Amsterdam

Since joining Automattic in January, I’ve had the chance to travel three times, once to Austin for SXSW, once to Minneapolis for Confab, and most recently to Amsterdam with team Polldaddy for my first team meetup.

Last week was full of many firsts for me; first time meeting John, Eoin, and Donncha; first time on a 777; and my first trip to Europe.

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.

—Seneca

Superlatives fail to describe how much I enjoyed the city. Experiencing a city with such rich history was inspirational. I saw buildings with numbers on them like 1605 and 1659 and those numbers weren’t the addresses.

Seeing Dutch people pedaling around on old two-wheeled bicycles was fascinating. Old people, young people, men and women in business wear riding with umbrellas, young women dressed up for the disco in boots with three-inch heels, parents with small children in barrows and carriers—everyone rides bicycles. Baskets and saddle bags loaded with provisions, they boldly navigated crowded streets and absent-minded pedestrians with only quick reflexes and bicycle bells.

I saw boats cruise down the canals that formed the median to many a street. I ate delicious Indian, Thai, Indonesian, Argentinian, and Italian food. I sampled Amstel, Heineken, Kingfisher, Singha, Hoegaarden, and Bintang. I saw original Vincent van Gogh paintings at the Van Gogh Museum, standing only inches from the famous Boats at Saintes-Marie, a reproduction of which has hung in our cottage since we built it fifteen years ago.

Getting the chance to see how other people move around in their cities, the kinds of buildings they live in, where they shop, and where they go to meet others makes me reconsider my own city; how we’ve failed to preserve old buildings, pleading time and expense over history and story.

As we walked the narrow bricked streets, lined with well kept three-story buildings, and endless black, two-wheeled bicycles, I couldn’t help but wonder about the people who had lived in these places over the years, about the lives they had lead, about the work they had done, about their individual stories, that taken together, formed centuries-old narratives.

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