I did not grow up in a City but by now I have been living in Cities for more years then I spent in the countryside. 20 years to be exact, oh yes, I’m old! Now, I can’t help but wonder: How healthy it is for people like me, to live in the City?
Amsterdam is not a big City compared to others, to throw some figures around, we are only with 812.000 people, which is all that we could fit in. But, and this is a major but! We do get about 7 million tourists a year and to say this is stressful is an understatement.
Adding to that, during summertime this City turns into this massive construction site. Roads get opened and closed, buildings get torn down and built up again and every bike ride anywhere becomes an obstacle course instead of a tranquil ride.
Then there is the noise. It is constant! Construction noise, wheels of suitcases, the alcoholic on the corner who seems to be extra troubled by the heat and loudly tells everyone to fuck off (I am soo on his side!). Total Sensory Overload.
I am lucky, my day starts out in Noord, where I actually hear crickets when I fall asleep. Seriously, literal crickets! But, I work in the centre and during Summer it is an interesting ride to get there. Yes, we work in this city too, go tell the sightseers!
Five days a week I climb on my bike and cycle towards the madness that is the Amsterdam city centre. To get there I take a ferry, usually this is all still fine, but when the ferry arrives at central station the total insanity starts.
Because at arrival everyone from Noord tries to get of the ferry, the rest of Amsterdam tries to get on and all the tourists arrive from the opposite direction to make the whole situation even smoother. Result: Major cycling traffic jams.
Yes, they exist and they are insane. No rules for a cycling traffic jam, just a big moving pile of people, metal and rubber trying to get to work by 09:00.
I could now rant about the tourists who are also part of this mix. Ok I’ll do a little one: For some insane reason, we rent bikes to people who never cycled in their life and then tell them “have fun!” It is not fun for anyone. Not for the tourist who will get shouted at. Not for us trying to commute to work. See, barely a rant at all.
Safe to say that by the time I have navigated above plus the roadworks I get to the office with quite a high adrenaline level, and a bit anxious and dizzy.
At my desk things are not tranquil either. Directly outside my window they have started to completely redo the square. Combined with the tram coming by, ambulances, car alarms and yapping dogs I realised the other day that it is absolutely never quiet around me.
Since I am just a bit oversensitive I find it incredibly hard to shut out what is going on around me, which can be a bit problematic.
When I get home I am exhausted, which is definitely partly to blame on the constant impressions this City puts on my senses. Being exhausted increases the chances of anxiety attacks as I know from experience. So not an ideal situation maybe.
It also seems to turn me into a bit of a sour-puss I realise when I read above. So sorry.
Anyway, I can probably conclude that City Life is not the best for people like me but I love this City too. In the end the sport is to find the quiet places in a hectic environment. Like cycling through the centre early on a Sunday morning, when the city is empty and beautiful.
Or finding the perfect playground, preferably around the corner from a cafe that has good coffee. Places where the noise seems to be cancelled out by the peace that can also exist here in the midst of the crazy.
Yes, to get to these places some fights with tourists must be had and some anxiety needs to be battled. But for now, it is still worth it.
When I am all grown up I might give up the city battle for some peace of mind in some place small. As my father says: “as long as there is a good bar on the corner you are fine anywhere.”
Have a good weekend. Go get em!