Cuba Is Not For Everyone
If you are seeking a spa like, mani/pedi kind of vacation, Cuba is not for you. Havana is a working vacation, you walk every where and search for the good places to eat. We walked about 6–9 miles a day to see everything and walking was literally the best way to get to where we were going, especially in Old Habana. It is not a vacation of conveniences, you can not find a Starbucks wifi connection on every corner and from what I am told, if you go to Central Park to connect to the wifi spots there, the internet is still incredibly slow. It is not a 5-star vacation and 4-stars only if you have someone taking you every where. There are no Duane Reades or CVS pharmacies to pick stuff up.
Need for Adventure? Go to Cuba with an open mind, with a need for adventure, a desire to know more about this infamous land, that American starlettes, political figures, and mafiouso would go to hang and be in the tropical sun only 90 miles South of Miami until the Revolution ended in 1959, essentially freezing some aspects of Cuba in time, progress slowed to a hault and American companies and ties were severed. Investigate and understand what it means to live in a Socialist Society, to have your healthcare and education paid for by the government, yet leveling social classes and limiting personal growth. Go to meet the Cuban people and listen to their stories of the revolution from their perspective, incredibly smart, extremely hardworking, and quite prideful people. Don’t go with your opinions of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, listen to theirs, you will be surprised by their answers and learn from them directly about how the revolution effected them and their family. Understand that all societies at some point are susceptible to new leadership and all are vulnerable to civil unrest.
Made in America Personally witness the great craftmanship of American automobiles from the 1940–50s as 70 percent of the automobiles in Havana are classic American cars that are 60–90 years old and are still running. Experience the culture of few and far between, where you can not just pick up batteries or a real Coca-Cola on the corner, you have to know someone who knows someone or pray that a hotel might help you. See for yourself how incredibly resourceful the Cubanos have become through the years as they have kept these cars on the roads that were passed down generation to generation. Understand the pride they take in owning their homes and cars outright, no loans or mortgages.
CUC vs CUP See how the Cubans pay one price and the tourists pay another, see the direct impact you can have as one person traveling to a country where the average paid doctor is 40 CUC a month, that is approx $50 a month.
Shopping anyone? In Cuba, if you want to run a business, you must do so out of your home, so note that simple conveniences of water pressure, air conditioning, toilet paper, and ice cream are not the norm here, but a luxury. Don’t forget to bring your own bowl! Yes, seriously! You want to pick up a few things at the store or go shopping for clothes while in Cuba, you will be hard pressed to find anything like a mall.
What Are You Made Of? Go for the people, go prepared with snacks and tissues, travel with others, so if one of you didn’t pack something, another might have. See what you are made of, see if you can take the heat and not complain about it all day long. See if you can disconnect. See if you can be…be with yourself…be calm…be present in the moment of the past. Just BE! Go back in time with the insight of the future, how would you, a leader of a tech company, preserve the wonder of the past without ruining it for the future. Go with insight of what you think Cuba will be like now, in 10 years, in 20 years, and know that you will be forever changed. Bring with you insight and foresight to preserve the best of Cuba for the world to learn from the past! Cuba is a time machine for Americans to see how far we have come and to also relish in the joy that we have left behind in the hurry to improve.
Things to bring to Cuba: Lots of sunblock (buy packets on Amazon for easy packing), hats, sandals, comfortable shoes, toilet tissue (best in folding rather than rolls), and Purel wipes, face cleansers wipes (since it does get so hot), snacks, things easy to pack, water if you feel like lugging it, although bottled water is available, you can load your suitcase up at the airport, if you have to check your bags.
Hard to come by in Havana or very expensive and make great gifts for Cubans: Batteries, clothing, (consider bringing your donation of clothes to Cuba) sunblock, granola, oatmeal, granola bars, shoes.
*Note all the above are based on my personal experience and may not be true for everyone’s experience in Cuba, but if you like what you read and want to read more about how Cuba Changed My Life and my 30 day recount, please subscribe and share. Muchas Gracias!