Bringing Travel Home

The post trip blues are very real and hit very hard. Whenever I get home from a great trip abroad I always have an intense sense of longing for the places that I went to. Aside from catching up with the jet lag, this is the hardest part. My first day back a work is always immediate, as I want to use every last vacation hour on my trip. Doing this forces you back into reality in the truest sense of the word. While day one is spent recounting some of my best memories and drinking tons of coffee, you eventually settle back in with a renewed sense of yearning for the next trip.

I’ve mentioned this before but it is pretty unrealistic to just leave your job and travel full time. Sure I love to travel, but I love my job too. They provide different things for me and are almost completely independent of one and other (except when work trips bring travel experiences). Stretching my time off goes a long way, and luckily my boss approves of my long trips so I am able to incorporate both into my life. But, working tends to push my love of travel to the side as it becomes non-existent during the rush of the job. I think that makes it even more important to try and incorporate something into my life.

Filling the travel void isn’t always easy, as weekend trips to Europe aren’t necessarily a reality. I try as hard as I can to take advantage of day and weekend travel around Las Vegas. I go to Reno frequently (enough that it is a second home) and I often make trips to Southern California. Weekend trips are a nice way to have a taste of something more, for a little amount of time. I try to take advantage of this time somewhere new by doing things I haven’t done before. By doing the things I love so much when abroad, whether that be going on a long walk or to a museum I haven’t been to before, these smaller excursions help quench my thirst.

I’ve made note of this before, but it bears repeating: because of Europe, I now love breakfast. Being home, I would never really indulge in something like that but now, I have a different mindset. Having a pastry in a little French café brings me right back to my European trips. Or, when I am at a deli I will get a pastry despite trying to maintain a healthy diet! I try to incorporate as many things like this as I can, bridging the gap between trips with small tastes of being abroad. Even my coffee habits have changed. Before I went to Europe with my sisters I never really enjoyed specialty drinks like cappuccinos or au laits, but now it’s become a mainstay in my occasional indulgent mornings.

While there is nothing quite like traveling abroad, I think I have learned to find ways to bring that home, to strike a balance between a love for travel and a love for work. It really is about appreciating what is near and finding little things that bring me back to my trips. I have become aware of my surroundings in a way that allows me to take in beauty of things once overlooked. Traveling even changes my sense of fashion as seeing people in other places always inspires me. Despite not being on vacation, I want to have a mindset that is different than just my day to day. While a long trip is not always realistic, incorporating travel into my lifestyle absolutely is, and I encourage you to do the same.

The Beauty of Wandering

When I travel, I like to take in the major sites and destinations: museums, castles, monuments, churches, etc. But, I always like to have time where I can simply wander and explore whatever city I am in. Finding places off the path, beyond the recommendations, is the essence of travel. Some of my favorite travel moments have come from finding a random cobblestone street, a great set of stores, or a café with a delicious cappuccino and a pastry. While it is nice to have set plans, I find having no plans a great part of the fun.

I wrote about a few of my favorite wandering moments in France, Oslo, and Stockholm. But I can recount so many more that helped to shape my trips. Traveling during the cold season adds to my want to wander as I’m constantly looking for a break from the weather. Places that really pique my interest are colleges and libraries. They are open to the public and exist in the beautiful, history filled buildings that I love so much about Europe. Being an English major, my fiancé always tends to guide us into book filled halls and we spend longer than we ever intend.

Wandering in a place you haven’t been before elicits an excitement you can’t get anywhere else. Not knowing what you’ll see next, without Internet at your fingertips, forces you to rely more on your senses, sparking a great sense of self. There are also certain places where you are meant to get lost. My sister told me this is the case in Venice, where I have yet to go, but this same thing I discovered in Amsterdam. Wandering the cobblestone along the waterways, I felt like I could walk 30 minutes in one direction and find myself where I started. You lose your sense of direction among the canals and can simply enjoy the incredibly beautiful bridges, narrow roads, and the soft light of the street lamps reflecting off the water.

One thing that always provides a lasting memory is heading somewhere planned but getting lost along the way, or getting there and finding it is not what you expected. This was the case when I was in San Sebastian with my sisters. My younger sister, Lars, was in class, as she was studying abroad, so she sent my older sister Jessica and I to go check a famous site. It was a two-mile walk and when we arrived the feature was not active at the time, we laughed and made sure to yell at my sister when she got back. Regardless, we fully enjoyed ourselves on the walk to and from finding other sites to explore. During this same trip we also wandered to the top of a famous hillside, which led to a spectacular view of the city.

Wandering brings something so unexpected to a trip and often proves to bring some of the more lasting memories. I love stumbling upon a beautiful building, a unique site, or even something simple that is special in the moment. Whether that is a spectacular view or visiting somewhere you never thought you would see, I always make sure to have time to just explore in all the places I go.

What I Did in Berlin

Berlin is a city that surpassed my every expectation. The amount of history, while always present in the back of your mind, is a staggering realization upon exploration. Like all European antiquity, Germany has ancient roots, but something that sets it apart is the prominence of its recent history. It is incredible to walk around and see things in museums from the Ottoman Empire and then as recent as the Cold War. Not only the history, but the food and general culture of Berlin was mesmerizing. It is a city where I spent a few days with my fiancé, but after visiting I know that I want to spend a few more.

Lodging

Figuring out where to stay in Berlin was one of the more challenging bookings I have made. The city is very large in terms of things to do and city centers. I researched to determine the best price in the best possible area. Where we settled was in a good location, not the greatest hotel but it did the job. We stayed near Checkpoint Charlie, which seemed central and had easy access to public transit. I would recommend the area for ease of access, but I am sure there are other great places to stay too, so long as you’re in close proximity to the transit system.

Food

The food in Berlin was strikingly different than the other cities we had been in Germany. But, some of our best meals were here. Of course, we had to have schnitzel but the place we went was this tiny, hole in the wall right by the East Side Gallery. It was called Scheers Schnitzel. It was remarkably cheap and unforgettably delicious. One of the sauces that you could have on the side was curry, as currywurst is surprisingly something Berlin has become known for. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to try the currywurst, but we did have curry on many dishes. Doner Kebabs are another unique food that is on every must-have list. We tried this on our last day and wound up wishing we had earlier. The place we went wasn’t on any list and was attached to a U-Bahn stop but it was still amazing. Sometimes the places you least expect are those with the best offerings.

Hip coffee shops were a dime a dozen in Berlin. Every place felt very “Instagramable” with cute décor and latte art. In these, I enjoyed every sip and every bite. But, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I comically had one of the worst meals of my life in Berlin. It came in the form of a salad that was more dressing than lettuce. More soup than salad. When I look back on that horrific meal I remember nothing but laughter, and it became one of our lasting memories from the trip.

Things to Do

Berlin is a city in which there are an endless amount of things to do. And when you leave your list seems not even half checked. We were near the Brandenburg Gate, which is a breathtaking site and dates back to the 18th-century. During World War II Berlin was heavily bombed, yet somehow, some way, the Brandenburg Gate remained, making it even more impressive. Museum Island was also spectacular, as it contains a cluster of museums spanning various points in history. A must see is the East Side Gallery, which is the only remaining portion of the Berlin Wall. It is covered murals, some political, some beautiful, all interesting. The East Side Gallery fascinates to me. It is recent, so much so that my parents have memories of being in Berlin as they were taking down the wall. The span of history never ceased to amaze me here. In tune with this is the DDR Museum, which mimics what life was like inside of East Berlin during the Cold War. It is a very hands on museum and was neat to see history displayed in such a way. The Holocaust Memorial was moving and profound and a very important site to take in. Berlin never shies from showing the atrocities a former Germany has committed.

 

Berlin was a perfect place to explore and it was always easy to get around via the U-Bahn. There is good shopping and many squares to wander through. It was booming with activity and is a city I cannot wait to return to.