The Netherlands: Cyclists, Stroopwafels & Serenity

Dear Netherlands, you were truly something else. I don’t think I ever saw a place as calm and serene on my travels (New Zealand is a very close 2nd place!!). Holland was my second destination on my recent Euro trip, and I spent ten wonderful days here. I’d been here only once before, in Amsterdam for a very short two days in 2014 with my best friend. But back then I definitely didn’t see the side of the Netherlands that this time, I was so incredibly fortunate to see. I’m talking about the endless, vast green fields, crisp cool air, and authentic dutch food, and people.

I flew in from Copenhagen and arrived in Leiden, a little town approximately a 40 minute train ride South-West of Amsterdam. The reason was to visit my brother who had been living and studying in this little student town for the past 6 months. He picked me up from the central station on his bike, and I soon discovered that to spot a car in this town would be a surprising event. Only we then realised that the bike, as handy and wonderful of an invention as it is, would not be able to carry my 25kg suitcase despite several attempts. Walking through the soothing, quiet streets of Leiden, I felt a wave of tranquility wash over me – nobody in this town was rushing anywhere. The pace of life felt slower and people looked content, ALL the time. The houses lined along the canals had their curtains wide open at all hours, giving all walkers by a small glimpse into their cosy little lives inside. The dutch people I met seemed open, welcoming, modest and non-judgmental. I think that people here live authentically, and without getting in each other’s way. They seemed a little reserved/to themselves, yet still open and warm just the same. I found this to be a beautiful synchronicity between the two styles.

When I wasn’t with my brother cycling through the streets, parks, along canals, or tasting the many amazing Dutch treats like Kibbeling (deep fried battered fish), raw herring fillets (sounds gross but isn’t!!!), and Stroopwafel (baked, thin, round waffle biscuits with a delicious caramel centre), I found myself lost in a very deep, beautiful kind of stillness. The town just gave me the permission to stop, slow down, and really be present. We hear about the ‘here and now’ and being mindful/present in our everyday lives, but I really don’t think i’d ever experienced that level of  mindfulness and stillness as I did during my time in Holland. I’m super sensitive to my surroundings, and I absorb so much inspiration from the places I’m in, and the people who surround me. And so that’s why this gorgeous country had such an impact on me (p.s I did visit Amsterdam again, and although a bloody beautiful city, the craziness and novelty of it all can be a little overwhelming, Leiden is very, very different, and so are many of the other towns in Holland, like Utrecht & Rotterdam).

Because I am so sensitive to my surroundings/environment, I just felt so at ease here, and despite a short trip, this place did really teach me a golden lesson that i’ll carry with me for life – that we don’t have to be busy all the time. That we don’t have to be doing shit all the time, just to say we are doing something. I learnt that it’s not the world that is busy, it’s our minds. I look deeper into myself and realise that I do enjoy being busy at times, because it keeps life interesting for me, but the key is to not let the business run our life. To not let the business lead us away from our truest self. The self that is wise, compassionate, creative and loving. To not let the business pollute our minds with stress, anxiety and pure exhaustion. Because that’s not what living should be about. I don’t want my time here on earth to be about working the hardest to get the best job, to make the most money, to buy the nicest shit, to feel good about myself for a mere second.  No, I want my limited time here on earth to be anything but that.

Really Netherlands, I never thought you’d do this to me.

Thank you, and until next time you beauty!

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Lovely Leiden, The Netherlands.

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Raw Herring Fillets with onions (would NOT recommend this if you plan on kissing someone that same day)

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Incredible local Kibbeling (deep-fried battered fish) from the weekly Leiden markets

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A girl (me) and her Stroopwafel… honestly, what more does one need?

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P.s I picked up this book while in Leiden (I thought it was fitting!) to read while sitting in the little cosy cafes, but also to take home with me as a souvenier to remember how it felt to be in this city. I highly, highly recommend this book, easy to get through and such a comforting, beautiful read.

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