Anticipating the warmth of the sun and the delight of spending these final, fleeting summer days on a beach, I will always remember first being greeted in Cuba by a thunderstorm.
Day one and it was already raining. Of course, this happened while blissfully unaware that hurricane Irene was coming. But perhaps the interminable clouds in the sky at the time were a reminder of why I made it there in the first place.
Whether it is planned or happens a bit more spontaneously, I have always returned from my travels a better person. More open, adaptive, accepting, loving and aware. So far, this set of ideals has allowed me to uncover my roots and hertiage in Greece, catch up with my best friend while visiting them in China and much, much more. Cuba was no exception, where I spent last week on the island of Santa Maria.
And like I was saying before about the rain, the temporary damper helped me keep my focus. Sometimes, you really can't afford to hold on to tightly to expectations. It's best to just relax, even if it seems as though the plans aren't going your way and enjoy the experience for what it is worth. For me, it is everything. To say the trip itself was exciting is an understatement. How do I even begin to describe this journey? For months, the prospect of this vacation was no more than talk, until it was turned into a goal and at last, I'd reached it.
To reach the idyllic destination to Santa Maria, there is a two hour bus ride from the airport in Santa Clara and from there, you drive through some of the mainland in Cuba and follow the canal to a set of privately owned, five star plus hotels. Having never been to a five star anything before this, I didn't exactly know what to expect. As the bus wore on, my eyes took in a lot of the country side, including bulls, palm trees, a few small plantations and droves of passers by, just sitting outside the steps of their homes. It was almost like they'd been waiting and many of them waved and clapped in approval of our arrival.
But the guide, an older man by the name of Orlando, filled everyone in on some of the country's colourful history. Some passengers in particular threw out a number of questions to Orlando about Cuba's economy, the cost of living, communism and even different foods. He answered them all in stride, without so much as breaking into a sweat. And as I listened to the discussions, the corner of my eye caught of a glimpse of someone's copy of Eat, Pray, Love resting in the back sleeve of their seat. After that, I rode the rest of the way to the hotel with a big, stupid grin on my face. It was so real to me then, the adventure waiting ahead and I'd made it.
The rain continued to pour the first evening, after checking into the Royal Hideaway. But sure enough, the skies cleared up by morning on the second day. By breakfast, the mood in the hotel was so much brighter. In as little as one week, there was much to learn, but if you want to hear about it from the perspective of a young woman carrying on as a world traveler, here is where you may find a break down of what happened each day. Many thanks, or should I say, gracias!