When it comes to road trips and vacations, you go big or go home. I went to Cuba.
By the time I started the 19 hour drive to Miami to board a trip to Havana, Cuba, I had no idea what to expect. This was my first time leaving the country, so what do you think about when riding the ocean for a few days to get to one of the hottest places on the Earth. In a matter of a week, I drove to Atlanta and Miami, took a ship to Havana and the Bahamas, and then came home. Here is what I learned.
10) Wear sunscreen. It’s almost remedial, but eternally true. I wore it six days out of the seven in the sun, and the one day I withheld, I received a burn. There’s skin cancer to worry about and also the need to sleep comfortably. Don’t let the sun and clouds team up on you.
9) The Atlantic Ocean never gets old, especially when its chauffeuring you across the world. You wake up, tip your cap to it, and check in on it whenever you look right or left. The water holds a crisp blue color and moves like a belly dancer if you stare at it long enough. It’s gorgeous.
8) When it comes to drinking on the ship, it’s a marathon and not a sprint; a painful lesson I learned on the first day of the trip. I went to the bar an hour after boarding the cruise like Lebron James heads to the basket: hearts full, eyes wide open, and ruthlessly confident. The only problem is my liver isn’t nearly as good as King James’ field goal percentage.
7) The internet is pretty cool and was missed for five days, but wow, the things you can do when unplugged and off the grid. No texting, no tweeting, and no Cards box scores to check was hard at times, but being able to walk in peace, rely on your iTunes, and enjoy a different way of life is a rare thing in our digitally armed world.
**Example: I watched more basketball than I had in the last five years. Also, I don’t like basketball, but I’ll say this: the speed that Steph Curry can get the ball, set his feet, and launch a three is sensational and unfair.
6) A few things about Havana, Cuba. It’s unruly hot and cars create their own road rules. We rode in a 1955 Chevy around the city, and our driver didn’t use his voice when wanting another car to move or do what he’d like. Instead, he honked his horn..a lot. Every driver does this. It’s their way of communication. You get used to this. If this happened in the STL, people would be shot or beaten.
The heat is unbearable if you are not used to it. Few cars have air conditioning and the ones that do won’t write home about it. At one point, I convinced myself this was an efficient diet tactic and workout routine to merely sit in a car and sweat profusely like there was a broken faucet in my forehead. Get ready for it because it’s worse than Midwest humidity.
One more thing. Every street reminded me of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Broken concrete streets and homes that skipped HGTV and rebooted the French colonization technique instead. Some may call it dangerous and slumy, but I liked it-or at least appreciated it long enough to admire it before the car kept moving. There’s so much important world history that started in Havana. Last Wednesday, I stood in that exact spot where the world changed and the future shifted.
Okay, one more thing. The minute you step out of the ship terminal, sixteen people on bikes, in cars, or tending to horses will invite you to take a tour with them while four more play songs for you, two others draw your picture, and another tries to sell you a map of the city. I left disappointed that I wasn’t offered a new dental plan and halfway working kidney.
5) Driving ten hours at a time sucks. I mean, it’s just bad. If there’s a child involved, bring some self-help tapes to play when a semi-truck is trying to cut you off as rain pours and your son asks you to retrieve his fallen toy behind the seat. When it’s all said and done, your shoulder will be dislocated and the tires on the car will need an apology. Goose-Fraba!!
4) Snorkeling is no joke. We visited the Bahamas during our excursion, and the first thing I tackled was putting on a life vest while strapping giant goggles and a breathing device onto my face in order to swim with the fish and not kick a stingray. I don’t care if it’s 20 feet or 100 feet, when you are out in the ocean off that island, it’s a survival game.
The water owns you and there’s no doubt. Don’t take in too much salt water because your throat’s customs department won’t accept that much sodium and know full well the water will push you around like a never ending version of The Rock. I made it my duty to make it from the shore to a dock positioned a decent stretch in the water and after a few turnarounds, made it. I paid for it later. The sunburn and salt intake hurt. Did I snorkel right? Probably not. It was worth getting to that dock and back though.
3) I played scrabble for the first time in years. Why is that game so hard for a writer who loves words? Also, the poker card game of WAR used to be fun. In other news, a lighter cost five dollars and a bottle of aloe took ten dollars in a shop on the ship.
2) You’ll meet all kinds of people from several different countries and ends of the world. A Swedish family along with a couple from France. Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Russia. Everywhere. You’ll make friends with all of them. A cruise throws the human species together for a week and things happen. Conversation is a form of human currency that never ages.
1) Confirmed: Mixed drinks are no good. I like my whiskey straight and not mixed with soda or lime juice or maple syrup. Gin is horrible and vodka is only good when accompanied by Mary. Domestic beer is overrated and wine is boring. I’m a straight whiskey or craft beer guy. Fancy to many, but the way I operate to one.
Take a cruise. Just do it. It’s a cutoff from civilization that only comes once or twice in a lifetime. I didn’t think about lawn maintenance or Twitter for a stretch and it felt good. Unplugging resets your mind and life. It’s like turning off the modem on your internet at home when it’s not working. When I got back, I was ready to get back into things. I got a break and returned.
Thanks for reading my Havana, Cuba excursion experience. I hope to read about yours.