The Amsterdam Way

Headshot of Ian Donahue.
Ian Donahue
April 5, 2023
Bright pink flowers overwhelm the frame, contrasted by green stems.

Before I write these blog posts I like to think of an overall theme to guide them. For my first few blogs, it was about adjusting to Rome. As I traveled across Europe the focus shifted to travel tips. It not only gives me an outline to work with, but it also prevents it from turning into a bragging session where I list the things I did and boast about how cool it was. With any luck I’ve passed on some lesson or a new perspective that you can take with you in your travels to come. For this blog post the theme that will guide my writing is about experience. It’s a bit loftier and more subjective but give me some time and I hope to give you a new perspective, and an entertaining read.

Out of all the cities I have visited so far, Amsterdam is by far the most unique. Everyone knows what Amsterdam is known for: the Red-Light District, coffee shops, and a language that sounds like someone smashed their keyboard and didn’t autocorrect. It is a city quite literally built on water, with houseboats lining the canals. But it also felt, to me at least, like the entire city was an expanded version of the Upper West Side. Amsterdam simultaneously feels like somewhere I’ve been but also a completely new experience. Within the hour of arriving at my hostel, I had already fallen in love. I don’t say this lightly, but I feel like Amsterdam is the city I want to live in one day. Sorry New York.

Everyone has different experiences, go figure. My crucible of getting from Rome to London is something that not everyone experiences when traveling from those two cities, and I wish it upon no one. People go to Amsterdam for many reasons, for it is a city that caters to a wide selection of travelers. Some people want to drink tons of coffee. Others want to learn what black magic was used when building the city. Some people want to experience a trip of biking, biking and more biking. And then some people want to do it all. The friends I traveled with had different experiences than me within the same trip. Where I like to plan out my itinerary, they are much more go with the flow. I made it a goal to visit the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum, where they wanted to see where the wind took them. There is no wrong way to experience Amsterdam, traveling to cities or anything that gives you joy.

So how did I experience Amsterdam? I did what I always like to do: wander around, soak in the atmosphere and get what I cannot get anywhere else. I didn’t have pasta for the first time in months, instead substituting for a healthy mix of Pad Thai and burgers. I teared up while walking through the Van Gogh experience, hoping that he knew that millions of people appreciate the art he thought no one did. A chipper Australian guided my friends and I down the canals, warning us that the tiniest spiders are “the buggers you really need to watch out for.” I saw where Henry Hudson set off to find a path to Asia, instead finding the Hudson Bay, so really a full circle moment for the New Yorker in me. And lastly, like everywhere else, I sat in a park and soaked in the sun, and in that moment I knew that Amsterdam was the city that my heart desired.

So, as you can tell, I loved Amsterdam. I’m sorry Rome but Amsterdam has you beat in my eyes. And my trip to Amsterdam kicks off a new month. It is hard to believe that march is already over, and that April has arrived. In about one month and two weeks, I will be flying back to New York, a semester abroad complete. And in writing this blog, I think of the experiences I have had these past few months, both the good and bad. For every FCO to Gatwick flight, there was the flight to Vienna where I got some free chocolate. Every poor nights sleep was met with another beautiful day in Rome. And for every moment where I felt homesick, there were the friends I had around me and the friends and family waiting for me back home. That has been my experience so far, one I cherish and one that I cannot wait to keep filling in.

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Headshot of Ian Donahue.

Ian Donahue

Hey! My name is Ian and I am a junior at Ithaca College, where I major in history meaning long papers are my specialty. I play on my school's club ultimate frisbee team and we even went to the national tournament! I am from New York City so navigating public transit is a refined skill of mine. I am beyond excited and grateful for the opportunity to study abroad in Rome, eat amazing food and see places I've dreamed of seeing my whole life.

2023 Spring
Home University:
Ithaca College
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