I had 14 days of vacation with no destination in mind and only three requirements – reasonable price, new location and safe for a woman to travel alone. I receive this question often – “so… why do you travel alone?” This question is quickly followed by “…don’t you get lonely?” To answer these two questions – Yes I enjoy traveling alone and no, I don’t get lonely! After researching some possible destinations, I choose Cuba as it met all three of my requirements.
Although staying in an all-inclusive 4 star resort in Varadero is not my preferred accommodation, it was ideal for my first trip to Cuba. From the moment I stepped into the streets outside of the resort in Varadero, I felt a sense of ease and safety as there were plenty of tourists and Cubans enjoying the warm Caribbean weather. Rather than spend all of my time just laying around the pool and beach at the resort, I ended up booking a few excursions. These “mini-vacations” would allow me to experience Varadero, Matanzas, Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, Topes de Collantes and Guama.
There was a lot to see and my “adventure seeking bug” went into overdrive – I couldn’t wait to start!
I haven’t found a person traveling on their own who didn’t say that they enjoyed the freedom of travelling alone. I can do anything I want, when I want- it’s all up to me! Scary? You bet but exhilarating at the same time. Traveling to Havana “solo”, I was open to the possibilities of meeting the most incredible people both locales and other solo travellers.
One such experience was with my tour guide, Carlos Nunez, a retired principal from a high school in Havana. I call Carlos my ‘singing tour guide extraordinaire”. From the Boca de Camarioca outside Varadero to the Vedado area of Habana there were phrases that Carlos used to describe the area that would relate to a song lyric and off he would go and break into song! Lucky for our small group of 8 that we were all musical buffs and enjoyed his singing and often joined in.
About an hour into the trip, Carolos told the driver to stop the mini-bus. Everyone was stunned at the unforeseen stop until Carlos turned back to us and said “This is not the overnight tour to Habana that you booked”. We were all curious until he turned to us and asked us what WE would like to do in Habana! What? We could customize our tour? Unheard of? Fortunately we were all able to agree on a walking tour not only of all the wonderful sights but also to some of the out of the way “none touristy” neighbourhoods to enjoy the true Habana.
Not only were we going to be treated to a unique journey to Habana with Carlos, we were going to see it through his eyes. Enjoying the journey with all of our senses started off with the first “pit stop” which was also a stop to try out a Cuba Libre and some Guarapo…refreshing!! If this was the way to experience Cuba, than the next two days were going to be incredible and I could hardly wait to be immersed!