Here I was, crunched up in the passenger seat of the tiny Cuban rental car, mesmerized by the hum of the road falling behind us. Hours spent bombing down the Autopista. Circumventing potholes and tractors, hitchhikers and horse carriages, vintage cars and machete wielding cowboys sauntering seemingly nowhere, down the highway in impossible heat. I notice the shadows on my dust covered toes, perched on the dashboard, growing longer by the minute. A chill runs down my spine in spite of the heat when it occurs to me that the sun is going down. The bloody sun is going down and we have no place to stay for the night. There are more horses, tractors and hitchhikers than cars on the roads. This is the road less traveled to Varadero. Man it’s hot. After a series of seemingly wrong turns, we are now in the continuous sprawl of nowheresville. How do we keep missing entire towns? What do you have against road signs Cuba?
I grow more distressed when I look to the driver and see my guy’s face. He is absolutely delighted. Wild eyed even. Who knows where we will end up! Isn’t this fantastic! So intense! What an incredible country! It’s like I’m back in Africa. Both of his hands are gripping the wheel and he is leaning forward, focused intently on the obstacles before him.
Mike is looking way too happy for someone who has run out of gas. Tip: gas is a premium, check to see it hasn’t been siphoned before starting out again.
In our pre-child life of travel, I would have been amused by his amusement but the sweaty, slumped figures of our 5 year old twins sleeping their gravel slumber in the back was preventing that. I knew, very soon, they would wake with urgent cries for bathroom breaks, food requests, are we there yets and where is my bed?
Driving on the pothole ridden highway at night in Cuba, sans street lights, simply isn’t a sane persons option. For the hundredth time I ask myself how I talked myself into this adventure. Clearly I am still in need of an itinerary of SOME sort during our travels. I envision our family huddled in the tiny blue Kia, suffocated by the oppressive night and burning sugar cane. We are nibbling on our dinner of gas station crackers and watery cervezas, staring out into darkness.
This was it though. The first day on the road of our five week, totally unscripted family adventure from Havana to Santiago de Cuba and back again. The first adventure of its kind since Olive and Holden were born. I’m not going to lie, I was terrified.
In our 10 years together, Mike and I have shared many adventures but it all became neat and compartmentalized once the kids came along. As any parent will attest, the chaos of children makes an orderly holiday very enticing, mandatory really. The need for convenience trumping any sense of adventure that previously motivated us.
But the twins are 5 now and we are ready for a change. All of us. Needing a change. Craving a distraction from the predicability of school’s institutionalization and schedules, responsibilities and repetition. Senses dulled. Let me off of this hamster wheel. Let’s roll the dice and see where we end up. That was theplan anyway.
So what’s my point? Well, as I sit by this pool, with a damn fine piña colada in hand, pontificating the meaning of it all, it occurs to me, the universe has a way of expanding in direct proportion to our bravery. It all works out in the end. It always does. Life continues to demonstrate this lesson to me over and over again. So jump in. Both feet. Ride that line on the edge of your comfort zone, because that is where the magic happens. I get it now. With all my being. As the miles continue to hum by and the thrill of life’s firsts grow fewer and farther apart, it isn’t the monotony of routine that I remember nostalgically, but instead, those moments when I took a chance and risked being uncomfortable and present.
Happy trails my friends,