This weekend I was back in Amsterdam for the fourth time in a year to run the Amsterdam Marathon. The only problem was that I hadn’t trained. At all. I ran a lot in June, but then I spent the summer on the road. And though I wore out a pair of running shoes walking around stadiums, I hadn’t run more than 5-6 times with friends or just to see some of the towns. I am reasonably active though, so with a little help from my friend willpower (though he abandoned me for a stretch between 35 and 40 km) I pulled it off in a bit under five hours. Not an impressive time, but something I’m happy with considering the amount of preparation I put in.
Returning to work on Monday I was told just how foolhardy I was since three people had dropped dead running the Detroit Marathon the same day that I was pounding the pavement in Amsterdam. Of course at that fatality rate, the last 15 years of the Detroit Marathon has a lower fatality rate than commuting in the UK. The point is that much like you need to commute, you need to go out and enjoy life – which will always come with some risk. And personally, I’d much rather take that small risk than the risk of having a dull life. So if you’re thinking of doing something fairly ridiculous, might I recommend a major physical challenge. That’s adventure.
Despite knowing a couple of good folks living around Amsterdam, I failed to have a meal with a local while I was there. I did, however, find something just as relaxing that made me feel like a local myself: a bicycle.
My hotel was about 8km walk from the stadium where I needed to be for work, and logistics didn’t look good. Public transportation would take over an hour as I would have to head into the city then transfer, and it was too far to walk with the equipment I needed to take back and forth from the hotel for work. It looked like I would be taking some expensive cabs That is, until I saw a rack of rent-a-bikes outside the hotel. In a sew minutes I was cruising along some of the best bike paths that I have ever seen. I wound through the woods and over the Amstel, a very pleasant ride without a car in sight.
Seeing how well the infrastructure catered to my bicycle commute, I couldn’t help but think that the hold adage of “when in Rome…” The local infrastructure catered perfectly to my needs, I just had to act like a local.
I was sitting in my living room on a rainy Sunday in London bemoaning the weekend’s terrible weather and my resulting weekend indoors watching movies. One of my neighbors ran into the house the rain and upon hearing my reaction to the weather told me: life isn’t about weathering the storm, it’s about learning to sing in the rain.
That might be some of the best advice I’ve ever received, and you can rest assured that I’ll repeat it. It also happens to have been the perfect advice for this weekend as I walked around Amsterdam in the snow and wind with nothing even close to proper clothing. Toughing the cold paid off though. The city of canals was beautiful in the snow.
Photo: Amsterdam this Sunday during a break in the snow.
I’m headed back to Amsterdam today for the second time in a month. Whenever I tell someone that I’m going to Amsterdam their eyes get this wild look. I found the city a pretty and lively place, but nothing matching the description in Jacques Brel’s song nor the sorted dionystic paradise people seem to think I’m wandering into.
Still, very much looking forward to it. I’ll be back to regular blogging Tuesday.
As you might guess, I enjoy recording my travels. As such, I end up spending a bit of time thinking about how to capture my expeditions on film.
While I was in Amsterdam, I heard a couplevloggers extol about the power of vlogging. I do enjoy a good webvideo, but I have my doubts about vlogging an adventure. While video can be a powerful way to capture time and place while traveling, I often feel that a shaky video of a great landmark just wouldn’t do it justice. I’m sure that if I could make a good video, then I could capture place better than just a photo can. But when then only equipment I have is my point and shoot, that’s not realistic.
In place of video, I like to take a picture and record a little bit of the sound of the place. Often I feel that this conveys the atmosphere just as well, if not better than a video from my point and shoot could. And sometimes, this medium feels more appropriate to the landmark. Take these two images and sounds for example.