Thursday, March 31, 2005, 6:27 pm
Nervous and Excited - My
First Solo Trip
in 20 Years!!!
So I am leaving to go to Cuba tomorrow, really early in the morning,
to be at the airport at about 5:30 am. The last few days have been
absolutely nuts, 16 hour days just to take care of work and get
ready for the trip... And for the first time in a long time I am
really nervous before a trip.
Over the last few years all my trips have basically been to nice,
predictable and safe places like Canada, New England, Florida, California,
Spain, tourist areas in Mexico. All these trips have been with my
husband and/or friends.
Now I am venturing to a real 3rd world country - Cuba - and it's
my first solo trip in 20 years! The only other time I went on a
trip by myself was 20 years ago when I booked a package deal to
Spain's Costa Brava (my fascination with Spain started early....)
all by myself.
I have already had some encounters with Cuba's realities, and I
have realized that I am definitely dealing with an unusual country
here. I have been trying to reach the University of Havana, where
I am going to study Spanish for the next 2 weeks. Tried to reach
them by fax, phone, email - absolutely no luck!
I've tried to reach the hotel I am going to and I also tried to
reach a couple of bicycle rental places listed in travel books with
some questions regarding renting a bike. Again, absolutely no chance
of getting through! There is no dial tone for a long time and after
about a minute or so I heard some noises in the line and then some
faint recorded voice that I couldn't even understand.
I admit this has me a bit scared. I know the savvy world travellers
among you are going to chuckle since you have probably traveled
to India, Africa, Asia, all places that are vastly different from
the Western world that we are used to.
But I am a bit spooked since I haven't really ever gone to a country
where I am going to be almost completely cut off from Western communication,
where basic goods (apparently toilet paper, soap and aspirin, among
other things) are hard to get.
So even packing has been a bit stressful for me since I figure
if I forget something it's going to be hard to get it in Cuba. Not
like our recent trip to Quebec,
where I just headed to a discount store after I realized I forgot
to pack my underwear! (Can you believe that? I forgot to pack my
underwear on a trip, that was a first-timer too...)
My suitcases are almost packed. I am bringing my bicycle helmet,
my bicycle lock (all things that they don't have in Cuba) and for
the first time in my life I have put together a travel emergency
kit with basic medications (aspirin, Polysporin, Imodium, bug repellent,
bandages, etc.) since apparently basic medical supplies are hard
to get in Cuba as well...
And, I am excited to say, I have made some arrangements to meet
with locals so I will really have a chance to dive into the culture
and find out what life in Cuba is really like. Through a friend
of mine I am going to link up with "Pedro" (no idea of
his last name) who is supposed to meet me tomorrow at my hotel to
give me a quick tour of Havana.
On Saturday I am heading out on a Viazul bus to Vinales in the
province of Pinar del Rio, to connect with Sandra, who came recommended
through Jeff Minthorn
who I interviewed earlier. Sandra owns a "casa particular"
(basic bed and breakfast) and she is a tour guide who takes tourists
on hikes in her beautiful province.
Again, another first-timer for me: the opportunity to truly connect
with locals and to get to know their life-styles, their experiences
and views of life. Everybody I talked to has told me that Cuba is
a very safe country and the people are amazing.
So despite all the butterflies in my stomach, I look forward to
this possibly life-changing trip with nervous anticipation and curiosity.
I just hope I'll be able to find an Internet cafe somewhere in
Havana (apparently another thing that's not easy to find) so I can
stay in touch.
Hasta luego (next time from Cuba)......
Interesting and useful books about Cuba:
My fascination with everything
trips for booking a language study trip
Why I chose Cuba for my first linguistic
My Interview with Jeff
Minthorn who connected me with Sandra
Crying like a baby - The Motorcycle