So I have noticed a sad trend when traveling and it has been exasperated lately when watching all the Americans flood Cuba. People seem to travel places just to show up with their expectations of what a place should be like or what it should have. It all seems odd to me since the greatest part of travel for me is to learn about new cultures, new languages and try new things. I never have an expectation of what it should be like. If I knew that, it would kind of ruin the surprise and joy of travel.
I will give you some great examples I have seen over the years and I hope you don’t recognize yourself in these. If you do, maybe it’s time to think about what you may be missing by showing up with your mind made up instead of being a ready sponge.
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen cruise ship passengers get off the boat and be frustrated because the locals didn’t take US dollars. They are just in shock and will complain about how much of a pain in the ass it is to adapt to the local currency. Now I won’t even start up again about how you should be using a good travel credit card with no foreign transaction fees and rewards for points you could be earning…ok I guess I just did. When was the last time you saw any business in the United States take anything that wasn’t a dollar? I mean half the time they have rules about what denomination they will even accept. Yet these same people are aghast with the idea that our Almighty dollar isn’t welcome like gold from the skies. Heck half the time you wouldn’t want them to take dollars anyways because you will get beat up on the exchange. Open an account with a bank that reimburses ATM fees (Charles Schwab, USAA, etc) and when you arrive at your destination, you can withdraw at the exact daily rate. Simple as that. Put anything you can on your rewards earning credit card and you have just earned miles towards your next vacation while still on this one!
“I can’t believe they don’t speak English”! Every time I hear this phrase muttered, I cringe. How many languages do you speak? Why should they speak English in THEIR country? Why could you not be bothered to learn even a few simple phrases in their language? You would broaden your horizons, make your trip easier and I can tell you from personal experience, the locals will be a lot friendlier when they see you have made the effort. Half the time you will get a better price or friendlier service. I find it to be a great deal of fun to learn how to say basic things like “please” “thank you” “How much?” “cheers” in the languages of the places I visit. I find that it makes the memories of the trip more vivid and later in life when I meet a person from that country, I have a great conversation starter. You can go the easy route and just download Google translate to your phone. This will translate on the fly and even has a feature that will translate menus and signs on the fly by just holding them up to your camera! If you are going to be somewhere that you won’t have data on your phone, make sure you download the offline language pack for the language you will be using.
Acting Like a Kardashian
“Of course they will have Pellegrino” “Of course they will have a pharmacy” “Of course they will have gluten free options”. Of course? Another phrase that makes me cringe. I heard two grown older gentlemen in the lobby of a small hotel in Havana just besides themselves because the bartender didn’t have tonic water. When the first one came back to his friend and relayed this devastating turn of events, the other couldn’t believe his ears. “I will just go up and order a gin and tonic, of course they will have it”. Me shaking my head. These guys where going to have a long week. God forbid they don’t have your go to drink or food. Didn’t you come here to experience Cuba? Order a rum or a mojito and step outside that small little box you live in. I had never tried good sipping rum before my first trip to Havana 7 years ago. I was about to order my usual scotch when I noticed they had lots of rums and at a much lower price. I figured what the Hell and I have been in love with rum ever since. Just like I tell my child, try everything once. How will you ever know what you may be missing?
I know what THEY need to do here
This is my new pet peeve. People who come to a country for 3-4 days and think they have it all figured out on how to make it better. Can we stop spreading freedom and McDonalds long enough to realize that we may not have all the answers? I spent an excruciating hour in line at the Southwest counter in Havana’s airport waiting to get on my flight to Florida. All I could hear was soccer moms going on about their trip to Cuba and what they think the Cubans should do to make it better. Really? You got all that figured out in 3 days? Well shame on those idiots for struggling with it for 6 decades. If only you had visited sooner! Come on folks. Maybe just for once think about what it must really be like. Is there money? Infrastructure? Manpower? Politics in the way? We certainly have all those problems. How do you have the nerve to think that you can show up to a country and treat it like a SIMS game? Let it go and maybe even concentrate on what things these countries do BETTER than us. Learn from your travel and go home with a new found humility and better understanding. I promise your life will seem and BE much better for it.
Travel is the greatest education you can ever experience. You will make life long friends, learn new languages, eat new foods you didn’t know existed and one day you will find yourself back home and will do something or understand something you saw in another country and you will smile.
Come join me and let me show you what real Cuba can be like. http://www.TheCigarLover.com If you have any to add to these, I would love to hear from you in the comments.