Knowing Your Limitations

Rope Swing into the Riío Cahabón near Semuc Champey

An important part of traveling is being able to do it the way you like. Having ample options for activities is great, but some people’s ideal travel style is to just wander around and get to see the local way of life without participating in any organized excursions. Perhaps you even just prefer to sit in a café and read the local paper. Whatever your preference, its good to be self-aware of your likes and dislikes and travel style, and what you hope to get out of your trip.

Here in Guatemala, there are lots of activities that may also pose a physical challenge. Climbing to the mirador at Semuc Champey is a twenty-five minute uphill climb on muddy stairs and rocks. The guided tour through the K’anba Caves requires swimming, climbing over slippery rocks, and sliding through a waterfall into a different part of the cave. A bike tour in Guatemala City takes about eight hours and requires riding with traffic in certain parts. Climbing a volcano is a popular excursion here, but let me tell you, it is NOT EASY! Swimming at the Pacific coast beaches near Monterrico or El Paredon may look desirable, but the rip currents can be deadly. Exploring Tikal for a few hours will include a few miles of walking over uneven ground and possibly climbing the temples. Trust me when I tell you, in the Petén heat, that is all easier said than done. Taking a swim in the river in Lanquín looks inviting, but the current will sweep you 50 yards downstream in just a few seconds. I don’t write this to discourage you; there are so many amazing experiences that I’ve had doing all of the above. Many of them are easier than they sound. However, its important to know your physical abilities and to avoid any activities that may cause you physical or mental discomfort or injury.

Speaking of injury, I broke my finger about two weeks into my travels here in Guatemala. In the K’anba Caves at Semuc Champey, the guide offers you a rope with knots in it to climb up under a rushing waterfall. Well, I’ve never been waterboarded by the CIA, but I assume it feels something like this. The cold water is rushing into your eyes, nose and mouth while you’re desperately trying to find some footing and use your upper body strength to pull you ten feet up over the waterfall (all by candlelight I might add). Now, I had some confidence because a

The author's broken finger, causualty of the K'anba Caves waterfall climb

few times I managed to climb the rope at my Crossfit gym back in the States. I looked at that little rope and thought, “Ha, the fit American will conquer that easily!” But the waterfall had other plans for me apparently. As I slid down the rope, my finger hit one of the knots, and I was immediately left with a purple, crooked middle finger joint. The worst was that I had to assume defeat and *gasp* use a ladder to climb up the waterfall. Yes, there was a ladder next to it. At the end of the day, you can’t do much for a broken finger besides complain about it. The point of the story is that not being aware of my physical limitations was a factor in this misadventure. (If you’d like to hear more about a physical challenge, check out my post on climbing Acatenango Volcano.)

12m bridge jump into the Río Cahabón near Semuc Champey

Travel can be mentally and physically tiring. Navigating a new place with your luggage or by using a second language can take a lot out of you. The constant stimulation of your senses can leave you exhausted after just a few days, regardless of any jet lag. Make sure you take it slow, ask a lot of questions about any excursions you may be considering, and don’t be hard on yourself if you feel like skipping parts of the excursion or even if you feel like doing nothing at all! Sometimes, the best adventures are those that we create by ourselves just by strolling through town or chatting up a stranger.

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