Finding Peace in Cuba – Part 1/2

It’s raining today, and as I peer out at the cold, dreary scene I find myself wishing that I could once again be under the hot sun of Cuba. Of course, many of my days in Cuba were filled with the clamor of discovering a new place and what it had to offer, but here and there I found time to relax, time to take a deep breath and passively absorb the surrounding environment in a way you sometimes can’t when you’re always on the go.

With that in mind, I want to share with you some of my favorite memories of Cuba, the moments when I wasn’t pushing myself to do something new and challenging. It’s worth remembering those times, too.

Lunch in the Cuban Countryside

It was around noon the first day of my bike ride to Viñales, and I was traveling down a dirty paved road that seemed to extend in front of me forever. Farmland stretched beyond the horizon on both sides, and the land was empty as far as I could see.

As I looked for a place to stop and eat I came across a small dirt road that turned off into one of the farms. Where the roads connected was a single massive tree planted right in the middle of everything, and it occurred to me that it might be the only good source of shade available for miles. I pulled up beneath the tree and unpacked the groceries I had purchased at a market the day before, hoping no one would get upset that I was loitering on the edge of their land.

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And then I paused. I listened for a moment to the silence around me, looking out over the lonely fields. I was surrounded by a surreal stillness, sometimes interrupted ever so gently by a passing breeze. It was just me, my lunch, my tree, and a vast expanse of quiet, sun-soaked farmland spreading into the distance.

Total silence. Total calm. As I sat there I realized that I was completely alone in the Cuban countryside with my peanut butter, handmade seed bars, carrots, peppers, bananas, and the most delicious fresh tomatoes I’ve ever eaten, and I knew that I was experiencing a time and place that few in the world will ever see. I let myself become part of the scene and ate quietly in the shade.

Here’s the view from where I sat.

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A Terrace in Viñales

When I finally arrived in Viñales, I was exhausted from my ride. I slept deeply that night, and when morning came I woke to cocks crowing in the courtyard.

Every morning I had a wonderful meal of blended fruit juice, coffee, ham, cheese, bread, eggs, pancakes, mango, and guava freshly picked from a tree only a few yards away. It’s easy to understand why I enjoyed my breakfasts in Viñales. Every day I would pack my stomach with this wonderful meal, and I’d be ready to explore more of Cuba!

But on that first morning I wanted to take things easy, so I decided to sit outside with a book for a while. Separating my room and the animal yard was a long terrace lined with rocking chairs built from elastic cords wrapped around metal frames. I sat there until the early afternoon, finishing my book and looking up from time to time to watch the animals.

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The cocks fought for dominance, the dogs found ways into places they weren’t supposed to be, and the cat stayed perched just out of reach of everyone else, always taunting the others with its presence. Every so often the dogs would visit and even join me in the chair for a short snuggle.

On that terrace I could enjoy the simple pleasures of eating breakfast, reading my book, and watching the animals dance their daily dance, and I realized I no longer had to worry about the routines and stresses of my previous life. This trip was a new beginning for me, and staying at that home provided a sense of peaceful liberation that I had been seeking for some time.

If every day were like that one, well… I might get a little bored. But it would be nice to have a place like that to recharge every once in a while. Perhaps I’ll find another like it in my travels.

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Experiencing wonderful moments like these is all about frame of mind. If you find it difficult to free yourself from the dregs of everyday life in our ‘always on’ societies, you’re not alone. We all need to get away from time to time and find environments where we can truly relax, and I hope that writing about the kinds of places where I find an inner calm help take your mind away from whatever is weighing you down.

And maybe now your imagination is running wild about Cuba! I hope so.

Do you have any memories of wonderful places from your travels that you want to share? I invite you to write a comment and to tell me where you found your own peace in the world.


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