Traveling with no expectations is the first step to falling in love with a new place. I learned this first hand on a spontaneous trip to the Netherlands at the end of the last month. This was triggered by the fact that students I knew from back home (shout out to the Leopards!) were going to be there for a Model United Nations Conference. I had decided a couple of times that I would not be going but sadly, one of my roommates had just gone through an extremely bad breakup and really needed something impulsive. So, with two very heavy backpacks and coats and one broken heart, we headed off to Holland on a short weekend adventure.
Our journey started at the city of Cologne in Germany where we paid a visit to the very famous Cologne Cathedral. Being my awkward, ungraceful self, I actually got stuck in the revolving door there because of my over sized backpack. While I was embarrassed and flustered, we got to the train that would take us to the Netherlands.
Honestly, we fell in love with the Netherlands almost instantly, mostly because there was free WiFi on the trains there. Just kidding, the weather and the surroundings were absolutely beautiful. Our first stop was at Leiden, a very remote and underrated city situated between the Hague and Amsterdam. This was by far the most stunning place I have ever seen. The canals, the parks, the streets, everything was so impressive. One of the first things we saw was the Molen de Valk which is a huge and very famous windmill, a truly Dutch experience.
That night, I got to meet my friends from back home. It reminded me of my days back when I was traveling for conferences myself, it reminded me of back home and all the good times. While we walked to our hostel in the Hague all I could reminisce about was how much I missed home and my people. I didn’t think much of it before I met them but right after was a completely different story.
The next day, out of the bloom, we decided to take a train to Amsterdam and spend our last full day in the Netherlands there. I had to ask my parents for permission for obvious reasons before we left to which they replied, “Wait, you’re NOT in Amsterdam?”. Wonderful, just wonderful.
Ah, Amsterdam. It isn’t called Venice of the North for nothing. Exploring in the morning, although very crowded, was sublime. The souvenir stores quaint, the canals abundant on most streets, and the people extremely social. We went to the Anne Frank Haus (The Fault in our Stars anyone?), the Museum of the Netherlands, and the unmissable Iamsterdam Sign to name a few places.
What was truly magical was when the sun started to set and the Christmas lights turned on. It’s almost like the entire city transformed into a whole new place, there was spirit and radiance in every single corner. Since Germany hadn’t really started decorating for the holidays yet, it was something I never really saw before. We soon returned to our hostel where we realized that we had walked through Amsterdam almost three times. How did we notice this now? The immense pain in our thighs.
The next morning, we took a train back home, extremely upset that we were leaving the small getaway we had found for ourselves. We were especially upset because we came back to absolutely no heating in the house at zero degree weather, all we wanted was to go back. That’s the absolute best thing about traveling, you completely forget all your problems because you want to fully experience the dazzling place you’re in. It’s even better when you go to the place without any expectations, you’re just never disappointed, which is why we fell so in love with the Netherlands.