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…