Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Year of Return: My 2018 Travels

2018 was really some kind of year! It was filled with unexpected situations as well as familiar scenes and there was a clear pattern to the year's travel. I embarked on new, unforgettable journeys to countries that start with "G": Greece, Guadeloupe and Ghana.  And I returned to beloved, familiar destinations; St. Lucia, St. John, Tobago and Montreal, for a whole new perspective. "The Year of Return" is also the theme for Ghana's year-long commemoration of 400 years since the first enslaved African arrived in the U.S.. A celebration of the resilience of the African spirit, the 2019 Year of Return welcomes all the Diaspora to return home and re-connect. That's exactly what I did during my life-changing trip to Ghana. From the time I stepped onto the streets of Accra, I was welcomed like a daughter returned from a long trip. I cried during most of my time at Cape Coast Castle, shown above, the site where thousands were imprisoned and then shipped off to the Americas during the brutal Transatlantic Slave Trade. It wasn't easy, but I re-traced the steps of my ancestors, through the "door of no return" and back again because I had indeed returned.

I had returned to re-connect to African people and culture and to also discover my ancestral heritage. Thanks to African Ancestry, I was presented with the results of my DNA test in front of the infamous door of no return. I learned that I came from the Mandinka people of Senegal, a culture that I've always felt a connection to, especially with their tradition of griots who are storytellers who pass down history through songs and poetry. I walked through the door of return a different person with a different identity.

Ghana's official launch for the Year of Return featured music, shown in the video above, pageantry and theater.  The trip was the highlight of my year. Other highlights included a return to St. Lucia for the St. Lucia Jazz Fest, which has totally changed from when I attended nine years ago when Amy Winehouse was the headliner. The focus has switched to true jazz performers with a smattering of Soca musicians, including  the "Queen of Bacchanal" Destra Garcia, who  I enjoyed  watching as she headlined the last night. Dancing to Destra under the stars on Pigeon Island, eating and whining my way through Gros Islet Jump Up  and shopping at Caribelle Batik  are memories I'll always cherish.

St. Lucia's beauty is unrivaled as you can see with the iconic Pitons above. St. John is another island famous for its beauty and I was thrilled to find it recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. As you can see below, Love City, as St. John is called, retains all of its tropical loveliness.

Montreal is one of my fave cities and I'd visited in every season except winter. I decided to ignore my aversion to the cold and check it out in February. Snow and ice blanketed the city and outlying towns but it was still beautiful and exciting. I attended winter festivals, enjoyed jazz clubs and toured the dynamic street art scene. You can see a mural of  Leonard Cohen peeking out over a building below.

I returned to Tobago after a long 18 years and found it mostly unchanged. The people were still friendly, the landscape was still stunning and the small island culture was just as intriguing. I visited parts of the island I had never seen and reveled under a sunset over Pigeon Point below.  In 2018, I experienced different kinds of travel, wrote for different kinds of publications and viewed familiar locations from different angles. Here's to a new year of growth and travel!


John Doe said...

Great content..

Fly Girl said...

Thanks for visiting John!