Time Travel Out of My Contentment Zone

Day 2 felt like day 1 and day 4 all at once. That’s because the Sun shines until almost 11pm here. And jet lag is real.

In Amsterdam, I feel free to lose my concept of time… which since childhood I’ve had a strong suspicion of its reality. Being here makes me appreciate the Sun that much more. And I realize how each impending sunset brings rise to my anxiety as boxes on my to-do list go unchecked. Longer days make me feel relaxed. The weight of responsibility shoved happily underneath my bed back home in Brooklyn. Here time flows like the canals and the scent of freshly lit herb fills the air like a Dutch pastry shop in the morning. 

And oh what a beautiful morning it is! 

No one speaks to you like you’re doing something wrong. There’s no need to look over your shoulder. Over the course of a week, I saw maybe four policemen. And one homeless person who was actually American. The streets are clean and the roads have lanes just for bikers. Even the birds sound happier here. Or I’ve just made time to listen more closely.

Have you ever heard of a groundcherry? I hadn’t until Amsterdam. It’s a berry that comes from Peru but tastes like it was picked from a meadow in Heaven. The food tastes so good here. I even put aside my nondairyness and tried Old Amsterdam cheese. Worth it.

Six rugby players and I sit down for lunch on a road that for me conjures up a memory of Koh San in Bangkok. No cars, just rows of resurants and shops, and plenty of foot traffic. Yet here it’s quiet and there’s room to breathe and contemplate why there aren’t many roads like these in America. Too much space we take for granted? Too many cars, prioritizing comfort over global responsibility?

A group of black guys walk by laughing and talking amongst themselves. “What up dawg?” was the only line I could successfully eavesdrop. They look happy and relaxed and carefree. I wonder if they are visiting like me, away from home and feeling free. Or are they Dutch and this is a regular day.

And as I fold a peanut butter and banana pancake that is bigger than my face, I wonder how I can preserve the feeling of freedom and adventure, some of the tenets of a travel mindset.

Because back home I have jobs. And taking a boat on the Hudson is out of budge right now. Marijuana isn’t exactly legal. And a pancake like this is big is enough to stretch for two meals.

When I’m away, I feel like I can do anything and embody more of my true self. That’s the beauty of exiting a routine and having space to see myself, my country from a different perspective. Here I’m able to reflect on the life I have back in New York and wake up to the fact that I’ve been content with a lower standard of living. Travel is a gateway to the fact that I shouldn’t have to wait until I leave my time zone to start living my life to the fullest.

Usually after each trip abroad, returning home is met with reluctance, resistance, nostalgia, sadness, denial, sometimes anger. This time I hope to sit with the feelings that come up and decipher what messages they bring. Now that Amsterdam has so kindly verwelkomd me to the outside of my contentment zone, I am grateful for newfound awareness and am eager to continue to embody a travel mindset.

And also find out where I can get more groundcherries.