Travel Journal: Cuba's Hospitality & Resilience
Nothing invigorates my life more than travel! I’m twenty-three years old and have a running list of six countries (excluding Cuba) I can check off my ever-growing bucket list––Canada, England, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Scotland and Wales. In all of their beauty, each one of these places caused me to leave a piece of my heart there and take the fondest of memories from my international travels.
When I signed up for Cuba, I had no idea that I’d be leaving probably the biggest piece of my heart to date. It changed my life in so many ways.
It’s one thing to adhere to political opinion or social opinion of what the country is like. There’s almost a sense of apprehension that Americans naturally feel towards this neighboring island.
But in retrospect of my own trip to Cuba, I can truly say no one understands the complexities of a nation until they have the opportunity to fully immerse into the culture.
Cuba is surrounded by so much natural beauty, from its pale turquoise shores to the palm-tree barricaded mountains. But there is something profound to be said about the native people’s hospitality and resilience, which I admired most when I was sick.
I’d like to say my body was able to handle the trip without interruptions, but I did in fact succumb to weakness.
But I’m thankful––despite how discouraging being sick felt, at times. During the moments where my body became undependable, I was surrounded by people who I had never met before that took me under their care.
Due to the nature of the government, the Cuban people are deprived from a lot of basic necessities. To give you a picture of what this means, things like toilet paper, water and gasoline are a luxury––not commonly available as it is in our culture. Internet and reliable phone service is incredibly limited. Everything is controlled.
You would think this would harden their hearts and cause them to be stingy; however, it’s the complete opposite.
Of all the countries, I’ve never witnessed such a giving spirit like I observed in the Cuban people.
They don’t have much, but what they have, they give to you freely in full, without expecting anything in return.
Because of their national state, Cubans look for ways to help and to serve people. There’s a beautiful sense of unity––one that seeks to make the most of everyday.
It was liberating.
When I returned to the United States, it took some days for me to recover. I remember walking in to my usual nail salon to get my usual manicure and sinking sadness settled within my heart. I left some of the most selfless people to return to my oh-so-privileged American life.
Surrounded by thirty other women who were also getting their nails done “just right,” I couldn’t understand how two polar-opposite realities could exist in the same world. Why would some suffer deprivation while others experienced the gluttony of having everything they could ever want at their fingertips?
Don’t get me wrong...I’m in no way bashing my homeland.
If anything, it’s just made me so incredibly grateful. I’m grateful to live in such a place where I can run to urgent care at 3am to receive excellent medical treatment. I’m grateful to live in a place where my grocery store is filled with an over-abundance. I’m even more grateful for the ability to easily call any place in the world. We take these things for granted all the time.
This reality also reminds me there’s more to life than just me. There’s a whole other world out there with a diversity of cultures and customs foreign to my own.
I’m just a small part of something so much bigger than myself.
Travel truly enlightens our perspective and urges us to appreciate the little things. It inspires us to treasure people and to build memories through human responses, like belly laughter or soft tears.
If you’re reading this and have never traveled before, book a flight or a train ticket. Experience a new world. It will change your life for the better. Google searches and Instagram squares don’t compare to the real thing––I can assure you!
Life is so much more beautiful when it’s lived in person.
So what are we waiting for?