DAY 1

Feb 21 2019

I have a feeling the theme of today is going to be slow and relaxing. I haven’t slept well since arriving in Cuba as the bed and pillows in my Airbnb are uncomfortable and I’m staying in a rather loud area. Several nights of poor sleep caught up to me this morning and I got a slow start to the morning.

I used it as an excuse to have a second cup of incredible Cuban coffee and then put on my swim suit to head to the beach.

After getting back from the beach, I set out to find the shop my tour guide Monday morning showed us. It had rum, cigars, and coffee and was the perfect place to get rum and coffee before I left. After wandering Old Havana aimlessly for an hour and a half without finding it, I grabbed rum from another store and started looking for anywhere with the right sized bags of coffee. I couldn’t find the not huge coffee bags anywhere and the rum was getting heavy so I headed back to my Airbnb to shower the sand off, drop off the rum, and change.

Post shower I headed back to Old Havana to try to retrace the tour and find the shop. An hour and a half later I gave up and sat down for dinner. This feels like the karma is getting back at me. I was so overwhelmed in the crowded shop Monday I made the comment “I’d rather pay a little more than carry this stuff all around the city”. Now I can’t find it. Maybe after dinner?

Update: ran into my tour guide, asked about the shop. It closed two hours ago and I absolutely walked past it five times this afternoon. Whoops.

I’m not going to lie, I really beat myself up tonight over the way today went. I think the day was “ruined” in my head the minute I woke up late and crawled through my morning after a fourth night in a row of terrible sleep. I’d hoped to leap out of bed this morning, make it to the Hotel Nacional by 10 for the free tour to hear about the monsters and other history. To change money and buy my ticket to tonight’s Tropicana show there, the second best in the city. Then head to the beach for a couple hours, come back and buy rum and all the coffee I could get my hands on, and then shower and make it to the Tropicana show with time to spare for a cocktail on the hotel’s balcony.

None of that happened. I got moving late. I missed the tour. I didn’t go to the hotel and didn’t even know what time tonight’s show started. When I got back I couldn’t find coffee or souvenirs I liked and I spent WAY too much time looking for that shop instead of getting over it and buying more expensive coffee elsewhere. I never bought coffee. I never made it to see the Hotel Nacional. I never saw the Tropicana Show. I didn’t ride in an old car while I was here.

On the way home I (internally) yelled at myself. WHO CARES. Did I have an amazing trip? Absolutely! Am I disappointed I didn’t check off every part of my Cuba bucket list? Yeah, kind of. But before this post, I’m the only one who knew that. I honestly thought today “what am I going to tell people when they find out I went to Cuba but I didn’t do XYZ?!” Again, WHO CARES?! I shouldn’t.

So instead I turned my focus back to where it should be. I’m so proud of myself. Regardless of what I did and didn’t do this week, I took a chance on myself. I took myself on the trip of a lifetime purely because I wanted to. I explored, I challenged myself, I drank a lot of rum, and I had the time of my life. I’ll cherish this trip and all the things I learned about myself on it for a lifetime. I’ll cherish the memories. I’ll cherish the rum and cigars that are perfectly tucked into my suitcase right now.

Thanks for the time of my life, Cuba. Here’s to hoping I see more of this beautiful country some day.

Update to last night’s coffee meltdown: the airport had coffee. All the coffee. Duh, Samantha.

Cuba.

The perception so many Americans have of this country is so skewed by the past our country as had with this country. “It’s dangerous!” I heard. This country doesn’t have drugs or guns. Anyone who had a gun before 1959 was allowed to keep it, but the government knows who those people are. They know when those people die, and they collect the gun from their family. The most “dangerous” part of Cuba this week was the stupid kissing noises the guys do here instead of cat calling. The guys here are kind of verbally aggressive. It was annoying. Yes, sir, I did hear you say hello in three languages. So did the three women around me WITH THEIR HUSBANDS. They were harmless but I almost wasn’t after four days of hearing it.

Things to know before coming to Havana:
The streets smell AWFUL. Have a strong stomach. Try not to look at the dogs laying down on the street. I learned the hard way to not look too closely, to not see if you could see them move or breathe. You have to keep walking or you’ll never make it emotionally. Three days in Havana wasn’t quite enough if you spend an entire day doing guided tours. I missed seeing the National Hotel and the cool cemetery because I spent too much time wandering through Old Havana (no regrets though). Go to Vinales. Take the tour I did. It’ll be the best travel decision you ever make. If you can, book extra days and see more of the country (I wish I had).

Most of all: if you want to visit Cuba, book your flight right now. I wish I could’ve seen Cuba years ago. Cuba’s #1 source of income right now is tourism and it’s so obvious. I’m SO happy I came before McDonalds did but the city is already full of people trying to pull you into their restaurants, people pretending to be statues, and other tourist scams that you see in all the big cities. The time for Cuba is now. You won’t regret it. I sure don’t.

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