Incoming first-year MBA student furiously scribbles notes at the eleventh hour while superimposing spider-charts to compare Random Walk destinations –
Agenda: Hiking up volcanoes, exploring Mayan ruins and sipping exquisite coffee. Seems like a winning combination.
Ratings: High on nature and culture, low on nightlife. Can’t trust a ‘5’ nightlife rating for a trip named after Fama’s thesis on stock price movements anyway.
Visa requirement: None. Score! Internet says it’s not the safest country for tourists, but my passport does rank 140th on the Passport Power Rank Index.
People leading the trip: hasn’t done RW before, Icelandophile not leading RW Iceland, journalist in a bottom-decile country for press-freedom, banker who temporarily gave it all up to be one with the tribes in Angola.
It was with some variant of this solid body of research that sixteen of us and a massive inflatable unicorn named Raphael arrived in Guatemala. Despite initial hiccups – being detained for entering the country illegally and realizing our local airplane was held together by duct tape – we journeyed smoothly to our first stop, Flores.
Flores sat at the foot of the cultural epicenter of ancient Mayan civilization – a glorious city built at the height of Mayan power that was, as good things often are, eventually forgotten and overrun by the jungle. We spent the day hiking through that forest, uncovering temples and climbing them. We learnt that the Mayans were cool, that they still numbered 6 million people, and that their culture was still very much alive. We also gathered that it amused them to no end that everyone else thought the world would end in 2012.
Mayan magnificence eventually gave way to Spanish grandeur as we travelled from Flores to Antigua, the old colonial Spanish capital. Today, Antigua is a UNESCO world heritage site – an urban complex of beautiful Spanish architecture nestled between three enormous volcanoes. Our first activity in the city was ziplining. Fears were overcome with mutual encouragement and screams were drowned in cheers as Boothies flew over the valley, with a collective sense that the group was starting to bond. Over the next two days, the city was explored and appreciated. A volcano was climbed and used as a marshmallow roaster, since no one had any powerful rings that needed destroying in the lava. By this point, the group had moved on from just being new friends to launching a company (Pocket-Egg) and podcast (The Daily Dimitris) together. We spent our last day in Antigua doing small-group dinners, getting our nails done at clubs and wandering the city.
We moved on from Antigua, winding down our trip on the shores of idyllic Lake Atitlán. We spent time at the lakeside hotel drinking cervezas and sharing stories, occasionally venturing out to the numerous villages that dotted the countryside to explore local weaving, coffee and chocolate. We capped off the holiday by renting a boat and a speaker for the afternoon, and finally unleashing Raphael on the lake’s waters.
We returned to Chicago exhausted, but as a new set of close friends looking forward to doing TNDCs, classes and all other things Booth, together.