Last Monday, my coworkers and I returned from our second retreat, in which we spent six days in the tropical climate of Guatemala’s Caribbean coast. The trip began with a lengthy, yet luxurious charter bus ride to the port town of Puerto Barrios from where we snagged a water taxi bound for Livingston. We then spent two days in Livingston listening to reggae, relaxing at postcard beaches, and venturing into the jungle where they filmed the original Tarzan movie. Following these excursions, we boated up the Rio Dulce to Lake Izabal, the largest lake in Guatemala, and to our pleasant surprise, both the river and the lake exceeded the guidebook descriptions
Following this reflective voyage up the river, we kayaked and tanned for one day at the isolated Denny’s Beach Resort on Lake Izabal, then stayed the remainder of the retreat in Rio Dulce town at a rustic hostel nestled into the jungle. The capstone of the trip, on the last day, we visited Finca Paraiso, the world’s only hot water waterfall. Though we all left the falls drenched in the rotten-egg smell imparted by the sulfur, it was worth every scent to be able to stand in a cool stream while simultaneously being showered by hot water. Dana and Jared, brave souls, even jumped off of the falls into the pool below.
Possibly due to my love of Bob Marley, or my passion for all things aquatic, or maybe even my weird obsession with humidity, I found the coast to be an ideal retreat location. More than eight hours away from our home and comfort zones in Sololá, my coworkers and I were able to explore unfamiliar locations together and come together as a team. Amidst the rewarding chaos of directing programs, fulfilling organizational roles, and maintaining relationships with community members and other expat volunteers, we sometimes forget to spend time together as a group. Immersed in our relationships as coworkers, we sometimes overlook our relationships as friends. I am so grateful for the retreat, as it reminded us of the importance of these friendships.