When Dreams Meet Reality: Living in Amsterdam as a Travel Writer & Ex-Pat
We have a very special P.MAI pioneer today! I recently met up with Becky Youman, an American ex-pat living in Amsterdam as a travel writer (yes, dreams do come true). Sporting her new P.MAI bag, we caught up in one of Amsterdam’s cozy brown cafes and swapped stories over a hot cup of fresh mint tea.
She and her husband Bryan met in Mexico City over 20 years ago drinking green tequila at a St. Patrick’s Day party. Since then they have traveled and lived around the globe. After hearing her experience, I realized that being able to write your own life story is true freedom.
Becky started her career in International Marketing, but during a stint in Chile as Jergens’ Mercosur Business Development Manager she began to write travel articles on the side. She fully transitioned to travel writing when her daughter was born. She has authored and co-authored a number of travel books, including Liquid Mexico (a travelogue about the country’s drinks) and Open Road guidebooks such as The Arizona Guide; The Chile Guide; and The Ecuador & Galapagos Guide. She is also a regular contributor to the Alaska Airlines in-flight magazine.
I asked Becky to give me a rundown on her life in Amsterdam. Here’s what she had to say:
6:00am: Up early for a grounding morning yoga practice. Depending on the time of year, my sun salutations are done looking down at the canal in front of our house either in full sunshine (summer) or under the glow of streetlamps (currently).
8:00am: After getting my daughter ready for school and waving both her and my husband off on their separate bike commutes (this is Amsterdam after all), I check in on emails and prep for my day.
9:15am: I load up my backpack with my daily essentials – notebook, phone, water bottle, and rain gear – and head out on my bike for my morning activity. Depending on the day this might be a museum visit for an article, my Dutch language class, exploration of a specific neighborhood, or just some quiet writing time.
Noon: Time to meet a friend for lunch. I stash my backpack, but grab the wristlet with my phone and wallet before heading to the table. My culinary tour of Amsterdam includes typical Dutch dishes like split pea soup and pancakes; more exotic specialties like Indonesian rijsttafel – an import from the Dutch East Indies days; mouth-watering comfort food like mussels and frites; or personal favorites that I seek out all over the globe like the muy delicioso Mexican dishes at pop-up Best Coast Tacos.
2:00pm: Run errands and stop by the grocery store as I bike through town on my way home. No need to join a gym here as I cover miles on my bike on a daily basis. Every time I slip on my backpack I am so happy that I found it. I had been on the search for the perfect “grown-up” backpack for over five years. The fancy ones were always too small or completely impractical with non-padded straps or no interior compartments, while the functional ones were just that – completely functional with no style.
3:30pm: Home in time to meet my daughter after school. Some days we are off to after-school activities (she carries the oboe, I haul the sheet music in my pack) and other days we plan fun outings like hitting the specialty shops of the 9 Straatjes – a cluster of boutiques, galleries, and cafes in one of Amsterdam’s most picturesque canal zones – or searching for treasures amongst the many stalls of the Albert Cuyp street market in the vibrant De Pijp neighborhood.
**6:30pm: **Home for family dinner, homework, and hangout time. This is also when we plan our future travel, figuring out which parts of Europe we will explore next. Amsterdam is such a great spot not only because of the high quality of daily life, but also as the hopping off point for easy trips to so many different countries. In the past year alone we have been lucky enough to explore Malta, Italy, Spain, Croatia, France, Belgium, Germany, and England, as well as most of the provinces in the Netherlands.
10:00pm: Read for a bit before bed. There are so many fabulous books, both fiction and non-fiction, to help me gain insight into this culturally rich country. Some of my favorites are Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto,The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal, the Grijpsta & de Gier mystery novels, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and the hilarious tongue-in-cheek cultural guide Stuff Dutch People Like by Colleen Geske.
Her description of Amsterdam makes my heart ache with nostalgia. We’re so glad to have met such a brilliant and classy lady, and love knowing that her P.MAI bag has become her newest travel companion.
Ship Got Real
We’ve been busy putting the final touches on our P.MAI products—from literally hand waxing the zipper to perfecting the packaging. We’re proud to announce that the P.MAI pre-orders are being shipped tomorrow from Hong Kong, directly to your door! Depending on where you’re located, you can expect your order in roughly** 7-8** **business days. **Orders outside the U.S. may take a bit longer.
You’ll receive information the same time as we do, with tracking numbers and notifications on when your order is in transit and when it’s out for delivery.
We can’t wait for you to receive your products and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support and patience. We’d love to hear from you once you get them so please post photos and share your experiences with us on social media.
Check out some behind-the scenes action:
The Making of P.MAI: Factory Tour
We are finally back Stateside after visiting our factory in Dongguan, China, located just a few hours outside of Hong Kong. We wanted to take you behind the scenes.
Our first impression was of the city itself. Though the air was sticky with humidity, Dongguan is surrounded by lush green mountains and several lakes and reservoirs. It felt like being in Florida or Texas during the summer.
We feel lucky to have found a partner that cares about quality as much as we do. The factory has been producing quality soft goods for 30 years—from high-end designer handbags (think Versace) to high-performance luggage and laptop bags. Moreover, most employees have been happily working there between 5-10 years. It was easy to see why.
Everyone we met had a special role that they took great pride in. From the leather cutter tinkering on the die cut machine, to the woman sewing the pleated corner of our interior lining, everyone worked together beautifully. It was astounding to see such high quality products being made right before our eyes.
We’re excited to have our backpack made on the same operating line as major brands and know we can trust our partners for the long term. We’re still hoping to have the backpacks next month. In the meantime, check out the short video and photos below to learn more about how our backpacks are made.
Don't Let Your Bag Weigh You Down
Ah yes, autumn is here—a time for cashmere sweaters, vibrant leaves, and, of course pumpkin spice lattes. (Unless you live in California, where we are finally getting a taste of, well, summer.) The kiddos are back to school, and their backpack are already swelling with books and supplies.
Growing up, we couldn’t wait to purchase our new faithful backpack that would serve as a guardian for everything we thought to be sacred. We used anything—patches, keychains, pins—to accessorize our bags and accentuate our personalities. But what we didn’t consider was the amount of weight we carried.
Children and adults should not be carrying more than 10% of their body weight in a backpack. And yet we often do. In fact, citing the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reported that more than 28,100 individuals were treated for injuries related to backpacks in 2014 and that more than 8,300 of those injuries involved kids and teens ages 5 to 18. Too much weight leads to poor posture, pinches nerves, and back and neck pain.
Whether you’re a college student or working professional, check to make sure you’re not overloading your bags. In addition:
1. Keep the heaviest items low and closest to the center of the body near the spine.
2. Avoid having the backpack lower than four inches from the waist.
3. Remember to use both straps and keep them tightened.
4. If you find yourself leaning forward then you probably need to lighten to load. (Leaning to support the weight can strain the back.)
At P.MAI, we went through dozen of iterations specifically on the dimensions of our backpacks. Why? Because we wanted to ensure that it was large enough to carry your essentials without being too large that we’d be tempted to overpack. Be conscious about what you truly need to carry on a daily basis. We want to help you simplify, beautify, and edit your life. A healthy spine is a beautiful one! Carry on, beautifully.
What’s in a Name: Behind the Valletta
It was a glorious sunny day in July of 2014. Our ship glided gently into Malta’s Grand Harbour, and I fought every urge to pull a Rose from Titantic and pretend to fly. I was greeted immediately by salty winds, a panorama of the Mediterranean, and the sounds of church bells ringing in the distance. ((Exhale))
The stunning island nation of Malta bursted with culture and history. Colorful banners adorned the streets to celebrate the summer festivals, and homes boasted freshly painted doors in preparation.
I fell in love instantly.
With its Mediterranean cuisine, perfect climate, and relaxed way of life, Malta was paradise. But what drew me in wasn’t the luxurious lifestyle, but rather the richness of its history, manifested by the splendor of 16th century buildings and structures that have been so carefully preserved within an urban environment.
Beneath its centuries-old cracks were layers of histories, ranging from Roman to Norman to French and British, all shaping what Malta is today. For example, its language is a linguistic cocktail that sounds Arabic with half of its vocabulary coming from Italian and mixes of French and English.
I strolled through its capital, Valletta, pausing inside the famous St. John’s Co-Cathedral, an impressive treasure of Baroque art and architecture. Built in the 1570s, the interior is extremely ornate and designed with intricate carved walls and painted figures that appear three-dimensional through shadowing. The most important masterpieces by Caravaggio are centrally displayed. But my favorite part were the eight chapels, each one dedicated to a patron saint of the langues (regions). Here’s a photo of the Chapel of Italy, dedicated to Saint Catherine.
I also learned that because of its strategic location as a military and naval fortress, Malta was one of the most heavily bombed countries during WWII. Valletta’s streets and buildings, including the Royal Opera House, were left in ruins. And yet, despite having survived battles for hundreds of years, Valletta has remained strong and victorious.
I decided to name our first collection of backpacks after this historical town of Valletta. There’s something powerful and alluring about its resiliency and colorful riches. Our Valletta backpack represents the strength and beauty that comes from understanding ones roots and fighting for what you believe in.
That’s who we are. We celebrate each other’s cultural diversities, and we stand unafraid and unbridled by what tomorrow brings.