Broke In Amsterdam – Day 4
After what was more-or-less my first good night’s rest (and shower) in the last couple of days, I said my goodbyes to the wonderful soul who lent me her couch and set out to face the day.
I would need a new place to stay for the night, and a sustainable source of food, but so far it seemed like my adventure was on something of an upward trend. The shirt I’d gotten from the free yoga event definitely came in handy, as did the free toothpaste – though, if I’m honest, I’m still not sure what dental hygiene has to do with enlightenment.
I settled down in a hostel common room to snack on some fruit and gather enough energy and inspiration to tackle the day anew. A friendly challenge to a game of ping-pong by one of the resident backpackers seemed to do the trick, as did the box of free ice-cream making its rounds through the room. Not the worst start to a day, really.
By now, my daily ritual had basically involved hanging low in a hostel each morning to take care of my basic needs, then sneaking onto a train to search for new and exciting things to do and eat, before finally securing a place to sleep. Today would be no different. Or so I’d thought.
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I had noticed the policeman standing guard in the train station too late. The moment our eyes met I turned the other way, doing my best to retreat as casually as possible, but my crime could not be unseen. He knew exactly why I was there and what I was doing. An earnest retelling of my situation was all I had left at that point, and sincere as it might have been, it proved rather ineffective in staving off a €53 ticket.
The fun was over, and honestly, I’m not sure I’d recommend taking the risk to anyone. Sure, you have to find creative ways to get around when you’re penniless, but going €50 deeper into the hole is definitely the last thing you want.
I spent the next little while watching a man on a tiny boat make small circles in the canal as he played a brass instrument with one hand. It would have been very entertaining had I not been questioning my life choices so deeply in that moment.
Still, there was light at the end of this tunnel.
Earlier that day I’d discovered yet another pay-as-you-feel food market that wasn’t too far from where I was. It was exactly what I needed to solve my food problems for the next couple of days, at least.
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As I’d expected, the market had been organised by our familiar old friends, Taste Before You Waste; a fantastic organisation that specialises in taking securing food that wold otherwise be thrown out by supermarkets and providing said food to the general public at a fraction of its original price – if not for free.
The market was small, but had a fairly hefty variety of foods to choose from, such as cabbage, bananas, beans, bread, peaches . . . Ok, so mostly fruit and vegetables, but as a vegan – a homeless, penniless one at that – it was just what the doctor ordered!
I took some time to get to know these humanitarians who seemed to care so deeply about the world’s food-waste problem. I was glad to discover that they were every bit as kind and genuine as one might think and seemed quite concerned about the fact that almost half the food waste that’s created comes from the consumers themselves. As such, they’ve decided to start a movement that encourages people to adopt new approaches to acquiring food.
I also discovered that they are always on the hunt for volunteers, so I couldn’t help but offer my services for the next day. It was sure to be a good time.
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In the meantime, I’d gotten another hit on Tinder for a potential couch to crash on!
We met for lunch and took some time to get to know each other before deciding to explore the town a bit. We visited a bookstore, got a couple of drinks, played some ping-pong (which I was now starting to think was some kind of national pastime) and all-in-all had a really great time. And by the end of it I’d made a fun and interesting friend, who was more than happy to give me a couch to sleep on for the night.
The people I’d met so far had all been very friendly and open to making new friends, which made my experiences so much more enjoyable and problem-free than they could have been. To anyone looking for a great destination full of strange, wonderful things and open-minded people, Amsterdam is definitely it – despite the fact that it’s not the easiest place to visit on a budget.
The first couple of days had been hard, and I still had one more to go, but I felt as though I’d finally reached a point where the city felt comfortable opening its arms to me. I guess sometimes a little perseverance is all you need to brave the world at large.