One year ago I would have confidently declared traveling was simply not my cup of tea. I’d never really traveled, but disliked traveling. I would have confidently declared I had no desire to ever leave the country. I might have even admitted being a little scared. One year ago, I was content to stay close to home and not worry about the details traveling necessarily implies. However, I’m not the same person I was one year ago. Last July I spent two weeks in Central America, visiting Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. Surprisingly, I lost myself in the beauty of the Latin American countryside and its people. This trip changed me and not only have I learned some of the basic intricacies of traveling, but I learned that my eyes are opened as I see it through the eyes of another and stepping out of my comfort zone connects me to myself as I become part of a world that is bigger than I knew.
Run by Ensign Travel, our tour revolved around speculated sites of a religious book called the Book of Mormon. These sites are sprinkled all over Central America. We traveled comfortably in an air conditioned bus to the ruins that were our destination. We traveled and viewed ancient, towering trees and considered they were witnesses to all which had happened centuries ago (Quirigua, Guatemala). We walked among the crumbled walls of once well beloved houses. Some of us even rested a minute on an old stone bed (Copan, Honduras). We looked up, awestruck, to tremendously tall temples diligently built by a once strong people (Tikal, Guatemala). We explored an expertly fortified city, entering through its only entrance, one at a time, shoulders brushing the well worn yet still rough, inside walls of the tunnel. (Yaxchilan, Mexico.) For a moment I was not only a traveler in the usual sense, but a traveler in time as I walked where ancient people once walked, lived, built and dreamed.
As we moved from site to site we experienced a variety of hotels. Packing up every day and moving to a new hotel was not easy, but increased the variety of our experience, and was necessary in order to see everything we wanted to see.
Something vital to know when traveling to Central America is not only is it hot, but also very humid. Coming from a very dry climate, I had no idea how hot humid can be. Sweat literally ran down my back all of the time. I was very grateful to have the following things: water bottles promised to be pure, hair elastics, lightweight shorts, t-shirts, and somewhere to leave my backpack (that on my back made me sweat even more). I quickly realized electric fans were worth their weight in gold for the relief they could provide.
All traveling advice aside, this trip left me with more than geography and fantastic tour guides could impart. Our large group grew together, and I learned I can become attached to new people in a short amount of time. We attended a church meeting, and I learned children are children no matter where they live.
By packing and repacking my suitcase every night, I learned I can carry heavy things. By rarely stopping for lunch, I learned quick snacks can really hit the spot. By leaving my comfort zone I learned that real experiences connect me to myself as I become part of a world that is bigger than I knew. And finally I learned coming home was even harder than leaving home. I am a reluctant traveler no more.
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