My husband and I are not really “cocktails on the beach” people, so for our honeymoon we decided to go somewhere that we could truly experience local culture. We recently returned from an 11-day trip to Cuba, and while it may not seem romantic to share a honeymoon with 13 strangers on a tour bus, we still managed to find special moments that were just for the two of us.
Even though we looked forward to sampling many mojitos and piña coladas, the main purpose of the trip was to meet the people of Cuba.
Have skills, will travel.
As a public relations professional, creating relationships and connecting through conversations is a huge part of what I do every day. Whether it’s with coworkers, a client, or a member of the media, I try to set-up face-to-face meetings—or even phone calls—before sending emails as often as possible. You can imagine my excitement when we decided to take this trip because I was so interested to hear what Cuba is like from the people living there. I was ready to put my skills to the test and learn about the country’s past, present, and future.
And learn we did. As we explored the cities of Havana, Santa Clara, Artemisa, and Piñar del Rio, our tour group was invited into people’s homes and businesses with open arms. We visited a variety of organizations, museums, monuments, and restaurants, and were entertained almost every day by street performers, singers, and dancers.
A good talking to.
When we visited each location on our itinerary, our hosts prepared hour-long presentations followed by Q-and-A sessions. One of our first encounters was with residents at a neighborhood block party. There, we met a community leader and chatted over a glass of rum about our towns, interests, jobs, and the dog that was hanging out on the roof of someone’s home. We were able to learn about each other’s way of life, recognize how much we had in common, and bond over the differences we experience in our respective countries. He joked that despite speaking different languages, we still understood one another.
I enjoyed hearing from the leader of El Mejunje, an LGBTQ community center, about his continued fight for LGBTQ rights. For more than 30 years, El Mejunje has served as a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community and has evolved to be a hang-out for all people of Santa Clara. He explained the activities they plan every day for multiple generations from all walks of life, and I shared Well Done Marketing’s services and how we work with non-profit agencies to share their important, community-centered work (i.e, Families First, Second Helpings, The Julian Center) with the public.
We visited a polyclinic—similar to an urgent health center—where I chatted with a dentist. He explained the healthcare system, their philosophy, and mentioned some of the medical accomplishments of Cuba’s healthcare industry, including eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission and achieving one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the Americas. These doctors, like those in the United States, are passionate about helping patients maintain healthy lives. As a newer employee, I was looking forward to beginning work on social media planning for Hendricks Regional Health when I returned. I was inspired to dig in and create meaningful content that exemplified the hospital’s values and involvement in the community.
I’m so glad we had this time together.
I didn’t want these conversations to end. We ended each meeting with muchos abrazos y besos (many hugs and kisses). Luckily, everyone told us their doors would be open the next time we visited. As an added touch, the Cuban people like to say “see you later,” so leaving didn’t feel as permanent.
This trip reminded me to pause and reconnect with those in my personal and professional lives. Time does not always permit in-person communication in this fast-moving world of public relations. As experts in the gift of gab, we should all make sure to set aside some face-to-face time during the work week to chat with clients, journalists, and those sitting at the desk next to us.