Within my 21 years of life, my biggest passion has been traveling. I have had a travel bucket list as long as I ca remember. The danger in the bucket list is that it limits you. You become so attached to the cities that you want to visit, and you forget that there’s so much more. One of the saddest realities that has hit me this trip is how touristy and commercialized some cities have become. Being a Floridian, I know how great of a business tourism can be. Yet, you can see how the influx of people etches away the authenticity of the local.
This past weekend I visited three different cities in the Netherlands: Amsterdam, The Hague, and Delft. Of the three I was originally the most excited about Amsterdam, for somewhat obvious reasons. It was the one city I really knew of. I knew I what to expect, which is why I have to say that it was my least favorite out of the trip. Part of the magic that comes with travel, I’ve found, is discovering the city. Finding those areas that are so overwhelmingly beautiful that you start to look up the cost of living in that area. This charm, personally, is hard to find when you already know what to look for. It’s as if you’re on a blind date that your friends set up. You kind of know what to expect and, barring any surprises, already have a preconceived notion of how it will go. Even in the best of circumstances, the pressure that is placed becomes overwhelming and the experience flounders. This phenomenon isn’t solely attributed to Amsterdam. I found myself feeling the same way in London. I LOVED these cities, and feel so fortunate to have been able to go, but I felt slightly robbed when I left. Walking through the cities, I would find a McDonalds or Burger King every few streets. Similarly, souvenir shops outnumbered local shops by what felt like 5:1. I was constantly being reminded that this was a vacation destination. It was hard to fully delve into the experience, when the world around me wanted me think of either the comforts of home or what I was to bring back.
Now let me tell you about my favorite destination. Delft is a beautiful and very historically significant city in the Netherlands. It is essentially where the Netherlands, as we know it today, began. The older sections of the city are covered with rich history, culture, and great food. I’m slightly embarrassed to inform you that I spent at least a half-hour in a cheese shop trying all the samples. I knew somethings about this city, enough to understand the significance. I have to admit that this is one of my favorite cities thus far, but it is not my favorite location. The best part of my Netherlands trip was a guided bike ride through the surroundings of Delft. Here, on this hour long bike ride, I was able to see windmills and open pastures. I was able to see real neighborhoods and people happily walking around. In that hour, I feel like I saw more of the character of the nation than in the rest of the trip. The sights were incredible as well. Windmill after windmill, overlooking vast green fields that were only interrupted by picturesque canals. This image, is the one that will come to mind when I think of the Netherlands.