charming little amsterdam

i think amsterdam may be the most charming place i've ever seen. i spent about two and a half weeks in the little city, taking it easy and recovering and soaking in all of its subtle perfections. because i think that's the best way to really know a place--to spend at least a couple weeks (like i also did in spain and france)--to really absorb the culture and bond with locals. you just can't get that when you're rushing to squeeze everything you want to see in a couple quick days.

in my two lovely weeks, i walked along the canals, ate at adorable restaurants, rode on bikes with dutch guys, visited coffee shops, saw a great doctor, wrote reflections on the balcony, relaxed in the parks, crashed rooftops parties, went on dates, annnd celebrated my 23rd birthday

i was extremely lucky with the weather because it was sunny and warm for my entire stay. every dutch person i talked to said it was some sort of rare summer phenomenon. that it was probably the most consistent sun they've had in 25 years! ...and scarlett said the moment i left, BAM. the shitty weather returned.  

thanks amsterdam, for being so perfect for me. except that you made it pretty hard to leave...

there are more bicycles navigating the narrow streets than cars, it seems. so many that there are whole huge garages just for bicycles. they take priority, for sure. it makes the simple act of walking down the street quite the adrenaline rush.

dutch guys are shy and reserved, and to be honest, a bit awkward. as if they're constantly unsure of themselves. we asked scarlett's dad about this and he said dutch guys are so polite that they will never make a move on a girl or approach her first--because they don't want to make her feel uncomfortable. swoon !

the dutch people, in general, are sweet as can be. it's borderline unbearable. WHY are they so different and perfect, WHY? extremely friendly and respectful and honest and oh so very modest. a completely opposite mentality from sayyy nyc? los angeles? any other big city in america? --where everyone's overly independent and constantly on the defense. 

there are more canals in amsterdam than in venice... 

if/when i settle down and live in a consistent home. i want it to be fully decorated with things from the shops in amsterdam. SO PERFECT.  

i got a little taste of socialized medicine and, i must say, it was great. without insurance, it cost me 25 euros to walk in and see a general practitioner. that would've been a $40 copay WITH insurance in the states. and she prescribed me antibiotics for my eye. those normally cost me over $100 (again, with insurance), but were only 15 euros. hallelujah, holland. hallelujah.

when the sun is out, the city explodes with life. people picnic on the edge of the canals, boats filled with shirtless people weave through the narrow waterways, friends and families set up tables atop the stoops to their homes, parks are filled with people playing in the sun, and, of course... bikes galore!

amsterdam has unfairly been dubbed a wild and dangerous city. i found the exact opposite. never have i ever felt so safe walking the streets alone at night. sure there's the red light district, and marijuana is legal, but it's almost better that way. it's contained and safe. the streets are unbelievably clean. the cleanest i've found in europe, or anywhere, for that matter. there are no homeless people begging for money, because they're taken care of. you rarely see people hardcore binge-drinking or "raging" like in america. and if you do, chances are they're tourists...

there's a laid back vibe about the place. and it just makes sense.

studies say dutch people are some of the happiest in the world. i can see why :)

that time i said "no thanks" to an eye patch cameo

i mentioned earlier that i had to go to a general practitioner in amsterdam because i stubbornly slept in my contacts for idontknowhowmany days and got a gnarly eye infection. so that was cute!

and i put off going to a doctor (although i knew i shouldn't), because i haven't had the best experiences with doctors (except this one) and because... well, money. 

then my eye ACHED, so i gave in. this dutch lady doctor i went to see was smiling and sweet and very efficient and she almost made me cry...

she light-heardedly scolded me and asked me why i put off being seen. i told her i was afraid of the cost. she said something about how i must have money since i'm on "holiday". i quickly told her, "no, no. not really holiday. i've been hitchhiking and couchsurfing and i'm kind of homeless and car-less and i flew here for free because my dad works for an airline."

"oh, so your dad must be a wealthy pilot then. he's surely paying for you." 

wrong again. 

i told her it's not like that in the states. and that my dad is NOT a pilot, but even if he were, he'd still be just as underpaid. and that i don't take any help from my parents anyway. because neither of them can afford it, and... i just couldn't. that's where i got teary. because our system doesn't make sense to dutch people, and rightly so.  also because my right eye couldn't help but be teary.

she then prescribed me antibiotics and AN EYE PATCH... she told me to run and fetch it from the pharmacy down the street and to come back so i could have her put it on for me. i went to the secretary window first to pay my bill, but the sweet secretary non-chalantly said, "oh you'll be back. you can pay then."  so... this doctor's office didn't have ANY of my information (not even my last name), but they TRUSTED me to come back to pay a bill when i easily could've skipped out and gone home with my prescription.

but of course i went back after the pharmacy. and ONLY to pay the bill. because all the while that i was walking the streets toward the office again, i imagined what sorts of fun looks i'd get if i had to walk home with an eye patch on my face in broad daylight. i thought of letting the doctor put it on me (so she wouldn't be disappointed) and then ripping it off as soon as i got outside.

and then i got there and i found this... 

why yes, that IS A MOVIE CREW all set up on the steps of my doctor's office.

some time within the 20 minutes that i was at the pharmacy, this film crew chose this particular location to make a movie. HA! the universe has a sense of humor, i see. 

i actually had to ask a couple of the sound guys to scoot aside because they were completely blocking the door to the doctor. i quickly got inside as they called "ACTION!"  they were filming some handsome actor riding his bike across the canal and crashing in the street -- the very street i was supposed to emerge out onto with an EYE PATCH in a few moments...

i went to the secretary and paid the bill, which was only 26 euros. with no insurance! no social security number or phone number or last name, either! hallelujah, holland.

then the secretary told me to take a seat and wait for the doctor to help me with my eye patch. "oh, i'm in a hurry. i can put it on myself when i get home," i lied. 

and i ran out of that doctor's office before any cruel and unusual embarrassment could take place. would YOU like to be an unwilling extra in a european movie with an eye patch on half your face?! no thanks. 

a dutch date

i hadn't been on a date, a real date, in too long to remember. years, maybe? and when i say date, i mean the hey-i'll-pick-you-up-at-this-time-and-take-you-somewhere-beautiful-and-then-drop-you-off-at-home-because-i-like-you kind of date. maybe because i was in a long, too-comfortable relationship all throughout college. and then i moved to st thomas... and that sort of chivalry just doesn't happen on that tiny island. everyone already knows each other, and it's just... not that sort of place. 

so this was a long time coming. and i appreciated it so much -- more than i think he knows. 

he picked me up at "my place", and when i went downstairs to the entrance, all 6 and 1/2 feet of him was leaning against his parked bicycle in a collared shirt, looking so suave. he diligently translated dutch poetry scribbled on the sidewalk, just cause i was curious. something about trains and bridges and opening opportunities. i was too enamored in the romance of the moment to remember. i hung on his every word in a way that meant i forgot the ones before it. i hopped on the back of his bike and clung to the buttons on his chest. cobblestone blurred below my dangling feet as we gained speed. he drove us past a neighborhood of nautical murals on purpose, because he knows how much i miss the sea. we caught a ferry past a sunken submarine at sunset. we had drinks while sitting in old pieces of boat, overlooking the rippling water and the quickly igniting city lights. we talked about everything you'd ever want to talk about with someone you're just getting to know. there were blankets and a bon fire and a bright round moon. and there was respect and honesty and chivalry. and a restored sense of hope--hope because, although the night was fleeting, it was perfect. and that exists. and that's enough, for now.

food and flowers in the netherlands

roses and tulips and hydrangeas and cheese and bread and grains and markets, ohhh myyy.

amsterdam, i love you.

that time i got carried by dutch giants

were you aware that dutch people are the tallest in the world? me neither.

their average height is 6 foot tall... and they seem to keep on growing. the government recently had to change building regulations to increase the height of doorways! mirrors in bathrooms were almost too high for me to look into. and i had to stand on my tippy-toes to see the keypad at the ATM. not kidding!

i unfortunately don't have a picture to match the absurd story i'm about to tell, so here's ^^ a pictures of me enjoying some tasty pipe tobacco on the balcony before the night began. 

it was noelle's last night in amsterdam before her flight back to barcelona at 5 am. we spent the day exploring the narrow streets, and we kept telling ourselves this was our "last day alive"---a startling reminder to take full advantage of it. 

that night, we went to a bar down the street from scarlett's for a weekly couchsurfing meet up. side note: the couchsurfing community is awe-inspiring. if you live in a large city, i recommend connecting with the community there immediately. it's borderline unfair how easy it is to meet interesting, well-traveled people from around the world. life long friends can be made!

on my way back to noelle after ordering another drink at the bar, i turned a corner and bumped into maybe one of the tallest guys i've ever seen. i tilted my head all the way back to look up at him and apologize, but instead inadvertently said, "wow! you're taaalllll." he laughed and we started talking.

he told me he was over 2 meters tall. i had no idea what that meant, but i nodded and believed it... then two of his fellow dutch guy friends came and introduced themselves. they modestly admitted to standing about 2 meters tall, too! when i wasn't so shy anymore, i asked if they could convert their heights to america's silly system of measurement for me. and so there i was at a corner pub in amsterdam, standing with guys who were 6'5, 6'6, and 6'8.

when it hit 1 am, noelle had to go home to get things sorted for her flight. i initially intended on going back with her, but these friendly new dutch giants invited me to come with them to another bar. i thought, it's the last day of my life! why not! 

so i rode on the back of one of their bikes (a very common, very adorable dutch thing to do), along the dimly lit streets and canals to a traditional nightclub in westerpark. we went in and they led me toward the middle of the dance floor, where i stopped, looked up, and just laughed. 

i felt like i'd been transported to an all tall-person planet. everyone around me (girls included) was so tall that i felt like a child... or maybe a hobbit. i kept getting bumped into and nudged around because, i'm assuming, nobody could really see me! the boys were such gentleman though, and did their best to guard me against their fellow tall folk. 

when that got a little overwhelming, we all went outside to get some fresh air and smoke (hah!). i met two more of their friends, who were just as damn tall as the rest of them. so there i was standing in the middle of a circle of five guys ranging from 6'5-6'8, feeling soooo miniscule. 

it kind of felt like standing in a forest, and i was talking to the tree tops. i jokingly jumped as high as i could every time i had to say something to one of them, to get my words a bit higher. my neck started hurting from having to tilt my head so far back. and they had to crouch down, nearly folding in half just to hear me. there miiiight've even been a two second delay from my lips to their ears...

then, out of nowhere, one of the boys picked me up and held me high in his arms like a newlywed bride... he said very frankly, "there. now you're as tall as we are! we can talk face to face." and he just held me like that, suspended at his eye level, and continued on with the conversation!

after a few minutes of that, he passed me on to the next tall friend in the circle, who held me the same way for a few minutes and continued on with conversation... and then to the next boy. again. and again. until i'd been passed around this circle of dutch giants like some sort of drunken toddler that they didn't want roaming about at ground level alone...

i don't know?! all i know is that i giggled the entire time this was happening out of sheer disbe-fucking-lief at all of the wonderfully ridiculous stories i've been accumulating lately. thanks universe, keep em comin! 

naturally, i told amber this story as soon as possible, since she's forever in search of a man taller than her who isn't a complete dweeb. she about laughed her head clean off her shoulders. and then swore she'd come to holland soon, to find herself a boy who makes her feel short.  

because we all deserve to feel really small sometimes :) 

turning 23 in a foreign city

my birthday really crept up on me this year. normally i dread it coming for weeks and worry so much about what i'll do that i'm just annually disappointed. because i used to see birthdays as a loss of some sort, rather than a natural progression of life.

this year, instead of dreading the impending doom of a higher number. i was too damn incandescently happy to think of anything other than the amazing things i've been experiencing. and rather than feeling like a whole 'nother year was wasted stressing about school or work or living in a place i couldn't stand, i felt proud of how i spent it. 22 was so good to me.

nearly every day of the past year has felt like my birthday. because i quit my job and graduated college and moved far away from that place i couldn't stand. i chose to live deliberately and make every day a little special. i went out in search of happiness and i followed it ardently, like a lover i could never live without again.  

this year, i'm PROUD of all the years that i've acquired. because i've lived the hell out of them and i have no regrets. 

so i treated this birthday, this 4th of july, just like any other birthday-like day, in that i celebrated being alive and happy. and thats the way every day should be.  

this birthday was extra special, without even really trying. everything came together so perfectly. all because i was lucky enough to be in the company of some top notch people. 

noelle and i woke up with the light of the view and did some yoga to get our blood pumping. it was such a perfect way to start the day---immediate good vibes. a little later, my friend chelsea from high school came over with pretty little dutch pastries as presents for me! :) we girls (scarlett, noelle, chelsea, and i) had breakfast together and talked like long-lost best friends, although we were all kind of strangers.

i'd just gotten to know noelle from traveling with mutual friends, and scarlett from being invited to stay at her house in amsterdam. scarlett and noelle hardly knew each other too, only having met at a couple parties at FSU. and though chelsea and i grew up in the same small town, we had never hung out before this day!

chelsea and i knew each other from high school, but never really knew each other. we hadn't had a conversation until a couple months ago, when she contacted me to talk about traveling and following our dreams :) we had this wonderful, long correspondence, which inspired both of us equally. in it, i mentioned backpacking europe for the summer. then she said she'd be in holland visiting her dutch boyfriend, and that we should hang out if i made it to amsterdam. so when noelle made it super easy for me to visit amsterdam, i told chelsea and she just happened to be available right on my birthday!

after talking for a bit, we girls went to the train station to meet up with another stranger friend named willem. we actually party tornadoed willem and his friend on that night in plaza del sol in barcelona. i drunkenly mentioned to them that we might be going to amsterdam soon and that we should meet up again. he wanted to write down my info, but nobody had pen/paper. so i verbally spelled out my name for him to find me on facebook. i never ever thought he'd remember, but a week later, willem sent me a request :) and when i told him i was coming to amsterdam, he just happened to only be available on my birthday, too. 

sounds too good to be true right?? thanks universe! ;)

so my four perfect strangers and i walked around amsterdam all day, reveling in the unusual sunshine. noelle planned for us to see a couple cool art galleries, but both had notes posted saying they were suddenly "closed due to circumstances"... we interpreted that as "it's sunny for once so we're pausing normal life to go play in the sun." which i'm okay with. cause we enjoyed it, too.

so instead, we moseyed through the charming little village-like streets, tried traditional dutch food, went vintage shopping, taste tested delicious cheese, and wandered through a "hippie market". willem, being the perfect dutch boy that he is, acted as tour guide and told us a ton of cool facts about the city along the way. i bought myself birthday moonstone earrings and willem bought me the coolest stone ring. :)  

later, after willem left town for work, the girls and i had lunch and beers on a terrace in the perfect people-watching spot. we talked about growing up and changing views, and how surreal it is to reflect on it all now. afterward, we picked up a couple bottles of wine each and made our way back to scarlett's to meet up with chelsea's boyfriend, jaco.

we spent the rest of the evening drinking wine on the rooftop, eating brie cheese with slices of apple, and taking pictures of our red-stained smiles. we sat together, buzzing on good vibes and red wine, talking in depth about philosophy and spirituality as the sun set behind the buildings. 

there was a moment when i stopped, looked around and felt so grateful---grateful for their company and the conversation and the view. because that sort of thing fulfills me more than anything... i told them there's nothing i would've rather been doing in that moment. and i thanked them for making the day worth celebrating. 

cheers to 23!

exploring vondelpark // getting to know noelle

one of our first days in amsterdam, noelle and i ventured to vondelpark in an attempt to meet up with couchsurfers for some yoga. but we underestimated how gigantic vondelpark is and how hard it'd be to find said couchsurfers. so we wondered around for hours and opened up to each other while we searched. and that proved to be more rewarding than anything physical we could've found that day. 

i don't think i mentioned it--when i talked about randomly meeting up with noelle in paris--that noelle and i had never hung out before that day at sacre coeur. i actually only just met her in barcelona a couple weeks prior, when she flew in to join our gypsy tribe a few days after i did. and we didn't even interact much or have a full on conversation in those couple days before i ran off to the mountains of girona. because that was a mad week and we were all experiencing different things of the same scene.

i do remember, however, a friday night in barcelona when our expanded group (at least 14 of us)  walked across town to a club. we were weaving through intoxicated crowds in dim alleys, constantly working to keep up with each other. i found myself walking next to noelle just as we passed a guy yelling at and demeaning his wasted girlfriend. my reaction was oh no, poor girl. i hope she'll be okay.  while noelle's reaction was some sort of wicked, badass, expletive-filled phrase about how she would never even give a guy a chance to talk down to her like that. her response took me so off guard and was so very different from mine that i laughed and said, "dang... i need to learn a thing or two from you."

the universe must've agreed, because fast forward a couple weeks... noelle was spontaneously delivered to my couchsurfing doorstep. now we've partied together, hitchhiked together, explored together... and you bet i've learned a thing or two from this incredibly strong girl.

but in the midst of the intense hitchhiking and partying and exploring that we fell into those three days after meeting in paris, we still didn't really get to know each other. until this day at the park. i think it has something to do with us finally being able to mosey about and not worry about our safety or the safety of 30 pounds of precious belongings on our backs. we were just there. with no distractions. barefoot and open.

we talked about college and falling into our passions and working for what's necessary and all things inspiring. she told me things she probably hasn't told many people, and i did the same.  

and over the course of our time together in amsterdam, we made these deep talks somewhat of a trend. we talked for hours on walks, in coffee shops, and on the balcony. we talked about spirituality and sexuality and transformations and intuition. we talked about planning and manifesting--and we did a bit of it, inadvertently.  

in that time, i came to find that noelle and i have a lot to learn from each other. because we are so different, yet so much the same. there's this wonderful, higher level give and take between us--- this back and forth flow of positivity that only gets amplified when we interact. that sort of thing is important for any friendship/relationship. so it's pretty cool that we've found that in a traveling partner.

so this is all to say, it's an honor to be roaming about with this beautiful girl :) and what we come to experience/learn only gets more intense as we go along!