Stepping through the airport doors as the freezing cold air hits you in the face. It’s that icy kind of cold; the kind that cuts through your woollen scarf like a knife through butter. But the air is fresh and magical here. Your heart beats faster – not because of the temperature drop, but because you have just stepped into new territory. You are standing on land you have never set foot on before. A new place, new adventures, new excitement, new unfamiliarity. Everything is bright and wonderful.
I recently made one of the biggest moves of my life. I moved not only to a new country, but to a new continent. I am a South African girl who packed a giant suitcase and moved (indefinitely) to the Netherlands. I haven’t traveled much, having only left home a hand full of times throughout my life. This trip just so happens to be my first entrance into Europe, which in my opinion makes it that much more special. On top of it all, I chose to build my nest in the most picturesque city Holland has to offer – glorious Amsterdam.
Since arriving, I’ve been exposed to things I could never have imagined. Buildings, boats, taxis, trains, streets – all so sweet and well kept, resembling a little toy town. The beauty of this place continuously astounds me. The architectural value alone is enough to send your imagination back centuries.
The old buildings, cobbled streets and canals filled with house boats – all beautiful monuments to this historical wonderland. Walking through the streets I feel as if I’ve landed in the middle of a fairytale where houses made of candy and bicycles can fly. The purity of the city fuels my imagination. Apart from its aesthetic elegance, the city emits a constant buzz. The enormous crowds of busy people, dodging bicycles and scooters that whizz around the narrow streets. The sound of foreigners chatting, fills the air. Bells ringing, hooters honking, firecrackers exploding, delivery trucks doing their daily business – all the toys busy at work. There is never a still moment in the middle of the city.
My favorite part of being in a new place is discovering its hidden gems. There are so many weird and wonderful details that you can so easily miss when you’ve taken the role of a tourist – snapping away with that fancy camera lens.
To me, the distinction of a city doesn’t always lie in its grand cathedrals and history museums; I feel it more in the local hangouts, secret jogging routes and daily market days that fill street corners. These unique aspects are what open your eyes and teach you more about how these strangers live in their faraway land. That is exactly what makes traveling so enthralling, so addictive. It’s all about experiencing the “new”. People are fascinated by what we don’t know, which is why humans dedicate their entire lives to discovering and uncovering the mysteries of the world.
Amsterdam just so happens to be the perfect place to discover diversity. It’s a special city in that a lot of its residents are people from all walks of life, from places all over the world. With an extremely high expat population it truly is the explorers dream! I believe that the people make the city; and the Dutch really do. They are an open yet conservative community. Honest, sometimes too candid, but with a warmth that a lot of European cultures don’t seem to mimic. The language barrier is made easier as every Dutchie speaks English. Even so, learning the local tongue can only add to the experience of being a traveler; collecting languages along the way is how it’s done.
So here I sit, in this little toy town, enthralled by the newness in everything that surrounds me. As the days pass by, I feel my body growing comfortable, adjusting to this different and unfamiliar place. I recognise street names and corner shops. I know the rules of the bicycle traffic system and what time the trams arrive and depart. I know the best place to buy apple pie and fresh mint tea. I greet shop assistants in a language other than my own. This toy town is becoming more and more like a human home. A home I can call my own. At least until my next adventure begins.