|Translation 'A perfect beach is just the beginning'|
I used to walk by the English version of this billboard twice a day on my way to and from work. Before I went to Cuba I never really noticed it. Just another billboard advertising some tropical hotspot that I wasn't interested in. I wasn't quite obnoxious enough to call myself a 'traveler' vs a 'tourist' when I talked about vacations. But I was obnoxious enough to consider myself morally superior to people who went on all-inclusive vacations to Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic. The vast differences in culture and politics that exist between these countries didn't matter to me, it was the mono-culture of the one-week tourist that offended me...I figured that would be the same no matter what stamp landed in my passport.
But the end of 2009 wasn't boding well for my wanderlust. I had a week of holidays I had to use up before the end of the year, limited funds in my bank account and nobody to travel with. I tried to stretch my money and imagination to cover a trip to Europe or South America but it wasn't happening. As one travel website after another offered up $600 all-inclusive trips to Varadero, to Cayo Coco, to Santa Lucia, the reality of my travel options sunk in...I had to go to Cuba.
After accepting my fate, I decided to find a fate-mate. I was ready to dive into all-inclusive tourism but I wasn't ready to dive in alone. All my top tier friends were either too deep into relationships or Christmas vacation planning to consider a one-week getaway with me. Even my secondary friends weren't available. I was growing desperate at work one day and decided to unleash my complaints on an innocent colleague who I rarely talked to about more than marketing plans. Turns out she was in the same boat as me and had come to exactly the same conclusion. The marketing plans went out the window and we started planning our trip. One hour later it was booked...in exactly 10 days we'd be heading to Cuba for an all-inclusive week of sun, swimming and relaxation.
I started to notice the billboard on my way to and from work, started to get excited about the beachy-and-beyond fun it promised me. But what I didn't notice, until it was already too late, was the warning contained in those devilish, laughing faces; how they seemed to be mocking my total innocence of what I was about to stumble into. The perfect beach is just the beginning...no shit, Sherlock!