In Heidi Siefkas’ third book, she shares a humorous collection of stories about her transition from the corporate world and cubicle land to traveling to Cuba while creating her dream job, a hybrid career writing and traveling. Her adventures not only include over one hundred days in Cuba, but also hiking in Peru, bungee jumping in New Zealand, living in Hawaii, and more.
In her signature down-to-earth vignettes and sassy humor, Heidi relays her many tales of the characters she has met, yummy recipes, and also the inevitable travel hiccups along the way. With this book, Heidi puts her favorite quote to good use, “Every occasion in life can be categorized as either a good time or a good story.”
1. The attraction of the forbidden fruit… why Cuba?
I was curious. I had lived in South Florida for nearly a decade. During which, I had explored other Caribbean islands, but not Cuba. Little did I know that one long-weekend in Havana, would lead to an audacious New Year’s resolution and life change. That was over five years ago, when I resolved to leave the corporate world and create a hybrid career of travel and writing. Then, I had no idea that Cuba would continue to be a part of that resolution and new lifestyle, a Life 2.0. Now, after years of travel to Cuba, I’m still enthralled by its culture. Cuba is a fascinating country, full of happiness, humor, and appreciation of the moment. Cuba itself is currently in transition. Now is the time to travel to Cuba to witness these changes as Cuba becomes Cuba 2.0.
2. How viable can be to change an “ordinary” life with an adventurous one? What to do in order to fulfill our daily obligations (work, family, society etc) and have an adventurous life too?
When I share my story and love of adventure, many shy away from the word adventure. Let me first debunk the myth that adventure is only for adrenaline junkies or that you have to quit your job and travel around the world to live an adventurous life. I ask you to accept a broader definition of adventure, which is an activity that is all consuming, perhaps new or even fearful. This activity puts you in the zone, gives you clarity, and a tremendous focus. An adventure can be physical like hiking in Yosemite or SCUBA diving in Cuba; however, adventures can be emotional like entering the dating world after a long relationship or mental like writing a book or learning a foreign language. Doing whatever form of adventure in spite of the fear makes it an adventure. I believe so strongly in injecting doses of adventure into your life, I wrote in my second book, “Adventure is my meditation.” By challenging yourself, you have the ability to shift your perspective and gain clarity, which is the same result of many tradition forms of mediation.
Although I have been known to jump out of planes or off bridges, I can’t do that everyday. I choose to challenge myself weekly at the gym with interval training and taking new classes with different instructors to switch things up for my body and thus my mind. I also aim to have at least one monthly getaway whether a small trip outside of my state or trying a new hobby like watercolor painting or stand-up paddleboarding. You will be surprised how you daily life and obstacles look different through the lens of a life with more adventure.
3. We are all different with different life experiences. From your own experience did you find a Value, a recommendation that is applicable to all of us?
The reason why I gravitate toward Cuba is because of the appreciation of the moment. In this fast-paced, multi-tasking world that we live in, it is rare to find someone that is just enjoying, not texting, talking on the phone, and driving a car all at the same time. It takes conscious effort to fight the urge to text your friends or update Facebook while you are at a coffee shop or having dinner, but the pure happiness and joy is in that very moment, the feelings, sights, smells, and the people you are with. In a near-death accident that I had in 2009, I rekindled the value of just the moment. In fact, I created a mantra, Look Up, which reminds us all to: 1) Be in the moment, appreciating both the beauty as well as hazards around us 2) Find the upside to any situation. Every wound, hiccup or obstacle turns into wisdom.
4. Please, share with us a “good time” or a “good story” that could persuade a reader to be a bit more adventurous… even only through your book.
I believe wholeheartedly that every occasion in life can be classified as a good time or a good story. It’s the real adventures with many hiccups and uncomfortable messes that make you, your family, and friends retell them time and time again. This story, I tell in my latest book, but here I’ll only give the highlights.
I was on an early fall trip to Cuba. The weather was ideal, mid temperatures and low humidity. Plus, it was still early in the tourist season with fewer crowds than the end of the year craziness. Little did I know that I would forever remember this trip as the dancing trip to Cuba. However, this was not because of salsa dancing and incredible Cuban music, but because of a storm.
By this time, I thought we were in the clear. I jumped right back into tour mode: convertible car rides to dinner and sipping mojitos at a Buena Vista Social Club performance. However, I was too soon in dismissing Matthew. That darn storm decided to make a sharp turn to the West and head straight for Miami and South Florida the day of our departure from Havana to Miami.
Despite not wanting to get up with the chickens, our flight was scheduled mid-morning. With flights cancelled and rebookings, I predicted getting our boarding passes first and tipping the airport staff would be in our favor. Cockle-doodle-dooo. The early bird gets the worm and perhaps a flight out of Cuba!
Indeed, that morning the Fort Lauderdale airport closed by 10:30am. Our airport, MIA, was scheduled to close at 2pm. Tic Toc. After nearly five hours of waiting at the Havana airport for our flight, we got news of our plane’s arrival from Miami and it’s return with us on it. By the hair of our chinny chin chin, we arrived at MIA airport as the last flight that day.
To my surprise, MIA international airport wasn’t at all the norm. It was a ghost town: no moving carts, no intercom announcements, no lines at customs, and no taxis, no shuttle buses, nada. Quite honestly, it was my best MIA airport experience EVER. As quickly as we could, we gathered to go to the group’s impromptu reserved hotel as all connecting flights had been cancelled too. With the storm progressing farther to the North, I got my guests on their way and into the Miami hotel to hunker down; whereas, I ordered an Uber to get home to pass the storm with my father.
With no taxis around, I wondered who would be working as an Uber driver in the storm? It turned out to be a recent Cuban immigrant that came from a long-line of taxi drivers in Cuba, which makes this a good story with a good ending. My knight in shining armor (principe azul) was from outside of La Habana.
5. If you have to interview yourself, which would be the key question?
What’s your secret to writing a good story?
Since I write non-fiction, I would say: live a life worth writing about. Also, be authentic to your voice. Many change to suit others. That’s a no no.
About the author:
Heidi Siefkas is an author and adventurer. Originally from small-town Wisconsin, she calls many places home, including the Midwest and South Florida. Cubicle to Cuba is Heidi’s third book in a series starting with her debut memoir, When All Balls Drop and its sequel, With New Eyes. With an insatiable wanderlust, Heidi could be anywhere. However, you can connect with her virtually, until your paths cross.