Women Travel Latin America interviewed Alone Together contributing author Elizabeth Holli Wood about her travels through the region and what inspires her to share her stories.
What inspired you to write your story for Alone Together?
Mine was not a ‘what,’ but a ‘who.’ My cousin Tarren sent me the information about Alone Together and suggested I write about my experience. The collection topic was so personally relevant that I knew I wanted to submit something.
I wrote a lot while I was in Cuba because I met so many incredible people, including my own family. I needed to write to be able to remind myself of every detail. Plus, because we were speaking primarily in Spanish, I had a lot to say in English that I couldn’t express in daily conversation. No internet meant fewer distractions during my trip, so any time I had at my computer was spent writing. I had so many notes about my trip to revisit for inspiration. I guess I’m surprised the story I ended up writing was about what happened when I got back.
Why do you think women should travel Latin America?
I feel women should travel everywhere and Latin America is no exception. I think there are differences best expressed in person, respectfully and with an open mind. I saw things in Cuba I couldn’t imagine seeing in the U.S., like a monument to Ho Chi Minh, for instance. It’s important to see how much of what we understand is informed by what we’re exposed to, and what feels familiar and safe to us.
What is your best memory of your Latin America adventure, and why?
Mine occurred during my last few hours in Camagüey, the city where my mother was born and much of her family still lives. I had found my grandmother’s childhood home with last-minute help from my grandfather’s memory. I remember being greeted at the door by my great-aunt and knowing immediately we were family. My grandmother’s step-mother was there, ninety-eight years-old and in a bed covered by mosquito netting. It felt surreal to hold her hands; I didn’t even know she was alive. I met my cousin, too, and we’ve thankfully remained in contact. We’re working on building a family tree together.
Describe the region in three words.
Warm, generous, soil
What advice would you give to a woman considering a trip to Latin America?
Learn as much Spanish as you can before you go, listen closely, be prepared with maps and written details, and learn to love a lack of Wi-Fi.