Once upon a time in Amsterdam, I ditched my travel partner. Well, almost. Near the end of my academic exchange in Geneva, Switzerland, a friend from Toronto came to visit me. We had both decided to travel together for a week across Europe. Our itinerary included Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Dubrovnik, but when we got to Amsterdam, I began to regret my decision. My travel partner was negative and pessimistic; always complaining about how the sights in real life weren’t as astonishing as reputed to be.
Picturesque Historical Homes Next to Canal. Taken from one of the many bridges that span the canals.
I would quietly seethe at his negative energy and grumble when he brushed off my laudative comments about the city’s architecture. In Amsterdam, I gave up on trying to hide my discontent and did something mean: I ditched him by making him walk one way and me the other, but not before having set a time on when to meet for dinner. That much I did do.
Strolling around Amsterdam on my own helped me to soothe my frustration. Travelling with others was supposed to be a new experience for me and it turned out to be just as I had thought: frustrating. I took a seat inside Winkel’s café. While enjoying a slice of their delectable apple pie, I daydreamed, people-watched, and did some reflecting. After having calmed down, I realized my problem. For the first time, I had to take into consideration what other people wanted to see, how fast they wanted to see it, where they wanted to eat, whether they wanted to eat or not… For the first time, I had to take into consideration other people’s feelings.
Winkel’s Apple Pie with Coffee. It’s thanks to this apple pie that I found a solution to my predicament.
During my exchange from September to April, I travelled across Europe during my long weekends, Christmas holidays, Easter holidays, or any day-off for that matter! From London to Rome, Venice to Vienna, my backpack was my sole companion. Parliament Buildings in 5 minutes? Why not? A half-day stroll in Covent Garden, complete with afternoon tea, a last-minute decision to see The
King musical in the evening before heading back to the hostel? Whose second opinion did I need to consider? No one’s! I only had me to think about. Truth be told, all the solo travelling had entrenched itself in me to the point where it made interacting with other people a nuisance.
Amsterdam feels like a giant park where you can stroll around all day
It was an enlightening moment. It dawned on me that I hadn’t paid much attention to my travel partner’s opinions; that my exuberant energy could have been suffocating. Suddenly, I missed him. Near the appointed time I went to meet up with my travel buddy. He didn’t show it at that moment, but he was upset. Needless to say why.
We ate dinner next to a canal. One of the most perfect moments I’ll cherish for a while. I took him back to the apple pie café and we chatted for a long time about ourselves. Then he asked if I had left him on purpose. I replied that I did because I couldn’t stand anymore of his rhetorical “could-be-a-little-bit-better” remarks, his constant flitting from one sight to the next, his general insensitivity to his (in my opinion) marvellous surroundings.
Winkel’s Café. Extremely well-known for their apple pies. I sat here for a good two hours and they made about 4-6 apple pies per hour.
Understandably, he had issues with me too. He said I wasn’t a team player, that too often I would leave and look for a solution on my own to a problem that concerned us both, that I didn’t appreciate the fact that he flew across an ocean to see me, that I should not have left him. What was missing from this trip was the notion of companionship. We were supposed to travel across Europe together. Since we understood each other a little better, we communicated about what we both needed to compromise for the trip to work. Our resolution was that he would criticize a little less and I would consult him on anything that concerned both of us. We’d work as a team from that moment on. Keywords here: communication and compromise. Two concepts that I, at the wise, old age of 22, didn’t fully know how to practice.
Shopping/residential streets. Serpentine alleyways lead up to these charming streets.
Lesson learned: you can talk about your feelings instead of bottling them up; you can learn to compromise instead of doing all-or-nothing trade-offs. I stayed mad at him until we arrived in Berlin, but everything smoothed out after that. Looking back now, even though I was living a dream, I still had to deal with the very real dilemma of interacting closely with another opinionated human being. Something that nine months of on-and-off solo travel did not teach me. Once I settled back into my dorm in Geneva, threw my boulder of a backpack into a corner, and collapsed onto my own bed, that’s when I realized I had mentally grown from my travels. That’s when I knew I was going places.