3 out of 4 stars
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Love of dance was what first introduced Paquita Lamacraft to Cuba. In 2001, she traveled there with her dance class to master salsa dancing. This first trip led to several more over the next few years, as Lamacraft fell in love with Cuba and its people. After falling on some hard times, both emotionally and economically, several years went by without having the opportunity to visit. In 2011, Lamacraft finally returned to the land that she had been missing. For this trip, she decided to proceed without a travel plan and allow the adventure to unfold on its own. In her book, The Cuban Approach: The art of letting go, Paquita Lamacraft documents the steps she followed for her journey, as well as how these principles have helped her at other times in her life.
This book is organized into thirteen chapters, each one based around a guideline for how to plan a “No Plan” trip. From allowing yourself to get to know the locals, to reserving some time for self-reflection, to remembering to go with the flow, the guidelines help the reader experience a new place on a deeper level than if they were just rushing between tourist attractions. At the same time, she acknowledges that even No Plan trips require some structure. You should book yourself a place to stay for the first few days while you make other arrangements and have contingency plans in place in case of health or monetary emergencies. Each chapter explains how her principle was applied during her trip. She also incorporates some information about the country’s history or current situation and gives other examples of each principle’s applications to life in general. The author has lived a very full life, being born in Australia and living in various locations in the United States and Europe. She reveals some of her favorite memories and greatest personal tragedies as she tells her story.
Although this book could be viewed as a self-help book, I really liked that it wasn’t preachy or bossy in style. There were no stiff rules or commandments, no insistence on the right or wrong way to do things. Instead, I was left with the impression that the author was telling me what worked for her and welcoming me to take from it what I wanted. The “Unmade Roads” chapter really resonated with me. She described how in tackling rough terrain, both in roads and in life, it is better to take it one step at a time, rather than lamenting what should have been or looking at the problem as a whole. As she wisely states, “The rougher the terrain, the more you value good humour.” p. 216
I did feel there were a couple of things that could improve the book overall. First, I wish there were more photographs. There were beautiful photos on the cover, and the book was filled with vibrant descriptions of Cuba. It is a shame there weren’t pictures included throughout the book. Secondly, I found in many areas the author tended to meander away from her original topic to tell stories that were at best loosely related to the subject matter. While I learned many interesting things about Cuba, such as its ties to the Marquis de Lafayette and the history of the kiwi fruit, I could have done with fewer tangents about things that were not related to Cuba, such as the dangers of cave diving and some of the author’s life stories. What interests a reader is a matter of personal taste, but I think the overall length could be cut down significantly by keeping the scope more closely tied to the trip to Cuba and the life events that led to her visit.
Overall, the book was well-crafted and written with a friendly and humorous tone. The book was well-edited, and I only noticed a few small typos. I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars, and I think substituting some of the tangents with photos from Cuba would make it a must-read. I recommend this book to those who enjoy travelogues and interesting bits of trivia.
The Cuban Approach
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