segunda-feira, 5 de fevereiro de 2018

Dutch 101 for au pairs

Are you going to be an au pair in the Netherlands (or in Belgium perhaps) for kids who don’t (or barely) speak English?
Then this post is for you!

You might be worried about dealing with the kids if you don’t understand them and they don’t understand you, right? Indeed that is a valid concern!

English is a widely spoken language in the Netherlands, however unless your kids have the parents speaking English to them, have had au pairs before who spoke English or are older (thus already learning it at school), chances are they don’t speak or understand English too well.

Although there are other ways of communicating and this normally is not a huge barrier, there are times that the language gap can become annoying and stressful – both for you and for the kids! Knowing some basics will help the routine run smoother and most likely help you establish a bond with your kids more easily. 

Even if you start a Dutch language course right away, chances are that what you are learning there won’t be helpful with the kids. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of words, expressions and short phrases more related to children’s world and your routine as an au pair. 

The list is extensive, so focus on what can apply most to your kids and daily life.

Ben jij klaar? Let’s go!

Words with an asterisk* are written the same way, although pronunciation might be different.

Ik – I   
Jij – You 
Zij – She 
Hij – He 
Wij – We 
Jullie – You (Plural)
Zijn – They

Wat – What
Waar – Where 
Waarom – Why 
Wie – Who 
Hoe – How 
Hoeveel – How Many
Wanneer – When 

Parts Of The House/Furniture:
Woonkamer – Living Room 
Slaapkamer – Bedroom 
Badkamer – Bathroom 
Keuken – Kitchen 
Spelkamer – Playroom 
Trap – Stairs 
Tuin – Garden/Yard 
Tafel – Table 
Zetel/bank – Couch 
Stoel – Chair 
Kast – Wardrobe/Cupboard
Kolkast – Fridge 
Binnen – In(Side) 
Buiten – Outside 
Boven – Upstairs/Above 
Beneden – Downstairs/Below
Huis/Thuis – House/Home

Speelgoed – Toys 
Pop(Tje) – Doll 
Speeltuin – Playground 
Schommel – Swing 
Glijbaan – Slide 
Fiets – Bike  
Step – Scooter  
Voetbal – Football/Soccer 
Schmink – Make Up, Facial Painting 
Verf – Paint (Substantive)
Tekening – Drawing (Substantive)  
Papier – Paper 
Schaar – Scissors
(Kleur)Potlod – (Coloring)Pencil
 Klei – Play-Doh
Boek – Book  
Muziek/Liedje – Music/Song
Spelen – To Play 
Springen – To Jump
Gooien – To Throw 
Lezen – To Read
Kleuren – To Color
Zingen – To Sing
Dansen – To Dance

Blauw – Blue 
Groen – Green 
Geel – Yellow 
Zwart – Balck 
Wit – White 
Rose – Pink 
Rood – Red 
Oranje – Orange 
Paars – Purple 
Bruin – Brown 

Dier(En) – Animal(s)
Hond – dog 
Kat/Poes – cat  
Konijn – bunny  
Kikker – frog  
Olifant - elephant 
Slak – snail 
Slang - snake 
Vlinder – butterfly  
Koe – cow 
Paard – horse  
Vis – fish  
Voegel – bird  
Eend – duck 
Kuiken – chick
Kip – chicken  
Zon – sun  
Wolk – cloud  
Regen – rain  
Boom – tree  
Blad – leaf  

Hoofd – head 
Haar – hair 
Buik – belly 
Neus – nose 
Mond – mouth 
Oog – eye 
Oor – ear 
Vinger – finger  
Been – leg 
Voet – foot 
Teen – toe 
Knie – knee  
Rug – back 
Bil(Len) – butt 
Plaster – band aid 
Bloed – blood 
Ziek – sick 
Ik heb pijn aan mijn... I have pain on my.. 
Dat doet pijn – That hurts

Kleding/kleren – clothing/clothes 
Jurk – dress 
Broek – pants 
Rok – skirt 
Handschoenen – gloves 
Sjal – scarf 
Muts – (winter) hat 
Jas – jacket
Trui – sweater  
Schonen – shoes 
Larzen – boots 
Sokken – socks 
Onderbroek – underwear 
Luier – diapers 

Moeder – mother 
Vader – father 
Zus – sister 
Broer – brother 
Opa – grandpa 
Oma – grandma 
Juf – teacher 
Vriend – friend 
Oppas – nanny 
Jongen – boy 
Meisje – girl 
Kinderen – children 

Brood – bread 
Kaas – cheese 
Wortel – carrot 
Komkommer – cucumber 
Melk – milk 
Rijst – rice 
Kip – chicken 
Vis – fish 
Vlees – meat 
Spinazie – spinach 
Erwten – peas 
(Fruit)Sap – juice 
Thee – tea 
Taart – cake 
Snoepje – candy/sweets 
Toetje – dessert 
Groenten – vegetables 
Soep – soup 
Ei – egg 
Koekjes – cookies 
Appel – apple 
Banaan – banana 
Druiven – grapes 
Peer – pear 
Sinaasappel – orange  
Mandarijn – tangerine  
Aardbei – strawberry 
Blauwbes – blueberry 
Board – plate 
Beker – glass 
Lepel – spoon 
Vork – fork 
Mes – knife 
Snijden – to cut 
Stuk – piece 
(Zonder/Met) Schil – (with/without skin) 
Hap/Hapje – a bite, mouthful 
Lekker – tasty, yummy
Eten – to eat 
Drinken – to drink  

Tanden Poetsen – to brush 
Tandpasta – toothpaste  
Douche – shower 
Bad – bath/bathtube 
Handdoek – towel 
(Tanden/Haar) Borstel – (tooth/hair) brush  
Wassen – to wash
Drogen – to dry 

Blij – happy 
Moe – tired 
Bang – afraid, scared 
Boos – angry 
Verdrietig – sad 

Eten – to eat 
Slapen – to sleep 
Kijken – to watch/to look
Plassen – to pee
Moeten – must 
Willen – to want
Doen – to do
Zijn – to be 
Gaan – to go 
Maken – to make
Zegen – to say 
Opruimen – to organize 
Huilen – to cry 
Roepen – to scream 
Zitten – to sit 
Kommen – to come 
Pakken – to grab/take
Stopen – to stop
Luisteren – to listen 

Klaar – ready, done
Genoeg – enough 
Goed Zo – good job
Leuk – nice 
Mooi – beautiful, pretty
Met – with 
Maar – but 
Nog – more 
Een Beetje – a bit 
Echt – really 
Naar – to 
Straks – later 
Misschien - maybe
Vuil/Vies – dirty 
Nat – wet 
Honger – hunger
Rustig – calm down, 
Wacht – wait 
Op – finished 
Pas Op – careful, watch out 
Niet Doen – don’t do that

Some phrases/expressions: put the phrases on the “text to speech” tool and get accurate pronunciation 

Luisteren naar mijn – listen to me
Waar ben jij? Kom hier – Where are you? Come here!
Wat zeg je? – What do you say? (when you want the kid to reply please/thank you/sorry etc)
Ik begrijp je niet – I don’t understand you
Ik hou van.. – I love…
Ik vind... leuk – I think… is nice
Alsjeblieft/alstublieft – Please and there you go
Dag/doei/tot straks/tot zo – Bye, goodbye, see you later, see you
Knuffel(tje) – hug (can also be teddy bear)
kus(je) – kiss 
Mag ik...? May I..?
Nee, dat mag niet/ja, dat mag – No, you may not. Yes, you may.
Wat doe jij? – What are doing?
Wat wil jij…? What do you want…? 
Het is tijd voor… school/eten/slapen – It’s time for…
Ben jij klaar? - Are you finished/done?, Are you ready?

J sounds like e/i 
G/ch sounds like you're choking haha

Further tips: 
First of all, no panic! Yes, you’ll go through a rough adaptation phase. But soon enough you and the kids will be understanding each other better. Most au pair go through this and we’re all here to tell the story. I myself didn’t do a Dutch course during my year in the Netherlands and learned a lot just from hearing the parents talking to the kids and also from the kids themselves. Soon enough, the kids also learned English from me and all was smooth.

Luckily, English can be very similar to Dutch. So if you learn some key words and add them in a phrase in English, that will already be very helpful! 

Even if you don’t completely understand what the child is saying, try always to interact with them. They want to feel someone is paying attention! Look for facial expressions, body language to determine if the “story” they are telling is happy, sad, funny etc so you can react accordingly with a “cool”, “awwn”, “leuk”, “wow”, “niet leuk”, “echt?”.

If they want something from you and you really cannot understand, try to distract them with something else. It will work mostly with younger children. With older will be more difficult. Last case, you can try to call the parents (really last case.. otherwise the kid can ask for it all the time!).

It’s very important the parents’ involvement especially in the initial adaptation period, to help create the bond and clear misunderstandings between au pair and children. They must explain to the kids that you don’t speak Dutch, that they have to show you what they want (make a bit of a mimics and guessing game!). Also, always check how the day was. Sometimes, my kids would complain that I “ignored” them (their wishes) when in reality I just didn’t understand what they wanted! Therefore, the parents should always do this follow up to ensure the kids know the au pair is not doing this on purpose. If you feel this is not happening and it can be disturbing your relationship with the kids, sit down to talk to the parents to find the best strategy of how to implement this “communication circle”.

Have google translator app on your phone and download the Dutch (+plus your language of choice) packages so you can use it even if you are offline. 

If you have the chance to take a Dutch course, do it! I know most girls come to the Netherlands wanting to improve their English, and think Dutch is “useless”. Oh, how I regret not taking a Dutch course while in the Netherlands! Now I live in Belgium, where Dutch is also one of the official languages, and I have to learn it anyway. Learning new things is never a waste of time!  

In the beginning, Dutch can seem very harsh. It will grow on you, though! I promise! At some point probably you’ll be using some Dutch words such as leuk, mooi, lekker even when you’re speaking English hahah 
For me, nowadays Dutch sounds natural and comforting! Allow yourself to know the language, it is the country’s official language after all, thus part of the cultural exchange component! 

For those who are still in home country, what are your expectations towards Dutch language? What scares you most?

For those already in the Netherlands, how has your experience been? What are the key words/expressions you think any new comer must learn ASAP?

Do share!

Veel plezier and succes!

segunda-feira, 27 de novembro de 2017

Au Poor Lifestyle: living with €340 a month

One thing that's always very discussed especially by aspiring au pairs is the pocket money. The main question usually being: "Is it enough?".

The amount we receive as au pairs is not considered a salary since the au pair program has its own rules -  its focus is not the work itself, but rather that of a cultural exchange program. While the country’s minimum wage is currently between €706 and €1.551,60 depending on your age (The Netherlands adopts a progressive form of calculating the salaries. When you’re 23 and older, you’ve reached the highest “level” of salary - more info here), the au pair pocket money is between €300 and €340 a month.

Besides this amount, the au pair receives lodging and board, meaning that he/she has free accommodation at the Host Family's house, access to common areas and house facilities and also that all his/her meals are provided by the family. Since the au pair salary has been the same since at least 2009, whereas of course prices have risen, nowadays most families will pay the full €340 and sometimes extra benefits such as the train subscription or the cellphone plan.

Still, many get desperate once they hear about the pocket money: "it's too low", "how can you live and travel with this amount of money?". Especially for those who have been an au pair in the US, where they get paid $195,65 per week, adding up to almost $800 a month, it's hard to conceive how would it be possible to live with only €340 a month in Europe. 

In reality, the pocket money from the Netherlands is intermediate, it could be better like in Belgium (€450/month for 20h/week) or worse like in Germany (€260/month for 30h/week). Let's also not forget that each place has different costs of living and the pocket money is set accordingly. 

But why is it so low then? This is the tax threshold in the Netherlands. If it were to be increased in the Netherlands, both au pairs and host families would have to pay tax on it. You can find more info the the Tax Department website (in Dutch).

Since there's no changing it, the big question remains: Is it possible to live with this money? Of course it is! You have no major costs like rent and bills, so this money is basically for you to enjoy! It is still not a lot, therefore you need to have control and know how to prioritize. 

The Netherlands (and Europe in general) is not a "shopping destination" - here you are not going to find things so cheap like in the US, for example, especially regarding brands and electronics. You should stick to essentials. Once in a while you can give yourself the luxury of eating in a nice restaurant, or buying something more expensive, but not always! Otherwise you won't be able to save for your trips. 

Besides the obvious (not spending with superfluous things), we need to resort to various "tricks" to make our money last. Here are tips of how to save money, or at least how to do things the cheapest way possible!

1. Weekend free season ticket: unless you live in a big city that has many many things to do such as Den Haag, Rotterdam or Amsterdam itself, on your free time you'll want to go to bigger cities to shop/party or just visit new places to explore. For that, you'll need to use the train. This type of transportation is far from being cheap. However, the NS (train company) has different season tickets (plans) and one of the best is the Weekend free. With it, you get unlimited travel with the train on weekends from Friday 18:30 until Monday 4:00 and on National Holidays. You also travel with 40% discount on off peak hours (09:00 to 16:00 and 18:30 to 06:30). All this for €32/month. 

Bonus tip 1: You need a personalized OV-Chipkaart (the yellow one with your photo) to order the Weekend Free or any other plan. Usually just the card costs €7,50 but if you order it with the plan, it’ll be for free!
Bonus tip 2: If someone else in your host family already has this plan, then you pay only €22 a month! Ask your host parents before ordering it.
To order the weekend free and for further information about it, click here.

2. Use your bike or walk instead of taking the bus/tram/metro: unfortunately the plan I just mentioned only covers the train, so if you need to take a bus/tram/metro to get from your home to the station or to arrive at your destination, you'll still need to pay for it. Therefore, the best is to go to the station by bike. Not only you'll save a couple euros each time, but also you'll enjoy more flexibility when it's time to come back home, since other types of transportation usually end earlier than the train.
That also applies when you're visiting a new city and the station is not so close to your destination there. Instead of taking other form of public transportation, how about you just walk and explore the place even more? Especially if you're with a group of friends, it goes by quickly and once again you get to save a bit. That being said: you should pay for transportation only on the last case! If the place is really far and there's no way to walk, if it's raining a lot or too cold, then go for it. Otherwise, put your bike and your legs to work!

3. Museumkaart: one of the things you'll find plenty in the Netherlands are museums - there are many throughout the entire country! The best way to enjoy and visit as many museums as you want for the lowest cost, is to get the Museumkaart. It costs €59,90 and is valid for one year. Seems expensive? It can be a bit, however it is a great investment! It will give you access to over 400 museums in the whole country (38 only in Amsterdam). If you were to buy each ticket separately, it would cost around €15 each. So, after visiting 4 museums, the museumkaart already pays itself! In the Netherlands, museums are not only the traditional buildings with paintings and sculptures, it can also be windmills, castles, palaces, churches and these are all included. In some museums, you'll still need to pay a small fee to visit, so always check the website to make sure if it's covered by the card. You can order it online here

4. Take snacks from home: try to always have your meals at home! In case that's not possible, prepare a snack and take it with you. Especially in the summer, when you spend longer times out enjoying the (hopefully) good weather, this is important. Don't spend your precious euros eating out frequently! Also always carry a bottle of water with you. Since tap water is drinkable in the Netherlands, you can just fill it instead of buying!
If you do need to buy something to eat, search for cheap stuff! At the Burger King for example they have medium meals for €3,90. If you want something healthier, stop by an Albert Heijn "to go" and they have varieties of sandwiches and salads for good prices as well.

5Drinking before going out: This one is for the party girls out there. If you like drinking, this can become very expensive very fast. So in order to enjoy but also not waste so much money on it, you can buy -insert your preferred alcohol here- at the supermarket where it is waaay cheaper, and start drinking at home before going out. Let's take a beer for example: In Amsterdam, you'll pay around €3 for a glass of 250ml in a bar/pub, and at the supermarket you can find a half-liter for €1. So you get double the quantity 3x cheaper!
Get your friends together, and while you choose outfits, do make up, gossip, listen to some music, go ahead and have some drinks!

6. Free night clubs/parties: still on topic of parties, there is a wide range of places and events available in the Netherlands that you can choose from. Bars and pubs in general normally you don't have to pay to enter. Night clubs on the other hand normally you do, so avoid those! If you want to dance it out, there are many bars and cafés with a "night club vibe", with a DJ playing (or at least a good playlist) and packed with people. Since those are free, they'll probably be your usual spot. Spend your money on party tickets if it's a very special occasion or for a festival that you'd really like to go - The Netherlands has some great festivals if you're into electronic music!
Another option if you do want to go to "fancier" parties but don't want to waste money on it, is using the app "I'm in". They have an agenda with events coming up and for some of them, you can try to win free tickets through the app.

7. Plan when going to the toilet: no, you didn't read it wrong. If you're on the street and have the need to go to the toilet, most you find you'll have to pay for it. Sometimes even on pubs and night clubs (!!!). Also many fast food places like Burger King and McDonald's normally you still have to pay even if you consumed there. In my opinion, this is absolutely ridiculous and turns into a waste of money. Even if it's a few cents (normally from €0,50 to €0,70) as an au pair I used to spend whole days out exploring cities. So at some point you do need to use the toilet! My tip: whenever there's a free one, go for it! You never know when the next one will come along haha 

8. Where to shop: The Netherlands is not a"shopping destination" like the USA. Here, electronics and brands (clothes, shoes, bags etc) are most likely around the same price as in your home country. For regular, daily-life shopping, some stores are essential in an au poor's life:

  • Action: it has it all. Clothes, food, stationery, house stuff, party decoration, costumes, toys, beauty section... and for the cheapest prices I've ever seen! Of course quality is not the main word to describe all their products, but depending on what you're looking for, this really is the best option! Other stores with this same concept are Zeeman and Wibra.
  • Primark: clothes, shoes, accessories, make up/beauty... this is the best store with "au pair prices". 90% of your things will be from there
  • New Yorker, H&M: a bit more expensive than the Primark, but still two of the cheapest ones with a great selection. They also always have a "promo" section. 

Keep an eye for sales in general, you can usually find good deals in other "nicer" stores like Mango, Bershka, Pull&Bear etc.

Also, try to go shopping when you have a real need for an item. Focus on what you need instead of just looking around, that way you avoid buying unnecessary things out of impulse.

9. When travelling: Make a list of all the places you'd like to visit. When you know you'll have some time off, check the prices to the destinations and pick the cheapest! When reserving hostels, put the filter cheapest to more expensive, when you find the cheapest one with a decent location, that's what you want to get. When at the destination, look for the supermarket to buy some snacks instead of having all your meals at restaurants/snack places.
Useful websites regarding travelling:

To check tickets

Trip deal packages


10. Hair, nails, waxing...: beauty salons? This word does not exist on your vocabulary anymore! You'll have to learn to do it yourself.

11. Financial planning: I never saved a specific amount of money each month, I just did everything as cheaply as possible and hoped I'd have enough for my trips. It worked for me, but if you can, would be much wiser to do some planning according to your own needs and try to save some fixed amount each month.    

Things to remember:
a) In the Netherlands, the au pair program working hours are maximum 30h/week and not more than 8h/day, with at least 2 days off. It is completely forbidden to work extra (to your own host family or "outside") and to earn more than €340. The law is very strict about it in order not to deviate the program's focus. You can get your residence permit cancelled for not following the rules and the host family risks paying a fine, among other administrative measures. 
b) Even though the pocket money is low, make sure to ALWAYS have some money set aside on your account in case of an emergency. I'd recommend at least €250.

Aaand that's it! Don't fight it, just embrace the au poor lifestyle. At the end of the year, you might not have many euros left in your account, but I assure you'll have your memories filled with stories and adventures for a lifetime.

Have any other tips to share? Don't hesitate to leave a comment ;)

Tot zo!

terça-feira, 18 de abril de 2017

Guest post com Priscilla Serretti: bike trip na Holanda

[English version below]

Holanda e bicicletas: não há clichê maior que esse! Num país onde pessoas de todas as idades usam bicicletas todos os dias para as mais diversas ocasiões, por que não também viajar com ela? 
A Priscilla Serretti, que foi au pair na Holanda em 2014-2015, se aventurou em uma bike trip de cerca de 300km no total e nesse guest post ela conta pra gente como foi essa experiência:

De onde surgiu essa ideia de fazer a bike trip?
Surgiu do nada! Preparei em menos de uma semana. Era Julho e minha host mother me falou que eu teria uma semana a mais de férias. Ela então "sugeriu" (na verdade obrigou) que eu não ficasse em casa essa semana. Era julho e eu não podia gastar dinheiro porque ia pra Londres no outro mês. E agora? O que eu ia fazer? Decidi fazer essa viagem de bike. 

Como você decidiu as cidades por onde iria passar e planejou a rota?
Tinha vários amigxs espalhadxs pela Holanda e escolhi a rota à partir da casa delxs (que era onde eu iria dormir). Fiz parada em Breda que ficava a 100km da minha casa (valeu, Vic!) e em Eindhoven que era 65km de Breda (valeu, Bela). Meu destino final foi Maastricht que era a 100km de Eindhoven, mas como não conhecia ninguém de lá, fiz couchsurfing por três dias. 

O que carregava com você na bike?
Eu levei só o necessário, pois cada coisa a mais era um peso a mais pra carregar na bike. Levei dois shorts, quatro blusas, três calcinhas, um livro, documentos, dinheiro, água/comida e escova de dente.
 Companheira fiel de viagem

Como era o seu dia enquanto estava fazendo a trip? Por exemplo, quanto tempo pedalava, quantas paradas, onde dormia?
Foram três dias de pedalada até Maastricht e o primeiro dia foi o mais difícil. Não por causa da distância, mas porque tive que pedalar 30km na chuva e era muito complicado de ver o GPS sem cair água no celular (sabe como Iphone é né rsrsrsr). Não tinha internet no meu celular então se caso eu me perdesse, tinha que voltar pro lugar certo e tentar de novo (foi assim durante toda a viagem). O mais complicado foi realmente achar lugar pra carregar o celular, sei que tive muita sorte então aconselho alguém comprar aquelas capinhas recarregáveis. Por causa da chuva, eu tinha que deixar o brilho no mais alto e isso comia muita bateria. Não tem placa em todos os lugares e se meu celular morresse eu ia morrer junto. (Fiz essa viagem só com 50 euros no bolso que pedi adiantado pra minha host. Não tinha dinheiro extra). 
O primeiro dia eram 8 horas seguidas de pedalada e acho que demorei umas 14 por causa da chuva! Mas no geral eu parava a cada 15km para beber água e comer algo. Nas paradas sempre escrevia no meu diário também sobre as coisas que vi e momentos que passei.
 Diário onde Priscilla registrou a trip

E como você conseguia ver o caminho sem internet no celular?
Antes de sair, eu deixava a rota no google maps e ele ficava salvo lá. Porém se eu saisse dessa rota o gps não recalculava, eu tinha que voltar e tentar de novo. Acho que pedalei uns 20km a mais de tanto que me perdi, mas vi coisas incríveis tentando me achar.
Você fez alguma preparação física antes de iniciar a trip para "aguentar o tranco"?
Quem me conhece sabe que sempre fui a doida da bicicleta. Pedalava cerca de 150km por semana. Mas olha, quando cheguei em setembro eu não conseguia pedalar 5km sem morrer (é sério, só quando começou a esquentar lá pra abril que comecei a pedalar mesmo). Então calma que resistência você pega! 

Qual o maior perrengue você passou?
Passei muitas coisas. O primeiro dia na chuva foi difícil, chorei porque tava muito nervosa do meu celular quebrar e ficar perdida, quase pensei em desistir. O segundo dia foi maravilhoso e não tive nenhum problema pois fez muito sol. Agora o último dia foi só emoção. Não choveu então qualquer coisa pra mim tava ok. Sendo que dos 100km que pedalei, 80 eram na Bélgica. Alguns caminhos eram privados e me ferrei muito pra achar um lugar alternativo (sem GPS, vale lembrar). O meu maior perrengue foi nos últimos 20km pra chegar em Maastricht. Meu celular estava em 18%. Até aí tudo bem, eu sabia que a bateria daria porque já tinha calculado. Vi no gps que tinha que pedalar 10km em frente então fui. De um lado era um rio, do outro, mato. Mas o mato virou indústrias e me deparei em um portão gigante trancado. Não tinha como passar. Não tinha caminho alternativo. Não tinha uma alma viva (ou morta) no local. Não tinha internet, nem dinheiro e minha bateria estava morrendo. Eu ri da situação mas em nenhum momento surtei, vi aquilo como uma aventura do caralho. Seria uma história TOP pra contar. Tive que voltar e dar uma volta do cacete. Comecei a ficar um pouco nervosa porque estava MUITO longe da rota que eu tinha que seguir e não conseguia voltar pra ela. Quando achei um caminho que podia, eu passei por ele com várias placas ÁREA PRIVADA ÁREA PRIVADA ÁREA PRIVADA ÁREA PRIVADA aí pensei: puta que pariu, vai ter outro portão e não vou conseguir passar. E houve dois portões nesses 10km, sendo que ambos estavam ABERTOS! 
Depois disso foi tranquilo. Cheguei em Maastricht mais ou menos umas 20:00, sendo que meu host não estava em casa e me ligou dizendo que só chegaria MEIA NOITE. E agora? Eu tava cansada, com sono, com fome e tava começando a escurecer. Decidi explorar a cidade (depois que cheguei em Maastricht não usava mais o gps) e encontrei aquela santa Mc Donalds. Tinha wifi, lugar pra carregar o celular e o melhor: fechava meia noite! Fiquei lá até meu host chegar em casa e os outros três dias foram só explorando a cidade e visitando os museus que o museumkaart deixava. Melhor viagem da minha VIDA! 
Não aconselho fazer essa viagem como eu fiz. Eu sei que tive muita sorte em todos os momentos, mas nem todo mundo pode ter a sorte que tive. Leve dinheiro extra (porque passei um pouco de fome no último dia, não aguentava mais comer pão com queijo brie), levem carregador portátil e tenham internet no celular. No mais, vão com tudo!

Alguns registros do que a Priscilla viu em suas andanças. E uma selfie com a bike, claro!

Obrigada por compartilhar essa história tão inspiradora conosco, Priscilla!
E aí pessoal, vão encarar uma bike trip nesse estilo também?


The Netherlands and bicycles: it doesn't get more cliche than this! In a country where people of all ages use the bikes every day for all kinds of occasions, why not also use it to travel?
Priscilla Serretti, who was an au pair in the Netherlands in 2014-2015, decided to go on a bike trip adventure of around 300km in total! She tells us all about the experience on this guest post:

From where did the idea of doing a bike trip come from?
It came out of nowhere! I planned it in less than a week. It was July and my host mother told me I'd have an extra week of vacation. She then "suggested" (actually ordered) that I didn't stay home that week. I couldn't spend money because I was going to London the next month. What now? What was I going to do? I decided to do this bike trip.

How did you decide which cities you'd go through and planned the route?
I had many friends scattered around the Netherlands and I chose the route taking their houses into consideration (since it was were I'd sleep). I stopped in Breda, which was 100km from my home (thanks, Vic) and in Eindhoven, which was 65km from Breda (thanks, Bela). My final destination was Maastricht, which was 100km from Breda, but since I didn't know anyone there, I stayed with a couchsurfing host for three days. 

What did you take with you on the bike?
I took only the necessary because each extra thing was an extra weight to carry on the bike. I had two pairs of shorts, four blouses, three pairs of panties, a book, documents, money, water/food and a toothbrush.
 Faithful travel buddy

How were your days while you where doing the bike trip? For example, how long did you bike, how many stops?
It were three days of biking until Maastricht and the first day was the most difficult. Not because of the distance, but because I had to bike 30km in the rain and it was very complicated to see the GPS without letting water fall on my phone (you know how iPhones are). There was no internet on my phone so if I got lost, I had to go back to the last right point and try again. It was like that through the entire trip. But the most difficult was to find places to charge the phone. I know I was very lucky, so I advise anyone to buy those rechargeable covers [or to have portable external batteries]. Due to the rain, I had to leave the screen on full brightness and this wasted a lot of battery. Not every place has road signs and if my phone died I'd die with it. I did this trip with only 50 euros in my pocket that I had asked as a payment advance from my host mom. I didn't have extra money. 
The first day was supposed to be 8 hours of biking and I think it took me 14 hours because of the rain! But in general I would stop every 15km to drink water and eat something. At those times I would always write on my journal about the things I'd seen and moments I'd lived.
 Journal where Priscilla registered her trip

And how could you see the route without internet on your phone?
Before leaving (while there was wifi), I'd do the route on Google Maps and it stayed saved. But if I got out of the original route, the GPS couldn't recalculate and I had to go back to the last correct place and try again. I think I biked about 20km extra from all the times I got lost, but I saw incredible things while trying to find myself. 

Did you do any physical preparation before starting the trip to be able to endure such a long journey?
Those who know me know that I have always been the crazy bike person. I used to bike around 150km per week. But, look, when I arrived in September I couldn't bike even 5km without dying (seriously, only when it started getting warmer around April that I started to really bike). So don't worry, you can achieve the endurance! 

What was the most difficult moment you went through?
I went through a lot. the first day in the rain was difficult, I cried because I was very nervous thinking my phone might break and I would get lost, I almost thought about quitting. The second day was wonderful and I didn't have any problems since it was very sunny. But the last day was adrenaline-packed It didn't rain so anything felt ok. From the 100km I biked, 80 were in Belgium. Some were ways were private roads and it was a lot of work to find an alternative route (without GPS, mind you). The most difficult moment was on the last 20km to Maastricht. My phone had 18% battery. Fine until then, I knew it was enough because I had calculated it. I saw on the GPS I had to bike 10km ahead, and so I went. On one side there was a river, on the other, bushes. but then the bushes became industries and I arrived at a giant gate which was locked. there was no way through. there was no alternate way. there was not a living (or dead) soul at that place. There was no internet or money and my battery was dying. I laughed about the situation but I didn't freak out in any moment, I saw that as an adventure. it would be a great story to tell. I had to go back and take a huge detour. Then I started getting nervous because I was really far off from the route I was supposed to take and I couldn't get back to it. When I found a way I could go through, it had many PRIVATE ROAD signs, then I thought: damn it, there will be another gate and I won't be able to go though. And indeed there were two more gates in those 10km, but they were both OPEN!
After that, it was easygoing. I arrived in Maastricht around 20:00, however my couchsurfing host wasn't home and called me saying he'd only be back at MIDNIGHT. What now? I was tired, sleepy, hungry and it was starting to get dark. I decided to explore the city (after arriving in Maastricht I stopped using the GPS) and I found that blessed McDonalds. It had wifi, a place to charge my phone and the best: it closed only at midnight! I stayed there until my host arrived home and the three other days I spent exploring the city and visiting all the museums I could with the Museumkaart. It was the best trip of my life! I don't advise anyone to do this trip the way I did. I know I was very lucky at every moment, but not everyone can have the same luck I did. Take extra money (I starved a bit on the last day, and I couldn't take eating bread with brie cheese anymore), bring a portable charger and have internet on your phone. But for what it's worth, go ahead!

Some photos taken along the way. And a selfie with the bike, of course!

Thanks so much for sharing such an inspiring story with us, Priscilla!