There’s always that moment when you see or experience something in real life that you previously had only glimpsed in photos.
That sense of comparison.
Of disappointment or surprise.
Of noticing things that even the most expensive of camera lens wouldn’t be able to capture.
After I impulsively decided to fly to Guatemala during my last full week of summer vacation, the internet told me that Lake Atitlan was one of the most highly suggested sites to visit within this beautiful Central American country. The pictures were fantastic, and I held in my mind this image of where I was going and precisely what it looked like.
And so, as the shuttle bounced along the pot-hole roads, and took curves at an alarming speed, I perched on the edge of my seat ready to see The Lake.
Because that’s what the locals call it – simply The Lake.
Granted, it’s for a good reason – Lake Atitlan is a massive body of water cradled nicely within a former super volcano’s crater (also called a caldera). Surrounding the lake, are numerous Mayan villages, stunning hills and highlands, and a couple other “smaller” volcanoes just to make things interesting.
I began to see snippets of blue – azul – through the fast-moving cars. It was hard to place whether I was looking at the horizon or a body of water. My driver, who spoke very little English, proudly announced one word: soon. Moments later I saw him smile in the rear view mirror as he slowed down after yet another break-neck curve.
There was The Lake: A picturesque natural phenomenon littered with man-made buildings and boats both across and around its perimeter. It was dazzling in the early morning sunlight, and I couldn’t wait to get closer.
Down the hill we went, and that’s when I began noticing and collecting images that are more valuable (and last longer) than the tchotchkes available at tourist markets.
- The way the boats bobbed in the calmness of the harbor, rising up only when an arrival or departure stirred the water
- The ominous rise of the sharpened peak of San Pedro volcano, reflected on The Lake
- The vast incline of the surrounding land, making walks into local villages an exhilarating challenge
- The perfect blend of sky, water, volcanoes, hills, rock, and local people that made this place better than any postcard or online picture
Perhaps this is what it comes down to: nothing can replace personal experiences. Photos on computer desktops might be serene and interesting (thanks Windows 10), but seeing those places for myself is a fantastic rush. Personally witnessing a wild and natural space increases my happiness levels ten-fold.
My challenge to you, dear reader, is to find a picturesque place and go. Make it happen. Life is too short to look at two-dimensional photos of sought-after outside worlds.
See and experience real life.
You can do it. 🙂
I’m going to start adding some helpful tips to the end of my blog posts. If You Decide to Go will provide specific information for those who may take a similar trip. Stay tuned for more upcoming changes to the site!
If You Decide to Go:
- You can hire a guide for the day (bilingual if necessary), or you can just pay one of the boat operators to take you to the surrounding villages. Be sure to agree on a price beforehand! Typically a day will cost you anywhere from $10-$50.
- Be sure to check out San Juan, my favorite village. I watched a chocolatier make authentic Mayan chocolate, and a local woman hand dye cotton thread for their brightly-hued clothing.
- Wear sunscreen and sun protection! The high elevation and proximity to the equator means a high UV index.
- I wasn’t able to do the Indian Nose hike, but I’ve heard that it’s incredible. Check it out and let me know what you think!