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Catnapping

One night, a couple of days ago, I arrived home late. Upon entering the hallway I heard a sound from upstairs. My blood froze in my veins: burglars!

I shouted: “who’s there”?. 
No answer. 
I tried again: “HELLO!”. 
Silence.

Looking around each corner I made my way to the first floor. I quickly dashed for the kitchen drawer and took the two biggest knives I could find. Armed, hyped up and scared shitless, I went up to the second, third and fourth floors. I carefully checked everywhere, but found nothing. Not a trace. I assumed I must have imagined it and didn’t give it anymore thought.

Today was an exhausting day. To give my mind some rest I decided to do some cleaning. I had only just started vacuuming when a cat jumped out from underneath a drawer. For your info: no cat lives in this house. The cat ran away and hid deep underneath the staircase. I decided to clear away some stuff in front of the cat, open a garden door so she could go outside and continue cleaning. When I returned downstairs the cat was gone.

Later that day I decided to take the boat for a sail across Amsterdam’s beautifully lit canals. I was packing my keys and some warm clothes (after all, it’s summer here) when I heard somebody putting something in the mailbox. I didn’t pay immediate attention to it, despite the odd hour (22.00). When I was about to leave the house I immediately noticed a letter with an image of a cat in the mailbox. The letter described that the cat had gone missing several days ago. From the picture I could clearly see that it was the same cat that I had seen this morning. Surprisingly enough, the address from the owner was the address from the neighbor. The owner was quickly localized and turned up, equipped with cat food and the cat cage.

We looked for 20 minutes for the cat in the garden, but found nothing. When shaking the cat food box (I thought that only worked in commercials?), a different cat turned up. With mixed feelings we gave up. The owner was very happy that the cat had been sighted today, but sad it was no longer there.

The friendly owner was just about to leave when suddenly. We heard a sound. We thought it was the other cat that wanted to “steal” the food. But (again) I was convinced that it was from inside the house. We checked underneath the staircase and very very well hidden we saw a little ball of black hair: THE MISSING CAT! The owner was almost moved to tears and ceaselessly embraced the cat. That cat must have been the burglar too. I apologized for the unintended Catnapping. After the neighbor went to her own house, I could hear her saying nice things to the cat through the wall for a long time. 

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The free-boat-tour crowd

Read the full story here: https://gijsbos.com/its-payback-time

Dutch actresses

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Macedonian guy bonding with a Latvian kid.

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Gay Columbia -Dutch gay couple talking to au pair girl from Peru. Next to Italian couple.

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Indian family from Germany

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Nice overview picture on the Amsterdam canals

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Read more stories here: www.gijsbos.com

It’s payback time!

Mostly my “fuck it, let’s do it” decisions don’t turn out to be great. As mostly there’s a very good reason why I’ve been doubting so long. This time, it turned out great.

Today was one of the first warm summer days in a a long overdue summer in Amsterdam. I was enjoying some quality time in the beautiful Vondelpark when suddenly an idea dawned upon me. Loads of if’s and but’s followed quickly. Fortunately, all thoughts were superseded by a “fuck it, let’s do it”. The big idea was actually quite simple: let’s take my boat and offer people free rides through the canal. The trip would be totally free and there would be only one condition for entering the boat: you can’t leave the boat without finding other people to take your spot on the boat.

Pretty happy with the idea, I set sail for the center for Amsterdam, convinced I’d have a full boat within minutes. Upon approaching the first spot that I had deemed to be great, my doubts got the best of me. Many many excuses came up for not asking people: these people looked to boring, that couple is very much in love, that group is to old, a girl alone would think it was a pickup trick etc. I sailed past loads of people puffing next to the canals on this sunny day without asking a single one to join me for a free boat trip.

Once I had sailed past the center and entered a quiet spot, I reviewed what was happening. Was I scared to be turned down? Wasn’t it a good idea anymore? Just when I thought I was going to park the boat and return home, I saw one elderly guy and two girls in their twenties. I shouted to them from my boat “You speak English? You want a free canal tour? It’s really free!”. The girls looked at each other and shaked their heads. The guy was sitting on a bench and jumped up and indicated “yes, I’m joining”. The girls looked surprised when he jumped on board. Suddenly, the prospect of free canal tour didn’t seem so crazy anymore. They turned out to be Spanish and said they would maybe call me later. The guy was scruffy looking and a Macedonian living in Northern Germany. He was in his late fifties and had a big belly that obviously came from a lifetime of drinking beer. However, I felt strengthened by my “success” and started asking other people too. 10 minutes later and after a lot of rejections richer, I again started wondering if I had made the right decision and how I could get rid of the Macedonian guy (who seemed quite content with his spot on the boat). Then things slowly turned out for the better. A young German couple hopped on board. In front of the Hermitage Museum we picked up two friendly Dutch theatre actresses, a group of heritage students from somewhere east of Berlin (they came from Columbia, New York, and The Netherlands). 2 olderly couples from Northern California. Minutes later a Dutch-Latvian family with kids joined us. We then picked up a Dutch-Spanish couple whose boat plans for the day had been cancelled. We dropped of the Americans and Latvians near central station. They were replaced by a big Indian family (8 people) living in Germany who we picked up near the “Nemo” museum. Later in the Jordaan we were joined by a random guy of whom I know nothing except that he was reading a book about writing scripts for theatre and TV. We kidnapped a Peruvian au pair from a bench (who started singing with the Colombian guy). And we finally picked up a group of lazy young Italians in front of the Anne Frank Museum. Needless to say that we had an amazing time together on this sunny day.

Inevitably people asked why I was giving them this free trip. I repeated the story nearly a dozen times: “I’ve just come from a long trip around the world. During this trip people have been extremely kind to me. This is my way of paying them back.”

Let’s go outside

<most of this piece was originally written several months ago>

After 17 days at sea, spatial dimensions changed completely upon arriving on land. From observing a near endless ocean from our cramped boat, I was thrown into a bustling French-Caribbean marina. My occupations changed completely too. From a neatly organized 2 hour watch system on board our ship, to the continuous chaos of traveling in an unknown foreign country. Guadalupe was strange as well: technically speaking it is France, the big shops (Carrefour, Intermarche etc.) are French too, but it is in the middle of the Caribbean, thousands of miles away from Europe.

Amidst these changes, I sensed that the end of my trip was approaching. I therefore seized the opportunity to experiment with a new “lifestyle”. Different accommodation, different food, different thoughts.

I ended up spending the majority of my nights in the Carribean (Guadeloupe, Dominica and Curacao) sleeping under the stars in a hammock. Mostly on secluded beaches, sometimes on mountains surrounded by impenetrable forest. I stopped eating fish and meat, not out of any particular strong belief or conviction, but because the combination of my personal health, animal health and ecology felt good. And last, but not least, I started having different thoughts.

Sleeping outside in a hammock in the Caribbean might seem the logical thing to do to some, and totally crazy to others. At the start of the first night it felt crazy to me too. “what if a big black guy with a machete turns up and chops my head off”. And how sure was I that there weren’t any dangerous animals? (especially after walking past a living 2+ meter long boa constructor in the forest). Fortunately these feelings subsided quickly and I immensely appreciated every part of living outside: cooking simple meals, preparing the hammock, and seeing uncountable numbers of stars as the last thing before I closed my eyes. The even better best parts of sleeping outside were the slow halting of animal sounds at night and literally waking up next to the beach. Early morning yoga and exercises at the beach followed by snorkeling or just a regular swim in the ocean didn’t hurt either.

If this reads like I’ve been traveling to long or heard one rendition of “Rastaman vibrations” to many, please rest assured. Despite having traveled a bit over 20 months, my analytical mindset hasn’t been replaced by hippie bliss, but has been extended (or should I say “completed”?) by something that feels new and familiar at the same time.

Once I return home I’ll see what sticks. I will look for a solid roof and walls. I most likely will eat meat once in a while. And surely my ambitions, projects and fully loaded calendar will get the best of me from time to time. Will all be lost then? Definitely not. A way of living contently with less “stuff” has been deeply ingrained in my lifestyle.