The first time I desired to go to Cuba was years ago, maybe 10?, when I discovered someone’s blog and his journey though this unique country. I remember waiting restless every week for a new episode of his big adventure. But years passed, and I forgot about this little island, at the edge of the Caribbean. Until last year, when I was searching for my yearly destination.
I didn’t know much about Cuba before I actually decided to go. And my decision was based on the fact that after the American embargo is going to be lifted, the country will change. This reason has grown the number of tourists that have pointed their attention to Cuba. I wanted to discover the real Cuba, I wanted to understand it because, I guess, it would help me understand my roots better, as I come from an ex “socialist” (read “communist”) country.
Little did I know that this trip was supposed to be a valuable lesson on humanity. And I still don’t know if I deserved all of it. This trip was about people rather than a just a destination.
Once the decision was made, I have booked the cheapest flight I could find, which meant a total time of over 37 hours of traveling, starting in Italy. Plus the time spent to get to Italy. Before the departure day I used to joke that I am changing so many flights that the airline will loose my bag. Guess what? They did, on the first leg of the journey, before even starting my Transatlantic crossing. And I have also been denied boarding on my last leg of the journey, because my seat was never confirmed, even if the ticket was.
So there I was, arriving in Cuba, with nothing but my winter clothes on me, after more than 48 hours of traveling, to a “casa” that couldn’t find my booking. By that time I couldn’t even speak and all I wished for was a bed to crash on.
But Cuba welcomed me with open arms. Cuba taught me that I can live without anything, and that strangers would surround me with their love and help me enjoy the journey. Cuba was there for me to remind me of all the stories my grandma used to tell me, and to remember her happy. Cuba showed me kindness in poverty and made me get out of my comfort zone and open my mind. Cuba cared for me and made sure I would smile. And when I say “Cuba”, I mean the people I met in Cuba.
Cuba is not a place to visit but a journey of experiences. Yes, you can fly to Varadero or Coco Cayo and stay in a resort, but that’s not Cuba. You won’t find anything authentic in these places. Cuba is lively, singing and dancing salsa ’till the early hours of the morning; Cuba is in love, getting lost in a long kiss at sunset on the Malecon; Cuba is adventurous, hiking in the fields of Vinales; Cuba is an artist, painting and sculpting local life scenes; Cuba is curious, talking and wanting to know more about you; Cuba is relaxed, playing dominoes on the steps of colonial houses; Cuba is old, driving shiny pink ’50s Caddies; Cuba is fancy, drinking Rom and smoking cigars on top of Palacio de Valle; Cuba is very fit, sunbathing on white sand beaches and swimming in the clear azure blue seas; Cuba is a dreamer, it looks hopeful to the future and it’s optimistic.
So join me for the next few weeks in an exciting journey to discover the real Cuba!