Hi, I'm Kelly, a Canadian with a passion for Cuba. I've been there many times and for me, travel has always been about connecting with the local people and culture. But since my first solo trip to the island in May of 2014, my approach to traveling (and to a degree, life in general) has changed forever.
Going alone enabled me to venture way outside of my comfort zone on my own terms. It was a bit of a challenge -- I’d recently hit the age of 50 and my life was in a massive, gaping rut. I knew a total of 10 Spanish words, had no experience with "back-packing", and I had convinced myself that covering as much ground as possible was a good plan.
My original idea to make tracks across the island quickly gave way to focusing on one place at a time, because I realized that was the only way to really dig in and to avoid simply being an observer. As a result, I left two weeks later in a very different state than when I arrived. Say what you will about the stunning beaches and the famous Malecón -- the Cuban people are, by far, the most fascinating aspect of this island and the only real conduit past what you see in the marketing material.
I've long since tossed the rose-colored glasses. I've realized the notion that each and every Cuban can be described as desperate, poor and a model of perfect humanity is not only inaccurate – it's disrespectful. They are generous despite their lack of stuff, they're unabashed with their emotions, and decades of austerity have not wilted their ability to dance and sing and celebrate life. They're also complicated and imperfect - my time spent on and off the path has thrown light on that point. But with clarity comes wisdom, and with challenge comes enrichment.
This is my work in progress - meeting locals, engaging in their everyday lives, documenting and sharing with you. In doing so, my hope is that we can inch just a little closer to really understanding them.
It takes time to grasp this place. I suspect it may be a perpetual learning curve.
I'm game. Are you?