The Beginning of a Romance with Cuba
From beneath a large Banyan tree on the patio of a paladar (private restaurant) in the outskirts of Havana, Cuba, I rang in the New Year and made a big resolution. Instead of champagne, I toasted this life change with a refreshing mojito, which washed down the traditional Cuban holiday meal of roasted pig, yucca, and moros (beans and rice). That evening on my first trip to Cuba, which was six years ago, I resolved to come back to Cuba to learn as much about it as possible and to share my knowledge with others through my stories and pictures.
At that time, I had no idea that a few months later, I would be leading educational tours to the once forbidden island for Americans. This led to me having the perfect hybrid career allowing time for writing three books; the third of which is solely about my adventures in Cuba and the opportunities that it has provided for me called Cubicle to Cuba.
A True Love Story with Cuba
First, it was just curiosity; however, that lust quickly turned to love as I peeled back the layers of Cuba. From first glance, Cuba appeared third world with its dilapidated buildings, potholed streets, and barren store shelves, but it isn’t. Cuba’s culture is rich in spite of its third world infrastructure. From my taxi drivers to hosts at my casa particular (BnB), everyone I met in Cuba was very well-read and highly educated with at least one college degree if not more than one. On that maiden voyage to Cuba, I tried to soak up the complicated history of the island. However, a true understanding of why there is a whole generation of Cubans with Russian names like Boris and Conrado or how the American classic cars can still be running took various trips. Consequentially, the more I learned made me love it more, which continues to this day.
The portion of Cuba that was not difficult for me to grasp nor will it be for you is its happiness. The people are truly warm, genuine, and full of life. In spite of great hardships from the lowest point in the 1990’s (called the Special Period) to even now with strained relationships with the U.S., the spirit of the entire island is all about turning lemons into lemonade or better said turning lemons into mojitos. It’s the Cuban way of life. Living in the moment and this zest for life is what makes Cuban culture so rich and distinct. This is also what keeps pulling me back.
Life Lessons from Cuba
I had always known and have been reminded by my mother, other authors, and even gurus that happiness is not about things, but about the people around you as well as your perspective. In Cuba, you witness this daily. Everything is about community and family. They worked together to survive the 90’s. Today, they share small homes with multiple generations. Cubans will invite you into their homes and/or businesses to have whatever food, coffee, or rum they have. In fact, when life deals a Cuban a bad hand of dominos, flat tire, or worse, he/she moves on, perhaps laughing about it with a friend. Cubans are known to enjoy the simple things in life such as smoking a good Cuban cigar, drinking Cuban coffee, sipping rum, or just watching the world go by with a friend, neighbor, or family member.
Why Travel to Cuba?
If you haven’t traveled to Cuba ever or maybe not for a while, I encourage you to do so. The creativity, warmth, and perseverance of its people are reminders for us all. Plus, NOW is a very interesting time in its history to witness what Cuba has been and what it will become. Cuba is in a transition to its next chapter, Cuba 2.0. To learn four ways to travel to Cuba in 2018, click here.
Will you fall in love with Cuba?
I’ll hedge my bets that you will, but you let me know.