When it comes to traveling, I admit that I tend to play it safe. I’m not the most adventurous, as I tend to plan out my itineraries and stick to them once I arrive in a new destination. My intentions for my travels are to visit the well-known sites and monuments, perhaps try out a couple of lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path places, and call it a day.
But there have also been moments when I decided to be bolder and try something new. Sometimes they’re for the good, sometimes not so much. My trip to Amsterdam in 2016 confirmed that doing certain things might not be so good for you, and it was my naivete that taught me a solid lesson of knowing which risks to take (or not).
Amsterdam is a city famous for its beautiful canals, the Anne Frank house, and delicious stroopwafels. It also happens to be famous for being weed and drug capital, as plenty of youths and pot-loving folks flock to the Dutch capital to get high and trashed at the so-called “coffee shops” and party like no other.
I personally don’t smoke nor take drugs, but then 23-year-old me was curious. To the point that I was interested in seeing what it was all about. In hindsight, it was really stupid of me, but my naive myself thought that it couldn’t be so bad– perhaps like getting drunk or something.
Again, I don’t smoke (and never will), so weed wasn’t going to work. Instead, I decided that edibles would be the way to go. Little did I know that it would be 100 times more potent than smoking, but back then, I thought that getting a space cake would be a tame way to experience the feeling of getting high.
…and off to the coffee shop I went. Located in the De Wallen district, the coffee shop I entered was underground and extremely dim, which probably hid the fact that it was shady as hell. At the counter, I ordered a space cake to-go– it cost about 6-7€, and with the brownie-sized cake in hand, I made my way out. I decided to save eating it until I finished sightseeing that day, so I visited several sites, including the De Grooyer windmill north of the city.
Returning near my hostel around 14:00, I decided to try the space cake. Sitting outside on the benches facing the canal, I tore open the package and was immediately hit with the scent of weed. I dug in– the cake was a bit on the dry side, and aside from the *very subtle* taste of weed, it tasted like any normal chocolate cake. I ate not quite one-third of it, choosing to save the rest for later in case that it didn’t work enough.
It would take some time for the cake to take effect, so I decided to head over to a Dutch pancake house for a late lunch, as well as to try the national dish. I ate at a pancake house near the Dam square– the pancakes were okay, although I wouldn’t say that I loved them.
The space cake effects immediately kicked in upon finishing lunch– by then, it’d been exactly 45 minutes since I had the space cake, and everything hit full-force. It felt as if something in my brain just snapped. My brain was BUZZING; it felt like a television had been switched on, as I was experiencing intense vibrations that resembled static noise. I also started seeing things that resembled emission waves pulsing right in front of my eyes, which was something that I’d never experienced before.
I immediately started to panic– I wasn’t feeling comfortable at all. If anything, I was hallucinating, not high. I knew that I had to get the hell out of the pancake house and back to my hostel, before the effects intensified. Somehow managing to pay the bill, I stumbled out and made my way back as fast as my conscious self could allow me.
Normally, the walk to the hostel took around 15 to 20 minutes, but it felt much longer than that. My brain was going a million miles per minute as I tried as hard as I could to keep my sane self together, so as not to cause suspicion from others. Paranoia was going full-force, and I kept imagining that people were staring at me as I tried to walk as normally as possible– they probably weren’t looking at me, but under the influence, I was so certain that they were.
I felt like I was going out of my mind with these million thoughts, as I kept telling myself not to go crazy, but ironically enough getting crazier and crazier with each passing minute. I heard snippets of passerby’s conversations as I was walking, and their voices looped at the end of their sentences, like record players. I took a swig of water, hoping that it would calm my nerves, and I felt the water bounce up and down in my stomach like a basketball, which did anything but to calm me.
Furthermore, I was starting to lose sensation in my entire body– I didn’t even know what to do with my face, as I felt as if my mouth was slack, with my jaw stretching down to the floor like pizza dough, and there was no way I could control it. I was far from being in a safe place, and I was absolutely freaking out as these hallucinations kept getting worse.
After what seemed like ages, I managed to stumble back into my hostel and make it to my dorm bed, where I crashed and tried my hardest to ride out this horrible trip. Even when I closed my eyes, the auditory hallucinations kept going. I was staying in a relatively-quiet neighborhood, but I heard jackhammers going off, ambulances wailing, and more looping voices (perhaps from other hostel-goers). My heart was beating like an EDM concert, and I was far from feeling calm. Mixed with the anxiety and paranoia, I was so scared that I was going to die from all of these intense stimulations– even worse, die alone in the hostel, as I was solo-traveling at the time.
I was so afraid that, at one point, I got out of bed and woke up the female hostel-goer sleeping above my bunk. Somehow managing to tell her that I was tripping (and without getting hysterical), I also asked if she could wake me up in a few hours to check in on me, so that I hadn’t died or something. She was very sympathetic and told me she would, but here’s the real kicker: she was also on drugs, too. Besides her telling me the fact that she was, she looked like she was on her psychedelic trip, too. But I supposed that she had more experience than me, because she was able to tell me to “just relax, and you’ll be fine.” Believing in this complete stranger, I returned to my bunk and proceeded to ride it out. Not easy, but it was the best that I could do.
Just as suddenly the effects came, they suddenly stopped. Waking up, slightly shaken, I realized that the noises were lessening; I was able to stand up and focus. It was around 17:30 at that point, about three hours of intense tripping. However, I wasn’t completely back to my old self just yet, so I stayed in my bunk for a bit longer before waking up at 19:30 and feeling much better.
Although feeling quite weak, I found the courage to head out and explore a bit of Amsterdam. I visited the Red Lights District, where I visited a history of sex museum that was a bit overrated, in my opinion– plus, I was still feeling woozy, so I don’t even remember much of what I saw.
I also thought about getting something to eat, so I came across a fry stand (which turned out to be the famous Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx) where I got some piping-hot fries with onions and curry sauce. I suppose that I wasn’t completely off my trip yet, because I didn’t feel the heat of the fries as I shoveled them into my mouth, and I ended up burning my mouth in the process. In fact, it wouldn’t be until a full 24 hours had passed that I would be normal again, with all of my consciousness and senses within control. After my meal, I returned to the hostel for the rest of the evening.
That incident was technically the first (and last) time I ever took any form of mind-altering drugs. After that day, I swore never to do it again– ever. Looking back, what I did was incredibly stupid, not just in the fact that I thought it would be tame, but also I wasn’t in a good state to try it. Considering that I was solo-traveling and had a slight bout of nervousness before eating it, I went into the trip without feeling comfortable, and that made for a negative experience. As for the rest of the space cake, I didn’t dare touch it, and I ended up giving it to some friends I met up with the following day, who had more experience with taking drugs.
Moral of the story: Don’t do drugs, kids!