Scott Jackson is a medical professional by day but a keen and passionate photographer during his travels. Recently he found himself exploring the once forbidden island of Cuba. Read on to find out why his trip was so special...
Hi Scott! We have followed your travels to Egypt and Namibia, can you reintroduce yourself to our readers?
Hello it's me again, Scott Jackson, still residing in Atlanta, GA, working as a Respiratory Therapist. It is my resolve to experience uncharted memories that keeps me traveling. Now more than ever, I am convinced that travel is the key to happiness.
What have you been up to since your last featured travels, to Egypt?
Adventures through Turkey, UK, Mexico Jordan, Iceland, Colombia, Europe, Cuba, Indonesia, and China. You can say that I stepped up the travel a bit.
From trip, to trip, have your experiences shaped the way you plan upcoming trips?
Actually yes, I find myself tailoring my trips more focused on total immersion and connection to the people.
What sparked your trip to Cuba? Which cities/regions did you visit?
With the recent relaxation on travel restrictions following the visit of President Obama in 2015, I knew this would be the opportunity to experience a hidden gem that once flourished 40 years ago. While a general ban on travel to Cuba remains in effect for Americans, you can travel under 'culture to culture' educational purposes. We (my brother and sister-in-law and I) chose to fly into Havana, Cuba out of accessibility.
Cuba has relatively recently opened up for tourists, could you compare this tourist experience to others that you may have?
Havana is probably the only place I have been that I felt as if time had stood still. There has been no other comparison I could use besides India. The lighting and the color of the city left me blown away.
How did you experience the local culture?
We stuck mainly to Havana and made the most of the city, walking mostly in and out of communities and taking in the beauty and culture. Our aim was to really experience the place as a local would, so exploring the streets interacting with as many people as possible was the focal point. The culture was so inviting, and it was nice getting a glimpse into the life they live.
What would you say was the most gratifying about your experience?
Before my trip to Cuba, I’d heard stories about how the locals often invited travelers they didn’t know into their homes and this was more than true. It was such a joy to walk along the streets interacting with people to then have them invite you into their home and take you to the top of the building to show you incredible views of the city. The people of Cuba genuinely wanted to get to know you and share a piece of their life with you. It was refreshing. Although our Spanish was very limited, in no way did this deter our interactions.
What recommendations do you have for future travelers interested in having a similar experience?
As of today, even the little bit of travel granted to Americans remains questionable under the current USA administration. However, If you do find yourself traveling to Havana, I suggest staying in an Airbnb for the optimum cultural experience. We got the opportunity to stay on the Malecón in a community tucked away from all the tourists. Besides wandering around old Havana, sipping mojitos and enjoying fresh seafood at corner bars, try hiring a driver to take you to the local beach maybe 20 mins outside of Havana. While this may fall under tourism for us U.S. Americans, just include it under cultural experience as this is where the locals go for some R&R.
What would surprise most people about the region?
Travelers will be surprised that Havana is so much more than old, colorful, crumbling buildings, loud music playing late into the night, and poor people with few resources. While all of this holds true, it is the people here that make Havana what it is. The warmth, kindness, pride, and resolve that the people of Cuba embody is what makes this place a timeless dream.
What is your favorite/funniest memory from a trip? Is there a particular travel moment you would relive given the opportunity?
Waking up each morning to the smell of local brewed coffee and a table full of fresh fruit, juices, bread, and eggs prepared by our Airbnb hostess mother was by far the delight of the trip. It was so unexpected and such a delight.
What is your favorite picture from your trip? Is there a story behind it?
I woke up around dawn to explore the community behind where we were staying. I wanted to take it all in before the rush of the day started. As I walked the streets alone, I was drawn by how the morning light bounced of the dilapidated buildings. I stood there a few mins when I captured this photo. Two vintage cars entered my frame as if it was plucked right out of a dream.
What’s next for you? Any final thoughts or advice?
There are so many places I want to still see. Hopefully I can get there one day. I am hoping to get more involved in documentary photography and volunteering with Nonprofit Organizations such as 100 Cameras that empower youth through photography. Overall, this trip was eye opening. I met some amazing people, and I look forward to going back someday.
For more of Scott's travels, check out his Instagram feed @gregoryscott_ Images courtesy of Scott Jackson
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