Published on September 2nd, 20153
Woo-hoo! New Adventure Ahead!
Well not really a great mystery. If you follow TravelnLass on Facebook, then you already know where I’m planning to head for my next international caper. I just thought it would be fun to build a little suspense into the announcement here, of my next adventure.
So what’s the “Mystery Destination”???
HINT #1: It’s an island.
HINT #2: Uh, technically… I’m not allowed to go there.
Hmmm… with a nice navy-blue U.S. passport (that kindly admits me easy-peasy to more countries in the World than any other), now where could that be?
North Korea? Not an island. Plus curiously, there would seem to be no legal barrier for U.S. citizens to visit one of the “Axis of Evil” lands. Go figure.
Syria? Um, not that I pay much heed to the U.S. State Department’s (arguably excessively conservative) “Travel Warnings”, nonetheless this little missive issued just 5 months ago would seem a bit of a deterrent even for a somewhat renegade traveler like me:
“No part of Syria should be considered safe from violence. The potential for hostile acts exists throughout the country, including kidnappings and the use of chemical warfare against civilian populations. Indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment, including of densely populated urban areas, have significantly raised the risk of death or serious injury. “
Ditto Sierra Leon, Yemen and Libya.
Angola? A possibility I suppose. But again, land-locked, and besides – I don’t happen to have a chum inside Angola who can sponsor me with a notorized invitation letter written in Portuguese.
O.k., o.k. enough of this mystery nonsense. The TravelnLass’ next adventure shall be in…
Yup, the wee land of Señor Castro. You know, Fidel (actually these days, it’s governed by his brother Raúl). That infamous little island just 81 nautical miles off the tip of Florida. The isle that’s been off-limits to U.S. citizens for… good grief, for more than *50 years*!
Yes THAT island.
And while I don’t presume to understand the nuances of the U.S. and Cuba’s convoluted “Cold War” history” – given that U.S. citizens are free to wander to ‘n fro such (even more recent) foes as Vietnam (not to mention Iraq, Afghanistan – shoot, even the aforementioned North Korea for heaven’s sake), one does have to wonder why little ol’ Cuba STILL remains off-limits for independent U.S. travelers fully 53 years (and a crumbled Soviet Union) later.
And yes, yes we’ve all heard by now that there’s recently been a bit of a political thaw between the two cozily adjacent nations (one, a behemoth, the other, a tiny scrap of land little bigger than the state of Kentucky). And yes indeed, little more than two weeks ago, the U.S. flag was once again hoisted above our embassy in Havana (geez, ’tis about.time.) But still…
That silly “embargo” dropped in place way back in 1962 remains in force, and thus we Yanks (supposedly) aren’t allowed to go there.
But the truth is, more than 3 million tourists from all over the globe visited Cuba last year – and nearly a half million of them were U.S. citizens. Granted, most of the latter were technically “legal”, i.e. part of (very pricey) group “people-to-people” cultural tours. But there’s really nothing to stop me from embarking on what I consider to be my own little “person-to-person” educational and cultural tour – of a tiny nation that can barely feed it’s own people, much less militarily threaten the entire U.S. of A.
After all, that’s pretty much why I travel to begin with – to connect with the local people, be they hunkered in rice fields in Myanmar and Vietnam, or tobacco fields in Cuba (and silly “politics” be damned!) Besides, the State Department didn’t seem too very anxious to bar me from prancing into Vietnam (a country likewise ruled by a “C-word” government and thus likewise not squeaky-clean in the “democracy” department).
In short, while my middle name may well be “Question Authority”, I truly DO hope to learn a great deal about Cuba and indeed, spread a little “people-to-people” cultural camaraderie whilst I skip ’round the isle. It’s just that I’m not willing to cough up $5,000 for some “purposful travel” “licensed” tour (and be herded from one insular, high-rise luxury hotel to another) to do it.
And thus (like many of my fellow independent traveling chums before me) I shall dare to do what I do best. In little more than 8 weeks, I’ll hop on a plane bound for Havana, and explore “The Forbidden Land” in my usual solo DIY way (via public transport and staying with local Cuban families in “casa particulars”). I nabbed a fine fare of just $566 round trip (on Copa, a Panamanian airline), for 15 sweet days (and am now wishing I’d booked more). LOTS more research to do (one of my favorite parts of travel) to figure out just where all to spend my precious time there. Truly tough to decide.
A bundle of days in Havana of course, as well as the bucolic countryside of Vinales for sure. Likely a few days in Trinidad too, but tough to choose from among the many varied landscapes and beautiful beaches.
To see what I’m up against in choosing what to see and do on this tiny isle – take a peek at this stupendous collection of Cuban landscapes:
P.S. Oh and yep, I do indeed plan to snorkel in the infamous “Bay of Pigs”!