Things to do in Havana that will change your perception of life.

 

 

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Cuba is much more than just beautiful beaches, good music, and delicious food. I knew when I booked my flight to Cuba that this trip was not going to be the typical Caribbean vacation. My purpose for this trip was different.

Besides getting away from the routine for a few days, I was mostly looking forward to learning and comparing the different perspectives between older and newer generations with respect to their government. I was also really looking forward to supporting Cuban entrepreneurs, and lastly, I was dying to explore Havana streets.

You will probably think I am crazy but since it was such a short visit; I didn’t have time to stop by the beach! Yup! I went to Cuba and did not go to the beach!!!…can you believe that? (I blame that on my job and adult responsibilities back home!! )

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If you are from the United States, you are probably aware that the only way for us to visit this beautiful country is if our reason for travel falls within the 12 categories of authorized travel. In case you don’t know, the most common one is the support for the Cuban people category. Now, a lot of people travel with this license, but once they get to Cuba, they do the complete opposite. You are free to do whatever you want once you arrive, Cubans will still welcome you with open arms. I didn’t want to support a government that had its people suppressed for so many years, so I tried my best to do things to help Cuba’s citizens instead. You are free to do whatever you want with your time, in this post though; I will talk about things you can do to support Cubans while learning new things and having fun at the same time. If this sounds like something you would want to do, keep on reading! 🙂

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Before I begin, let me tell you a few facts:

  1. Pretty much, the government owns everything in Cuba. Differentiating what is government owned and what isn’t, can be somewhat tricky; I suggest you do some thorough research before visiting.
  2. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until five years ago that people were allowed to own a business in Cuba. Thanks to this, people with creativity and an entrepreneur mind were giving an opportunity to fly!
  3. the average monthly salary in Cuba is around $30 a month. You might be thinking that since their pay is so low then maybe the cost of living in Cuba is cheap. This assumption is entirely wrong. For Cubans, the trivial things we get to enjoy in our home country, like going to restaurants or fun events on the weekends are things they most likely can’t afford.

Here are some of the things you can do to support Cubans:

Stay at a local’s home instead of a hotel. in Cuba, these are called “Casas particulares.” Airbnb has plenty to choose from; this is a great way not only to support Cubans but also for you to immerse in the culture. I highly suggest you do this, waking up each morning to a warm, humble but yet delicious and filling breakfast is something that I will never forget. It was touching to see how my Host family went out of their way to make me and my friend feel comfortable and at home.

You are probably thinking ” well, you are paying them so isn’t that what they are supposed to do?”.. no, it has nothing to do with that.

The fact that they haven’t been able to have any control over their lives for the past 60 years or so. The fact that most people despite their struggle, worries, and doubts figured out a way to have some say in their future, well being and success, is what I found so eye-opening and heartwarming.

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” Manicuri” – Nail Salon, Central Havana.

Think about this for a second.

If People like you and me who are living in a country with more opportunity and freedom; We often find ourselves filled with negative thoughts and insecurity, stopping us from following our dreams or setting our goals a little higher.

Can you imagine how much courage and hard work; it took for them to consider owning their own business?…(in case you forgot already, their avg income is 30$ a month!!)

These were just some of the thoughts that crossed my mind while eating my breakfast each morning. If you want your entire life put into perspective, I highly recommend staying with a family.

Eat at “Paladares” instead of regular restaurants. Paladares are restaurants owned by locals, often located within their house. Though Some Paladares are very humble looking, there are some that are very modern which will make you think they could be government owned. To avoid this confusion, you should research Paladares before you visit Cuba.

Paladares recommended by me: 

Hostal del Morro: located in the town el Morro. If you find yourself visiting Casablanca, make sure to check it out!

Isla de la pasta: located in Vedado ( if you go, make sure to try their cheese empanadas and their pizza !! )

El Chanchullero Bar and restaurant: located in old Havana. Very hip and artsy looking bar/restaurant, Highly recommended by locals as well.

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 Take local taxis instead of yellow taxis-  A lot of people in Cuba have decided to transform their car into a public transportation method. If you are skeptical about taking random taxis, ask your Airbnb host to recommend you a driver. The taxi driver, our host, suggested us was incredibly kind.

Do a vintage car tour around the city –  There aren’t enough words to describe how excellent this tour was. Come on, who hasn’t dreamed of cruising around a vintage (pink) convertible before?? …I am sure someone agrees with me!!

You can hop into one of these at Plaza de la Revolucion or the Parque Central. It costs around 30-40$ an hour, and they take you anywhere you want to go!

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My friend and I got lucky because our driver ended up taking us to places we wouldn’t have time to visit otherwise. The tour turned into a 3-hour trip instead of one and what’s crazy is that he refused to charge us for the extra time. Of course, we tipped him at the end of the tour to thank him for his time and Kindness; we will never forget this!!

Cubans work hard to keep these cars looking like brand new. Our driver showed us pictures of how the car looked when they bought it, and it was utterly destroyed. It took them one year and a half to renovate it and to make it look this good !!

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Book Airbnb Experiences !! – This is another must do!

Airbnb is doing awesome things in Cuba. They are allowing people especially young adults to explore their creativity while giving them an opportunity to become independent.

The Airbnb experiences we did were, Dance is another way to live and Play a Photography Wandering Game

Not only were we able to explore inside locals homes, visit unique art galleries, walk around beautiful hidden streets, learn how to dance Cuban salsa; Most importantly, we were able to make new friends and to see a completely different side of Cuba.

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Solar de la condesa – 5 Families are currently living here.

After Spending the afternoon with these talented individuals, I realized that young adults are the ones that are slowly but surely changing Cuba. They are all so full of dreams, creativity and hungry for success.

They are making the impossible, possible. I am looking forward to seeing what they will achieve in a few years from now; I have faith that Cuba will slowly start to change for the better!

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lastly, if you are into art and you also want to explore Havanas party scene, make sure to do the following:

Visit Fabrica de Arte Cubano–  an oil factory transformed into a three-floor Art gallery/ Bar/ Club. I can guarantee you will love this place. You will walk out of here tipsy, tired from all the dancing and full of inspiration!!

They are open Thursday-Sunday from 8:00 pm to 2am! (Your welcome !!)

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Visit el Callejon de Hamel on a Sunday !!- Every Sunday from 11:00 am they have live Afro-Cuban and salsa performances. Make sure to check it out, t’s really interesting and a lot of fun!

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Thank you for reading !! Sorry for the lengthy post, (I promise I tried my best summarizing haha)

 

 

 

 

Things Havana taught me.

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I was born and raised in Honduras, where beautiful beaches are a decent drive away and where I was able to enjoy tropical weather all year long. This is probably the reason why I have never been in a rush to visit the Caribbean. That doesn’t mean I don’t see myself having margaritas in Punta Cana or Aruba, but for me personally, it doesn’t have to happen now. However, this was never the case when I thought about visiting Cuba.

When I was around 10 years old in Honduras, I met a Cuban girl at my school, we became friends quickly. When I found out she was Cuban; it blew my mind. In Honduras is not common to come across foreigners, so I was shocked when I found out where she came from. I didn’t know anything about Cuba back then so all her stories amused me each time. Honduras as most of you know is a very poor country so the thought of people fleeing their country to move to Honduras was really hard for me to comprehend.

This is why I have always been curious to visit Cuba. However, as I grew older and Living in New York, I thought this was probably never going to happen. I realized my dream wasn’t too far off, last year when the laws of visiting Cuba became more flexible for U.S citizens. Being the scary cat I am, I was always skeptical of something going wrong, so I continued to overlook the possibilities of visiting Cuba. It wasn’t until Two of my close friends visited the country a few months ago and told me it wasn’t as complicated as it seemed to visit, what gave me the push to book the flight and just go!!

Now, with all that background info lets fast forward to my time in Cuba.

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As soon as I arrived in Havana, the first emotion I experienced was nostalgia. The humidity and tropical smell reminded me of Honduras (I haven’t been back in 5 years!). Besides nostalgia, I also experienced a big culture shock. We stayed in San Nicolas, Central Havana and to my surprise, this was a very rough looking neighborhood. What shocked me the most is that I didn’t feel unsafe at any time of my stay. If you are close-minded and you are walking in the neighborhoods of Central Havana you might think someone is most likely going to rob you, that’s what someone living in Honduras would expect. I was shocked to find this wasn’t the case, I walked freely with my phone or camera in my hand and nobody cared. Obviously, nothing is perfect and is possible to come across a crazy person anywhere in the world. Which is why we should always be careful and aware of our surroundings.

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In Cuba, the internet is limited to nonexistent. There’s a couple of Wifi spots here and there but the signal isn’t the best and you also have to buy a wifi card to use it. This at first shocked me but a few minutes into being there, I was glad to be off the grid for a few days. This allowed me to immerse in the culture and to pay attention to little details that I would’ve probably missed if I was snapchatting every step I made.

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Another thing that I found very interesting was the contrast between “poverty” and hip, all in the same place.  I was so shocked to realize that not everything is what it seems. For example, Central Havana, like I mentioned earlier in my post is the non-touristy part of Havana. Although the neighborhoods look very poor, you might be shocked to find that there are some places that don’t look appealing from the outside but when you go inside they are actually really fancy. This is something that I was not expecting at all.

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I could write so much more about Cuba but I always get carried away when talking about a country or things that Inspire me! thank you for reading this far if you still are!!

I won’t talk about the government or anything related here because one thing I noticed in Cuba is that there are multiple perspectives on their current situation. The last thing I want to do is to give my opinion and possibly offend someone, all I know is that my heart stayed in Cuba ❤

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Two crucial things I learned on my visit to Cuba: 

Life is what you make of it– you either drown in your problems or you enjoy life and appreciate what’s around you. This was one of the biggest lessons I learned from Cubans. Despite all their hardships, they are still able to be one of the friendliest and happiest people in the world!

If there are no hardships, there is no creativity– I was shocked to see how Cubans came up with solutions to pretty much anything. In New York, we are used to replacing something that broke with something new or buying the newest tech out there to simplify our everyday tasks. In Cuba is completely the opposite. I felt so inspired by seeing how Cubans think outside the box to find solutions or strategies for their everyday life.

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I will tell you details of what I did in Cuba on my next post, Stay tuned ❤

A day​​ inside a Painting.

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             Yes, you read that right. I spent a day inside a painting!..literally…

This photo was taken at Burano, One of Venice’s Islands and one of the most colorful destinations in the world. After Randomly coming across photos of Burano on Facebook a couple of years back. I quickly added this place to my must-visit destinations list and I am so happy that I was able to cross it out of my list last year! but that doesn’t mean I won’t be back!

Before I continue, if you haven’t yet, go read my Lost In Venice post, as this is a continuation!

After adventuring around the city on our first day, we actually had an itinerary with things to do on our second day in Venice. Burano was obviously at the top of our list. There were a couple of other things there as well but to be honest we didn’t do any of them Besides taking a famous gondola ride in Saint Marks later that day!

Burano took most of our day and we don’t regret it at all!

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Burano is a small island so you can expect to spend at least half a day here. However, getting there takes a while so it ended up taking most of our day.

if you are planning a trip to Venice and want to visit Burano here is how to get there (+ some tips):

  1. Walk to Fondament Nove ( near saint marks) and take Ferry #12 they depart every 30 mins. ( depending on where you are staying it can be a long walk, it took us around 35 mins to get there) the ferry ride took another 40 mins but since it was a very scenic ride, the time went by fast!
  2. HUGE TIP: download maps.me on your phone. It allows you to save and access maps of any part of the world offline! I wish I knew about this app before my trip to Europe! haha
  3. (optional) get off at Murano Island and stroll around, we watched a really awesome glass making exhibition there! if you do decide to stop at Murano hop on Ferry #12 again and head to Burano. very simple! People in Italy are also very kind ! so if you get confused don’t be afraid to ask!

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Things to do:

Our Day in Burano consisted of 1. getting lost as usual and 2. Taking photos in front of strangers homes! ..I felt bad for a good 3 seconds because I thought about the owners getting frustrated at all the tourists taking pictures in front of their front doors, but hey! they are probably used to it by now! right?…hopefully..haha

Honestly At first, I didn’t want to be that person but since I wasn’t sure whether I will have the opportunity to visit again any time soon, I couldn’t let the opportunity of taking a photo pass me by. Every home was so Unique and beautiful it was almost impossible to pick a favorite. I’m sure thousands of other tourists who have visited Burano felt the same way!

Like any popular tourist destination, Burano has an area with a lot of bars, souvenirs shops, and restaurants. We spent some time here as we wanted to buy a couple of souvenirs and grab something to eat, but after that, we wandered off to the opposite side of the island where there were barely any tourists around. Here we were able to enjoy the peacefulness and true beauty of this place.

There are not enough words to describe how magical this place was, I felt so blessed for being able to witness so much beauty at once! it is safe to assume that our visit to Burano was the highlight and my favorite part of our trip!! I can’t wait to be back!!

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Outfit Details:

  1. Top: Urban Outfitters
  2. Skirt: Boutique in Venice
  3. Hat: Forever21
  4. Sandals: Charles Keith
  5. Backpack: This is my all-time favorite bag! I got it abroad but I’m sure you can find something similar at Asos

Lost In Venice

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If you are a 90’s chic like me, you probably watched all the Olsen twin movies and dreamed of touring Europe with your best friend one day, am I right?!

Last summer I went to Europe with my best friend and I was able to reenact these movies making my childhood dream come true! except of course the part where they date a dreamy European guy and fall head over heels, but that’s okay (eye roll). We had an amazing time anyway! haha

We visited 3 different countries and loved every single one. I will tell you all about them in future posts! Today I want to talk about my breathtaking but quick visit to this beautiful city in Italy. I really think that whoever named Paris the city of love, never went to Venice. This city is not only romantic but extremely interesting and full of culture. Don’t get me wrong, Paris is dreamy and full of history but to me is just another cosmopolitan city. I’ve lived in New York for the past 14 years, so Paris didn’t really leave a huge mark on me like Venice did.

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If you’re a hopeless romantic that loves adventure and getting lost by walking to wherever your soul takes you. visit Venice, It won’t disappoint you!

After a long flight and very few hours of sleep, we started our first day in Venice really early. There was a lot of exploring to do and not enough time, we only stayed here 3 full days so sleeping wasn’t part of our plans. Venice Being the first city we visited in Italy, the first thing we wanted to do, obviously was to get ourselves some gelato. They surely weren’t lying when they said Ice cream in Italy tastes 10x better!! especially with a scenery like this one!

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I had always dreamed of visiting Venice but I never really thought it would happen. I must say Venice definitely exceeded my expectations, it was much more beautiful than what I had imagined.

Unfortunately, though, there isn’t such a thing as perfect. I would be lying if I told you everything about my trip was impeccable. There were obviously a few things (Very Few) that weren’t so perfect. The first was finding out that there are stairs literally every 5 steps in Venice. Just kidding, I’m exaggerating! but there were quite a lot. Since it’s a floating city there are canals and bridges (with stairs) connecting every street. It seems pretty obvious but I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before my trip. So if your planning to visit Venice, make sure to pack comfy shoes and do not! DO NOT overpack. Don’t be like us! or you will regret it. Trust me on this one. Just imagine us climbing stairs with a huge and heavy suitcase at midnight, not fun at all. The second (and last) not so dreamy thing about our trip was the hotel where we stayed. When traveling on a budget you have to be okay with settling for a place that falls within your budget ( as long as its clean and there is a bed of course). we didn’t really spend much time here besides when it was time to get some sleep, so it wasn’t so bad, to be honest. Other than these 2 things I loved every second I spent here!

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Want to hear a funny story?..

The first thing I said when I woke up was ” alright !! who wants to get lost today?!!” I was so excited, like a little kid when they have a new toy to play with. I wanted to take advantage of every minute and every second of our stay. The Funny thing is that after I said that, we really got lost. We walked hours and hours non stop throughout the whole city and we saw many amazing things we wouldn’t have found if we had an actual itinerary with touristy things to do, so it was totally worth it. However, though, being lost got a little annoying when our feet gave up and we decided it was time to get to our hotel. I am not exaggerating when I say we walked in circles for over an hour and we couldn’t find it. We asked for directions but to our luck, most of the people walking around were tourists and others didn’t know how to direct us. We were so tired, we completely gave up and sat down on the stairs outside this really stunning building. 30 minutes later after resting our feet a bit, we walked over to a little kiosk and asked the worker if he could direct us and guess what?!….our hotel was literally 2 blocks away from where we were!..haha..we felt so silly !! we make fun of each other to this day.

 

One of the awesome things we came across after walking for hours was this really cool vintage bookstore! There were thousands of really old books stacked on top of each other, it was such an interesting and beautiful thing to see!

This pretty much sums up our First day in Venice, Our next day was another amazing adventure at Burano island but I don’t want to make this post too long so I will tell you all about it on my next post!

I could write for hours telling you all about why I fell in love with Venice but I know everyone has different perspectives so I don’t want to brainwash you with my own personal opinion. I do want to encourage you to visit and find out for yourself just how beautiful and interesting this place truly is!

Thank you for reading! ❤

 

Chasing Day Dreams

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You know that feeling you get when thinking about that thing you want to do but you have no idea how to do it or where to start?.. it feels almost as if butterflies want to come out of your chest but they can’t.

If you know what I’m talking about, You are not alone, I get that a lot. Especially at night when I’m looking at my ceiling unable to fall asleep and I start to question my entire existence, or every morning when I am at the office and to snap out of it I have to auto convince myself with a million reasons of why I need this job. Also, when I’m listening to my favorite song and I automatically Imagine myself walking through the streets of Thailand with this song in the background…

Now you probably have an idea of what most of my daydreams are about!

(super cliché! I know!)

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who dreams of traveling the world and leaving everything behind but hey! If you do too let’s be friends! I need more brave and beautiful souls like you in my life!

A lot of people dream of traveling but have this old mentality that traveling it’s a luxury meant only for wealthy people. Sadly, The farthest they go is to their favorite travel bloggers feed. If you are one of them, I am here to tell you that this is far from the truth. Anyone is capable of traveling. As long as you are passionately curious about seeing the world, you can do it!

Don’t live through your phone screen, MAKE IT HAPPEN!

and if traveling isn’t your thing but there is something else keeping you up at night or wishing you could leave your 8-5 job. Do you, make it happen!

Life is too short to settle for the life society tells us to live.

Let’s go after our Daydreams together!

Ella soy yo (I’m her)

This blog has been created in the attempt to remind and motivate everyone that can relate to stay true to yourself and to follow the things that set your soul on fire!!

The person behind Ella soy yo is Samantha Desiree (me!). She is Latina Born in Honduras.  An Introverted dreamer and a hopeless romantic who strongly believes life is meant to be lived! but has always been too afraid to raise her voice and live the life she envisions.

The name Ella soy yo comes from ‘The me inside my head’. A phrase I used growing up to refer or describe my true self. The reason I am writing this in a third person perspective is because up until not too long ago, I was living life as the person I thought I should be and not who I truly was. Today I have decided to stay true to myself and let the world know that Ella soy yo!

Thank you for Reading ! ❤

 

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