Guatemala Writing Retreat
What does Guatemala have to do with the SmartAss Buddha book? When I decided to write this book I wanted to write in a location that was spiritually arousing. A place where I could be completely absorbed in the process and think through inspiration from every possible angle without distraction.
I considered Spain, Kauai and a few other destinations but nothing was screaming out for me to go. I just about had made my mind up on book a ticket and go to Thailand but received a call from a former TV colleague right before I started ticket shopping. My colleague suggested I consider a tiny little village in Guatemala nestled in between some volcanoes and a huge lake. With a little research I saw what I was in for, booked my ticket and ended up in San Pedro, La Laguna, Guatemala.
San Pedro – The Village
San Pedro has a population of about 13,000 and most of the people are Maya families who have lived here for centuries. The locals dress in traditional clothes and speak either Spanish or the Tz’utujil. The main crops are coffee, corn and fruits and vegetables but the locals are also catering to the ever-increasing tourists visiting the area. The town is at 5200 feet and lives in the shadows of Volcán San Pedro which rises up another five thousand feet above the town. Even though San Pedro is near the equator the altitude regulates the temperature to make for one happy author. The average daytime temperatures are around 75F/23C and nighttime temps were around 60F/14C.
Guatemala is not a rich country and you can see that poverty in every direction, but San Pedro, Guatemala is home to some of the brightest souls I have ever encountered. Fresh squeezed juice was a buck and a half and most meals were around three bucks. San Pedro was beautiful, the people were warm and friendly; and The papaya and mangoes were so tasty it made my head spin. San Pedro was the perfect place for me to focus on writing a book about inspiration.
When I first arrived I was staying at a hotel but I immediately began to check out potential rental locations. Within the first thirty seconds of seeing the first property I pulled out my cash to pay the rent.
My computer area faced south and when you looked out the window all you could see were mango and papaya trees with rows of coffee in between them. Numerous tropical birds filled the treetops and behind the natural choir was Volcán San Pedro.
Now the only thing that was more astounding than my office space was rooftop balcony. With 360-degree views of the lake and the surrounding volcanoes it still is the most amazing place I have ever lived. During the day you could sit out in the sun and watch the world go by. Vultures would swoop right over my head and catch the updrafts and circle up five thousand feet one puff of wind at a time.
At night I would have fires in a barrel (the deck was made of concrete), chart the stars and watch the universe pass by. Luna Azul was a magical once in a lifetime rental property that thoroughly enhanced my state of mind, expanded my inspiration and aroused my spirit right to the core. Oh did I mention, it was $6 a night?
People of San Pedro
The only way I can describe the people of San Pedro is that they are full of goodness and spiritual wisdom. They are pleasant, friendly, fun, playful, like to mock, never mean spirited and have hearts that are wide open. Most of them earn under a dollar an hour so to say they are not rich would be an understatement.
After being to Mexico numerous times I was worried that the locals would bother the tourists to try and squeeze every dollar out of them. Not here, they would ask in a loving way and if you said no they moved on. They were very perceptive and quickly tuned into which tourists had good motives and which ones were just dickheads.So many characters in San Pedro were delightfully aggressive with their love and kindness.
I am not sure why, but Olga and I became best of friends right away. She would usually be the first person I see in the morning and she naturally bursts with joy. She made me beautiful lattes and made sure that my papaya and waffles was just right. Being around Olga is like having your spirit massaged with bliss.
Luis the gardener worked at the rental property and even though he spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish we were also best of friends right away. I would be working at my desk and he would be outside and we would blast our best dog, horse, cow, pig or bird sounds to talk to each other. He would moo, I would moo and then we would giggle for five minutes. It was absolutely hilarious.
I asked him to arrange a furniture deal with a carpenter to build me a double adirondack chair. When Luis tried to deliver it, he didn’t know anybody with a truck so he carried it a mile and half on his back, down some 13% grade. When he finally put it down he let out an enthusiastic, “whew” and started to giggle with exhaustion.
Anita and Angelica
Also known as the “Juice Girls”, these two charming souls also beamed love in my direction every time I saw them. They were either trying to marry me, encourage me to have children or add ginger to my juice (not a big ginger fan). They both speak multiple languages including Spanish, Tz’utujil, Hebrew, English and bits of French, German and who knows what else.
Berna and Family
This is Berna, his wife Brenda and their two kids Grace and Rey. His family starting calling me Grampa which in Maya culture means wise man, which was an honorable nickname but it didn’t last long. Rey the little boy saw me trip and started calling me Trampa which is kind of slang with this family for guy who trips. I went from wise man to idiot in one tripping motion.
Usually I would wake up with the sun and go for an amazing hike/photo safari. I love that quiet time in the morning where the world is still waking up and all the bird alarm clocks are squawking with all their bird might. Every morning the lake was filled with traditional fishing boats and spectacular views.
As soon as Berna’s coffee shop opened Olga would serve me waffles and papaya and some kick ass coffee. The coffee caused taste buds seizures and rendered me speechless with every lovely latte. Then I would ride by the Juice Girls pick up four fresh juice and head back to the office and write until I was out of steam.
Afternoons were for napping and staring at the volcano and evenings were for expanding my brain. I researched, happiness, spirituality, inspiration motivation, joy bliss, depression. I loved to listen to philosophers like Alan Watts, Stuart Wilde, Wayne Dyer, Jim Rohn, Crazy Indian Gurus, Muhammad Ali and every Ted Talk that was applicable.
I spent a lot of time reflecting on why so many Guatemalans were dirt poor but beamed happiness as naturally as breathing. Why people in Canadian and American culture have so much, but seem so unhappy. How our society accepts debt, materialism and financial restriction without any reflection on how they affect one’s happiness. I was able to think through both sides of the equation and see both sides of the happiness coin.