Cuba and the Art of the Business Trip

I just got back from Cuba a week ago and let me tell you, it was just what the doctor ordered. The warm tropical air, amazing music and friendly people were just what I needed to get through another Canadian winter.

I didn’t go to Cuba just for fun though. I turned the vacation into a business trip for research, promotion and training. Cuba offers something very unique that I hope my readers will appreciate. Cuba’s health care system is free for all Cubans. You might remember that scene from Michael Moore’s movie “Sicko” where he takes a boat load of Americans without health insurance to a Cuban hospital where they receive the care and medication that they couldn’t afford at home. Cuba’s health care system is also a great example of a fully integrated health care system that blends eastern and western medicine offering citizens free access to massage, acupuncture and herbal medicine.

Turning the vacation into a business trip might sound like a bit of a downer, but it actually added to the experience. I didn’t go to Cuba for the beach and sun. I was far more interested in seeing the culture and getting some insight into their way of life. Arranging the interviews was a wonderful way of seeing a side of Cuba that I would have never seen otherwise. It added to the sense of adventure.

The added tasks of gathering info for the articles did take some extra work. It took me a couple of days of asking around to arrange doctors, massage therapists and acupuncturists who were willing to meet with me. And it took a bit of hunting to find these people as well. For one interview, I ended up literally going in circles for two hours before I was able to find the hospital I was looking for. The work took up much of my time during the day, but it was such interesting enjoyable work that I really didn’t mind. Plus, I still had my nights free.

One of the bonuses of turning vacations into business trips is the tax deductions. As the trip was for business purposes, the full cost of the flight, transportation, accommodations, and business related expenses as well as half the cost of meals were tax deductible. And let’s not forget my brand new digital SLR camera for some shiny new pictures for the website. Many people think that a $1000 expense will mean a $1000 tax savings, but in reality you only save the taxes on the expense and not the entire expense. This means that a $1000 expense will translate into a tax savings of $300 – $400 (30% – 40%) depending on your tax bracket. While the trip isn’t free, it still ends up being a good deal.  The camera is treated differently. I won’t be able to write off the full cost right away. Instead, I’ll have to write off a portion of the cost every year for a few years.

Be careful though, to qualify as a tax deductible expense, the trip does have to be for legitimate business purposes. And, of course, you will need receipts for all the costs you want to deduct.  For more information on claiming travel expenses, visit the Revenue Canada Website.

How does my trip qualify as a business trip? First of all, I researched enough material to write a series of 3 or 4 articles for my website, which is my primary means of promotion and advertising. Hopefully the unique content of the articles will help raise the rankings of the website as well as attract a new audience. Second, from interviews and from receiving treatments, I was able to learn a few new approaches and techniques that I can incorporate into my practice.

If you like the idea of the working holiday but aren’t interested in journalism, why not take a course? There are quite a few massage courses that are being offered in Mexico and other tropical destinations. Perfect for getting away and minding your books.

PS:  I was just about to hit the publish button when I received an email from advertising their workshops on myofascial release of the the shoulder and lumbar regions.  The seminar will be in sunny Arizona (not exactly sea, sun and salsa, but at least it won’t be 20 below).  Here is the link