Two summers ago, I had the chance to visit Amsterdam on a trip to Europe with my 84-year-old grandmother. During my two days there, I fell in love with the city and swore that one day I would make my way back.
A year and a half later, I am on a train winding its way through the Dutch countryside toward the lights of Amsterdam. For the past six weeks, I have been backpacking around Europe’s great cities as part of my gap year, or, as I like to call it, “My Year of Living Adventurously.” This September, instead of heading across the country to my chosen college campus, I left the U.S. for the sun-soaked beaches of Southern Spain. Since then, I have found myself in Alicante, Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Milan, Bern, Zurich, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Berlin, and now Amsterdam, and I still have Copenhagen and Stockholm to go before I head home for Christmas. For those out there who worry I have gone soft, don’t fear; I have not forgotten grittygal. The fact is that in a number of the cities I visited, my grit was challenged more than I ever expected. In Barcelona, my friend and I were escorted from our youth hostel at four in the morning after being threatened by a crazy-eyed man shooting heroin in the girls’ bathroom. That experience alone made me long for the remote wilds of Arctic Alaska.
In January 2017, I will be returning to my roots, when I head for the hinterlands of Central and South America. But, in the meantime, grittygal will be temporarily overtaken by citygal. So, in the meantime, get ready to hear about beer crawls in Barcelona, romance in Rome, face-offs in Florence, and a body bag in Budapest.