For all my care-free, lets-go-to-Europe-and-damn-the-cannons approach to this trip I am at core something of a worrier. Those who know me well are chuckling and saying ‘no shit genius,’ but I’ve gotten marginally better about it over time. Strangely enough, despite my tendency to worry about things (all of them), it doesn’t stop me from taking chances or experimenting. It just means that I try to make sure I’m not leaping without a safety net.
The loss of the bike has definitely put me into something of a minor panic. Expending $700+ US to buy a new one with no guarantee that I won’t lose it either is basically eliminating my buffer. The cushion I had to fall back on and that would enable easier long-distance travel and more care-free expenditures in search of Phun is going to go away.
I’ve seriously considered other options. One would be to ditch the bike idea and go purely backpack and train. Two problems; 1) the cost in terms of train tickets and bus fares when multiplied all over Europe matches or exceeds the cost of a new bike, and 2) it’s become clear the bikes are insanely convenient in most of Europe, and the loss of tactical mobility would hurt more than I’d thought. It’s one thing to traverse several miles of streets in a city in search of the right hostel or restaurant, and quite another to hump it on foot with a 60lb pack on my back.
Still, ditching the bike means that I don’t have to worry about it getting stolen (which would result in a loss of bike investment and the absorption of transport fees as well). And yet much of the intent was that I could bike Northern Europe at least and see it from ground level, which so far in Amsterdam has been clearly more fun than taking the tram everywhere. So it comes down to another gamble based on quality of life.
Sound like a lot of nitpicking? It’s how I make most decisions. I was told not too long ago that I tend to approach life as a game to be won. Not that I devalue it or don’t take it seriously, but that I tend to devolve my environment and circumstances down to a set of rules and probabilities, branching options and plans, with a solid dose of gut-level “Tastes like Mauve” instinct thrown in. An attempt by my mind early on in life to rationalize some sort of order out of the absolute pandemonium that my childhood was.
But as I said before, the end decisions are made by a combination of what the analysis process seems to tell me and what my heart tells me. I’ve learned not to ignore either (most of the time). This is what it’s like to live in Duri’s head.
In this case I’ve plotted out the estimated costs and done the basic research for that, and gone with my gut as well. It looks tight frankly, but doable, as long as I don’t mind much more bicycling than train riding across Europe. Which means I’ll quickly be getting either in good shape or dead.
Back to the social thingy. I manage to make friends in almost any place I stay for any length of time. I don’t do so as quickly as most of the people around me. I watch a lot of the other folks in this environment bouncing around and making social contact with random strangers in very short order, usually by which time I’ve sat down and ordered my first drink. But given prolonged contact, usually anything more than three or four days, and I’ll catch up fast. This is another old-as-the-hills part of my personality. I don’t jump right in and socialize; I sit back and absorb for a while. Eventually my guard drops and I’ve identified the people I think I’ll like, and I go forth to meet them. Frankly I’ve never been completely happy with this mechanism, since it makes chance meetings rare and bar/pub/club dating damned near impossible. But it’s also a part of me, and one I haven’t managed to change much, assuming I ever will.
It’s also not ideally suited to the backpacker crowd. Most of these people I make contact with for only a few days at most. I spent the first four days at the Pig pretty much sitting solo and just people watching. By now I’ve met and become friendly with most of the staff and a fair number of the longer-stay travelers, but I can assume that the stay here is likely to be the longest single stay anywhere except maybe in Berlin. Maybe my traveling will help break that tradition? Thrown into a different social environment almost every night, I can hope that I’ll adapt and learn to let me guard down sooner (or whatever it is that makes me so aloof at first).
There’s a hook on a reinforced wooden beam in front of almost every house and storefront in Amsterdam (often the same thing). At first I thought this was for flying the Dutch flag or lynching American tourists, but it turns out there was a tax on the footprint of a building in the old days. As a result people built narrow, tall buildings, with staircases that require rock-climbing equipment to negotiate. Furniture is -not- going up those stairs, so the hooks are for pulley systems used to get the bed and dresser into a window four stories up. No one has adequately explained why the hell about a third of the houses are built with the street facing wall at a 45 degree angle to the actual length of the interior of the house. When you look at it from the street and see a smaller house next to a larger one, and the larger one curves back behind the smaller one, you feel like you’re looking at an Escher painting.
The bartender I spoke to last night, who recommended the Pragmatist philosophy books, told that of the various tourist types he likes Americans. blink Yes. I gather this does not include some of the loudmouthed clowns who come in and argue with him, after three days here, about how much he used to charge for the drinks and how he’s forgotten that it used to be at least a couple of guilders cheaper. But regardless he felt that the Americans were straightforward, no-bullshit people and he approved. I’ve also noticed that once the Dutch at least decide that they like you, they get very impatient with you for calling yourself a stupid American. Once you have been declared a Cool American, that’s what you are; shut up and deal.
Curiouser and curiouser. It’s interesting to compare my mental image of other cultures perspectives on my culture with what they themselves tell me.
Ok, gotta run. Got the new bike, which is bright red and painted with a bulls eye on the side for the convenience of Italian drivers. Bike shop (
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