Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Home Advantage

A canal in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam.

I have mentioned before how great travelling (and, particularly, travelling solo) is for meeting people and making new friends.  As my travel experience and the number of trips I have taken has grown, I have seemingly developed a knack for spotting potential friends.  The kind of friend I would like to stay in touch with after spending some time travelling with them for a bit or sharing some kind of travel experience with that person via a tour, day trip, night out etc.  The Irish girls I met in New Zealand and my Dutch friend are just two such examples.  Mitch and I, both backpacking solo, hit it off straight away on a sailing trip, almost 7 years ago, round the Whitsunday Islands, in Australia.  We shared a similar sense of humour, tastes in music and enjoyed hearing about each other's travels and lives back home.  We also enjoyed partying together at the traditional post trip boat party in Airlie Beach too!  Making fun of his brilliant Dutch accent (via the Austin Power's character, Goldmember) also helped the friendship grow too!

This weekend, I make, what must be, my sixth or seventh trip to Amsterdam to visit him and his girlfriend.  Before befriending Mitch, I had visited Amsterdam with my friends from home and considered it 'ticked' off of my bucket list.  We had seen all the sights, been to a sex show, visited the Van Gogh and Stedelijk Museums as well as frequent both the Erotic and Sex Museum; all rounded off with a lounge in the sun in the brilliant Vondelpark.  So, when Mitch invited me over soon after both of our returns from Oz, I was a little trepidatious about going back to see the same old things and smiling politely (like us Brits do so well) at all the things I had seen before so not to offend Mitch and his love of his country.

I could not have been more wrong.  In every visit I have made, Mitch has been able to show me parts of Amsterdam and the Netherlands I would have really had to research in depth to find.  I have been lucky enough to meet and break bread with his fantastic friends and family, enjoy dressing up like a traditional Dutch person in Volendam and wander the beautiful quiet streets of the Jordaan (only a few parallel streets from all the other tourist madness).  On top of this, I have experienced nightlife like a local, in a traditional Dutch music bar, in the Jordaan area, that left me befuddled but filled with merriment at the thought that I was having a great time without knowing a single word being sung by folk superstar singers such as Walter Kroes.  Mitch and I have stormed house music festivals such as Sensation - White and Mysteryland, visited castles I did not know existed and eaten some food I would not have even thought of trying.

And, that's the key element to all of this; visiting a local means that they show you their neighbourhood, their country at its best, showing you things you did not know were there or taste things that you never thought possible.  I could write an equally lengthy passage in praise of Ireland and all the amazing things the Irish girls have taken me to see in their fair country.  So, if you can, take the home advantage, you won't regret it!

No comments:

Post a Comment