St. John’s Bay in Canada was beautiful in winter. I was under 20 years old when I went on my first cruise around Nova Scotia. It was my first time out of the country, and I still remember the ice cold air that struck me as I got off the cruise ship. My strongest thought was not the beauty of the land or hospitality of the people, it was about what I would like to bring back home.
What may not be so obvious was that I was thinking about Cuba. Particularly the cigars. The cruise line was nice enough to have a small shopping area set up just past the gangway in order to supply overpriced traveling touristy items to us as we passed. I was thankful to be able to buy an expensive sweatshirt before I struck out looking for some Cubans to protect against the aforementioned ice cold wind. Again, I didn’t notice the prices in the market. I didn’t notice that there were a ton of pickpockets crawling all about, or any danger whatsoever. All I know is that I wanted to find a cigar shop.
I was rather underwhelmed by my walk around St. Johns. Coming from America, I expected huge malls with millions of square feet dotting the landscape and easy access to taxis and buses. Instead I spent most of my tour walking, found a Wal-mart or two, and eventually found a small out-of-the-way smoke shop that had just what I wanted.
“If you’re caught bringing those over the border, it’s 10 years,” the attendant happily told me as I stared at the Cuban cigar selection. Is that just what they tell the tourists? Could it be true? A thousand thoughts and fears blew ahead of me but the next thing I remember was standing outside the shop with two five packs of Exclusivos.
Maybe I could smuggle them through customs in my socks? Or just hide them really well in my luggage. Ultimately I couldn’t do it and decided to smoke them all in a few sittings before I left (they were all stale) and take the case covers back as my trophies. Not having ever been through customs going back into the country, I figured that they would catch me. But they just waved me through non-chalantly.
I believe that when many of us travel, we are attracted to what is new and different about the country relative to our own. I personally gravitated to cigars, someone else may see sports cars, food, perfumes, etc. It’s human nature to want to make part of the country visiting your own and on your next international trip I encourage you to bring back the personal trophy of your choice!