Something that very few people know about me, but I’ve always been keenly aware of, is that I never know when to call it quits.
Even in my 40s I can stay out all night drinking until someone says we all need to go home. I will stay in a relationship far longer than I should. And sometimes I stay in a destination when maybe I should move on.
Recently a lot of people have been asking me how much longer I’d stay in Cuba. And it got me thinking…
I’ve been based in Havana for almost two years now. I’m often careful to say that I don’t live there permanently. I rent casa particulares when I’m there and a kind friend keeps my extra stuff in her house while I’m gone.
And while the shine of tourist Cuba is long gone, I have always been excited about going back. I certainly don’t deal with the daily struggles like Cubans. I live a privileged life here. I’m writing this in a hotel and I’ll spend more on my breakfast than many Cubans make in a month.
And while I’m constantly surprised at just how much I know about traveling in Cuba, some days I feel like I’ve scratched the surface. There’s so much more to share about what it’s like to be in Cuba and I feel compelled to stay.
But after being outside for so long. I hesitate to go back.
I’ve been working at home on my Nova Scotia wine and food program for a couple months. And while I know I can’t live at home, I’m also not sure if Cuba is home. I do miss having a life where everything is easier, where big salads are common and I can drink water from the tap.
I miss being able to work easily online. Having wifi at home, not worrying how much data I’ve burned through on my phone.
In Canada I felt a bit of anxiety thinking about my next step. Just a tiny fire, telling me that maybe it’s time to move on. And yet I hopped on a plane because I wasn’t sure where else I should go.
But for the first time I’m wasn’t excited about returning to life in Cuba. It felt like where I *should* go but I wasn’t sure if it’s where I wanted to be right now.
The beauty of what I do is that I can change directions at any point. But the flip side is that if you could go anywhere, where would you go?
After a short trip to Italy exploring Milan food I got on my flight to Havana. The tiny fire turned into an inferno of stress. It was only slightly quelled by airplane wine on a nine hour flight.
Left to my own, slightly tipsy thought I felt torn because I love it here and there’s so much that I’ve learned that I haven’t properly shared. But even as the capital city, Havana can be a grind.
Basics like water and food can take a whole day to find. Shortages are still frequent while internet in Cuba is exponentially better (4G finally) it’s still not easy like in Canada. After 11 weeks away I realized how much I like it when life is easy.
But when I landed things changed. I picked up my bag and walked through the sliding doors of the exit to see smiling faces of friends. They grabbed my bags and we caught up on what I missed while I was away.
I checked into my Airbnb and grabbed my duty free Crown Royal whisky to share with friends. A bottle here costs $300 at a bar so it’s a luxury for them, that, like rum, they also drink straight.
The last couple days I’ve settled back in. I boiled water when I couldn’t find bottles. I felt proud that my Cuban Spanish hadn’t escaped me when ordering take out food at a local restaurant in Havana.
But I think maybe my strategy needs to change.
There’s something about Havana that keeps bringing me back. But I realized that perhaps I need to see other things in order to feel excited again for Cuba.
I’m challenging myself to rethink things. I’m here for another ten days then off to discover food in Ireland, a short trip to Mexico with likely a dental appointment and then back to Havana for a few weeks before Christmas.
And in 2020 I think it’s time to go back to the Philippines, just for a month. After that who knows. But I do know it’s not time to call it quits in Cuba. It will likely be some of my most fulfilling work.