Everyone has or should have a bucket list.
There are many places I would love to visit, but time and expense limits the locations.
Being Cuba has been an object of curiosity for many Americans, I chose to travel there this past week to see what is real and whether fears of going to a Communist country are legitimate.
The process of entering the country is flawless.
You get your visa at a New York airport and have no problem entering the country.
Unlike other countries I have visited, there is no wall of soldiers carrying heavy weapons at the airport.
If you have only a carry-on bag you can glide through the airport and on to the street in minutes.
Over the years, the media has put up a “not welcome” sign when talking about Cuba, but that is pure fiction.
There is no doubt that some political dissenters are locked up in local prisons, but that is the same case in a number of European countries.
Can you walk freely and go about your visit with no interference from anyone?
The answer is yes.
There isn’t any sign of uniformed soldiers or heavy police presence anywhere.
You go where you want and when you want.
It is obvious from the moment you arrive that the country has suffered mightily from its many revolutions.
Buildings are crumbling on almost any block and there is no serious capital investment going on.
Despite the lack of any extensive new construction, the city of Havana is a most welcoming place.
The people are genuinely friendly and there is no animosity towards US citizens.
It is obvious that the Cubans want tourism and are going out of their way to encourage it.
Are Americans staying away from Cuba?
Not on my visit.
The first three couples we met were from New York City, but it is obvious that European travelers are the dominant group.
There is an enormous amount of curiosity about Cuba, which accounts for the fact that in 2016 approximately six million visitors made the trip.
There is so much to see and so many places to visit that a few short days are not enough.
The home of Earnest Hemingway, where he wrote “The Old Man and The Sea” is a throwback to a time when writers were worldwide celebrities.
There are many tales of Hemingway’s activities in Cuba and it is interesting to see that Cuba considers him a national idol.
The streets in Old Havana are a strong reminder that the country was once owned by Spain and its traditions continue.
What is especially nice about Havana is its local charm.
There are an abundance of cars dating back to the 1950s, with some having travelled over one million miles.
They are very much a part of the local scene, just as the Central Park horse carriages are part of New York’s tourism lures.
Above all else, the people are warm and friendly and make you feel at home in their community.
American and Cuban politics are off limits for discussion.
The locals never mentioned the name of President Donald Trump.
There are many Cubans who are still fiercely loyal to the late Fidel Castro, but the majority just seem to want change and a better life, free from politics.
Cubans have a positive image of America and there are no signs of the tensions that some American politicians like to encourage at election time.
For those of us who care about the world around us, Cuba is a worthwhile destination.
In this day and age it is hard to hide from reality and Cuba, being 90 miles from the USA, has to be better understood for its potential.