Category: Confident Travelling

Confident Travelling: Too Good to Be True

When Justin and I booked our anniversary vacation to Punta Cana, I thought I was going to die. I don’t mean in an “over the moon” excited way. I mean I had an irrepressible fear that we would crash into the ocean. Though in the past few years I have become a more confident traveller, I haven’t lost my fear of flying, particularly over water.

I generally don’t let my fear stop me but for some reason with this trip, just after we had finalized our plans, I started to panic. Whenever I thought about our vacation, I didn’t feel excited or filled with anticipation. Instead my tummy would clench, I’d feel a little shaky and I’d get terrified that I’d have to cancel. I was so convinced something serious was going to happen I made sure our wills were in order before we left.

I didn’t know why this trip was particularly terrifying and that only made it worse, making me feel that I was having some kind of premonition. The only thing that helped me let that go was realizing that I had recently seen a movie that involved a plane crashing in the ocean and the experience of watching it was so visceral that I was sure it must have triggered this anxiety.

It was only on our second last day of vacation that I realized what had actually been going on, where my fear and belief in my imminent doom had come from.

The trip was too good to be true.

Sounds weird, right?

But this trip was so dreamy, so beautiful, so longed for over such a period of time, that I couldn’t actually see myself there.

Because I couldn’t envision the possibility, there was just a dark, blank space in an unimaginable future and that felt like death to me.

I’m so glad that I didn’t let my fear stop me because not only did I have one of the most beautiful experiences of my life but I also expanded my belief in what is possible for me.

So many times Justin and I would be having an exquisite moment – standing by ourselves under the big full moon watching its powerful light glinting off the rolling waves… lying in heated outdoor beds listening to the birds while having head massages… sitting on a balcony drinking champagne and watching the sun go down – and I would turn to him and say…

“I can’t believe this is real.”

But it was real and I am filled with gratitude at being able to experience it.  And I want to hold it in my heart fiercely as proof that more is possible than we imagine.


Confident Travelling: Rotterdam


Our last adventure in Holland was visiting the city of Rotterdam. It’s very modern and the largest port city in Europe. In fact, it’s one of the busiest ports in the world. It doesn’t have the same older buildings we saw in so much of Holland because of a devastating bombing during the Second World War. My father-in-law told us this building on the left is known as their “White House.” It was the only building in the area that survived the bombs

Rotterdam Ship Museum

Rotterdam’s identity as a port city could be felt with every step. Boats upon boats, everywhere! In this dock, many of the boats had information about their use and their history and you could even go aboard for a tour.

Rotterdam Water Taxi

The one boat that we did go on was a water taxi!

Hotel New York

We took it out to the Hotel New York. This is a very significant location for Justin’s family. It is where his parents boarded a boat bound for Canada. While we were there, my father-in-law Chris remembered what it was like to say goodbye to his father and take his young bride to a new country, the place where he would live for many years and where both his sons would be born.

Hotel New York Rotterdam

We stopped inside for a lovely lunch. I made sure to have the Dutch classic croquette one more time!

Jamie & Justin in Rotterdam
photo by Christiaan Visser

Our trip was coming to a close and we were already reminiscing about the wonderful time we’d had, the great adventures, the visits with family, all the wonderful memories. This is one of my favourite pictures from the whole trip. Thank you, Chris!


And what better way to end our journey than to get up high for some perspective! The Euromast is like a tall ship mast with a crow’s nest observatory, including an exquisite restaurant and two hotel rooms, one named Heaven and the other Stars!

Rotterdam from Euromast

Now, I get a little wobbly with heights and Justin and Chris went up even higher than I did but wow, the view of Rotterdam from Euromast was worth it! Beautiful!

Tree in Rotterdam

As we walked back to the car, ready to wrap up our Holland adventure, the sun caught our eye and drew us into this little park. What a moment!

Leaving RotterdamAs we continued our meandering, getting ready to leave Rotterdam, the sun started its gentle fall. The light blessed us and the city and it’s lowering told us this day and this journey was drawing to a close.

Sharing adventures brings us closer together. I’m so glad to have experienced Holland with Justin and his father and it has been a joy to share it with you. I hope you’ve been inspired and maybe even picked up a couple of tips to do some confident travelling of your own.

Confident Travelling: Utrecht


After Amsterdam we took a day to visit with Justin’s family, sharing dinner and lively conversation at his Aunt’s home. It was so wonderful to hear family stories and shared memories. A quiet day gave us a chance to get our energy back before our next outing and adventure: Utrecht.

Confident Traveller Tip: Consider taking a gentle day to relax and drink in local life when you travel. The world is vast and we can’t see everything. Slowing down a bit here and there can help us be present with what we do get to, especially if we’re highly sensitive people!

Utrecht Street View

Justin and I liked Utrecht the moment we arrived. As the day went on, we realized it was the cultural vibe of the city that was drawing us in. Later we found out that Utrecht has the second most cultural events in Holland after Amsterdam. It’s also home to the largest university in Holland and several other institutes of higher learning. We were even approached by film students who were set up in the middle of the street to interview people about their relationship to time. Too bad we didn’t have time to stop, LOL!

Utrecht Statue
Having said that, our exploring in Utrecht was very relaxed, wandering here and there and discovering beauty everywhere…

Utrecht Boulder

From elegant statues to a giant runestone! This is a replica of one of the the Jelling Stones and was gifted to Utrecht University celebrate their 300-year anniversary in 1936. As a Canadian, that means the university is older than my country!

Utrecht Arched Hallway

Beside the runestone we found a beautiful arched entryway leading to the Pandhof garden of the Dom Church.

Utrecht Quad

Dating back to 1390, this beautiful spot has no doubt welcomed centuries of quiet reflection and deep conversation.

Beers in Utrecht

However, for deep conversation, we went out for a beer! I think we managed to stop for a beer in just about every place we went in Holland. One of the things that was quite different about Utrecht was the lower level canal and these interesting restaurants a level down by the water.

Utrecht Cats #catsinthehood

Of course, the area did have a few scallywags!

Utrecht Shop

The shops in Utrecht were charming and though I don’t tend to do much shopping when I travel, this one had me stop and walk back to it after I caught sight of some beautiful handmade mugs. Thanks to my lovely father-in-law Chris, I brought one home. Now my morning koffie can bring me back to Holland anytime.

Utrecht Shop Cat

Confident Travelling: Amsterdam (Day Two): Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum & Rijksmuseum

Amsterdam Morning

Good morning, Amsterdam! On our second day in this beautiful city, we woke up early so we could spend the day going to galleries and museums. And did we ever!

Confident Traveller Tip: I’ve always heard people talk about asking your concierge for things like dinner recommendations and reservations and I never did it. I think I was shy to ask and kind of didn’t want to be a bother. (I’m Canadian, after all!) Success with our dinner reservations started to change my mind and the advice and help we received with museum bookings sealed the deal! Our concierge let us know that the best time to get in line for the Anne Frank Museum was before it opened and they also purchased and printed online admission for us to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, allowing us to bypass the lines and save a lot of time. It was absolutely not a bother and made a big difference. In the future, I won’t hesitate to take advantage of the help that is available and I hope that now you will too!

Anne Frank Museum

We took our concierge’s advice and got into line for the Anne Frank Museum a half hour before it opened and still the queue was around the corner! Clearly this is one of the touchstones of Amsterdam. No photos are allowed inside so I can’t take you in there with me. I can say that visiting the place where Anne and her family went into hiding during the Second World War was profoundly moving. Seeing pictures or models doesn’t capture the oppression you feel when you step into a room where the windows are blacked out so that not a hint of light can come in and not a chance of a sighting can be had.

I was struck by three things most strongly during our time in this house. One, that everyone involved in this moment in history, those who did great good and those who did great evil are just people. It kept ringing in my heart, “They’re just people. We’re all just people.”  Two, upon reading Anne Frank’s diary, her father discovered an entirely different girl than the one he knew as his daughter. In a video recording, he wondered whether it is possible for parents to ever really know their children. Three, again and again and again I was struck by the simple and profound power of having a journal, of having a safe place for our thoughts, our dreams, our selves. It led me to recommitting to a project that I hope to launch next year.

Van Gogh Museum

After visiting with Anne Frank, it was good for us to take a long walk through the city to find the Van Gogh Museum. This place is a treasure trove! Unfortunately, this is the only spot in the museum that they allow you to take photos, so I’ve brought some postcards to share too.

Van Gogh Postcards

This museum is an incredible way to experience Van Gogh’s oeuvre. We followed the chronological presentation of the work through several rooms and floors. I loved how the progression was then divided into different themes or periods of exploration. What moved me deeply was experiencing Van Gogh as an artist through his work. I left feeling fascinated and wanted to know more. I’ve found myself slowly reading through his collection of letters, which is available online through the museum.


And then, the Rijksmuseum. We had heard from everyone about the amazing 10-year renovation project the museum had undergone and wow, it lived up to every word! This is a big, beautiful and impressive museum with a rich collection. Clearly we could have spent all day just here. On the advice of the concierge at our hotel,  we focused on The Gallery of Honour,  where we saw exquisite work including Rembrandt’s Night Watch . One of my favourites was The Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn. It caught my eye, right over there on the left.

Confident Traveller’s Tip: It’s hard to admit but often you simply can’t see everything that you want to on a trip. Instead of getting stressed out or trying to make tough decisions in the moment, take some enjoyable, relaxed time over coffee in the morning or even before you go to peruse the options and set your priorities. That way you won’t miss out on the key pieces that will make your trip memorable for you.

The Night Watch Rembrandt

Wherever I go, I love experiencing school groups learning about art. It’s fascinating to watch the reactions, from intrigued to bored silly. In this group, as soon as the instructor stopped talking, they all jumped up and started taking selfies with this masterpiece! I always wonder which kids have had an art seed planted in them right here in this moment, one that will last a lifetime.

Rijksmuseum Library

And speaking of lasting a lifetime, look at this incredible collection at the library in the Rijksmuseum. I couldn’t help but think that the mere existence of a library could one day become museum-worthy as a representation of how we used to gather and share information in the past.

There was so much to see that we took in as much as we possibly could until we heard the closing announcement and knew that our day was coming to a close.


It was so easy to fall in love with Amsterdam.

Goodies Amsterdam

It was time to slow down the pace a bit so we stopped to have a relaxed bite and a beer at Goodies.  It was just perfect and felt exactly like the kind of place that we would go to at home. Amsterdam felt really liveable to us, very familiar but also very fresh. We were able to communicate wherever we went with English and that was a very big help. Though it is still very nice to say to everyone, “Dank je wel.”

Goodbye Amsterdam

Dank je wel, Amsterdam. We had a magical time with you and look forward to seeing you again.

Confident Travelling: Amsterdam (Day One) Maritime Museum, Sebastian’s & Belhamel

Amsterdam Train Station

Midway through our trip, Justin and I planned a two-day visit to Amsterdam. Along with Justin’s dad, Chris, we took the train from Den Haag and once we arrived, it didn’t take long to feel like we could have stayed for two weeks!

Marine Museum Amsterdam

Our first stop was at the Maritime Museum or Het Scheepvaartmuseum , which was a delight of wonder. First we stepped onto an exact replica of the Dutch East India Company ship the Amsterdam. It seemed to me such a great adventure to brave a cross-Atlantic flight and come to Holland; I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to sail for days and days on a ship like this, perhaps to parts unknown. What an enormous amount of courage and fortitude! Perhaps that’s another reason that I found these ship decorations hauntingly beautiful.

Marine Instruments

The museum has a gorgeous exhibit of nautical instruments. I found the display spell-binding. The walls sparkled with constellations and accompanied by great explanations of how sailors used the stars to navigate. The beautiful presentation evoked a sense of mystery and wonder.

Marine Paintings

The museum also housed an impressive collection of marine paintings and again, you could feel how deeply Holland’s history and culture is tied to ships and the sea. It was fascinating that alongside this work, there was an interactive exhibit of the port as it is today, including information about actual ships and the jobs they currently do

Walking in Amsterdam

After the Maritime Museum, Chris left us to our own devices and we spent some time simply walking , taking in Amsterdam.

Pannenkoeken in Amsterdam

We stopped for pannenkoeken and some coffee and started to think about what we might want to do during our stay.

Hotel Sebastian's

Time to get settled and drop our stuff off in our hotel. What a delight! We booked just a few days before and risked a no-cancellation reservation to get a good price for our stay. It was our one night in the city and we wanted to pick somewhere that felt special and Sebastian’s certainly did.

Confident Traveller Hotel Recommendation: Hotel Sebastian’s in Amsterdam. We were absolutely delighted by every aspect of our experience at Sebastian’s. It’s on a lovely tree-lined canal street a bit away from the city crowds. From the moment we arrived, the staff was friendly, helpful and had great recommendations. The room was exactly as pictured on their website. It was beautiful, clean, comfortable and quiet with a great view.

Walking In Amsterdam

One of the things Justin and I truly delight in when travelling is simply walking. We love walking through a city and getting a feel for it, looking at the buildings, the businesses, taking in the people, the fashions, the pace. Walking is a great way to get a sense of what a city is all about.

Cat in Amsterdam

And besides, it’s the best way to find cats!

Amsterdam Flower Market

We walked down to the Amsterdam flower market and I wanted to bring everything home! Maybe that was my inspiration for planting tulip bulbs as soon as I got home!

Champagne in Amsterdam

After a full afternoon of walking in the city, it was just perfect to sit in our hotel room, open the big, beautiful windows and pour ourselves some chilled champagne. Thank you, Sebastian’s, for making our special time in Amsterdam even more magical!

Belhamel Amsterdam

The hotel also gave us a list of recommendations of nearby restaurants, ones that are off the tourist path. We chose De Belhamel and the concierge made us a reservation. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Belhamel managed to be both lively and intimate, cozy and romantic and the food was very, very good! Midway through the evening it struck me that this was exactly the evening I had dreamed of having in Paris but here it was in Amsterdam. My heart was full of gratitude and love.