Guatemala, Travel

Guatemala III: The Guatemalan Grind

Zoom hanging laundry on the clothesline

This is the third and final installment in the Guatemala series (recommended reading: Part 1 & Part 2).

The Routine

We all have our daily grind. Work, errands, chores, friends, school. No matter where I go in the world, the grind is the same. I did all those things in Guatemala, but the adventure is in the way you go about it.

In America, I sometimes feel we are consumed by productivity. How much can I get done, and how can I get it done in as little time as possible? (“Aaaaamen”, right?) When you’re done with one task, you approach the next in the same manner. Bring technology into the mix, and its almost required that you live a life of multitasking just to keep up. Personally, this constant GO-GO-GO mindset makes it hard to shift into ‘relax mode’.

As a kid, I sometimes felt that even vacation was an exercise in American productivity. “How hardcore can we vacation?” On Tuesday we are going to do this, this, and this. Wednesday we have to be here by this time, and out by this time to make it to this place with enough time to see that thing.

Burning Man was my first vacation where I made the plans. Which, as it turned out, the plan was to have no plan. I learned how to reach what us burners like to call “burning”.

“Are you burning yet?”

That blissful moment where the threads to real life snap and, no longer the puppet of the grind, you’re free to ….well, be free! The term doesn’t just apply at Burning Man, you can reach Burning status anywhere. For me, going abroad helps expedite this process because of the radical change in the routine. Yes, I’m still doing the grind, but the delivery of it is anything but routine.

Like doing laundry.

My Guatemalan Grind

No matter where you are in the world, there are things you’ll always need to do – right? We, as humans, have a basic grind we must all adhere to – laundry is the perfect example. For the first leg of the trip, Hayden and I operated out of his Scrubba wash bag. I was a bit adverse to using it…but I was wrong. This thing IS. AWESOME. And it’s fun too, which one doesn’t often get to say about doing laundry! Your put your clothes, water, and detergent in it then set it on the ground and give it a good massage. Voila!

Scrubba wash bag
Scrubba wash bag

Then there’s the administrative things. Online banking, emails, the self-imposed blogging. There’s even video-game-esque aspects such as inventory management – living out of a backpack can be hard, ya’ll. Along with constant vigilance about your personal space, and bombarding over-stimulation, together these compose the ‘traveler’s grind’.

Once we moved into an apartment, I was burning. I developed a ‘vacation grind’ easily. My grind started with grounds – local ground coffee, that is. I wasn’t a coffee-addict before working at a hip start-up in Chicago which offered free coffee. As much as you wanted, whenever you wanted. Now I have it almost every morning, thanks Chicago! *shakes fist*

In Guatemala, it got dark around 6:30 – 7 pm with the sun rising around 5 am. A sleep schedule of 9:30-6 somehow became perfectly normal. Honestly, I loved it and kind of miss it. We were so far up the side of the mountain that all you could hear was the soft “bzzzzzz” of boat engines and the regular “Pana!” signaling the docked boat was leaving for the main city, Panajachel. With virtually no light pollution, the stars were always gleaming and beautifully visible.

After coffee came breakfast, which Hayden made most of the time. French toast, fresh fruit, freakin’ crepes! Sometimes we kept it simple (like on scuba class days), eating cereal with the strange 3% Guatemalan milk. I hope someday I get to eat another breakfast with such a breathtaking view.

The view from the kitchen of my apartment in Guatemala

After breakfast, it was time for the activity of the day.


  • Grocery shopping
  • Hiking
  • Media entertainment (games/movies)
  • Scuba Diving
  • Chores/cleaning
  • Exploring nearby villages
  • Dining
  • Cooking class

”Video game” was the activity of choice more than I care to admit for being in a place so wondrous. I told myself that it wasn’t so shameful to be wasting my break doing something I could do at home because I was playing Tropico. The world of Tropico has a lot of parallels with Guatemala. The bright colors, the architecture, the export industries – even the flora is similar. And look, my avatar is there!

Can you pick out which photos are from the video game?

Looks pretty similar right?! Even though I played through two Tropico campaigns, I still made time for plenty of other non-grind activities.

The Dry Time in the Rainy Season

Our trip took place during Central America’s rainy season (invierno). Mexico City lived up to exactly what we expected for the whole trip – being soaked the whole time we were there. Guatemala pleasantly surprised us. We found ourselves in the middle of a phenomenon called “canícula” – the dry time in the rainy season. The canícula is a few weeks in July or August where the weather is just splendid. Taking advantage of it, one day Hayden and I decided we would try to go find “the waterfall” using not much more than a hand drawn map.

We didn’t find the waterfall LOL! Still, we had a great time hiking in the jungle. There were a few uncomfortable parts – like spotting a pack of kids with machetes and a potentially topless woman – but overall we came home with a free workout, some ant bites, and a bit of a sunburn.

Me walking through the jungle around Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is home to several native villages settled on the shorelines of the lake. Only two of them are accessible by car (Panajachel and San Pedro). The others are accessed via water taxis. Each village has its own vibe. We didn’t visit all of them, but enjoyed the ones we did. San Marcos is very ‘third eye aware’. Lots of yoga, meditation, chakra energies, tarot readings and other metaphysical mysteries.

San Pedro was more of a backpacker’s area. Lots of fellow tourists and vagabonds. Typically windy Guatemalan roads lined with shops selling western food, trinkets, produce or fabrics.

Our favorite village though was our little Santa Cruz. <3

After the morning activity, it was time for a power nap and more administrative things. Since it got dark so early, dinner was usually around 6pm sharp. Rounding out the evening with several hands of cards (P.S Card decks in Mexico don’t include queens) and a few episodes of Archer, or a movie. The perfect ending to endless perfect days – my kind of grind.

Even though I’m settling back into my classic state-side grind, I’m already dreaming up the next adventure. Continental road trip, anyone?


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