Let’s face it; travel isn’t always picture perfect. Sure, you’ll see friends, family or your favorite travel blogger share beautiful photos of places you wish to visit someday, but the reality is, it’s not always glamorous. It’s not always what you see in the photos or movies or read in a travel guide. Sometimes travel gets messy or scary, and sometimes it is far from enjoyable…
That was our initial impression of Amsterdam.
Arriving at 9:00 pm on a Friday night in summer may not have been the best choice. With sunset not arriving for another hour and a half, we hit the prime time for people to arrive in the city known to most for drugs and sex. The train from Schiphol airport was packed with locals and tourists alike looking for a wild night out in the city of sin. Not necessarily what two travelers who prefer nature and small towns really expected. Looking back, I don’t really know what we expected.
If the train crowd wasn’t bad enough, the chaotic exit was sure to raise your heart rate and heighten your breath. With senses on full alert, Jarrett and I made our way down Damrak trying to avoid contact with the hundreds of other people pulsating toward the center streets filled bars, “coffee” shops and modern day brothels. I would later be grateful for booking our stay at the Volkshotel away from this busy part of the city, but that walk from Centraal Station to the hotel on a Friday night was enough to make us dislike Amsterdam (at first), which is not fair to this infamous city.
As a female, I felt especially vulnerable to the glares of men as we weaved our way through the tight streets knowing very well what their intention for the evening was. This of course made my travel partner anxious as well and he kept me even closer as we squeezed through the busy streets. Even with our small and tightly packed Osprey bags, it was hard to not brush against complete strangers at every turn.
As the streets became narrower, the lights shone brighter and the noises began to echo off the timber framed buildings that stood crookedly watching the immorality commence. Luckily, the crux of the crowd fizzled out after a few canals and we were able to catch our breath and begin to take in some of the beauty of the city. After a nearly 45 minute walk, we found comfort in the lobby of our hotel where we checked in and then located a grocery nearby where we found some food for dinner. We decided to enjoy it in our room as we stared out watching the sun finally set on the city. After a long day of travel, we needed the time to decompress and prepare ourselves for the next four full days in Amsterdam.
This feeling was culture shock. It is something that has likely happened to even the most seasoned traveler, but the key to overcoming culture shock is to keep an open mind. Yes, we were overwhelmed, disheartened, and even frightened at points when we first arrived in Amsterdam, but once a new day came, we set out on an adventure that was more our style, a bike ride to the village of Marken, before giving Amsterdam the second chance it rightfully deserved.
~~~ Travel isn’t always perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the adventure. ~~~