I’m cycling through Amsterdam’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an enduring testimony to the city’s rich history. During the Golden Age in the 17th century, Amsterdam’s port was at the center of a global trade network, with ships sailing to Asia, Africa, the Americas, and merchants trading goods across Europe.
In this city of openness to the world, I was born and raised. This might have triggered in me the openness to experience, which involves active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, preference for variety and intellectual curiosity.
I pass in front of Paradiso, the iconic rock music venue where bands like The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, The Cure and Nirvana performed. Along with the nearby Milky Way, it became synonymous with the hippie counterculture and the rock music of the ‘70s.
This is all part of my childhood scenery and part of who I am now, influenced by the rebellious movement of rock and the ideology of flower-power. I turn right and then left and cycle along the Prinsengracht, one of the main canals, where warehouses built in the 17th century are still in good shape.
Much has changed since then: in those days merchants traveling to Brazil were away for months, maybe even years. Today, businessmen fly to São Paulo and are back in the polder within days.
I pass the house where Anne Frank lived, talking about an authentic story, and enter the Jordaan neighborhood where strolling through the small streets and drinking café latte has become the favorite pastime of the locals.
When I was only sixteen I heard this quote of one of the great men in this world, Mahatma Gandhi. He said: A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do.”
Since then my quest in life has been to take action, experience adventure, step out of my comfort zone and create the man I want to be: ‘the sum of my actions.’
I turn right at the end of the canal, zigzag through some smaller streets and end up in front of Central Station. I now enter the oldest part of town where the sailors and merchants set sail in their wooden ships, ‘the port of Amsterdam’. Now, 670 years after Amsterdam received city rights, my quest for adventure and my trip around the world started at the same point from where explorers left for their overseas journeys.
I traveled to all the continents, admired many of the beautiful places on this planet, met interesting people and experienced the different cultures. And by doing so, changing the outcome of the sum of my actions. Changing the man who I was and who I want to be.
Founder – CoolBrands NextWorld Storytelling
Maarten Schafer – Around the World in 80 Brands
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