Unlike most people who’ve been to the Netherlands, I have never been to Amsterdam. Still, I’ve been impressed by the smaller towns.

The Netherlands is a peculiar country. The small canals give the towns a distinct identity. The country has diminished from a colonial empire to something smaller yet vibrant.

I see the Netherlands as a very global country. And it’s not only because of the many visitors to the country – the movement of people works both ways. I’ve met countless of Dutch people abroad, and I’m not surprised that the Dutch have been ranked as the best non-native in English speakers in the world.

Footage from the rowing competition.

Rowing and Reunions

The Netherlands was the last new country I visited during my 2-year trip around the world. I passed through the country as I traveled from Belgium (see Travel Memory #15) to Germany. From Germany, I took a ferry to Finland to finish my adventure after 777 days.

I first stayed in Delft with a traveler I had met at a party in New Zealand a year earlier. I had a chance to see her participate in a rowing competition, and we also made a day trip to Den Haag.

After Delft, I traveled to the less-visited northeastern part of the Netherlands to Groningen. There, I had a chance to reunite with my Dutch travel companions with whom I had spent more than a month in Indonesia.

At the M.C. Escher museum in Den Haag.

My Obsession with the Netherlands

I haven’t returned to the Netherlands after my world tour, but it constantly springs back to my mind. That’s because I developed a new obsession in Groningen. While in Groningen, I heard of a seal sanctuary called Pieterburen Seal Center nearby. I didn’t visit the center, but I learnt that they take volunteers, and I’ve considered volunteering there multiple times.

However, going to the Netherlands to volunteer with seals would be a long commitment. The minimum time of volunteering is eight weeks in a row, and it cannot be split into shorter segments – I know because I’ve asked them. And as I mostly travel without flying, I’d need more than eight weeks for the trip.

For now, volunteering with seals in the Netherlands hasn’t fit my plans. But whenever my life takes a sudden turn and my plans disappear, the seal center in Pieterburen springs back to my mind.