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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:


Related articles:
My fascination with everything Spanish
Practical trips for booking a language study trip
Why I chose Cuba for my first linguistic adventure
My Interview with Jeff Minthorn who connected me with Sandra
Crying like a baby - The Motorcycle Diaries







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