Ask the Alumni: Cuba through the Words of a Discover Corps’ Traveler

This Traveler Plans to Return

For Discover Corps traveler, Barbara, her Cuba travel experience was so powerful she is already planning a return trip one year from now. During her adventure, she explored the country, felt the warmth of the Cuban people, and witnessed a moving reunion, years in the making. Barbara provides all the details below of her Cuba: Celebration of Arts & Culture vacation:

Why did you choose Discover Corps versus another travel company?

Service and depth of relationship have been a source of meaning, enrichment and satisfaction for me most of my life. Discover Corps (DC) is true to it’s motto “Vacations With Purpose”. When I first received the catalog, recognized that this was a special kind of travel that incorporates some of my core beliefs. Both of my DC trips, one to Peru and this to Cuba, have been so rewarding in many ways. I believe that travel to another country where one sees and meets the local experience, is one of the most life expanding times. Thank you Discover Corps!

What is one thing you wish you’d known before traveling to Cuba?

I’ve been intrigued by Cuba for some time. I believe that I would have done more reading in regard to the revolution and the power structure that has been in place but is changing due to more progressive leadership. I am continuing my reading of these things and find that I have a deeper understanding even after the trip.

Cuba vacation
The natural beauty of Cuba

Tell us about the most memorable experience from your trip.

This is hard to just choose one, so I won’t! The place we visited that was so memorable, was Muraleando. The gentleman who had the vision and the means to ‘make it happen’, turned an unused tank that had turned into a junk pile, into a community center where art in all its forms takes place. Classes are given in pottery, painting, dancing, music and other art forms. In addition to being such an intense focus on art, it is a service to the community in providing a beautiful venue for life events such as weddings, at no cost to the participants. I loved every minute in Muraleando!

I must share another experience that made this trip exceptional. One of our group had lived in Cuba until the age of seven. She was part of the Pedro Pan Movement. During the revolution, there were fears for the children. Many fled to other parts of the world with the help of family members who had gone before. Our lovely Carina joined her aunt and uncle, then her parents came three years later. Carina had never been back to Cuba all of these years. One afternoon we went to the address where she knew she had lived the first seven years of her life. She was able to enter and to talk to the current residents. It was a very moving time for her and a very tender time for the rest of us to witness this moment.

Bigger picture, I loved the beautiful and strong expressions of art both on the streets and in galleries and museums. I loved the passion that Cubans have for their history and their future. I loved seeing the light of appreciation when we spoke with local people. They really are a genuinely warm and welcoming people.

“Since returning, I’ve had so many strong responses to the Cuban experience. It seems that it is such an intriguing country to many for numerous reasons. I would like to return in a year to again experience all that it has to offer…I’ll also, probably, take a Salsa Dance class!”

What did you think of your guide? What about your accommodations ?

Tury was beyond exceptional! Always there with so much history and information about a wide range of topics. He was very vigilant about the safety of all of our group. He was delighted to give us, “surprises that I know you’ll love”! And we did! Almost every day there was a wonderful surprise ahead – a stop with a ride on a railway cart, a stop at a yummy fruit stand and the wonderful dance performance that was done just for us. There’s more, but you just need to GO to learn more.

I was pleasantly surprised at how lovely our casa was in Havana. Our host was welcoming and lovely, the rooms were nicely furnished and spotlessly clean. In Trinidad our group was in three different casas, all in the same block. These casas had been renovated in such a lovely manner. Again, the hosts were so gracious and welcoming. On the evening we were on our own for dinner, we found a nice little place right across the street. We were delighted with the service and food. Our waiter was also delighted to have us all fill his little place.

Cuba vacation
Vibrant Cuban art

Are there any clothes / shoes / toiletries / camera equipment items you’d say are must-brings on this trip?

The Travel Portal on the DC website covered this nicely. I did well with short sleeves and a pashmina as a wrap for evening. We did have lovely rain twice and the umbrella came in handy.

What would you say to someone thinking about traveling to Cuba with Discover Corps?

JUST GO!!! Everyone I’ve shared with has said that they would love to go to Cuba. I can reassure them that travel with DC has been so well supported and implemented.

Anything else you would like to add?

Since returning I’ve had so many strong responses to the Cuban experience. It seems that it is such an intriguing country to many for numerous reasons. I would like to return in a year to again experience all that it has to offer. I often find that reading about a place I’ve been after I was there is more meaningful. I will use this year to read more to have a deeper understanding of the history of Cuba. I’ll also, probably, take a Salsa Dance class!

Five Cuba Travel Options

Discover which Cuba trip is best for you and your family from these 5 options:

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