Waking early in Belize, preparing to hop a flight back to Atlanta, like usual I’m wondering… Should I head home as scheduled? Should I extend the trip? It would be so nice to spend every day outside, far from the monotony of life back home. Jaunt into Guatemala? Yes!
Guatemala has the highest violent crime rates in Latin America, and we’ve been told that tourist robbery by machete or gunpoint is a real possibility. Generally, solo travel is a no-go for me, but I’ll only be alone on the return trek and the thought of sunset over the Tikal ruins is enticing.
Coop and I have linked up with a girl from Miami and her friend from London. Naomi and Nate met five years ago in South America — making fast friends is a traveler’s way of life. A delightful water taxi ride spent looking for manatees followed by a five hour nap on the bus is just what we need to recover from last night’s outing. Two hours beyond the border crossing, the bus drops us at a lonely intersection, deserted aside from a handful of locals hanging out on the corner. In Spanish Naomi asks if they will take us to Tikal National Park. As a show of goodwill, I buy ice cream for our driver and we are off, into the rainforest.
Tikal is the only place where you can climb ruins to see above the El Petén rainforest canopy. It’s a refreshing hike to the top and the view is beautiful with foliage as far as the eye can see. Peaceful reflection is interrupted by Howler monkeys deeply wailing like monsters in the trees. Photos can’t capture the impressive orange-red glow as sunset lights up the temples above the deep green canopy.
The only way to catch a 5 a.m. bus back to the Belize City airport is to spend the night in town. Naomi and Nate invite me to join them, and we leave Coop at the park’s Hotel Jaguar. In lakefront Flores, our room is nearly consumed by three twin beds and dinner is BBQ beef, probably slaughtered out back just moments ago.
Thinking, Fast and Slow — a study of influence and emotional intelligence — catches Nate’s eye. “Is that your book?” he asks as he pulls an identical copy from his bag. What are the chances that two people from different countries, united for a weekend in Central America, are traveling with the same obscure publication?! It’s a connection that tells me I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
At the end of the day, I always conclude that it’s more fun to daydream of a never-ending trip than to actually go off the grid for good. So back to Atlanta I go!