Eight summers ago, when I was packing up my life and readying to move to Guatemala, sight unseen, a dear Austin yoga teacher colleague, Charles MacInerney, wrote me a nice letter recommending that I visit Villa Sumaya, a yoga retreat center on Lake Atitlan where he’d taught several yoga retreats.
Up until then, I’d never heard of this majestic lake.
I moved to Guatemala City in August, 2009. My first trip to the lake was for the American Thanksgiving weekend. I stayed with a bunch of teacher friends at a colorful chalet outside Panajachel, on the road to Santa Catarina. I would, four years later, find myself passing that house daily, when my family lived twenty minutes outside Pana.
My second trip to the lake was in January 2010 with my teaching buddy Kat. We escaped the city on the chicken bus, found our way to Pana, and then crossed the lake to Santiago. We stayed only one or two nights at the lush Posada de Santiago, but it felt like a joyful eternity, a portal into an alternate universe, light years from the dirty, loud, dangerous capital city where we lived and worked. We swung in hammocks, soaked in the hot tub, sweated in the sauna and dove into the cold lake. In less than 48 hours, we were transformed. I began my ongoing love affair with Santiago Atitlan, though life has led me to live in Pasajcap, on the north shore instead of the southern one, 20 minutes walk outside the hippie haven of San Marcos La Laguna. Nowadays, I journey over to Santiago about once a week, to teach yoga in the same gardens at the same Posada and to take my daughter to the most adorable preschool on the planet.
Along with my friend, Ash Fletcher, the wild woman who spurred me to start leading weekend yoga retreats, because we led them together, I toured Villa Sumaya, sometime in mid-2010. I remember being very impressed by its beauty and in awe of the idea of bringing retreat groups there. Villa Sumaya is luxurious, especially by lake standards, and its prices are set to U.S. standards, meaning most people who live here in Guatemala can’t afford it. We stuck to teaching our two and three night retreats at more budget locales, lovely in themselves, such as La Paz in San Marcos and Earth Lodge outside of Antigua. I’ve been doing it ever since, several times a year. Always weekends. Always amazing.
A few months after leaving my decade-long career in education/school teaching in early 2015, I spotted a flier for a job at Villa Sumaya. Long story short, I got the job and have been working as the retreat and reservations coordinator there ever since. I currently work on site two days of the week and from home the rest of the time. It’s a good job, and I am grateful for it. I can’t say I love managing the logistical details of retreats as much as I love teaching yoga and facilitating retreats, but now these two skill sets are coming together and enabling me to do both at the same time.
Today, a long-awaited dream of mine is coming true. I am going to be leading a week-long yoga retreat, at Villa Sumaya no less! It’s a very small group of women coming together, but it is happening. This week will be a model for potential future weeks. This retreat, for me, is a personal revolution and very much a full circle moment.
There is always stress in life, always struggles and challenges to deal with. I do not want to imply that by realizing this dream, I am enlightened or my life is perfect.
At the same time, ever since I set foot in Guatemala, I have chosen and am continuing to choose the path of beauty. The choices have led to this path, for me, at this magical lake, in this mystical Mayan heartland. To stay on the path, wherever it leads us, we must renew our vows to do so, day by day, moment to moment.