As many of you know, I have been hard at work on my next novel, THE SPACE BETWEEN. The next installment in the SOUL MATES trilogy tells Samantha and Damion’s story, and a significant portion of the book takes place in Europe. I was excited to take my characters abroad, but after I started working on the chapters, I realized the travel documentaries and youtube vacation videos I’d been using for “research” just weren’t cutting it. In order to do this story justice and paint these pictures, I needed to GO there. And in September 2012, that’s exactly what I did.
Backpacking through Europe had been on my to-do list since I was in college, but I’d never been able to make it happen. But now I had a legit reason. I had important research to conduct, integral to the telling of this story. An adventure was calling my name and I was compelled to respond. Thankfully I had the resources to make it happen, so after settling on some dates I went ahead and booked myself a flight. Best decision I made all year.
I headed over there on August 28th, for 11 days of solo travel. I planned to cover a lot of ground, so my goal was to travel light. I was determined to make the trip with only ONE bag, and managed to pull it off, which was the next best decision I made all year. Traveling is so much more fun when you’ve been liberated from the burden of excess baggage, literally and figuratively. I appreciated having my hands free and being able to run to catch trains, if necessary. It was also easier to navigate the steep, narrow, staircases that are all over Europe. If you can swing it, I highly recommend the ‘one bag’ approach to travel.
My first stop was Amsterdam, where I spent three lovely days and fell madly in love with the city. Seriously, it is now tied with Sedona for my favorite place on the planet. I spent the first two days wandering around in the picturesque Jordaan District, trying out various coffee shops and eateries, enjoying the bohemian vibe. Took a canal cruise, strolled through Vondelpark, and ran around in the rain (Dutch weather is prone to frequent downpours).
Then I moved on to the Winston St. Christopher’s hostel in the heart of the infamous Red Light District. There is really no way to adequately describe how off-the-hook the Red Light District is; you really have to see it with your own eyes. The RLD is like Vegas on steroids, basically Disneyland for freaks, fetishists and deviants. Sex is EVERYWHERE and there is nothing taboo about any of it. (How refreshing) One of my hostel dormmates, a lovely Australian gal named Eleanor, was also a female travelling solo, so we buddied up and had a blast exploring the Red Light District. We took in a live sex show at Casa Rosso, admired the stunning (and less stunning) prostitutes as they worked the windows, flirted our way into free stuff from friendly budtenders, french fries at 2am, random run-in with Tony Geary (aka Luke) from General Hospital at an ice cream parlor, and people-watching at its absolute finest. Granted, we didn’t get much sleep, but when there’s so much going on, sleep doesn’t really register as a priority…
And yes, for those who are wondering, perfectly legal to buy and smoke weed at any of Amsterdam’s numerous “coffee shops,” at least one on almost every block!
I was sad to have to leave Amsterdam, but I still had much to see and do. I took comfort in the fact that my love affair with Amsterdam was just beginning. I knew this would be the first of many visits, and cannot wait to go back.