My ecstasy is travel. It is my escape. I have a constant and intense passion to be submerged in new experiences and new culture. Always challenged, always learning. Like cherry blossoms in spring, I discover the sweet aroma of new life. The new perspective brings refreshment, invigoration, and renewal. It is a revitalization that demands closeness to my Creator, my Cloud Rider.
The latest beyond borders escapade was to Guatemala. I had been to Central America before, to the beautiful country of Honduras, but this was my first journey to Gaute. This was a special trip though. My cousin Katie has been living for many months in this country as a missionary. While serving, she met a native missionary and they fell in love. I attended their wedding (which was the initial purpose of my visit), but I was intent on exploration.
Pressed for time, I flew down for an extended weekend (you know me, a life of overextension and overcommitment…but I am working on that!). Showing up roughly 45 minutes before my international flight was to take off, I arrived with just enough time to slip through security and board my plane. A short layover in Dallas put me in Guatemala on Friday evening.
After arrival, I was welcomed and greeted by a phenomenal missionary family which anticipated that I would be famished. They prepared an American meal – a delectable selection of grilled burgers, sausage, and sweet corn. We chatted of the nuptials. It was a quaint conversation. Emotion overwhelmed me in the moment and my gaze turned heavenward as I could almost taste the coming Kingdom. I savored every last bite of that delicious twinkle of time.
Saturday morning was lazy. A good lazy. After a comfortable rest I woke to the surrounding fragrance of fresh brewed Guatemalan coffee. I sat on a veranda that peered into a deep valley below, flavorful coffee resting on my tongue, caffeine awakening me from my slumber, and the Word of God speaking to my heart. Have you experienced a similar moment? Your dreams seem reality. Your life is content.
After a morning of conversation it was time for the anticipated moment. The wedding. Being in Guatemala, the wedding had a Spanish and Mayan flare. It was beautiful. A gift to the bride as it were. Of course it being completely in Spanish, it was difficult for me to understand the entire ceremony with consistent fluency, but the commitment made was moving.
But enough about the wedding (I’m a dude, not a wedding planner, so give me a break)! The remainder of the trip (two short days) was spent in fact finding mode and in fruitful discovery.
I took off for the west coast. Roads were rough and reminded me of my time in Zambia – especially when riding on the rustic country roads. Fortunately we were driving a GMC Yukon which provided excellent comfort and four-wheel capabilities to maneuver the gaping holes in the ground that could only be described as land mines! The most interesting leg of the journey was when the road ended however. To reach our destination, we had to drive our vehicle onto a wooden raft that wasn’t much larger than the Yukon in length or width. Once we negotiated the price – twenty whole bucks – we floated down river until we reached Montericco – a black sand paradise.
The beach is uniquely black because the water reduces volcanic rock to a fine grain of sand. What I loved most about this location is that it was off the beaten path. Very few tourists venture to this beach and as a result we practically had the beach to ourselves. With waves 10-15 feet tall and water warm as a bath, it was truly paradise. Once I had my fill of sand (after attempts to wave surf), I cleaned myself up at the hotel and had dinner at a local Spanish restaurant overlooking the ocean.
This restaurant, affectionately called Johnny’s Place, had an open air feel. A cool sea breeze shadowed across the sand as evening ventured in with the sun was setting over the horizon. For dinner, we chose from a plethora of authentic Spanish cuisine prepared fresh. I proudly chose beef fajitas, fashioned with homemade corn tortillas and an inviting selection of toppings: guacamole, lettuce, sour cream, jalapenos, and cheese. While waiting for the meal to be served I lounged in a netted hammock under shelter of a cabana and listened to the crashing waves.
Another solid night of sleep passed by and I said my goodbyes to the black sand paradise. It was time to explore another city. The city of Antigua. The history in this city is astounding and the view is unlike any other. Surrounded by three volcanoes, this 1700’s metropolis has a hint of European style. It had once been destroyed by an catastrophic hellish flow of lava but they have since rebuilt and it has become a city with a thriving heritage and an open invitation to tourists seeking refuge.
The afternoon was spent purchasing souvenirs – paintings, coffee, carvings, and a cigar…or two. I always purchase a painting from a local artist whenever I am abroad. I feel it is one of the most authentic representations of a particular culture one can own. Each stroke, every color is an ethnic frenzy.
For my final meal, I dined at an upscale, locally owned seafood restaurant. As the evening calmed, I had a phenomenal vantage point of the surrounding city and its volcanoes while on the second story balcony. With a fireplace that shimmered and a giant candle filled tree, it was a moment I strived to savor.
Full of conversation and laughter the night greeted me quickly. I took the last moments to visit the town square, a local coffee cafe, and a historical arch before heading back to my hotel.
It was a short trip. Too short. And while I loved my visit to Guatemala and would like to return, there are many other countries that remain on my list. I am not sure where I will end up next or for how long, but I am praying for a revelation and an invitation.