And so it begins

Well it seems my time in Europe is once again coming to an end. I can remember a couple years ago now being so incredibly sad leaving Europe, thinking when will I ever be back? I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to come back, and to now have the confidence that I’m not gonna be homeward bound forever 😉

But this trip hasn’t been about Europe for me. It hasn’t really been about traveling, or about the food. This has been a dramatically different trip than I’m used to, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. The way I see it though, is that this is just the beginning.

We weren’t sent to Jordan on a vacation, or just to get a quick look around then go home. We were sent to witness the work that the IKEA Foundation does, and bring the stores of these refugees home with us. I feel a profound personal responsibility to share these stories, increase awareness of the situation in Jordan, and generate conversation.

In the coming days my blogs detailing my time in Jordan will be posted here, as well as to the IKEA Foundation Blog and the internal IKEA network. And I hope that some people read them, and find them interesting… but I’m aiming a bit higher. I’ve already started work on some ways to make presenting this information to groups impactful, and I’m hoping to be able to get out and share this information in person.

I hope I can make a difference.

For me, I think big – I dream big. I often get ahead of myself… I think it’s one of my best and worst qualities. I love thinking big… but it’s interesting, talking to one of the UNHCR team members, he told me that he holds on to the small victories. The little wins. The impact you can have on just one person. And that keeps him going.

It reminds me of the impact I feel like I have with the Start2Finish Running & Reading club I volunteer with. Those two hours a week are generally the happiest two hours of my week.

So I hope I can make a difference, big… or small. But impactful.

End of heavy stuff! Let’s talk about the rest of the trip 😉

Since talking to you last I enjoyed another day in Amsterdam, this time staying at a hotel near the museum quarter. It was a wonderful day spent exploring the city. The following day I took a train to Brussels, Belgium… folks… for all of you who told me I wouldn’t like Belgium (or made fun of me for going)… you were right 😛 There was nothing terrible about it, but…. it just wasn’t that great. It was a city. Nothing special. I got a picture of the little boy peeing (their national statue, it seems) which was… odd. I did have a wonderful Belgium waffle – that was nice. And I stayed right in the middle of the city, also nice.

But… yeah, I don’t know. Wasn’t impressed. From the minute I got off the train, to the design of their station, to… yeah. Just wasn’t impressed. There were some beautiful buildings, so I’m not gonna say it’s a terrible city by any means – it seems quite nice. Just in comparison, I was happy to return to Holland the following day.

Speaking on the following day – I decided to cut out Luxembourg. Time was not on my side, and I’m growing quite tired of these 3 hour train rides every day. It wasn’t a hard decision – I’ll get to it eventually. Because of this, I decided to stop in Rotterdam on my way to Leiden today, and this was absolutely one of my better decisions.

I loved Rotterdam.

First of all, it has a huge huge huge port (biggest in Europe), and I love the water, and I love ships – so that was awesome. I started off sitting in Central Station (beautiful station, similar to the Amsterdam one) getting talked up by a guy who wanted to scam some money off me, so that was a fun start. It’s kind of entertaining how little I react to these things now, I think he was disappointed. I was just getting irritated.

After that welcome to the city I trekked off in search of the Euromast… which is kind of like their version of the CN tower. It was getting pretty cloudy, so I thought an indoor tourist attraction would be a good idea. I’ve seen so many of these towers across the world now it’s kind of entertaining to see how each one differs from the other.

This one was pretty small actually, and apparently a little worried about the weather. They wouldn’t let me go up at first because of the approaching storm. Which I found really funny, because the CN Tower will actually stick you out on the edge walk unless there’s a pretty good chance of lightning. They might even stick you out there with lightning… I can’t remember.

So I waited it out in the cafe for a bit, the sun came out, and I got to go up for the recent price of 9.50.

They had a nice restaurant up there which I walked around, not realizing there was an observation platform above (I thought this was it). I got some weird looks.

Eventually I did figure out there was another platform above (hey Dutch isn’t my language, gimmie a break), so I took a nice walk around there. It was a great view – really neat view of the port. Also not caged in which was nice, though slightly concerning.

As I walked around the bend a bit I was met with a huge surprise – a HOTEL ROOM! OMG! I was so impressed!!!!! They have a hotel room on the observation deck! How cool is that???? What a view!!! When I went downstairs I asked about it – 400 euros a night, 3 month waiting list. Wowie! Anyone wanna get me a birthday present for next year?

I got over it, but it’s pretty cool. Next I went up some stairs and took this pod that goes up then back down slowly, spinning around giving you a great 360 view. That was pretty cool. Overall, well worth the money, and an enjoyable attraction. Nice twist on the normal tower.

After that I went out to the park just beside it and had a beautiful walk through it. Very quiet, lots of greenery and water, I was very happy. It was a pleasant walk.

I decided to walk back to the station from there instead of taking the bus, and chose a different route than I came on – and walked along a whole ton of stuff that belongs to the Maritime Museum! So cool!!!! I’m so sorry I missed it this time around – the next time I’m in the area I will be going for sure. Very very cool stuff.

I returned to Rotterdam Central, I think having spent about 3 or 4 hours in the city, and grabbed a train headed towards Leiden. I decided to spend the night in Leiden for a few reasons – one, something seems to be going on in Amsterdam tonight because all the hotels are either booked or stupid expensive. I was not impressed. Two, tomorrow I’m going to have lunch with Per from the IKEA Foundation, which is based in Leiden, so I thought this would make life easy.

I was surprised by how nice the city is. When I arrived I caught a bus to my hotel, because it’s about 20 mins outside of the city, dropped everything off, and grabbed another bus 30 mins later to get back to the city. It is very picture perfect – a lovely, typical European city in my mind. I had a lovely dinner at a local restaurant, finished my evening with some Gelato, and after locating the foundation for tomorrow caught the bus back to my hotel, returning around 10pm.

Overall, a great last full day here, and a nice way to decompress after a very eventful week.

I’m looking forward to returning home so I can start working on how to communicate everything from the IWitness trip out, and I’ve actually got the countdown started for the next trip – our Alaskan Cruise! Just under 2 months now 😀

That’s it for me… I’m gonna try to get to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight. I can’t sleep on the plane tomorrow, and I’ve got to try to rapidly readjust my body to EST on Thursday when I’m back to work! I think I’m probably gonna crash this weekend 😉