In ninth and tenth grade, maybe even in middle school, my friends and I talked excitedly of all the things we would do in the magical summer that would come between graduating high school and starting college. We knew it would be magical because we wouldn’t have summer reading (ha), we wouldn’t have to worry about doing productive things like prestigious summer programs (double ha), and we would be, for the first time, free as adults to do as we pleased. As it turned out, none of these things were exactly true. Apparently colleges can give you summer reading just like high schools can (who knew?), what you do in your summer doesn’t stop being important after you get into college (if anything, it gets moreso), and just because you’ve turned eighteen, your parents aren’t suddenly going to let you loose on the world. Funnily enough, the only one of us who really got some semblance of the magical summer was me—and that was only because I had opted for a gap year and turned my magical summer into a magical year—a magical year which could be spent leaving all the nasty bits until the end.
Anyway, my friends and I had had this plan for our magical summer: backpack around Europe for as long as we could stomach it. Totally romantic right? Shows how naïve we were, thinking that turning 18 meant our mothers would suddenly be okay with our doing things just this side of dangerous. But it didn’t even really matter that our mothers probably would have said no (well someone’s mother probably would have said no). High school happened and you rarely come out of high school without a little drama. People who were my best friends going in I hardly spoke to by the end. People I didn’t know at the beginning are now attached to me at the hip. And I don’t think I’ve spoken to my main partner in planning our European Grand Tour in over six months.
So we settled, as people tend to do. A mini (All-American) road trip was planned for just after school let out and everything was going swimmingly until it all fell through (file under reasons not to be friends with or rely on people who drive stupidly expensive Mercedeses) and summer began to look a bit bleak. Everyone who could find a job (which made all of two of us—myself included) was working and everybody else was resorting to the old summer staple: the summer program. Plans were thin on the ground, money to be thrown at trips in Europe was scarce, and it turned out there was actually a lot that needed to happen in Magical Summer.
For everyone except me, that is. All I had to do was figure out what I was doing with my gap year, which I was completely averse to. And so, in a last-ditch attempt at organizing a trip to Europe for me and a friend, I set about convincing my boyfriend’s mother that it would be a good idea to let the two of us gallivant off to Holland together for a couple weeks of highroad adventure. My mum was fine with it because I probably wouldn’t come to much harm accompanied by a nice, strong boy of an (initially) intimidating 6’4″. His mother wasn’t fine with it because bikes would be involved. People had died in Arkansas while biking, after all.
Several meetings and hours of discussion later, we somehow got our “well alright then” and were off to the races. I would meet my boyfriend at the end of his economics course at LSE, we’d take the ferry over to Holland, figure out how to use the Dutch train system (this proved more challenging than we’d imagined), get ourselves to Amsterdam, pick up our bikes and GPS’s, and embark on a nice two weeks of every-other-day biking all over Holland, before returning to London for a few days, followed by home for him and Nehasane for me. Amazingly (alarmingly?) it all went like a dream (well we both did get pretty fiercely sick at one point, but we survived only a little worse for wear).
I think my mum half thought we’d hate each other by the end of the trip, but no such luck there, mother dearest.
Things discovered in our travels:
- Maps lead to fights no matter who’s holding them or where you’re going
- Albert Heijn has an unrivaled juice selection (apple, pear, & raspberry and blackberry, currant, apple, & strawberry blew my mind)
- You haven’t lived life until you’ve had poffertjes
- How-da, not Goo-da
- Honestly, pancakes in some form are good for any meal
- The same 4 restaurants repeat themselves over and over all throughout Amsterdam and it’s really quite funny
- Sprinkles on toast is a better idea than it sounds
- Eat in the middle of nowhere and you and your wallet will be happier
- People who come to Amsterdam just to tour the Heineken factory should be avoided at all costs
- Bed and Breakfasts are totally hit or miss
- Parts of Holland could easily be mistaken for Southern California