I Can Laugh Now: Reminiscing About Roadblocks in Amsterdam

It’s coming up one year (10 months really) since I travelled solo to Amsterdam and I find myself reminiscing about the roadblocks, albeit small ones, that I hit during my trip.   I can’t believe I still remember these things.  They must have left quite an impact on me.  At the time I felt embarrassed, confused and the like, but I can laugh now…

Truthfully, one of the things I was most anxious about was getting to my hotel from the airport.  I knew I had to take a train before getting on the Metro and I knew what station to get off at, but that was about it.  Coen assured me Schiphol was well-marked with signs for transportation, but still, I was envisioning myself lugging around all my belongings looking totally lost.  After picking up my luggage I looked for those signs…they were everywhere!  I was SAFE!  Right!?! Perhaps…until I encountered the machine I was supposed to use to use to buy my train ticket.  As I approached the machine I looked at it blankly.  I didn’t know what any of it meant!  I looked at the map of all the train lines. Yeah, that wasn’t very helpful.  I was totally clueless.  “I know,” I thought, “If I press some buttons for the line I THINK I’m supposed to take I’ll be able to figure it out!”  A few presses in I realized that wasn’t going to work.  So, with no ticket in hand, I looked around to see if anyone was watching me and slipped away, hopefully unnoticed, in search of help!  Fortunately after a few minutes I found actual people that I could purchase my ticket from!  Needless to say I bought my return train ticket from a person as well.

So I’m a few hours into my first full day in Amsterdam and I’m looking for somewhere to get coffee when I spot McDonalds!  Yes, I was 7700km from home and went to McDonalds. Well, almost.  I walked into the doorway.  Does that count?  So, what stopped me?  The SELF-SERVE KIOSKS!  I’d never used one.  What if I couldn’t figure it out?  Would there be an English option?  Or would I have to attempt to read Dutch?  At that point my Dutch food and drink vocabulary was pretty much limited to water (water), appel (apple), boterham (sandwich), sap (juice), brood (bread) and melk (milk.)  I high tailed it out of there are pulled out my phone to text Coen asking whether I had to use a kiosk or if I could still order at the counter!  I ended up going to a different café that day, but did visit a different McDonalds another day…and went straight to the counter!

That same day I had taken the tram to Dam Square and managed just fine.  I got off and made note of the stop (not the same one) where I would catch the tram back.  I could do it!  After wandering around for hours I headed back to the tram stop.  I was pretty sure I was in the right place but the driver was standing at the door so I thought I would ask him just in case.  “Excuse me, is the correct tram to take me to Jan van Galenstraat?” I asked.  He looked at me with what I thought was a slightly odd expression.  “Crap!” I thought.  “Maybe he doesn’t speak English.” I tried again and pointed to Jan van Galenstraat on my little map.  He started laughing at me!  “Ahh, Jan van Galenstraat!  Yes, this is right,” he said.  His pronunciation of Jan van Galenstraat was quite different than mine.  Let’s just say some of their letter sounds are quite different from English!  He ended up being super helpful.  In the end I don’t think his laugh was meant to embarrass me.  I think he appreciated that I at least tried to say it.

Google Maps!  Yes!  Thank Goodness!  Or so I thought…One morning I was off to Anne Frank House.  Online tickets sell out way in advance and I wasn’t prepared to wait in line for ours for general admission so I was lucky to find tickets released earlier that morning.  I had a general idea of where it was; I had seen it on the walking tour I went on and I knew which tram stop to get off at.  While on Wi-Fi I found the walking directions from the Westermarkt tram stop to Anne Frank House.  It looked easy peasy so off I went.  I followed the directions and walked down the street enjoying the scenery; gorgeous old buildings and canals.  After what felt like forever I realized the time I had to arrive was approaching.  I thought Anne Frank House was much closer to the tram stop.  To be honest, I wasn’t even 100% sure what street I was on.  Keep in mind that most street signs are pretty small and on the side of buildings.  Anyway, I pulled out my phone (I had a travel plan for emergencies) and found the directions to Anne Frank House from where I was.  Turned out I had walked in the complete opposite direction!  I think the original directions were from the tram stop on the other side of the road.  I turned around and prepared to speed walk to my destination.  In about 10 minutes I was back where I started.  In TWO MINUTES I was at Anne Frank House.  OOPS! I learned my lesson about double checking directions!

At the time I was embarrassed to share these little stories, but I can laugh now…

The Road More Travelled

This post is really more for myself as opposed to anyone else.  It’s more of a means for me to keep track of my travels and it will be edited as time goes on.  More than once, for whatever reason, I’ve found myself trying to think of the places I have been.  A post like this will make it easy for me to remember!  I certainly haven’t done as much travelling as many people but I feel like I’m off to a good start…

CANADA
British Columbia – home sweet home!
Alberta – Edmonton
Ontario – Niagara Falls, Toronto

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Alaska – Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Juneau, Whittier
Arizona – Scottsdale
California – Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco
Florida – Orlando
Hawaii – Maui
Oregon – Portland
Massachusetts – Boston
Nevada – Las Vegas, Wendover
New York – Buffalo, New York City, Niagara Falls
*Puerto Rico – San Juan
Utah – Wendover
Washington – Bellingham, Seattle

EUROPE
Belgium – Bruges, Ghent
England – London, Richmond
Germany – Cologne, Cochem
The Netherlands – Amsterdam, Volendam
Scotland – Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Inverurie

MEXICO
Cabo San Lucas
Puerto Vallarta

BAHAMAS
Nassau
Princess Cays
Half Moon Cay

SINT MAARTEN
Philipsburg

SAINT-MARTIN
Marigot

TURKS AND CAICOS
Grand Turk

Have a Little Faith: The Story of How Following My Heart Changed Me

Self-conscious. Safe. Introverted. Hurt. 

Those four words described me pretty accurately until last August when I decided to embark on the biggest adventure of my life so far. Those of you who have already read my other posts will know that I decided to travel solo to Amsterdam (for history, culture and maybe a little bit of love.) This is the story of how it all came to be:

Let’s go back to March 2016…

At the insistence of two of my girlfriends, despite my resistance, I had recently gotten back into the dating game. I had been out with a few men but I didn’t connect with them on the level I was looking for.

Well, after 2 weeks in Maui I checked my messages and one from a guy in the Netherlands piqued my interest. Why? Because he mentioned travel, specifically Scotland, which I had mentioned in my profile. I read his profile and it made me laugh out loud more than once and he had done a lot of travelling. I remember thinking, “He’s safe. We’ll talk about travel for a bit and then I’ll never talk to him again” and I responded.

Along came June 2016…

We were spending a crazy amount of time texting with each other; pretty much whenever we were both awake. We had a ton in common and he had so many of the qualities I was looking for in someone. There was only one problem. He lived in Holland. As crazy as it sounds, I felt an intense emotional connection and the more we texted the more I felt like I had to meet this guy.

One of my girlfriends suggested we go to Holland in the summer. We started looking into it and it looked like we could plan a pretty awesome trip; a European vacation with the bonus of meeting C! By the end of the month I had informed him of our intentions to visit Amsterdam in the summer. We started Skyping (boy, was I ever nervous the first time) in preparation for a REAL conversation one day.

The hitch in our plan…

“I need dental surgery and our benefits don’t cover it.” What!?! No! My friend couldn’t go through with our trip. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I HAD to meet C. I needed to know if there was a connection in person. But I was absolutely terrified of travelling on my own. I was so torn. One of my biggest concerns was how my parents would react if I told them I was thinking of going on my own. I started doing some soul searching and research about female solo travel and came to the following conclusions:

*I’m single. I might always be single. Should I miss out on travelling just because I can’t find someone to go with?

*I’m smart and cautious. Just because I would be in a different country didn’t mean I would suddenly become careless.

*I would experience complete independence for the first time in my life.

*If I was miserable I didn’t have to leave my hotel or I could book a flight to the UK to visit family there. Worst case, I could book an earlier flight home. If it was THAT horrible money would be the least of my concerns.

*I would discover if I liked travelling solo. If I didn’t, I never had to do it again.

***Check out this cool read by Carolyn Smurthwaite who compiled quotes from female solo travellers.  I’m even quoted in it!
http://gapyeargal.com/2017/04/12/quotes-to-inspire-solo-female-travelers/

August Came Around…

I still hadn’t booked anything. My parents had come around and one night I was at their house when my mom asked if I had booked my flight and hotel yet. I don’t think she really thought I ever would. I told her I was giving myself until the following night. She asked why I would wait and said that I should do now. And so I did. I booked my flight and hotel. There was no turning back.

8 days later…

I hopped on a plane headed for Amsterdam. Little did I know that this two-week trip that took me WAY out of my comfort zone would be such an empowering experience. I was forced to figure things out for myself. I asked for help. I ate at restaurants alone. I wandered aimlessly. I got lost. I talked to strangers. I made new friends. And, to top it all off, I healed my heart.

When I returned home two weeks later I wasn’t the same person.  As ridiculous as it sounds, I left as a 33 year old girl and returned as a 33 year old woman.

Confident. Brave. Independent. Hopeful.

Fast-forward to today…

One week ago I dropped C off at the airport after spending four weeks together. We never know what exactly the future holds but I do know that if it wasn’t for this man I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.

Follow your heart; you never know where it might take you.

Charming Small Town Washington

We really wanted to see Mount Rainier but didn’t want to actually go into Mount Rainier National Park this time so after some research we discovered Crystal Mountain. The resort has a Gondola and a restaurant at the top of the mountain which offers views of Mount Rainier…perfect! Or so we thought. We followed directions from an offline Google Map and found this:

The route Google had us take had us travelling via the Chinook Pass, which is closed during the winter. We decided to head to our hotel in Kent which took us through some cute towns we had never heard of.

Our first stop was Packwood. Here we found The Mountain Goat. If I lived in a small town I would be a frequent visitor of a place like this. Actually, maybe I would own  it!

Next stop…Elbe! We vistited the gift shop for the nearby Mount Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum and saw the Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church which is on the National Register of Historical Places.

Our next stop was a viewpoint in Eatonville where we got to see Mount Rainier! There was quite a bit of cloud cover so we couldn’t see the top but it was amazing nonetheless.

After catching this incredible view we continued on to Kent.

Portland, OR Day 3

Our last day in Portland looked promising when we woke up but by the time we were ready to head out the rain had started. Luckily it didn’t last all day.

We started with a walk along the Waterfront Park Trail which follows the Willamette River.

We stumbled upon the Oregon Maritime Museum and for $7 we went on a tour of the steam powered tugboat led by a docer.  It was very informative and interesting.

Voodoo Doughnuts was next! There were only a few people ahead of us when we arrived but before long there were people lined up out the door. I had heard so much about this place of heavenly doughnut goodness and when I looked at the display I realized just what everyone was taking about. How on Earth would we ever decide what to get?

I’m borderline obsessed with bacon, so Bacon Maple Bar was a given. We also went with a Raspberry Romeo, a Chuckles and a Memphis Mafia.

We ate these over the next few days and they were delicious!

Now, you can’t visit Portland without eating from a food cart, right? I just HAD to do this before we left. We walked until we found a bunch of carts near O’ Bryant Square. After completing a loop to see what they had to offer I went with a Chicken Gyro…tricky to eat but one of the best I have ever had.

After this we headed to a spot where we could watch the sun go down and get some photos of Hawthorne Bridge and the city before and during blue hour.

All in all, Portland was fabulous and we will definitely return!

Portland, OR Day 2

We woke up to rain but decided we would grab our umbrellas and explore the city anyway. Fortunately by the time we hit the road the rain had stopped! Throughout the day we wandered the streets and made several stops. The most notable are below.

Our first stop was Blue Star Donuts. It was difficult to choose which kinds to order. We ended up choosing Rasberry Rosemary Buttermilk and Chocolate Almond Ganache. The Raspberry Rosemary Buttermilk was by far the most amazing donut I have ever tasted.

We hit up 10 Barrel Brewing Co. for a drink and lunch. I tried their Raspberry Crush (sour)…a refreshing sour raspberry flavour with just a hint of sweetness.

Lunch consisted of a Chipotle Turkey Club and a BLTE, both of which were great.

After lunch we headed to Pittock Mansion. The Mansion itself was closed when we arrived but we were there for the viewpoint we had read about. It was breathtaking. This is definitely worth visiting.

Portland, OR Day 1

Trying to decide where to go on a mini-vacation wasn’t too hard. Portland is only about a 5 hour drive from home and neither of us has been here. We rolled into our hotel at around 4:30pm and, just our luck, it started to rain! BLAH. After a bit of downtime while checking out maps of downtown Portland and the surrounding areas we decided to head out.

The rain provided me with the chance to visit the #1 place on my list of places to go…Powell’s Books!A bookstore that needs a MAP! That’s my idea of Heaven. Powell’s City of Books covers an entire city block and sells games, stationary, souvenirs and the like in addition to all the glorious new and used books! There is also a coffee bar where you are able to browse through books. If I lived here I would probably spend A LOT of time there. If you haven’t been, visiting Powell’s is a MUST!

Starbucks was across the street and there was no time like the present to purchase the newest addition to my collection! I already have Portland so I added Oregon.

By now we were absolutely starving so it was off to visit #2 on my list…Deschutes Brewery.

We decided to start with the Brewer’s Choice Tasting featuring six different beers. I really only enjoyed two out of six but that’s fairly typical for me as I really only enjoy lighter beers.

After some serious menu deliberation we decided on Steak Frites and Spicy Chicken and Waffle for our entrees. Both were delicious. 

As day 1 came to a close we headed back to our hotel in hopes of better weather for the next couple days.