Where do I start?
On Tuesday afternoon I said goodbye to my family at the airport. As hard as that was it still didn't quite feel like all of this was really happening. I had been trying for weeks to imagine how I would feel as I boarded the plane but even after I had been up in the air for hours I still couldn't believe I would be in Amsterdam soon. Towards the end of my second flight the older woman sitting next to me asked where I was headed. I explained to her that I would be backpacking all over for the next few months. She reacted the same as almost everyone else has - "You're doing this by yourself?! You're so brave!". The funny thing is that I don't really see myself as being brave or crazy because of the fact that I'm traveling for so long alone. What I've always feared the most is not accomplishing my dreams of seeing the world rather than negative situations that may or may not happen along the way. No matter how many bumps there are along this road I know that they will be worth all of the moments I find myself smiling in the places I've daydreamed about seeing my whole life.
Amsterdam turned out to be so much more than I had expected. I'll admit that my first
night there I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I felt like the new kid in school worrying if I'd make any friends. It seemed like I was the only person there traveling alone and I already was missing my family and friends. I decided to get some rest and hoped that I would feel better the next morning. I did. I wandered around the city for hours. I was surprised to see that almost EVERYone rides a bike to get around. Women in high heels, men in their business suits, parents with their children strapped into a small bucket seat near their lap. And the bikes all look like old school Schwinns with big wheels and decorated baskets hanging from the handlebars. It was then that I realized I was in a whole other world. It was beautiful. I still needed to relax a little bit though. Lucky for me Amsterdam is the perfect place to indulge. I got myself a "special" muffin from a local coffeshop and headed towards the Van Gogh Museum. About halfway through the exhibits I found myself giggling for no reason and had to sit down for a while. It was just what I needed and I was happy as can be.
I ended the night at the hostel bar. A great place to have a few beers and meet other travelers. I made friends with a guy from LA and we spent the whole next day together. I usually try to stay away from touristy attractions but I'm so happy we went the places we did. Anne Frank's house was amazing. To stand in the attic she hid for so long in and see her actual diary was very emotional. It got me wondering how I'll handle visiting Auschitz. Moments like this make me feel an overwhelming sense of gratefulness and gratitude for this life I'm so lucky to be enjoying.
Only because I felt safe with my new friend and I knew that I might only have the opportunity to experience this one time, we decided to treat ourselves to some "truffles". For all of my moms reading this I don't want you to worry about me making what you may think are bad decisions. This was a one time deal and it was AMAZING. We went to Vondelpark which is a more beautiful and picturesque version of central park. We walked all around, laid on the grass by the water, climbed a treehouse and people watched. It was one of those perfect days you just never want to end. We stayed until dark (which isn't until at least 10:00 at night) and headed towards the red light district. It was almost comical to watch these huge groups of drunken men hooting and hollering at the women in the windows. It was late and we were hungry but all of the restaurants weren't serving food any longer. So we found a small bakery and ate pastries for dinner. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
The next morning I headed to the train station and made my way to Cologne, Germany where I'm writing from now. Exhausted from walking what seems like a million miles the last few days and not getting very much sleep, I decided to stay in last night. I have a smaller room than the last hostel and only 2 other girls shared it with me last night. Needless to say it was pretty quiet and almost a luxury to not have to share a shower with 15 other people! I woke up early and was hoping to get some food to cook in the huge kitchen here but apparently the markets are closed on Sundays. I did however accomplish the huge task of figuring out how to do my laundry in the washroom here. Let's just say I'm incredibly thankful I've been able to go with the flow and not let all of the confusing moments so far frustrate me. Figuring out how to do the simplest things here on my own has been incredibly rewarding.
Right now it's cloudy and rainy, but it's supposed to be nice this evening so I'm hoping to walk to the Der Kolner Dam and then have dinner somewhere near the Rhine River. And tomorrow I'm off to Berlin!!