Home ::
Contests ::
Our Sponsors ::
My Travel Stories and Photos ::
My Global Travel Video Channel ::
Your Travels and Adventures ::
Interviews ::
Insights and Reflections ::
Podcasts ::
RSS ::
Travel Tips
and Info
Regional Travel Guides ::
Special Offers ::
Canuck Corner ::
Celebrate Toronto  
Cool Women ::

Useful Travel

Travel News ::
Media and Press ::
Contact Us ::
Advertise with Us ::
Site Map ::

March 27, 2006

My First Travel Presentation - "The Sights and Sounds of Cuba": Butterflies in my Stomach and a Wonderful Audience

Every life project has its milestones, and this past Friday was a real milestone for me: I gave my first travel presentation in front of a real-life non-paid audience.

Okay, so I have showed my travel DVDs to my friends before in my own home, but they were somewhat coerced into watching them by the potential guilt they would have felt if they had offended the hostess....;)

A few weeks ago I sat down with Javier and Victoria who run the Spanish Centre, Canada's largest Spanish language school and we did some brainstorming. Being a real lover of the Spanish language, I take courses there on a regular basis and in addition to Spanish courses at every level, the Spanish Centre also offers dance classes (salsa, tango, flamenco) and they hold several cultural events every month. We figured that my Spanish language learning experiences in Cuba might be of interest to the students of the Spanish Centre. So we scheduled my first travel presentation for March 24, 2006.

I have to admit, I prepared quite heavily for this event: I put together 2 DVDs, one short 12-minute feature, visually explaining the evolution of Travel and Transitions, and another 19-minute DVD encapsulating the sights, sounds and stories of Cuba that I experienced last year. In addition to that, I read quite a bit about Cuba, its geography, history, economy, architecture and culture.

I really tried to understand the historical context of why this country is so unique and was a bit torn as to how much detail I should provide in the presentation. I did conclude, however, that Cuba is such a unique country because of its communist political system, its unusual economic policies and the ongoing conflict with the US and the embargo. For me there was no way I could talk about Cuba without shedding some light on this interesting and unique context.

Che immortalized on the Plaza de la Revolucion

You wouldn't believe how nervous I was.......

Yes, I've been working on this website for about 17 months by now, I write a lot and I've done a few interviews with media. But talking in front of a live crowd is a different story altogether, especially when you are not a regular public speaker like me. The past few days before the presentation I had worked quite hard, trying to read up on my topic and understand the last little bits and then tried to condense that information into a small manageable time frame. My husband listened to a trial version of the presentation and gave me some feedback to cut back a bit on the historical side, and I took his advice seriously and condensed the official knowledge portion.

Havana - Capitolio Nacional

Finally, Friday was here and I had worked hard on compressing the presentation and at 5:45 I left to go to the Spanish Centre. Fortunately my team mate Khurram was with me which kept me nicely distracted on the drive to the Spanish Centre. The room was set up for our presentation, the TV was ready and finally by 6:45 pm people started trickling in.

I started talking with the crowd as to whether anyone had already been to Cuba (one of the most popular travel destination of Canadians...), and we got a good discussion going before the presentation even got underway. Punctually at 7 pm, Juan, one of the Spanish Centre's senior teachers, introduced me to the capacity crowd - about 40 people that completely filled the room we were assigned, and off I went.

Havana - Plaza de Armas

Interestingly the minute I started talking with people from the audience, my nervousness completely disappeared and I briefly introduced myself and showed the visual summary of Travel and Transitions. Then I touched on Cuba's history, its economy, political system and then moved on to lighter topics such as life in Cuba and my own personal experiences in this unique country.

I talked about my trip to the rural province of Pinar del Rio and the quaint country town of Vinales. The highlight of this 2-day / 1-night trip were my encounters with my B&B hostess, our hike through the "mogote" (we walked through a cave that went all the way through one of the limestone haystack hills that Vinales is famous for) and our encounter with a poor hardworking local peasant.

Church in Vinales

Student life at the University of Havana was also one of the topics as well as my local explorations in this beautiful city over a period of two weeks where I saw virtually every major sight that Havana has to offer. My encounters with locals and insights about Cuban culture and lifestyles were added along the way.

After this verbal introduction I showed the second DVD which presented the photogenic people and places of Cuba and my own travel experiences. Then I opened the floor up to questions and we finished the evening off with a draw that was sponsored by some of my Travel Story Contest Sponsors: Canada's adventure travel leader G.A.P Adventures had graciously donated a beautiful fleece sweater, the Mountain Equipment Coop had provided a travel mug and a large quantity of lip balm and carabiners, I had picked up magazines of some of our other contest sponsors: Outpost Magazine ("Travel for Real"), Verge Magazine ("Travel with Purpose") and Plenty Magazine ("It's Easy Being Green"), all of which were well received by the crowd.

Defending Socialism

The whole evening actually finished at 8:45 pm, 15 minutes earlier than the time that was allocated and from what I could tell, the audience had a pretty good time. Several people came up to me afterwards and said they enjoyed the presentation and found it very informative. Some of my friends and I headed to a pub afterwards and I got a couple of compliments from people I would have never expected. I received a few wonderful emails from participants after the event and these may be the beginning to long-term friendships among like-minded people.

March 24, 2006 was definitely a milestone for me: I came out of the closet, so to speak, and gave my first travel presentation. I moved from publishing anonymously on the web to interacting with a real-life audience. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I look forward to more to come in the future. (My next presentation will be about my language study and cultural immersion trip to Mexico City, which I will explore together with my team mate Vanessa, who is actually from there. Then I will spend 2 weeks studying Spanish and discovering Cuernavaca - the City of Eternal Spring. I am getting pretty excited since I will be leaving to go on this trip in only 3 days.....).

Thanks to the Spanish Centre for providing the venue, to my Contest Sponsors for providing some great door prizes, and a big thank you also to a wonderful audience that made this a special evening!

Interesting and useful books about Cuba:


Related Articles:

A severe case of Hispanophilia - Why I love Spanish language & culture"
"Cuba is Calling - Why I selected Cuba as my language study destination"
Hello from Cuba (1) - First Impressions"
"Hello from Cuba (2) - Rain in Vinales"
"Hello from Cuba (3) - Hiking Vinales and Exploring Nature"
"Hello from Cuba (4) - Bureaucracy Galore - The University of Havana"
"Hello from Cuba (5) - Another Mind-Twisting Experience"
"Hello from Cuba (6) - The Student Experience and Political Insights"
"Hello from Cuba (7) - Fun and Recreation"
"Hello from Cuba (8) - Bicycle Rides, Camellos and Cannon Shots"
"Hello from Cuba (9) - Havana Neighbourhoods"
"Hello from Cuba (10) - A Country Excursion"
"Hello from Cuba (11) - Inside a Cuban Home"
"Hello from Cuba (12) - Contrasts and Contradictions"
"Hello from Cuba (13) - Exploring Downtown Havana"
"Hello from Cuba (14) - Field Trips and Interviews"
"Hello from Cuba (15) - Getting ready to say 'Goodbye, Havana'..."
"Hello from Cuba (16) - The final day"
"My Post-Cuba Reflections: Appreciation and Balance"

Bookmark and Share
Bookmark and Share