Conscious Cuba in the Press

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Malecon

July 1, 2015

A part of my job as a travel guide is answering questions. These questions range from: “How many cigars am I allowed to bring home?” “What time is our flight tomorrow?” and “Who is Jose Marti?” Clients often apologize for the amount of questions they ask, but to be honest, I thoroughly enjoy discussing with them because it means that my fellow travelers are engaged about the journey that is ahead.

I have traveled to Cuba many times. I studied at the Instituto de Filosofía in Havana and have read countless history books. However, I find that there are still some questions that I cannot answer. Cuba is not black and white. It has a lot of grey areas, and sometimes there is not one “right” answer I can give. I believe that this concept can confuse some travelers as first, but as they spend more time in Cuba, those grey areas come into view.

For those of you that have traveled to Cuba, you will understand that some questions just do not have a clear cut answer.For example, “Why do Cubans love Bruno Mars?” “How do Cubans wear spandex in the summer?” “Why does my Cuban sandwich not have pickles on them?” While these may seem like surface level questions, they are actually a little more complex than one would think.

I have had the opportunity to travel to many countries, meet an array people, try new food, and learn about the history of many places. But there was something different about Cuba; Cuba stopped me in my tracks.  I was stunned by its natural beauty, engaged in its deep history, and enveloped by its welcoming culture. Each time I travel back to Cuba, I find something new to fall in love with. Cuba has this innate ability to change your perspectives. It removes us from our creature comforts like Walmart or Starbucks, and replaces it with human connection. Cuba requires you to interact with yourself and your surroundings, which is something I am finding to be more and more rare.

A fellow Cuban tour guide I worked with a few months ago welcomed a group of travelers with this quote, “Don’t try to understand my country, just enjoy it”. These words have stuck with me and I think they are a good framework for how your mindset should be on your next travel experience to Cuba. This should not stray you from asking your tour guide as many questions as you want. Instead, I hope this encourages you to let your guard down when exploring a new place and to allow travel to change you. Some guidance I will leave you with is to take a similar approach to how myself in this picture posted below. Take a step back, and soak it all in. You may not have been able to get a clear answer to all your questions while you were here, but I can guarantee that you will learn a lot and find beauty in the hues of grey.