Cuba. A place that a lot of us truly no nothing about. A forbidden place. A place rich in history that’s been skimmed over in school over the years.
When you think of Cuba, what comes to mind? And why?
When I was getting ready for my trip, I lost count of the number of people who told me they were concerned for my safety and thought it was a bad idea to be going. I didn’t exactly know why other than that people didn’t know much about this place making it a grey area. I knew nothing about this destination other than something with the Cold War, the Cuban Missle Crisis, and that America was not cool with Cuba and us going there.
So there’s that version of Cuba we all think we know and then there is the real Cuba – and let me tell you the two could not be farther apart.
Cuba marks my 37th country visited. I’ll also go as far as saying that it is the second safest country I have ever been in. Thailand coming in first. I have not once felt unsafe or that I had to continuously look over my shoulder. I felt quite the opposite. Any time I felt lost or needed a recommendation or help, someone was always lending out a hand. We definitely stuck out like sore thumbs, being the only blonde women in the city and that still did not bring negative energy or attention our way. The people could not have been nicer, always asking where we were from, always smiling and telling us how Bonita we were 😊
Some of my favorite trips are ones that surprise me and the ones that are stuck on my mind for a long time. This is one of those trips. We are so blessed to live in a country where we have the freedom to create, say and do what we want without having to give away 90% of that to the Government at an unfair and low cost. I can sit on this beach in Vadadero, Cuba, typing this out and know that I will be able to eat dinner tonight for a whole 10 cuc (roughly $10 US) at the nicest restaurant here and that I can take a shower tomorrow.
In Cuba, most people make between $20-$40 a month. Yes. A month. Everything around them though does not reflect that income. Restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels are not for them, it’s for the tourists, the government or the few rich. That was the strangest thing to me, I think. To go to a bar and you wouldn’t be interacting with the actual majority of people in Cuba.
As scary as it was to go off the grid we did. We only got WiFi every few days for about 15 minutes or so and that was lucky! The people of Cuba, just recently got access to WiFi but they cant even truly afford it, so I suppose it made sense that it wasn’t readily available. I finally had to cave and pay $2.99 a minute to let my mom know I was safe!
I am proud to say we really got to see the real Cuba… staying in Airbnb’s that had nicer amenities than an actual Cubans place but still nothing like we have at home. We saw a typical Cubans home, visited a ration store, a local supermarket, a coffee shop, rode in cars from the 50’s… maybe even older. We visited a tobacco farm that makes organic cigars and also makes their own rum and coffee beans. We walked the streets and interacted with the most amazing locals. We saw so much of Havana, Viñales and Varadero.
There were times I felt homesick and i didn’t recognize anything around me. There is no such thing as fast food. No such thing as a bag of chips. No American brands. No seat belts! This trip was not for the amateur traveler and even after all of the places I’ve been, there was nothing that could have prepared me fully for this experience.
With that being said, I would seriously encourage everyone to think about expanding their horizons if possible and taking the road less traveled to understand the world, different cultures and people more. It doesn’t even have to be Cuba, it could be taking a drive to an underprivileged neighborhood in your own county or making a detour on a trip anywhere. We are so lucky to live the way we do and I feel blessed to have gone on such a life changing trip with great people who appreciated all of these things as well.
Any questions or help with planning this destination or any others -do not hesitate to reach out!
As i lay under the stars at Nizuc resort in Cancun on the last night of my trip right now, I feel like a lucky lady for this experience- also definitely not going to take my comfy bed and down pillow and air conditioning for granted tonight …. or that nice roll of toilet paper in our bathroom that doesn’t have cockroaches 😂 yes it happened… yes at 3 am and yes while I was looking for toilet paper and shined my iPhone flashlight to find it. You could say I woke the whole neighborhood up with my screams.
Long live the adventure and all we have to be grateful for
P.S. for those who were worried.. I made it out alive, just a few rashes, some purple hair, and the desire to take all the dogs and cats home. Nothing unusual for this chica!