Food, glorious food: Freya

Food! Cuisine is at heart of any culture, and often how we best identify a nation. The Netherlands, much like New Zealand, does not really have a distinctively ‘Dutch’ food tradition. Instead, as the centre of a former colonial empire, Amsterdam has drawn its food culture from the influences of its former colonies and its widely multicultural immigrant population. The diversity in the restaurant scene is massive – from Ethiopian to Catalan, Brazilian to Belgian. The most common eateries are from from the colonies; Surinamese, Indonesian and Vietnamese eateries on every block in the city centre. But despite the density of food joints in the area, the overall quality is somewhat lacking (at least in my experience). The city centre of Amsterdam is very touristy, and often the food is either very tasty and very expensive, or moderately priced and rather average. The Asian cuisines to which the Netherlands has a historical connection to are often unauthentic, catering to a Dutch palette. This means that any Vietnamese or Indonesian snacks on offer are almost always fried and very mild.

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FEBO is an Amsterdam institution operates like a vending machine for tasty fried snacks

If there is any distinctly Dutch cuisine, fried and mild is by far the distinctive characteristic. Dutch snacks include bitterballen (fried balls of breaded ragu), croquettes (fried rolls of breaded ragu), cheese soufflé (fried cheese wrapped in pastry), and most importantly, fries. Belgian chips (Vlaams frites) are everywhere, and given that I am cursed with the dreaded 21st century inability to consume gluten, fries are really my only entry point into Dutch food culture. Not that this is any hardship. The Dutch know how to do chips well. The most common way to receive chips is in a paper cone smothered in mayonnaise, but other common toppings are curry sauce, satay sauce, or my favourite, oorlog: half mayonaise, half satay sauce topped with diced raw onions. Don’t judge it until you’ve tried it. The city centre is dotted with hole-in-the-wall chip shops claiming to offer the best fries in Amsterdam, but it’s all false advertising. The best chips by far are found in Grillroom “Twins” in the Jordaan district. The chips are ‘verse’ (fresh), and the sauces are top notch.

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Patats oorlog courtesy of Grillroom “Twins”

Given that eating out is either hard on the wallet or the waistline, it’s no surprise that Dutch students most frequently cook at home. ‘Dammers get most of their daily nutrition at the popular supermarket chain, Albert Heijn. After the bikes, I’d say it’s one of the key aspects of Amsterdam life that the locals are most proud of. And it’s easy to see why. Albert Heijn is no ordinary supermarket. Every store contains around three  different cheese sections, surpassing any variety you’ll find in the hyper-touristy ‘cheese shops’. There will also always be a DIY fresh orange juice press present, as well as an impressive selection of cured meats and spreads. And the gluten free section is better than even New Zealand! Price-wise, Amsterdam is typically a bit cheaper than Auckland, but not by a significant margin.

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A trick I’ve picked up to further cut down on costs is to buy all my fresh produce at one of the various local markets. My favourite, the Ten Kate market, is a 10 minute bike ride from home and I can get all my fruit, vege and eggs for the week for under €6, or 9 NZD! And if you feel like treating yourself, there are always beautiful fresh cheese stalls, or Turkish stalls selling a wide variety of hummus and other spreads, or any other fresh and authentic offerings to indulge in.

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As a final note, I would like to make a brief lament to my lost love: New Zealand coffee. The Auckland food scene is something I took for granted, and while I can live without weekend brunches and the occasional dinner out, the absence of decent coffee took some real adjustment. It turns out a great deal of Europe simply don’t know how to do coffee. It’s a broad statement, but as an ex-Auckland waitress and barista, I’m standing by it. Most cafes in Amsterdam only offer coffee made entirely by an automatic machine, and if it is made by hand you really have two options (regardless of how many options are displayed): weak black coffee or huge milky coffee with piles of foam. That being said, it is often cheaper than New Zealand coffee, and after converting from my regular order of flat white (very difficult to find in Amsterdam) to ‘koffie’ (Americano), I’ve become accustomed to the Dutch approach to coffee. And if coffee lovers are heading out to Amsterdam, there are certainly great places if you’re willing to hunt them out. My favourite spots to head to if I’m in need of a decent coffee are White Label, Lottie’s, Coffee Company (pretty good chain cafe), and Toki.

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Filter coffee at Lottie’s

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Accommodation Awards: Freya

The Traumatised Auckland Tenant’s Association Award for best value for location!

The advice I was given when figuring out accomodation options for Amsterdam was to not expect a central location without forking out big money. As an Auckland renter, this is a situation I am acutely aware of. The way student accomodation works for UvA is that you pick one of four options (shared room, shared facilities; single room shared facilities; double room, shared facilities; and double room, personal facilities), and UvA offers you a selection of possible rooms which you must quickly choose from in order to guarantee your place. I opted for the second cheapest option, and was extremely surprised to be offered two very central locations. For €422 a month (roughly 160 NZD a week), I have a room to myself right in the beautiful city centre. My accommodation borders Centrum, the famous and vibrant central district, and Jordaan, an extremely cool and sophisticated district full of beautiful houses and homes, and very non-touristy bars and eateries. In my room I have my own fridge, freezer, microwave and stove top. In the morning, I wake up to the sound of church bells, the same bells heard by Anne Frank during WWII. On the other side of the canal is a famous farmer’s market every Saturday, and I’m a 5-10 minute cycle to campus, the library and most museums and galleries. This is all for less than the price of my previous small, windowless room in Epsom.

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The Karl Pilkington Award for ugliest building on the street

In the classic TV series, An Idiot Abroad, host and modern-day philosopher Karl Pilkington mused on the Petra Palace of Jordan that, given the choice, he would “rather live in a cave with a view of a palace than live in a palace with a view of a cave.”

The De Key student accomodation on Prinsengracht is that cave. Prinsengracht is one of three famous canals bordering the central city of Amsterdam. Outside my bedroom window is a constant stream of canal cruises, whose passengers all marvel at the rows of quintessential Amsterdam architecture lining the banks. And amongst them, the De Key building. Instead of beautiful facades and colourful brickwork, my home is a remnant of the sixties’ love of pragmatism over personal expression. Which means that, as its inhabitant, I get a full view of all the best Prinsengracht has to offer, blissfully ignorant of its lesser offerings.

The Dutch Courage Award for best transportation

Buying a bike is an inevitable initiation into Dutch life, and cycling through Amsterdam’s roads is a very sharp learning curve. Like a baby bird leaving the nest for the first time, there’s not much you can do but pedal out onto the busy streets and hope for the best. Amsterdam cyclists have little regard for road rules. Apparently, if any car hits a cyclists, the driver is fully liable no matter the circumstances, and Dutch cyclists take full advantage of this fact. Biking around the city often feels like you’re in competition with all other cyclists as to who can take the biggest risk at intersections, or who can overtake the most riders in a single journey. However, for all the stress and confusion, it’s easy to grow fond of this way of life. There’s a real feeling of belonging to this city the first time you internally curse the tourists on the streets, or when you first successfully manage to cycle the route the clubs with your friends while already a bottle of wine into the evening. The city is designed so that it’s quicker to get from A to B by bike than by car or public transport, so it’s a quick, convenient and healthy way to get around town while at the same time getting a renewed appreciation of your own mortality.

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A sign of a ‘Dammer in the making: confidently operate one’s phone to take blog photos mid-cycle
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Dutch dominos witnessed outside the university library

The BBQ Association’s Award for best backyard

The Dutch sun is quite elusive, but as the days have been heating up there has been more and more call to soak up some vitamin D. Amsterdam has many parks well worth visiting, but usually when the sun makes an appearance, all of Europe (and a great deal of America) make a collective decision to visit Amsterdam’s parks. With big groups it can make for a fun and lively atmosphere, but for days when I have wanted some sun and solitude, my own accomodation has been perfectly sufficient. Hidden behind the Prinsengracht rooms is a idyllic grassy backyard and concrete court. Surrounding it is the backs of many of the buildings on the block, providing a vastly different sight to the ornate street-side façades. It’s a vague enough setting that you could be anywhere, and residential enough that there is a constant supply of neighbourhood cats to play with. In a city as lively and active as Amsterdam, where there is always something to do and places to be, it can be nice to duck away from it all – while remaining in Wifi access. It’s also been a great setting for some social building-wide BBQ parties (during one of which a few of us were invited by our beautifully creative RA to make the vege garden sign below, which remains a source of great personal pride) and many lazy morning-after hangouts.

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My O-Week Experience: Freya

UvA had orientation week sorted. We were advised to plan our flights to arrive on Wednesday 1st February, as that would be the only day they would provide free transportation and orientation services. As soon as we landed we were able to quickly find our way to the UvA desk set up in the Amsterdam Schipol Airport, where we were greeted with a traditional dutch snack called stroopwafel, and boarded a bus to the university’s welcome-expo. Here I was able to book a meeting with the leading dutch bank, get information on certain bike-rental companies, and pick up my room key. Once we were sufficiently overwhelmed with appointments and promotional freebies, we boarded a shuttle to our various accommodations. Pretty quickly we were driving through the city, getting our first taste of the architecture and bustle of our new home.

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On my first venture out in the city I stumbled on the bizarre but beautiful floating Flower Market

My building holds just over 150 students and is run by three RAs. On our first night we all got to meet our new neighbours over drinks in the common room and received a few insider’s tips to the city from our helpful RAs. Amsterdam is a huge city, with many different districts and sights to explore. Having a local on hand to tell you where to go was so useful in that first week – I didn’t know where to begin!

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The orientation week activities were an optional extra run by the International Student Network (ISN) that we were encouraged to sign up for. For €40 (around 60 NZD) we could participate a three day program designed to help international students make friends and get to know the city. This program began the day after arrival, so there was no time for jet-lag or sleep-ins. We were divided into groups of around 15 which were each led by two Dutch university students. The first day consisted of a scavenger hunt around the city, a welcome seminar and a dinner at a local club. On the second day we all met for lunch at the university, participated in a Dutch language ‘crash-course’ and a friendship-orientated ‘speed dating’ activity. We then jumped on a canal cruise before dinner and a pub crawl. On the final day we all went ice skating in the afternoon, followed by the final ISN party.

 

All in all it was an intense but greatly rewarding experience. A common theme of the introduction week was disorganization.  Every meal was way behind schedule and our group leaders were sometimes just as lost as we were in terms of what was going on. Activities like the scavenger hunt simply ended up being a wander through the city, and  the speed dating was so loosely organised that it quickly descended into one big hangout. However, none of this affected our fun. In fact, the collective confusion was often a nice bonding exercise itself. As such it was a great experience and well worth the €40. I got to get to know the city with local guides and after only three days I was beginning to feel like a resident of Amsterdam. I was able to make connections with other international students and started university with a degree of confidence in my sense of direction.

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On our first day in Amsterdam we were told of three Dutch stereotypes we would have to quickly get accustomed to: a) Dutch people are always on time, b) Dutch people are obsessed with their bikes, and c) Dutch people can sometimes come across as rude, but are simply just direct. The first point became a recurring gag over the introduction week, but the latter two are veritable truths. The first topic of discussions with the RAs, group leaders, ISN officials and even University staff was always bikes; either asking us whether we had bought a bike, how we found cycling around the city, or when reminiscing over the times their bikes got stolen. Bikes are everywhere in Amsterdam. Every bridge is lined with bikes against the railings, and every street, road and alleyway has cyclists whizzing up and down at the peril of pedestrians. And on the last point, all the Dutch people I’ve met so far have been very friendly and keen to help me get to know the city and the Dutch language. However, many interactions had in cafes and supermarkets have made me realise New Zealand language is definitely more geared towards politeness.That’s not to say the Dutch are any less polite, and ultimately I’ve felt nothing but welcomed by Amsterdam and look forward to the rest of my exchange.

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Accommodation Awards: Olivier

Welcome to Grote Bickersstraat: The most genuinely Amsterdam student accommodation around!

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Other housing blocks are closer to uni, or to the red light district. Others are cheaper, newer or more ‘party’ blocks. But nothing beats Grote Bickersstraat for the true ‘Dutch’ experience. Located on the old dockyards for the Dutch East Indies Company, the block is down a quiet little street with trees lining the paths and canals on either side! Bikes are everywhere, there is a little bar on the end of the road and you will feel like you are a true Amsterdamer!

Once you enter the block, you have to climb four sets of steep stairs to get to my room – but boy is it worth it! My room is enormous with a balcony and views out to Centraal train station. Next door to mine is the shared lounge/kitchen which I share with three lovely Masters students. On the other side of that is yet another balcony with views over the canals and to the parks beyond! This place is simply amazing!

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It is slightly more expensive than other blocks in the city, but it’s still very doable – around 400 euros a month (or $150 NZD a week approx.) which makes it cheaper than most Auckland flats! And with everyone biking everywhere, it only takes 10 minutes to get into uni, despite being a few kms away. Amsterdam looks after the exchange students really well, and provides accommodation at a much lower cost than it would be if you had to look for it yourself! Being from so far away also means that they take extra care of you – all the New Zealand students have got themselves great digs, and have had no trouble. But if you are coming to Amsterdam, try and get Grote Bickersstraat, it’s the best option!

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The Netherlands

Another gorgeous location to take part in an exchange. Lucky University of Auckland students have the option to study at one of three universities in the Netherlands: The University of Amsterdam (including Law), University of Groningen and Utrecht University (including Law).

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Let’s hear what our students have to say!

“A land without hills; a flat landscape interconnected by fearless cyclists, UNESCO status canal rings, Albert Heijn supermarkets – with their mélange of delights (and sometimes free coffee), places to buy coffee and the less-than-discrete coffee shops, markets selling artisanal produce alongside mass-produced tourist knickknacks, free ferries that deliver you to the north side of the city, and topped off with relentless bike thieves that cunningly whisk locked bikes away during the day or night… I arrived in Amsterdam in anticipation, not knowing what to expect from this foreign city with such a big international reputation.” – Zoe Dunster, The University of Amsterdam

“Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. At night, the tall, narrow buildings are reflected in the canals and watch you as you walk by. There are little lights dotting the edge of the canal bridges. It reminded me of Cinderella.” – Sally Wu, The University of Amsterdam

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“Studying abroad is a great opportunity for so many reasons, I am very glad that I chose Amsterdam as the place to go to. First, the city is full of life, there are so many interesting and unique parts to it; it is hard to explore the maze of canals in a few short months. Amsterdam is not the most affordable student city but student accommodation definitely lowers the price and you can generally find good deals in most supermarkets and can find affordable yet delicious eat out options. The variety of cultures within the city is reflected in its wide range of food, drinks, clothing and entertainment options, there are always an endless stream of experiences to be found.” – Grace Bendek Rooney, The University of Amsterdam

Bikes, Bikes, Bikes…

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“Amsterdam has great public transport and cycling is very easy due to the flat land and bicycle lanes.” – Grace Bendek Rooney, The University of Amsterdam

“After initially being overwhelmed by the number of bikes in Amsterdam, I soon loved my daily cycle to class.” – Elizabeth Vincent, The University of Amsterdam

“Biking in Amsterdam was chaotic, scary, fun, and liberating once you learn how to ride like the Dutch.” – Sally Wu, The University of Amsterdam

“Two pieces of advice I would give to anyone going on exchange to Amsterdam would be: watch out for bicycles when walking around the city and buy a bike as soon as possible and to go exploring.” – Matthew Marinovich, The University of Amsterdam

“I cycled to the University on cobblestoned streets lined with buildings older than my country, and engaged in interactive classes represented by a diverse range of nationalities.” – Jeroen De Vries, Utrecht University

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On orientation:

“The University of Amsterdam held an orientation day and dropped us all off to our separate accommodation. Mine was the furthest away from the city centre, but turned out to work the best for me. From there, the International Student Network (ISN) held an opening weekend where we were put into groups and taken through activities and parties for the first three days on exchange. This was definitely one of the highlights and I would highly recommend joining a student network if you do choose to go abroad. Most of the people in my group here I ended up staying in contact with for the rest of the semester, and even after returning to New Zealand’ – Chris Kolston, The University of Amsterdam

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“I was able to meet some students (Dutch and International) at the orientation and events run by the ISN (International Student Network) and in my classes. I was also able to meet local people and some professionals in the Tech industry by attending local Meetups by using meetup.com.” – Grace Bendek Rooney, The University of Amsterdam

“I did get involved with the international student network – there was a week of activities, day trips to pancake boats, parties… The friends that I met would be the ones I sat around with at informal dinner parties, with wine and cheese.” -Sally Wu, The University of Amsterdam

“The first week I was in Amsterdam I took part in the university’s exchange introduction (orientation) week. This was a fantastic week and I would highly recommend signing up for it. Along with a visit to the university’s 3 main locations we also went to the zoo, on a canal cruise, a pub crawl and a comedy club. This week was also great as I met several people in my courses and other Dutch students who shared their insider knowledge on living in Amsterdam.” –  Matthew Marinovich, The University of Amsterdam

On housing:

“I was staying in the Rode Kruislaan residence organised by the university which was about 25 minutes bike ride from central Amsterdam. It was simple accommodation and had around 150 students staying within the 5 apartment buildings. Right away I met my neighbours – a Swiss law student and a Dutch biology student. We cooked together – our favourite was Dutch savoury pancakes with bacon and Gouda cheese.” – Matthew Marinovich, The University of Amsterdam

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On courses:

“The university courses were challenging but interesting, and the calibre of students and professors were excellent. The work is predominately self-driven (in the law faculty at least), with less class time and more focus on individual preparation. Similar to our summer school, semesters are broken into two blocks of 6 weeks, with no study break before exams. Most courses at the law faculty are only taught in English, even for the Dutch students, which means that most classes are not just international students – which is great if you want to make local friends.” – Elizabeth Vincent, The University of Amsterdam

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“Nostalgia for my homeland took a back seat as I entered into my Social Science courses and I began to make connections and friendships within the array of international and Dutch students. These growing groups of friends become the backbone of my exchange, serving as a perfect tonic to 6000-word essay deadlines and days full of two-hour classes. We took advantage of the super-efficient national train service, making day trips to other cities, beaches, forests and islands throughout the Netherlands. Over the year, Amsterdam began to feel like a village – with most galleries, cafes, bars and music venues less than 20mins cycle away. I slowly began to learn basic supermarket and hospitality conversations in Dutch, however I never progressed much further (one of my regrets) as English was resorted to so quickly, in accordance with Dutch efficiency.” – Zoe Dunster, The University of Amsterdam

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“My psychology studies involved a lecture and several required readings per course each week. It felt similar to the amount of study I would put into an average course at Auckland. The courses were very interesting and I thought the Motivation course was in my top 5 favourite courses of my bachelors.” – Matthew Marinovich, The University of Amsterdam

“Although the study itself was structured differently (one semester is cut in half!), the university was welcoming towards exchange students, and in all of the courses I took, and the majority of the students were international. Amsterdam city in general is very international; I met people from USA, Spain, China, Sweden, Australia, and even Dunedin! Meeting people was the thing I was most worried about, but the thing that came the easiest while living in Amsterdam. Every other exchange student is in the same boat as you, so everyone is super friendly and wants to be your friend.” – Chris Kolston, The University of Amsterdam

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“The academic experience of studying in Utrecht was a memorable opportunity to observe how universities operate in a different country. I cycled to the University on cobblestoned streets lined with buildings older than my country, and engaged in interactive classes represented by a diverse range of nationalities. As a centre for international human rights law, I was able to hear from interesting guest speakers including the national director for Amnesty International. I also had the opportunity to visit the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague” – Jeroen De Vries, Utrecht University

On travel:

“The best thing is that, with these new friends, you can then travel around Europe! Amsterdam is quite central in Europe and there are often cheap flights to places like Stockholm, Barcelona, London, Berlin etc. The public transport around Europe also makes travelling very easy, so not much planning is required.” –  Chris Kolston, The University of Amsterdam

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“Due to the location of Amsterdam in Europe, it is remarkably easy to travel to and from. Trains run regularly and you can usually find relatively affordable flight options too. During my time there I visited a number of different cities and towns in Germany, UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Austria and Italy.  I had a fantastic time on exchange and if you are presented the opportunity to go, you should leap at it.” – Grace Bendek Rooney, The University of Amsterdam

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Top Tips:

“The high prices for living in the city became less daunting over time as I learnt the city shortcuts; owning a bike with a good lock saves a fortune on transport, get an OV-chipkaart for those trips to the airport, find Facebook groups/events for collectives that save food from shops before it goes in the bin, and definitely buy a museumkaart, which costs a bit but lasts a year and allows you to visit an extensive list of galleries and museums across the Netherlands for free! I left my Amsterdam home with teary eyes, but grateful that I had been able to see the city in the colours of every season, that I had also learnt more about the way Anthropology is taught and made relevant to the Netherlands and Europe and that I, miraculously, never got my bike tyre caught in the tram tracks, or fell in any canals.” –  Zoe Dunster, The University of Amsterdam

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“Amsterdam has a wide array of fantastic cultural activities (museums, galleries, libraries). Buy a museumkaart and visit one of the many museums – from the Cheese Museum, the Cow Museum to the Anne Frank House or the huge state museum (Rijksmuseum). There are fresh produce markets on every week with food, tulips and crafts on offer. It is very easy to eat too many stroopwaffels and your weight in cheese (Dutch people take cheese seriously!) The population in Amsterdam is generally quite young, so great new cafes, bars and restaurants open frequently. I would recommend Amsterdam as an exchange destination to anyone. The people are friendly, the food is excellent, the university is top-quality and travelling is easy.” – Elizabeth Vincent, The University of Amsterdam

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What I’m Packing: Freya

So lately I have been hitting up all the travel blogs and all my traveler friends to boil down the ultimate packing list. It will have to see me through the cold, cold Northern Europe winter, and then seven months of unplanned adventure. The main advice to come out of this research is to pack light and pack smart. Only take clothes that are versatile and easy wearing. Only pack items with high utility value.  Seeing as I won’t be heading off until January 29, I still have a month and a half to scrutinize and inevitably alter my packing list. So instead of giving you a well researched packing list that I probably won’t end up sticking to myself, here are five key essentials that no limitation on space and common sense can stop me from bringing…
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Bullet Journal and Notebook
For those who don’t know about the bullet journal, it’s essentially a DIY life planner that works great for people who constantly find themselves making lists and jotting notes etc. down on loose paper. You start with a blank notebook, and following the guidance of the adaptable bullet journal system (Google it), you can plan out your months, weeks, days, along with any events, thoughts, goals, plans, lists and ideas that may enter your brain. I already have a series of pages dedicated to the locations I intend to visit, where I am noting down the advice the internet and real-life friends are giving me. I also use it to track money, which will be an absolute necessity when travelling. The blogs also tell me to bring a notebook to keep a travel diary, so I’m bringing a second notebook along too.
Laptop and Unlocked Cellphone
Pretty reasonable travel essential. Technology has revolutionized the way we see the world. There are so many necessary apps and websites that I can’t imagine getting by a year without, for both study and exploration. My year away is ideally about going out and experiencing new things, meeting new people and seeing all that the world has to offer. And, while it’s fun to imagine this as guided by spontaneous adventure, how I travel, where I go and what I do will inevitably be the product of extensive online research.
Diana Mini Camera
So hipster. But so much fun. Every now and again I’ll bring an analogue camera along to an outing and take some quick, sporadic snaps. It takes a few months to finish a roll of film, which means that when I eventually get the film developed, it has a beautifully random and candid assortment of memories. I have a small collection of film cameras, out of which the Diana made the final cut because it is small, light, basic and durable. What’s more, the exposure sometimes is a little off, which distorts the images in various ways. Often the colours come out much richer or hazier than they actually were. So, while my phone will be put to work in full tourist mode while I’m away, the Diana will make the trip as well.
Merino Everything
The main thing I’m nervous about travelling to the Netherlands is the cold. Amsterdam will be at its coldest when I arrive, and I want to be prepared. Because I am sticking to the mantra of packing light, my lovely winter coat and thick, warm jumpers aren’t going to be around to keep me toasty. Instead I’m opting for wool and merino, which are effective at keeping in the warmth while also being light and breathable. With this in mind I am making the most of the winter clothing sales on right now and stocking up on merino layers of every description. I was also able to score some epic deals courtesy of my friend’s staff discount at Macpac, so now there is nothing from stopping me from exploring the city in negative degrees.
Statement Tops
The main rule of travel fashion is stay basic, compact, and stay away from wacky everyday pieces, as you soon get tired of wearing them. Unfortunately, my personal fashion style tends to stray in the opposite direction. My wardrobe is filled with large statement tops, all of which have acquired some sort of sentimental story (#hoarder). While I’m fully aware that these are not the type of items I see on any travel blogger’s Ultimate Packing List, I can’t imagine going a year without them. So rules be damned, at least some of them are coming with me. Sometimes you just gotta find out what you’ll regret for yourself.
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What I’m Packing: Olivier

I left Auckland for 7 months on Sunday afternoon – off to the USA en route to Amsterdam! Fitting 7 months into a suitcase is a difficult exercise, but I ended up having a suitcase weighing less than 18 kgs due to taking only the following essentials (in my mind anyway!)

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  • Warm clothes – including but not limited to the beanie, the scarf, the woollen socks, the thermal top and the puffer jacket. Don’t worry too much about the fact that the puffer jacket looks uncool overseas – it’s super warm and it’s better to buy nice stuff when you arrive overseas!
  • Electronic essentials including the laptop, the headphones and the kindle. I seriously can’t stress how awesome a kindle is – I just downloaded 7 books on it for around $30 in total and that should last me for the whole trip.
  • Sports shoes – great way to keep fit and meet locals.
  • Swiss Army Knife – excellent for travelling, doubles as cutlery and often helps me out of a jam. Just remember to put it in your suitcase, not your carry on or else there could be interesting results.
  • Tie – always handy to have just in case you need it for a formal occasion.
  • Loved items – my wolf Chasseuse was given to me by my girlfriend and she travels with me everywhere I go – look out for her later in my blog! (alternatively look out for her in my blog about travelling through the USA – olivieroverseas.wordpress.com)

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