When Paths Cross with Cuba

Recently, my mom and I took an all inclusive trip to Cuba. Like roughly 1 million Canadians yearly, we were looking to escape to a beautiful place we could lay beachside. It was a big change for me to be on an all inclusive after 8 months of wandering Asia, but the time with my mom was very special. With all the moving we have done and travelling I have done, it was really our first ‘vacation’ together.

Varadero is a tourist town nestled on 22KM of beautiful white sand beaches. After travelling Asia for 8 months, this long stretch of Cuban beach still held its place high (in my opinion) for most beautiful beaches in the world. The water starts as a crystal clear sea-foam green, and as you look to the horizon your eyes are met with a variety of different blues that eventually reach a gorgeous skyline of many more natural colours. Even more impressive is how clean the beaches are. To someone who has not travelled much beyond an all inclusive resort, this may seem like a no-brainer but unfortuantely plastic litters many of the worlds beaches. My mom and I spent about half an hour picking up plastic off the beach in Varadero because we wanted to do some good that day, but overall, the beaches are very well taken care of.

Beyond the beaches a trip to Cuba can be accompanied by driving in old classic cars, a trip to Havana (Havana oh na na), snorkelling, diving and lots of Spanish dancing. I took my mom snorkelling and it was her first underwater adventure (we are still waiting on our pictures, so pictures to come). That is right, 49 years old and I still got to take her on a ‘first’. This was pretty exciting for me and brought back the excitement to an activity that I have done quite a few times.

I have been to Cuba 3 times and didn’t always stick to the all inclusive, so here are some of my suggestions to make your trip a little extra: Eat food off the resort! Many people complain about Cuban food but Cubans certainly know how to cook. I am a big fan of the fried plaintain and camarones! I was invited to eat with a local family in Cardenas, wow! the food and company were fantastic. I also ate at a couple local restaurants and was never let down. The food was inexpensive and delicious. My understanding (i hope it is right) is that some shops/restaurants are locally owned while others are owned by the government. Take note of this, as you will see quite a difference in terms of price. I suggest trying the locally owned shops.

Which brings me to suggestion 2: Talk to the locals. I met a local Cuban at a gas station in Cardenas and he spoke amazing English. He explained that he was educated in languages but dropped out of school because if he finished he would of had to become an English professor. He decided that he would make more money working at a resort with his english speaking skills. This sounded crazy to me, but definitely gave me a bit more of an understanding of this man and perhaps some of the decisions Cubans have to make. He, and his family were lovely and welcoming!

Suggestion 3: Rent a scooter or car and go beyond the tourism. It can be a bit pricey but this is a sure way to see more of Cuba without a filter. The country is absolutley gorgeous and the people are very sweet. However, a drive into a town like Cardinez or even Havana without a tour guide will surely let you see some of the poverty and living conditions. While the home I visited in Cardenas was well furnished (lots of Canadian products, brought down to my friend from Canadian), this is not always the case. I was invited into an apartment in Havana from someone trying to sell me cigars and this building was difficult for me to walk through emotionally. There were no ceilings in the hallways or doors on most apartment, the building was littered with people sleeping all over the place and made of all cement. A whole other side of Cuba that we as tourists do not normally see.

Here are some photos from my most recent travels to Cuba with my mom. Enjoy!

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Wander With Love,

inconsistently.tash

A blog for my sister

My sister Tabs and I are very close, but I have always brought a level of what I would call a loving butthead to our relationship.

We are 13 months apart, and my mom has always told us that part of her parenting strategy was to let me help take care of my baby sister. Well, that role did not come to an early end perhaps as planned by my mom. High school meant challenging parenting on my behalf from waking Tabs up in the morning for school, yelling over the phone to leave “this instant” when she “fell” into her first bush party, and together mastering fake parental letters to get back into class.

We both moved out at fairly early ages, at least for our generation of basement dwelling 30 year olds (which I totally get; f*ck the divide of classes), but this was not an option for us. By the time Tabs turned 22 we bought a house together living along with my niece Bryella, and only recently sold that house to each purchase our own. We have since decided that our goal is to buy homes next to each other (in hopes that someone always has a stock of coffee in the AM!)

So needless to say, despite all the social media redefining distance with only a click and wifi keeping people apart, as I travel for the next year the distance between my sister and I will be notable. It is difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that when I come back from a year of travel, I will have missed a year of new memories with my sister, and my niece will no longer be 6. A year older, and I am certain more beautiful from an eye’s view through to the soul. So, this blog is not just about my sister but for her. Love you Tabs!

Meet my sister Tabatha…

27. Strong. Driven. Silly. Kind. Lucky. Loveable. Spontaneous. Patient. Sister. Mother. Tabi. Tabs.

In her 20s Tabs has traveled to 9 countries: Italy. Portugal. Spain. USA. Mexico. Cuba. Dominican. Ireland. The Bahamas.

Tabs and I sat down to talk about her travelling experiences to date. I would describe my sisters travelling as vacationy, but also quite spontaneous. Tabs even went on a few of her trips for free by winning contests on the radio. Hence, lucky! Actually, my first trip to Europe was because Tabs won tickets on the radio to see Rihanna in Barcelona. Merci!

Tabs has some great stories to share, really bringing to light how travel has changed for her over the years, and how special travelling with your child is. Let’s start with the young days of party centric vacationing, with some of Tabs highlights…

Tabs basically lived out an entire relationship with a blonde Cali dude on the strip of La Rambla in Barcelona and the young couple chugged a beer to seal the bond (I was there, it was really beautiful and at the moment I really did think my sister would move to the OC!).

The honeymoon was complete with a 5AM after hours dance party under black lights in some club.

A true vacation-romance complete with a divorce, and only a hangover as a reminder.

Tabs has also gotten a couple of her tattoos while on vacation in Ireland and Spain. She actually fell asleep while in the act:  myself nor the tattoo artist had seen this before. She may have broken some of the traditional tattoo rules about drinking the night before (or in this case, that early 5AM morning before), but hey we were on vacation! When I asked Tabs what has changed in more recent years, she said well now I don’t have to travel back to each country to actually remember the beauty!

More seriously, vacationing has changed for Tabs and has become much more about spending quality time with her daughter, Bryella. With Tabs being a single mom, Tabs has tended to opt for more contained vacations (as I put it), with multiple trips to all-inclusive resorts in Cuba and trips to Disney where we also have family to visit. The experiences she leaves with and the people she meets tend to be quite different from in her party days. Most recently on a recent visit to Cuba Tabs met a widowed father that was vacationing with his teen daughters, and shared that the best times he now has are when they vacation together. Tabs made a friend that confided to her about his life without his wife, and generally about raising his two beautiful daughters.

Tabs suggests that parents should vacation with their kids.

Most people you meet on vacation are excited and happy, and children pick up on this good energy

Recognizing that travelling with kids can be hard, Tabs believes that it provides invaluable experiences for everyone and parents shouldn’t be afraid.

TRAVEL TIPS FROM TABS:

You attract people by the vibes and actions that you demonstrate on vacation.

Talk to everyone because everyone has a story to tell, and people on vacation want to tell their story.

Brings your kids! Trust your kids!