His travel in Holland and a failed photography project taught this Filipino expat the real meaning of travel.
In the winter of 2018, inspired by stunning photos I came across on social media, I decided to embark on a photo project which took place throughout 2019.
My idea was to explore The Netherlands, and photograph its cities, spaces, and landmarks. Despite living here for almost twenty years, I hadn’t got the chance yet to discover its hidden gems. My plan was to visit one Dutch province each month since the Netherlands consists of twelve provinces.
In January I’d begin with North Brabant – the province where I live – and by December, I would have already completed my project. But I soon realized how ambitious the project was. I only managed to do 7 out of 12 provinces, namely, Friesland, Groningen, Utrecht, Gelderland, Zeeland, Noord Brabant, and Limburg.
Learning new skills
According to several studies, learning new skills is beneficial to our brain. When we take some effort to learn something new – say playing a musical instrument or learning a new language, new pathways and connections are created in our brain, making our brain sharper.
With this in mind, I have started exploring photography, learning from the plethora of online photography courses along the way. Armed with my newly purchased DSLR camera, I began traveling throughout the Netherlands and photographed the places and landmarks on my list.
Although traveling alone, I did not feel lonely. In fact, being alone while exploring new places can be meditative. I felt a connection with the craft I was trying to grasp and the places I was trying to photograph. In addition to my new-found skill, my little project allowed me to have enough content for my Instagram. It also inspired me to write.
Giving up the project was not an easy. But it was more time consuming and expensive than I had anticipated. And to be honest, the images I’ve produced are rather disappointing. They lack depth and refinement. Taking photos is one thing but producing an image that captures your viewer’s attention is another level.
Photography is far more challenging than I initially thought. The upside of the project is that I was able to visit places in the Netherlands that I would otherwise have not seen. My project gave me the push that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and to get to know more of the country I now call home.
Appreciating the Netherlands
I often associate vacation with traveling to other countries. Sometimes, it even feels compulsory. “I must spend my vacation outside the Netherlands, otherwise my holiday is wasted.” Vacation often means going to another country.
And it’s not just me. I have noticed that, for most people I’ve met, including members of the Filipino community, they chose holiday destinations outside the Netherlands. Often, when people ask me what my plans are for my holidays, I feel that what they are ultimately asking is: ‘to which country are you visiting on your holiday?’
There is nothing wrong with traveling abroad, as long as our time and finances allow it. Discovering distant places and experiencing other cultures can broaden our horizons.
But for me, it is equally important to explore your backyard, and in my case the Netherlands. There are stunning cities and interesting places within her boundaries that are certainly worth visiting. In fact 7,3 million tourists visited the country in 2020. Although smaller than her neighbors, the Netherlands has diverse scenery, cityscapes, landmarks, and monuments. During my failed photo project, I was able to explore my adoptive country through the lens of a tourist.