Amsterdam Solo

Hollyhocks in Amsterdam
Hollyhocks in Amsterdam. Click image to shop.

It was the day after my sister’s wedding when I boarded a plane for my first solo trip. This wasn’t the original plan. But life happened and I was no longer going to a wedding in Finland. Instead I decided to visit the country where my great-grandmother emigrated from. As usual, I didn’t have much planned after the first few days. Thanks to the sage advice of Rick Steves, I had a great room in Amsterdam. From this corner of the world, this old city began to feel like my own.

Bloemgracht, Amsterdam
Bloemgracht, Amsterdam

I rented a bike and rode all over town. I stayed a couple blocks away from where Anne Frank once hid through her adolescence. On my third day, I was flagged down while riding my bike and asked why I was alone.

My mode of transporation
My mode of transporation

They had seen me coming and going over the past few days. I was a regular now.  We visited and kept in touch after I returned home. Traveling alone allows you to meet people and have conversations you otherwise never would.

Martine was a beautiful lady I met on the train heading north to the islands. Her husband, a professor, had passed away a few years before. She loved to travel, but her friends would rather stay home. So she traveled the world alone. I loved talking to her.

I had only a faint idea of my Dutch heritage.

Old school in Terschelling Harbor
Old school in Terschelling Harbor

I knew my family were called Freislanders and that they came from the islands. Not knowing which one, I picked Terschelling and had a lovely time there. This was not a big tourist destination. It seemed mostly Dutch people traveled there for holiday, not foreigners. I inquired about my relatives at the local museum on Terschelling. Upon asking for a last name, the historian

told me instantly that they did not come from that island. She knew from the name. It was a small island.

Island Horses on Terschelling
Island Horses on Terschelling. Click image to shop.

I traversed it on bike and saw some beautiful Dutch horses on the way. She gave me the name of a website which I looked up once I got home. From there I was able to find my relatives and trace them back hundreds of years from marriage license information.

Some of my favorite books are the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. In the “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”,

Old ships on the Wadden Sea
Old ships on the Wadden Sea

the group sails to the end of the world where the water gradually gets more and more shallow. This Wadden Sea went on endlessly shallow. A person could walk for ages and not get deeper than the knee.

Becky in front of waders in the Wadden Sea
Becky in front of waders in the Wadden Sea

The last town I visited was Delft, where the famous blue and white decorative ceramics are crafted.

Delft Blue
Even the toilets are pretty in Delft

Here I had a fancy bathroom and a sound night’s sleep before returning home.

It was my first solo trip and a great, life-changing experience. I learned that I’m okay on my own. Even then I’m not alone.




From the Back Line

It’s a mental game from the serving line. I spent many years playing volleyball, which meant thousands of chances to ace or miss a serve, or something in between. It’s a unique position to be in, on that back line, ball in hand, whistle blown, and ten seconds to start the next play. Life lessons come from those seconds, from that pressure, from that pause and those opportunities both missed and met.volleyball sideline

Pause. When all eyes are on you and this could mean changing the momentum of the game, or continuing it. It could mean finishing the game, match, tournament, or season. It could mean just putting the ball in play so the 12 people on the court could set up a miraculous play. serving the volleyballSometimes there is enormous pressure on that line, and other times there is space enough to risk something more. Regardless of the pressure and the pace, you always have those ten seconds. To pause. Breathe. Say a prayer and focus on that one thing. The crowd disappears, the pressure feeds you. Visualize where you’re putting the ball, like you’ve done a thousand times before when no one was watching. It’s muscle memory and mental toughness. It will carry you through life if you remember this lesson, practiced over and over. You proved it to yourself again and again. You’re a gamer. You rise to the pressure. It brings out the best in you.



What is Creativity?

What is creativity? I don’t know exactly. There are so may definitions. But I’m learning more about how to harness it. It needs space. When we hold space for new ideas, thoughts, expressions, they have a chance to come to us. 

Melissa Gilbert said creativity is “The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.” She talks about ideas being a thing outside of us, visiting us, waiting to be discovered and manifested. It’s our job to bring these ideas to life; to give them legs.

Image of illustrated lightbulb with a key inserted into a keyhole.
Unlock creative ideas by making space for them.

“I’m not very creative”, many say. This is a cop-out. It’s the most effective way to shut down creativity. In saying this, you’re refusing to give creativity any space inside you. Instead, try just sitting with a challenge for a while, keeping your mind open to ideas without judgment.  


“There is a sweet spot between the known and the unknown where originality happens; the key is to be able to linger there without panicking.” – Ed Catmull

At a conference I recently attended, John Medina spoke about cognitive disinhibition. This means being uninhibited in idea responses: not rejecting things considered irrelevant, and giving weird ideas permission. He added that working memory allows these things, when we can hold ideas and work them out. One of the greatest factors of innovative success, says Medina, is your reaction to failure. 

As Melissa Gilbert puts it in Big Magic, “All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life—collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.” Lovely!

“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”  – Albert Einstein