Remember when I told you about the morning I woke up seriously sick but went out anyway just because the sun was out for once? Turns out that wasn’t the best idea in the world. I’m not know
for them, but right now I’m sitting here at home eating left over Nasi Goreng (nothing bad here), drinking my third cup of tea and writing this with a tissue stuck up both nostrils while Jessie is out playing Dutch Blitz with her friends down the road and having a BBQ dinner. We live and we learn.
Side Note: Sorry about all this page layout change nonsense, I’m an art student and a perfectionist and all this jazz is getting to my head. Bear with me and I’ll settle on something soon and get this blog sorted. Promise.
I want to share my experiences of Couchsurfing. For those of you who don’t know, Couchsurfing is an online platform that allows travellers around the world to connect with other travellers and locals who have offered up their couch to anyone who needs a place to crash for a night or two while travelling in a foreign country. For free. This community isn’t so much about finding a free bed for the night, but more-so a safe community that allows real backpackers to experience the culture of their destination through staying with a local and getting to know them as well as the country they are in. One of the greatest things I have found while travelling is connecting with locals and understanding the culture of each place, and Couchsurfing is a place where I can go to connect with those people, even if I am not looking for a free bed for the night.
Not until recently have I actually stayed with a host anywhere. I’ve used the app to connect with other travellers and catch up with them, find events to attend and things to do. But after my first experience staying with a host, I think there will be many more to come.
Let me introduce you to Martijn. His name isn’t actually Martijn, but we’ll leave it this way. Martijn is a politician, but he’s a smart politician. As much as I keep myself out of politics talk (I never understand any of it) (it’s boring) (labour, liberal, right winged left winged what), I don’t think there are many smart politicians going around the world right now. Martijn was only 24, but he was already leader of his party and had his hopes on getting a lot higher up in the not too distant future. So you might be reading this thinking, cool, Ben stayed with a politician for a few nights. The thing is, Martijn was also a sex worker, and he was a politician for that part of politics. Here in Amsterdam, sex work isn’t something that people are ashamed about or talk down. Seeing that The Netherlands has completely legalised prostitution, it’s not unusual to know someone who works in the industry. But those people are any other ordinary people. In Amsterdam, sex workers aren’t SEX WORKERS with horror in the tone. In Amsterdam, sex workers, prostitutes, any of the above, are just people who do their 9-5 at night instead of between 9-5. For me this was a big thing to grasp. I understood that prostitution was legal here, and I knew that the Red Light District was a huge part of tourism in Amsterdam, but to wrap my head around the fact that it’s just part of daily life here was something a bit hard for my mind to fathom.
While I stayed with Martijn he told me so many things that I don’t even think I can begin to put into words here. Something I learned from him, just by living with him for 2 nights, was that if you work or do something you are passionate about, be proud of it too. No matter what it might be. No matter how much you think the world will look down on you for it. No matter how many people will certainly judge you. Because it’s those people who can do something they are passionate about and be proud about it that will get somewhere. Something I’ve also learned that most Australian’s also suffer from is this ‘rule’ that tells us to knock other people over when they think high of themselves. That we should be confident, but never boast about our successes and our work. Yes, I say we suffer from it because it’s not something that should be looked down upon. Successes should be praised, good work should be praised, and the authors and artists of the good work shouldn’t have to downplay their successes. Martijn had articles stuck up around his room of all his greatest successes thus far. It’s not being cocky people, it’s being proud and celebrating what he has achieved.
There’s so much more to people than meets the eye. This is something I will never forget. Something I’m so glad that I’ve learned, and something I want other people to realise.