I went on a trip to Cuba by my lonesome for my birthday, April 2nd. Yesss, I am an Aries baby! Cuba definitely had its ups and downs but I must say that this trip challenged me in ways I could have never imagined. I do not speak Spanish fluently but this trip has inspired otherwise. I would not recommend going to Cuba alone AND not being able to speak and understand Spanish. I've traveled alone several times. I've been to London, Paris, Costa Rica, and Mexico all alone. English is usually the second language in these countries and much easier to get around. But there are very, very little English speakers in Cuba so it was really tough for me to communicate and understand my way around. This gave me the opportunity to explore, to get lost, and to discover a few things about both Cuba and myself.
When I first landed I went straight to the information booth. I paid for an AirBNB that was said to be 15/20 minutes away from the city center, Old Havana. That ended up being a lie. Cabs from the airport to almost anywhere in Havana, Cuba is about $25-30 USD (CUCs too because 1 CUC = 1 USD). I knew about the two different currencies in Cuba. They have a currency for the locals and then a separate one for the tourists. The tourist dollar holds a much greater value. But both currencies look exactly alike! It is very easy to get confused. But for every $1 in tourist money it is 26 dollars in local Cuban money. Be super careful because that is such a huge difference. You don't want to give $10 expecting $5 change back but you're really getting $0.75 back when you pay with your tourist money but they give you back local money. I learned this the hard way.
After I unpacked at my AirBNB one of the hosts offered to drive me to Old Havana. Feeling super stoked about a free ride to Old Havana, I rushed out the house with them. The drive was about 30-35 minutes away. This was a little upsetting because cabs to and from my AirBNB were really expensive and the bus ride was an hour and a half.
I get to Old Havana and my first concern was to walk around and to find any WiFi cards. I admired the fact that people were not really on their phones. Everybody was communicating with one another, laughing and playing. To see that was really refreshing. By certain hotel areas you would see people crowded on the corners on their phone for WiFi. I really liked the fact that WiFi was only in specific spots. This allowed me to be disconnected from the world that I've always known. It has even changed the way I've been living back in the states. I find myself barely on my phone, barely on social media, and barely tuned into other people, other opinions, and other lifestyles. This has helped me grow in ways that I find to be meritable.
Artwork in Old Havana
And look at these cars! I was truly in awe! So colorful, so vibrant, so bold.
The following day I took a trip to the El Malecón. The Malecón is a super long walkway with a seawall that stretches for nearly 5 miles. The Malecón is a place where locals and tourist alike, come to enjoy a great view, and time. There were a lot of couples, and fisherman present. I spent about 3 hours walking around. I was listening to A Seat at the Table by Solange while having a Seat at The Malecón. I watched the sunset, which was peaceful and calming. I had the opportunity to journal, to meditate, and to just think. It was a really amazing experience both internally and externally (spiritually and physically). My spirit came alive at the Malecón. It felt deserving of watching the sunset, and then the moon rose in its place. It was such a beautiful, captivating sight.
The next stop was Plaza Vieja. I fell in love with the vintage architecture instantly. From my initial arrival, to my untimely departure, I remained in awe. Everything was rejuvenating, and reminded me of why I love to travel. Even the way the wind breezed against my skin felt different. It felt relaxing. Here, I met some amazing women from Los Angeles, California. It was a real relief meeting people who spoke English! Shortly afterwards, we met some guys from Atlanta and went for drinks. Drinks were so cheap. The 4 drinks I ordered came up to a total of $10! Such a steal! $2.50 on average for each drink? Unbelievable! What's even more startling, was that the drinks hit!
To my surprise, the food in Cuba wasn't the greatest. All of the restaurants are government regulated and I found the food to be somewhat tasteless. One of the guys we were with said the fish had a rubber texture. Yuck! It was not at all satisfying, in my opinion. It was a relief that my AirBNB host was able to prepare a very delicious and flavorful meal. I was able to enjoy a few good meals, and home-cooked, at that. In order to reheat the restaurant food, I had to knock on a neighbor's door and ask them for help. I don't eat meat in America, but I do when I travel out the country. I'd rather indulge in eating meat outside of the U.S because I know the food production system in other countries is usually much healthier than in America. My neighbor told me in Spanish that my left overs didn't smell good even though I refrigerated them the very same day. From that I could tell that the food in Cuba was organic and super fresh. Cuban food lacks preservatives and artificial flavoring so the food doesn't last anywhere as long as food in America would. After advising me to throw it out, my neighbors offered some of their home cooked food that was fresh off the stove. I gladly accepted! And it was soooooo yummy!! Not to mention appetizing! A million times better than any of the restaurants I've been to.
Cubana Comida (Cuban Food)
Afterwards we all walked the Malecón for a few and went to a nightclub. Nightlife in Cuba was just OK (5 outta 10). It was pretty empty on a Friday night but the bottles were so cheap we felt like millionaires. I danced and laughed all night and we went back to the Malecón before hopping in a cab home. Oh, I smoked my first Cuban Cigar! I was feeling myself.
Nonetheless, I had such an amazing time in Cuba. It was super tough getting around but that taught me how to get around, how to get lost, how to explore, how to not only appreciate being in my wandering thoughts but how to love them as well. I met amazing people that made this trip even more exhilarating. I would definitely recommend going to Cuba but I would not recommend going alone and not being able to speak or understand Spanish. I feel like this trip challenged me to live up to my lifestyle of gratitude. A ton of horrific things kept happening to me but oddly enough there was so much good in every bad experience. Focusing on the good and the good only allowed more good to come for me in this trip and for that I will forever be so grateful.