· Iris

Why we are ‘unexpected’ nomads

Before I talk about our experiences in Cuba, I thought I’d say a little bit about why we are ‘unexpected’ nomads. Joey and I grew up being ‘good’, which meant obeying what our parents and society told us to do most of the time. Between the two of us, we are a little bit standoffish, even snobbish at times (about certain things like coffee and wine) - traits we started to recognise and dislike; traits that pushed us to want to become ‘nomads’.

Giving up a comfortable 'home' to live out of a backpack is not something that comes naturally to us. It is character we wish to build. For me, it's also a challenge, an awakening. By stripping away everything that I'm used to, I'm able to start piecing together the life I really want.

Havana was the perfect first stop

Having lived in countries where shops are everywhere and almost anything is available, Cuba really made me rethink about all the things that used to come so readily available - even the most basic stuff like toilet paper, water and bread.

In Havana, there are many little shops with just a window through which the customers and the shopkeeper interacted. Each little shop specialises in a certain type of goods, for example you can find a milk shop that stocks only cartoned milk, and only one type of cartoned milk. Queues are very common as people go about their daily shopping from shop to shop to gather all the ingredients they need.

We queued for almost an hour to buy some churros. They tasted amazing after the wait!

We stumbled across what seemed like a state owned ‘supermarket’. It’s very different to the kind of supermarket we are used to where you get a basket and pick out goods you like around the shop floor and take to the checkout. No, the Cuban supermarket shop floor is used more like a storage where they keep all the goods they have. The first time we went to buy water, we thought we could just take what we wanted from the stock, but were soon told off by the security guy. We learned that we needed to queue up in front of one of the several counters within the supermarket and ask for things we wanted.

'Bodega' - a convenience store that distributes rations

Shopping for necessities in Cuba made me think about the relationship (or non-relationship) we have with ‘things’ we buy. How can we appreciate what we have if we never had to contemplate the importance of it before buying?

Time does its own thing in Havana

I have to be honest, the first day in Havana was difficult. For a moment, I even had the thought ‘maybe after all our travelling, I’d actually end up wanting to go back to a desk job where there’s air conditioning’. But, as I surrendered to the heat and humidity, I also allowed my whole being to take a slower pace. My steps slowed down along with my thoughts. The need to argue, to seek logic and to reason everything was gone. I was happy to just 'be', to take in everything in front of my eyes as they were. Some might describe it as being mindful.

Daily street scene in Havana

Some people say Cuba is ‘stuck in time’. I think it just has its own rhythm. Things will happen, just not according to the capitalist concept of time and efficiency.

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