Coming Back to Amsterdam

the city of amsterdam buildingsI’m currently back in Amsterdam. Yes, I know I was just here a few months ago, but it was Queen’s Day (Dutch national party day) and I love this city. It’s my seventh time in Amsterdam since I started traveling in 2006. After seven visits to Amsterdam, I know this place pretty well. I’ve spent months in this city. I’ve walked everywhere. I’ve been to all the attractions. I know good places to eat, things to see, and parks to visit. I wouldn’t consider myself a local, but it’s nice to be in a city that feels like home, where you aren’t lost or clueless. (Though that’s a lot of the fun in travel, once in awhile, I enjoy a break.)

That’s what I like so much about Amsterdam. I’ve been here so many times, I’ve lived here, I feel at home here. I’ve been here a week and a half already. I’m here catching up on work and visiting friends. It’s been good to sit down in one place and start to make head way on my site after months of slacking off. But it’s even better to be back in a place that I know so well. I don’t have to find my way around streets nor feel the need to rush off to some tourist site. I can just relax and enjoy the city and catch up with old friends.
the great city of amsterdam
People often try to chase passport stamps, but I’d rather see fewer places and know them well than just have little understanding, some photos, and a passport full of stamps. To me, travel is about getting to know places and the people who live in them. In the last three and a half years of travel, I’ve seen about 41 countries. I’ve been to the same places many times, either on purpose or because it worked out that way. I like it that way. Every time I come back to a city, I learn new things and discover something I missed the last time I was there. I can always go someplace for a few days and say I’ve been, but I’d rather say I know the place. To do that you need to stay in places longer or visit multiple times.

Plus, since I now usually stay in either the Flying Pig or the Winston when I’m here, the long-term staff in both places remember me (I visit Amsterdam a lot). It’s nice to stay at a place where you feel at home too.
the great city of amsterdam canals
You can see a lot of places, but you can only know a few. And I think that’s the biggest advantage of long term travel—being able to get into the groove of a place and melt right in. So I have no problem coming back to the same destinations over and over again. The more you visit a place, the more you know it. I’d rather have deep knowledge of a few places then little knowledge of a lot. I think it’s important to travel often, and I visit lots of places in between trips to frequented destinations. But in my travels I’ve found places I want to get to know deeper, and I’ll keep coming back to these places, learning more about them, and meeting new friends. Amsterdam’s one of my favorite cities to do just that.

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  1. Funny how Amsterdam has a particular attraction. A friend of mine went there last year, and now she’ll be going there for 4 years to get her PHD.

    And it’s more than the drugs and the Red Light District :)

    • NomadicMatt

      Very true. It’s a beautiful city here. From canals to good food, to people, i love amsterdam!

  2. Amsterdam’s a cool city. I’m definitely planning on going back, giving the coffee shop a miss this time though, and getting on a bike as well. I recommend taking some sort of canal tour (though I’m sure you have already) as it’s a very different way to see the old city.

  3. I absolutely love Amsterdam. Ive only been there three times for short visits, but I would like to spend longer there, its a great city.

  4. Alex

    I thought Amsterdam was a charming city as far as looks go, definitely had some cute little cafes/restaurants and seeing Anne Frank’s house was quite special – apart from that, though, I wasn’t crazy about it. Being able to smoke pot legally turned out to be less fun than it sounded, and I felt like sex (an activity that should be at least somewhat special?) was turned it into something far too commercialized, with the sex shops, sex theaters, prostitutes – even a bit gross at times. Perhaps I’m just too conservative (although I consider myself to generally be more on the liberal side of things), maybe I just didn’t spend enough time there, or maybe I let irritating factors of the trip affect my opinion of the city (bad hostel location, horrible weather, etc.) as a whole. But I honestly do not understand what all the Amsterdam hype is about.

  5. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, how there’s SO many places I want to see, but it’s a shame to not REALLY get to know any of them. Know what I mean? I know Newfoundland, that’s it.

    I absolutely adored Amsterdam, but basically was only there to party. I just wrote a ridiculous blog post about my spacecake death experience, actually. If I ever go back, I’ll be seeing the city differently for sure.

  6. I too keep ending up in the same places from time to time and it’s a nice break. You get a real feel for life in a city and it’s relaxing after moving around so much.

  7. I am anxious to get back to places I’ve visited already. Particularly Cork because I lived there and I can’t wait to go back. When I go back to Philly I always feel at home too – knowing how to navigate a city where you no longer live is such a cool feeling. Also, feeling at home while not at home is a cool feeling too. Plus, when you renew your passport the stamps go away.

  8. Hey Matt!
    Hope you enjoyed Queen’s day :)
    Definitely agree on Amsterdam being a great ‘reference point’ while traveling… while I am Dutch I lived in Amsterdam only a few times, for only a few months each time. But it rocks as a place to touch base, have a coffee or a drink and feel right at home.
    Best wishes!

  9. Matt, can you recommend any good places to stay in Amsterdam? I’m planning a quick trip in Sep or Oct. It doesn’t have to be central (I’m sure walking along the canals is a delight anyway), just something cozy and affordable. Thanks!

  10. Kiki

    I am Dutch and i live in Amsterdam. I am sick of tourists coming here for coffeeshops and the red lightdistrict. We did not choose for the coffeshops and sex exploitation. The goverment did to make money.

  11. Phil

    amsterdam has three things, tourists, students, and gays that make it lively. Take away the gays and you’ll have Delft. Take away the students and you’ll have Gouda. Take away the tourists and you’ll have any other city in the Netherlands. There are multiple cities with and RLD, coffee shops, and canals.

    I have worked for years in amsterdam and if you go downtown there is always someone walking down the street. One thing I always noticed these people were always tourists. They don’t have to work and can always party. But when you go outside the touristic city center you will be welcomed by empty streets. In amsterdam they need the students, tourists and gays to make it lively

    in amsterdam they launched a campaign IAmsterdam. The purpose of this official campaign? To teach the locals to be more friendly to visitors. The message: your behaviour reflects how other’s perceive the city.

    So if you are a native English speaker, try the following things and see how you will be treated
    Pretend to be German, from the Middle East, a Muslim or a Jew. If you are American tell people you are a Republican and you hate Obama and wished George Bush was back in control.
    If you have a Dutch companion let him or here do all the talking.

    After that switch back to English and enjoy the positive discrimination you receive….

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