Getting To Amsterdam On $20, Strangers For Companions, And No Idea Where You’re Going

When I was in college I spent a couple terms in Nottingham, England.  Toward the end of Fall term I decided to go to Amsterdam – by that point, though, almost all the Exchange students had already gone, so it was down to the scraps: Two guys from Maine, a southern belle, some random guy from… somewhere… and myself.   I thought I’d tell the story of our journey to Amsterdam and to our hostel.

I’ll save the story of the rest of the time there for another time.

Southern Belle had travelled plenty on her own, but was concerned about the other guys’ “motivation” for going.  I told her I wanted to see all of the city, too, and not to miss seeing The Netherlands because of the company.

One of the Maine guys – who had a voice like a dentist’s drill that had been dipped in vinegar – made the hostel arrangements.


The boat trip started with Duty Free…


Then Southern Belle and I went in search of somewhere warm to nap.  The others continued on the Duty Free theme.  Maine Guy 2 and Random Guy were so drunk that Southern Belle and I had to help them off the boat.


It was not a promising start.  We took the train to Amsterdam and started walking (or staggering) in to the dark city at about 10pm, Dentist Drill leading the way.

We walked and walked and walked… the night getting later…

If you’re young and walking around in Amsterdam, you’re going to get approached by drug-dealers and pimps; especially at night.  The key is to be casual; blasé.  Or, to be not like Random Guy.


After Random Guy discovered that the drug-dealer had many friends in the alley and gained the wisdom to shut up, we continued.

Finally I asked Dentist Drill:


He didn’t know where it was.  No idea.

He didn’t know.


The entire description of Bob’s Youth Hostel in the book was, “In the heart of the Red Light District, Bob’s is the ideally-located crash-pad for the red-eyed traveler.”  He’d booked us in a stoner hostel in the middle of the Red Light District.

At least we had something to go on now.

So we continued on, looking for the city to get more… festive.  Eventually we started passing hookah bars and lingerie-clad women in window fronts.  Maine Guy 2 had sobered up at this point; it was easy to forget he was from a really small town.


It took many hours and many directions for strangers, but at last we found Bob’s.  It was everything you’d expect.  Dark.  Smelled.  Beds that looked like they’d been bought at a prison garage sale.  Hot & cold running water (except for hot).

As we checked in with the guy sitting at the ratty table, we got to witness to security in action.


We got upstairs to our dorm room; probably 12 bunks.  All men… and Southern Belle.  The other guys threw their stuff on the floor (there were no lockers) and headed out the door, inviting me for late-night/early-morning adventure.  I knew Southern Belle could take care of herself, but sitting there on the bunk, she looked like a little rabbit.  A little rabbit who was about to cry.

I sat down and said, “Let’s look through this book and figure out where we’re staying tomorrow night…”

Continued in Part 2: When In Amsterdam, Do As The Amsterdam…ian…er…ites Do.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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53 Comments on “Getting To Amsterdam On $20, Strangers For Companions, And No Idea Where You’re Going”

  1. She's a Maineiac Says:

    “beds that looked like they were bought at a prison garage sale” hahaha!!
    This was hysterical. It is a little known fact that most Mainers do sound like dentist drills.

    And please, tell us more about this “long hair” you had. Was it grungy? or more dreadlocks? Mullet-ish? Do you have actual proof that you can show us?

    I can’t wait to find out more about your adventure. You’ve lived quite the exciting life, B-man.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I tried to write in his accent but couldn’t quite get it. I do recall a lot of people and things being called, “One-bawlled, pig-fackin’ bahstahds.”

      Maine Guy 2 had the accent, but it was less intense – he was a really nice guy; musician. We actually keep in touch periodically. Lives in Boston now (become one of the “Mass-holes”).


  2. Go Jules Go Says:

    Oh how I love your stick figure stories! I’d been dying to hear more about these worldly college years. But I’m left with one burning question: Who had better hair – you or Southern Belle?

    “5 scary people —>” HA!

    Some other time = tomorrow, right?


  3. JM Randolph Says:

    We were all so thin back then. *sigh*. It’s very impressive to me how much you were able to carry in your backpacks, given how thin you were. Thank you for hanging with Southern Belle that night and reminding me that I didn’t miss out on much, having never stayed in a hostel.


  4. Don't Quote Lily Says:

    Your stick figure stories are the best! Glad this one won’t be the last.


  5. mistyslaws Says:

    I’ve been to Amsterdam. I visited Anne Frank’s house and the Van Gogh museum. Apparently, I was not doing it right. Maybe I was too old at the time. Also, maybe we visited for a few short hours during the day where most of the pimps and hookers were still sleeping. Although, I do have some friends that went there on their Honeymoon. They don’t remember most of it, as you might imagine.

    And yes, I too will need photographic documentation of said long hair. I’m guessing Eddie Veddar grunge, yes? 😉


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      It’s a shame that people forget that Amsterdam is actually one of the great cities – art, history, etc. It’s hard to get past the “Drugs & hookers! Hee hee hee!”

      And fairly Vedder-esque, yes.


  6. The Cutter Says:

    Bob’s sounds truly rapetacular.


  7. Luddy's Lens Says:

    Hey, come on! Is “some other time…” tomorrow? Yes?

    Now we’re hooked. Not fair.


  8. Blogdramedy Says:

    You know…17 years from now your daughter is going to ask you for the address for that hostel.


  9. rachelocal Says:

    Stick figure stories are my favorite, so is long hair. Especially 1990s long hair, which I’m assuming was the time period?

    Does it annoy you that you posted this great bit of story telling and all anyone can talk about is your hair?


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      It’s okay. It was really, really nice hair. Except when it got too long and looked like it exploded. Yes, very grunge hair. But it’s curly so it fluctuated between looking a little *too* nice and a little too Jimmy Page.


  10. pegoleg Says:

    Hysterical! You know the old saying; whatever doesn’t kill… you makes a great story in 20 years.

    At first I had a hard time distinguishing you and Southern Belle because of all the hair, but then I noticed how much more manly your stick parts appeared to be.


  11. Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom) Says:

    I thought your hair sucked. Kidding. But I thought I’d offer a different “insight.”

    I love travel stories. More, please.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I don’t know why, but this reminded me of something –

      One of the coolest things I thought a girl ever did was in college when I cut my hair short. She (and I knew her) was driving by and stopped and motioned me over. I asked what. She motioned. I walked closer to be in clear ear shot. She motioned more insistently. I got pretty close. “What??” “Come HERE.” I leaned in close and she SLAPPED me upside the head and said, “That’s for cutting your beautiful hair.” And drove off. I thought that was a ridiculously sexy thing to do.


  12. Audrey Says:

    Sounds like quite the start of an adventure! Glad you weren’t the only level-headed one in the group – yeesh… Tell us more!


  13. Jackie Cangro Says:

    I was in Amsterdam this time last year, on 4-22 to be exact. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.


  14. Lorna's Voice Says:

    I just can’t believe that you aren’t a reporter for the Travel Channel.


  15. Maggie Says:

    Tnx for the laughs!


  16. thesinglecell Says:

    Okay, so first of all, is it weird that I spent a lot of the time reading this thinking about how you subtly get us to read the speech bubbles in the proper order? Like, placement-wise? Because I thought about that a lot. I might have had to go back because I got preoccupied with the speech bubble placement. But once I was past that, I thought about how I’ve always thought that a place called a “hostel” would be no good, I don’t care how they spelled it. And also I thought about how I think the correct approach to soliciation from hookers and drug dealers and pimps is pretty much ALWAYS to be chill.

    All in all this was very educational.


  17. Pleun Says:

    Being from Amsterdam (now living in Mexico) I have to say that this story makes me homesick! I used to live at the Nieuwmarkt (one block from the red light district) and I am now dying for a Bessen-ijs with bitterballen. Can’t wait to hear your adventures next week!


  18. genkiduck Says:

    Ha. I’ll never forget having to cancel a weekend trip to New York City because we found out at the last minute that the “great deal” our travel-companion-to-be had gotten on a hostel was because of its “prime” location. Still haven’t been there.


  19. Life With The Top Down Says:

    Angry stick figures are somewhat frightening….I’m not sure that I have ever come across one before today…yikes!
    I can’t wait to hear more about this adventure. I would suggest putting some clothes or a couple of body parts on Southern Belle for Part 2, I kept thinking you were Southern Belle with all that hair.


  20. Michael Says:

    Gee, and all I’ve ever been to, international-wise, is the Canadian side of Niagara falls. Amsterdam sounds much more adventurous. If I ever go there, I’ll be sure to recall this story and be polite to the late-night drug dealers and people of ill repute. And also book the hostel myself instead of letting a person who sounds like a dentist drill doing it. Now I know!


  21. Archon's Den Says:

    I got to teach history because I’m so old, I was there when most of it happened. It’s odd to see a mere stripling like yourself publish a Remember-When story.


  22. Sandy Sue Says:

    I would *never* have done this in college–too terrified. And I get sweaty reading about it. If only I could be a little more of a pig-fackin’ bahstahd.


  23. Michelle Gillies Says:

    Weren’t you the Gallant Southern Gentleman to try to comfort Southern Belle in her hour(s) of distress.
    I’m looking forward to the rest of the story.


  24. Dana Says:

    Love these stick figure stories! I really feel for Southern Belle, though. Crying rabbits are never a good sign.


  25. Valentine Logar Says:

    I love Amsterdam! Love you went there as a student and you were a gentleman to poor distressed Southern Belle. Can’t wait for the rest of the story.



  1. When In Amsterdam, Do As The Amsterdam…ian…er…ites… Do. | The Byronic Man - March 11, 2013

    […] Continuing from the first part of the story, getting to Amsterdam during my senior year of college…  […]

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