A month before I left for Guatemala, I was not intending to go to Guatemala. My plan was to go to Nicaragua. As I watched the escalating tension and civil unrest taking place there from afar, I knew I couldn’t go. The privilege of my ability to choose to avoid another country’s struggle hung heavy over my decision to go elsewhere.
As I looked at other countries in Central America, my mind wandered to Guatemala. It’s a place I’d wanted to visit for awhile, but much of what I heard led me to believe the country was too dangerous, and much of what I read online confirmed this. But I decided to dig a little deeper, and the more I looked, the more I found stories that described Guatemala as a warm and vibrant country. I decided to go.
Eight days before I left for Guatemala, Volcán de Fuego had its most powerful eruption in over 40 years. As I watched the horrifying images of the eruption’s aftermath from afar, I needed to make another decision. I know that people canceling their trips because of a natural disaster can negatively impact the economies of locations that are not in the disaster zone, so I decided to do some research. I found that aside from ash, there was not a heavy impact on the places I planned to visit. I decided that I would still go.
Three days before I left for Guatemala, learned that Anthony Bourdain took his own life. Suddenly and unexpectedly, this man with such an important perspective whose way of life inspired so many others, was gone. My discovery of his show “No Reservations” coincided with the beginning of my independent travel. Watching his shows, I felt like I was watching a kindred spirit who understood and relentlessly shared with the world that travel at its best is deep, honest, and purposeful. As I read the news about his death, it felt like a bit of the magic of travel had departed with him.
As I left for Guatemala, it felt like so many signs along the way — both tangible and intangible — had pointed toward not traveling. They loomed over me as I moved forward with my trip. I can’t remember the last time I felt as nervous about traveling solo to a new country as I did on the way to Guatemala. I wasn’t quite sure what I was heading into.
But something more profound overrode the fear: the part of me that knows that some of the best things in life can be found on the other side of fear, and the part of me that knows how easy it is to be fearful of the unknown until you get to a new place and see ordinary people living ordinary lives with similar needs, desires, and hopes as the people around you.
I’ve been sitting on this website for far too long. I knew a few years ago that I couldn’t continue writing on my old website, and I wanted to make a new space for my writing. It’s been over a year since I created Through Fog & Light. Then after the initial bout of inspiration that went into designing the site and framing my angle and purpose, I felt blocked and uninspired. The act of traveling and writing about travel felt frivolous while watching my country and much of the world implode.
But traveling can be powerful act if you choose to make it so. As I traveled in Guatemala, I know I barely scratched the surface of the country, but I saw so much beauty in a chronically misunderstood region of the world. In the political climate of 2018, visiting Guatemala and seeing it firsthand reminded me how important it is to challenge mainstream perceptions and stereotypes as you examine a place from your own perspective. It rekindled my passion for power of diverse stories, and I want an outlet for my stories. So here we are.
“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie –