By the time you read this, I’ll be back in the United States for a welcomed two-week break from everything being, well, so hard.
No more search parties for every item I need. No more lapses in communication. No more cold showers, constellations of mosquito bites, difficult kitchens, lifeless WiFi, lack of water, or feeling dirty. For at least 18 days.
As excited as I am (honestly, I’m so pumped), I still don’t know how it will feel to abruptly shift back to my old, comfortable way of life. Will it be jarring? Will as feel as disconnecting as it felt when I took the plunge in leaving it?
Have I become accustomed, more than I even realize, to this harder degree of living?
I’ll have some idea soon.
But in the meantime, I thought I would share my list of all the things I’m excited for and all the things in this wild, new life that I believe I’ll miss until my return.
Here we go:
THE EXCITEMENT LIST
Hot showers. And while we’re on the subject, clean showers, bug-free showers and showers with nice shower heads. Wow, I almost feel guilty having all of those things at once.
Quiet. I’ve been dreaming about this one for two weeks. Because it is literally loud in Guatemala at all times. What can I say? People seem to enjoy noise. They seem to enjoy talking loud and making a point three times louder. The kids mimic these goals. And since everyone lives outside, tiered orchestra of backyards projects blaring TV shows, instrument practice (marching band are about as popular as beer, here), screaming kids and lots of conversation. Cars, rigged with huge speakers and drive around blasting advertisements for cleaning and other services. Oh, and there are also crowing roosters (let me tell you, this “crack of dawn is the only time they crow is a big farce), barking dogs, fighting cats, casa-rattling, bomblike fireworks that need no occasion for being set off. For the first month, I called it “vibrant.” Now, I just call it “loud.”
Salads. I know, boring right? Wrong. If you’ve been traveling in Mexico and Guatemala for three months you realize that salads are actually God’s version of tacos, tossed by cherubs in the Garden of Eden. They do not exist in Mexico and Guatemala, at least not if you expect them to be fresh and salad-y. And every longterm traveler here that I’ve told I’m excited about salads has given me a sober “mmmmm yeahhhh,” so it’s not just me.
Good WiFi. Have you guys noticed that I like and appreciate good WiFi and that it doesn’t exist very often in Guate? I may have posted approximately 37 Instagram stories on the matter.
Pillow-top mattresses. What is it like to sleep for more than four hours? I forgot.
Washers and DRYERS. And having some control over that mess (vs. the lavandaria deciding to close early or not have your stuff). Dryers are really epically convenient, in case you’re not aware.
Flushing my toilet paper. And having toilet paper! And having a toilet seat! What basic privileges that I didn’t even truly realize were privileges until living, longterm, in countries where I often have none of those things. When you have no seat the process becomes a lot more difficult, OK? And when you can’t flush the paper, let me tell you, bathrooms start to stink. The experience goes from an ordinary routine to a combat zone, where the goal is to get out alive without touching anything.
Having hair that looks nice. I’m going to, like, “do” my hair! It’s going to be a thing again! I’m probably going to remember how much I hate doing my hair very quickly but having something on top of my head that doesn’t resemble a bird’s nest is going to be very special.
American newspapers. Here, I often pick the papers up to read the headlines and skim, but its imminently more taxing, and I don’t get a lot of the news I care about in that form (and I’m old school as you know. I like to feel my news).
Napkins. Even in nice restaurants in Guatemala, patrons are typically given only get a single piece of tissue paper that falls apart in approximately 35 seconds when faced, head-to-head with a dripping hamburguesa or a piled-high doblado. Cloth napkins, I will never again take you for granted.
Food variety. Pizza and hamburgers exist just about everywhere, I have found. But real food diversity — Asian, African food, a lot of American and European foods — just doesn’t exist in this part of the world. I have a new serious appreciation for the privilege of saying “I’m really craving some Indonesian food,” or “I could really go for either some East African or Peruvian.” My immediate targets: raw oysters and Vietnamese food (particularly a bahn mi, bahn xeo and spring rolls). And sparkling wine. My god do I miss sparkling wine. And yes, I realize this entire paragraph is extremely First World Problem-y.
Cooking in a well-equipped kitchen. Knives! Cutting boards! Peelers! Zesters! Colanders! Food processors! Vitamix blenders! DISHWASHERS!!! Be still my heart.
American sports. We’re three weeks into the NFL season, college football is back, the MLB playoffs are happening now and I have no clue what’s going on. Patrick Mahomes is suddenly an MVP candidate??? The A’s won 97 games?? I’m going to need to catch up.
THE MISSING LIST
Street dogs. In many places of Guatemala, especially around the lake, the street dogs amazingly well-fed and friendly and sometimes they follow you around to protect you (and hopefully get food). It’s a dog utopia, truly.
Boats as transport. Cars and Ubers are fine, but nothing compares with getting from A to B with lake spray on your arms and the wind in your face as you take in tiny villages, fishing boats and smoking volcanoes.
Being surrounded by mountains. For the last few months, I’ve been in view of almost 360-degree hills at almost all times. That does something to you. It’s calming. It’s placing. It continually reminds you of your own smallness and insignificance in a big, wild world.
Being outside all the time. I truly believe it’s healing for me.
Leaving the windows open at night. There is something wonderfully peaceful about allowing the cool, fresh, evening air to float in as you sleep — that is, if you have a great mosquito net, and can ignore the dogs/ roosters.
Getting dinner for $2. My budget is going to be hurting badly while in the U.S.
The coffee. With the surrounding hills dotted by a multitude of coffee farms, a lot of the java brewed around the cities and towns is nothing short of excellent. I managed to snag a small bag of beans — I actually left a couple things behind to fit that sucker in — but it broke and spilled all over the contents of my backpack during the journey. I’m in mourning.
Naranjada con soda. If you ever drank an orangeade in a diner as a kid, perhaps you can begin to comprehend the deliciousness of this Guatemalan drink made from fresh oranges and a healthy dose of sugar. But in Guatemala, you have the option to add club soda rather than filtered water, and let me tell you, there are few things I consume so quickly.
Walking everywhere. Physically, I really benefit from moving my legs so much. While on the road, I typically walk between eight and ten miles a day. I have no doubt that number will drop, notably, while in the U.S. and staying places where life is more spread out and people circle the grocery store parking lot looking for the closest spot.
Street food. I stand by my statement that the best food in Guatemala is made on the streets. These are well-worn recipes, perfected over time, and made by locals generally for their neighbors and friends. There is a lot of pride here, and it shows in the finished products. There’s something about watching your meal being created in front of you, over live fire, or pulled from a basket draped with colorful cloths. And did I mention it’s cheap???
The weather. Characterized by cool nights and mornings, hot bursts of sun and plenty of rain, lush vegetation, Guatemala — known as the land of eternal spring — seems to be in a constant state of bloom and renewal.