We had already met Carley with her beautiful article on how life is for expats in Cuba, where she currently lives. We asked her to come back and introduce us the her wonderful blog on Cuba, Home to Havana, and the result is a thriving interview, full of passions, interesting info and useful tips. Thank you so much Carley!
What took you abroad?
I’ve spent time living abroad as an adult on a few occasions, and these experiences have always been some of the best! I studied Spanish and Latin American Studies in university, so spending time in Latin America was a given for me. While at university I studied abroad, in Buenos Aires, Argentina for six months, and after graduating I moved to Quito, Ecuador to work with a nonprofit for two years. While in Ecuador I met my husband, who is originally from Cuba. After living in Ecuador, it wasn’t a question for me as to whether I’d want to live abroad again but a certainty.
While my husband and I decided to move to the United States (my home country) after our time in Ecuador was up, we always talked about spending as much time in Cuba as possible. We love spending time with his family there, and Cuba is a really enchanting place, so it has been a pleasure getting to know the country even more.
Why a blog on Cuba?
I have always loved writing and have kept blogs as more personal projects when I’ve lived abroad in the past, so starting Home to Havana seemed like a natural thing to do. However, in the past I was much more focused on blogging as a kind of online diary – now I write in a way that I hope serves readers more.
I was also motivated to start a blog on Cuba because there is not a lot of quality, well-informed travel content on this country. A lot of it is junk, honestly, from people that visited for a week at the most and have strong feelings, but not a strong understanding of what they’ve actually seen. I remember reading a blog post on a pretty prominent travel blog about visiting Havana that recommended exactly the opposite of what I would recommend – pure overpriced food and tourist traps.
I don’t think that other bloggers intentionally make poor recommendations about Cuba – Cuba really is a place that is unlike anywhere on Earth, and traveling here can be a totally different experience if you’re not ready for it. There are two currencies. Internet is slower than most people are used to, and not as prevalent as it is in most other places. Not to mention the challenges citizens of the United States have when visiting Cuba, like not being able to use credit cards or debit cards.
It can be extremely challenging to break out of the well-worn tourist path in Cuba, much more so than any place I have ever visited. I wanted to be a part of creating content that would hopefully help people do just that in a meaningful way and discover all there is to love about Cuba.
Have you found any difficulties in setting it up and managing your blog on Cuba? Are you assisted by someone or did you do everything on your own?
I use Squarespace, and it has been an absolute dream – I highly recommend it to anyone looking to start any kind of blog or website! Squarespace makes it extremely easy to design a beautiful website, even for beginners. I had experience managing a Squarespace website in a limited context for a previous job and loved it, so I knew when I was considering which platform I wanted to use that Squarespace was going to be the best option.
With that being said, so much of getting Home to Havana started has been a trial and error process and learning on the go. It has been a lot of googling bits of code here and there to create customizations or resolve problems that arise. My husband is in the process of teaching himself to code – a fantastic new quarantine hobby! – so this has been supremely helpful with implementing some of the more specialized changes we want to make.
One tip that I’ve learned since starting my blog is to make a list of a few more established bloggers or bloggers you look up to and study their blogs for design inspiration or blog development ideas. How are they creating internal links between their posts? Where are they guest posting? How are they encouraging their readers to engage with them? You can learn a lot just by studying others, especially when everything is online!
With what frequency do you publish on your blog?
I try to publish new content at least once a week on the blog, but aim for more. Since I’m still getting started I have so many ideas for new things I’d like to share – I have probably brainstormed enough new content ideas to get me through the next year, at least! I have yet to encounter writers block or anything like it, and am brimming with ideas so I hope to keep my posting schedule up for the foreseeable future.
Give us three reasons why your blog is important to you
My favorite part about Home to Havana is sharing a different narrative and a different story about Cuba – one that isn’t only focused on politics, but tells a different story. It still isn’t common for Cubans that leave Cuba to move back, so having this platform where my husband can share his story of moving back and we can both share what we love about Cuba is so important to us both.
Sharing about our desire to live abroad and travel is also important to me because I would love to be a small part of encouraging others to break off the expected path in life and do something they’re passionate about. Once we moved from Ecuador to the United States we would spend a lot of time dreaming about traveling and living abroad again, spending time reading about travel and watching travel videos on Youtube, but letting life get in the way of actually doing more of it ourselves. Hopefully in the future this blog can serve to help people see that they can make the changes in life that they’re passionate about.
I’m also passionate about sharing about travel locations that are not on most peoples’ bucket list. While Cuba is more of a bucket list location than it had been in the past, I would also love to expand the blog to share more travel tips and guides for Ecuador, where I spent two years living, and the rest of Latin America. A lot of these places don’t end up on your average bucket list, and people don’t even know how much they end up missing out. If this blog in any way encourages people encounter these hidden gems, I’d count that as a success!
Have you met people through your blog?
Even though Home to Havana is quite new, I’ve already connected with some incredible people through it! I’ve been able to connect with other expats in Cuba, some business owners in Cuba that serve the travel industry, and visitors that come regularly. I’ve also made a point to connect with other female travel bloggers and expat bloggers through Facebook groups and websites, and it has been fantastic to learn from them and start to connect.