Travel broadens your perspective and opens your heart. It's almost like reading a novel - you step into a new world and by the end, you've learned about yourself, about others and hopefully, you're grown. Our recent trip to Cuba was no different. My family and I arrived on Christmas Day, not sure exactly what to expect. We'd visited the Carribean before, but never a place like this one with a grand past and a very hopeful future. Cuba is so much more than the fabulous 1950s American cars you ride in as you visit Havana. Start with Havana: it is historic, with an immense Spanish and European influence, like a street in any European city, just crumbling a bit. Music follows you everywhere in Havana and beyond and so does a bourgeoning sense of possibility. New restaurants - called paladars - are the most tangible, and gourmet, examples of the bubbling entrepreneurial spirit you feel everywhere. While people had warned us the food would be only rice and beans, we found the food in these family-run places to be fabulous.
We had a chance to ride alongside the Cuban National Cycling team, exploring beautiful countryside filled with fields of tobacco and dotted with limestone mountains. (The painting below is by a local artist who lives in this majestic scenery.) My kids took a turn at bat at the world's oldest baseball stadium in the city of Matanzas, and surprised the Cuban team with a few impressive hits. We met farmers, tour guides, athletes, artists, musicians, shop owners, hotel clerks and chefs and without exception, they were welcoming to us Americans and hopeful relationships continue to thaw. I hope so, too.
I'll always remember the colors of Cuba and the people who live there. The chance to see a country stuck in time - but hoping for a bright future - is strangely apropos to the time we find ourselves in at the moment, this in-between president time. Like the Cubans, I will hope to be pleasantly surprised by 2017.