Lake Atitlán: San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

Prostitutes, Aliens, and All…

On San Pedro La Laguna, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

I arrived in San Pedro La Laguna on the suggestion of just about everyone I’d met. It was meant to be a lovely place. It was meant to be fun, relaxing. It seemed like the perfect distraction after studying Spanish for a month in Antigua.

And it was pretty. For about 5 minutes. Until I realized that there isn’t really any place to go to enjoy the beauty of the lake. And until I realized that everyone there is either a hippy or just wants to snort coke and take acid. Or both. I mean, really, I don’t know what I was thinking when I thought the guy in the Illini t-shirt would actually know what he was wearing and not that he just got it “off the truck.” And there are only so many times in a day I can answer, “are you having a beautiful day?” before wanting to scream.

And it was relaxing. For the first day. And then I woke up the next morning with a terrible pain in my back. Again. And could hardly move for days. Which is pretty much the opposite of relaxing.

I kind of hit a slump in San Pedro. I was meeting people but not really connecting with anyone. I was crying for everything that was going on back home (it was a week of bombings in Boston, explosions in Texas, massive flooding in Chicago). I was feeling like a “bad traveler” for taking the easy, more expensive travel options. I wasn’t really feeling Central America. I was panicking because it has really started to sink in that I am running out of money.

The truth is, I’m not really as excited about Central America as I feel like I should be. Maybe because I really know nothing about this section of the world and really hate sitting down and researching. Others rave about Honduras or Nicaragua but all I keep imagining is another hostel, more backpackers, and I’m starting to think that’s not what I want anymore.

But then when I think of other options I start to miss this life already.

In a nutshell: I’m a mess. Like always. But I’ve come up with a few ideas in my head of what I may do. I have to remind myself that I can fly anywhere in the world if I feel like it. I have to remind myself that I can go back home if I really wanted to. But, for now, I’m going to continue through Central America…

San Pedro on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

San Pedro on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

San Pedro on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

San Pedro on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

San Pedro on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

San Pedro on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

San Pedro on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

San Pedro on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

From San Pedro La Laguna I took an overnight trip to Chichicastenango souvenir market and a day trip to San Marcos.

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Julia
    April 30, 2013at6:12 pm

    I can totally relate to this. It’s also how I’ve been feeling ever since I set back off on the road. I got comfy in the US at the beginning of the year, and even though I would have had to leave (due to my visa running out) I was kind of enjoying having a boring life again for a while. Pretty much every day since we set back off, I swing wildly from knowing how amazing this experience is and enjoying it, to wondering whether it’s what I still really want.
    Stick with it for a little while and if it still doesn’t feel right, then make a change. It doesn’t make you a worse person for longing for home.

  • Lauren
    April 30, 2013at7:31 pm

    This was interesting to read as I’m *finally* going to be leaving Southeast Asia in a couple of months and heading to Central America for the first time. And, like you, I don’t really know anything about it. I’m looking forward to new food and re-learning Spanish, and beaches. I have absolutely no idea if I’ll love it or if I’ll be fleeing back to Southeast Asia within a month 🙂

    I get what you mean about not knowing what you want in life — to travel or not, as I’m sort of going through the same thing at the moment. I don’t really crave being at home, I think I’m just craving not moving. I’m spending a month in Chiang Mai at the moment, doing nothing but eating, and it’s been so wonderful that I’m dreading having to move again. I think, for me, I still want the freedom of being able to go where I want when I want — it’s just that I’d no longer choose the “where” to be changing every few days, or to be surrounded by backpackers!

  • Britany
    April 30, 2013at8:08 pm

    I totally feel for where you’re at right now. I’m currently staying in a single hotel room and have been entirely uninterested in meeting other travelers. If I hear one more backpacker on the streets of La Paz say they spent SO much money last night on booze (when drinks are like, a dollar here) I’ll puke. These funks happen on the road — they happen to me all the time, actually. Sometimes you just need to reboot somewhere. Or change things up. Either way, I’m sure you’ll figure out what you need to do to make yourself happy. Hopefully this bump in the road will lead to something even better than before!

  • michael
    September 27, 2013at6:28 pm

    i can relate on many points. first, i arrived in san pedro last night 🙂 second, yes, the backpacker scene can get quite old very fast – i did not enjoy watching people get drunk every night and then fornicate in front of others (not joking – i got very little sleep in Antigua). third, yes, it can be very difficult to “be in the moment” all the time. i cannot give you a magic pill for this since everyone has different internal workings, but i can share with you what i do when i get in a rut. first, i separate myself from the “crap” (I apologize for my french). second, i interact with the people who live there as much as possible. human interaction is key – there is only so much introspection one can do before they go crazy. third, i explore every little nook and cranny of the area so my mind now focuses on a task, and not the rut. lastly, keep in mind that 99% of the people in this world do not have the opportunity we do. for example, i was in Morocco years back and remember looking into the eyes of this kid around my age who was selling rocks on the side of the road to get by. it was gut wrenching, but i also realized that i owed it to him to travel and learn – that is to say, the more of the world i can see, and therefore become wiser, will enable me to make it a better place for other people (make sense?). oh, don’t get discouraged with backpackers … yes, there are quite a few who disgust me with their ethics, but i do meet normal ones every now and then. hope this helps, all be it my response is a little delayed 🙂

  • Gaby
    January 10, 2015at5:52 pm

    Hi! I related to this post as well. When I left for Central America in October of 2013, I told my family friends, and job that I was leaving indefinitely. Little did I know, I’d have to Panama unexpectedly (due to some drama created by another stupid backpacker) end up in Guatemala way earlier than expected, AND run out of money in Guatemala. I was going to get a job at SUBLIME, but with the exchange rates I knew I’d never get out of there.
    I also didn’t connect with many people (except my Spanish teacher Rene from Orbita Spanish School) as well. As an older traveller, I am not into getting blackout wasted (anymore) and sleeping around. I definitely am not into experimenting with any hallucinogens, so yeah I was like what is this place? But there is a way to enjoy Guatemala. Pay to go to Semuc Champay and Tikal. Take a sunrise hike to the top of Indian Nose. Hike one of the Volcanos. Go on a coffee tour. Give English lessons or try to volunteer somewhere. My favorite thing to do was to walk around the market and practice my Spanish, sit at a cafe and people watch.
    Lake Atitlan has an indescribable energy about it, feed off of it to get to know yourself better. For me, Guatemala was more for self-discovery and mastering solitude. I ended up coming home after two months in Central America. Broke, homeless,and in debt with an ex(he paid for my flight back). What I learned was traveling is like a sport, it takes years to master. The more you practice the better you get at it! Do your research, but instead of reading travel guides and sitting on wifi in your hostel, get out and ask the locals where they eat, where they hang out etc.

    It is okay not to like it. I didn’t like Costa Rica or Colombia! Who cares?

  • Luke Chenai
    February 26, 2016at10:07 pm

    Snorting cocaine, and doing some other drugs, sounds good

  • Liam
    October 30, 2016at8:10 am

    It seems that you’re travelling without purpose, if you’re only travelling to look at things and absorb culture. It will get old surprisingly fast, also there is nobody forcing you to stay anywhere, I just spent three months walking through the wilderness of Mexico. I only encountered three people, built countless shelters to sleep in, had beautiful encounters with wildlife.
    You can rent a house in San Pedro away from everyone for about $400 a month, right on the lake.
    Your life is what you make it, if you don’t want to be around humans, remove yourself, it’s that simple.

  • Ric
    May 4, 2017at5:29 pm

    Someone once said ‘life is like a box of chocolates’… traveling certainly carries the same lyric. People who participate in there journey are more likely to have positive results – but know one really knows… how those first steps will end. Many travelers encounter food poising or a scorpion sting, or a sprained knee or worse – it happens all the time.

    Traveling can have it’s best moments around any corner, there are those that can’t wait for the next day… And yes, we’ll have that gawd awful day – but that’s okay we have those at home. Traveling is so very special when its right – it’s sexy special – and when it feels wrong you’ll begin to know when to excuse yourself if the situation seems awkward.

    When traveling, that taste of cheese, or sourdough bread and wine takes on a special meaning.

    You begin to rely on your total body senses, your mind is stimulating awake in a comfortable way – life moment choices are made with more believing in self strengths – life becomes a WOW moment… That’s so cool. Yep, I dig it…
    (I’ve been in ugly/horrible travel situations) I’m living as an expat in Mexico and really enjoying myself… In two months heading into a new adventure…

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