Before we left for The Netherlands, and during our travel adventures, friends and family asked us: Why the Netherlands? What made you want to visit the country?
1. We were car-free from 2008 to 2013, roughly five years. When we moved back to Siskiyou County in 2013, we bought a used car because living in a rural area without a car is very challenging. Cycling is still part of our daily routine, and that habit led us to an interest in walkable and bike-friendly cities and countries like The Netherlands. As a side note, if you’re interested in learning more about the history of cycling in The Netherlands, read In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist by Pete Jordan.
2. Before this trip, we hadn’t been to Europe, and we’d been thinking of traveling overseas for years. The Netherlands seemed like the perfect place to visit because I have friends who live in the country.
3. In 2012, Flow Magazine emailed me with an interview request, and I said yes. Thanks to that interview, I’ve connected with Dutch readers online, guest blogged for Flow, and they even bought some of my photos for their German edition. In essence, Flow Magazine sparked my interest in The Netherlands. And, while we were in Amsterdam, I had coffee with a writer from Flow Magazine. It was lovely!
Today, I thought I’d share some notes and observations about our adventures in The Netherlands:
Based on reader recommendations, I bought a Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 in 2016. I’m obsessed with this travel bag, and I use it for both short and long trips. It also forces me to pack lightly. For my two-week trip, I packed five outfits, one jacket, one vest, one pair of walking shoes, undergarments, and too many journals and books. On my next travel adventure, I won’t bring as many books or journals because they added too much weight to my bag. In addition to the Aeronaut 30, I brought along a small day backpack for outings.
As a side note, Logan entered a giveaway hosted by Shepherd’s Dream, last month, and we won two Contour Sleep Pillows! Before leaving for The Netherlands, we picked our prize, and the staff gifted us a small travel pillow to review. The pillow was perfect for our trip. It was easy to pack and lovely to snuggle with on the plane.
On trip planning and leaving work at home
I’m happy we didn’t plan every moment of our vacation. We had a few aims for the trip which included hanging out with friends, cycling, eating delicious food, drinking coffee, and hosting my reader meet-up. We purposely crafted a flexible itinerary so that we would have plenty of time relax, wander, and nap.
During our trip, we explored Amsterdam, Leiden, The Hague, and Katwijk. Two weeks didn’t feel like enough time to see the Netherlands; I want to go back for another trip. It’s a small country, but there’s so much to explore!
In addition to having a loose itinerary, one of the best decisions I made for the trip was leaving my laptop at home. I did a tiny bit of work on vacation (which I did on my iPhone 7 Plus). If I’d brought my laptop, I would have been tempted to edit photos, write longer essays, and check my email frequently. Also, my iPhone was a great tool for taking photos, texting, sharing travel images on social media, and the Google Maps app helped us not get lost.
I didn’t shop on vacation because I don’t like to spend my money on tchotchkes, clothes, etc. Instead, we put our dollars toward delicious food, museum fees, bike rentals, and public transportation. However, about an hour before we left Amsterdam, we walked by a cute little stationery shop called De Posthumus Winkel. They’ve been open since 1865! I bought a bike-themed journal for work and a stamp. I can’t wait to stamp my snail mail correspondence.
All the bikes and coffee!
The biggest difference between daily life at home and in The Netherlands is the transportation system. In the States, the transit system is car centric, whereas the Dutch have created a system that’s focused on cycling, walking, trains, and buses. I loved cycling in The Netherlands, and the public transit system was easy to use and clean.
Also, the average cup of coffee in The Netherlands is better quality than the average cup of coffee in the States—that alone makes me want to move overseas.
All the museums!
We tried to visit as many museums as possible, including:
- Rijks Museum
- Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (the national museum of antiquities in Leiden)
- Mauritshuis in Den Haag
- Museum Van Loon
- Moco Museum that featured Banksy and Dali’s art
- Seeing Escher’s art in Het Paleis (this was crazy cool, and was probably my favorite museum)
Looking at 5,000-year-old Egyptian art and artifacts, Rembrandt, Van Gough, Vermeer, among many many other artists made my heart happy.
Back in 2012, I meet my friend Katie through my blog, and since then we’ve been corresponding via email and snail mail. Honestly, I can’t believe we’ve been writing each other long-form letters for five years! One of the best parts of my trip was meeting Katie in person. Katie lives in France (most of the time), and she traveled to Amsterdam to hang out with us.
We also had a lovely time cycling, walking, and trying to eat all the food with our friends Dave and Trina. I love these two humans, and I’m grateful I got to spend time with them on our vacation.
And last but not least, I hosted a reader meet-up in Amsterdam at the end of my trip. I couldn’t have done this without Sarah’s help. She found the location and is a lovely person. About fifteen readers attended the meetup, and I was honored to meet everyone who came out!
On gratitude and language
Everyone I interacted with in The Netherlands was friendly and spoke English (with an American accent) and other languages like German or French. This made navigating The Netherlands as a tourist easy because I only know a few words and phrases in Dutch.
Interestingly, I didn’t experience bad jet lag when arrived in The Netherlands. Coming home was another story. Jet lag kicked my ass, and I felt foggy and sleepy for eight days. Thankfully, I gave myself buffer time to reintegrate into my daily routine. For example, I only worked half-time the first week we were back, prioritized sleep, and went to CrossFit every other day.
Over the next month, I’ll be sharing stories and lessons I learned from our travels in The Netherlands. I couldn’t fit everything into one post, so stay tuned for additional updates and travel photos.