For the last few days, Lake Atitlan, widely considered the most beautiful lake in the world, has been our home. It is an amazing place to be, with incredible views, perfect temperature water, and interesting communities dotted along the banks. We are staying in a sprawling Airbnb perched above the water. There are many obvious reasons to be thankful for the opportunity to be here. But we have also found meaning and value beneath the surface
The thing about comfort, for instance, is that it’s all relative. We’ve felt comfort that’s natural to our Western ways – familiar food in the touristy parts of the lake, fun activities like kayaking and rock jumping, great hot water in the showers of our Airbnb, wonderful boat trips, and nice things to buy. But we’ve also felt a different kind of comfort that can only come for a community like Cerro de Oro. And that kind of comfort has helped us think about happiness, community, and so much more.
In Cerro de Oro, people have welcomed us like long lost friends or family members. In the village square, small kids have encouraged us to play soccer and basketball and tag and duck, duck, goose. They’ve brought out energy and smiles that we don’t get to share often in our day-to-day life back in the US. Many in our group said they felt happier playing with those kids than they have in a long time. The comfort of simplicity and of being with and around others isn’t as natural as other kinds of comfort, but it is just as real. And it has served as a window for our minds, allowing us to think about a different way of life than our own. The simple gestures of little kids opened our minds.
With different ways of life bouncing around our thoughts, it has been easier and easier to think about big ideas like change as well. We can see it in the spectrum of communities – the ones like Cerro that haven’t changed too much of late; the ones like San Pedro that are changing actively, donning the look of other tourist cities in the world; the ones like San Marcos, taken over by drug users and hippies. But we can also see it in ourselves and in the perspectives of those we get to spend time with here. How can our decisions change how we impact the world? How can the way we see the world impact what we want and what we strive for? How can a community take the shape of an individual and how can an individual shape a community? Change is a medium for understanding and thinking about these questions.
So, on this auspicious day, we are thankful for the things we’ve been conditioned to appreciate. But we’re also thankful for the chance to imagine something different, perhaps something better and more sustainable. Our group represents the future – multinational, privileged, well educated, empowered, naive. We are thankful for Lake Atitlan and this amazing country for shaping, even slightly, the trajectory of all of that.