amsterdam, Personal, Stories, Travels

Once upon a spot – a Spotted by Locals tale

It was 2013. I had just quit my hospitality job, and I didn’t have a plan. So I did what many of us do: decided to escape the burden of not knowing what to do with my life by going traveling. I booked an inter-rail ticket which would last for one month. Once it was over I’d see what I’d do. I had never travelled alone in my entire life, at least not more than five days in a row, and to places where I’d always visited friends. Right now I was travelling alone-alone, to countries where I didn’t know a single soul. I had worked enough to maintain myself for a few months without a job so there I went. I started in Italy.

sarajevo
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Long story short, I surfed couches of strangers all the way: Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, and finally, Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the first month I used my inter-rail ticket. Mini-buses took me around Eastern Europe during the second month and a half. I did have a lot of guidance from my couchsurfing hosts, but they too had to work, and had private lives and busy schedules, so I’ve spent a good deal of time exploring unknown cities on my own. This was when I found a website that allowed for a turning point in the way I travelled: Spotted by Locals. From then on I didn’t have to waste time with touristy stuff and could dive directly into what really interested me: the places frequented by locals. The real life of the cities, thus. No more Lonely Planets nor guides written for the “general public”. Now I could travel ‘independently’ because I had access to the info I needed to navigate every city in the way I wanted, and could ditch the time spent on endless research, in favor of more time spent exploring. For a person like me who dislikes the hassle of travel planning, and tends to improvise as she goes, SbL was THE THING.

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One of the first spots I discovered thanks to SbL, in Zagreb, Croatia

Two months and a half had passed when I finally retreated to Amsterdam. I hadn’t have any epiphany on what to do with my life as I had hoped, but one thing I knew: I wanted to write about everything I had experienced, from every country’s hidden gems to every single person I met. Connecting on such an intimate level with so many generous people who offered me a place to sleep, a meal, and their company, was life-changing. The kindness of complete strangers has never ceased to amaze me. In Amsterdam I got visited by many of those strangers-turned-friends. Three of them moved to Amsterdam, and became some of my best friends (!). Proud Amsterdammer as I was, I wanted every visitor to experience the very things I loved about my step-city. I shaped that love in itineraries and tips for everyone who stayed over. A couple of years later my blog Amsterdive became the center of my life. Spotted by Locals remained my trusted companion every time I traveled. I used it again in 2017 during my trips to London, Copenhagen and Oslo, that some of you might have followed on my insta-stories. Eventually, the sensible thing to do was to to give back to the community. In December 2018, I finally became a spotter.

sympla, hungary
Sympla, Budapest, Hungary

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present you with my first batch of articles for the Amsterdam blog of Spotted by Locals: here is a bouquet of my absolute favorites in the city I call home. Places where I’ve made my first friends and acquaintances, events that helped me ground and create roots in a new culture, locations where I fell in love. In the meanwhile I learned to speak fluent Dutch, changed jobs, saw romantic relashionships fall apart, moved houses countless times, had a nervous meltdown, crafted new professional paths. After seven years these remain THE SPOTS. Here are some remarkable moments tied to them:

At the Ping Pong Night I met one of my best friends, Linda Nouta. Funnily enough, I’ve never played Ping-Pong there for fear of embarrassing myself.

At the NDSM I’ve attended my first ever Burning Man event, have jumped naked in the Ij, and have fallen in love, among many other charming things.

At MKZ I have learned that a complete vegan meal can cost five euros as long as I am willing to wash my own dishes, seat at a communal table, and listen to punk rock during the course of the feast. Which I totally am.

At pub Soundgarden I made the first friends in this city and have played table-soccer tournaments as if there were no tomorrow.

I bought this year’s birthday gift for my best-friend at Antiquariaat Hoogkamp, and I swear you can find something there for you best-friend too.

At De Ceuvel I watched a lecture by one of my favorite Dutch thinkers, Jan Geurtz, and followed a workshop on “Meaningful Work and Money”.

Sauna Deco, at the Herengracht canal, was one of the highlights of 2018, and I’d advise everyone to take their partner there.

At Ij-Hallen I have proceeded with my career as a flea-market vendor, which I had started in Lisbon’s Feira da Ladra. I dropped the activity in the meanwhile but still adore the place.

I have seen some of the best theater shows in my life at International Theatre Amsterdam.

Seats2meet made me feel important because I was working at the grandiose historic building of the Beurs van Berlage. Good news: so can you. Free of charge.

Brouwerij aan’t Ij was the place that taugh me that more than two craft beers before dinner is a no-go.

At Latei I have had coffees + cakes with so many humans I love.

I have kissed people at Pacific Parc. Let’s leave it at that.

I have never fallen in love at Mezrab but I secretly hope I will!

Before you go, did you know that Spotted by Locals are on a Crowdfunding mission? We are expanding to 15 new lesser known cities around the globe! “This will help move tourists (and their dollars) from popular tourist destinations to cities that can really use the positive economic impact of tourism.”. By supporting our project you are not only helping to combat overtourism, but you’re also in for an  awesome deal: for € 50 you get access for life to all our city guide apps (worth EUR 325).

That’s it for now, folks! Which spots did you already know, and which are a complete novelty? Tell me everything! In any case, I sincerely hope you get all itchy to go explore. Thank you so much everyone for reading!

6 thoughts on “Once upon a spot – a Spotted by Locals tale”

  1. I love how your stories begin 🙂 .. Your website has always been the spotted by a local version of Amsterdam for me. I hope I tick a few more of those boxes every time I am there.

    Errm and I thought that Mezrab thought was only in my head 😀

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