An advocate and lover of all things Cuba, Rita Whitt is full of spunk, charm, and good laughs. You’ve most likely encountered her on our Facebook page; she’s usually sharing her knowledge, past experience, and opinions with the insightCuba community. I recently had the opportunity to chat with her and find out more about her travels, interests, and love for insightCuba!
While there aren’t many people that can say with much confidence that they’ve experienced 25 different countries, Rita Whitt sure can. In fact, she triples that number, with a total of 75+ countries thus far. Among them Italy, Tahiti, and of course Cuba. But there’s something about Cuba for Rita that she just cant get enough of, I guess that’s why she’s been there three times already and is hoping to go for a fourth.
Who is Rita?
A Florida native and retired schoolteacher, Rita traded in her pieces of chalk for cruise brochures as a travel agent for a few seasons. Soon after, she and her husband decided to experience the different cultures and people of the world. “We are spending all of our children’s inheritance on plane tickets and travel visas,” she joked. With her eyes set on Cuba since the 60’s, Rita did her research for a company that would grant her the opportunity to understand and interact with the island, its people, and culture.
“I researched all of the different companies before I went the first time… some of those companies seemed very impersonal. InsightCuba felt like the people had been there, cared about Cuba and was excited to share their experiences with me.” Yet there is still one special ingredient that was offered that couldn’t be duplicated and that’s the president of the company. With Tom Popper you feel like he wants to share something very special that he loves…his enthusiasm for Cuba is what certainly makes it worthwhile for the people that go.”
“It just seems that the Cuban people are the most warm and friendly people in any culture we’ve ever experienced,” she shared. “We love walking the streets after dinner and just encountering people… they’re so pleased to see Americans.” Being a former teacher Rita can’t help but take goodies for the children of Cuba. “I love hanging out with children. We take lots and lots of things for kids that we give away. The smiles on those faces when we give them a baseball or a chocolate bar or a plastic toy it is fabulous. My photo album is filled with hundreds and hundreds of photos of children’s faces when I give them a gift.”
Advice to prospective travelers:
With three extensive experiences to Cuba, Rita shares this advice to prospect Cuba travelers:
• "Read the handbook that insightCuba sends, pay attention to packing and the laws."
• "Do your homework. Before you get on the plane you should have a wealth of knowledge before you get Cuba, this is so you can experience and enjoy what this great island has to offer."
• "People need to know that when they go on a cultural excusion, its not a vacation. Don’t expect to lay on the beach, expect to be learning. You come back home physically exhausted but emotionally and educationally enriched"
"We can learn a lot from them about how to be resilient and resourceful. They take recycling to the nth degree, that’s why Cuba is so clean. There’s no trash. Everybody recycles and reuses and repurposes everything. America could really learn from the Cubans ingenuity and experience. We’re so wasteful here and Cuba isn’t that kind of culture. I think people need to go over there and have their eyes opened!"
Written by Noella Wynter