With rain pelting down on my uncovered head, and a icy cold wind causing me to protect my face with my arm, I started to regret my decision to come to Europe. I rarely travel through here. Very little about Europe inspires me as a writer. An although there are plenty of pretty buildings to photograph, very little about Europe makes me shiver with anticipation. And the weather here in Amsterdam isn’t helping.
The streets are filled with water and the sidewalks look like an umbrella graveyard. People stand huddled along the side of drab grey buildings with their hands stuffed in their pockets, and chins in their necks. A small car wheels down the road and sends a wave of puddle water into the air as a group jumps out of the way while screaming at the driver. The sky is a monotonous grey blanket of misery.
It’s all fairly depressing.
I can’t help but wonder how people can live here, in a place where the days are short, the rains are constant, and everyone seems to be in a hurry. The narrow streets are packed. Bikes and small cars occupy the roads, and I have to walk with my elbows up just to get anywhere downtown. There are tourists crowding every inch of the sidewalks, stopping in the middle of the walkways to read maps, take pictures, or just get in the way.
I pick up an umbrella from a touristy street side vendor and joust with the wind as I walk towards my houseboat accommodation. Within 5 minutes of spending 5 Euros on the umbrella it bends with the wind and the plastic sheet unhinges from poles. I’m beyond the point of caring though and continue on, drenched from head to toe.
I hunker down into the living room of the houseboat and strip down from my soaked clothes to warm up by the fire. Part of what’s got me down is the fact that I’ve waited years to come to Amsterdam, to see the sights, to photograph it, and right now, I can’t do anything.
Of course, it’s always another eye’s perspective that changes your mood. Messages pour in from twitter and facebook all singing out things like how they would “kill to be in Amsterdam”. One can’t help but feel like they are dong those who can’t travel a disservice when they have every opportunity to see the world and want nothing more than to curl up in a ball with theur thumb in their mouth. It’s always a bit of shame you need to feel before you realize that the world is what you make of it, and you define your own adventures.
With the rain still punching down, and the wind pressing only slightly less powerfully, I again wander into downtown Amsterdam, but this time with fresh eyes. With a smile on my face, I see comedy in the umbrella graveyard, and the state of Amsterdam in the rain. I see beauty in the drops of rain dancing off the canal waters. Moreover, with the roads free of bikes and pedestrians I feel like I have this packed destination relatively all to myself.
I’m a little bit ashamed that I let the rains get to me. But sometimes you need to get beat down to realize that an adventure has nothing to do with how exciting life is, but how far you stand from your comfort zone. And with the crowds, weather, and concrete jungle of Europe ahead for the next two months, I can assure you that even in the depths of the Congo, I’ve never been further from my comfort zone than I am now: in the drab rains of fall in crowded Europe.