It all started as a little romance and blossomed into so much more.
I was just 18 years old when I leaped on a plane determined to follow my heart. Perhaps my planning wasn’t up to par, having left myself with only 40 euros in my pocket after quitting my bakery job and splurging everything else on an overseas ticket.
When I set foot on fertile Dutch soil in April of 2009 the scent of flowers washed over me as my hero arrived on the scene with a bouquet of tulips, the national flower.
The perfect welcome to the country I was destined to settle in. We’d met in Ghana, West Africa where he “rescued”me and together we’d travelled for 8 months, north to south, south to north, circumnavigating the entire African continent.
As my romance blossomed now in Europe so did the thousands of flowers in the vast nutrient-rich fields around us. We ventured from Amsterdam’s red light districts and cafes to Bergen’s endless stretches of smooth, sandy coastline to Keukenhof’s colorful garden paths to Volendam’s raw herring on the boardwalk. But it was Alkmaar that captured my heart.
Forty minutes north of Amsterdam, Alkmaar is best known for its cheese market but to me it is home, a peaceful town full of beauty and culture. Holland, or The Netherlands, is known for being flat and at low elevation. Ironically, despite being so low the flatness gives the illusion that you are at the top of the world with nothing towering over you.
Many come to Holland to get a high, but to me I feel high every day, up on a plateau breathing fresh air, the flying clouds passing by like leaping sheep in the blue sky. The sun is always so close like it belongs to Holland and Holland alone.
When I first arrived we lived in a tiny house only a five-minute drive from Alkmaar’s center yet every morning we woke to the raspy call of a rooster. I experienced the best of all worlds with the comforts of modern luxuries and a historic outer shell balanced with the beauty of nature. Every inch of land is cultivated, man-made and manicured to perfection. I loved how you could be in the city shopping one moment and the next you’re amid farmlands speckled with graceful swans and black Frisian beauties.
Lush green grass sways gently in the ever present winds that turn the windmills and spread pollen to thousands of colorful tulips. By bicycle, arched wooden bridges jumping from canal to canal urge you to explore deeper and discover every last inch. It wasn’t until I arrived that my Dutch boyfriend started to see his own city with new eyes. I explained how the red brick roads through the city are a passage into a Disney-like fairytale. I pointed out the brick houses, each one unique and precisely made with such care and detail. I showed him the beauty of the churches which looked more like castles drawn straight out of a fairy land.
Alkmaar was a colorful contrast to my modern world of cold cement, steel and glass giants. Houses which date back as far as the 1600’s with big years labeled on them blow me away even now when I consider that most of them are older than my country.
Parties and festivals are constant in or around Alkmaar.
Everyone loves to come together and express themselves through art and music. Anything from drumming and dancing at festivals; flower art competitions in small villages; enormous concerts; football (soccer) gatherings with helicopters dropping real flowers over the crowd; carnivals in the center of town blocking off streets so kids and parents alike can spend their evenings eating cotton candy and making themselves sick on spinning rides. It’s so alive and welcoming with everyone happy to share and express themselves, unafraid to share a table at a restaurant or bathe topless at the beach while smoking a joint.
Now 22 I’m still in Alkmaar with the love of my life and even today, 3.5 years later, I am overwhelmed by this quaint treasure. I’ve recently completed my first book, “Sihpromatum – I Grew My Boobs in China” which is the start of a series about my life growing up on the road abroad with my family.
I continue to write and be inspired by the genuine beauty around me. I follow my dreams by letting my heart lead the way. It’s taken me this far and I know it will continue to surprise me and fill my life with uncertainty and excitement.
About the author
Savannah Grace was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada. Youngest member of a very adventurous family, she’d visited 30 U.S. states by the age of 7 on various camping trips. At 14 she was pulled out of school to travel the world before returning home 4 years later to graduate from high school. Now 22, she’s traveled to nearly 100 countries and completed her first book “Sihpromatum – I Grew My Boobs in China”. She is currently living with her Dutch partner in The Netherlands, where she continues to write and travel.
Website : http://www.sihpromatum.com/
Family blog since 2005: www.watkinstravel.blogspot.com
Follow on twitter @Sihpromatum