On Thursday, August 6th I took a trip down memory lane. I had the opportunity to meet the founder of #CultureTrav and my co-host Nicolette Orlemans of Culture With Travel in person. The two of us talk via social media almost daily, so it was special to meet up (finally!) in Amsterdam. Maaike van Kuijk of Travellous World, a regular #CultureTrav chatter whom I had met prior, was able to join us, as well.
The three of us had a great time together. We started the afternoon by drinking a cup of coffee on the sunny terrace of the SkyLounge, an establishment that overlooks the picturesque city center situated on the 11th floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton Amsterdam Centraal Station Hotel. I then led a short walking tour, passing through the Red Light District, Dam Square and the 17th century canal district. We stopped to have a drink at Arendsnest, a typical Amsterdam brown café that serves only Dutch beer and jenevers (similar to Gin).
We had ideal weather and a day filled with meaningful discussions – about travel, culture and friendship. We ended the gathering with #CultureTrav, an online travel-related Twitter chat that takes place every Thursday at 2:30 p.m. EST (8:30 p.m. CET). This week in particular was extra special, as we planned to discuss the topic “Memories.” The chat brought back some fond memories. The timing was also fitting as I just returned from the United States, where I was visiting family and going through old photo albums and pictures. All of these activities combined made me nostalgic, and I would like to share some of these wonderful travel and childhood memories with you now.
One of my most memorable trips to date is the trip my mom, aunt, cousin and I took to Africa; South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana to be precise. From incredible safaris, seeing the “Big Five” and wild dogs, wine tasting in Stellenbosch and visiting the home of Nelson Mandela to the apartheid museum and experiencing the power and beauty of Victoria Falls, the tour was truly a trip of a lifetime. It was on this trip I learned about the horrors of the apartheid, educating myself on what really happened in that time period. I also witnessed an African sunset firsthand, reflecting on the day’s events as the sun dropped over the horizon and beautiful colors flooded the sky. Combined with the all-female family trip aspect, the memories we created will stay with us forever.
Thinking about this trip alone floods my mind with other incredible moments, as well – from weekends away in middle school with my childhood girl friends to my parent’s house in northern Michigan and annual trips with my Aunt Linda to Ranch Rudolf located just outside Traverse City. I went on boating and motorcycle trips with my Dad, trailering one or the other to the next destination, eager to explore the natural beauty of the U.S. including Yellowstone National Park and wide open spaces of the West. My Dad, Grandma and I travelled by train across the United States, from Michigan to California, stopping to ski along the way and ending by my Uncle in Los Angeles on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
I can almost relive the experience my mom, step-dad and I had while hiking on a glacier in Alaska, the crunching of ice underneath my spikes and breathing in the crisp fresh air, all while admiring the powerful, majestic mountains and scenery. I can feel the silence around me as we soared above the southwest dessert in a vibrant hot air balloon. I distinctly remember my emotions – ranging from awe and inspiration to love and appreciation – the moment I stepped on British soil and later watched my tennis stars at Wimbledon at the young age of 12 together with my family.
One of my funniest moments in Amsterdam occurred before I even moved. My mom and I joined a conga line behind a bar near Dam Square in 2010, with my step-dad chuckling and watching on from our table. Dancing seems to be a pattern with my Mom and I, and we even started waltzing around the ballroom in St. Petersburg, Russia’s Winter Palace. I can practically taste the beer and goulash we tried at St. Norbert’s Brewery in Prague and feel the warm remains of the conversation we carried. Every time Matthijs and my step-dad call each other “mon ami” we smile at the origins: our trip to Geneva, Switzerland. I find myself at peace every time I think back to Matthijs’ and my trip to Malta, internally melting at the thought of the stunning colors of the water, the magnificent sunset and fresh mouthwatering fish. Every time I board a plane, wherever we are going, whomever I am with, I am excited for our next adventure.
For the chat itself, Marji Stevens suggested two great questions: one about what music takes you back to a specific experience or moment from your travels and another about a smell bringing back certain memories from a place you’ve travelled. If I hear “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver, I am overwhelmed by the emotions I experienced on February 13, 2011 when I boarded the plane for the Netherlands. The smell of coconut transports me to the Caribbean, whether cruising with my mom and step-dad, my partner Matthijs, or my brother, sister-in-law and nephews. The smoke from a campfire reminds me of Michigan summers, kicking back with good childhood friends or camping with my Dad.
Travel often seems more special than daily life, but that feeling is just a perception. While I am on the road, I am more aware of my surroundings. I live more freely. Every step seems to be ingrained in my mind. Daily life can produce this feeling, as well, but we just need to be more mindful and appreciate the little moments in life. Sometimes as I am biking in Amsterdam, I stop and take it all in. I look at the architecture and the people passing by, in wonder by all that I see. When I spend time with family, I make sure I am fully present. I hug a little longer, a little tighter. Maybe it is living abroad that has taught me that or maybe it is a step I have taken as I grow older, but I find every day should be lived to the fullest whether on the road or at home.
I could reminisce for hours. My mind is constantly celebrating all the beautiful memories that have come and gone, like the energizer bunny that just keeps going. Memories are precious. We should hold onto them, cherish them. Although the moment is gone, the sentiments are not and it is beautiful to remember them. A big thank you to the #CultureTrav community for taking a trip down memory lane with me, and to everyone with whom I have had the opportunity to create memories, especially my parents and my partner, Matthijs.
What is your favorite (cultural) travel memory? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.