Lago Atitlan: My New Home for 6 Weeks

I can’t believe I’ve been here for almost two weeks now!!!

I applied, via Workaway, one Thursday evening, and I got really lucky that they needed someone ASAP. I arrived in Santa Cruz on Lake Atitlan the following Sunday. I’ve committed to 6 weeks.

I work 6 days each week, usually about 5.5 hours a day in exchange for three delicious meals and basic accommodation. I also get a discount on diving, free kayak rentals, free yoga, and half price on all other food. The hostel is set on the water, with the small village of Santa Cruz a short 15 minutes walk up a very steep hill. It’s quiet and relaxing. There are some other hotels around the water in this area, but it’s not super built up like many towns on the lake.

Like with everything, there is good and bad to being here. But I think, overall, I’m happy to be here for 6 weeks (only 4 more!!).

The Good

The view is absolutely stunning!!! Sitting in any of the hostel common areas, I can see three volcanoes set on a beautiful lake. The lake is calm and quiet in the mornings, then picks up energy as the world wakes up and by afternoon, it’s pretty rough. It’s always beautiful. (Pictures at the bottom)


Hiking. The lake is surrounded by volcanoes, and so it follows that there is a ton of hiking to do around here. I haven’t yet explored much, but I’ll get out there soon. The views must be phenomenal up there!!!

It’s relaxing and I have the time and space to focus on things that are important to me. Namely, I am reading a lot, keeping up with some free online courses, and getting better at pool. Currently, I’m finishing up the Millennium series and taking an introductory Chemistry course. I’ve got a few books in line to be read next, and am eyeing some other courses for the near future. There is also a pool table here, and I’ve made a point to play a bit each day, whether it be with someone else, or just practicing on my own. There are a few people who are really good, and I said that I would beat one of them before I leave (a measure of my improvement). I’ll also do yoga most mornings I have off. A good start to the day.

There is no wifi which, as many of you know, is something I try to do in any home of mine anyway. So I obviously love it! I have internet access on the hostel computers should I need it. And there are some lovely cafes nearby where I can get wifi. But using internet has become a conscious thing once again. There is no mindless checking of Facebook, or wasted time surfing the net. My mind feels clearer and it’s so wonderful to see people (myself included) reading books, talking with one another, or just enjoying the view. I love not seeing computers and phones everywhere in the hostel common space.


A good restaurant in town to eat well, use wifi, and enjoy the view. And what a view!!! The hostel is down on the left, by the boats.

I meet so many amazing people! The dynamic is a little different than my usual hostel experiences, since I’m the one working at the hostel. I typically don’t just sit down with a group of guests and start chatting like I would if I were staying at the hostel. But I have made some great friends and have spent time with wonderful people who are staying in the hostel. The staff are really fantastic, too. They are very cheerful and like to have a good time. Some have already formed quite close bonds with each other, but they are super friendly and welcoming to us newbies. There are a few who I connect with more than the others, but everyone is wonderful.

The food! I get three meals a day, prepared by the ladies in the kitchen. Breakfast is always exciting because I get to order from the menu – the only time of day when I get a say in my meal. Almost everything is made fresh at the hostel, including yogurt and bread. Lunch is leftovers from the night before, and sometimes supplemented with something the ladies quickly whip up. Dinner changes every night but there’s always a soup, a main course, and dessert. And it is amazingly delicious!!!!

The Bad

The food. Because it’s so delicious (and free), I struggle to eat a proper amount. While it’s wonderful to not have to worry about food preparation, I also have very little control over what I eat. Before coming here, I had begun learning a lot about proper nutrition, and was really starting to eat well. I noticed a difference in my energy levels and I felt really great. I would eat when I was hungry and I would rarely overeat (instead of eating until I was full, I would eat until I was no longer hungry). I used olive and coconut oils, cut out a significant amount of sugar from my diet, and based my meals on fresh vegetables. My eating was simple, but I really enjoyed it. Here they use vegetable oil and margarine, and who knows how much sugar and what else is being added to the food. I eat a lot because it’s free and because I don’t want to have to buy food if I get hungry later on. Not to mention, they make an amazing dessert with every dinner and I have such a hard time saying no to sweets – especially when they are free and unlimited! Now that I’ve settled into a routine, I’m going to attempt to limit myself to reasonable eating habits, even if it means spending a little more money and passing by some tasty treats.

My coworkers, while wonderful, simply aren’t in the same place as me, figuratively speaking. Most of them are in their early- to mid-twenties and are here just to have a good time. They drink, they smoke, they watch tv, and they have little concern over what they’re eating and their health. This is the case for lots of people in the world, and that is completely okay. But it’s difficult for me, that the people I see consistently and frequently are so very different from me. I don’t feel that any of them are helping me to continue on my journey of growth. It would be lovely to have an intellectual conversation, or speak with someone who shares more of the same interests as me. For now, I rely mostly on the guests for this. Maybe the next volunteers to come will be a little different.

Practicing Spanish is something I’ll really have to work at. Since arriving in Guatemala, my Spanish has improved quite a bit because I had been speaking it so much with the local people. But at the hostel, I speak almost entirely English. I might take some classes just to keep the learning going, and make a conscious effort to get into towns, where I can converse with locals. The learning never has to stop; I just need to seek it out more here.

There is almost no personal space. I can definitely find it, but I need to seek it out. I’ve found I’m lacking motivation to write and don’t have much time with my thoughts because there are always other people around. This isn’t something everyone will understand, but it’s something I need – especially if I wanted to continue to improve as a writer.





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