Back in May 2010, my husband, sister-in-law and I took an epic trip to Guatemala. Five days into our trip, a tropical storm was on its way, and we had to leave Antigua due to flooding. A few days before that, we were trapped in the village of Panajachel by workers with machetes who had blocked all the roads in and out of town with fallen trees… along with some beer and taco carts. (Hey, if you’re going to go on strike against the government for cheaper electricity rates, you’d better bring along some alcohol and tacos, eh?) A few days before that, a bat attacked us in the middle of the night in our room out in the tiny remote Lake Atitlan village we were staying in. To top things off (quite literally), the volcano Pacaya, normally one of the primary tourist attractions in Guatemala, decided to get angry and blow up in a big way for the first time in years, spewing 3 inches of black ash all over the capitol. We had been planning to hike the volcano the very next day, in fact. We heard that some volcano hikers that day had been injured and several even killed due to the unforeseen blast.
We made it back to Guatemala City on one of the last shuttles out of Antigua as the water rose, just in time for the worst of the tropical storm to blow in (which happened to be 2 days after the volcanic blast). We decided to hang around in Guatemala’s biggest shopping mall as it blew through, listening to the wind and rain howling on the roof. Meanwhile, somewhere else in the city, a massively deep, round sinkhole appeared, swallowing almost an entire city block. In mountainous areas, the rain caused dangerous mudslides, killing families. It was a terrible, sad week for many people in Guatemala.
The next morning, one thing was for sure – Guatemala City was still covered in inches of volcanic ash, and the ongoing wind and rain was making the cleanup effort difficult. All flights were cancelled for weeks. Ready to get home, we found a bus service that would take us to El Salvador (5 hours away) so we transferred our flight to San Salvador in order to get home.
I know that I should have taken time to thank God then that we had been protected from machetes, lava, floods, storms, sinkholes, and mudslides. But fear has a way of obscuring the things you should be thankful for, while only focusing your attention on larger and larger heaps of worry.
Looking back, we were blessed and protected. We were able to get last-minute hotel rooms in places that were safe. We were helped by some amazing and friendly people we met along the way. The taxi drivers we hired in Guatemala and San Salvador in particular were some of the nicest people we could hope to meet. They treated us almost like long lost family as they showed us around, helped us track down a very hard-to-find house where my sister-in-law was born in Guatemala City (more to come on that story later), and showed us where to find some amazing local food.
It all sounds like such a thrilling adventure now in the retelling, nearly three years later, but it didn’t always feel that way at the time. It reminds me of a great CS Lewis quote from one of the Narnia books:
“Adventures are never fun while you’re having them.”
Over the years, I’ve realized that I am the kind of person who lives for adventure. I live for an experience, a story, and the feeling that I’ll never quite be the same tomorrow.
But what I don’t always remember is that sometimes adventures don’t look like adventures at all… sometimes they look like big fat problems. Real, honest-to-goodness, every-day adventures can be disguised as ominous-looking mountains, annoyingly plopped right in my way.
It’s easy to fear the climb. There are sheer drop-offs. Conditions can be extreme and dangerous. Sometimes the path disappears altogether. But onward and upward is where the road always goes, if it goes anywhere at all. Yes, there are many excuses to wait. The weather, the gear, the training… But truth be told, waiting too long is just as dangerous as moving forward… feet often forget how to move at all if they remain motionless for too long.
I suppose the first step in an every-day adventure is just that: a first step. Then another, and another… and another…
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller