Daily Prompt: Purpose
well, I suppose the days were made
to be wasted
the years and the loves were made
to be wasted
the way – charles bukowski
This lady I used to live with constantly encouraged me to put experience above everything. “Money you can always make, but time you cannot get back,” she would say. I was 23 when that, and a truckload of those inspirational quotes peppered around Instagram, came together and propelled me to commit to three weeks of galavanting about Western Europe.
As I put together a detailed plan (which I forgot to bring) I couldn’t stop asking myself why I was going ahead with this, and even until now I’m not sure I have a satisfactory, logical answer. I consulted friends. I consulted family. Was it a stupid idea? I had an inkling that the purpose of it all was more than meeting a couple of complete strangers in the flesh. More than anything, the motivation for this trip was the ever-so-cliche idea to add a few exciting chapters – a bit more colour, if you will – to my life. In fact, forgetting aforementioned itinerary probably set free a whole bunch of constraints I might have otherwise put on myself.
And exhilarating the trip proved to be.
I rushed past the sliding doors at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol just shy of 6 in the morning. The train ride out of the airport was the strangest I had ever taken. All plane ride-long I tried to register that I really was heading off to the other side of the world. I was vaguely aware that people around me were on their way to work, to school, perhaps to a cafe to read a book of poetry or whatever it is these background characters do. The city was nothing but a setting and the people supporting actors. This was the tone for much of the vacation.
Eight months later, details of the first few days have settled into a blur of Albert Heijn salads (I liked the Morrocan one a lot), long walks around neighbourhoods I can’t remember the names of, and drinking in the architecture of the city centre. I remember tearing down Amsterdam streets laughing on the shoulders of a 6′ 6″ human at 2 a.m on the way home from a drum and bass party. Traffic lights looked massive from that height!
My most favourite memory from this leg of the trip has to be from this night out to an alternative music festival. It was located in the industrial-y part of Amsterdam, and we had about 8 or 9 kilometers ahead of us to walk from the train station to the festival site when a couple cycled up to us and offered to go together. I was propped up on the front of the guy’s bicycle (where a basket would normally go) for the ride. Wind in my hair and all of that. You know that over-quoted line from The Perks of Being a Wallflower – “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite” – that was exactly how this bike ride felt, freeing and tranquil at the same time. It was one of those things I could never have planned prior to the trip, but those kind of moments became part of the purpose why I had to do this for myself.
FOUR PICKS: AMSTERDAM
Oh, this place. We accidentally stumbled on this place after riding the ferry across from Centraal station, and I was – still am – incredibly impressed by it. The geometric white building hosts screening theaters, exhibition space and an ace gift shop with an excellent selection of books about the industry. There is also a beautiful cafe with a view of the river. Perhaps it’s a special interest kind of place, but this didn’t appear on my radar at all when I was researching places to check out in Amsterdam! It’s the kind of place that makes you want to see a movie at random (we saw a 1960s Japanese film and Blade Runner for €10 each) and just sort of hang around soaking in the sun on the slants of its exterior. Grab a jam-filled oliebollen at the port when you get off the ferry for your walk up to the museum.
Walking along Westerdok
Apparently, peeking into people’s living rooms is a bit of a favourite pastime activity in Amsterdam (can someone confirm?). The residential harbor Westerdok, with dreamy houseboats all along the canal and a modern apartment building looking like a life-size architecture model just inviting you to stop and peer into the windows on the right, makes for a really pleasant stroll after sundown.
There is a nice rooftop cafe attached to this library. A wonderful space to spend a couple of hours just sitting around inside or outside on the canal. I didn’t actually take a close look at their collection when I visited, so I can’t really comment on that.
Song Kran Thai Restaurant
Why am I recommending a Thai restaurant in Amsterdam, you ask? Well. The very first time I visited Amsterdam back in 2011, I had the best Tom Kha ever in a Thai restaurant in (possibly) Prisengracht somewhere. It had a big decorative chilli on the wall, and I have never been able to find it since. Song Kran is close enough in terms of the food quality – they do a pretty darn good Phanaeng curry (€14).