My New Year’s Rebirth in Guatemala

Aug 26, 2016

By Jessica Le Couteur

My New Year’s Rebirth in Guatemala

Driving along the quiet morning streets of a city I would come to know and love, I bawled into the musky atmosphere of the cab. I had just flown to Los Angeles for about a week, to visit a man who would become a bigger part of my life than I could ever imagine. But as the sun began to rise and the infamous LAX came into view, I felt less than elated to be hopping on a flight to Guatemala City.

It was the day before New Year’s Eve, and the looming new year on the horizon stood a mysterious silhouette in a grey backdrop. At first the plan seemed simple, go to Central America, have a work holiday, more or less. It seemed fitting, but sometimes what you think you are ‘meant’ to do doesn’t match up with what the world has planned for you. The firm seats of the plane reminded me that I was about to spend the next few weeks in unfamiliar places, and likely sitting in similarly firm bus seats, which was almost comforting, as although I had come to realize I had no idea why I was going to Guatemala, maybe it was a childhood fascination finally coming to life, that I indeed took refuge in the unfamiliar.

When you do not know a city, when you do not know a face or a name, reality seems more malleable, free from the conditions and generalizations we bind ourselves with. But it wasn’t until after I left Central America for the second time that I would conclude that sometimes you can’t simply put yourself out of the norm, you have to be completely destroyed, and born again anew.

Arriving in the beautiful colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala, I felt instantly lonely. A rare sensation, and a wave of isolation and being far from the world I knew washed over, even as I walked the stone streets, full of character and stories. New Year’s Eve was spent with a gaggle of Australians whom I’d met that day at my hostel. Predictable, but at least I knew that all over the world, people were celebrating the same thing, a shift in time, a new year, a new era. The night proceeded in a sickly classic way, the parties were many and the drinks too strong. Upon losing my group of newly acquainted travel buddies I quickly realized I was now well and truly alone, wandering the ghostly streets of a potentially dangerous city.

Fear introduced itself promptly and again I found myself caught in a whirling dizziness of confusion. Where is my hostel? Why am I suddenly by myself? Questions of my own sanity brought me to eventual surrender when a car pulled up. It was a police officer. Now this had to be one of the strangest experiences of my life, and still now it holds a mind boggling surreal quality. The officer asked me what was wrong, to which I could barely answer between sobs. To my own surprise, as I generally consider myself verging on the edge of paranoia, I agreed to be driven home after he kindly took me to get food and a coffee.

Crying to a strange police officer over cake, in a foreign country, about nothing in particular, is probably one of the most embarrassing and messed up accounts I could ever recall, but as I began to settle down and he listened to me, offering even more surprising words of wisdom, I began to notice that on this New Year’s Day, I had been reborn. It sounds silly, but it literally felt like a piece of me had left, abruptly resigned, in the face of such fear, discomfort and the internal pain that I had been feeling. Sometimes we can only see freedom when we are forced to face ourselves solely, with no walls, no security blankets, no friends, no money, nothing we have been so trained to value, alone.

The aura of confusion still lingered but was not pressing, there was a certain lightness now. I continued to enjoy my next 4 weeks in Guatemala, and 2 weeks in Mexico, the best I possibly could, allowing what was meant to be to be. I met amazing people. I swam. I (hestitantly) rode horses on cliffs. I hiked to the tops of mountains at sunrise and sunset. I danced and ate and listened to music. I got sick. Really sick. I lost my phone. My computer died. I got sick again. I tried not to blame myself for being sick. I visited amazing places. I made a best friend.

And I watched. I observed. And still now, when I recall the entirety of my journeys from Guatemala City to Mexico and finally back to Los Angeles, when I rejoiced in being back in North America despite my mind-blowing travels, I watch it all as a movie I have seen a thousand times, and know that in some way, I had to be completely destroyed to find my freedom, to let go of all that I perceived to be true in order to make room for the new and spectacular things that were about to enter my life. I had nothing to lose. Freedom had been chasing me down, like a ghost longing to make itself known, so that I could finally stare it straight in the face.

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About the Author

Jessica Le Couteur

Jessie has been writing from a young age, cherishing words in their ability to inspire and artfully express the human experience. As a musician and avid yogi, she is constantly seeking raw inspiration and passion, and loves expressing her own through music and the intentional arrangement of words and sound. Having spent much time in Asia, Central America and most recently Europe, travel continues to be one of her main sources of life-giving inspiration, and hopes her storie will inspire you too.

We Said Go Travel

We Said Go Travel