A vacation that I started planning about 1 year ago is coming to an end tomorrow. Over the last 3 weeks, I have traveled to Jamaica, Germany, and Norway. Writing this I’m reflecting on what I’ve seen and experienced.
I was asked by my work to travel to Mandeville, Jamaica to help launch a new site. Even though I was only there 1 week, I experienced a lot. The landscaping is beautiful. With tropical trees, clear water, and warm beaches, it’s definitely paradise. The tree frogs and crickets play a symphony that sounds like one of the options on a white noise machine.
Jamaica is also a very povertous country. Wild dogs run the streets, there are bars and walls surrounding all of the homes and businesses, and the water is contaminated. When driving on the roads, take caution because there are more potholes than road. Also, the bugs are killer. My feet and legs were ravaged by mosquitos and we saw a spider or twelve.
While there, I also found it very difficult to find vegan or vegetarian options. The country bases most of its food on fried meat. Chicken, beef, and fish came in every form. Jerk, fried, baked, in pattie form. Many of the restaurants had little to no options for me. I had a lettuce and tomato salad for 2 days in a row until I found a “live food” restaurant. This delicious little gem offered raw vegan dishes that were incredible. Offering a diverse menu, Fancy Fruits became my go to for every meal.
About a year ago, when my family advised that they would be in Germany in 2017, I immediately signed up. I spent weeks researching flights, Air BnBs, transit, and much more. Finally, the day had arrived.
My mum and I boarded the plane and spent the next 13 hours in the air. Upon landing, we were greeted by our family. Over the next 10 days we would tour Berlin, Potsdam, Lübbenau, Spreewald, Peacock Island, and Ravensbrük. Every day was a new and exciting adventure.
Ravensbrük is a concentration camp in Germany which held mostly women during WWII. While not an extermination camp, until years later, the camp housed women and men charged with crimes of which they did not receive a trial for. Over 130,000 people were there and forced to work 12 hour days, fed little to no food, and had experiments performed on them. Some of the women were forced into prostitution. Children were yanked from their mothers and families were separated. It was a very eye opening experience.
The Berlin Wall was another memorial we visited that is a must see. I never knew the full story and I’m glad that I got to learn how Russia segregated part of Germany from the American side and people were punished or killed if they tried to cross. This wall was built down the middle of Berlin and stayed their until 1989. Many tried to cross, but few succeeded. I read the stories of each person, listened to their words, and watched accounts of people struggling to see their families who were trapped on the other side.
Peacock Island is a short distance from Berlin and offers Kodak Moments. This small island offers a vineyard, rose garden, cafe, palace, and of course, peacocks. A short ferry ride will get you there.
Lübbenau and Spreewald were likely my favorite towns. Spreewald is Venice of Germany. Known for its many waterways and open air museum, this quaint town gives you a sneak peak into Germany of the past. There are activities and preserved artefacts that the entire family will enjoy. Lübbenau is an old town that offers cobblestone roads and that true, old European feel. I enjoyed walking around just observing the old buildings.
What I miss the most about Germany is the slower, simpler pace of life. We stayed near Lichterfelde Ost station and walked to and from the train station every day. I enjoyed the transit system there as it was efficient and it meant I didn’t have to sit in a car and experience traffic all day. We would often stop at fruit stands, the market, or to get a gelato at the end of our day. Life seems very laid back and easy in Berlin Ost.
After leaving Berlin, I traveled on to Tromsø. This small town by the fjord is a true gem. It is mostly known for its picturesque views of the water and mountains, and the aurora borealis.
I toured this small town and took in the culture. The downtown area offers a lot of shopping and dining. There is also a cable car you can take to the top of a mountain and enjoy the views of the island. I also had the opportunity to drive around and tour a few other islands. Some of the views I saw were straight out of a movie. Norway seems mostly untouched and there is still a lot of nature to enjoy.
The highlight was probably stepping outside to see the aurora borealis. While it usually doesn’t come out until September, I was able to catch a quick glimpse of it. I sat outside for nearly an hour watching it move, fade in and out, and stretch over the night sky. The aurora borealis is something that I had on my “bucket list,” and I’m thankful that I got to mark it off.
I hope to travel again soon and see more of this beautiful world.