I’ve recently been talking a lot about the importance of traveling in a non-touristy way, diving into the life of the place I’m visiting, mixing with the locals and trying to look at the surroundings with their eyes. And from now on, I’m starting a rubric “If I were …”, based on my travel experiences. So here goes: what if I were an Amsterdamer?
A person is shaped by his or her surroundings, the environment he or she lives in and the people around. And even when one moves to a completely different environment, like a plant replant into a different pot, a person eventually grows accustomed to the new and with time it becomes old and familiar. I didn’t spend that much time in Amsterdam, but I think I smelled the spirit, so…
If I were an Amsterdamer, I would own a bicycle. I’d have made sure it looked shabby and rusty, but in fact my bicycle would’ve been in great shape. I might’ve considered also owning a scooter, for days when I’m too lazy to fight with the wind constantly blowing from all sides. I would master the art of biking with one hand and with no hands, biking with an umbrella and heavy bags strapped to both sides, biking with other people and babies and animals. I would master crossing the road on green, yellow and red lights, anytime, anywhere, moving non-stop and never minding cars. I would ring my bell to outrun the slower bikers and shoo away the annoying pedestrians. And when I’m a pedestrian myself, I’d make sure to keep away from the bike tracks.
I would own a lot of windbreakers, stretchy jeans and soft comfortable pants, and a few tight hats to protect my ears from the wind. I would consider clear non-optical glasses to wear in case of rain. I would always cover my bike’s seat with a plastic bag if I saw clouds. I would barely own any high heels and almost never wear any heels at all.
I would have an apartment with a balcony, perhaps facing one of the canals. Maybe it’d be a houseboat. And maybe not. I would grow tulips and other nice flowers that I’d be buying at Blumensmarkt. I’d definitely have a big pot with a lotus. Or maybe three.
I’d make sure my apartment has a good heating system, as it gets freezing at night. And I would host lots of surfers from CS and attend some local events.
I’d open a small cafe with healthy home food – no burgers or anything – making deals with local farmers for supplies. The climate for small businesses is quite nice from what I’ve read and heard. I’s occasionally drop by Omelegg for their delicious omelets (unless I learn to make better ones) and Puccini Bomboni for their outstanding chocolates (unless, again, I learn to make better ones).
I would definitely get a friend with a boat, to hang out on sunny days. Or maybe got a boat of my own if the business goes well.
I would have a local cell plan, and thus super high-speed internet, and I would constantly fight to decrease its use and stay away from all the city’s wifi spots. Of course, I would fail.
I would own a museum card, the one that grants you entrance to all museums in the Netherlands for 50 euros for the whole year. And I would go and explore them, many of them, and occasionally discover the new events.
I would shop at the food markets every Saturday, and learn to cook some delicious food. Though I won’t refuse myself a pack or two of local chocolate-covered cookies from AH, their biggest supermarket chain.
I would be a frequent visitor of local vintage shops, because they have a huge variety of my favorite silk shirts from the 80s. I probably would peek into a coffeeshop once or twice and test the effects of cannabis with some friends. Otherwise, I would ignore them. I would walk through the Red Light district, not getting startled by the figures moving in the windows, and wave to the girls whose faces would be familiar by then as I would often walk around the city center.
I would learn Dutch and master it without accent, and everybody would take me for a local. It would be nice. I think I just wrote the biggest lie of my life, but whatever.
If I were an Amsterdamer, I would curse together with everyone else when they blocked the streets for some official delegations, and I wouldn’t give a damn about its necessity for the politics. I would value my freedom of speech and my significance as a person within a country. From time to time, I would travel. I would bike all around the Netherlands, couchsurfing in different cities, and if I found myself capable, I would bike around Europe.
If I were an Amsterdamer, I wouldn’t feel out of place. I would enjoy every day and what it brings me… Unless the wind of adventure calls me elsewhere.