It is currently 4:47AM; I am wide-awake, back from Cuba, and spewing creativity out of my heart. Since Valentine’s Day was a few days ago, I thought I would share one obstacle my boyfriend and I experienced while traveling together as a couple.
Daniel and I are both flight attendants who have been together for six months. I wish I could say we were always in “honeymoon stage bliss” but traveling with your sweetheart can be pretty turbulent, especially in the beginning. You learn a lot about the person and you are both pretty much attached at the hip whether you like it or not.
We got back from Cuba a few days ago and our six day trip was planned to celebrate my twenty-fifth birthday trip, plus our six-month anniversary, along with our first Valentine’s Day… so we were there for a hodgepodge of reasons. Dan and I were pretty much planning a romantic week in a destitute country where hot water with a consistent flow rarely existed and English was scarce.
In my opinion, it is important to travel with your lover because you learn how to get out of a bind together and really learn how to trust each other.
One major problem we had in Cuba was running out of money. For some reason, we both thought $423 US Dollars (USD) would suffice for six days. We exchanged our USD for Canadian dollars because the exchange rate from Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) was better. Do-able, no?
$423USD = $500CAD = 360 CUC
The taxi ride alone from the airport in Cienfuegos to La Boca (one hour away) was 60 CUC. Horseback riding in Trinidad was 60 CUC (25 CUC per person + 10 CUC tip). The taxi from La Boca to Havana (three hours away) was 60 CUC. Not to mention the food and the souvenirs which equaled to about 110 CUC for two nights in Trinidad. We were left with 46 CUC that we spent on V-Day dinner (12 CUC on the taxi + 28 CUC on food + 2 CUC on a pushy 17-year-old bringing us to the restaurant).
I hope you followed along with the math even though it made no sense at all.
We ended Valentine’s Day with 4 CUC in Daniel’s pocket; blisters on our feet from walking for nearly two hours (in heels and him in Sperry’s) because we could not afford a cab back and locked outside the apartment at 1AM.
Romantic much? To be honest, it actually was. Daniel ended up carrying me on his back for the last part of the walk and he never gave up. As frustrated as we both were, he never stopped kissing me nor stopped telling me how pretty I looked that night.
On to the next day:
Not only were we blistered, bruised and sore, we were broke. We also learned that Cuba absolutely does not take any American debit card or credit card. NADA. Nothing. Zilch. After spending $10 on one call to the States, my bank ruefully explained to me that there is nothing I could do. Our six-month anniversary was spent at a Spanish-speaking bank, then to a Wi-Fi hot spot that cost 3 CUC an hour, and then we arguing about who was supposed to do the research on currency.
I started making phone calls, wanting to get back home while Daniel was talking to his mom about possibly wiring money to our AirBNB host. At that point, I was so overwhelmed that tears could not even form. Daniel was angry with me for giving up and trying to cut our trip short. I was so angry with him for not doing the research prior and for not coming up with a solution.
Scratch that, I was not angry…I was HANGRY (hungry + angry). I know, boohoo you American princess. Look one street down from where you are and you have hungry children who have not seen a decent meal in how many days?
What we learned that day: PayPal does not work in Cuba, US cards are worthless pieces of plastic, Wi-Fi is nearly impossible to acquire, calls from Cuba to the US are expensive, and being hungry for a few hours is nothing compared to what most of the Cuban population experience.
Our solution: text my cousin in the US to log into my PayPal account, transfer $400 USD to my AirBNB host and trust that she is good on her word while she waits for her sister in Germany to confirm the money has been received and then walk through the city of Habana to a sketchy ATM at the corner for our 380 CUC.
We ended the night with our host family at a beautiful restaurant with cheap mojitos, delicious food and amazing music playing in the background. We both apologized for getting angry at each other because at the end of the day, we wouldn’t have wanted to experience what we did without each other.
Six months and four countries later, we are now stronger than ever. Dan and I know how to travel with each other, what irks the other person, and what our likes and dislikes are. What is fun is that both of us take turns with who plans and who goes with the flow. The situations that come up allowed us to become Team DASH (Dan + Ash).
Since we both love to travel, we never stop marveling over what this world has to offer, hand in hand. Traveling creates perspective and stories that only we both get to share. We begin to have our own language and inside jokes. The world becomes ours. I now know Daniel better than I could ever imagine.
After Santorini, Tokyo and now Havana… I can’t imagine exploring the world with anyone else. The way he looks at me when I get excited about old cars or when he catches me checking him out. Or being awoken by a loud rooster in the streets and waking up to him holding my hand. Moments like that make it extraordinary when you’re discovering a new city with your lover.
Word of advice: never stop kissing each other. Create a list of places you both kissed each other in and watch the list as it grows. Our number? Four countries and seven states. Trust me, it gets more exciting as you go.