My Solo Walk Across Cuba – What I left Behind

Soon, I will share with you stories on my latest adventure, the first segment of my solo walk across the island of Cuba.


At the moment, though, as I look back and re-read my original blog on what I took with me to Cuba, I can say this. I found that some of the things I needed and some of the things I didn’t. I also realized that while I took important things with me, I also left important things behind. You may recall some things I took including:

My middle name. That will never change for me there. I love the way my Cuban friends say…..ahhhhhh Anita…… and shake their heads at whatever crazy scheme I have planned next. That name waits at the border for me to pick it up as I enter the country but more and more I find it sad to leave behind. Perhaps I’ll bring it home with me for good one day.

My poor grasp of the language. However, I also took a dictionary and iTranslate on my phone. Much to my HORROR, when I left US airspace, my phone completely shut down. And I mean everything, no camera, no dictionary, nothing. Now I expected to not have the ability to call obviously but for some weird reason, it blanked out. I do have a Cuban phone to text and call while in country and fortunately, I had written down my Cuban friends phone numbers and email or I would have had no way to contact anyone. I had some heart palpitations somewhere over the Florida straits and then resigned myself. Well, I simply have what I have, Buena Suerte! I left that REALLY bad grasp of the language and brought home just a bad grasp. Necessity being the mother of invention, my comprehension and my vocabulary increased.

Maps. I really didn’t need them. I simply asked and basically, there is one main road that crosses the country and this is my route.

Lyrics to Spanish songs. Well, once my phone shut down, I had no music. But I’m glad. I didn’t need to immerse myself in iTunes, I immersed myself in the music of the rhythm of life along the road.

Zero Internet.  I was surprised that I found as many wifi hot spots as I did, they are increasing daily. Mainly I wanted to let the people at home know I was safe and sound but I was quite happy without it.

My 53 year old self. I took my 53 year old self but brought home my 25 year old self. Letting go of everything and having an adventure with no agenda, all the time in the world to stop, go, eat, not eat, walk, not walk and simply sit by the side of the road eating a guayaba while the world went by was cathartic and unexpected. While I found another layer under the Cuba I knew, I rediscovered a layer beneath me as well. I had taken with me my free spirt, my open mind, my ability to laugh, my sense of awe and wonder, and my kind heart but they had seemed to be buried underneath a stress I hadn’t realized. I left the stress behind and brought back these essential parts of me that I had been missing for awhile.

What else did I leave behind?

Peanut butter. Yep, I took small containers of peanut butter for quick protein snacks but found them to be heavy to eat in the heat and just made me thirsty. I left them for a 10 year old kid who I’m sure is enjoying them now.

I left some lbs. For sure, I left some pounds in Cuba, guess it was my way of leaving a little piece of me literally, lol. My goal of walking 6-10 miles a day, quickly changed to 15-25. I was having so much fun, meeting so many people I simply kept walking and the heat zapped my appetite. I probably ate one good meal a day, drank water, avoided alcohol in order to stay strong and clear headed when I walked and that was the result.

I left my extra toilet paper. You should never go to Cuba without toilet paper unless you plan to stay in a lux resort. And TP is expensive there for locals, so I left my extra behind.

I should have left my shoes! I walked in old trail runners which was fine in the 6-10 mile a day phase but 15-25 miles were too much on the old shoes whose support had probably collapsed years ago. The result was hobbled feet the last couple of days, with some serious pain in my arches.

I left 50 US/Cuba flag pins attached to shirts across the country. At the last minute I decided to take with me 50 lapel pins with the US and Cuban flags attached to each other. I gave them out to people who stopped to talk to me, people who opened their hearts and homes and the bathroom attendant at the airport in Holguin. I was a little bit concerned that bringing these in, with simply an agenda to walk Cuba might look to immigration like I actually did have an agenda. You will read later about the LONG interview I had at immigration getting into the country. People were so pleased to have them and they immediately put them on. In the Cuban countryside, they certainly would not expect something like that. I hope that I left an impression of friendship which I made very clear to everyone I gave them to. US/Cuba = friends.

My BLU phone. I didn’t physically leave this phone behind but turning it off when I got back was really hard. This phone was my complete lifeline to my friends and support system in Cuba. I could text and call at any time. As part of my emergency plan, I had two friends who I checked in with. One friend in Havana who then passed emails on to Ridlon so he knew where I was at all times. One time when I accidentally butt dialed him and he couldn’t hear anything from me, he freaked out and thought I was in trouble. My other friend in eastern Cuba was my protector. He wanted text updates throughout the day and called most every night to be sure I was safe, had food and water and that all was well. He would send someone to get me on a moment’s notice if anything was wrong. So I felt both well protected and well loved by the support of my friends in country. I never turned off this phone while I was in Cuba. And when I finally shut it down on the plane home, I felt like I had just cut the umbilical cord.

And finally, I left yet another piece of my heart in Cuba. Exactly why this island nation has captured my heart, I am still contemplating in many ways. For sure it is the genuineness of people and place. The island has a heart and soul. It has a pride that comes without pretension, born of more than a century of struggling for the right to stand on its own feet, independent of reliance on others.

Both what I took and what I left in Cuba, I felt was significant to my journey and wanted to share. As I now thumb back through the 60+ pages of the journal I kept, I will begin to recount the stories and memories in future posts.

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