This year I turned 30 and I made a list of 30 things I want to do in my 30th year of life. [#30because30] Travel to Havana, Cuba was #15 on that list.
I have always heard that traveling to Havana is like stepping back in time, and that is absolutely true. The streets were filled with cars from the 1950s and 1960s. No one was in a hurry. There was a lot of front porch sitting and walking slow.
I could go on and on about the heart of the people, the taste of the rum, the blues of the beaches, but I think I just want to share 5 things Havana taught me. When I reflect on this trip, I’m still so mesmerized by all that we experienced. It's hard to put in words.
So, here is my attempt—5 things I learned in Havana, Cuba:
My heart and mind are constantly bombarded with messages from the outside world, and it is easy for those messages to suck the life out of me. In Cuba, they don’t have wifi like we do in the US. You can buy internet cards and go to hot spots, but Andrew and I chose to completely unplug. Also in Cuba, there is no advertising. We were not constantly seeing billboards and commercials and flyers in business windows. We talked to people and got local recommendations for the best restaurants and cigar shops. And during the 2nd day, I realized that I could almost breathe easier. The pressures of the world were no longer weighing heavy on my soul. I felt lighter, happier.
Going off the beaten path is always worth it. There are a few main roads in Havana where it is easier to catch a taxi, and sometimes it is fun to ride in a 1950s vintage car. But the other times, when you are willing to walk the long way around. When you take the time to explore and be where the locals are, a new place comes alive. I’m so grateful that we were able to walk the streets of Havana, avoid most of the tourist traps, and experience authentic Cuban culture.
Diversity is beautiful. I’ve never been in a place that embraced diversity like Cuba. Andrew and I would play a game walking around the streets ‘Cuban or No?’ Because y’all, we really couldn’t tell. I’ve traveled to a few Latin American countries and as a blonde with blue eyes— I have always stuck out like sore thumb. Not in Cuba. I was amazed at not only the diversity of the Cuban people, but also how there was a lack of segregation. Everyone ate, lived, shopped, and socialized in the same places —regardless of the color of their skin. I can’t say that Racism isn’t a thing in Havana, but it definitely felt like Cuba has come a lot further than we have. It was refreshing to see all people valued the same.
A quality cocktail is everything. I highly recommend the Pina Coladas and Mojitos. I don’t know if it is the fresh ingredients, the quality of the rum, or just the fact that we were forced to slow down and savor everything—but they were so delicious. Delicious enough that it made my list.
Time is the only thing in the world that you cannot get back. Stop rushing to the next thing. Take the time to shop at a local market, talk to your neighbors, share a cola with some friends on a patio. Cuba is so full of joy. People genuinely enjoy the presence of those around them. They savor their time. I hope this is a lesson that will stick with me forever. We only get one life. How we spend our time and who we spend our time with is important. Don’t waste it.
Okay, that’s it. My 5 things I learned in Havana, Cuba! I know that some of you might have questions about how to travel to Cuba. How much does it cost? Where do you stay? Trust me, I had lots of questions. The whole visa thing is weird, and the recent law change has deterred a lot of Americans. But don’t let fear stop you from living your best life. You want to experience this beautiful place! I’d be happy to answer any questions you have! Email me! :)