My love affair with travel didn’t begin with my first time on a plane or my first time in a new country. It began with my first time on an island.
Cuba changed me forever
In 2007, my family embarked on our first ever trip “down South” to Cuba. Although I had visited other countries before, this was the first time I stepped foot on a land that was different in every aspect: climate, vegetation, language, culture, etc. Prior to this trip, I had seen tropical beaches only in pictures – I literally felt like I was walking inside of a postcard.
It didn’t take long for Cuba to begin working its magic on me. One experience that stands out to this day was the time we were invited to a “real” Cuban family’s home for dinner. We had no idea what to expect, only to find that they lived quite modestly. We were shocked at first. How can people survive like this – we wondered. As the evening went on, we realized that living modestly was part of most people’s life in Cuba and that people depended on each other to meet their every day needs. They also depended on tourism which they saw as a blessing rather than an annoyance. What left the biggest impression on us was the people’s will to open their hearts and their homes to complete strangers. It was this very quality that kept the island afloat and thriving.
It would be an understatement to say that Cuba changed me forever. It opened my eyes and my heart to the world. More so, it made me fall in love with discovering new cultures and it broke my heart when I had to return to normal life. I knew I had to continue travelling to feel that “high” again.
Traveling is bittersweet
My experience in Cuba introduced me to that that feeling I get only when I travel. It’s a bittersweet feeling, a mixture of extreme happiness and a hint of sadness, because I know the moment won’t last. A feeling I get only when I am experiencing something extraordinary – like taking in an incredible sight, seeing the world through the lens of another culture, or meeting someone I otherwise would have never crossed paths with. This is the feeling that keeps me reaching for another adventure every time.
After my first trip to Cuba, my travels have taken me to 16 countries across Europe, Central America, North America and back to Cuba 6 times. Travel has become an integral part of who I am because it has given my world lens the ability to see from new perspectives. The most important lesson I learned along the way is that all people, no matter what corner of the world they live in, are capable of happiness – the things that make us truly fulfilled in life have little to do with wealth and a lot to do with our connection to people, nature, and the world.
Falling in love again and again
I call my experience with travel a “love affair” because traveling is much like falling in love for the first time, except you get to experience the feeling over and over again with each new destination. Like real love, each destination leaves its mark on you.
If you haven’t fallen in love with travel just yet, I encourage you to walk into that postcard you’ve been looking at and open up your heart and your mind to be changed forever.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart” – Confucius