To my friend Lucy, who showed me her world in Antigua and how to love the art of photography. I will forever be grateful for your kindness and friendship. May our paths meet again!
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”- Flavia Weedn
I always find it hard to say goodbye to a place. I found it especially true with Guatemala. Over the last week I’d been as immersed as possible with the culture. I lived with a host family, took intensive spanish courses, climbed a volcano at the crack of dawn, took my first chicken bus and learned to slow everything down and take things as they come. All in all, you couldn’t ask for a better journey than that.
As Sunday morning came and went, I felt a sadness about leaving so soon. I could hardly believe how much I’d done and seen in only a week. Perhaps more than many people ever experience at all. I honestly believe that immersing oneself as much as possible in the culture you are visiting, is the greatest reward ever when it comes to traveling. It was no vacation, that is for sure. Every day I rose exhausted beyond belief and wondering how I’d gather the energy to make it through another long albeit exhilarating day. But one thing I’ve come to learn and understand about myself over the years is that this is how I like to travel. I would do it no other way. A vacation? No thanks. Sitting on the beach? I’d be bored in two minutes. Running around a country and trying to see and learn as much as possible in only a week with never taking a moment to sit still? That is what I do. That is what I crave. And most importantly, that is what I love.
Sensational, cloudless view of Agua Volcano on Sunday morning, the day of my departure.
I know that many people find my way of traveling absolutely crazy. They don’t understand me one bit.
But as I always love to say and quote my parents for reminding me “The world is your oyster”. With those encouraging, motivating words….there was no time to sit aimlessly in my room checking emails. I had to take advantage of every moment and opportunity I got to explore, learn and see my surroundings. For how else would I get a sense of compassion for Guatemala? It certainly wouldn’t be gained from laying on my bed reading a book.
It just so happens that my last day in Guatemala was a spectacular one. The temperature was breathtakingly perfect. My absolute favorite kind of weather…..low 70s, blue sky, gentle breeze. The kind of weather that makes me feel alive. That makes me feel that anything is possible. It is no wonder that they call Antigua “the land of eternal spring”. This lovely city could not have a more exquisite year-round climate than anywhere.
Lucy and I lucked out by having a sensational view at the Cerro de la Cruz. I finally got to see the pointed tips of all three volcanoes. The sky was blue, the clouds were a cottony white. The only thing I didn’t have that day was time. Time was dwindling quickly like water draining from a half-full tub. As much as I wanted to stay and linger, it was time to head back and catch my ride back to Guatemala City where I’d be flying home.
As the clouds pulled back and the volcano rose at all her glory, I found it hard to say goodbye.
Finally, I got the much heeded view of the arch with Agua soaring up behind.
I sure would miss the lovely multi-colored buildings. There was always a brilliant color to enjoy. I could never decide on a favorite but bright yellow and scarlet red were among the top. I also loved the turquoise blue. You could never feel sad living in such a colorful place!
As we walked back to my hotel to gather my things, I couldn’t help but snap some pictures of my favorite things about Antigua. I knew I already had at least 500 but for some reason I just couldn’t stop. Comparable to Paris, I found Antigua one of the most picturesque cities in the world. Every step of the way, was a photo waiting to be taken. I could have literally spent months trying to capture it all on film.
Here are some of the highlights.
Colorful buildings with pale yellow churches soaring above…
Interesting sorts of transportation and cobblestone streets.
Ruins, ruins, ruins and dilapidated buildings and walls.
Purple and white, purple and white…signs of Semana Santa galore!
And those lovely ruins…everywhere, reminding us of the earthquakes and dangers that lay close to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And the resilience and courage of rebuilding and remaining.
The lovely purple jacaranda trees in bloom throughout the town. Ironically enough they matched the colors of Holy Week/Semana Santa.
The greenery and flower pedals on the ground. The beauty and serendipity of the place.
The colors and the cracked, aging paint which told the history of years long past.
Fountains of joy.
Cracked buildings could never be so beautiful telling their own history of the past.
Colors wove seamlessly together to perfection and a delight to the eye.
Hues of blues and purples and beautiful window sills.
I left feeling a heavy lump in my chest. I didn’t want to leave but of course it was time. I knew my children missed me as did my husband. I had a family waiting for me, anxiously and expectedly. Yet my heart lingered a bit in Guatemala.
I said my goodbyes to Lucy, my newly-made friend who had been an amazing host. She basically opened up her time and heart for me. We had never met until this weekend. We had followed each other blogs on WordPress for close to a year. And look what a wonderful weekend we shared together! What an amazing time and friendship we had developed!
It was hard to leave but time. Lucy had arranged for a Guatemalan friend to drive me to the airport that morning. I was happy to get one more whirl at speaking Spanish as well as an opportunity to learn more about Guatemala.
About ten minutes into our drive, a cell phone rang. Lucy had called to tell us about the amazing stroke of luck. If we pulled over fast, we would be able to catch a glimpse of Volcan de Fuego or “Volcano of Fire, the most active volcano in Antigua, erupting! I could hardly believe it! We were just shortly outside of town, pulled over at a gas station to fill up the tank, when there it was, a mystical send off for me! I could hardly believe my eyes or my luck. It felt like some kind of odd sign.
Here are my pictures of Fuego’s eruption. I was fortunate to have a platform to stand on so I could get a better view of her smoke.
This by far is my absolute favorite picture! I love the fact that Fuego is erupting right behind the remnants of the ruins!
I couldn’t think of a better send off than that. I could hardly believe my luck. It felt like a final farewell from Antigua. A gift. A promise for me to come back to this lovely city someday. I sure hope I do!
A few more chicken buses.
I arrived at the airport in plenty of spare time. I enjoyed a delicious lunch, a glass of cold white wine and called my family via Skype. The kids were thrilled to have me on my way home and I realized how much I had missed them and how much I had to share. I couldn’t wait to get home.
As I headed over to the gate I noticed a funny-looking group of clowns honking horns and making people laugh. Of course I befriended them. I have some kind of hidden talent for making friends everywhere I go. Their story was wonderful! They had just spent an entire week with Patch Adams clowning and visiting sick children at orphanages and hospitals. Wow, how inspiring!
Me and my newly made friends.
I boarded the plane exhausted yet fulfilled. I had accomplished all I had set out to do and more. As I sat down and closed my eyes, I couldn’t help but think about the future. Where was my next trip? As a diehard wanderlust, you never stop wondering or wandering
Wow, I can’t believe you got to see the volano erupting before you left. That is totally cool! And I find it sad that folks would think your love of travel is strange–such a narrow way of looking at the world. I’ve loved your Guatemala series, Nicole!
Well, I guess I’m meaning more of my mom friends, the ones that don’t know me as well. Probably cause they don’t travel like this and prefer a Florida beach, right.
Thank you so much Nicole! I absolutely loved showing you around and was so excited to finally meet you! What a great post! I really hope you make it back to Antigua one day even if I’m not still here. May our wanderlust lead our paths to cross again in another incredible spot on this planet!!!
I am certain our paths will cross again!
Every single post in this series has been outstanding Nicole! And very inspiring! I hope I make it to Antigua some day 🙂
Thanks Madhu! I am so glad you enjoyed it! I hope you get there too as I know you would love it there. I want to explore more of Central America now. I am such a travel freak!
Fabulous, Nicole. I was in Guatemala in December and fell in love with the place. I was based out of Antigua, but travelled to Atitlan and Tikal too, both of which are magical. I love that Fuego gave you a farewell eruption – one of the most exhilarating experiences I had in Guatemala was going with a local group to see Fuego at night, it was incredible to see the red hot eruptions and lava streaming down its sides by the light of a silvery moon. Something I will never forget, and something I have to see again in the near future. xxx
Wow, looks like I’m going to have some reading to do on your blog! What were you doing in Guatemala? Traveling? Volunteering? I wished I could have gone to Atitlan. I wanted to so incredibly bad as I heard it is amazing. I know I would have loved it with the lakes and volcanoes. Did you feel safe there? I heard it can get sketchy. Ah, how I want to go back and yes do the Fuego hike at night!!! Wow!!! Point me in the direction of your posts….!
I was just travelling around, and didn’t spend half enough time there, it’s such a magical place – Lake Atitlan blew my mind, it was breathtaking. I went to Atitlan with a friend but travelled to Tikal on my own, and never once felt compromised in any way. Guatemala City is supposed to be dodgy, but I didn’t spend any time there. I found the Guatemalan people incredibly warm and welcoming and I made quite a few friends (reading your posts, it sounds like we’re kindred spirits!) Here are my travel posts: http://wheresmybackpack.wordpress.com/category/guatemala/ Start at the bottom and work your way up to go in chronological order – and then http://ailsapm.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/sugar/ and http://ailsapm.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/jungle-wildlife/ on my nature & wildlife blog are kind of fun too! So glad we found each other’s blogs 🙂
Wow, I have truly enjoyed reading your blog! Where do you live and what do you do? It is true we sound like we are two peas in a pod! That is what I love so much about blogging! I’ve met so many cool people through it with such similar outlooks and wanderlust! I even got to meet a fellow WordPress blogger, Lucy, in Antigua. SHe lives there! It is such a great community! Now you’ve got me dreaming again of Antigua. My problem is that all my trips are short usually since I’m on a short leash (ha ha….just a joke). I feel it is a lot to leave since my husband is with the kids and/or my mom comes to help out. Thus for now my trips are very short and intense. One week but see everything until I’m ready to pass out. I really love what I’ve seen of Central America so far. I went to Costa Rica two years ago on a volunteer trip and then Guatemala. I would love to see more, especially Honduras. Ahh….the love of travel!
And I’m having great fun reading about your adventures, you have the same approach to life as I do, hurrah for meeting great peeps on WordPress. I’m in NYC at the mo (actress by profession) but supplement (as you do) with all kinds of stuff including photography. I know what you mean about short intense travel, by the way, I was only in Guatemala for 8 days but crammed as much as I possibly could into those 8 days – barely slept! 🙂 Usually, though, I like to spend more time, and travel slow. It makes for a much better experience. I haven’t been to Costa Rica yet but boy is it high up on my list – one of my passions is wildlife – and the attempt to photograph them. (I have a nature/wildlife blog too – http://ailsa.wordpress.com ) so top of my list are places like Antarctica, Madagascar and the Galapagos. Soon….
oops that should read http://ailsapm.wordpress.com