zaterdag 18 november 2017

Day 50: Nashville

📍 Location: Tootsies, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

After Chicago I’ve started to head south. Leaving the big cities behind me for now and entering the more countryside of America. At least that's what it feels like. A long night bus ride would take me there. The girl who I met in Chicago said that so far her bus rides had been really cool. That she met a bunch of nice people there and even got very friendly with a cute guy who sat next to her at one point. I don’t know how she does it. So far I’ve been surrounded by the opposite of cute guys in busses. And again, this time I had the pleasure of sitting for at least twelve hours next to an old man with the worst, most rotten breath I’ve ever smelled - like death was already on its way to come and get him.

Me and my gassed nostrils arrived around noon in Nashville. When you set foot in this city, it feels like you immediately enter a complete different world. A world where everyone wears cowboy boots and cowboy hats and where people actually like country music. It can’t get more American than this. It’s as if this city lives in its own bubble with its particular culture and doesn’t give a shit about what the rest of the world think of them. Fascinating to see. For Europeans this would be what the typical ‘American’ image would look like. Oh, fun fact: Miley Cyrus is born and raised in Nashville.

Nashville is the place to be if you want to party. The Americans themselves like to visit the ‘Country Music Capital of the World’ for a weekend getaway. They dive into one of the hundred bars in the night to listen to the performing bands and party their asses off before returning back to their daily jobs.

I stayed at a big hostel in the center of Nashville. The hostel itself was a really nice one; it had a huge public hang out space with lots of couches and a pool table, the rooms were big and the bathrooms were clean. The only downside to big hostels in general is that the more people there are, the less cosy the vibe will be. People are more to themselves and don’t really hang out with each other. But that was okay for me, since I only stayed there for two days and began to really appreciate it to be alone sometimes. So me, myself and I explored the city and discovered a great bar called Tootsie’s. It’s a three-level bar and on each level a different band was playing country music. Really cool. At first I thought that it would be very awkward to go to a bar all by yourself, that people would think that I was sad for coming alone. But actually no one will care. You just have to enjoy yourself. And traveling alone makes you very good at that.

woensdag 15 november 2017

Day 47: Chicago

📍 Location: Chicago, Illionois, USA

So the ride goes on - the journey continuous. Next destination: Chicago. Also known as Chi-Town, Windy City (due to the strong winds which that blow through the city) and in some eyes one of the more dangerous places in the States. That’s because there are a few neighborhoods in Chicago where there’s a lot of crime and where outsiders better not want to go to. It’s a city with a raw edge. Being a little bit more careful here is a must.

To be honest, I’ve never really felt unsafe during this trip. Not once in New York, not once in Canada. You just don’t have to be stupid and don’t have to find yourself at some point in some deserted and sketchy area of a city. The only time so far that I got reminded that it can be dangerous for a young girl to travel by herself was when I didn’t really got the most warmest welcome in Chicago. Because as soon as I left the bus station and set my first steps in this city, two men in their car started following me. They were very insistent in offering me a ride because they were sure I could not handle the five-minute walk to a coffee shop. Well, I’m not gekke henkie so of course I knew that if I would've stepped into that car, it probably was going to be a very long time before I would ever see a cup of coffee again. Eventually, after ignoring them for a while, they gave up and drove off. I guess walking through a sketchy neighborhood with my big ass suitcase wasn’t the smartest thing to do. It was a good wake up call.

In Chicago I stayed the first night with a guy from Couchsurfing. The cat guy. I should have known that if someone already mentions in his profile that if you don’t like cats it isn’t the place for you, that maybe he’s right. I just thought that if pretending to be a cat person for a few days meant that I got a free place to stay, I just needed to suck it up. But that’s harder than you think. I don’t like cats and I will never do. So if you are with someone in a house who is constantly talking to their cats as if they’re humans, talking to you about the cats and the new tricks he has learned them, walking around with his cats clinging to his back and even having a ‘cat sitter’ (babysitter for cats) when he’s not home - I will feel a little bit uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, he was a very nice person but I just don’t share his passion for cats.

So for the rest of my days I’d booked a cheap Airbnb close to the city center. A good decision because there I got to meet a really nice German girl of my age who was also traveling on her own. So we were both looking for some company and ended up spending the days together. We walked around the city, all bundled up with ten layers, hats and gloves due to the freaking cold weather. We went to the famous Bean, sat on the L-train (a subway that is riding literally over the city), ate the famous Chicago ‘deep dish pizza’. And because we were both underaged, we had to be creative with what we could do in the evening. So one night we ended up at a comedy show in some kind of basement somewhere in Chicago and the next night we went to a free hot yoga class (after being lost for about 2 hours). We had a great time.

While I’m writing this I’m in the night bus on my way to Nashville. Saying goodbye to yet another city went better this time. I guess I’m getting used to it.

zaterdag 11 november 2017

Day 43: Traveling further

📍 Location: Toronto, Ontario, CA

In one of my first blog posts I wrote that I was expecting this journey to be like a rollercoaster. Traveling alone for the first time so far away from home was bound to become an experience with huge ups and downs. It would be emotionally challenging when the loneliness and the desire to go back to your family and friends might get to you. But I knew that that was also something I was looking for. I wanted to know how I would handle a situation like that.

The further I traveled, the more I enjoyed myself. Every place so far turned out to be amazing. Each time I was able to surround myself with great and inspiring people. To make new friends. It felt like luck was on my side. The rollercoaster ride went up. More up, further up. So far up that I started to become more and more afraid of it to fall down at some point. Something that was almost inevitable because there would be a time where everything wouldn’t turn out to be that great. I felt more scared and emotional each time when I traveled to the next destination, afraid that it wouldn’t be as great as the last ones.

So saying goodbye to yet another city - Toronto this time - was emotionally hard for me again. And the idea of getting on a night bus that would take me in ten long hours to Chicago also didn’t help. I guess that calling your mother while crying your eyes out is part of it. To hear some comforting words before you have to pull yourself together again. I need to tell myself that I have to stop being afraid of what’s coming next. And instead start looking forward to it. Because what’s the worst that can happen? If I don’t like a place, I’ll just go on. And feeling like shit somewhere is also something that I wanted to experience as I said. To see if I can still enjoy myself even then and make the most out of it.

vrijdag 10 november 2017

Day 42: Toronto / Niagara Falls

📍 Location: Toronto, Ontario, CA

My four days in Toronto have been a blast. In general, my time in Canada has been a blast. After Montreal it was hard to believe that it would be that great anywhere else, but luckily in Toronto there was Jasper from Germany. I read somewhere that chance encounters are what keep us going. And by traveling I found out that I couldn’t agree more. We were staying in the same room in the hostel and got along very well immediately, so we’ve spend the days in Toronto together. Breakfasts at Wanda’s Pie in the Sky, then walking/biking around the city a little bit and in the evening going out to eat ramen, Persian food or lots of sushi before we went to a bar to get some drinks.

We also did a trip together to the Niagara Falls. We drove up there in Jasper’s rental car, wearing stupid touristic shirts, singing along the songs from the playlist that we’d put together and eating out of the bag filled with snacks. After a 90 minute drive we arrived at the waterfalls - they’re beautiful but to be honest a bit overrated - and I drove us back home. It was a good day. I can only hope that my upcoming adventures will be as good as this one.

So yeah, my time in Canada has been filled with good memories. I’ve really began to love this country. And compared to New Yorkers with whom I have surrounded myself for four weeks, the Canadians seem almost from another planet.

Good example: when I went doing my laundry in New York a few weeks ago, I forgot to correctly put the cap on the detergent which caused a full bottle of laundry detergent to empty in my bag.. I know, i know, how clumsy can you possibly be? There was soap everywhere. My phone and wallet were literally swimming in a puddle of soap.

And no one seemed to think: hmm well, that girl and all of her stuff are covered in soap now, maybe she could use a hand. No, don’t count on it. Nobody cares in New York. When I asked the guy who worked there for a paper towel to clean up my stuff, he looked at me and literally gave me one paper towel. Just one. What a dick. Yes, thanks for the help. That will help me to clean up two liters worth of soap. Make sure that you’re not doing too much in this world. No good karma points for you there man.

And then there’s Canada. The people are so nice, so friendly, so generous. The people with whom I stayed with Couchsurfing in Montreal and Ottawa represent the Canadian spirit for me. I literally had to pinch myself when someone held a door for me, when I entered a store and the cashier greeted me instead of giving me a withering gaze, when I asked directions to someone and they pulled out their phone in the pouring rain and made sure that I would arrive at my destination.

What a nice country. And the minimum drinking age is 18+ instead of 21+, which makes me love Canada even more. Hopefully I can surround myself with these kinds of people again soon.

maandag 6 november 2017

Day 38: Montreal 2.0

📍 Location: Highway between Ottawa and Montreal, Quebec, CA

It’s hard to leave a place where you finally feel at home, even though you are 5000 km away from your actual home. Montreal stole my heart. The people I met in Montreal stole my heart.

It’s tempting to stay. One time I couldn’t resist already and came back to spend a few more days in this city. Great decision. It was a weekend that consisted of chilling in cool coffee shops and discovering more hidden places during the day and then partying all night long. Only good and fun times.

And in only three more days I grew even closer to the few good friends I already made there. It’s fascinating that certain people, with whom you can feel such a special connection right away, can cross your path for such a brief and sudden moment. Because what are the chances that you have met each other. One decision differently made and you wouldn’t even know about their existence. It’s a shame that you don’t get to spend more time with them. Being sad for a moment is fine, but after that you have to forget about it and be only thankful that at least your paths have crossed.

But as much as I would want to stay, I have to move on. I know that I’m a stubborn person, and once I have something in my head I have to do it. And I want to stick to the route that I had planned to take. I know that if I would decide to stay in Montreal, I would be having an amazing time without any doubt. But that would not be the journey which I had in mind. And I think that after a while I would begin to regret this decision. Almost as if I chickened out on the whole road trip and the idea of traveling from place to place as soon as I felt comfortable somewhere. And being comfortable is not the aim. So I choose to leave Montreal behind and move on for now. I hope it is the right decision.

Mateo, Charlotte and Max, thank you for making my week in Montreal an unforgettable one. One to always remember. To take the time to show me around in your city, take me to amazing places and parties and being the incredible and good persons that you are. I’m thankful that I got to meet you guys. You will always be part of an amazing story. Hopefully our paths will cross again, one day. And if you ever find yourself in Holland, you know where to go.

vrijdag 3 november 2017

Day 35: Ottawa

📍 Location: Ottawa, Ontario, CA

So I forgot my jacket in Montreal. I walked straight past it when I walked with all of my stuff out the door. I found out just before I got on the train towards Ottawa. I know I know, how stupid can you be. But yeah, I didn’t want to miss the train and to change all of my plans just for a jacket. Max could just send the coat to Toronto and then we would be reunited within five days. So I set foot in the vessel and went on yet another spectacular adventure.

It turned out that the coat was a bigger need than I initially thought. Because when I arrived, it was five degrees with a lot of rain and strong winds. A jacket comes in handy then. So here’s the plan: in stead of traveling further to Toronto today, I’m going back to Montreal for the weekend. Party and chill with my friends for a few days more. And then Monday my jacket and I will finally leave Montreal for good and go to Toronto. So I recommend forgetting your jacket because it can bring you a lot of happiness and joy.

With Couchsurfing I’d also found a place in Ottawa where I could stay for free for two nights. I stayed with Gregory, a super nice Canadian who takes the whole Couchsurfing thing to the next level. For my arrival he had put a little Dutch flag on the table to make me feel at home (later he said that he actually went to a flag store to get that), bought some Heineken beers and practiced a little Dutch the days before I came. He actually told me that he had been hosting different couchsurfers for already two months non-stop, just because he likes to meet people from different countries. And it’s not that he just offers a place to sleep besides that does his own thing. He actually spends a lot of time with his couchsurfers. For example, he took me and another girl that stayed at his place to his work at the radio station, to a bar to watch a baseball game, he cooked his special Hungarian dish for me in the evening and he took us to a Couchsurfing meetup.

The last thing was kind of interesting, because I found out that there’s a whole community behind Couchsurfing with lots of people who are super passionate about the whole thing. They weekly hang out with each other, exchange cultures and share travel stories. A little bit too much for me to be honest - I’m literally a couch surfer - but I can appreciate their enthusiasm.

So in a few hours I’m going back to Montreal. By car this time, because I’ve booked a ride online at some kind of carpooling site. Kangaride it’s called. Everyone here uses it. I think this is going to be my main mode of transportation, because it’s super cheap and it comes the closes to my original plan, which was driving a car myself during the whole road trip. Long story, but that was not a possibility anymore unfortunately. So now I’m going to let the driver - called Justine I saw - drive for me. Hopefully Justine can drive a little bit.

woensdag 1 november 2017

Day 33: Montreal

📍 Location: Mont Royal, Montreal, Quebec, CA

My time in Montreal was freaking amazing. I’ve been there for four days and would love to stay a little bit longer. Of course I could (since I haven’t booked anything yet) and I’ve doubted for a long time if I’d not just stay. But part of me says that I should move on. Still have a long way to go with lots of places to see and cool people to meet. So we must carry on.

I stayed in Montreal on the couch in the house of Max and his two roommates. I’d found him on Couchsurfing and I couldn’t have wished for a better place. It’s weird to imagine how different these days would have been if I hadn’t chosen for him. Not as amazing, that’s for sure.

Because the timing was actually perfect. Max was throwing a Halloween party the night that I arrived there, so I immediately met all of his friends. I seriously can’t thank him enough for being so generous and open by inviting me to his party (and of course for letting me stay on his couch). Because therefore I made some friends right away with whom I could hang out the rest of the days and who could take me to cool places and party’s.

During the days I usually biked on my own through the city. Yes, biking! Finally! Hadn’t realized how much I missed that since I rode on one again. (Apparently I’m still a real dutchie after more than one month abroad :)). For only $14 (approx. €10) you can rent a bike for 3 days. Super nice! Highly recommended.

Although the look of the city is of course not as impressive and spectacular as New York, Montreal is maybe just as cool because of its many small coffee shops and hidden bars and shops everywhere around the city. Hidden because they don’t do big hysterical signs - often there isn’t even a sign at all. You just have to know where they are. And the students and young, cool and creative people - who basically own this city - will know how to find them.

The nights consisted of partying. Halloween parties, singing karaoke in a student bar (Canadians love karaoke!) and one night Max took me to one of those hidden spots. L’Escalier it’s called. Such an insanely cool place. It’s a kind of bar/hangout spot/apartment. Every night of the week there’s live music, starting at 5 PM. Mostly jazz, but Sunday night is the latino night. And this one is famous in Montreal. The tables are pushed to the side and as soon as the band starts playing, everybody starts dancing. Seriously one of the best nights so far. (As a young girl you do have to make sure that you don’t feel too sorry to break some hearts though, because there are some weird old guys who badly want to dance with you. Just say no.)

Now I’m in the train to Ottawa. With still the traces of last nights halloween party - vague wipes of fake blood - all over my face, neck and arms. I can’t get it off and now it looks like I have some kind of nasty rash. I already noticed some eyes staring at me. Well, sorry guys, not much I can do about it. Anyway, Ottawa is the capital of Canada. And according to a lot of people who I’ve met here, there’s not a lot to do there unless you’re a business man or the prime minister. So I’m only spending one day there before I’m going to the biggest city of Canada: Toronto.