Last June I journeyed to one of my favorite destinations on the planet, Cuba. Despite the fact that I have lived and worked there off an on since 1991, and have had the honest pleasure of facilitating over twenty some delegations over the years, this last group was one of my most enjoyable ever. I am not sure really why. We were 13 dynamic, well traveled and inquisitive individuals with only one thing in common…the intrepid travel writer Jeff Greenwald.
I met Jeff in 2003, after he had recently founded, the Ethical Traveler. I loved the idea of ET and was honored when a few years later he asked me to serve on its advisory board. Since then we’ve been on countless panels together; collaborated on campaigns that mobilize the international community of travelers as a global PAC to use their clout and advocate on important social and ecological justice issues; and promoted “voting with your travel budget” at the World’s Best Ethical Destinations.
I remember the day Jeff and I spoke about creating a tour for him and his friends. I felt awestruck. There is so much to see, do and learn. As we brainstormed about an itinerary, he said, “Malia, I want to see your favorite places and meet some of your favorite people”. I smiled and thought, well it will be one trip of many for you then. I love that personally he trusted me with this challenge and a few months later, our group met in Miami and were off to soak up the sights, sounds and stories of Cuba. It was wonderful to reconnect with communities and friends from the Mureleando arts project and the intergenerational voices at the Convento de Belen in Havana, to engaging with the teachers, parents and kids at the Love and Hope arts program for children with Down’s Syndrome and advocates for community development and conservation at Las Terrazas in the provinces. I encourage you to read more about Jeff’s ever thought provoking insights from his “Dispatches from Cuba”. Today, I have the honor to feature a few of Jeff’s thoughts and share the word about his upcoming and yes, second trip back to Cuba.
The trip was a watershed event in my travel career. The country affected me profoundly—just as Nepal did, during my first visit in 1979. The art, music and mojitos were a revelation …. Not to mention Piñar del Rio’s gorgeous landscape, Havana’s neoclassical architecture, and the warm, generous Cubans we met along the way.
This coming June, I will be leading another trip to the island. It’s called “Exploring Cuba: Sustainable Development, Community & Art,” and will take place June 12th-20th. Though the trip is a benefit for Ethical Traveler, the cost is very reasonable. Like last year’s trip, we’ll meet with social leaders, artists, naturalists and entrepreneurs. We’ll explore spectacular landscapes, and tour World Heritage Sites like Old Havana. Again, this will be a fairly small group — between 12-18 people. This really is a wonderful opportunity to visit a remarkable, fast-changing country. I hope to hear back from you, and promise that this will be a journey to remember (in a good way!!).
Learn more about the background of Global Exchange’s Cuba program and future Reality Tours to Cuba after you have read Jeff’s Dispatches. If you still want to read more, check out more coverage from our Alumni in the news. Recently Stelle Sheller and Janet Young, traveled with us and were featured in their local newspaper in the article, “ Local women travel to Cuba and discover two worlds” and they share their “unexpected” findings.