We spent a short three days in the Netherlands and honestly it was exhausting. Our plane landed in Eindhoven late Wednesday, June 28. We stayed until Sunday and flew out around sunrise. I wanted to stay longer and we would have. But, as anyone who’s ever visited Amsterdam knows, it’s not cheap. Anything you want can be found in the Venice of The North (a nickname owed to the cities sprawling canal system). Unfortunately such good service comes at a cost. It was a shock to the system seeing a plain cheese burger with fries cost 15 euros at a run down dive bar Justin and I stopped in for lunch one day. Everyone in Amsterdam is an expert at up-selling, and they do so freely and without worry of losing business. They don’t care if the price tags turn you off. It’s a city filled with wealthy tourists. If you aren’t willing to pay, there’s at least a dozen more who will. Finding anywhere cheap (or even reasonably priced by a foreigners standards) can seen nearly impossible. But I promise you it’s not. Having a good time in Amsterdam on a college students budget without going broke is totally doable. It just takes a bit of planning and a good budget. My advice, start with finding a place to stay. During the summer months when tourism season is at it’s peak, hostels in the city can cost around 30 euros a bed, at the cheapest. Airbnb has become the most economical option. But they tend to go fast so book well in advance. With time and a little digging you can always, always find a great deal, even at the last minute. I’ve learned that from more than a few last minute cancellations and frantic online searches. Amsterdam was the first. I’d found a deal on Airbnb that included two bikes with lock boxes on the bank and single person tents in each. There’s a few camp sites around the city where we could set them up each night. I chose a one called Camping Zeeburg based on the recommendation of a Brazilian girl who’d stayed a few days at our Airbnb in Rome. I booked it firstly because it was one of the few still available, but also the cheapest option by far. I understood why. We’d have to take the bus into the city to pick up the bikes at a rental place early in the morning. There was nowhere to store our luggage so we’d need to pay 10 euros daily to keep most of it in a locker at Amsterdam Central Station. In one of the pictures on Airbnb I could see the tents were long, allowing one person and not much else to fit comfortably inside. Also, there wasn’t a door, just an open front for your feet to stick out of while you slept. It wasn’t the easiest or most comfortable way to experience the city, far from it. I could see why it was still available. Still, the whole idea appealed to me, less so for Justin who’s never camped before. But we both agreed it would be an adventure so I booked it. Just imagine how I felt when I got an email saying our host cancelled our booking three days before we were supposed to check. I never got a reason why. Airbnb fully refunded us. But the $107 I’d spent on our first choice would barely pay a night (maybe not even that) at any of the hostels or hotels in the city that still had rooms. We didn’t panic. Flexibility and a level head are essential skills for traveling. Especially when you have no money, no plan, no idea how to speak the language, and only the most basic knowledge of the given region. I tried to think logically. The bikes and tents we originally planned to rent weren’t an option, but camping still could be. Not having bikes would be a bummer but not a detriment. Public transport is readily available in the Netherlands, same with most of Europe. The only problem was sleeping. Buying or renting a tent would be tricky. Fortunately we didn’t have to. Camping Zeeburg is a grassy island sitting on the edge of lake Ijmeer, right near the mouth of the Buiten canal. On its 10 acres of land is a shop, a bar, an outdoors outfitter that offers bike and canoe rentals, three bathrooms with showers, and an outdoor kitchen. As for accommodations, you can choose between setting up a tent in one of the many open fields, parking a camper in the grassy lot to the side of the entrance, renting a cabin, or the much cheaper alternative, a waggonette. Having no other alternative we chose the latter. The waggonette’s are small two-wheel portable houses with a wooden deck. They look like those Uhaul trailers parents rent for moving their kids into college. Inside is a bunk bed against the back wall, a shelf, desk and two chairs all made of wood. The waggonette is made with some type of aluminum or thin steel. The inside is painted white and condensation collects on the sides and the curved ceiling in the mornings. I slept on the top bunk and found that out when I was woken up in the morning by a cold drop of water. The outsides are painted a combination of bright colors ranging from, orange, green, purple, red, yellow, blue and more. The rest of the camp was equally colorful. The cabins were also multi-hued, each a different set of colors with one primary. The tents, though not as bright turned the fields into a grassy painter’s palette, speckled with the muted colors of the tents. I’m sure the Camping Zeeburg has graced the presence of many an Instagram account. We booked a wagonette for the night of the 29 but planned to spend a good part of the day there. There were none open for the 30. Our hope was that one might open up at the last minute. If not, we’d have to get a cheap hotel far from the city. The last night would be spent in the airport waiting for our early morning flight. We planned to do the same the Wednesday we flew in. Our plane wouldn’t be landing in Eindhoven until 10 p.m., and Amsterdam was over an hour away by train. Unfortunately, it seemed other forces were working against us. The airport closes at 11, and though you are allowed to stay the night, it comes at a lofty price (at least for a broke college kid). The Tulip Inn is a modern three-star hotel located within the terminal, more correctly above it and the cheapest room costs around 120 euros. I imagine they must do quite well, given it’s the only hotel within walking distance of the airport. This was the first of many clever money making tricks I noticed the Dutch employ. Like I said everyone in the Netherlands wants to make money, and boy are they good at it. We tried to find somewhere cheaper and then realized a bigger issue. Nearly every place was completely booked. We got a taxi to drive us to a Best Western in town. According to a booking website they had rooms. This proved false and our journey continued to another hotel down the road, also full. It was nearing midnight. Both of us had over 20 pounds of luggage on our backs (which I will you is a much bigger strain for me than Justin). We did finally find a hotel with an open room that night. Sinking into those hotel bedsheets that night felt as good as if they were silk and downy feathers. Despite the stress and exhaustion, I’d still enjoyed walking the streets of Eindhoven. It was my first real taste of the region and it’s people. Bikers passed us, even late at night. The streets were clean. Everything was clean. The city smelled GOOD. I’d also noticed how easily I fit in among the locals. They looked like me, pale skin, blond hair, blue eyes. Even my hair, which I’d buzzed months before and had only just grown enough to qualify as a pixie cut, didn’t stand out like it normally does. It felt like a place I belonged. I couldn’t wait for Amsterdam.

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