In 2015 I travelled around Cuba and honestly it is the most memorable trip I have ever taken.
Cuba is so far from anything I’ve ever experienced before.
Exiting the airplane felt more like exiting a time machine than anything else – okay, that’s a cheesy way of explaining it, I know. But it is actually true.
The old American cars, the lack of shops and commercials, the way the people dressed, the old buildings that were barely standing anymore. It was just. Everything.
The smell of Havana has somehow etched itself into my nose. The combination of trash, dust, warmth, mold, rum and tobacco. The sweetness from the fresh fruits and colorful flowers, and the gasoline from the old American cars.
It quickly became clear to us that “the authentic” version of Cuba, was more an act than anything else. Yes people were smoking cigars and dancing salsa. But they were also living their normal life, trying to get by.
Yes, there were beautiful old American cars, but most of them were so old that they could barely hold together, a lot of them were even taped together – I am not kidding.
And yes there were all of these amazing bars and restaurants and clubs, but it was only the tourists that used them. The Cubans were mostly not even allowed in.
However, this might very well change in the coming years.
1. The sooner the better
There is no way of saying how long Cuba will stay the way. we know it today Obama’s initiativs have definitely been the first step in the direction of “modernizing” the country. Which might very well be the best possible development for the Cubans themselves.
However, this also means that if you have any desire of experiencing the “authentic” Cuba, now is the time!
2. The lack of shops and commercials
In Cuba the commercials are basically non-existing. In all the places you would expect a commercial to be situated, you will most likely find a picture of Fidel Castro or Che Guevara.
The shops are also hard to find, and when you do, they are almost empty and offers none of the brands we are used to in the West.
This is an incredible experience, and honestly affected me a lot more than I would have expected. I somehow realized how much I take all the things I am able to buy, consume and then forget about for granted.
3. To go behind the “facade” and try to understand
One of the things that struck me the hardest when traveling around Cuba, was that I honestly had no idea what I was seeing.
I had no idea what to believe, what to make of it all.
Was the little man on the corner, with the hat, a cigar and a donkey put there by the government? It might seem as if that is way too suspicious an assumption to make. But it was those kinds of questions we found ourselves asking. It became clear to us that we truly – even when actually being in the country – had NO idea what was going on inside.
4. Cuba is truly unique but that will hopefully soon change
This is a country that has been standing still in time for way too long. And it is truly a unique experience to travel around it. To get the feeling of having traveled back to the 50’s. To be able to experience something that is so far from anything I know.
But the time for change is coming.
The people have been treated incredibly harshly. They are not free to leave the country, not free to criticize their government, not free to protest.
It is a country in the need of a change.
And hopefully this change will come in the coming years.
The city seen from the top floor of our hotel in Havana
5. To educate yourself
One could argue that we should not support countries like this, by traveling to them, giving money to their tourism industry.
It is a strong argument, and a part of me feel bad, because my first counter argument is “but I really wanted to see it with my own eyes.” And you and I can easily agree that that is not at all a good enough reason to go.
But maybe a good enough reason could be to educate one self. To become involved and spread the word. To make sure that we keep talking about Cuba.
You can also do yours to direct the money towards regular Cubans by staying in what they call casa particulars (in private family homes), to eat at the casa particulars, to make sure to accept the help of the Cubans – and tip them.
To put your effort into at least some of your money being directed to the Cubans and not their government.
This is a regular meal at a casa Particular
You can easily choose to treat your trip to Cuba like any trip to another Caribbean island.
If that is the case and that is all you want, I wouldn’t recommend going to Cuba.
But if you really want to experience the Cuban culture, the unique state of the country and so on.
I would recommend that you book your ticket tonight.
Without a doubt.