Strangled on the Streets of Amsterdam

Strangled on the Streets of Amsterdam

Yes, you read that correctly … strangled. Grabbed from behind, arm wrapped around my neck, forced into a full blown chokehold as I was walking down the street in Amsterdam. And not by some dangerous foreigner lurking in the shrouded shadows of an alleyway … but by a 21-year-old, white American male from Michigan who slept in the bunk next to me in the co-ed hostel.

The trip to Amsterdam started off great. I arrived at the quiet and luxurious Generator Hostel on my first afternoon in the city and promptly met my three roommates in the four-bunk dorm: two girls from England and one guy from the U.S. The girls were traveling together, the guy was solo. The three of us hit it off immediately. All extroverts, all new to the city, and each of us happy to have a cool little group to hang out with in the evenings.

The first night was flawless. Everyone in the group was jet-lagged and exhausted, but the enticement of a new city beckoned us to explore the after-hours parts of Amsterdam you could only do safely in numbers. It was great. Lots of fun, lots of giggles, and lots of, “Oh my, did you see that!?” We made it back safely to the hostel with smiles on our faces and stories to tell.

On the second night, things got weird. The evening started off great – another night of food, fun, dancing, and friends – but then something happened on the way back to the hostel. Timmy started acting strangely. The happy, mild-mannered boy from Michigan turned angry and belligerent. He started yelling. First at strangers, then at the English girls, then at me. His blurted out words turned into incoherent sentences and incoherent sentences turned into loud, angry guttural noises. Clearly something was off.

Now, I hadn’t kept track of Timmy for most of the night. Yes, we went out as a group — we arrived together and left together, as we had agreed upon for safety — but as adults and individuals who had each traveled to a foreign country on their own, the assumption was that everyone could handle themselves. Everyone knew they were traveling to Amsterdam — where stories and stereotypes of pitfalls and temptations were well-known, but surely people would prepare, plan, and act accordingly … right?

As Timmy became increasingly volatile, my natural peacemaker reaction was to calm him down. After all, he was part of our group. He was 21. And most importantly, he was sleeping in the same room as us. I had no clue what substances he had or had not taken, but I’ve dealt with drunks before and I thought surely he’d sober up a bit and just fall asleep once he was back at the hostel. I was dangerously wrong.

As our group walked down the street to catch a cab, Timmy and I got separated from the two girls. He FREAKED OUT. He started screaming at the top of his lungs in the middle of the crowded alleyway. His face turned beet red. Veins started to protrude. His eyes glazed over like a crocodile ready to pounce. And then it happened. Like someone flipped a switch inside his head, Timmy lunged at me with lightening speed. He grabbed my forearm with the force of a wrestler, spun me around backwards with one arm and wrapped his other around my neck. I couldn’t believe what was happening! At first I thought it was a bad teenage joke … really, a chokehold? Is this the WWE? What’s next, a pillow fight!? But then he started to squeeze. Tightly. Like a boa constrictor going in for the kill. Slow and steady. You know how time stands still in the moment of a car accident? That’s what this felt like. I was in shock that it was actually happening, confused by why he was doing it, annoyed he wouldn’t get off me. And then my slow-motion moment caught up to real-time panic. I suddenly realized the frightening reality of what was happening. He squeezed tighter and tighter. I got mad. He started to lift my body off the ground with the force of his forearm. Then I got angry. My fight or flight kicked in and I got violent. I jabbed him as hard as I could with my free elbow. He barely loosened his grip around my neck but released my other arm which had been pinned behind my back. I stomped his foot, he squeezed tighter. I took both of my hands, reached up to his arm wrapped around my throat, and gouged my short little nails into his skin as hard as humanly possible. That did it! He squealed with the voice of a second-grade school girl, “Ooww! You hurt me!” I broke free. I jumped from his clutches, spun around and said, “WHAT THE F*@! ARE YOU DOING!?!? I’m out of here … you’re on your own now!” His response, he lunged at me again! Only this time he didn’t have the element of surprise. He barely got a hold of my wrist. I started yelling, “Get off me! GET AWAY FROM ME! F*@! YOU!” People started to take notice of what was happening as I yanked myself away and fled in the opposite direction. Shockingly … he came after me AGAIN! This time, flight was the best option. I quickly maneuvered away from him and immediately ducked into a crowd of people waiting outside at a nearby club. Timmy headed for the crowd. I yelled, “Please help, I don’t know that guy! He just attacked me!” The crowd jumped into action and shielded me. The bouncer at the door stepped in and grabbed Timmy. Finally, some help! Two other men stepped in and hauled Timmy off by force as he fought and yelled the whole way down the street.

I stood there shaking. Thankful to be alive. Dumbfounded by what just happened and utterly appreciative it hadn’t been worse. A string of “what ifs” started playing through my head … what if I had been drunk, what if he had been bigger, what if this had happened IN the hostel!? The reality of the situation sank in as my adrenaline burned off and the crowd around me subsided. Then I realized, I had to go back to the same shared room. All of my things were there. But surely he wouldn’t be. Surely he had been arrested or detained or something and wouldn’t be waiting for me in the room.

I collected my confidence and headed back to the hostel. Sure enough, Timmy was there. He hadn’t been arrested. He hadn’t been detained. But at least he had been stopped. Bloody and groggy, Timmy mumbled incoherently from his top bunk as I stealthily gathered up my things and moved out of the room.

I never saw Timmy again.

The experience left me a little shaken but a little wiser to the world. Things CAN happen out there, and they will, when you least expect it by the most unexpected. Luckily, I was able to draw upon a few basics lessons I learned growing up in Texas: remain vigilant, use your voice, fight like a girl, say your prayers, and retreat but never surrender. I don’t blame the city – Amsterdam was absolutely wonderful. It turned out to be my best adventure and favorite place in Europe. And in the end, at least I survived … and have one hell of a story to tell!

Timmy the Strangler just hours before the incident

Favorite Cities in New Zealand

Favorite Cities in New Zealand

I LOVE New Zealand. I spent almost three weeks traversing both islands top to bottom, from Auckland to Invercargill. I was blown away by the nature and wonder around every corner and equally impressed with the cool communities nestled alongside the scenery. Here’s a look at city life from my top three spots in New Zealand:

WELLINGTON • North Island

It’s easy to see why Lonely Planet called Wellington the “Coolest Little Capital in the World,” in 2011. Hip and trendy pubs, bars, restaurants, and craft breweries line the serpentine streets, and every neighborhood seems to have a unique and colorful vibe of their own.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

HAWKE’S BAY • North Island

The southeastern coastal region of Hawke’s Bay is a favorite holiday destination for Kiwis, and for good reason! The neighboring cities of Napier and Hastings welcome tourists with black sand beaches, delicious food, bountiful orchards, and exquisite vineyards. Plus, Napier is home to more than a dozen little blue penguins, found in the National Aquarium of New Zealand.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

QUEENSTOWN • South Island

Ah, the beauty of Queenstown! Located between sculpted mountains and crystal clear waters, this resort town offers thrill-seeking adventure and jaw-dropping wonder for people of all ages. Skyline Gondola provides picturesque views of the city, Kiwi Birdlife Park allows visitors to get up and personal with the country’s national animal, and if you’re daring enough to try, Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge is the world’s first permanent commercial bungee site.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Four Islands in Fourteen Days

Four Islands in Fourteen Days

Well, I survived! Four Hawaiian islands in fourteen days all by myself over the Christmas holiday. I wasn’t sure what to expect — would it be easy to travel between islands, would it be as expensive as everyone warned, would I find places to stay, and the big question — would I survive Christmas by myself!?

The answer to all is, yes! I survived Christmas, found lodging, spent money (but also saved money by reaching out to friends of friends), and easily explored each island with the help of rental cars and flights with Hawaiian Airlines. There were some emotional ups and downs, of course, but it’s all part of the journey and I’m thankful and delighted I went through with the trip, tried something new, and made the most of my Hawaiian journey!

Here’s a look at the Hawaiian sights from my perspective — and don’t forget to check out my Instagram feed for daily photos from my travels! Mahalo!


THE ISLAND OF HAWAII 

 

MAUI

 

KAUAI

 

OAHU

 

The First 100 Days

The First 100 Days

Today marks 100 days since I quit my job to travel full time! Even though it’s only been a few short months, it feels like an entire lifetime by since I was stuck in the 8-5 grind, trying to decide how to make a bold move in life.

And now, I wake up every day — usually in a different city — thankful and amazed that I have the opportunity to live the life I always imagined. Each day is a completely different routine and there are definitely ups and downs along the way, but somehow it feels like the perfect fit. Many days I’m not sure where I’ll be sleeping that night, and most days my travel direction is based only on a gut feeling or desire to see something new — and while that may sound crazy to some people, it’s been absolutely liberating. So far, I’ve traveled to 4 countries, 21 American states, and driven more than 14 thousand miles by myself! Here’s a quick look at some of my favorite places and sights along the way.

 

Quick and Current Update – Ireland

Quick and Current Update – Ireland

Hello, friends! If you’re following along with my adventure on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll see I’m a couple of weeks into my travels – but still at the front part of my blog! I’m so linear with certain things, I feel I have to go in order with my blog posts … but I wanted to stay current and dive right into where I’m at now. So, I’m throwing linear organization to the wind and jumping ahead five or six articles!

Yesterday, I wrapped-up 17 days in the UK and headed to Ireland. The trip thus so far had been filled with beautiful scenery, sleepy towns and bustling cities. London was an explosion of culture, tastes, transportation – and surprisingly – gorgeous weather! There have been some ups and downs though … about a week and a half into my journey I hit an emotionally gloomy patch. Rainy days coupled with fear of the unknown had me in tears and telling myself, “I can always go home tomorrow.” A little ridiculous, I know, but those feelings were very real and part of my journey. I’m a hundred times better now and feel that with the help of sunny skies, lots of prayers – and a few calls to mom – I’ve gotten over the hump and I’m starting to get my rhythm back. The rhythm and comfortable confidence of … “I can do this.” I enjoy meeting new people, seeing new places, and exploring on my own. I’m excited to be in a new country, and even more excited to see what this country has in store for me. I have peace knowing that I still can go home tomorrow … but until then, it’s one foot in front of the other while giving this adventure the best effort I can!

Here’s a quick look at my first 24 hours in Ireland, all shot in Dublin with my new Samsung Galaxy S8+!

And my first meal … Guinness and Beef casserole! Ahhh, it’s like you’re right here with me!

 

New York in the New Year

New York in the New Year

This year, I decided to kickstart my yearly adventures with a trip to New York City. I love using federal holidays as my motivation for a vacation—and I knew the MLK weekend fell within the first few weeks of January. I scored a low-cost, non-stop plane ticket through my favorite, no-hassle airline, and I was on my way!

It’s easy to see why people fall in love with the Big Apple—the people, the buildings, the energy! Sophistication entwined with grittiness, midtown traffic mixed with tourists, and the palpable electricity of the hustle.

I enjoyed submerging myself in the sights and sounds of the city—getting caught up in the current from time to time, peddling as fast as I could to keep up and look like a local. My proudest moment (second only to successfully navigating the subway) was when a New York native exchanged glances with me while waiting for a newcomer to awkwardly enter the turnstile. “Pfft, tourist,” he scoffed. I, of course, echoed his sentiment with a slight eye-roll and smile, “ugh, I know!” I felt as if I’d just been handed keys to the city.

NYC panorama w logo2

Adventure, new sights and sounds, and lessons from another city are right around the corner. Throw a dart, pick a place, make a plan, save some funds—a new perspective is well within your grasp!

Finding Adventure in Your Own Town

Finding Adventure in Your Own Town

With a 9-5 desk job, I try to jam-pack my weekends with road trips, airline flights, music festivals or activities with friends. But sometimes, a relaxing weekend at home is just what you need to recharge, recuperate, and unpack! I recently opted for the lazy weekend at home in Texas, and it was there that I found some of the best, and cutest, adventures waiting for me.

12801124_10102558021341613_3352923738698513037_n
For any good adventure, I grab my dogs and camera and hop in the car. Here the girls pose with local street art.
IMG_9107 72dpi
Llamas! Just goes to show, you never know what you’ll find along the backroads of Texas.
IMG_9127 72dpi
Wind in the hair and sun in the sky — the open road beckons.
IMG_9187 72dpi
A quick stop in downtown Waco to pose with the landmarks.
IMG_9156 72dpi
I love how nature finds a way to bloom, even in the smallest of spaces.
IMG_9121 72dpi
“You can observe a lot by just watching.” Yogi Berra
IMG_9131
Beautiful backroad reminders of a long history and a fleeting journey.
IMG_9147 72dpi
The kids are spent, time to head home. Until next time!