First, let me apologize for going so long between posts. I hate to sound like a whiny eight year old, but I got hit by the perfect storm of sickness last month, and it totally screwed my end-of-December (as well as the start of my New Year). In the future, I don't plan on going that long in-between posts, although I'm quite certain people weren't exactly sitting by their computers hitting 'refresh' in anticipation of my next blog post. If you were, well, then .... Anyway, my apologies again to all for the lengthy delay between posts.
Next, let me preface this new post by restating how absolutely thrilled I am that both the US & Cuba have taken steps towards normalizing diplomatic relations. I made that crystal clear in my last post, and, all BS aside, my feelings haven't changed one bit. I'm 100% certain restoring full diplomatic relations between the US & Cuba will ultimately benefit the Cuban people, and that's what matters to me the most at the end of the day.
So, having said the above, here's my free advice for the day ... If you're interested in visiting Cuba, do so now, and I mean NOW. Go via Mexico, go via Canada, go via the Bahamas, just GO, and GO NOW. It's not difficult to travel from the US to Cuba via a third country, it's really not ... not that I would know anything about that. *cough cough*
Here's why you need to visit Cuba now ... After the news sunk in last month, and after I had a moment to really process the historical developments between the US & Cuba, I was suddenly struck by one overwhelming thought ... "Ohhh SH*T." Before I explain that thought, let me clarify that (1) I love the US, and (2) I'm VERY proud to be American. Ok, with that said, I can be totally honest now and say I was absolutely haunted by the mental picture of my beautiful Cuba suddenly being overrun by millions of fanny pack wearing Americans ... wool socks + sandals and all ... and that thought scared the ever-living sh*t out of me. Truthfully, it still does.
I realize the following might sound both hypocritical & somewhat arrogant, but, in my opinion, one of the things that makes Cuba so incredibly special & unique is that there aren't millions of Americans running amuck all over the island. Before my fellow gringos call me an a**hole and decide to never read my blog posts again, please allow me to elaborate ... Anyone who truly knows me knows that I don't hold a particularly high opinion of myself. They also know I rarely take myself seriously. I'm far from perfect, and no one knows this more than me (and everyone around me, lol). Each day I try to be a better person, because that's all I can do. Some days I succeed, and some days, not so much. So, I would NEVER imply that I'm a "better American" than the next American tourist. What I will say though, is that I'm a very respectful traveler/tourist. I will also add that I always try to represent the US in a very respectful manner. Unfortunately, my personal travel experiences have shown me that many Americans take a different & less respectful approach when traveling outside the US.
For example, on my second trip to Cuba, I was traveling in a group of around twenty or so Americans via a people-to-people tour. As part of this tour, we were all being driven around on a coach/bus by a very nice Cuban gentleman. Although the Cuban gentleman didn't own the bus, he drove it home each night, and it was clear he took a lot of pride in maintaining "his" bus. Well, one of my fellow Americans (the loud type who always seem to brag about how much money they have) decided to enjoy a snack on the bus (various crackers) while we were in-between stops. After he was done eating, his seat and the entire surrounding area looked like two raccoons had fought and knocked over a trash can. There were huge crumbs and discarded cracker packages everywhere. Any respectful person would have cleaned up their mess, or at least made an effort to do so. Not this guy, nope. Knowing full well the Cuban gentleman was responsible for the cleanliness of the bus, my fellow American decided to literally dump everything on the floor, crackers, wrappers, and all. To top it off, he finished up by boasting loudly "screw it, he'll clean it up, it's his job." I'd love to say I was speechless, but I actually told him how disrespectful I thought he was. He just looked at me, paused, and laughed. He could have cared less. Not surprisingly, he followed this incident up with other similar incidents all throughout the trip. In the end, he was the living embodiment of the "Ugly American' (see photo below).
It's for this reason that I implore you to visit Cuba now, before direct travel from the US is made available to all Americans, and before Cuba is transformed into the Myrtle Beach of the Caribbean (golf courses and high-rise hotels as far as the eye can see). Cuba is SUCH a unique & special country. I know it's an over-used cliche, but, in so many ways, the Cuba of today really is a living, breathing time capsule. However, I'm afraid that's all going to change the minute any American can plug 'HAV' into Orbitz and purchase a direct flight to Havana from the US. And, once Cuba opens up to all Americans, it will never be the same ... NEVER. The unique/special Cuba of today will be gone forever. So, again, if you have even the slightest interest in visiting Cuba, do yourself a favor, and do so NOW before this guy ruins it for everyone ...