Welcome home to the 15 women who just returned from our 2nd TravelCircle to Cuba! And a huge thanks to Michelle Scott for not only being the GFC ambassador on this trip, but also for writing this guest blog that gives us a glimpse into the amazing experience you all had!
Also, Michelle is leading TWO of the 9 scheduled TravelCircles in 2014-- GirlFriends Eco-Adventuring in Nicaragua in August and the Women Dancing & Sipping through Argentina & Chile in November. Check them out--you'd be lucky to be in her care! (All trips are highlighted at the end of the blog and can be found at www.WomensTravelCircles.com)
---------------------------by Michelle Scott
Planning an adventure is an interesting thing. You can spend months preparing an itinerary, but you never know when those magical moments will occur, or how, and with whom connections will develop. Such was our experience in Cuba.
Our first morning in Cuba, we sat in a circle, looking at 15 unfamiliar faces. Who were these women, who had made group travel to Cuba a priority?
Each of us had chosen to invest and engage in this particular adventure at this specific time. Most came to learn, some came to be inspired or to find direction, and at least one came to honor the memory of a loved one, who valued travel and culture. All were united in our value of friendship and adventure.
GirlFriendCircles (GFC) began TravelCircles this year. While each trip is unique, all focus on two main components. 1) We travel together with the intention of connecting with each other in a meaningful and honoring way. 2) We learn about the lives of women living in that particular country/region.
Our Travel Through Cuba
Because GFC teams with Altruvistas, we are able to experience Cuba or any country we travel to in a deeper, more connected and invested manner. In other words, we’re not there as passive tourists. We show up, ready to engage and build relationships with the people we meet.
On this particular trip, we learned from Cubans with firsthand knowledge of history, architecture, politics, healthcare, literacy and education, music, art, community development, and social services. At times, our role was more like new students, soaking up information. Other times, we were colleagues, processing what we were learning and integrating it with previous knowledge. Because there was mutual respect and interactive conversations, it was an engaging way of learning.
We learned about The Cuban 5 and how Cubans view the U.S. embargo/blockade. We learned about diversity and prejudice. We gained new appreciation for murals and the value of art within a community. We learned how to make our own perfume. We learned to dance, laugh and fan our way through Cutumba. While much of our itinerary was full (because learning hours are required for our visas), there were times, when we practiced slowing down enough to listen, engage and experience. And we loved those moments that unified us with little to no effort on our part other than being present in the moment and accepting its gifts.
“Why are you glad you went on this trip?”
But don't just take it from me, I asked some of the other women on the trip to answer the question: “Why are you glad you went on this trip?”
- Kate S. from Chicago shared, “I have never been on a trip where I connected with so many different people. This trip provided the ability to have personal interactions with Cubans in a way that would not have been possible had I traveled independently. The stories we heard, the culture we experienced, and conversations we had will stay with me forever. The group of girls from GirlFriendCircles were the best people to share this experience with; I truly believe some of the friendships we made will last a lifetime.”
- Amy from North Carolina responded, “I'm glad I saw Cuba just before what I anticipate to be a period of great change. It's amazing to be surrounded by such history and so little of our ubiquitous consumerist culture.”
- Jennifer from Wisconsin replied, “I loved the feeling of truly being lost in another time. Some of my favorite moments were in Old Havana, with the bustling streets, amazing cars, music playing in the air, and the colorful patchwork textures and buildings all around. It was a treat for my senses. Cuba has a kind of raw energy that you don't see much elsewhere.”
- Kirsten from British Columbia shared, “Cuba deserves so much credit for surviving as it has for so long against such overwhelming odds. I was grateful to be exposed to a different truth than the one many of us have learned. In the end I think there is truth on all sides. I was impressed by a different value system, one that places the emphasis on taking care of each other, rather than on individual achievement.”
- Kimberly from Florida responded, “Mostly glad to meet such an amazing group of American women, but so glad to have seen the resiliency of the Cuban women and people. The countryside and architecture were beautiful!!”
Are you considering travel with GirlFriendCircles? Now is the time to express your interest. Many trips are planned for 2014. (See the list of all 9 trips below!) These adventures are full of great activities and opportunities to meet wonderful people, who also value friendship. What could be better than experiencing a new culture while building connection and friendship?
Scheduled TravelCircles that Still Have Availability in 2014:
GirlFriends Eco-Adventuring in Nicaragua August 2-11, 2014
For adventurous and active women this trip is filled with hikes, learning, and beauty! (Also, optional 2-day surfing lessons)
Women and Goddesses in Greece Aug 29-Sept. 9, 2014
Ready to explore the Parthenon, Acropolis, and the Temple of Zeus? This is trip with spirituality, myths, beauty, art, and the divine feminine.
Women of Compassion on Safari in Kenya September 27-October 6
Combine the best wildlife of a Safari with amazing opportunities to learn about social causes and regional issues affecting women in Africa.
Women & Current Affairs in Afghanistan October 4-13, 2014
Ready to understand a country in a more real way than just what we see on TV? Watch history unfold in an intimate and local way.
Women Dancing & Sipping through Argentina & Chile Nov 1-11
Get ready to dance, cook, sip wine and inhale all the beauty, culture, and history of two amazing countries: Argentina and Chile!
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