Notas de Cuba: the travails and joys of solo travel

Its difficult to explain my comfort with travelling alone. I thought my first solo trip would also be my last. But when a career change permitted a big gap in my schedule, I jumped at the opportunity to plan yet another solo trip. To a destination which has been on my wish list for ages. Cuba libre.

I was in any case taking a huge leap of faith as far as my career goes. So instead of picking a super-safe European country (as my maiden solo trip to Croatia had been), I feel super adventurous and willing to change 2 flights to cover the 14,600 Kms distance from Mumbai to Havana. One month in Cuba. Alone. Quite a journey. But just one life to live. So totally worth the risk.

Cuba has always had a strange pull over me. The stories of the revolution. The enchanting photos of a crumbling old habana and its fleet of old chevy’s. The Cuban salsa immortalised by “Dirty Dancing”. A country caught in a time warp. Boxed within itself, yet surviving in this day and age with barely any global linkages. In defiance to the US. I have been dying to experience Cuba before they reconciled with the US and Americanised. Homogenised. While I may be a year too late on this front, I am hopeful that the new easing of the US-Cuba relationship is yet to have any onground impact. But I don’t have time to lose.

But its tough to explain to people the why behind this solo trip. Sitting in India, Cuba seems a world apart. An unknown world. Tough to locate on a map. The responses are varied. Fear for my safety. Worry about me, a vegetarian, not getting enough food. Worry about the lack of tourism infrastructure. Shocked silence in some cases, accompanied by a total failure to understand my motives. Entreaties to not share details of my travel plans so as to not shock more people. And in a rare few cases, admiration and envy!

The cultural and patriarchal factors in India make it tough for people (even close relatives) to digest the idea of a woman wanting to travel alone on a holiday. By choice. Not compulsion. The fact that I am married makes matters worse. How can I possibly not want to travel with my husband? Or more pertinently, how can I possibly want to travel without my husband? If only one knew my state of mind. Rather appropriately to quote Che Guevara invoking a few lines from a poem as he crossed over the Andes to Chile, “And now I feel my great root floating uprooted and free…”.

“Saludo” to the one who gives me the wind to cruise.

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