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Home Away From Home

Home Away From Home

Along this trip we’ve stayed in some nice places, and some not so nice ones – as is the way of backpacking. When we found a beautiful lake-side cottage on AirBnB, we only hoped the reality of it would be comparable to the pictures. It was going to be Bryan’s birthday and we wanted to celebrate in style.

Getting to Lake Atitlan was a superbly crappy day for us all around. It started out well, with a birthday breakfast for Bryan and a plan to get to the cabin ASAP to start the celebrating. Road blockades left us stranded at the bus station, waiting for a bus that would take us from Xela to our waiting cottage. In desperation we agreed to pay a cab driver an exorbitant amount of money to get us around the detour. We then found ourselves in bumper to bumper traffic for hours when he couldn’t. Lesson learned there.

Arriving hours later than we had been expected, we again paid a ridiculous amount of money for a late-night boat ride to where we hoped our cabin was waiting. But it was too late, too dark and although we were standing on the correct dock (out of the 200 or so on the lake) we couldn’t find our cabin. We resigned ourselves to celebrating Bryan’s birthday at a hostel in the small nearby town of San Marcos instead. The groceries we had trekked from Xela to Lake Atitlan sat in the hostel fridge. We would make Bryan’s birthday dinner the following night instead, when hopefully we’d be able to find our home for the next week.

Apart from shuttle boat trips (hailed from our small dock) every few days across the lake to get groceries, we stayed put, and extended our stay by another week. We planned meals around our no-fridge kitchen, and made some damn good ones. We stocked up on books in town and read them all day, every day. We played Euchre, Boggle, Chess and all the songs on our iTunes. We chilled out with relaxing yoga sessions and made our own kombucha. We received garden-fresh veggies and eggs from Andreas, one of Luzmi’s workers, who liked to visit us daily for some Spanish-to-English conversations. We watched the lake – from the living room, from the kitchen, from the bedroom. We enjoyed the nightly lightning storms that lit up all the mountains around us. We cuddled with Rosie, Luzmi’s cat who joined us every night. In the evenings we watched episodes of The Wire, which Bryan had thought to download before we arrived. We enjoyed the no-wifi quiet.We unpacked in awe of the space and light we had in this place. Big windows on every wall gave us fantastic views of the lake, the garden and the surrounding volcanos. We had room to move around! 2 floors! After living in rooms with beds as the only furniture, we were ecstatic to relax in a living area that was not a bedroom. The kitchen was larger than the one we had back in Toronto, and brighter too. We never wanted to leave, and we barely did.Well, thankfully, the place was well worth the wait and hassle. The next morning we were greeted on the dock by Luzmi, the tiny woman who owns the property, and the 3.5 cabins on it (one is under construction). She showed us up the weaving stone path from the water through the garden, which grows much of her food, past the chicken + 1 duck coop, and to the beautiful cabin we’d be calling home for the next little while. Turns out, we had seen it from the water the night before, but in the dark we just couldn’t find the path up to it. Luzmi invited us to a welcoming ceremony, where we burned sage, copal and candles and told each other what we were appreciative of. Mostly, we were appreciative we found her and made it in one piece.


As we prepared to leave, we knew that moving on to Antigua was going to give us a bit of a shock – people! cars! restaurants! Luzmi and her other guest Sharon joined us for a lovely send off lunch where we enjoyed a bean-avocado-quinoa dip, tahini almonds, a salad from the garden and homemade kombucha.

Our Lake Atitlan cabin has convinced us of a few things:

  1. Western toilets are the stupidest invention, possibly ever. Why do we, literally, shit on our clean water supply? The toilet here is waterless, smell-free and earth-friendly. If all I have to do to conserve water is pour a bit of dirt on my business, I’m in.
  2. Secondary to the water conservation concept, I’ve found how little water I really need to get clean. There is a lovely stone shower at the cabin, but I enjoyed heating water on the stove for a wash instead. No kidding, 2 litres of water is all I needed. I think 3 times as much runs right past me down the drain when I shower. The comparison makes me shake my head a little.
  3. Much of what we refrigerate at home doesn’t need it. Our milk, yogurt, juice, eggs and vegetables were just fine stored in drawers and on shelves. We ate leftovers that had been on the counter all night and survived to tell about it.
  4. When we do settle into a house, wherever that may be, it will absolutely need to have more windows than walls.

We can only hope to find another home-away-from-home along our travels, although to beat this one is going to be a tough challenge.