Over the last week I’ve been in Germany, Amsterdam, and Paris. After a quiet stay in Konstanz, I arrived in Amsterdam early Tuesday morning on an overnight bus. I walked out of the central station and stood in awe of the architecture and energy of the city. After two weeks in Germany I felt a strange sense of comfort at the panhandler asking me for change in English. The European influence that gives New Orleans so much character is humbled by the buildings in Europe.
The canals give Amsterdam an incredible unique atmosphere.
I came to Amsterdam to see if I could find any other performers, and because, well, it’s Amsterdam. I don’t party anywhere near as much as I did as a younger man, and didn’t even sit in one of the world famous coffeeshops (when traveling I take tolerance breaks). Coming from Washington state where marijuana is legal the notion lacked the novelty it once had.
Unfortunately, smack dab in the middle of Dam Square where most of the street shows are held, there was a giant volleyball court set up complete with a sand court and grandstands — it seemed I’d fallen on the wrong side of the unpredictability of street theater. There would be no big circle shows here to study.
However, I was still in Amsterdam — not all was lost. I made a few attempts at performing on one of the smaller spots and still made a little bit of money. I also spent an inordinate amount of time in coffee houses — actually just drinking coffee — and doing all of the planning I should have done months ago. I had a couch surfing host lined up in Amsterdam, and this is where I encountered the first unfortunate backlash of improvising so much of the trip.
It went well enough, except for a plot twist near the end that sent me off to Paris. My host was a Seattle native, had a lovely centrally located apartment, and we seemed to get along well enough. He had accidentally double-booked his apartment and had AirBnB guests staying at the same time, so at times I felt myself to be an inconvenience and did best to stay out of the way. I was scheduled for two nights, and he was kind enough to extend an offer for a third night. However, early in the eve of the third night, he redacted this offer and I found myself going from hostel to hostel to find a place to stay. All of them were booked full, and the next option was a $100+ hotel room. It was Thursday night and I’d been invited to a salsa lesson by some new friends I’d made at a BBQ earlier that day, so I checked my bags into a locker at the train station and decided to dance through my current predicament. I had a wonderful time, and then, without any other options, did something I’d never done before — I slept in my jacket under a bush in a park with my hat as my pillow. Yeah, I know. But it sounds a lot worse than it was. I’d been out dancing until three AM, and essentially I just laid down for a few hours before waking up at daybreak.
Over the last three years developing in an adventure entertainer, I’ve learned a valuable lesson about my experiences. No matter how good or bad they go, as a writer I am always able to unearth value in them. Even the worst of scenarios can be made positive by extracting the story of it, by retelling the experience both for myself and for others. No matter what, I’ll always get a story out of it.
I was nearly into my third week without really putting in very much street performing work, the side-effects of still having a bit of money saved away. Foolish as it is, I have learned to use the impetus of nearing bankruptcy as a fantastic tool for adaptation and innovation — like the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.
The nature of this trip was to study as much street theater as I could, but so far it’s turned into more of a trip of personal growth and development, of learning about the outside world and other cultures. It’s taken some effort for me to accept this, because I was so intent on making this a work trip, making it about improving my business as a professional street entertainer. As I struggle performing in new and unfamiliar locations for new and unfamiliar crowds, I can’t help but think in the back of my head about how much money I could be making if I had stayed within my comfort zone of Seattle, where I know how, when, and where to work. However, in the past every time I’ve chosen the sure and safe money making path over the risky adventure filled one, I’ve been left with a fat wallet and a heart full of regret. Though this trip has been more uncomfortable than ever, I’m still satisfied with my decision to step outside my comfort zone.
This trip has taught me a lot about how to travel. I’ve learned a lot about public transport and how bus services operate, what to check for when booking a flight and how to hack travel costs. I’ve learned how to go about finding the pitch I can perform at, whether or not I need a permit, and how to get in touch with other buskers in the area. Also, as I improvise this trip and learn from my mistakes, I am becoming a more competent traveler. Travel was the entire motive behind learning street theater, so I can work where I want when I want. There was limited availability of affordable places to stay in Amsterdam, so I improvised — bought an overnight bus ticket to Paris where I had a few cheap AirBnB’s line up, giving me a glimpse into Parisian life before I headed off to Ireland.
It is complicated performing while traveling, largely due to appearances. Traveling on a budget implies a few things: your luggage will be small and your showers may be few and far between. I don’t mind waking up a little scruffy, but it’s difficult to maintain an air of presentability when you don’t have regular access to a bathroom. As my experience grows I learn more about how to balance practicality with presentability. For the most part I make a good living as a busker, and as a means of countering common negative perspectives towards street performers I prefer to do as much as possible to distinguish myself from other less-presentable street characters. However, as I stood in front of a crowd on my last day in Amsterdam I couldn’t help but laugh in the back of my head knowing I’d woken up that morning underneath a bush in a park that day. After all, it’s all about the story.
Thanks for reading, stay tuned for more Adventuretainment.