By: Esha Aphale

(@eshalikestowrite on Instagram)

This month on travel, love, friendship and life, a musing by Esha that started with butterflies and ended with sheer Serendipity. Read on!

It began and ended in the same way— with mixed feelings. Before my feet hit Dutch soil, I had feelings of apprehension and excitement wrapped up together in a thin blanket, and I couldn’t separate the two. ‘What if they didn’t like me?’, ‘What if something went wrong?’ — thoughts in this range traveled a mile a minute in my brain. But soon they vanished as I was greeted with smiling Dutch faces and their version of “traffic”. It was a matter of ten days, but the thought of spending ten whole days in a foreign country which was about six thousand kilometers away from home, my dog Nugget, fried chicken wontons, and my best friends just scared the living daylights out of me. But life’s all about taking that risk, right?

Somewhere between watching Dutch reality tv on my host sister’s couch and watching the stars on a damp trampoline on my last night there, I fell in love. With the city, the air, the sky, the stars, my trees, the flowers but mainly the people.

On my second day there after eating the perfect beef burger for lunch, I didn’t imagine my day could get better. Until it was sometime after midnight when I, tired after dancing the entirety of the night, saw the stars for the first time. Magic cackled in the biting cold air, drunk off the beauty of the glittery, inky sky and not caring about the wet grass which was soaking my socks, I sat down and saw the stars surrounded by my friends and people who were strangers at the time but soon turned into family. 

Cycling through the woods with music blasting and then later dancing at a carnival which reeked of beer and adrenaline and teenage moments made me feel like I wasn’t living my own life but had momentarily entered a fictional book which I would’ve deliciously devoured.  

I walked the streets of Amsterdam almost alone, danced in a lehenga, made art with my hands, drank masala chai at twelve thirty am while standing on the street, saw the prettiest skies ever, ate the best strawberries and had the most profound conversations. I felt like I lived more in these past ten days than I’ve done in the last almost seventeen years. It’s magic, the freedom of visiting another country without your parents, but with your friends and absolute strangers, who later turned into family, which makes you and pushes you to be who you really and truly are. 

It was the people, cumulatively, that made me weep at the thought of leaving. And it was the people who made me discover myself in those ten short days.

It’s funny how I made life long friends who I consider family and split open my soul in front of them within ten days. That’s just life, being unexpectedly, unassumingly breathtaking. Strangers become friends who effortlessly turn into family. This family that cycled its way into my heart will always stay there— no brakes. 

We assume the personalities of people on their behavior. It’s not until they choose to let you in and show you exactly who they are that we realize how harshly we judge others for no reason except the labyrinth of assumption that society has thrown us into. But these people, with their heavily accented English and sweet smiles taught me more than people and life in those ten days than anyone has, ever. 

It was on my last night there, where the huge backyard was filled with mist and littered with people who were suffering at the very thought of goodbye, that someone, who didn’t really look like the someone to say something like this, (but then again people surprise us every day), said to me, “I don’t know if my goosebumps are from the cold, the emotion or the songs playing,” when I realized that life is made up of tiny, haphazardly put together moments, and that people aren’t always what they portray themselves to be. 

Things you’d never imagine happening to you in a million years happening to you without you realizing it— this is the whole beauty of existence and the reason why the Netherlands will always have my heart and why I’ll never fully be able to say, “Houdoe” to it.

For more pieces on Travel and Living check out The World, for to read more by Esha, check out The Word .