Harriet: Age 35

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Today I turn 35 years old, last year I swore I would throw myself a big party, which is kind of ridiculous because in general I really hate being the center of attention. Maybe this is the year I grow up just enough to realize that, fabulous party be damned, I’d probably be happier overall with something small, quiet, and personal. (I don’t think I’ll get that either this year, but hey, there’s always next year.)

How will you spend your birthday?
Just like any other Tuesday, but hopefully my phone will be blowing up with Happy Birthday messages that would not be typical of the average Tuesday.

Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
About the same for all three.

What did you do last year that you’ve never done before?
Went SCUBA diving in the ocean! With turtles! And sharks!

What was your favorite discovery last year?
I am stronger than I ever thought I would need to be. Not necessarily a “favorite” but certainly an “essential.”

What do you hope to learn this coming year?
More patience, more hope, more faith. And maybe a little Spanish.

What would you like to have this year that you didn’t have last year?
Last year I said I wanted peace in my life. I mean, I’d settle for world peace (do not even get me started on politics), but I am craving serenity in a major way.

What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Getting my budget under control; I opened a Roth IRA and a 529 savings account for my own future Master’s degree, I set aside a significant chunk of money every month in savings and when the inevitable emergency came up (I’m looking at you, new clutch in my car), I was able to pay for the repair without freaking out about how that would impact my grocery budget. It has been such a good feeling!

What was your biggest failure?
Failure to communicate in a way that ensured the other party truly understood the what AND the why of my feelings, and the difficulty involved in me trying to get specific about it.

Where did you travel this year?
For years and years I have secretly wanted to be the kind of person who regularly used her passport. This year was that year for me. Blue Eyes and I went to Belize and Guatemala in the spring, I spent a lovely long weekend hiking in the Canadian Rockies in August, and at the end of the summer Blue Eyes and I went to Mexico to go SCUBA diving but were thwarted by a tropical storm wreaking havoc with the waves. Four countries, ya’ll. I’m feeling so very luxe over here with all those passport stamps. Throw in a handful of road trips around the West to round out a solid travel year (half of which has not been blogged, but probably will be, because photos from the glorious mountains and lakes of Banff, Alberta MUST BE SHARED!)

Do you have a destination in mind for next year?
I would love to head somewhere cold this summer; like I’m thinking Alaska or Maine. If I could manage to spend a month chillin’ in Antarctica I absolutely would. Arizona summers are brutally hot and are about 9 months too long. Without a cool-weather break I just won’t make it past July.

What did you get really excited about?
Books, friends, Wonder Woman, and finding genuine joy in my little adventures.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Taking the time to step away and breathe when Life Things started to weigh me down. I’m not talking about “stepping away to a 3 week vacation at a fancy yoga retreat” (although that sounds truly lovely), I’m talking about taking a few minutes every day to remind myself that I am strong enough and smart enough to handle this, if I just remember to breathe.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
You know how you almost always win the arguments you have with yourself while you are in the shower, or making dinner, or sitting in heavy traffic? Just me? Ok. Well, when I’m particularly angry I will have a VERY lucid and VERY specific conversation with myself, going over all my points of hurt, and slamming down any attempt (by my, uh, other (?) self) to make excuses. This kind of argument often takes me days or weeks to win, I just keep coming back to it, circling around all the moving parts and making sure to drive my point home, to the death. You know what does 100% NOT WORK in solving your communication problems? Having an argument ONLY WITH YOURSELF. I need a better solution that actually produces some kind of positive net result.

What was the best book you read?
I read a TON this last year, over 150 books with a number of five-star ratings. The non-fiction ones I loved the best are: graphic novels about the civil rights movement, March #1-#3, by John Lewis; stories from the Russian front, The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in WWII, by Svetlana Alexievich; a history and detailed research about cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddharta Mukherjee; a series of murders of wealthy Native Americans in the 1920s and 30s, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann. The two books that I kept referring back to over and over again as I tried to make sense of my life and figure out what to do next were: Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown; and Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. The fiction books I loved the best this year were: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas; The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee; and Now I Rise (#2 in The Conqueror’s Saga) by Kiersten White. I read literally dozens of other excellent books this year, you can follow me on Goodreads for updates in real time instead of this once-a-year recap.

What did you want and get?
1) A relaxing week in Belize to celebrate five years married to Blue Eyes.
2) Negotiated working from home 2 days a week. I think I actually respond to email faster in my fuzzy slippers.

What did you want and not get?
Peace of mind, peace of heart.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Last year’s answer still holds true: Several months of temperatures in the low thirties and high twenties; I am not cut out for the nine months of temps over 90 degrees. It makes my brain melt.
Adding for this year: A health care plan that covered my mental health needs.

What kept you sane?
Who said I was sane!? I lost my shiz a LOT this year, inevitably it was My People who helped me back from the edge.

What political issue stirred you the most?
I haven’t the time or the energy to go over it all again, but I will say that the women-led resistance has given me new life and new hope. From the Women’s March to the #MeToo movement, and every small and large victory in-between, I am so proud to be part of a nation-wide force of accountability and ethics that is led by, championed by, and moved forward by women. This is where I belong.

Did you fall in love?
Not exactly, but I did realize the opportunity for a new love and while I’m not yet to the giddy, indestructible phase of that relationship, I hope to get there soon. This year I realized that before I spend another 12 months taking care of everyone else, I need to learn to take care of myself; I need to be patient with myself, forgiving of myself, and learn to truly love this person I continue to become.

Who did you miss?
Same answer for the 3rd year: My people in Salt Lake, my nieces and nephews, siblings, and my glorious rocky mountains.

Did you learn a valuable life lesson this year?
Yes, I can probably do it all, but I really really shouldn’t. I want to, but I need to stop. I need to cut back until I can truly determine my essential needs, and then thoughtfully and sparingly add in other stuff. I feel like I’ve been overextended for the vast majority of my life, and this year I cracked in scary ways under the strain. I’m working on it, but I am grateful for the “A ha!” moment(s) that led to this realization.

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Previous birthday posts here: Age 34, Age 33Age 32.

Are You There? It’s Me, Harriet

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Hello?

Hello.

Hi.

[awkward, embarrassed silence]

Um, how’ve you been? How’s things? How’s your Mom/sweetheart/puppy?

Oh good. Cool. Cool cool cool. Uh, yeah…same…?

I’ve been staring at this blank page for weeks trying to will myself to fill it up with something haunting and beautiful, or witty and funny, or angry and therapeutic. And all I can come up with is “Hello. Hi.” I guess sometimes that’s really the best place to start, sometimes it’s the only place to start.

A blank page is truly the best and most exciting thing about writing, and also the most terrifying.

Exciting and terrifying; such a killer combo.

I know it’s not New Year’s Resolutions time around the Internets, but let’s just pretend that I’m fashionably late to that particular party, okay>? I decided that my mantra for 2018 will be about self care, about putting my needs and my concerns first. I’m not necessarily talking about bath bombs and spa retreats (although I wouldn’t run away from either of those things), but about giving myself realistic goals and expectations, and saying “No” to everything else. Basically, if I am not 95% HELL YES! on any given decision, my answer will be “No,” “No, thank you,” or possibly “Get the hell out.” I’m absolutely done with half-assing anything and feeling guilty about it, I’ve been practicing saying “no” (I still kind of suck at it, but I’m trying) and I’ve been careful about what I say yes to. This will not be an easy lesson for me to learn, but I am convinced it’s one I desperately need. I also need to practice letting go of unnecessary feelings of guilt, which is something I’ve been perfecting holding on to for my whole damn life. So, let’s perhaps only expect baby steps in that department, mmmmkay?

Exciting and terrifying. Saying yes to the things that will really matter, and saying no to a lot of things that may also matter but, ultimately, will matter less.

…..

I think that’s it for now. Apparently, I also need to practice writing blog posts? I mean, I legit had to do a gmail search to remember how/where to log on to even write a post. I’ve missed this space; the more time went by, the more I missed it. This little corner of the internet is, for me, a HELL YES! Not a HELL YES! EVERYDAY! HELL YES! because I just do not have that kind of bandwidth anymore (or ever), but something in-between “everyday” and “one post every six months.” Yes, let’s shoot for that.

Also? I’ve missed you. I’m not even going to look at my feed reader (it’s been months, I need to just open it, clear all news posts, and start over), so please leave me a link of whatever has been going on in your life lately, something you’re proud of, something that was really hard, something hilarious, a trip, a recipe, a darling picture of your kid/cat. I’m here. And I’m not going to be going away anytime soon.

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

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A couple of weeks ago Blue Eyes and I spent a not-nearly-long-enough weekend in St. George, Utah as part of an Instameet. While our main event was some hiking in Zion National Park, we spent some time at sunset in Snow Canyon State Park, and despite it being a weekend at the beginning of the summer, this park was essentially empty. I could snap away to my heart’s content, capturing soaring red cliffs and tiny lichen clinging to the rocks.

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I love the many colors of lichen, I’ve seen minty green, lavender, orangey-red, a deep inky blue, and this bright lemon-lime. Lichen is one of the oldest and slowest growing plants on earth. Most species grow 1mm-2mm per year, some grow as little as .5 mm per year! Point five! That’s something like 4 inches in 100 years. There are some lichen in the arctic that are thousands of years old. Dah, I just love these hardy plants so much!

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Right before our trip to Southern Utah I finally splurged on a new camera, and I am so glad I did. My old Canon was 10 years old and just didn’t have enough oomph for the photos I wanted to take. Thirty seconds with my new Canon and I am in-love with photography all over again.

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Honestly, I just don’t see how I’ll ever get tired of those blazing red walls, part of my heart will forever belong in the Rocky Mountains where I grew up, and the other part lives in these fiery canyons and cliffs.

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Can we talk about this Instameet for a minute? I’ve never been to one, but have seen photos for years of various events in a number of locations. The idea is that a bunch of internet friends and strangers descend on one location for a day or a weekend, the itinerary was pretty loosey-goosey, with a few planned activities and a whole lotta time to explore on your own. Blue Eyes and I met up with old friends (Hi, Kristin!) and made a whole pile of new ones (Hi, friends!). I learned so much about the industry of travel blogging, which I wasn’t expecting and found quite intriguing. Now, I’m not a travel blogger, far from it. I love to travel, and I love to take photos, and I love to blog, but that does not a travel blogger make. However, it was really interesting to learn about how so many of these Instameet-ers make a living by traveling around the world, this was all very informal, there wasn’t, like, a break-out session on it or anything. Just by chatting with people on our hikes and such I learned so much about their lives, their travels, and their business of blogging. I’m still ruminating on all of that.

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See? More lichen. It’s my favorite.

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The sun was sinking fast, and I was scrambling to get a few more shots in before the light was too low for even my tripod. But breathing in the piney-sagey scent, and feeling the warmth and heart of red rock country…this trip was so good for my soul!

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Dah! New camera love!

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All of these photos were taken at the Petrified Sand Dunes in Snow Canyon, a super easy-peasy walk from the parking area with plenty of places to scramble and vistas and views that will take your breath away.

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This little aloe-cactus-thing was, maybe, 5 inches tall. Yup, totes in love with my new camera. I can’t believe how long I’ve survived on 12 megapixels, suddenly 24 seems like I’ve been unknowingly blind for YEARS and am finally able to see again. The detail! It’s flawless and stunning and has very little to do with me, that’s just mother nature and a proper camera.

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I would love to go exploring some more in Snow Canyon. Hopefully my next trip to St. George will have some more time among these glorious (and EMPTY) formations!

The Shit Bus to Guatemala

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I am not a professional traveler, I don’t get paid or comped to go on adventures, and for the last 15 years I’ve had the standard 10 days of PTO per year with a scattering of holidays (but, like one-day holidays, not 6 or 12 weeks off in the summer or two week fall/spring/Christmas breaks). When I go exploring I am always conscious of how much paid time off I can afford to use. I am really lucky right now in that I have the salary and savings habits to finance my adventures and the money to pay a little extra to save some time. I’ll take the taxi or Lyft instead of wait for a local bus; I will take a short flight to save me 10 hours of driving; and I will opt for the more expensive express ferry/train/whatever instead of stopping ninety-million times on the other version. I’m not rich by any means, but I do have a little more money than I have time I can be away from the office, and I plan my vacations accordingly.

When I was researching and planning our recent trip to Belize and Guatemala I wanted to be conscious of our budget and, if possible, save our spending for adventures like SCUBA diving instead of transportation. (This was super forward thinking of me, our three days of SCUBA was some of the best adventuring Mr. Blue Eyes and I have ever done together!) In looking at the best way to get from Belize to north-eastern Guatemala to visit Tikal I was met with a couple of options: take a short 45-minute flight to Flores, Guatemala for $300+ per person, no thank you; take the 12-14+ hour local bus for about $12 per person, but also, no thank you; take a “Modern, air conditioned, luxury bus with free WiFi, bathrooms, and TVs” for $30 per person with a total trip time of four hours. Perfect.

I booked the bus and then booked transportation from our AirBnB on Caye Caulker to the bus terminal in Belize City, and arranged for our Guatemala hotel to pick us up at the bus terminal in Flores, Guatemala. Before we left for our Caribbean and Central American adventure I reconfirmed all our transportation, printed out all the confirmation documents in triplicate, just in case. And then I patted myself on the back for saving a pile of money, allowing us some WiFi’d, air conditioned decompression time where we could catch up on email or social media, I could even edit and post some of our photos from Belize! Mr. Blue Eyes could watch one of his shows! In a comfortable AIR CONDITIONED luxury bus!

Ha.

Hahahahahahaaa!

Oh, dear Harriet, you cute naïve little thing.

Mr. Blue Eyes and I were picked up by our golf cart taxi on Caye Caulker at 8:30 am, caught the ferry to the Belize main land at 9:00 and arrived at the bus station by 10:00 am, perfect timing for our scheduled 10:30 am departure time. It was HELLA hot that day, like over 100 degrees plus 100% humidity. I actually was so miserable just from the open-air ferry ride that I changed from my cotton maxi dress into a knee-length t-shirt dress and I was STILL miserable.

It was at this point we were informed that there hadn’t been enough passengers for the morning bus, so they were putting us on a later one…uh…wut? I bought my ticket online after a dozen emails back and forth with the bus rep, didn’t they think it would have been appropriate to mention this YESTERDAY so we could have altered the rest of our travel plans!? But! I took a deep, muggy breath and decided to just be cool. (Um, I’m not cool. Like, hardly ever.)

We finally boarded the bus about noon and, erm, well, “luxury” must be a super fluid term. The bus was old, not anything I’d describe as “clean”, and the TVs were literally two 12” screens in the front and middle of the bus, all tricked out for a VHS tape with dangling connector cords. Ok, so, I wasn’t planning on watching TV anyway, and the bus didn’t smell, exactly, so, fine. The AC was cranking and after waiting at the terminal in the muggy heat for a few hours the bus felt delightful. The office manager from the bus company went through the bus making sure we all had our passports and the cash for the Belize exit tax ($20US or $40BZE). Finally, at 12:45 (2+ hours late), we finally pulled away from the bus terminal, about 20 passengers on a bus built for 60. We rambled through Belize City and out into the country, and for the first, oh, 30 minutes, everything was fine.

But then the AC stopped working, the bus was hot and muggy and struggling with the hilly landscape. As the engine got hotter it started to release diesel fumes into the cab of the bus. And then the pathetic excuse for a bathroom started to emit distinct shit smells. Like, not just “oh, smells like a poopy diaper is in this house” smells, but, like, an open-pit toilet in 100+ degree heat that is being sloshed around by an old janky bus.

I started to feel sick, I couldn’t read my book and was sweating through my clothes, my hair was damp and there was sweat trickling down the back of my knees. I changed seats a half-dozen times trying to find an AC vent, or get away from the diesel fumes and the shit smells. No such luck.

Aaaaaand there was no WiFi. When I asked about it the driver actually laughed at me. “Oh no, no, no, no WiFi on this bus.” Um, then why was it in all your brochures and on the big poster hanging in the window of the bus office in Belize!?

“No WiFi.”

Shit.

Trapped in a stinking tin can, crawling along winding country roads, no fresh air, running low on water, and HOURS left to go. The bus stopped a number of times to take on cargo of some kind, lots of cardboard boxes and bags piled in the front two rows of seats, and a few carefully hidden in the back. One stop included two machine-gun toting police/military/private army guys coming on the bus to rifle through the boxes, including the ones at the back…? I dunno. I just tried to keep my eyes down and my mouth shut.

We finally reached the Belize-Guatemala border and everyone exited the bus to walk through customs. For as carefully as the bus manager back in Belize City had ensured we all had our necessary documentation and tax fees to get across the border, there was PRECIOUS LITTLE DIRECTION at the actual border. I’m really glad a couple of fellow bus passengers pointed out the Guatemala Customs office to get our entry stamp, otherwise we’d have had a lot of trouble a few days later trying to leave the country.

Everyone finally got back on the Shit Bus and we headed west to Flores…another interminable ride smelling of broiled feces and diesel fumes, 100+ degrees temps and no AC. And no WiFi. To take my mind off the hellish experience I kept telling myself that our fancy resort in Guatemala would have a driver and car waiting for us in Flores, that we would be fiiiine, if a little smelly, and the resort showers/pool would be a little piece of heaven once we arrived. I had arranged this transportation directly with the hotel and they had specifically said to get off at the Flores bus terminal, so that was the plan I was sticking to. I had a toll-free number of the hotel that I knew could call if I ran into any problems. (False, US-based 1-800 numbers DO NOT WORK IN GUATEMALA! I know that now.)

We finally got to Flores, the Shit Bus company took one group to the bus station in Santa Elena and a few of us to Flores, I repeatedly said “I need to go to the bus terminal in Flores.” And in perfect English they kept telling me “There is no bus terminal in Flores. But we can arrange transportation for you.”

Um, what!?

“Just come to our office in Flores and we’ll sort it out.” I figured I could call the hotel from their office and they’d come fetch us. You see where this is going, right? The ONLY number I had for our hotel didn’t work in Guatemala.

AND THERE WASN’T A LOCAL NUMBER ON THEIR WEBSITE! I looked. Several times. On the Shit Bus office guy’s phone.

I Googled. Several times. I emailed the hotel several times, no response, it was after normal business hours and I only had the one person’s contact information. It was getting late, I was hangry and stinky and sweaty and in no mood to be jerked around.

We finally ended up agreeing to have a taxi driver take us to our resort (uh, I only had the resort name, not the street address, which also wasn’t on their website or The Google, because #fancy). There was some bullshit currency conversion swindling on their part which I’m still legit pissed about; yes, I could have protested at the time, but Q7.33:$1USD is not an easy conversion to make under the best of circumstances, and while you’re angry, starving, sweating bullets, and feeling cornered AND stranded in a Shitty Bus company’s shitty office with no way to contact your lovely and carefully chosen hotel it’s damn near impossible.

So. Blue Eyes and I got in the sketch taxi with a driver who spoke zero English. We repeatedly said “La Lancha?” and he kept nodding, but who knows if there are multiple places called La Lancha, if there is a town called La Lancha, if it’s also the name of a restaurant or shopping collective? I knew from my emails with the hotel that we had about 50 minutes from “the bus terminal in Flores” to the resort….and I desperately hoped we were at least heading in the right direction. I’ll be honest, at this point I was a wreck and it’s entirely possible that I shed a few SUPER frustrated tears in the back seat of the taxi. Ugh. Even just thinking about it again makes me upset; I had done EVERYTHING I was supposed to do in order to guarantee a smooth travel experience, I was absolutely not prepared for feeling lost and vulnerable and being deliberately taken advantage of.

We started to drive around the lake…did I mention our lovely resort is located on the shores of Lake Petén Itzá? Well, it is. Soon the paved road became a gravel road, then a dirt road, then a SUPER rutted dirt road. It was getting dark and then it started to rain. Hard. There was intense, dark jungle on our right and what I hoped was still the lake on our left but it was too dark to tell.

I was white knuckling my camera and asked Blue Eyes if he thought we were going to be mugged. Or murdered. He said no, but, frankly, he wasn’t very convincing.

FINALLY, we arrived at the gates of La Lancha. We were greeted with cold hand towels that smelled of eucalyptus and indulgence, a plate of fresh fruit and cool cucumber water. I’m sure our taxi driver was waiting around for a tip, but after being scammed so much for the fare (I did the math to distract myself from jungle-murder nightmares) I didn’t even look back at him.

I explained the whole thing to the hotel manager, and would like a gold star for doing so in a polite, apologetic, and swear-free conversation. I gave him the print outs I had from his hotel confirming the location and with zero other means to contact in case of an emergency. I told him the bus company assured us there was NO bus terminal in Flores (which the manager only confirmed with “well, there isn’t, really, but there is a bus stop and that’s where our driver is still waiting for you…” It was sorted out in the end, La Lancha didn’t charge us for the driver that we didn’t end up using, and after a much needed bath in their glorious showers, a delicious dinner in the hotel’s open-air dining room, and dropping off a whole bag of stanky clothes to be laundered overnight*, Mr. Blue Eyes and I crashed in a giant king-sized bed with luxury linens picked out by Sophia Coppola** and a whirring air conditioner.

This is many many more words than I expected to write about this experience, to be honest. What I wanted to demonstrate is that I am not cut out to be a backpack traveler. Or, perhaps more accurately, I am not cut out to manage well in backpacker travel experiences (the Shit Bus, the super delayed schedule, the pre-arranged, distinctly NOT budget-traveler accommodations like a private chauffeur to our resort) combined with the timetable of a “I only have 5 days of PTO for this trip and I want to see as much as I can!”

We did not take the Shit Bus back to Belize, instead we flew back to the US after a few days in Guatemala and thankfully the rest of our travel plans went off without so much as a delayed flight.

 

 

 

 

*Two dresses, five or six shirts and several pairs of shorts laundered and returned smelling so INCREDIBLY fresh for a grand total of $8.76. Blue Eyes and I still talk about how wonderful and clean they smelled after the Guatemalan laundry got through with them!

**True story.

Tikal National Park, Guatemala

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When Blue Eyes and I were planning our trip to Belize I knew I wanted to spend some time on one of the northern caye’s (we chose Caye Caulker), and some time exploring some of the ancient Maya ruins in the interior. The more I looked, the more I really wanted to visit Tikal National Park in Guatemala, a few hours away. I know there are a number of amazing sites in Belize and others in Guatemala, but something about Tikal was calling to me. So, I researched various transportation options, figured out a way to get us from Caye Caulker to Flores, Guatemala, and set my sights on Tikal.

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Our guide, booked through our hotel, was AMAZING. He had a PhD in Central American archeology and spent his retirement days doing independent research, taking small groups through Tikal, and traveling to conferences to learn more about Maya culture, both ancient and current. He lived within a few miles of Tikal for most of his life and spent his childhood accompanying his archeologist father into the park. I know there is certainly something to be said for exploring such an amazing place on your own, and Tikal is ripe with places to explore. But I know I wouldn’t have had nearly the enriching experience without our super knowledgable guide.

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Tikal was built over several centuries, from about 600 BCE to the peak and eventual decline in 900 AD. Think of European cities from 900 AD, they were squalid cess-pools of plague and tribal fighting. To compare to this massive ancient city will make your jaw drop, the sheer SIZE of the various buildings is incredible, multiple stories, stone work that was covered in white plaster and painted in bright reds and yellows and blues and greens. The architectural genius of this civilization is still baffling; Blue Eyes is a civil engineer and he was amazed at so many of their inventions and strokes of genius, stuff that modern engineers are still struggling to figure out, these ancient people had perfected, without computers or power tools. This ancient world was stunning in every way.

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Many of the buildings, temples, and palaces are excavated, but there are literally hundreds more than are covered in jungle and just look like hills. I wish I had taken notes while we were wandering around the park, I have already forgotten so much of the history and detail, both of the reigning kings, the culture, the history…the layers of richness–and the quantity of information our guide was throwing around–are so amazing.

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This is part of the biggest plaza that has been excavated so far; you can climb all over these ruins, explore the rooms, and sit in the shade, your back cooling against a wall that was built 3,000 years ago. NBD.

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Part of the original Star Wars was filmed in Tikal, it stands in for the Rebel Base. And that is, literally, the least interesting thing about this place.

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The long, low buildings are palaces, mostly for living. The taller triangle-shaped pyramids are temples, which are for worship and ritual, and, to impress people, obviously. Each new king would try and build something bigger and better than the previous ruler, to show his dominance and general badassery. Dude, that strategy TOTALLY worked on me. Because, LOOK AT THEM!

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The main plaza, two enormous temples facing each other, with tiers of buildings in-between. We arrived in the park really early, but it was still oppressively hot, 108* and wicked humid with raging forest fires which turned the skies a dense, smoky white and made your lungs burn after several hours (or, after hiking a couple hundred steps to reach the top of one of the temples). We didn’t linger in many areas and I bought several bottles of water as we walked through the park.

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I kind of feel like I’m running out of ways to explain how AWESOME this place was, I was geeking out like crazy and wishing I could download all of the research on the ancient and modern Maya into my brain for reference. I have since ordered a few books (on recommendation from our guide) and I can’t wait to dig in and learn more about this amazing civilization.

 

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If you go: You must show your passport at the park entrance, and pay a cash-only fee of Q 150 quetzals (about $20, but they only take quetzals). Bring water and sunscreen! Bring your camera! SERIOUSLY consider taking a guided tour, we got so much back story and behind-the-scenes information, just because our guide told us where to look and then explained what we were looking at.