As we researched and prepared for our trip to Cuba, we knew it would be a very different travel experience for us compared to the other countries we’ve visited. However, I think we might have underestimated just how different Cuba really is. Traveling through the country, without the assistance of a tour company, was a very eye-opening learning experience, to say the least. In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a series of posts about specific areas of the country, some of the highlights of our trip, and our family’s tips for navigating Cuba’s unique culture. For now, I’ll let Emily give her thoughts on this little adventure. This was her 13 Year Trip, after all, so she should be the first to tell you about it.
A Kid in Cuba
by Emily Carisch
The first thing I want to say about this whole 13 Year Trip thing – traveling is really weird without my sisters. I guess I’ve just traveled with them so much that it feels like something is missing when they’re not there. Of course, Mama and Daddy are fun to hang out with, too. We had a great time traversing the wild of Cuba and I’m so glad to be able to have had that experience with them.
The most memorable thing about Cuba was the differentiation. We stayed in Old Havana for the first three days and a lot of time was spent exploring the city. One block would be bright and happy, the cobblestones underfoot worn down by pedestrians. Broad leaves sprout from twisting vines overhead, creating dappled green sunlight and comfortable shade. Laughter spills from open doorways and young boys whoop as they pass a soccer ball back and forth. But then, you turn a corner and come to a crumbling storefront, the rusted metal gate twisted and warped out of shape. To your right, the building has been completely obliterated, revealing the crusty, pipe-lined interior of the next apartment building. Rubble and trash line the sidewalks and the distinct smell of feces hangs in the air. A stray cat, haggard and disheveled, perches in a window sill above, glaring down at you as if to say, You don’t belong here.
It’s really an experience to be in such a dichotomous situation, especially without my sisters. Being in this new environment without the daily activity of normal life gave me an opportunity to open up to my parents. I feel like this trip offered a connection that helped strengthen our relationship, and now I can talk and empathize with them more.
But I don’t think the place is really what matters. Yes, Cuba was definitely an experience, and it had its ups and downs (more on that to come), but just taking your adolescent child out on their own for a camping trip or out of the state would suffice. It’s the time and the experiences you share one-on-one with your parents that prove to be the real souvenirs -those are the things that stick with us longer than any plastic bobble head ever will.