Finally! My first passport! I wanted to use it once I had it in my hand. There are so many countries and cities out there and I didn’t know where to start. Right away I was told to go to Amsterdam as my first trip over seas. Some of my friends said that the airport has english everywhere, the public transportation is convenient, and most of the people who live there speak english as well. I booked the flight on Saturday, and on Monday I was heading to the Netherlands!
I got off the plane in Amsterdam at 10:30 am. The public transportation is incredible, and I was quickly on my way to downtown Amsterdam from the metro station. When I stepped onto the train I sat down on the closest seat to the door. A strawberry red headed boy came onto the metro right before it was about to take off and sat across from me. Both of our seats faced each other, and I stared out the widow as he sat down. He had a gray hiking backpack that he set on the floor in front of him. We made eye contact and he asked me where a certain youth hostel was. I told him it was my first day in Amsterdam and I didn’t know. He then introduced himself as Jason and he was from Canada. I told him I was from the U.S. and only visiting for the day.
Jason was supposed to be with a few other people, but they bailed on him last minute. Him and his friends had talked about doing a backpacking trip across Europe for a while and made plans for the exciting adventure. At the last second they decided not to go, but Jason made the choice to continue on the trip anyway. He asked me what youth hostel I was staying at, and I told him the flying pig youth hostel in downtown Amsterdam. His eyes looked envious as he said, “I tried getting into that youth hostel but they didn’t have enough room availability for more than one night. It’s one of the most popular youth hostels in the world”. I didn’t know that little fun fact, and felt excited to check in. By that time the metro stopped and we both got off and walked each other to the front of the station. We were both heading in different directions at that point, and he asked if I wanted to hang out later. I said sure, and we planned to meet at 5pm in front of the central station. We said, “see ya later” and we went our separate ways for the time being.
I experienced the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam even before Jason and I split ways. I had never experienced a European country and for a second I was confused on what to do after Jason left. My feet started walking and I dodged bicyclists and skipped across roads. Cars were honking and people with their own luggage walked past me. It was exciting to say the least. Navigating through alleyways and shops to find my youth hostel was easy. When I walked into the building I went to the front desk and waited until the people in front of me were done checking in. As they finished up their process the man behind the desk looked at me and said, “Brazilian?” I looked at him and shook my head no. He guessed Spanish next and then Italian, and my head shook two more times. I then handed him my passport and he looked at it as I set it in his hand, “Awe American”. He opened my book and said, ” your last name is Spanish, so I was somewhat close”, and then he looked at the rest of my full name and told me my first name wasn’t spanish. I said it was Irish, and he replied, “cool, unique”. Then he typed in my info into his computer, handed me a key to my door and grabbed a map of Amsterdam from his desk. He scribbled some words onto the paper map and handed it to me as he told me to have a great day. I thanked him and walked toward the direction of my room. When I opened the door to my shared dorm room there was nobody in there. I put my belongings down and looked at the map. It was folded multiple times into a neat square. Right on top it said my name with the words “irish stallion” etched between my first and last name. I smiled and thought it was funny. As I finished up organizing my backpack, I got ready to explore the city. I walked back outside with the map with my name scribbled on it in my hand.
I was hungry and nervous I wouldn’t be able to find a vegan restaurant. As I was wandering around I saw some bicyclists zip past me into an alleyway and I thought I would go that way too. Right as I walked into the alleyway there was a vegan sticker on a window and it was a restaurant! I literally said to myself, “what are the odds”. I opened the door and soon I was eating the most amazing fried rice I had ever eaten. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I’m sure I’ll wander back there again someday, because that was some bomb ass rice and I’ll need it again in my life at some point.
After my meal I took a boat ride through the beautiful city of Amsterdam. There were amazing boathouses lining the canals, and bikes parked everywhere along the water. I sat on the boat listening to the person talking about the history of the city. The buildings along the water were narrow and charming, and I wondered what the large hooks were on top of the buildings. My question was answered during the ride when the man said that the hooks on top of the buildings allowed for large items to be hoisted up to the top floors through the window. He went on to explain the architecture styles between the houses, and what was unique about the different designs. When the ride ended I walked through the city and into the mall for the time being until I would meet up with Jason again. The buildings were beautiful and it made me happy to experience a city like this. I made my way to the square and there was a man dressed only in underwear with a ball of fire in his hands doing tricks. An accordion group played on the opposite side of the square from him, and birds zipped between people and swooped through buildings trying to find scraps of food.
By the time 5pm came along I met up with Jason and another person he met from the youth hostel. The other boy was from France. I don’t remember what his name was but Jason introduced him to me, and the boy turned to him and told him his name was something else. Jason looked at him and said, “I’ve been calling you by the wrong name for a few hours and you didn’t say anything?!” I laughed really hard and we went on our way. We discussed what to do and we wandered around for a bit talking and looking around. We talked about our countries and the differences in fashion and politics. They asked me what I do for a hobby and I told them I do mixed martial arts. The french boy told me he boxed for a little bit, but stopped because he wasn’t any good. We walked through the streets and saw marijuana coffee shops everywhere. Weed trinkets were sold in almost every shop we went into. There were lines out the door for smoke shops, and everyone seemed to want to go in one. We never stopped, because we just wanted to explore the city. After that I had to end it short because I had made plans to go to a jiu jitsu school that night. We said goodbye after spending a few hours together and I went on my way.
I walked back to the metro at the central station, I wanted to give myself some time to find the place just in case I got lost and needed to backtrack. On my first try I made it from the central station to spaklerweg and from there it was a few minute walk to the location. The jiu jitsu school was aesthetically pleasing and had a modern feel to it. The lesson of the night taught two sweeps that both used the lapel to end in either side control or take the back. It was very effective and a fun change to what I’m used to learning in America. After the lesson we rolled for a few rounds. I ended up heel hooking a girl and ended up tapping her. She told me she had never seen that before. I asked, ” seen what?” she then replied, “is that reaping the leg? We don’t do that here. We go by IBJJF rules.” Immediately I felt bad. I explained that I didn’t realize and said I was sorry. At the same time though I thought, IBJJF rules or not, you’re a brown belt and should know what that is. Anyway, I saw her go to the instructor and say some things as I was rolling with somebody else, and afterwards I took it upon myself to apologize for reaping the leg of the girl. He said it was alright, but I felt a tension. He then asked me to roll, and of course kicked my butt, but it was still a great roll for me because I’m a white belt. After class ended, one of the other instructors (a purple belt) sat next to me and started talking to me. Right away I knew he was cool and relaxed. I felt comfortable around him, and we talked for about 15 minutes about our countries, traveling, and different rolling styles. I then paid my class fee and headed back to my youth hostel.
On the way back I got lost and asked a couple for help, which they gladly did, and soon I was on the train back to downtown Amsterdam. When I arrived at the youth hostel there were three people in my room. Two girls and one boy. They both had English accents, and were friendly. We said a few words, but everyone was tired and we fell asleep right away. The next morning I woke up to my alarm beeping. I packed all my belongings into my backpack and headed to the airport. Schipol airport was easy to navigate and the security process was fast and efficient. Once in the airport I wandered around looking at all the shops and eventually got tired of that and sat down to charge my phone. Soon it was time for my flight and just like that my 24 hour adventure was over and my first trip to another country was a success! I landed in Amsterdam at 10:30am and left the next day at 10:30am making it a complete 24 hours.