Student Volunteerism

Exposure to new places, cultures, and ideas is vital to broadening the world view of our students and a key component of Globe Aware' s mission. Volunteer vacations are also a great way to develop lifelong skills and passions that may not be realized in other avenues. Read the attached article for insight on these benefits and others involved with student volunteer travel.



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Tourism to change for the better in 2019

volunteer vacations globe wareAs major tourist destinations become overrun with tourists searching for the perfect photo for social media, many are turning to alternate ways of exploring new destinations. Volunteer vacations are a fantastic way to not only see the major sites, but also learn from the local people and culture. Working side by side with local experts on a variety of community driven projects will open your eyes and heart in a way that is incomparable to travel as a typical tourist. The sharing of thoughts, ideas, customs and beliefs will leave a long-lasting impact. Check out this article on predicted travel trends this year and reach out to Globe Aware to help plan your meaningful travel adventure.


National Geographic

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New Year Resolution? How About Volunteer Travel

As 2019 quickly approaches many people are starting the process of setting goals for the new year. One common goal is to be more intentional with giving back and volunteering. To make this resolution happen this year it is vital to assess interests and strengths in order to foster a rich experience for both the volunteer and the recipient community. Globe Aware offers an array of international volunteering experiences that can focus on individual' s skills or strengths. Read this article to see some of the benefits of volunteering abroad and locally.

The importance of volunteering in the community

Volunteering connects you to others

By Reggie Connell
The Apopka Voice

One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. However, volunteering is a two-way street, and it can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills.

Volunteering as a family
While it might be a challenge to coordinate everyone' s schedules, volunteering as a family has many worthwhile benefits. Children watch everything you do. By giving back to the community, you show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help others and enact change. It' s also a valuable way for you to get to know organizations in the community and find resources and activities for your children and family.

I have limited mobility' can I still volunteer?
Whether due to a lack of transportation, time constraints, a disability or other reasons, many people prefer to volunteer via phone or computer. There are many projects where you can help. Writing and graphic design lends itself to working at home, and in today' s digital age many organizations might also need help with email and websites.

If you think home-based volunteering might be right for you, contact organizations you like and ask what some of the possibilities might be. Some volunteer organizations may require you to attend an initial training or periodical meetings. You also want to make sure that you are getting enough social contact, and that the organization is available to support you should you have questions.

Volunteering: The happiness effect
Helping others kindles happiness, as many studies have demonstrated. When researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were, according to a study in Social Science and Medicine. Compared with people who never volunteered, the odds of being "very happy" rose 7% among those who volunteer monthly and 12% for people who volunteer every two to four weeks. Among weekly volunteers, 16% felt very happy' a hike in happiness comparable to having an income of $75,000"$100,000 versus $20,000, say the researchers. Giving time to religious organizations had the greatest impact.

Volunteering can advance your career
If you' re considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. Even if you' re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, project planning, task management, and organization. You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you' ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first.

Volunteering can provide career experience
Volunteering offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. In some fields, you can volunteer directly at an organization that does the kind of work you' re interested in. For example, if you' re interested in nursing, you could volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home. Your volunteer work might also expose you to professional organizations or internships that could be of benefit to your career.

Volunteering can teach you valuable job skills
Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. For example, you could become an experienced crisis counselor while volunteering for a women' s shelter or a knowledgeable art historian while donating your time as a museum docent.

Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication, and marketing skills.

Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life
Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be a relaxing, energizing escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school, or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.

Many people volunteer in order to make time for hobbies outside of work as well. For instance, if you have a desk job and long to spend time outdoors, you might consider volunteering to help plant a community garden, lead local hikes, or help at a children' s camp.

Consider your goals and interests
You will have a richer and more enjoyable volunteering experience if you first take some time to identify your goals and interests. Start by thinking about why you want to volunteer. Also, think about what you would enjoy doing. Volunteer opportunities that match both your goals and your interests are most likely to be fun and fulfilling for you.



The Apopka Voice

International Volunteers day supported by Globe Aware

Many marked International Volunteers day with celebrations this week. Globe Aware supports the same vision in this article and reinforced by the State of the World Volunteering Report released last week, that this kind of unpaid service supports peace and social cohesion that helps everyone. Here is a great article in the Samoa Observer, on how volunteers celebrate with games, fashion parade.

Volunteers celebrate with games, fashion parade

By Sapeer Mayron

09 December 2018

With the formalities done on Wednesday, International Volunteers Day took on another flavour yesterday at One U.N House in Tuanaimato.

Volunteers from Japan, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and other far flung places gathered to be pampered with speeches, good food, and sports out on the field.

They even treated each other to a fashion show, to display the Samoan workwear and accessories they' ve acquired on their journey.

Welcoming the volunteers were the directors of the Peace Corp, United Nations, Japan International Cooperation Agency and diplomatic representatives of New Zealand and Australia.

On behalf of Australia, deputy high commissioner Amanda Jewell echoed the words of acting high commissioner to New Zealand, Nick Hurley.

"Sometimes there are challenges, but they are opportunities to change, and to be changed," she said.

"We are here to commemorate the lasting contribution you' re all making in Samoa."

Simona Marinescu, referencing the State of the World Volunteering Report released last week, said volunteering, especially when unpaid, supports peace and social cohesion.

She urged the agencies and volunteers to map out the work they are doing against the Sustainable Development Goals as part of the 2030 Agenda to assess where their work was helping the most.

In closing her address, Ms. Marinesu told the volunteers how much they are valued. "We are fond of you; we are respectful of your work, which you do in an unconditional, direct way.

It tells us a lot about your hearts, and values." Peace Corp country director Ginni Wilderson said for the American volunteers who are placed in villages both rural and urban, learning the language and having a good laugh with their host families is just as important as the literacy work.

"It' s all about what we have in common, what makes us laugh, and remembering we are all human," she said. The formalities of the day ended with a fashion show ("Because volunteers are part of the fabric of society," said Ms. Wilderson), and games like tug of war on the field.

Samoa Observer

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Volunteer Travel and Other Strategies for Raising Generous Kids

Globe Aware is one of the few organizations that offer opportunities to families of all ages to participate in our volunteer travel programs. It is important to understand the growth and emotional capacities of children during these vital years and the effect that has on them as adults. How do you raise children to become caring, philanthropic centered adults? Read more here on how to foster a sense of compassion in your children.



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Volunteer Tourism Has Enormous Impact on Travelers and Communities

Inspiring Volunteer Tourism Participation 

Volunteering has an incredible impact for both the volunteer and the community being served. It might be hard to measure in numbers, but Morven Maclean takes a unique approach at assessing this and lays out tools for both volunteer tourism organizations and volunteering groups at large. Take a look at this article for helpful tips on increasing volunteer participation and securing funding.

Volunteering has a crucial impact – so prove it!

Volunteering participation in Scotland has remained largely static over the last ten years, with just 28% of adults volunteering in 2017. If we' re serious about driving participation rates and inspiring new audiences to volunteer, we need to start shouting about the incredible impact that volunteering can have, on volunteers, on our organisations and on wider society. In order to do this, we need evidence.

As volunteering professionals, we often lament that we' re not listened to, our departments are not invested in and that volunteering is undervalued by our organisations. But what are we doing about it?

volunteer tourism
Are we demonstrating to our senior leadership teams how volunteering helps achieve our organisations' strategic objectives? Surely that would grab their attention and put volunteering on the map? As volunteer programme managers, we should spend less time on day-to-day transactional work and more time evidencing the impact that volunteers make. Until we do that, we won' t achieve the profile and investment that volunteering deserves.

Volunteering is crucial, not only to organisations but to achieving the outcomes of a better Scotland.

We need to get better at sharing the positive impact that we know volunteering has on our organisations. We need to showcase to senior leaders, volunteers, stakeholders and the wider world that volunteering is crucial, not only to volunteer-involving organisations but to achieving the outcomes of a better Scotland. It makes sense and is worth investing in. In order to achieve that and to get the attention of senior leadership and funders, we need to gather and share evidence of impact.

Last year the Scottish Volunteering Forum established a volunteering impact measurement sub-group in order to raise the profile of impact measurement amongst volunteer-involving organisations. The group created and distributed a questionnaire amongst volunteer-involving organisations across Scotland. The results of the questionnaire were revealing and demonstrate that a lot more needs to be done to evidence the impact of volunteering.

Responding to feedback from the questionnaires, the Forum has developed a new guide which helps volunteer-involving organisations to start, or improve their impact measurement practices. We' re launching the guide this week, along with a brand new guide for funders which has also been developed by the forum.

Unfortunately, we often find that volunteering is not afforded the value or recognition that it deserves. Despite all of the significant benefits detailed in our new guide for funders, we find that volunteering activity is routinely left out of the strategic planning stage by funders, funding recipients and policy makers, which often means that it is under-resourced and under-measured. The guide for funders demonstrates the significant benefits that volunteering provides and explains why volunteering is a sound investment. It also highlights the importance of adequate and realistic planning, budgeting and measurement to ensure that volunteering activity is successful.

It' s vital that volunteer-involving organisations develop ways to measure the impact of their volunteering programmes on volunteers and beneficiaries, in order to improve performance and demonstrate the value of volunteering both internally and externally. We need to understand what' s working and what' s not; and to act upon any lessons learned so as to drive the quality of volunteering in Scotland.

The more we demonstrate the impact of volunteering on organisational performance, Government policy and wider societal/community impacts, the easier it will be to secure funding for volunteering. The more we demonstrate the impact that volunteering has on volunteers, the more likely it will be that current volunteers continue to volunteer regularly and that non-volunteers start volunteering.

So this International Volunteer Manager' s Day – on Monday 5th November – make impact measurement your pledge. Check out our new guides and start measuring the impact of volunteering. You never know, the evidence you gather could be transformational for your volunteering programme, your organisation and for wider society.

Morven MacLean is volunteering development manager at Children’s Hospices Across Scotland

Third Force News

A Volunteer Vacation Is A Great Travel Option After Retirement

Volunteer Vacations for Retirees

Many people struggle with balancing a meaningful lifestyle after reaching retirement age. Voluntourism trips are a great way to connect with a local community, see the world, and learn from incredible people from all walks of life. Check out this article that dives a little deeper into traveling and volunteering once retired and steps you can take now to ensure a fulfilling experience.

How to Travel the World After You Retire

OCTOBER 14, 2018

Hitting the road after retirement, whether by vehicle or plane, train, or cruise ship, is the goal of many people contemplating a work-free future.

Both retirees and those years away from retirement look forward to relaxation, travel, family time, and leisure activities, according to a survey by Prudential Financial. And another study by Bank of America indicated that 95 percent of retirees would prefer to have enjoyable experiences over buying things. Travel is a way to achieve this ' whether visiting out-of-town relatives or vacationing together.

Travel and Retirement Finances
Funding travel along with basic living expenses on a fixed income is a concern for many retirees. In this age of increased longevity, costly health care, and declining availability of pensions, many retirees find that their savings and investments are not adequate.

 "While working and preparing for retirement, it' s important to take full advantage of savings options including catch-up contributions to IRAs and 401(k)s. That is critical in creating a nest egg," Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride of told Travel + Leisure. "Travel expenses will need to be funded from those savings." He suggests paying off as much debt as possible to create breathing room in the retirement budget that might provide some latitude for expenses such as travel.

Volunteer vacations with Globe Aware
Asked about how retirees can fit in travel during the early years of retirement when health and mobility might make travel easier, McBride advises pre-retirees to build travel costs into anticipated retirement expenses as opposed to waiting until retirement to figure out how to pay for travel. He warns against pulling too much money from savings early in retirement.

"The risk is taking withdrawals in a falling market during those early years. It' s very hard to recover from that," he said, adding that tax planning is important. "Be aware of tax obligations when you start taking minimum distributions as required after age 70 and a half."

McBride suggests that savvy consumers use credit cards that offer attractive rewards. "They can fund significant travel expenses ' airline and hotel points or rebates can offset travel costs. This works for disciplined consumers who will pay off the balance every month."

Retirement Travel Planning with a Professional
T+L asked Peggy Goldman, president and founder of Friendly Planet Travel about retirees with limited budgets and the desire to travel. "Great experiences can be affordable for almost anyone. We' re able to create programs that even retirees with fixed incomes will be able to manage, with no compromise on quality."

 Since international travel is on many bucket lists, "the number of first-time international travelers is growing each year," Goldman said. "Individuals have to be realistic about themselves, what they' re capable of, and what arrangements they need. We advise them not to limit themselves in terms of selecting programs ' if they feel good and can do it, they should go for it."

Goldman says that travelers are seeking experiences instead of just sightseeing: "People want to interact with locals; they want to get their hands dirty in the kitchen, meet people in their homes," she said. "That' s what is so wonderful about people-to-people experiences and optional excursions. It' s more than just visiting monuments; it' s about having experiences with people."

Asked for some examples, Goldman described how visitors to Hangzhou can visit tea plantations for demonstrations on how agricultural workers select and pick the leaves. Travelers get a chance to do it for themselves and gain a new appreciation for the tea they' re drinking. "And don' t rule out things like zip lines or hanging upside down to kiss the Blarney Stone. Typically it' s the older folks who don' t care how they look, so they' re just game to try something new."

A May 2018 study by found "a surge in solo travel, with two fifths (40 percent) of global baby boomers having taken a solo trip in the last year, and another fifth (21 percent) planning to take one in the future." Goldman' s Friendly Planet Travel has already seen more solo bookings this year, with their Best of Egypt & Nile Cruise solo trip bookings up by 116 percent, and A Taste of South Africa package up by 95 percent. "We often find that our solo travelers form close friendships with their group members that enrich their lives and future travels."

Travel Options for Retirees
Cruises offer many choices, from river cruises in Europe, Asia, and South America, to ocean cruises just about anywhere in the world. Nearly all-inclusive with most details planned ahead, the ability to visit many places easily, onboard entertainment, quality dining, and specialized themes, cruises are attracting more travelers each year.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) 2018 Industry Outlook study showed a steady increase of cruise passengers over the last 10 years, and 27 new ocean, river, and specialty ships set to debut this year. The study also indicates that cruisers come from all income levels, with a third having a household income of less than $80,000 annually.

Train travel takes passengers away from highway traffic and airport crowds, while allowing them to enjoy the surrounding scenery in comfort. Domestic and international routes cover many popular destinations, and for long trips, private sleeping quarters are available. Lounges, restaurants, bar cars, and room to move around make train travel a desirable alternative for travelers.

Many seniors want the total freedom and access to out-of-the-way places that road trips offer. Recreational vehicle sales are increasing each year as more retirees are getting on the road in this relatively low-cost mode of travel. If rolling through the country in an RV sounds appealing, a good way to start is with a rental. Before investing in a vehicle, it' s important to be sure it meets one' s needs and capabilities.

Volunteer vacations offer travel along with an opportunity to contribute skills and experience to others both domestic and abroad. Many seniors are finding these trips to be rewarding, and they can also fulfill the desire to interact with locals and broaden cultural experiences. Others enjoy "learning vacations," traveling for workshops, conferences, cooking schools, cultural programs, or music festivals.

Older travelers are increasingly tech savvy, and many still prefer to book their own trips through airline and hotel websites. They buy tickets online to avoid lines at museums and attractions, and they shop for the best fares, room rates, and last-minute deals. Their flexibility allows them to take advantage of off-season and shoulder season rates, longer stays, and mid-week airfares.

Whatever mode of transportation, destination, or price level a traveler chooses, there are options available for everyone who desires to make travel a goal for their retirement years.

Travel + Leisure

11 Family Summer Vacation Ideas For Every Type of Family

Summer is here and that means family vacation!

Many families prefer resorts and all-inclusive experiences, while others prefer a good hiking and camping trip.

While there are dozens of family summer vacation ideas, we want you and your family to find the right trip for you! Check out these 11 Family Summer Vacation Ideas For Every Type of Family to inspire your next family adventure:

For the Outdoorsy Family

Does your family love to be outdoors? The opportunities for your family are endless.

How about spending a few days in a fancy tree house? Out n' About Treehouse Treesort in Oregon is a family run business, sure to suit your every need. Not only will you be staying in the trees, but there are plenty of activities too! Ziplining, hiking, river rafting, and horseback riding!

For the All Inclusive-Loving Family

There are times when we all need to be pampered and spoiled on vacation. All-inclusive vacations are available in so many destinations. I think the best bang for your buck is probably an all-inclusive resort on an island.

Beaches all-inclusive family vacations offer all-inclusive vacations in the Caribbean. There are unlimited land and water sports, as well as several dining choices.

You can search between all-inclusive vacations for preschoolers and toddlers, kids, tweens, teens, and parents. There' s a Kids Scuba Program that is new and fun for the little ones, but it' s available for adults too.

Or how about a cruise? All cruises offer packages to pay for alcohol before you get on the ship " so it is essentially all-inclusive! The only thing that wouldn' t be included would be anything you spend at the port.

But cruises are fun for families " shows, comedy, food, pool. Some cruise ships are even designed for families too. Check out Carnival Cruise Line' s onboard activities on the Vista or Dream ships.

For the Philanthropic Family

There are many ways you can volunteer your time as a family. This could mean working in your own community or traveling somewhere new for a philanthropic vacation. You could be painting houses or reading books to children. ?

Check out GlobeAware if you' re looking to give back or contribute to a community in a new and meaningful way. These trips and tours travel across the globe from helping save the elephants in Thailand to working with the Rainforest villages in Costa Rica.

With plenty of destinations to choose from and different kinds of tasks at hand, you can choose the best one for you and your family.

For the History-Loving Family

Ever wondered the backstory to some of your favorite paintings or monuments? The tour guides at Museum Hack can tell you those details and more. ??

If you and your family are history buffs, check out this unique museum experience. Museum Hack promises you' ll have an active, fun, and engaging session. Tours walk through famous U.S. museums in different cities and tell you more about what you' re looking at.

Museum Hack offers both public and private tours as well as customizable tours for each group.

For the Creative Family

No matter the ages of your family members, being creative can be something you all share. Going on a creative family vacation can be fun, educational, and allow all of you to express yourselves. Art and creativity are endless, so there are plenty of options for the creative family.

One option can be a photography tour. Maybe one of these Photo Safaris is exactly what you' re looking for. There are trips that go to the Galapagos Islands, Iceland, and many other destinations.

Other creative family vacation ideas would be taking museum tours, following artists pieces of work around a country, or maybe checking out special film or TV studios.

For the Active Family

Activity is everywhere! No matter which destination you choose, there' s always a way and an avenue to be active! Beach getaways often have water sports like wakeboarding, paddle boarding, and surfing.

Looking for the whole family to stay active? Plan a hiking trip. This could be at a local destination like the 10 best hikes in your state or country. Or maybe you want to hike the Rocky Mountains with your family. These are great options!

If you want something more structured, there are organized hikes in almost any country. Smithsonian Journeys hosts "Hiking the Emerald Isle". 11 days on the west coast of Ireland! Daily hikes are 3 to 7 miles.

For the New Family

Traveling as a new family might be challenging at first, but it can still be an incredible time. Traveling to Disney World (Florida) or Disney Land (California) is always an option because the company and parks are so accommodating to new families. (Toy Story Land in Disney World opens June 30th!)

Disney Parks always have lots of shade and places for you to keep the little one out of the sun, but also get back outside with ease. Disney also provides a guide to traveling with a preschooler and which attractions are the best for them!

Within all four parks, Baby Care Centers are available to you. These are spaces for you to feed, change, and nurse your children. If you have questions about this, there' s a Disney Parks Moms Panel you can access here.

There' s an endless amount of options for family vacations! Sometimes you just need a little help deciding what suits your family best. So what' ll it be? Are you looking at a more creative vacation or a philanthropic one? Let us know in the comments below!


Globe Aware Trip to Cambodia: The Impact of Volunteering for a Family

A family' s week-long volunteer vacation in Cambodia harvested a new global perspective for their four children, ages 10-17.

For their volunteer project the Vlaisimsky family spent time building a well for the community, assembling and distributing wheel chairs to landmine victims, and teaching English at a local non-governmental organization providing schooling for disadvantaged children in Siam Reap. It was during their time at the school that the family became intimately acquainted with the richness and reality of the Cambodian culture.

Cambodia Going for a rideWalking away from the trip, the children all realized that there is something fulfilling in the lives of the Cambodians that the American culture may not have tapped into yet. Even more notably, the children were impacted by the appreciation for education they saw from the Cambodian children.

Assuredly, any parent would be proud to hear their child respond to a volunteer experience with the openness, positivity, and initiative that this family' s children have demonstrated. But the development of characteristics like cultural awareness and generosity can only be attributed to the children' s first-hand observation of authentic parents who demonstrate compassion for humankind and a desire to contribute to other cultures.

If you are interested in a volunteer vacation please visit

Fit Fathers

Voluntourism – Your Ticket to Cuba

Story and Photography by Donne Paine

I believe hurdles in life are meant to be jumped over are and not obstacles to stop us.

When initial plans to vacation in Cuba were derailed by hurricane Irma, my heart was broken but not my spirit. I had to find another way to get to this island, which sits only 90 miles off the coast of Miami.

Enter Globe Aware, a non-governmental organization (NGO) with volunteer programs in 17 third world countries. They are a "voluntourism" group' a mixture of volunteering and touring. Initially waitlisted, I joined a group of four in December for a week, and had an experience not to be forgotten.

Cuba is much more than classic cars and cigars. It is a country full of pride, friendly people, salsa music on every corner and ingenuity to be admired.

There has never been a more exciting time to take part in volunteer travel to Cuba! I was enchanted with a world unlike any I could imagine. Music abounded in the streets, there was hardly any traffic and smiles were everywhere. The embargo has meant severely restricted commerce and access to affordable food, but it has also preserved and insulated a culture unique in the world.

Globe Aware' s mission is to promote cultural awareness and sustainability. The eco-agricultural project our group was involved in was building a terraced garden of coconut and coffee plants to prevent mudslides onto a poor neighborhood, Casablanca, on the hillside of the Christo monument across the river from Havana. We would drive over in one of the classic cars and take a ferry back. And walk…wow did we walk.

Our accommodations were located in the historic center of Old Havana, a two-minute walk from the capitol and 10 minutes from the Plaza Vieja, in a neo-classical building from the 1920s, which still retains the original floors, doors and windows, with a balcony overlooking Old Havana. I was asked to add to the graffiti on the walls before I left.

We did a walking tour of Old Havana and the newly gentrified areas of the city. We went to the Che Guverra, Revolution Museum and The Museum of Art, where only Cuban artists are featured. The countryside of Cuba is beautiful and filled with rolling hills and exotic caverns. Our trip included an organic cigar plantation, complete with hand-rolling demonstration.

Cuba is changing in what looks like a positive way. I asked several members of our group to give a quote about their experience, which gives you an idea how others felt.

"A place lost in time and caught in an adolescent phase. Cubanos are full of love, pride and talent in all aspects of life, industry and art. The island, while so diverse, stands so united" ' D. Mancinelli
"This was my fourth trip to Cuba in the past year. My first three were quick jaunts coming off cruise ships. But this trip I decided to spend 10 days to explore Havana. There is so much to see, experience and learn, and yet I only still saw so little. Everyday there were surprises and paradoxes. We saw pretty bad living conditions, but then went to a trendy nightclub, Fabrico de Arte Cubano, which was very nice. One big surprise was going to Nazdarovie, a restaurant nostalgic of the old Soviet Union days. When you go to Cuba, be open, observe, get off the beaten path." ' Juliet Teixsira

Here are a few questions that might help anyone interested in traveling to Cuba:

  1. Is it safe? At no time did I feel unsafe. The streets are busy with police walking the neighborhoods. No evidence of gangs, loitering unsavory types or panhandling.
  2. How much freedom do the people have? From my observation people moved freely about.
  3. Are Cubans friendly to Americans? Those I met were friendly to everyone.
  4. Were there any challenges going into the country? None, as long as your necessary paperwork is in order.
  5. Were there any challenges coming out of the county? None.
  6. Wifi? Almost non-existent. It is hard to find a wifi card, which is four dollars per hour and finding a hot spot is almost impossible.
  7. Toilet facilities? Most toilets do not have toilet paper, so bring your own.
  8. What is the food like? Rice and beans are served with every entrée. The food is simple and reflects the meager supply available. But ooh the Mohitos' the absolute best and filled with tons of mint!
  9. Gifts to buy? There is a large market that sells T-shirts, leather goods, bongo drums, and cigar accessories. There is also incredible art.
  10. Would I go back? Yes, and not just because of the salsa music at every watering hole, but because of the people, who are warm, friendly and eager to be recognized.

About Cuba:

Although home to more than 11 million people, Cuban culture has been shrouded in mystery to most North Americans because of prolonged economic and political strain between the United States and Cuba. Cubanos are proud, educated and often quite happy to share opinions. Isolated for years due to the "blockade," their culture has been influenced by many others, none perhaps as heavily as Spain, Africa and the United States. Full of music, derelict buildings, joy and sorrow, Cuba offers few material pleasures, but immense humanitarian rewards.

© 2013 Pink Magazine & Millen Publishing Group, LLC.