Which destination would you revisit?

I stumbled across a list of travel-related questions on Nicolette Orlemans’ blog, and I think I’m going to play with some of them here for a while.

I tried to answer the first one – what and where was your most memorable travel experience – and realized I don’t have just one answer. And that the answers I do have, I’m already writing about.

So, on to number two. Which destination would you revisit and why? At the moment, my answer is Cuba.

My sister ran a yoga retreat in Cuba in February, and begged my mother and I to join her. And, given how brutally cold this past February was, she didn’t have to beg very hard. My sister has been to Cuba many times, but I hadn’t ever been before. My decision to go was spur-of-the-moment, and I didn’t do any reading or research before I left. And, to be frank, I was really only in it for the sun.

My first impression of the country… was not great. The airport in Varadero was painfully disorganized – it took our small group of eight people three hours to get through customs and into the country. By the time we boarded the bus to drive to our resort, it was nearly midnight, so I couldn’t see any of the countryside out the window.

Really, though, the airport (both arriving and leaving) was the only sour spot of the trip. We stayed at a three star resort, which was just fine. All I wanted was the sun and the beach, so I was very easy to please. For the first couple of days the wind came in over the ocean, so jellyfish were a big problem. Halfway through the week, though, the wind shifted, the temperature went even further up (yay!) and the jellyfish were blown out to sea, which meant I got a chance to swim in the ocean.

The very best part of the trip, though, were the chances I got to leave the resort. We took a guided walk up into the hills to see some local plant life and get a lovely view back down over the resort and the beach. We also got a chance to meet some local farmers and sample their fruits. Guava, sugar cane, coconuts, all freshly cut. One man gave us a tour of his house, and another one showed off his beautiful vintage yellow jeep.

On our last full day in Cuba, my sister organized a trip to Havana. Five of us piled into two of Cuba’s beautiful vintage cars (I rode in a green 1952 Chevy with a maroon interior) to drive the hour along the coast. I loved everything about this day. Our guide, Leo, was a school teacher who gave tours in his spare time because it paid better. He was friendly and patient and knowledgeable. And I followed him through the city, just delighted by the chaos and the exuberance and the life of it all.

And I want to go back. I want to read about the history and the politics and Hemingway, do my research, and then go back and see more of the country. Meet more of the people. The people in Cuba were so wonderful, so friendly. Intrepid Travel – a tour company I’ve travelled with before – does a 15-day tour of Cuba that intrigues me. So that trip is on my list! Maybe even for this coming winter…

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40 years of blogging experience in one place

Okay, the link I want to share today is to a video that is a little more than a year old. I realise that in internet terms that makes it virtually prehistoric, but it’s one of my favourites and it’s something I go back to every so often, so I thought I’d share anyway.

Patrick Rothfuss has a show on the Geek and Sundry channel of YouTube called The Story Board, and in this one particular episode, he gathers together three other very successful writers for a discussion about blogging and memoir that is hugely enjoyable and actually really informative.

The participants are all hugely well-known in the geek world. If you’re not a geek, please don’t let it put you off. There is very little geek content in the discussion. It’s very much all about the blogging and the writing.

Patrick Rothfuss is the author of the Kingkiller Chronicles (the first two books, The Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear, are out, we’re still waiting for the third) which are both fantasy and biography in terms of genre. John Scalzi is a Hugo award-winning science fiction novelist, and has been blogging at whatever.scalzi.com since 1998. Jenny Lawson is the author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, and is also The Bloggess. And Wil Wheaton (best known for his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation) is a self-published author and has been blogging forever. I’m not certain how long Patrick Rothfuss has had his blog, but I’m pretty sure that between them they have about 40 years worth of blogging experience.

It is on the long side, but it’s a lot of fun and doesn’t drag at all. I had it on while I was making pancakes one morning and ended up feeling like they all joined me for brunch. They talk about the balance between blogging about work and blogging about life; about whether to talk about their kids’ lives, and if so, how best to do it; about how strictly they feel the truth of a situation needs to be represented; about what NOT to blog about; and so on. And as not only a newbie blogger but an emerging writer in the creative non-fiction genre, this conversation felt like sitting down to a masterclass on the subject of memoir in general. They have been blogging so long, they’ve had a chance to make the mistakes and learn from them, they’ve struggled with the issues I’m just beginning to face.

It doesn’t hurt that they’re all funny and are clearly having a great time talking to each other.

I came to this video through, I think, Wil Wheaton’s twitter account. Maybe? But after spending the morning with them, I ended up hunting down all of their blogs and have been following them ever since.

Daydreaming Fail

Most of my morning was lost to standing in line at a government service desk waiting to update some paperwork. It was tedious, but at least not frustrating, as I didn’t have any particular deadline to get to anywhere else.

I realise my failure now, though, in simply staring off into space while I stood in line. If I’d been paying attention, I could have some pithy observation on human folly, or some deep conclusion about the futility of… something or other to write about now. I wasted a perfectly good opportunity for people-watching.

I will be a better blogger next time.