Pink-flagged

Apr 4, 2014 by

The mark of adventure!


The mark of adventure!

          “Why were you only in Cuba for one night?” a fourth Cuban airport official asked me, as if I had been lying to the first three, one of which was flipping through every page of my passport for the third time, another of which was writing a report with my name on it, and the last of which was going off in a frenzy of Spanish that I could only assume translated to something along the lines of, “This chick is either crazy or drug trafficking, and I’m betting on the second.” (If they only knew they were holding up a girl who didn’t know MDMA and ecstasy are the same thing until two months ago.)

          “I felt like going to the beach,” I shrugged.

          “But why only for one night? Why not stay for a week?” she pressed. (I think they had a female question me fourth, thinking I would tell all, clearly unconvinced that there was nothing to tell.)

          “I wanted to go somewhere warm without using any vacation time. I work in the travel industry. It only cost me $55 to fly here roundtrip,” I explained as I passed her my invoice. “You guys are going to let me go home, right?” I laughed. (My plane was scheduled to depart in 15 minutes.)

          Silence.

          I joke about the times I’ve been hassled by American border officials when going to NYC for the day, but I’m always let in after just a few extra questions; and, upon my return, Canadian officials have always taken me back – with skepticism, of course, but they grant me access to my country nonetheless. This was the first time that my return home from another country seemed to legitimately be in question. I obviously wasn’t too concerned, given that I was most worried about not having another chance to talk to the Channing Tatum lookalike I had been chatting with up until I was stopped. Eager to catch up to Channing, I thought about telling the Cubans that I sometimes bus to NYC for one day/no nights to prove that travelling long distances for little time spent in my destination isn’t out of character for me. Thankfully, I remembered that there were no American stamps in my passport to back me up, so I kept my mouth shut to avoid making my red flag brighter.

          After they thoroughly examined my invoice, my passport was finally stamped and I was let go with friendly waves and compliments. “You’re very beautiful!” one shouted after me. (Got to love the Cubans!)

          Unfortunately, Channing Tatum was nowhere to be found. Ladies, beware: Cuba is a coochblock.

          P.S. I’m told that Cuba doesn’t normally stamp passports. Thus, I’m bound for questioning the next time I go to the States, and the American officials see the adorable pink mark Cuba left on page 7. Bring on the adventure!

 

***

 

          My eventful departure from Cuba brought to mind the expressions of disbelief and many whys I get from friends when I visit a place for less time than they would. Most people don’t think it’s worth the travel time to go beyond Buffalo for “just” a day, to fly south for “just” two days, or to cross the ocean for “just” two weeks. I, on the other hand, love to explore. I won’t miss out on seeing somewhere new or going back to a favourite place simply because my time is limited by my bank account. If I can only afford one day in New York City, two days in Varadero, or two weeks in Rome, no probs! One day/two days/two weeks it is! By contrast, instead of going somewhere for the amount of time they can afford, some people opt not to go at all, depriving themselves just because they can’t stay for as long as they’d like. They forgo the destination altogether because they’re dissatisfied with the idea of a quickie (wow, the places my mind just went upon use of that word #boyfriendwanted).

          Like the airport officials of Cuba, some of my friends – the ones that don’t travel often – questioned my decision to go to Varadero for two days over one week. What they fail to understand is that I was not choosing between no time in Cuba, two days in Cuba, or one week in Cuba. One week in Cuba wasn’t an option. I didn’t want to use any vacation time, I didn’t have the money to stay for a week, and I value my appetite. It was two days in Cuba or no days in Cuba. Why wouldn’t I take the two days? I realize that spending a couple days in Cuba is not realistic for most people. I get fab travel perks through work, so it cost me a total of $120 for everything, flight ($55), transfers ($5), resort (free!), taxes (25 CUC = $29.41), and spending money (26 CUC = $30.59) included. (Feel free to hate me. I get it.) However, what I paid is irrelevant. What matters is that I could afford two days in Cuba and only two days, so I went for two days.

          Travel does not have to be all or nothing. Going somewhere for less time than desired is not limiting; not going at all is. Don’t give up an experience based on preconceived notions of what travel should be. Don’t be one of those people who chooses not to go somewhere based on ridiculous arguments like this: “If I’m going to go, it’s going to be for at least [insert preferred time span here].” I’ve actually heard people say this to justify not travelling, particularly to Europe. For them, it’s at least one month in Europe or no Europe at all. Their reasoning is that the flight is too long and too expensive to do Europe any way other than big. These people, who are unwilling to compromise on time and are without savings plans to make their fantasized month-long trips happen, will probably never get to where they want to go, because that’s the choice they’ve made.

          Friends, if your financial situation has you down to only two options: short travel or no travel, remember that you’re really deciding between adventure and no adventure. Choose adventure! Which story would you rather tell on Monday morning: the one that had your feet planted on the ground or the one that had you driving into work without sleep because your delayed flight (which prolonged your return to the cold and extended the value of that all-inclusive wristband! #delaymeanytime!) out of Cuba just landed?

Happiness Tip: Choose adventure!

 
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