning using the airlines’ app. I made sure I arrived with plenty of time (hours) because there was stuff I needed to do beforehand. Calm my mother one last time before I left, eat, charge my dying phone. Smoothly, it should have gone smoothly right? I discovered once there that my flight had been canceled. I could get on a flight leaving the next morning they said or they could put me on a flight leaving in 30 minutes from the other side of the airport. I remember the clerk handing me my ticket saying, “Girl you need to run.” And run I did. There was an amazing clerk who called the plane and asked it to wait for me. They had already closed the checked bag area and so I ran through that airport with a bag and the clerk ran with me carrying my other bag. I owe so much to her. She helped me more than she realized.
I chose to stay in a hostel while in Amsterdam. Since I knew I would be traveling alone I thought it would be a great way to meet people while I was there. There are plenty of hostels in Amsterdam if you are okay with staying in them. My advice, you get what you pay for if its cheap there is a reason for it. Because I am a little older I knew I didn’t want to stay in one of the hostels in the center of downtown because I wouldn’t get much sleep. And I need sleep. I chose to stay at ClinkNOORD. It is on the other side of the river but there is a free 24-hour ferry that runs every 10 minutes right to downtown Amsterdam. I stayed in a co-ed room with 8 beds without a bathroom. There were bathrooms in various places in each hall. For 6 nights it cost 233,00 euro or around $264.00 USD roughly. The hostel had its own bar/restaurant & all you can eat breakfast in the lower level. It had a beautiful atrium. I definitely recommend it. They also offered several activities.
Free walking tour
I took a free walking tour from my hostel with several other people. We took the city tour that left from downtown Amsterdam. There are several other tours that take place each day depending on what you want to see.
I Amsterdam City Card
I got the I Amsterdam city card when I arrived in Amsterdam. There are several places you can get it but I got mine at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol before I took the train to Amsterdam Centraal station. I got mine for the longest time possible, the 96-hour pass for 87 euro. If you don’t know what the I Amsterdam city card is, it’s a card that you can use to get into Amsterdam’s attractions. It also covers your transportation for the number of hours you purchased. It gets you discounts to certain places. The card comes with a little booklet that has a map showing all the places you can use the card. It also shows you what transportation you need to use to get to different attractions. Some of the attractions give you free gifts when you visit.
Some of the places I visited using the I Amsterdam City Card
- Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam
- Allard Pierson Museum – Archeology anyone?
- Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot
- Tropen Museum
- Van Gogh Museum
- Stedelijk Museum
- Rembrandt House
- Hollandsche Schouwburg
- The National Maritime Museum
As part of the I Amsterdam City Car, you also get to take a canal tour. It was a great way to see the cities architecture on such a wonderful day. I am not used to seeing building lean like these.
Food heaven in Amsterdam
Can we talk about the food in Amsterdam??? I am from the United States and the food is very processed and there are fast food places all over the place. Needless to say, I was in food heaven in Amsterdam. It did not matter what I ate or where I got it from it was delicious! I ate gelato every day and I didn’t feel guilty about it. I did eat at Ramen-Ya, which I recommend, but I was too excited and hungry and forgot to take pictures of it. Sorry! I’ll post the link to their website though. I also ate at Wagamama in Amsterdam Centraal Station which I also recommend. Their links are also posted below.
All in all my first trip abroad was amazing. Even though I was terrified and traveling alone I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I got to explore a new place a new culture on my own time. I did what I wanted when I wanted. It did take me a few days to get into the rhythm of things. People in my country are always in a rush there is never enough time. We rush through things so it was a strange concept for me to slow down. In Amsterdam, people take their time with everything. I realized it when I went to eat the first time. I finished my meal and looked for the waiter. What was taking so long, I wondered. Then I realized that rushing was not the culture here. Everything was done at a leisurely pace. It was genuinely hard for me to take my time. I had to be conscious of it, to stop, relax, slow down and simply enjoy.
Amsterdam was a wonderful place and a great experience. The perfect start to a new chapter in my life. I know what traveling solo feels like now and though some may find it strange I think I rather enjoy it. I stayed in a hostel with strangers and made a point to have conversations with them. To learn about where they were from and where they were going. I meet an Austrailian blogger who was also traveling by herself and we had dinner with another American. We spent the night laughing over their travel stories. I asked for advice on future travels. Those are things I would not have done if I had been with my group. It was everything I wanted and needed. I’m happily planning my next trip. Until next time.