Why I Didn’t Visit Museums in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has tons of well-known museums. There’s even a section of the city called Museum Quarter because there are so many of them. The Rijksmuseum was closed for years due to renovations and had just reopened shortly before we arrived in Amsterdam. The Van Gogh Museum is right nearby and also one of the more popular ones. I planned on going to both of these. But I ended up not going to a single museum except for the Anne Frank House.
Struggling to slow down
Andy and I have struggled a bit during our first week of travel. I got overly frustrated by things that really shouldn’t frustrate me so much. We both got burned out easily and quickly. We were having trouble making decisions. We had plans to do several things, and none of it was getting us excited.
Then it hit us early in our time in Amsterdam. We were still moving too quickly. I knew when we were planning this trip that two days in Luxembourg was short but felt adequate. I thought five days in Amsterdam was long enough to see a few things and get a good feel for the city. Five days was long enough to go to Keukenhof, take a day trip to a town outside of Amsterdam, spend a day visiting museums (me) and the zoo (Andy) and day or so to just wander around the city. But we didn’t have any down time.
We decided something had to go. We cut out the day trip and breathed a sigh of relief. Instead, we slept in a little, found lunch, and explored the center of the city for a few hours. Towards the end of the day, we sat in the cafe at the top of the public library (it has excellent views of the city) and read books on our Kindles for a few hours.
The power of “should”
The day I went to the Anne Frank House, Andy went to the zoo. I planned on going to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum the rest of the day, but I just couldn’t get excited about it. Going to the museums was something I felt I should do, not necessarily something I wanted to do. Museums just aren’t my thing. It didn’t seem worth spending money on entrance fees and losing several hours on something I wasn’t passionate about. It felt like a chore.
So I skipped the museums. I met up with Andy for lunch after the Anne Frank House, and then we went to a market. It wasn’t any different then a typical street market in any other city, but it was nice to stroll through the stands and look at the variety of things they had for sale.
>>If you are planning on going to a lot of museums, see if the Amsterdam city card is worthwhile.
After I left the Anne Frank House, I realized there was a group of English-speaking girls behind me while I was walking down the street. One girl was saying she really didn’t feel like going to Keukenhof to see the tulips. She said she just wasn’t that into flowers. Her friends tried to convince her to go by saying, “but it’s one of the things they say you really should do when you’re in Holland.”
Should. Why do we do that to each other? Why do we do it to ourselves? I don’t need to feel guilty for skipping the museums. It didn’t interest me, so I didn’t go. If that girl didn’t want to see the tulips, she doesn’t need to feel guilty for doing something else, and she certainly doesn’t need her friends guilting her into it.
Traveling our way
Andy and I have been struggling to slow down our pace, and we’ve been struggling with the concept of what we should be doing. But we can only do what works for us. We’re not on vacation. We do want to see some sights, but we’re not on this trip to run around seeing all the tourist attractions. This is supposed to be our lives, just in a different location. I still want some kind of routine and time to write and work on other projects and read a book.
We’re trying to do only things that truly interest us now. Not what we think we should be doing or what other people tells us we should do. Removing that pressure as helped a lot, and we’re both feeling a lot better about the whole trip. If we want to wander around a market instead of go to a museum, that’s fine. If we want to stay in our apartment for an entire day to read, write, relax, whatever, that’s fine too.
We can’t keep up the fast pace and go sightseeing every day for almost two months. Everyone has a different outlook on travel, and we can’t force ourselves to do something that doesn’t work right for us. We’re traveling the way we want to, in a way that feels comfortable to us. No more letting ourselves feel pressured by “should.”
You might also enjoy:
- How Much I Spent Traveling in Amsterdam
- Amsterdam Food Tour Review
- Beer Tasting in Brussels
- How Much I Spent Traveling in Paris for One Week
May 30, 2013 @ 9:16 AM
I can sympathise with you on museums not being your thing – I always feel like I should visit musuems to, but to be honest I just cant read and take in that much information in a short space of time – it bores me and frankly – i’d rather be out experiencing the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
May 31, 2013 @ 12:05 PM
Yes! Most museums bore me too. Wandering around to see the city shows you more about the place you’re visiting than a museum will. Thanks Jennifer!
May 30, 2013 @ 12:18 PM
I understand fully what you’re saying this post as I have these problems on a day to day basis with Fibromyalgia. To live with my condition you have to “pace” yourself and prioritize what the most important things in the day and life really are and just concentrate on those. Other things can wait for the next go round.
I often get an attack of the “should’s” as well – you know, I should be doing this or I should be doing that. You’re essentially comparing yourself to others when you do that and neglecting the fact that you’re on your own journey and that you are a unique individual with unique needs and wants and so forth. The best advice I could offer you to overcome an attack of the should’s in your case would be to try and stop and remind yourself that it’s okay not to be like other people. There is no prize for seeing the most sites the fastest. In fact there is only dissatisfaction and exhaustion. And you don’t want that. Trust me. I’ve had it all day today.
I’m really encouraged by what you said at the end of your post about no more being pressured by the should’s. But it’s not a one time thing though. It takes practice to say no to what is superfluous to your needs and yes to what is really important to you and Andy. It’s like a muscle. It grows with practice.
Now that I said all of the above, I came across something that may or may not be of interest to you. If you’re headed to Paris there is a website called Paris Trikkes. They are a motorised three wheeled form of transport and I believe they do tours with these things as well. I found them in an email from one of the about.com travel communities and thought that this is something that I could do even with my Fibromyalgia. So here is the website. http://www.paristrikkes.com/
I wish you well with your travels and as always thank you for being so forthright and honest with us. It’s always appreciated 🙂
May 31, 2013 @ 12:11 PM
Thank you Matthew! You’re totally right, saying we’re not going to be pressured by “should” doesn’t mean we won’t still struggle with it from time to time. I’m not like other people, and that’s ok, but it is hard sometimes to remember that. It’s definitely something that requires practice.
We were only in Paris for a few hours to switch trains on this trip, but I’ll keep that in mind if we ever get back there. Sounds great that it’s something you’d be able to do!
Thanks for your wonderful comment, always appreciated!
Selena @ Oh, the places we will go!
May 30, 2013 @ 1:22 PM
Ali, This is fabulous advice! I need to read this before every trip. It was such a pleasure to meet you both at TBU. I look forward to following along on your journeys.
May 31, 2013 @ 12:12 PM
Thanks Selena! It was really nice meeting you too, Andy and I had a great time talking to you on our trip!
May 31, 2013 @ 9:16 AM
“This is supposed to be our lives, just in a different location.”
That thought has never occurred to me before and I love it. It’s so true. Great post Ali. It’s something I needed to be reminded of before I set off again.
May 31, 2013 @ 12:15 PM
Thanks Megan! We don’t want to run around to see as many things as possible when we travel, it’s just not fun. We like just being somewhere else, living life with different scenery from time to time. It’s relaxing and energizing at the same time.
May 31, 2013 @ 10:12 AM
Exactly how I felt when I was in Adelaide. Was going to go to the museum because I felt I should, but decided on going to the central market instead – and it was a lot more fun 🙂
May 31, 2013 @ 12:16 PM
Thanks Roisin! I love markets. Definitely more fun than a museum, and much more telling of a city’s culture and every day life. I’m glad you decided to do what you wanted instead of what you thought you should do!
Taking it slow versus Seeing things properly - Grounded Traveler
May 31, 2013 @ 10:24 AM
[…] about not just what we “should” be seeing (Ali has a really good post on this concept here) in each place we happen to land. To let ourselves be different and see things at our own pace for […]
Bethaney - Flashpacker Family
May 31, 2013 @ 10:33 AM
I’m so with you on this! When I travel I’m just happy enough to walk around, check out local markets, hang out at the playground with my son, snoop the supermarket shelves. I just like *being* in a foreign place and don’t necessarily enjoy visit tonnes of museums and monuments.
May 31, 2013 @ 12:18 PM
Yes! Just being somewhere else is a great experience. Markets, grocery stores, seeing little bits of how the locals live their lives, that’s so much more enjoyable than running around to see a bunch of museums and monuments. Thanks Bethaney!
May 31, 2013 @ 12:35 PM
As wonderful as museums can be, I believe they do not necessarily convey a sense of the culture of a place. To tap into culture you have to be in the streets and cafes and markets and homes of locals. You have to sip coffee in a coffee shop for a few hours and talk to the locals who are sitting net to you. You have to strike up conversations with shop owners. See the museums if you feel you must, but it won’t mean you’ve really and truly visited a “place.” For what it’s worth, I think you’re on the right track.
May 31, 2013 @ 9:56 PM
Thanks Barbara! I’m definitely learning that the touristy sights aren’t worth nearly as much as a conversation with a local or a stroll through a market. I want those experiences and memories, not something sterile like looking at paintings for hours.
fotoeins | Henry
May 31, 2013 @ 4:04 PM
While I was in DE last fall, I had a list of places in the continent I wanted to visit, but as time progressed, I realized I was very content spending most of my time in the Hauptstadt. Even though conditions progressed to the grey wet doldrums of fall, I still couldn’t believe I was in this unbelievable city filled with energy from the past and the present. Naturally, the weeks vanished, but during that time, I’m glad I stopped in Freiburg im Breisgau. 🙂 I realized I had to listen to that inner voice, because that voice was telling me something that I hadn’t either fully processed or I wasn’t quite ready to voice out loud, but that inner voice was leading me right. I’m positive you got a lot more taking things easy in Amsterdam than if you were running around, feeling like you were being dragged around. In fact, you might have seen Amsterdam in a pace more closely aligned to someone who lives and works there …
May 31, 2013 @ 10:06 PM
There are still so many places I want to see, but I’m definitely learning that it’s not worth rushing through things just to get to all of them. Better to take things slowly and see more of less things/places. I’m glad you listened to your inner voice too, and we’re both glad you came to visit us in Freiburg! I hope our paths cross again soon!
May 31, 2013 @ 6:26 PM
“This is supposed to be our lives, just in a different location” is such a perfect way to put it! I actually had a similar experience in Amsterdam, and ended up not going to a single museum or “tourist spot” – instead I wandered around the city and met up with a local to hit up the rock climbing gym. It was, to be honest, the perfect experience of the city for me, and way more memorable for me than an afternoon spent inside museums!
May 31, 2013 @ 10:08 PM
Thanks Ariel! That does sound like a great experience! I’m glad you decided not to go to the museums. I think you definitely ended up with a much better experience and memory of the place.
May 31, 2013 @ 11:02 PM
I don’t think museums are really the highlight there…so much else to see, especially in beautiful weather!
June 1, 2013 @ 10:47 PM
If only we had beautiful weather while we were there!
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
June 1, 2013 @ 7:39 AM
I think that “shoulds” are pretty much everyone’s greatest source of unhappiness because they generally instill feelings of guilt and often prompt us to do things and follow paths that are contrary to our own desires. It’s so hard to turn your back on them, but it is only by following your heart and being true to yourself that you get the most of out every experience.
When I visited Amsterdam years ago, I only visited the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House and I was completely satisfied with that. I have nothing against visiting tourist attractions and things like museums, but they aren’t my passion and the longer I travel, the more I think that they are primarily geared for short-term vacationers who like to cram their days with instant, obvious sightseeing. I much prefer to spend my days ambling around without any fixed agenda and soaking up cities that way; I think it’s a lot more organic and interesting and far less exhausting as well!
June 1, 2013 @ 10:49 PM
I totally agree with you Steph, such a HUGE source of unhappiness! It’s hard to get away from the “shoulds” but definitely something I will continue to strive towards. We definitely need more down time as we travel, and we just need to keep reminding ourselves. The random wandering around is a great way to see a city in a more real way.
June 2, 2013 @ 11:37 PM
I think your way of Amsterdam was a much better way to see the city, and I’m very glad I got your message saying you weren’t going to the museums because it made me feel much less guilty about not going either…since I was only going because I “should” (and because I was curious how in the world the Rijksmuseum took 10 years to renovate).
Remembering that “shoulds” shouldn’t rule your trip is so important, and it’s something I’d forgotten a little. I’ve never been a museum person and I know that, so why was I thinking of going to a museum full of art that I’d never heard of before? I learned my lesson in Paris though — I only went to the Louvre to take photos (and see pickpockets getting chased by the people they’d stolen from) and was there for a grand total of 10 minutes. Since I only had 2 days of sightseeing in Paris anyway, it was absolutely the right decision, and I don’t regret it for a minute.
June 3, 2013 @ 2:10 PM
Funny thing, when you told me you were planning on going to the museums, I thought maybe I’d try to coordinate with you so we could go together. But when I realized even going with a friend didn’t make me any more interested in going, I realized I was putting too much pressure on myself to visit the museums because I thought I “should” go. I’m glad I skipped them, and I’m glad you decided your time was better spent in other ways instead of going to the Louvre for hours.
June 3, 2013 @ 2:40 PM
Museums are definitely not our thing either and there are honestly few I get excited about. What we’ve realized over the last few months is that we enjoy travel most when we’re active and seeking out off-the-beaten-path adventures. You’re absolutely right that you need to stop worrying about what you should do and instead travel in the way that’s right for you.
June 3, 2013 @ 8:06 PM
Right, everyone wants/needs something different from traveling, and you have to do what works for you, not what works for someone else. Museums just don’t do it for me, so why waste a day on something I’m not going to enjoy? Thanks Jennifer!
Sofie @ Wonderful Wanderings
June 3, 2013 @ 2:59 PM
Great post. I often discover I’m already half through a travel day and all I can remember is looking on a map to check which ‘must see’ I HAVE to get to next.
I need to learn how to just wander more…
June 3, 2013 @ 8:08 PM
A list of “must see” things is fine if you really want to do those things, but if you’re forcing yourself because someone else, or even a guidebook, says you “should” do them won’t be fun after awhile. And wandering is right there in your blog name! 🙂
Travel Linkspiration: May 2013 | An Opportune Moment
June 6, 2013 @ 3:58 AM
[…] what I learned in Amsterdam? Well, Ali’s Adventures learned a similar lesson and explains how she’s ignoring what she should do while traveling in favor of what she wants to do. I guess Amsterdam is a good place for revelations about personal […]
June 6, 2013 @ 5:23 PM
Good for you guys. I’m glad you have found a good balance. I too feel this way when traveling, but if I was traveling for longer periods, I would need to set time aside for relaxation.
June 6, 2013 @ 9:28 PM
Thanks Christy! We definitely need more down time on this trip, although it’s tough to figure out what to cut. Some things can’t be cut out because we’ve made commitments, but we’ll make it all work. We have an idea of what that balance should be but we’re not quite able to achieve it yet.
June 6, 2013 @ 10:18 PM
Haha, yeah we will deal with this all the time. Just today we went out to a island in the middle of a lake here in mexico and we actually both weren’t sure why. Oh, and we didn’t go to any museums in Amsterdam either, and we were there a month.
June 7, 2013 @ 4:35 PM
I’m glad it wasn’t just me! Travel is strange sometimes. We want to see new things and have these experiences, but too much in too short a time gets overwhelming, and it’s too much pressure to do things even if you’re not interested. Remember next time how you didn’t know why you went to that island, and maybe you won’t do something similar. But who knows!
June 13, 2013 @ 10:32 PM
Travel becomes much more enjoyable when you travel the way you want to, not the way you think you should. I visited the Van Gough Museum and really enjoyed it and would have visited the others including the Anne Frank house had I had time, but one museum per day is quite enough for me.
June 15, 2013 @ 11:42 PM
Exactly! It’s a slow process, but I’m finally getting to the point of knowing what I like and how I want to travel, and not worrying about what other people say I should be doing. It’s so much better this way!
November 28, 2013 @ 11:49 PM
I think it’s definitely good that you are working on traveling how you want to and not how you feel like you “should”. You’ll have a much better memory and probably a better story to tell if you just do what you want to. I like the occasional museum, but most of them don’t let you take pictures, and one thing I like to do when traveling is take a ridiculous amount of pictures, so if I were spending all day in one museum after another I probably wouldn’t enjoy it either.
November 30, 2013 @ 12:02 PM
Thanks Amanda! Sometimes it’s hard to not do something I feel I “should” do but I’ve been trying really hard lately to just not worry about that stuff. Travel is about so much more than the “must see” attractions.