Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I'm Going Down to Cuba Someday Soon

Every single time I tell people I'm going to Cuba, I get the same response: why?  They ask it for different reasons...some, of course, think I'm crazy but I'm used to that.  Some ask because they believe Cuba will be a tempting destination only after specified criteria has changed (political leadership, food, technology...the list goes on).  And others ask because they want to see if my reasons for fascination with Cuba are the same as theirs.  It is for those kindred spirts, in particular, that I will pour my heart out on this blog about Cuban experiences - though of course, I encourage everyone to read.  It might change your mind about Cuba's lack of appeal.  Or maybe it will confirm it.  We'll find out together!

There are several big reasons I have wanted to go to Cuba, some more complicated than others:
  • Readers.  When I was in Bennett's world geography class at Yavapai College, we saw a short video clip of a government-paid worker who read to the cigar factory employees while they rolled cigars.  All. Day. Long.  Now perhaps that gets annoying to the poor cigar roller who just wants a moment of peace and quiet...and I'm sure some of the reading material is selected to enhance the views of the political leaders.  But the concept has stuck with me for years since that college class (I choose not to think about how many years that has been).  It reminded me of my dad, who does the most amazingly beautiful reupholstery I have ever seen; because he works alone, he gets to listen to books on tape while he creates masterpieces.  I'm going to Cuba to see the cigar factory readers and meet the people who listen to his/her voice for hours each day.

  • Rebellion.  "They" tell me I can't go.  (Actually, they tell me I can't spend money there...did you know it's the Treasury Department that enforces what is commonly referred to as "the travel ban" on Cuba?)  If I want to go to North Korea, my government doesn't tell me to ask permission (their government is, of course a whole different story).  If I decide Iran is my cup of tea, the U.S. State Department only "warns me to carefully consider the risks."  You get the point...Cuba is a different story, and has been for decades.  Would I be as fascinated with Cuba if there weren't such a strict policy?  Perhaps.  But there is and now I've finally found a way to get around it without worrying about my career in politics going up in flames over my travel 90 miles outside of U.S. boundaries.
  • Jackson Browne.  I got to see him live with my mom and aunt and the highlight of the evening was hearing, for the first time, "Going Down to Cuba." I'm pretty sure the first time he said "Malecon" I was ready to go buy a ticket. 

  • Diversity.  There's no place on Earth like Cuba.  It's a non-Woody Allen version of time travel, where I don't have to worry about my cell phone ringing in the bottom of my purse and I don't waste too much time on the Internet reading about American celebrities.  I don't think it will stay this way forever and I want to see it before there's a McDonald's anywhere within its borders.
So there you have it...those are my reasons for wanting to go to Cuba.  I've never been more informed prior to a trip - there is a distinct possibility that I know more about Cuban history than I do about Arizona's, because I've spent months reading about the country from every perspective I can find. 

Many of my friends have asked about whether the travel blog will come back to life, and I'm happy to report that it most certainly will...eventually.  I have little hope that I'll even be able to access e-mail with the limited internet access in Cuba, much less upload photos.  So I will write my every thought (almost), photographs, observations and experiences every day...then will post them as soon as I get home.  Consider this an annoying sneak preview - I can't wait to share the trip with you!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Things I Love about Travel

The suitcase is out, lists are being made and I'm preparing for next week's kickoff to 2012 Travels, but first I thought I'd avoid responsibility a little longer to share the joy of the small things associated with traveling.

I love the fear that comes before a trip.  Preparing to leave home for any place, no matter how great or small, requires one to have this impossible foreknowledge of everything needed to address any situation that could arise.  Some journeys allow you to rely on the tried-and-true "If I forget anything I'll buy it there"...the good ones don't offer that comfort.  So instead I calculate the number of bug bites I could get, the number of pain killers I could safely ingest before I get home, and how many times I'm likely to spill on myself at dinner.  I ponder whether I'll really get through three books on the flight...whether I'll suddenly learn to crave Snickers bars halfway through the vacation...where I put the multiple inflatable neck pillows I buy on every big trip and put in "a safe place" when I get home.  But mostly, I panic about my travel documents.  I check every five minutes to be sure my passport hasn't walked away.

I love the travel sizes of things.  Never mind that the $1 charge for that tiny bottle of shampoo equates to a 150% markup over buying the whole bottle of the same kind of shampoo...I love those little bottles that symbolize freedom and rootlessness.  That's not a 150% markup, that's an investment in my sense of SELF.

I love the possibilities.  As I'm packing my suitcase, I don't know any of the downsides to my journey (despite my attempt to dream them all up, of course).  I don't know that my travel companions might get boring, I don't know about the rainstorm that will keep me inside, I don't know about the frustrations or missed connections or changed plans.  All I know is the possibility.

Ok so there you have my romanticized view of the world as I prep for adventures.  Now I have to put away the poetic soul and figure out how on EARTH I'm supposed to fit everything I need into one small suitcase that doesn't exceed the weight limit.