IF the opportunity to travel to CUBA comes around, take it!
The People Are Amazing!
Let me start off by writing, Cuba is a GREAT travel destination. The countryside is filled with incredible places to hike and bike and the major cities literally time warp you back 60 years, as the architecture seems unchanged since the 1950s. Cuba is beautiful and the people match their county.
Most wandering spirits, such as my self, opt to stay in Casa Particulars. This is basically a guest room within a local home rented out to tourists. (Even if you can afford the hotel commit to the adventure and stay in at least one Casa Particular.) The information and intimate perspectives you gain from connecting with people who have lived their entire lives in the area you are visiting is priceless. I am so grateful for the help that I received from my host family. This personal connection to the local people helped me navigate the area so that I could make the best use of my days exploring. This type of accommodation also provided me with a great home-base, allowing me the opportunity to glimpse the "authentic" day to day life in Cuba. Everyone I met along the way in Cuba was EXTREMELY friendly and happy. (Can you be to friendly and happy?) Most locals live simply, focused not on what they lacked, but instead worked graciously, humbly, and with joy for what they had - despite many years of suffering under global trade restrictions.
In all the material possessions I own or the money I have, HAPPINESS isn't found in any of it. Happiness is within the relationships we make with one another and the passion we use to approach our lives I would not consider myself materialistic but in Marxist–Leninist socialist Cuba I came to the hard realization that I am privileged. I often felt a little like I was in the "Hunger Games" as I would eat a modest restaurant meal, in American standards, knowing most definitely that the meal I was eating was a luxury to most of the people in Cuba. I want to be globally aware and socially in-tuned to my world. That is why I believe traveling is so important for all of us. By looking into how others live we can broaden our perspectives, learn to be more grateful for what we have, and see that we can live more simply. We do not need all of our "things" to truly be happy. My experiences in Cuba gifted me the opportunity to see and put new perspective on wealth and privilege.
Travel has helped me to become a better person by exposing me to new people and experiences. Whenever I travel off to a far away place I constantly compare and contrast the culture I am visiting with to my own culture. Humans are amazing creatures with amazing abilities. We have the power within us to be kind, ruthless, giving, cruel and the list of antonyms goes on forever, but I think, the most basic need for all of us is to CONNECT. LOVE and be LOVED
This lesson really sank in on the last day when I left my iPhone in the cab after being dropped off at the airport. Initially, I panicked. How will I contact home? (My mom and dad will freak out! Especially with Venezuela's uprise) All my pictures of everything are on my phone, my contacts, basically my life! I thought of every scenario on how I might be able to get my phone back. Should I switch my flight? Should I try and call a different taxi? I finally conceded that it would not be worth my time or money to track the phone down. I then reflected on the lessons of my trip to Cuba.
"Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show."
At the end of the day it was only a cell phone and it was time for me to come home to the people I love and who love me.