Saturday, 27 June 2015

Dora in Amsterdam - my first time solo trip abroad

“When traveling and experiencing new places, new ground, new uncharted territory, we are forced to get out of our comfort zones. Travel pushes us to new levels of discomfort. However, for most individuals to fully learn and grow to the highest potential, this type of push helps create new space that may have had limited opportunities in the past. Although some situations or places may increase anxiety, these experiences are also creating new brain connections and memories, and they also teach you things about your own abilities to overcome what you otherwise would have never known existed within.” Kate Cummins, Psy.D., neuro-psychologist and blogger at

I did it! I did it! I did my first ever solo trip abroad!!! I feel a sense of achievement and pride now. I feel empowered. The ability to be unencumbered by others, to see all the new places with my own eyes, through my own lens was so liberating. I was not impeded and slowed down. I was perfectly free to do what I wanted.  My first solo trip abroad was one of the most enriching, character-and-confidence-building experiences I have ever had in my life. I decided to go to Amsterdam. I  knew that Amsterdam would be an ideal pick for a first time solo trip. I just thought that doing my first trip in an easy, bilingual country as Holland will give me confidence and courage to tackle more challenging destinations down the road. My choice has proved to be the right one. Here are the reasons why:

* Traveling to Amsterdam is usually quite easy and affordable. It can be reached by air, land and even sea. I traveled by Eurolines coach. It was a long and a pretty tiresome journey (we left Victoria Coach Station at 19:00 and arrived in Amsterdam at 6 o'clock in the morning the next day) but very cheap - I paid only 46 £ for a return ticket from London to Amsterdam. I like bus travel. I like to sit back and watch the landscape go by. It was a nice experience to  travel through misty, dew glistening Dutch countryside in the early morning and then as the sun started to spread its gold light to speed through urban areas of Breda, Rotterdam and the Hague. I should also mention that this was my first bus journey through the Channel Tunnel.

Amsterdam is a perfect first solo travel destination because:  

* Nearly all Dutchmen speak impeccable English and there are English menus. GVB tickets, museums and art galleries booklets and leaflets are all printed in Dutch and English. In addition, all guided tours are available in English.

* Amsterdam is such a colourful, vibrant, laid-back and cosmopolitan city. Its compact size makes it wonderfully walkable. Amsterdam reveals itself well on foot and most of what it's got to offer can be accessed on foot. It is also great city for boating down canals and cycling.

* It is a tranquil, tolerant and welcoming city for all to visit. 

What did I do in Amsterdam? I took a canal cruise, rented a bike, sampled soups, cheeses and waffles, speeded through the city on trams, strolled alongside some of the city's finest architecture and admired charming canalscapes, lost myself in Amsterdam numerous museums and art galleries, took a guided tour to The Red Light District, went shopping to Waterlooplein famous flea market and many, many more.

I can honestly say that solo travel is one of the most liberating and confidence-building experiences on the face of the earth - you've got no responsiblities to anybody but yourself, you can do what you want and the buzz you get from the sense of freedom is immense. 
Now, I just think that traveling with a companion defeats the purpose of getting away. I get so much more out of the whole experience if I travel on my own. I have caught a travel bug. Symptoms include restless, itchy feet and obssessive-compulsive need to study maps and guidebooks. Hushh now, I am secretly planning my next Great Solo Escape ;-)

Waiting for carmelised onion soup. This picture was taken in La Colina (Nieuwezijds Kolk 9, 1012 PV Amsterdam). The simple yet intriguing interior of this cosy and rustic restaurant will make you feel like you are having a meal in a farmhouse.

While waiting for carmelised onion soup I was contemplating a special appeal and the liveliness of central Amsterdam. I am sitting with my back towards the viewer and my idea of concealing my visage  is actually borrowed from Henri Matisse. I was  impressed with his painting Woman Reading, 1895 which I saw in Stedelijk Museum. 

Woman Reading shows Caroline Joblaud in the small apartment in Paris where she lived with Matisse and their daughter. The painting is done in a subtle yet dark palette and realistic style. As a budding painter, Matisse tries his hand in rendering the light and textures of different materials. Matisse portrays the female figure with elegance and restraint. He depicts Joblaud as an enigmatic presence, with her back towards the viewer.  The painting evokes a calm, relaxing atmosphere.


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