Deep blue sky stretched out before me, water to the left, marsh to the right — wind at my back and setting sun seeking the horizon behind me.
It was my first day cycling in the Netherlands. I was cruising along to my Dutch host’s house in Lelystad, a city on an island called Flevoland created by the Dutch (by “reclaiming” land from water). The traffic-free route left helmetless me smiling for no reason at all, aside from the fact that I felt free.
With the aid of a hand-me-down map, I was able to pick a route and follow the numbering system that Netherlands has in place for navigation. You can write down the numbers you need to follow to get to your destination and bike from one number to the next.
Issues arise if you miss a number. Fortunately I never had that issue because I chose to use the city name signs, which showed me which way to go and how many km it was away from my current location, and used the numbering system as a check. These signs pointed me to the next city or village I needed to navigate to on my way to my final destination for the day.
If I had the choice, I would have mounted my bike back in Amsterdam and followed whatever cycle path looked interesting, wind coursing through my hair and my body relaxed from feeling safely divided from cars.