Friday, March 25, 2011

Hotel nomad – Vincent van Dijk

When he moved to Amsterdam because of his job, Vincent van Dijk couldn’t find an apartment to rent. Now he lives in another hotel everyday …for free.

Amsterdam, the capital of Netherlands, has long had a problem with living space. When Vincent van Dijk wanted to move there, he had real problems finding an apartment. In fact, he never found one. Instead, he hit on a clever idea. 

Amsterdam has around 365 hotels, like the number of days in the year. So he’s been staying among them every day and reporting about them.

When he had to move to the Dutch capital because of his job, Vincent couldn’t find neither a house nor apartment to rent. Because of that, he decided to live in hotels. Soon he started to write a blog about his experiences in each hotel he visited. The blog became so popular that he is now planning to write a book about hotels in Amsterdam.

Dijk has already spent a night in more than 350 hotels in less than a year. The idea to spend every night in another hotel came when he realized how hard it is to rent an apartment in Amsterdam.

Like many other good stories, so has this one started by accident and even in a bit of trivial way. In the fall of 2009, after an unsuccessful search for an apartment, Vincent van Dijk found himself without a roof over his head, and with a bunch of luggage and various other personal belongings. He had no other option but to go to a hotel. After that first one, came another, and another, and so on.

- One day I was still sleeping in my bed and a cleaning lady came and took away my sheets. She didn’t realized that I was still in bed.  I started laughing and thought, “Oh, my God, this is a nice story to write about” – says Dijk.

From the initial idea, a real and genuine project started to arise. Vincent van Dijk began to write stories about hotels, of course, from his own perspective, and to publish them on his blog. He would simply call a hotel and ask them if they would like from him to write some story about them.  According to this 36-year-old, most of them were instantly thrilled. Many saw this as an advertising opportunity. Because of the global crisis, many hotels had less number of visitors than before - despite the fact that almost five million tourists annually visit Amsterdam.

Although he is not a classic controller or someone who tests hotels, he writes interesting stories about them and his opinion is very important to hotel owners and managers. His stories have gained great popularity among the hoteliers, who are now always asking each other: "Has he visited you already? And? What did he say? "

At first, Vincent made plans for weeks ahead in which hotel he is going to sleep. Now he is more spontaneous. So far, luck was with him and he always managed to get a free room. Not only that – because of the stories he writes, not only that he doesn’t have to pay for staying, he even enjoys all privileges of a VIP customer. Upon his arrival, hotel managers personally greet him.  Some of them are preparing even royal apartments for him.

Van Dijk’s life has changed completely. Although he still doesn’t know what he will do when his project ends, he is certain in one thing – he will never again be able to live in a normal house. This is how he explained why he fell in love with the life of a hotel nomad:

  - I feel much better, somehow more balanced than before, even dough I work sometimes and up to 18 hours a day. I haven’t been ill a single day since I’m doing this. It's really incredible. I think I really changed.  Besides, in the beginning I carried all my stuff with me, all my diplomas, books, photos. In the meantime, I threw away everything. I don’t need it. I live like some Zen Buddhist priest.

He refused hotels from Paris, New York and Rio

The name of the most popular blog about hotels in Amsterdam is “Amsterdam slaapt”. Vincent van Dijk updates it every day with interesting new stories. His stories became known and outside of Netherlands, and he received several invites to come and write about hotels in Paris, New York and Rio de Janeiro. However, he refused them. He wants to stay in Amsterdam and turn his stories into a book. He called many hotels and suggested the idea to write a book about hotels in Amsterdam. They were all delighted with his plan.

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