Have I Stayed in Cuba for Too Long

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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 researching restaurants in Havana.

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.

Ayngelina Brogan drinking a cup of tea
In Milan my biggest stress was fighting off jetlag with coffee and the bags under my eyes.

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. Internet in Cuba is one of my biggest expenses.

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.

In Havana Cuba people at the wifi park using Internet.
Internet in Cuba has changed so much since I first arrived. There aren’t as many people in wifi parks because Cubans with money can purchase data. There is even 4G data now if you have a new phone.

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 in Cuba 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 I felt differently when I landed.

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. Cuban cocktails are mostly for tourists.

You’ll more often see Cubans drink mixers at most. A bottle of Crown Royal costs $300 at a bar so it’s a luxury for them, that, like rum, they also drink straight.

Havana Cuba vendor selling onions and garlic.
Food shopping in Cuba is very different. Want onions or garlic? You need to find a roadside vendor like this one.

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.

And friends called to say we were heading to the Havana beach, because they know I love the beach.

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 for some crema de vie.

And next year 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.

Join the Conversation

  1. As a fellow Nova Scotian with some knowledge of Cuba, I’m a bit envious that you’ve managed to settle in there. I suppose the trick is to make dome geniine Cuban connections so you have long-stay options beyond the usual commercially-available offerings. I must confess I’m also a bit intrigued by your comment that you “can’t live at home”, but I’ll just accept that not every aspect of a person’s life is for sharing.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s not an intrusive question at all. I love being home and I’m lucky enough to be one of the few people that enjoys spending time with my family.
      But it’s not a great fit long term. I don’t plan on having children and I tend to get bored after a while.
      I love to visit but it’s not the right fit long term.

  2. Come to Georgia! The language is the biggest challenge, but the cost of living is quite small and there is a large expat community from all over the world if you get tired of going local. I came here four years ago and stayed for a full year to learn the language and make friends. I have just returned for the fifth time and spend more than half of each year here. I love this country!

    And food? And wine? The markets? You will go crazy with delight. Plus high-speed internet, a modern European apartment for less than $400/month, water you can drink from the tap (straight from the Caucasus mountains), quality medical care at a very low price, and efficient public transportation to every nook and cranny in the country. The four hour bus ride from Kutaisi to Tbilisi was 20 lari (about 7 dollars). And the bus had internet! Plus Canadian and US citizens can stay visa-free for one year 🙂

    Best regards,

    Tad Davis
    Tbilisi transplant

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      So many people have bewn talking about Georgia lately that I have considered it.
      What is the weather like?

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful and vulnerable post!
    In my 12 years of full-time travel, I reached this point many times. I’d find a place that I thought was going to be home. In a few cases I used that place as a home base for up to 2 years similar to what you’ve done in Cuba (for me it was Grenada and Peru). But in every case, something eventually made me realize it was time to move on.

    Coming back to Canada was one of the best things I could ever do. Clean water from the tap! Amenities! Technology! And…..last but certainly not least: lifelong friends and family.

    When I was traveling and home-basing abroad, I counted the accumulation of foreign friends as travel victories. I was invited to a wedding! I’ve been accepted! I have a sense of belonging! Hurrah!
    What I didn’t realize, was that if achieving a sense of belonging while abroad was such a big deal, I always had it at home. And instead I was searching for it abroad.

    I also don’t have kids, and I also get bored easily. So even though I have a base in Canada, I continue to travel half of each year (cumulatively). Now, each time I take a trip, I have a place to come back to and be me. And belong. (And drink clean water, and enjoy free healthcare, and, and and….)

    My experience is not yours, so I’m certainly not trying to convince you to return to Canada! Just thought I’d share. We both have been at this whole travel thing for quite a while. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I did the enjoy my time based in Toronto from 2014-2017 but I was happy when I left and have no desire to go back yet.
      I love Canada but not everything about it and the thought of winter is so depressing.

      1. OMG I hear you on winter! I still haven’t accepted the idea, and I go away every winter. (This year I’ll spend December – March in Morocco and Greece; admittedly the coldest places I’ve spent winter in over a decade, but still a far cry from Canada-cold.

        You do you! I hope you find what you’re looking for. 🙂

  4. O grande líder says:

    Parabéns!!! Adorei ler este artigo, realmente me ajudou muito.

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