Lessons from One Night in Amsterdam

So, I’m sitting here writing this in the Priority Lounge in Amsterdam.  We’re enjoying a free breakfast, and a free cup of coffee in the airport.  (Thanks Chase Sapphire Reserve Card!!)  But I’m not writing this to talk about all the perks that come from having a great credit card.  Yeah, TSA precheck is nice, priority pass (depending on the airport) is awesome, and yes, Global Entry is clutch saving us immense amounts of time getting through customs.

View from Priority Lounge in Schipol

But what I want to talk about today is how the universe is a crazy interesting place and if you don’t keep your eyes open and take a chance you might miss out on the experience of a lifetime.  But what does any that have anything to do with us sitting in Amsterdam?

Let’s start from the beginning.

The Trip

We’re on our way to Cape Town, South Africa, in fact when this is finally published we will already be there.  It’s a long, long trip.  The flight we booked is direct LA to Amsterdam for 10 hours, then direct Amsterdam to Cape Town another 12 hours.

We decided it would be fun to take a little break in Amsterdam, so we booked a flight that had a 23 hour layover.  We were there a few years back and enjoyed the city, plus it’s Amsterdam… I mean come on!

Originally our plan was to fly into Amsterdam, get a hotel room and then spend the day in the city.  As I was researching hotel rooms, we came to realize we’re going to pay almost $200 for one night in a crappy hotel. Yes, we have points, I get it, we could make that work, but, seeing how this is a business trip, the entire thing is deductible. Why waste the points on something we can deduct?

Well, we decided we’ll just rough it out one night and sleep in the airport.  We even checked our bags, sacrilege in the Kingdom of Waffles, so that we wouldn’t have to tote them around while enjoying our lay over or scrounge around to find a locker to store them for the day.  Besides, we have access to the priority lounges, and they have showers, food and a bunch of other amenities that would make our ability to stay in the airport all that much more “comfortable”.

Our Stay

We land in Amsterdam, pass through security and customs, find our way to the train station.  We head directly downtown and quickly stumble upon…

Yes, these were tasty!!

And like any good FI bloggers, we found a local micro-brewery and bellied up to the bar.  We got to talking to some guys sitting next to us and they mentioned another brewery that we should go to.  It was actually the same place we had been to years before, so we figured why not.  Once finished, we walked over to the next place.

It was packed.  We walked in, ordered beers, and then tried to find a place to sit.  There were not a lot of spots, so Mrs. Wow walked up to a couple sitting at the end of the table with seats across from them.

Is any one sitting here?  Can we sit here?

A simple nod followed, so we sat down.  Mrs. Wow and I are just talking to each other, when finally someone breached a “How ya doing?” to the couple sitting across from us who so graciously let us sit down.

They were locals from Amsterdam, and happened to be fascinated that we were from LA.  The guy was a huge rap fan, and wanted to know all about Compton, Long Beach… IngleWOOOOD.  Turns out they were our age, Mrs. Wow and the better half of the couple have similar jobs.  Well, one hour turned to 3 very quickly as we traded stories of travel, and how awful America’s healthcare system is.  We traded purchasing rounds of drinks.  Then the brewery closed, so we asked where we should go next.

Yes, the brewery had a windmill, how very Dutch!!

They asked where we were staying as to point us to a place close so that we could get home easily.  That’s when we mentioned that we were planning on just heading back to the airport and finding a nice bench to crash on.  Well, they weren’t having it.

Why don’t you guys just come back and stay at our place?  We’ll take you to the airport in the morning, it’s like a 15 minute drive.

Umm… we just kind of looked at each other.  We weren’t quite sure what to make of it.  But we decided to at least go with them to the next place to grab a drink and see where the night takes us.

We ended up at a bar with all Dutch folks, just hanging out along the river at a “beach” club.  We shared a couple more drinks with them and then it was time to pack up.  They were on bikes, as the Dutch tend to do.

We needed a cab.  They called a cab for us and told the driver where to take us.  As we were in the cab, we discussed what happens if things go south.  We just need to have our wits about us and if either is uncomfortable, we bail, no questions asked.

The cab pulls up in front of an apartment complex, and sure enough, here come our new friends, riding up just as we were let out of the cab.  We walked into their apartment, and then out into the back yard.  Ummm… they made their own BierGarten in their backyard!  It was amazing!  We sat around drinking great Dutch beer and talking until almost 1AM, then we went in and stayed in their guest room.

The next morning we woke up, they poured us a delicious cup of coffee and then drove us back to the airport.  We made it a point to let them know that they always have a place to stay in LA, hopefully they take us up on it.  Then we parted ways, we headed to Cape Town and they headed back to their lives in Amsterdam.

What does any of this have to do with FI?

Outside of us being completely cheap and trying to sleep in an airport to avoid paying for a hotel, there’s a lot this has to do with FI.

Risk is something that’s inherent in everything we do.  You have to understand risk, but risk can also be paralyzing if you are not willing to take it.  We kind of threw caution to the wind and ended up staying with some folks we met in a bar, on the other side of the planet.  They took a risk as well.  But, both of us ended up with new friends.  Friends that we are hoping return the favor and come visit us in our neck of the woods.

The other part that I think really has to do with this whole FI journey is that you have to be open to new opportunities.  If you’re constantly working, you can’t take an opportunity that presents itself.  You have to let yourself go with the flow, and make sure that you have your eyes open.

People get so myopic focusing on their FI number, or all these other mundane details, that they don’t see that there might be a different way, a better way to get to their goal.  What if that different or better way isn’t what you had originally thought?  What if this new development delays you a little bit, but makes you that much happier along the way, is that so wrong?

Being flexible is required on this journey.  You need to have a plan, but you also need to be able to adjust on the fly as different obstacles or opportunities present themselves.

This isn’t to say that you need to throw everything into the wind and say “F It!”  But it is to say that you need to have balance in your life, you need to make progress toward your goals, and you also need to enjoy the journey along the way.


  • My Sons Father May 16, 2018 at 5:14 am

    Great story and I literally wrote the term ‘myopically fixated on FI’ for a post I’m publishing in the next week or two! Great minds write alike.

    Have fun on the rest of your trip!
    My Sons Father recently posted…Question of the Month: Family Traditions

    • Mr WoW May 16, 2018 at 11:09 am

      Myopic is a scary thing if you are sacrificing your life to get something that may or may not make you happy. I know what will make us happy now, so we make adjustments to have that happen, but we’re also planning for the future. And we’re making things happen for then as well. Why not set yourself up for the future, while you are enjoying your life at the moment.

  • Joel May 16, 2018 at 5:23 am

    Great point on adjusting plans along the path. Some of my friends have college degrees in XYZ field and now they think they MUST get jobs in the XYZ field, only to make use of the degree. Cutting losses and changing paths is risky, but can lead to a better life!

    Have fun over there!!
    Joel recently posted…From DINKS –> NINKS: No Income, No Kids

    • Mr WoW May 16, 2018 at 11:06 am

      The adjustments and flexibility are some key cornerstones to this entire journey. They’re also some key things to learn in life. I think it’s the great philosopher Mike Tyson that said, “Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the face.”

      Staying flexible, rolling with the punches and taking advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself, so long as it’s progressing you to where you want to be. I think that’s the key.

  • Mr. SSC May 16, 2018 at 5:47 am

    “What if this new development delays you a little bit, but makes you that much happier along the way, is that so wrong?” That is exactly what led us to where we are today. A teaching gig dropped our ability to save aLOT of money, but made our actual life and schedule SO much better. Yes, it did delay hitting our number, but who gives a shit, we had much better family lives and schedules for the duration of that “delay”.

    Plus, that “delay” turned into a full time tenure gig with Mrs. SSC in a new town, smaller town, with an even better schedule and now I get to be a stay at home parent 2 years sooner than we’d thought. Without taking that delay, we couldn’t have ended up in an even better spot overall than we were trying to create for ourselves.

    Take a risk, be flexible and be willing to willingly take delays if it makes for a better lifestyle now. Great post!
    Mr. SSC recently posted…You’re Promoted! Thanks, But I’m Quitting…

    • Mr WoW May 16, 2018 at 11:04 am

      Flexibility and the willingness to take a risk with to set yourself up now is a big part of this whole journey. I think there are a bunch of folks that get so focused on the end game, they lose sight of what’s going on now.

      You’ve done exactly what we have done. Taken a little bit more time to take advantage of an opportunity that came along. It’s working out for the better in the long run.

  • veronica May 16, 2018 at 6:38 am

    You make your actions and the couple’s action sound abnormal. WTF! This happens all the time with travelers. The trick is not just to reciprocate, but to also pay it forward. When I, a single woman, was traveling on the other side of the planet, people were so kind, without any expectation of reciprocity. I now make a point of stopping to help out travelers in my own city, as a way to pay back the kindness that was extended to me. So don’t just reciprocate, PAY IT FORWARD!

    • Mr WoW May 16, 2018 at 11:01 am

      We do actually tend to do the same thing when we meet someone in the same situation. We’ve taken travelers to the airport when we come across them. Unfortunately, we don’t come across that many travelers that we get to chat with and know on a regular basis.

      We definitely make a point to attempt to help as much as we can without any expectations of return favors. It’s just makes the world a better place. We just thought this experience was worth writing about.

  • Fritz @ The Retirement Manifesto May 16, 2018 at 9:00 am

    I love you guys. Awesome. Simply, Awesome.

    • Mr WoW May 16, 2018 at 10:59 am

      Thanks Fritz!! It certainly was a fun experience.

  • Mr Crazy Kicks May 16, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    Dude, nice work! A good example of a whole experience you’d have missed out on if you’d just gone and spent the money 🙂

    • Mr WoW May 17, 2018 at 1:51 am

      That’s definitely a part of it. I’m sure the adventure would have been just as much fun had we stayed in the Airport. But this just allowed us to see a side of Amsterdam that most folks like us wouldn’t get to see. It certainly was a blast.

  • wendy May 16, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    Wow, what a cool way to spend your layover!
    Cheers to serendipitous beers & friends!

    Good luck with the rest of the trip – looking forward to those future travel posts.

    • Mr WoW May 17, 2018 at 1:53 am

      So far so good. It was such a fun night and experience. These things just tend to happen if you allow them and aren’t so limited by your beliefs and your singular goals. It’s a crazy cool world we live in, make sure to enjoy it some while on the way.

  • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials May 17, 2018 at 8:41 am

    I love the Dutch. They’re so great once you get them to open up and relax a bit! Last week we heard a fellow blogger was in town so we invited them over and had a fun game night. They were here on a whim and had no plans, so hopefully we helped pass the time and have fun!
    Gwen @ Fiery Millennials recently posted…Transitioning into FI

    • Mr WoW May 17, 2018 at 11:43 am

      That’s awesome. We’ve only come in contactvwith a few foreigners in our neck of the woods. Weird but everyone heads away from us when they land in LA.

      Sounds like a good time!

  • Ms. FI-ology May 17, 2018 at 10:36 am

    How utterly fabulous! Yeah, risk is inherent in everything we do and when it comes to people, I think we have to lean heavily on our intuition.

    Being open to opportunity is huge. We can sure miss a lot when we are incredibly focused on the goal and forget to look around.
    Ms. FI-ology recently posted…A Road Map Out Of Debt

    • Mr WoW May 17, 2018 at 11:45 am

      It is. We have to have a goal as a place to aim. But we may or may not end up going directly there. Sometimes we have to veer off course a little.

  • Jason Hughes May 18, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Cool read Mr. Wow. Thanks for the share! Keep em coming! 🙂

    • Mr WoW May 19, 2018 at 1:20 pm

      You’re welcome thanks for stopping by!! That’s the plan man!

  • FIRECracker May 19, 2018 at 8:30 am

    LOVE it! We’ve met SO many interesting people after becoming FI, it completely blew my mind. If we hadn’t been open minded about going to Mexico (ignoring all the scary headlines!), we would’ve never met the woman who introduce us to World Schoolers (and now we have a wonderful community to be part of and footsteps to follow if we decide to have kids!). If we hadn’t been open minded about staying in a so-called “sketchy” area in Miami to escape the winter, we never would’ve met the nicest airbnb host ever (still keep in touch with him!). And if we hadn’t been opened minded about sharing a space in Amsterdam we wouldn’t have met the bike mechanic who took us all around Amsterdam and is to date one of the most interesting people we’ve ever met. Love these kinds of travel stories! Taking risks (albeit calculated risks) is what life is all about! We would’ve never had experiences if we hadn’t left our “safe” corporate 9 to 5.

    Thanks for sharing your story! Can’t wait to read your Cape Town write up!
    FIRECracker recently posted…Let’s Go Exploring! Tenerife: The Volcanic Mountains of Doom

    • Mr WoW May 21, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      This is so fantastic!! I love that you are meeting so many cool folks around the world that are opening your eyes to things. We’re experiencing some more of this now.

      We’ve found that people no matter where you are, or what language, or what ever are all pretty much the same. They want to have a safe life, feel like they belong and spend time with friends and family.

      Most times they are very open to new things and helping out people. It’s amazing.

  • Mr. Tako May 21, 2018 at 2:27 am

    Great story. When it comes right down to it, most people in the world are pretty fantastic *if* we can make a connection to one another.

    That, and a lot of beer seems to help 😉
    Mr. Tako recently posted…Investing Ideas: May 2018

    • Mr WoW May 21, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      Yeah, you have to be able and willing to put yourself out there. From there they have to be able and willing to reciprocate. But most people are pretty awesome. Not all, but most.

      And yes… 4 hours of drinking lots of beer certainly helps!

  • Adam @ Minafi May 26, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    Ohhh, did you go to Brouwerij ‘t IJ Brewery? The one thing I absolutely loved about Amsterdam, and want on every bar menu in the world, is bitterballen. I mean it’s fried gravy balls – how could that not be good?

    It sounds like you made some amazing connections there! Amsterdam is such a fun place, and the people are great.

    • Mr WoW May 27, 2018 at 11:47 am

      That’s exactly the place. Brewery of the Egg!! We didn’t have fried gravy balls, but we did have some other stuff that was mighty tasty.

      Most places we have been the people are amazing if you just let them in and make a connection to them. It’s actually pretty eye-opening.


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