Two nights beneath red lights

Amsterdam | January 2018

What does a gal do when she has little in the way of events lined up for the New Year? She books a two-day trip to her favourite European city on the 30th of December, departing a mere 11 days in the future. Was she panicked at the prospect of going it alone for the first time with only one piece of hand luggage*? Scoffs. Is The Netherlands flat?

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I know how it looks: does this girl not have any friends? 

I do, I really do, and they’re smashing but let’s consider that having us all together, at the same time, for a few hours in December to swap Secret Santa gifts was just as astounding as the miracle of Christ’s birth itself. Tying a squad of introverts, masters students and full-time workers to a specific date wasn’t possible in the short, heightened period of excitement that possessed me — the very sort known to induce impulse buying.

I had a few personal ambitions for this trip that are both very geeky and a little dated, admittedly. But, boy, did achieving them make joy burst through my veins!

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First and foremost, I was travelling alone for the first time. I was excited to spend sometime problem solving through issues I’d once relied on someone to help me with. In 2015, prior to having only left the UK once in my life, I Interrailed across Central Europe with my boyfriend of the time for 28 days. We visited eight countries in that time, all of which I wrote about Scotcampus Magazine at the time: Amsterdam was one of our final and most anticipated stops on the trip. From a security perspective, it was extremely unsuccessful as I was robbed blind in Prague of pretty much anything of value to me in our hostel and two men made an almost successful attempt at mugging Stewart’s phone from him on the streets of Brussels. Security is something I am highly conscious of as a result.

Two… I got a beautiful Lomo’Instant Wide camera forChristmas — actual heart-eye emojis right now. It comes with a variety of lenses meaning for the first time my instant photography would not be entirely limited to chance. It’s important for me to capture polaroids as well as pictures on my phone. I like the way we cannot alter them and each exposure feels a little like a souvenir from any place and time. It’s not the most environmentally friendly approach to being, or the most cost-effective but I think that’s what makes me treasure it more.

Super wide, super zoom and fish eye are are just some of the lenses I received in the gift pack (can’t even begin to fathom the cost of this all) not including the zoom, portrait and wide angle settings on the camera itself. The camera allows you to turn the flash off, which is a simple yet wholly appreciated feature to someone who is an Instax Mini loyalist, and also enables the photographer to take multi and long exposures as well as adjust the brightness settings. It’s a dream and Amsterdam seemed like the perfect location to experiment with it. Seventy exposures later, I think it’s fair to say I did.

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Three… I wanted to switch off. I must hold the title for taking the most books away places and never reading them. Seriously. The two John Green paperbacks that trotted across the globe with me in 2015 returned with their spines unbroken. I prevailed on this trip to Amsterdam as part of my utterly sad New Year’s Resolution to read more. I read two books, actually!

I took a notepad with me too and jotted down everything I saw when I got back to the hotel each night for no particular reason other than wanting to remember it one day. I spent two hours being invisible in Amsterdam Centraal Station, just observing the commuters and wondering where their rushing feet were taking them that night.

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The fun in having no plans or motivations was that I could float to anything that caught my eye. This just so happened to be a Martin Luther King, Ghandi and Mandela exhibition at the De Nieuwe kerk and a pop-up Banksy exhibition at Moco museum. I floated to the ice rink, still alive from the festive period, which looked incredibly beautiful before the Rijkmuseum and Van Gogh museum. I jumped on a cruise just at the right time for the Amsterdam Festival of Light, meaning that various light shows were taking place on the water which were added into the already highly informative and captivating tour of the entire Jordaan and surrounding city.

*note to self: excitement isn’t a currency

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