Aisha and I have been best friends for, like, 20 years!
We met in high school in Carson, CA back in 1995 and have been close ever since. After college I moved to NYC and she moved to Philadelphia for medical school. Then she moved around a lot for residency and fellowships and at one point we were both in NYC. Now, I live in Houston and she is in LA. We have never let distance separate our friendship and always found time to visit each other no matter where we live.
We both love to travel but we had never gone on a trip together. Can you believe it?
You may be wondering why we had never gone on a trip together after all those years. Well, I’m an educator and only have time off during certain seasons and she was in training to become a surgeon until last year, so our schedules never coordinated.
But last summer, she was finally done training AND our schedules coordinated AND we had a place that we both wanted to travel to. That place was CUBA!
How she convinced me
Aisha had gone on several Intrepid trips and she loved them! She raved about them every time she came back. I had been doing some research and looking for cost-effective options. I was part of several travel groups on Facebook and many people seemed to be traveling to Cuba for half the price of Intrepid’s (legal!) Cuba tour for Americans.
I am very frugal and kept asking her if we could find an alternative.
In addition, I either travel to places where I can stay with friends or family, or have a friend make all of the arrangements. In my opinion, vacations should be cost-effective and stress-free once you get there. Although the options I found in the travel groups were cost effective, trying to vacation on a dime did not seem stress-free.
Aisha knows me very well and knows that I did not want the hassle of trying to figure things out as we go, especially without reliable cell phone service. So I went with her recommendation of going on Intrepid’s 9-day Hola Cuba trip and boy am I happy that I did.
Intrepid is perfect for my travel style. I did not have to think!
In my day job, I have to manage large projects, so when I go on vacation, it’s nice to have everything, including meals, planned for you. I live by a calendar in general, so this was the perfect vacation for me. It was worth every dollar!
Our accommodations were great. We always had our own room, bathroom, and air conditioning (very important when it’s hot). Everything was immaculate and up to my standards (I am huge on cleanliness).
Honestly, I was unsure of what to expect. I have traveled throughout the Caribbean and Central America and I was pleased that I felt right at home.
Our homestay hosts were super hospitable, spending time talking to us and getting to know us. For breakfast, we had fresh fruit and delicious coffee. There was much more to eat but that was my favorite part.
I knew when I was going to eat (very important to me because I’m always hungry!), and there was even time on our first full day to explore on our own. I really wanted to see a show at the Tropicana and I was so excited that I was able to get transportation and tickets so easily.
The best part of our trip was our tour guide, Dady, who was amazing and knowledgeable. I learned so much from her. I am a super nerd so I love interesting historical facts and learning about why things are significant.
She really gave us the perspective of a native Cuban and she answered all the tough questions, giving us the answers we might not necessarily receive the truth about in a history class in the US. She went into detail around the differences of Cubans in Florida and the Cubans who stayed home. She was very grateful for the opportunities she was afforded as a citizen of Cuba, as were many of the natives we spoke to.
It was also great to be among others who love traveling as much as we do. In our group alone we had doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, entertainment executives and retirees.
Everyone was so easy to talk to and had lots of great stories to share. I loved talking with Jeremy and Ann about their adventures in Ethiopia and their process of adopting two sons. I also enjoyed spending time with Linda, who lives in my hometown. Her spirit of giving and generosity was beautiful. And it was beautiful to share experiences with Jill and her dad on their father-daughter trip.
The best part was that no matter how young or how old, we all did every adventure together! It was like one big family.
One of my favorite memories was the salsa dancing class. I absolutely love salsa dancing, even though I’m not the best at it. But little did we know that Jill was a professional dancer and that she would mesmerize us all with her dancing skills. I also loved the vibe all over Cuba. We would be walking down the street and their would be a band playing music. I always wanted to dance!
I also loved, loved, loved Old Havana. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a big history nerd. It was amazing to see the vintage American cars, visit places where Ernest Hemingway wrote his masterpieces, and be enchanted by the historic architecture.
I loved the shopping, the magnetic energy, and the excitement of seeing what was around the next corner. Aisha and I took a leisurely five-mile walk along the beach and stopped for coffee at a colonial hotel after taking pictures with a vintage American car. Just the freedom to explore a country so rich in history made the whole trip worth it.
In short, I am super grateful that Aisha convinced me to travel with Intrepid. It was worth every dime.
From having peace of mind to having access to certain excursions that I could have never discovered online, I am thankful that I went to Cuba on an Intrepid trip.
Ready to take the plunge and travel to Cuba for yourself? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group tours there.
(Image credits from top to bottom: x)