Day 2 – Getting to my room and first impressions

I know it was a good flight because I was fed well and I was drowsy when the captain announced we’d be landing soon. I actually wanted to sleep more, making this the first time I ever wanted to stay on the plane when the flight was over.

Stepping off the plane I started getting hit with a little anxiety. As opposed to sitting on a plane, I’d now have to start making decisions, which means I can potentially screw up. Keep it together Stack, it’s not that hard. Schipol is an awesome airport. It’s huge and bustling. Everything about it feels modern, and it felt like a high-end mall. To quote Dan Berke on the topic, “If Ikea built an airport, Schiphol is what it would look like!”

For my first night, I’d be staying at the residence of a man named Bart, who we found through I had a printed copy of instructions from the airport to his house/apartment thing. It would be a train, then a bus, then a walk. Didn’t seem too bad.

I got some Euros (at a much better rate than if I had at Sea-Tac) and decided to sit and collect myself before doing anything. While doing so, a shabby looking man approached me and asked if I spoke French. I told him a little, but he seemed to recognize English would be the way to go and explained he had run out of money and needed a train ticket. He assured me if we exchanged emails he’d pay me back. Had I not been as overwhelmed with everything, I’d probably have told him I couldn’t help him, or maybe it was I felt some compassion as a similarly disoriented traveler, but I ended up giving him some of my left over USD. He told me his name was Marco but I immediately regretted the transaction. I’m never hearing from him again.

The train to Amsterdam Zuid Station left only minutes after. The train ride was nice. Super smooth and got me there quickly. Stepping out of the train station into a big elegant courtyard, I was in the open air of Holland for the first time. I immediately felt that it was beautiful, clean, and almost eerily quiet.

Moving along, I almost got off the bus improperly. Paying on entry, I thought, like in Seattle, you’d just walk off the bus, but I noticed people scanning the stub they received on exit and quickly stuck my arm back in until I heard the approving “beep.” My host had left keys to his place at a nearby bike shop. The issue was, I couldn’t seem to find the cross street this shop was on. Stupidly having no real map, I had to go off of the limited map data cached on my phone. Other than the cross street, all I had to identify the shop was that it had a yellow sign, and bikes in front of it. I thought that might be pretty helpful except that bikes are parked everywhere in huge mass.

I decided to search for the shop using the random direction algorithm. After what felt like hours, the sun started to feel mighty hot, and my bags were getting kind of heavy so I asked some locals for help. Most were very nice, except one lady who looked like I had just asked her what the capital of Assyria was. The most helpful advice I got was that the river up North has the same name as the street I was looking for. My feeling that the city was eerily quiet persisted as I roamed about it. I’m not really sure what it is. Eventually I found the shop, got the keys, and was in the charming little apartment where I’d be staying. Awesome! That only took a couple hours longer than it should have.

Feeling a bit exhausted from my trip, I passed out and didn’t wake up until 10pm local time. I’d have liked to go out, but I was still feeling a bit timid so I decided to call it a night. The only issue is that it’s only 5pm in my time zone and I don’t feel tired at all just yet. On a brighter note, I get to update you all again.

Tomorrow should be a pretty unstructured day. I’ll be meeting up with my classmates at the Bicycle Hotel tomorrow at 6pm to begin the actual program. However, before that I’ll pretty much be on my own. It’ll be nice to have the unstructured time, but I think I’ll enjoy myself more once I meet up with people and get a bit more organized.

  1. Dan Berke said:

    Getting scammed in Europe is part of the experience! Just keep your wallet out of sight!

    Is your phone GSM? If it’s unlocked, you can just buy a sim card over there and use that for voice and data. Everything I read before going to Europe said “don’t worry, wifi is everywhere!” That’s true, but it’s a huge pain in the butt. If you don’t have an unlocked GSM phone, buy one online or at a store there. (I got a cheap older model Android phone online for $99 before heading over there and it worked great once I had a Swiss sim card.)

    I’ve also heard that Amsterdam is famous for french fries (I’m not kidding) so see if you can give some a try!

  2. My phone is GSM, unlocked, and none of that is an accident! Normally I get by without any data and just use wifi, but I think it could come in handy getting around here so I’ll go SIM shopping either today or sometime soon.

    Good tip on the french fries. I had not heard that so I’ll keep my eyes open!

  3. Dan Berke said:

    Check out – the site is a great wiki where people keep track of cheap pay-as-you-go data (and voice) plans for whatever country you want. It’s where I found the data plan that I used in Switzerland (4 CHF/day for unlimited data!)

  4. Scott Barker said:

    French fries come with mayonnaise in Belgium. Can’t remember if they do that in Amsterdam too or not…

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