I Tried Being Sporty in Guatemala. I Failed.

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Me putting on a brave face before my hike to Pacaya.

I bought boots, guys. I bought some rad hiking boots because, after researching what to do in Guatemala, it seemed everyone just frolicked on volcanoes. Never mind that the reasons I chose to travel there had nothing to do with adventure sports. I was attracted to its indigenous culture and rich colonial history, its literary traditions and distinctive cuisine. But I seemed to be in the minority. Everyone else was happy living out their Indiana Jones fantasies.

Hence, why I decided that I too should tap into some undiscovered athletic aspect of my personality and buy myself some hiking boots.

I spent my first days in Antigua vehemently postponing a trip to Pacaya, the volcano everyone agreed was “easy.” I lurked in the many corners of ruined churches and abandoned convents. I revisited the fantastic accounts of Conquistadors and New World subjects that I read in grad school. My mind was populated with visions of what life would have been like as a nun, my chosen vocation if I had been born in that godforsaken age. (Not because of religious inclinations, duh. But because a bunch of them got to read and write and have a semblance of a career.)

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Nuns slept here! Fancier than most dorm rooms I’ve seen.

Museums that mostly lay ignored had me as their enthusiastic visitor. My mouth watered at the 20 variations of avocados and delighted in the fact that fruit actually tasted like fruit in Guatemala, and not some sickly pale variation. My favorite day involved taking a Taste Antigua food tour, where I polished off about 8 different dishes. My senses were ignited.

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I want all that. In my mouth.

But finally, finally, I caved and signed up for the Pacaya tour. This is by no means a huge physical feat. The hike up takes about 2 hours. A few places are pretty steep, but it’s not anything that feels remotely dangerous or painful.

The payoff was not that great.

Sure, the volcanic rock and ash looked otherworldly. My lungs probably thanked me for the abundance of clean, fresh oxygen. But I’m pretty sure I would have been perfectly satisfied taking a motorized vehicle up there, looking around and then turning back.

Still, I wanted to have the full Guatemalan experience. Maybe I’d feel different on another hike, one where the fog wasn’t a cocoon of gloom and doom. I like water, kayaking on the lake should be fun! And if you go to San Marcos, you must take a yoga class. It’s simply what people do.

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A beautiful view of the San Marcos shore. Where I did not go to yoga.

Yet, when I arrived at Casa del Mundo and saw the kayaks, all I could think was of an aborted mission back in Thailand, where my kayak kept going around in circles. And when I spent the day in San Marcos and inquired about yoga classes, I realized it would conflict with my massage appointment and I would oh so much rather have my feet rubbed by a stranger.

That’s when it dawned on me. This is my vacation. Screw trying to be someone I’m not.

And if there’s something I know I’m not, it’s this: a sporty girl. I’m the one who cheers you on at 5ks but thinks it’s crazy that you actually see that as an enjoyable activity. I’m the person who would rather be dateless for a decade than join one of those softball leagues single urbanites use to hook up. I’m the lady who hates you on sight if you use the word “practice” when referring to yoga class.

But, you may wonder, isn’t travel about stepping outside of your comfort zone? Of course! I don’t regret going hiking. I’m glad I tried it at least once. Because now I know I’d much rather do something else with my time. Plus, I can’t help but think that most of my adult life is full of discomfort. As much as I like my job and the people I work with, I’m deeply uncomfortable with an office. It feels infantilizing. I’m totally awkward on the phone and in bureaucratic settings. Dragging my dirty clothes to the laundromat it uncomfortable. Having to pay taxes is uncomfortable. About the only thing I don’t find uncomfortable as a a grown up is my ability to do things without my parents’ permission. Mainly buying alcohol. And traveling.

I know there are people that get great satisfaction from pushing their bodies to the limit, strengthening those muscles, breaking their own personal records. They see exertion as proof of their vitality. Good for them.

For me, though, my body is my hedonistic best friend who worships Bacchus. Traveling is one of the few chances I have to be myself, really myself, without expectations hovering on me. So no, I did not hike up Indian Nose to catch the sunrise. Or perfect my vinyasa thanks to some overaged hippie. Or walk 2 kilometers between towns when I could take the damn boat for 5 minutes.

I slept like a baby and naturally woke up as the day’s first rays of sun filtered through my window. I had a humongous breakfast and made conversation with the townspeople. I floated on the lake and felt its cool waters sway me.

That is what Guatemala is to me.

–INES

Listen to our episode “Guatemala” on Podbean, iTunes and Stitcher.

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A real life sunrise. No tour necessary.

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28 thoughts on “I Tried Being Sporty in Guatemala. I Failed.

  1. Inés, I am so with you! I do like to hike, but everything else – spot on. I also believe travel is for relaxing, not “working” (whether work-work, or “work” like any athletic exertion).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. you stepped out of your comfort zone, looked around and said, “meh.” And stepped back in. You’re still ahead of all the people who never step out of it to begin with. thanks for joining #wkendtravelinspiration

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I too am completely unsporty so understand how you feel. We are supposed to go kayaking in the Amazon in February and am hoping I can convince someone else to row the thing for me. Can just see me ending up as piranha feed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can so relate. Did a 3 week road trip with a pair of millennials this summer and as much as I love hiking, I had to cry ‘Uncle’ finally and do the shorter trails. Also, I like taking lots of pictures and they were always turning around, coming back to wait. We just had to learn what worked and the rest of the trip went well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am with you on this. I love to hike, but when I travel it’s more about relaxation end enjoying the sights than about working out. My husband on the other hand is ready to break his neck when we travel. He would climb the most dangerous mountains and take the most challenging paths. I’d love to visit Guatemala some day. Looks very beautiful. Thanks for joining #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I didn’t have time to do the Pacaya Volcano tour when I visited Antigua. You wrote about the volcanic landscape. Aren’t you supposed to see lava on that tour? Did you see it? Thanks for letting me know about the food tour. That is one I will like to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Episode 18: Guatemala | xxwilltravel

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