As hoped for some time, here I am again. Finally back abroad. Ideally this would have come earlier but as ever, life got in the way. It really wasn’t the plan. But I ended up in Scotland for several months as…
- Another ******* jury citation (no I wasn’t chosen, but spent a week going into court every morning then being sent home again. Efficient!)
- Went on a few episodes of Channel 4’s Fifteen to One (they record it local to me at BBC Studios, Pacific Quay, Glasgow. They had a stand when I helped out at the University of Strathclyde Freshers’ Fair so I signed up for fun, my first time on TV)
- When December arrived and it looked like nothing was happening before Christmas, I took a Christmas casual job at the local Royal Mail centre. 4 hours/day, 6 days/week, £7.50/hour to sort post and whatnot. I wasn’t even registered unemployed, but people thought it would be a great thing for me. Despite my best efforts in the application process…I got the job.
At the very least, I got the bonus of spending Christmas at home with family. But as I say, I’m here now anyway. It’s 27 December 2017 and I’ve booked another trip over New Year – Vienna & Budapest again, but this time finishing in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It’ll only be my second New Year abroad (spent last year in Copenhagen, Denmark) and my last time in Budapest was a blast, so I’m looking forward to it.
I survive the 6am flight from Glasgow Airport and make it to Amsterdam in the afternoon. Though I’ve had no sleep the night before and it’s packed with people (as always), I get checked in to the Bulldog Hotel on Oudezijds Voorburgwal. My 3rd time here in as many years. Though it’s in the heart of the Red Light District, it’s ideal for a short stay:
- Good location e .g. near Dam Square, Centraal, Nieuwmarkt, Nieuwe Kerk & Oude Kerk. And of course many coffeeshops including Feels Good & The Greenhouse Effect (if you’ve ever had an inkling for space cake)
- Affordable, generally around €20/night.
- Complimentary buffet breakfast.
- The bar is one of the few places in Amsterdam you can smoke and purchase alcohol…except at breakfast. (Almost every morning you’ll see people told to put their joints out.)
The trip doesn’t leave from Cologne, Germany until Friday the 29th so I’ve some time to reflect on all I’ve done over the past couple of years. Why am I doing this? What’s most important in anything – the pure experience in the present, or the resultant future development, “having done it”?
In relation to this leg of adventures, I already know slightly how it’s going to be. On the one hand, the idea I have in my head is this: learning, discovering, reaching epiphanies that seem so obvious and self-explanatory in hindsight. On the other hand, I’m also aware that some things that I’d never imagined would happen will happen. I’m excited, but I’m also open to seeing it as an opportunity to review my perceptions of one or two things. So of course there will be a lot of thought and re-evaluation long after too: I’ll compare my previous assumptions to what I learned, and I’ll compare my conclusions to how I thought things would pan out. Then I’ll take what I can from that, plan the next step and begin the cycle all over again. Learning from experience is a skill in itself, remember?
From my perspective, it’s an interesting time. I’ve made a decision to do all this seriously – the blog, travels, investigation. Although blogging is now quite a competitive business, what if I do this smarter, more intelligently and distinctively than the field? Back home there’s Brexit, Scottish politics, incessant talk of independence and future referenda. So I can cover this and hear all different views at the same time. And I can also benefit from working with many others to stay ahead of the curve as the world rapidly changes and develops. What’s important is maintaining the conscious affirmation, dedication and commitment I have made. As mentioned, like anything else I’ve done, it’ll take sacrifice, time and effort. That’s how it always is. I intend to cover every emotion, challenge and lesson along the way as accurately as I can.
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Though I’ve been to Amsterdam well over ten times now, I’ve seen shamefully little of the rest of the Netherlands. Which I know is a pity, as Amsterdam is always mobbed with tourists and the country has far more culture and tradition. The Dutch people are great, and I met many in Dortmund. So not only do I really want to see the rural landscape and distinctive places like Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Maastricht and Groningen, I have some old friends to visit too.
As you may suspect, there are family, friends and others around me who don’t quite get what I’m doing. Maybe some of their doubts are justified. But I argue this: why aren’t more people doing this? Compared to 20, 30, 50 years ago, travel is so much more accessible, affordable and simpler. We have drastically improved infrastructure, the Internet, and now even have smartphones and apps to quickly make and adjust arrangements. If you’re not tied down to the one location, why not? Invest some time and thought in an experience, an opportunity to challenge yourself, question things and learn something. Personally, there’s no right or wrong here; at the end of the day, it’s all down to your priorities and values. That’s my perspective anyway. The only thing left to do is to do it!