Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala: Day 2

IMG_5406A beautiful and peaceful trip from Antigua to Panajachel by shuttle through the mountains of Guatemala where the fog completely hid Lago de Atitlan from us in this eery yet magical way. I was taken aback when we actually arrived at sea level underneath the fog filled skies and saw the giant size of the azure lake with its panoramic views of the surrounding three volcanoes. It seemed like Atitlan was meant to be hidden from the rest of the world almost like another dimension might be – one where you have to enter through a portal. The most commonly used portal in this case is Panajachel.

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I met two lovely young ladies, Vanessa and Megan from Toronto, on the shuttle bus to Pana who suggested I join them at Free Cerveza Hostel for none other than glamping. As I had no idea what glamping was and we were in this parallel universe tucked under this dense fog and hidden by these 3 volcanoes, I was 100% in. You have to take a boat from Pana to get to Free Cerveza and had the boat been a canoe like so many boats on the lake, I think the atmosphere might have made me believe we were paying the 20 quetzales to cross over to the underworld on the River Styx.

This feeling disappeared momentarily as I was thrust back into reality by none other than Daniella, the owner of Free Cerveza Hostel who politely asked me to leave. Ironically, her reasoning, in essence, was that I already had one foot in the grave. (But if I do, she’s joining me shortly.) Daniella apparently has a policy of not allowing “old” people to stay in her hostel. She claimed somewhat pretentiously that the policy behind the age restriction was maintaining the “integrity of the vibe” there at Free Cerveza. After the shock swept over me and the others who were guests there including, Vanessa and Megan, I felt angry and resentful. Just so you know, in all 69 countries thus far, this kind of discrimination has never happened. Travelers are wholeheartedly welcomed throughout the world (at least thus far) and, particularly, in hostels. The “more the merrier” type of motto if you will. We travelers love to meet people of every race, age, ethnicity, sexual preference and religion. Some of the greatest people I’ve met in the world range from 18 years on up to 100 and are from all walks of life. I speak for all of us travelers to the extent that I can given the probably hundreds if not thousands of people I’ve met over the last almost 15 months in 69 different countries and on 6 different continents. Travelers have fine tuned the art of a big heart and open mind. The Daniella’s of the world – whose real “vibe” is exclusivity – like so many right now, including the leaders of a variety of countries – should be ashamed to perpetuate this line of thinking. In fact, I would go as far as to say Daniella has managed to take the one place left in the world that hasn’t slipped back in time as of late…the one place you can count on to open its doors to everyone – the Hostel World – and tarnished the extremely inclusive nature of it. Until this policy changes at Free Cerveza I beseech everyone to boycott it. You can glamp (ie glamorous camp somewhere else in the world where everyone is welcome).

I don’t say this because it happened to me. I say this because we should be moving this world forward toward togetherness and away from discrimination. It starts with each and every one of us and can be as small as smiling at someone who is different from you or can be as simple as avoiding the institution of policies that exclude groups because of things like age or sexual preference. The funny part about it, if there is one when we are talking about discrimination, is that the look on my face must have been strangely quizzical after Daniella demanded I leave, as I completely forgot how old I really was and almost started to argue with her about my age. Where did the time go is what crossed my mind? The answer came to me almost instantaneously: and no it wasn’t “time flies when you are having fun” although such would be apropos. The answer was there is no such thing as time when you are out here doing what I’m doing. In fact, it’s one of the greatest gifts that comes with exploring this beautiful earth we all share – you don’t often know what day of the week it is or really what time it is. You are almost always in the present moment rarely ever in the past or future and the present moment is filled with some new adventure you are doing or new person you just met or new idyllic scenery you just saw or new cultural difference you just witnessed. Time as we know it doesn’t exist out here. Imagine living in a world without time. Imagine just being.  Almost impossible to understand unless you experience it first hand just as its almost impossible for you to understand the magic of the place I went to when I was ousted but I will try to convey it nonetheless.

Lago de Atitlan’s perimeter is made up of many little Mayan villages as authentic as one can hope for. As Sinde suggested San Marcos, I just caught the next ferry from the land of the exclusive and headed straight there. The Canadian girls were to follow the next day after going to Chichicastenango for market Thursday. (Only open Thursday and Sunday so plan accordingly if you would like to experience this.) I ended up at Hostel Del Lago in San Marcos and what an interesting and spectacular place to end up with its own dock, a sauna, a yoga platform, massage parlor, a fire pit, good food and an inordinate number of lovely hostel volunteers from all over working 5.5 hours a day for free food and accommodation. But watch out for the snakes and spiders here! Carla learned the hard way. The good news is that the Mayans believe that snakes and spiders are a sign of an upcoming rebirth and after having met Carla, I can say she has a very exciting rebirth ahead of her and soon will know what her future holds.

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It was a special week for the locals preceding Dia de Mayo and as such there was a lot of drinking and dancing and parades to celebrate and in a Mayan Village with a ferris wheel if you can believe it. In fact, Franscika, my Italian girlfriend and roommate, and I were invited to shake a tail feather with some local gentlemen and so, of course, we did. Dancing with locals to their music is one of my favorite pastimes so when someone holds their hand out, just take it, you’ll love it and it doesn’t matter if you know how to dance to their music I assure you. The locals just want to meet you and can and will guide you through the steps.

That’s all for now from Lago de Atitlan.

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