A Day in the Life on World Tour- Lake Atitlan, Guatemala


“Happy Travels”

Before departing on our World Tour, we received a piece of advice from many of our traveler friends that has stuck with us (rather subconsciously): develop a daily routine or structure as often as possible. While we haven’t always been intentional about our daily schedules, this advice has really taken form in many of our stops. In Guanajuato, our days were structured around refreshing our Spanish skills and learning about Mexico. Along the Michoacan coast we focused on relaxation. Like really, really hard. We shaped our bodies and minds through yoga, surfing, and lots of deep conversations in Zipolite. The vibrant culture and people structured our days in Oaxaca City. Now in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala our routine consists of learning Spanish and then learning more Spanish. In each new place, we have developed new goals which have shaped our daily routine and which in turn have provided a sense of home and stability amidst the often unstable, uncertain, and unpredictable reality of slow, long-term travel. Question- how would you spend your time if you didn’t have to work?

And now presenting the second installment (the first was in Zipolite) of “A Day in the Life on World Tour” – Lake Atitlan, Guatemala version:


6:15am- Jon awakens and makes a cup of the richest coffee in the world. He sips and watches the sun rise over the lake from our kitchen window.


7:30am- Carolyn rolls out of bed, “Did I miss the sunset?” We read a bit and  chat about our activities for the day.

9:00am- Simple breakfast- fried egg on bread, banana, tea and coffee. Work on homework. Attempt to read emails (remember cable internet? That’s what we got and it’s just as slow as it was 10 years ago).

10:00am- One of the following:

  • Walk one block to daily outdoor market for veggies, fruit, meat, etc
  • Go to “Gringolandia” to do internet research and enjoy a scrumptious healthy brunch. The other day Carolyn had home-made wheat bread topped with goat cheese and pineapple chutney and a side of beat, carrot, apple salad. Yum!
  • Stay in and chat about new business ideas, Joseph Campbell, or our next destinations (read to the end to see where we’re headed next!)


1:30pm- Pack PB & J sandwiches, water, and our notebooks and head to school…if only I still had my Pee-Wee Herman lunchbox from kindergarten!

1:50pm- Along with a few other bright-eye-bushy-tailed students, we gather at the Spanish school and wait for our teachers to arrive for the 2pm class. The teachers are always set up and ready at least 5 minutes before go-time. Morning classes are more popular but we like our slow, un-rushed morning routine so we opted for afternoon classes. Our first two weeks were spent at Cooperativa Spanish School. In addition to providing four hour one-on-one Spanish classes, this school often schedules free afternoon and weekend activities including salsa lessons, movie nights, and kayaking. The setting is gorgeous and there are lots of students. Our next two weeks will be at Orbita Spanish School which also offers one-on-one classes, is in a more modest setting, and where the focus is on the quality of instruction.  The teachers are truly first class, even by Jon’s standards! We are loving it here and highly recommend both schools!

4:15pm- 15 minute break. Students and teachers gather on the patio together and enjoy coffee, tea, and home-made baked goods like pan-de-chocolat!


4:30pm- Back to class!

6:00pm- “Muchas gracias! Que tenga una buena noche! Hasta manana!” (Thank you, have a good night, see you tomorrow!) We bid our teachers farewell and either eat out at one of the 20 restaurants here that we love or go home to cook. Sometimes we will spend time with Amy and Tim, our new friends! Almost always before heading up to our apartment we stop at the Panaderia next door for some fresh bread for the next morning’s breakfast.


8:00pm- Watch some Spanish TV for practice (sometimes movies in English with Spanish subtitles..I promise we are reading them!)

Side note: The TV situation is actually pretty hilarious. Picture a small quaint apartment with tall wide windows revealing a breathtaking view of the lake and surrounding mountains. Now picture a huge flat screen TV blocking said view and that’s our apartment! This big powerful device taunts us sometimes: “Spanish shows are great for learning Spanish. Turn me on and watch TV. Do it..NOW”. “OK OK! We bow down to thee!” we humbly respond as we grab the remote.

10:00pm- Lights out! We sleep well on nights that don’t fall on someone’s birthday, a holiday, or Saint’s day which are celebrated with fireworks from midnight until 5am!

Other fun stuff we’ve been up to:

Kayaking with students from Cooperativa School:


Salsa Class. It was harder than we thought it would be but really fun!


Trip to San Juan. This pueblo is smaller and has a more “local” feel than San Pedro. It also has some beautiful murals and handicrafts, which we love.


Tejate demonstration. The women in San Pablo (another neighboring pueblo on the lake) make chair and floor mats out of the reeds in the lake. Many years ago they used these for mattresses. My teacher said this weaving tradition, like many others in Guatemala, is slowly disappearing as many are finding that the craft does not bring in enough money to sustain themselves.

And soon…weaving classes!

Overall, we’ve been enjoying the structure that Spanish classes have added to our daily routine and we look forward to applying our new skills in the countries that lie ahead! We are thinking Costa Rica and Panama for a few weeks, then Colombia. Any recommendations? Or should I say, “tienen recomendaciones?”