“You are exactly where you’re supposed to be”
I mused as the boat docked at Santa Cruz La Laguna. I needed the tranquility found on the shores of Lake Atitlan after personal drama in Antigua. It had been a long bus ride followed by a boat ride to get there. But I’d made it.
I’d booked my stay at La Iguana Perdida on a whim after reading a few recommendations but must have forgotten the fine print. The town was tiny, the hostel didn’t have WiFi, and the accommodations were rustic. The traveler of five years ago would have stressed about disconnecting, as I did in Byron Bay.
But I was provided with exactly what I needed: time away from social media, time to meet new people and time with one of mother nature’s greatest works. So I scribbled a quick email on the communal computer to my mother that likely read like a ransom note with its mistyped words. “made it to lake, staying in santa cruz, no wifi but safe. speak soon.” I was sure they thought I’d been “taken.”
My room was a wooden bungalow with a corrugated tin roof and bunk beds inside. There was no air conditioner or plugs and only a single light. A French Canadian couple and a Danish girl kept me company. A row of computers sat inside the main building, but you had to wait your turn and they were only accessible for a few hours during the day. The hostel encouraged you to disconnect, to let the lake work its magic on you. Instead of constantly checking my social media and email, I read books, did yoga, swam, and walked into town. Some days I took the communal boats to one of the other lakeside towns to explore. I didn’t end up diving, but they have their own shop as well. At night, the entire property would gather together for a shared dinner. What started as a two-night stay was quickly extended.
Lake Atitlan is surrounded by volcanoes and is dotted with a dozen towns of varying sizes along the way, each known for something different. Santa Cruz had a few places to stay, but most local businesses were a steep 30-minute walk, or tuk-tuk ride, up the hill. Most people skipped it entirely, but I could have spent my entire two weeks here. People talked about a great coffee shop at the top, but I never found it. Instead, I found local kids playing soccer in the town square, completely unaware of how their hometown had charmed tourists like me.
La Iguana Perdida reminded me of some of my favorite places I’ve stayed over the years: Ozzie Pozzie, Gallery, Doug’s Mountain Getaway. Somewhere you want to stick around, not necessarily for the destination, although that’s great too, but for the group of people you’ve met. It’s a place where community thrives, but your experience depends entirely on who you meet there. If I had isolated myself and not participated in any of the activities, I’m not sure it would have been the same.
I’m thankful for Santa Cruz la Laguna and La Iguana Perdida. It was here that my trip to Guatemala turned around.