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.

view of Amsterdam

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.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

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.

Amsterdam market

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.”

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