Hallo, hallo! Time for a photo, whole family together. Cheese, cheese. Hallo!
On a worn, wooden bench in Zaanse Schans, a tourist hotspot in the Netherlands known for its windmills, my friend Rachelle and I watch the most enthusiastic photographer we have ever met flex his skills. On the other side of the tiny bridge he is standing by, all the photos he has taken of cheesing families are on display. Selling photos that one can easily ask a stranger to take for free seems like a dying art nowadays, but this Dutch photographer will hear none of it. His sing-song hallos permeate the quaint atmosphere and I swear I can still hear him as we head way past the clog-making workshop on the far end of the complex towards one of the town’s prominent windmills.
I wouldn’t mind his job, I think to myself.
Watching this Dutch photographer at work was just one of the many highlights during my trip to Amsterdam and its surroundings last week with my friend from college, Rachelle, who just moved to The Hague to pursue a master’s in the public health sector (so cool, right?).
Exploring a new place with an old friend was such a special treat. From canal-hoping and Ethiopian dining in Amsterdam to cycling in the beachside national park of Zuid-Kennemerland and cafe dwelling in the adorable town of Leiden, we managed to see a lot in five days. We also happened upon a lot of free cheesemaking museums, which led to the consumption of a lot of free cheese samples – talk about pure, creamy perfection.
My trip with Rachelle was the first international trip I have taken since I went back home for Christmas last year, so my sense of excitement was also mixed with a bit of trepidation as I finally dusted off my traveling backpack.
Most people assume that once you make the commitment to live and work abroad, the hassles, anxieties and fears that often accompany travel no longer affect you. How could someone living in a foreign country still dread airports or struggle to navigate foreign cities?
Believe me, traveling is nothing like riding a bike. If you don’t do it for a while, regardless of where you live and what you do, it can be hard to integrate it into your life again. On my way to Vienna Airport, I found myself sweating the small stuff. What if my vaccination records that I’ve checked at least three times aren’t enough? What if our well-reviewed hostel ends up being kind of sketchy or we get lost in the Red Light District and get pickpocketed by some horny criminal?
Of course, none of the above happened, but plenty of other things went wrong. We got off at the wrong train stop and had some near collisions with merciless cyclists. I even got a bag stuck in the main revolving door at the train station in Amsterdam.
Traveling is always going to be a little bit scary, even for the most seasoned among us. But I promise you that recommitting yourself to living outside of your comfort zone will never be anything less than fulfilling.
So I encourage all of you, Covid-19 permitting, to take a step or two towards what was once comfortable but no longer is and to do so with the same level of enthusiasm and conviction as that Dutch photographer in Zaanse Schans.
Hallo, hallo, it’s time to travel!
PS: The Netherlands deserves more than one blog. Stay tuned for more!