When I thought of Cuba before I visited, I thought of what I think most people think of. Vibrant music, passionate people, bright colors, decaying architecture. My week in Havana, Matanzas and Varadero exposed me to many facets of the country. The hectic city, the quiet of the countryside, the serenity of the ocean coast and the undeniable beauty of it all. In just a few days I went from exploring the dark alleyways of Havana to sitting on a serene sunset laden beach in Varadero. The landscape of each individual setting is so different. Havana is full of loud boisterous people, yelling, honking, singing, grabbing you on the street to talk or buy or engage. The countryside, from my limited exposure, was different. Unassuming, quiet, modest. And the beach, much like our beaches, full of vacationers and travelers, a place for relaxation and maybe even some contemplation.

I love visiting new countries and learning about the way people live because in the end, it only reinforces how much we are all similar. We’re all worrying about our families, our finances, our educations and our careers. We debate the rights and wrongs of our country, of history and of our futures. Some may love to live in the city with the nightlife, others prefer the seclusion and slower pace of the country. It always strikes me how much every country is linked by it’s similarities more than it’s foreignness. We may decorate our homes or buildings with styles unknown to each other, speak a different language, have varying traditions, but we’re all people. Hopefully someday we’ll be able to normalize relations with the Cuba. We’re missing out by not being able to connect with each other the way we can with so many other people all over the world. We could learn so much from each other, even if it’s only how alike we all truly are in our cores.