No place like home?

Amsterdam Travel Blog

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Noordermarkt (30 oktober 1896). In Amsterdam I've always lived within 1 mile of this square.

Arriving back at the point of departure...

I underestimated how much I had grown used to travelling. I spent the first few days still living out of my backpack, still had my bag with toiletries in the bathroom and only realised after a few days I had cupboards to put all the stuff in. Also after a few days back home I caught myself thinking "well, I'm done here so lets move on." Oops, this is home... 

And even walking around in AmsterdamI still had the automatism to grab my camera when i saw a nice 'shot'. But my camera wasn't hanging from my belt anymore 24/7.

So after 8 countries, 17 flights, 45 scuba dives, a dozen ferry and boat trips, countless moped, trycicle and cab rides, liters of cap tikus/tuag/Bintang/SML/Red Horse, but most important of all: lots of travelbuddies, what does it all amount to?

I think travelling gave me a rare breather.
This sign means it's illegal to smoke soft drugs in this specific location (as it's legal in every other location). Just confirming the stereotype ;)
No annoying pressures and practicalities of normal life to deal with. I don't think it would have otherwise been easy to gain some insight in what I was doing and if it really was what I wanted to keep doing. No big soulsearching struggle, the fact that in a long trip like this you have almost total freedom to decide what you want to do makes it easier to realise who you are. It just dawned on me there was some stuff about myself I had kept in the background for the last ten years, the most important one being that I had always enjoyed history and writing and I made up my mind to go and pursue this more actively.

Another aspect of this was that err, to be perfectly honest, my life had turned a bit boring. Comfortable, sedate and utterly boring actually. And there's nothing like tramping through the world to shake up your life!

I've moved quite a lot as a kid in Europe and spent a lot of time readjusting from one country to another. It made me focus for a long time in adulthood on organising stability for myself and enjoying not living like a nomad. And after a while I realised there was a world out there I knew very little of. After my first trip to South East Asia 3 years ago I realised the full extent of my ignorance (prompting me to go on more trips of course), and I found travelling a hell of a lot nicer when you depart from some sort of basis. I guess you need a home in order to depart ;)

Being back

Getting back into the normal routine was going to take longer than I antecipated. The kind of steamlined adaptation to conditions here had gone, guess I had become thouroughly “deregulated” and had to get used again to doing all the practical stuff.

My first thoughts coming back were literally: how can people live in this country?. It's overcrowded, overregulated (how ironic I work for a company that makes software to manage government regulations), damn expensive and "decent service" is a 4 letter word here.

Something as simple as going to the supermarket here in Amsterdam can be really stressful. The place is almost always crammed to the max and you'll bump bodily into a dozen people. After being away for 6 months I realize how impolite and detached everybody is, there’s no apologies and everybody seems to walk around not wanting to know there’s other people sharing the same space. The constant shuffle and struggle for space seems to have made everybody desensitized. Maybe individualization also has made people less trusting than might have been otherwise. For a country as open minded as Holland claims to be there’s an awful lot awkwardness in dealing with your fellow citizen, and not only when you’re both trying to get hold of an eggplant in a supermarket.

The typical thing is that despite all the bitching about everyday life here most Dutchies will still have an implicit chauvinism about their country: we’re still more liberal than everybody else, more precise and punctual than everybody south of the border, maybe a tiny country but economically a considerable power, etc etc.

It’s always funny to confront Dutchies with something one of my Philippino TB’s said (who actually spent a lot of time here): “It’s an OK country but I find the quality of life here too low”. You should see the look on their faces! Specially considering the fact people tend invariably to think that someone from outside Europe comes here to gorge on the fruits of this western paradise - that is if they don’t call him/her an outright profiteer. 

It is a great thing to be able to put your regular life, the assumptions you don't even question anymore, and your culture into perspective. The longer you have been staying in one country, the more you tend to think that that specific piece of land and culture must be one of the sweetest on earth. And of course it isn't. There are some nice perks to living in Holland but you also pay a price.

Then again: it’s easier to take the person out of the country than it is to take the country out of the person. I know that moving to somewhere completely different from my own culture would imply a very high chance of ending up in the  typical expat life, never really belonging to the place where I’d live . 

But still the most important thing of all: it's a good thing to know other places exist and that there is a choice.
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Noordermarkt (30 oktober 1896). 
Noordermarkt (30 oktober 1896). …
This sign means its illegal to sm…
This sign means it's illegal to s…
photo by: pearcetoyou