I learned so many crucial travel lessons this weekend in Amsterdam. I was lucky that none of them were hard lessons. I had no horror hostel or mugging encounters. However, through out the weekend I kept noting all the little mistakes I was making.
1. Always follow your instinct. So many times I felt myself second guessing where to go or when to turn. In most cases my instincts were right. I need to learn how to communicate what I’m thinking quickly and clearly to my travel partner. Also, I need to make decisions and stick to them.
2. Be an advocate for your needs; even if it means being selfish. Do everything possible to make yourself comfortable. If you are cold, hungry, or awkward you are not having a good (or the best) time. Create the perfect scenario for yourself. If you walk into a bar, restaurant, or coffee shop that isn’t right just walk out. There are hundreds more to choose from, so don’t feel obligated. Be an advocate for what you want.
3. Ask for help. Look at maps. Plan your day, but leave room to be spontaneous.
4. Make friends and be friendly. Choose a hostel that has a highly social environment.
5. Take an hour or two to take care of yourself. Take a shower, nap, and snack. Have some alone time and set a rendezvous point. You’ll both be in a better mood when you met back up. Plus you’ll be ready for round two.
6. Don’t worry about the money you are spending. Stick to a budget, but don’t fret about it. If you busy worrying about money you can't enjoy your purchases.
7. Traveling in groups bigger then 4 is incredibly frustrating, especially when there is no clear plan. Know your limits and know your travel partners well. Suggest splitting up in pairs and rendezvous later.
8. Take time to simply absorb the place you’re at. People watch, familiarize yourself with the city. Snap some mental photos. Traveling is creating memory. Live in the moment so you can enjoy it later.
9. Take advantage of the infrastructure created for tourists. Maps, info booths, and tourist centers are everywhere. Part of their economy is based on your euros, utilize the system that is there to help you.
These are just a few of my little lessons. I’m so glad I was able to go on this trip. Amsterdam is a difficult city to navigate, and after going I have a lot more confidence. I learned so many more little lessons in addition to these. I also feel more comfortable in Brussels, in comparison it is slow and tame. I still have my guard up on the streets here, but my heart is much more at ease. Hopefully I’ll go back to Amsterdam in May, possibly with my family. After becoming accustom to the city I know my next trip will be even better then the first.