A cup of starbucks coffee in one hand, cellphone in the other with the special ‘Dutch public transport app’ installed and a bag over my shoulder… I’m traveling in my own country today. From the crowded Randstad (the most urbanized, western part of Holland) to the quieter Zeeland on the south western coast.
I’ve just boarded a crowded train. I thankfully managed to find a seat, I opened my laptop and got annoyed immediately: internet doesn’t work. The only reason I take an expensive Dutch train is because then at least I can do some work during my 2.5 hour journey. Ok, that’s not true, I don’t even own a car anymore so I have no other option but to take the train…
And then I smile, relax and realize I’m just as bad as any other Westerner: complaining about ‘First World problems’…
Around me on the train I can hear at least four different languages.
I love people-watching and listening in on conversations (don’t we all?) and I’m disappointed I can’t understand a word of what the people around me in those foreign languages are saying. But I enjoy it anyway: Holland’s interesting mix of people taking the train, often on a daily basis. From students to businessmen, expats, tourists, retirees and sometimes entire families.
As my journey continues and we slowly leave the core of the Randstad, stopping at train station after train station, I see the people around me changing. I hear more and more Dutch and see fewer non-white faces. From crowded it goes to quiet until eventually it feels like I’m the only person left on the train.
At the same time when I look out of the window I see fewer houses by the minute and more green, more farms, scattered wind turbines and some cows, horses and sheep. Too bad this is not the time of year to see the beautiful tulip fields Holland is so famous for.
It’s nice to look at my own country as a tourist for once.
It’s quite a pretty country, especially when the sun is shining. Besides that life here is relatively easy. We all complain about not having enough money, prices going up, men making more money than women and more such things. But compare any of those things to the rest of the world and you’ll see Holland isn’t doing too badly.
Maybe I’ve finally discovered how being an outsider is a good thing: all the traveling I’ve done has made it easier for me to look at Holland in a more objective and more appreciative way. I now take time to enjoy the scenery, look at historical buildings I normally used to rush past and observe Dutch people as if I’m observing a foreign culture.
This extremely flat country, multi-cultural country, well-organized country…
Even though I choose not to live here most of the time, it will always be my home country, I’m proud to be Dutch and happy to be able to explore parts of this country every time I’m here.
Maybe we should all look at our own country as a tourist more often to appreciate its beauty, its positive aspects and perhaps even discover sides to our home country we had never seen before…
If you are thinking about traveling through Europe by train I highly recommend using Rail Europe where you can get both train tickets and rail passes.