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Traveling to Transform: Exploring Worldviews in Cuba

by Katia Petersen

Cuban children surround KatiaWhat an extraordinary trip! My heart is still filled with joy and gratitude for the special time I was able to spend with the most amazing group of people while visiting Cuba, not to mention a newfound appreciation for the abundance, freedom and power of choice we experience back home.

Our group, organized through our partnership with the fantastic organization Cross Cultural Journeys, met for the first time in Miami, but we quickly became close as we engaged in meaningful conversations, meditation practices, reflection, sharing of personal stories and much laughter.  We stayed at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, where gangsters, movie stars and world leaders once occupied the hallways and rooms. Today, the place is still buzzing with laughter, conversations, and music from a vibrant mix of international travelers. Our guide, Walkes, was more than happy to answer our questions and share facts and stories about life in Cuba, and we all appreciated his knowledge, sense of humor, sensitivity and grace. Our worldviews and perspectives (which was the focus of this journey) shifted during each experience as we encountered the beauty of this culture.

It seemed like every person we met on this journey embodied the culture and expression of Cuba, and some of our most profound and unforgettable experiences emerged visiting artists studios, where we listened deeply to their stories and wishes for the future, as they so beautifully expressed through their art. Cuban woman at Habana Vieja Remember that wonderful movie The Buena Vista Social Club?  Well, we went there too, and I not only discovered that a few of the original musicians are still playing there, I actually got to dance with one of the oldest lead singers!  The group joined the dance floor and our spirits lifted as our feet tried to keep up with the Samba steps of the locals.

During the trip, we visited Old Havana and Trinidad to get a flavor of the area's history. Architects shared their historical perspective about the restoration of Old Havana and Trinidad. Visiting Trinidad was like entering a time capsule, as everything remained as it was originally meant to be. The city was founded in the early 16th century in honor of the Holy Trinity. The heart of the historic centre is Plaza Mayor, where two significant18th- and 19th-century buildings stand: the Palacio Brunet, which provides the most authentic picture of the golden age of the city, and; the neoclassical-style Palacio Cantero, which now houses the municipal history museum. In addition to its architecture, much of Trinidad’s urban fabric, including the squares and plazas, cobblestone streets and other historical elements, have been beautifully preserved.
In addition to soaking in the big, historical museums, we enjoyed many meals at "paladares," restored homes which are now wonderful, mostly family-run restaurants that serve both amazing food and conversation.  Another highlight of the trip for me was our visit to Ernest Hemingway's home, where he lived for 30 years and which he left to the Cuban people as a museum.  It really gave me a new insight about his life, work and love of Cuba.Meeting a Cuban farmer

My favorite parts of the trip were the impromptu stops we made.  One stop led us to some special interactions with farmers, as they shared several kinds of fruit and fresh honey to taste.  Another stop brought us to a most heartfelt and emotional choir performance that left us cheering and wishing for more.  We visited small shops that sell folk art, embroidery, musical instruments, clothing and jewelry. We visited Chinatown in honor of Gwen, one of our travelers, and she treated us to a fun filled lunch.  
Pretty much every moment we spent in Cuba presented an opportunity for engaging in something new and wondrous, and the most precious opportunity of all was being able to experience it with a wonderful group of conscious travellers through the lens of expanding worldviews and perspectives. Our group discovered how the power of the inner journey,self-reflection and immersion transform how we make sense of the world around us.
  • 1 Comment
  • Silverghost Jul 03, 2014

    I do have to admit IONS is about awareness on every level it would seem, very good to see.

    What an awakening experience this trip was it would seem.....

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