Still Alive: San Cristóbal de las Casas

I don’t know, it just seems like I’m losing steam. Guatemala exhausted me with all its tourist stuff. Guatemala, by virtue of not being Mexico, has become a very popular tourist location with traveling Americans. It’s really hard to get away from touristy stuff there; I think you basically have to go to the jungles up north, and keep away from Tikal. I didn’t go that way; I just felt like getting out of Guatemala, so I did. And now I’m in Chiapas, which by all accounts is a wonderland and a trip that one might look forward to for years. But I feel like I’m not getting anything out of it anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m not making that many interesting new friends along the way. I get rides, and the people who give me them are unfailingly nice, but they’re starting to blend together. Or maybe it’s not that. Maybe it’s just that I’ve seen so much that it’s hard to surprise me anymore. The mountains of Guatemala? Saw ’em in Laos two years ago. Teotihuacán? Angkor Wat is more impressive. Getting invited into people’s homes for dinner and a night of sleep, without even asking? Done it a dozen times already.

Or maybe it’s this: I want depth, and by traveling this much without knowing anyone local, never being in the same place more than a couple days, all I can get is breadth. Depth exists out here, and I can tell, and I’d love to experience it. If I had friends to stay with for a while, or a purpose for living in the area for months, I could. But coming along so temporarily, the way I do, it’s next to impossible. Before I left I reread Bill Bryson’s Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, which as a kid I thought was hilarious, and discovered it was just Bryson going into a town, looking at the cathedral, bitching about architecture a little, complaining about the price of his hotel, and going to the next town. Here I’m almost doing the same thing, except that I’m adding in a few chats with locals, and I get a slight thrill from finding a place to camp each night (last night I climbed up on top of a giant stack of pallets to sleep). Pump and dump.

So heck, I might get back early instead of late. Or I might find a second wind and a sense of purpose. Right now I’m in a fascinating town called San Cristóbal de las Casas (St Christopher of the Houses, which probably makes sense with some kind of context), in a Tzotzil Maya region. I just went into the cathedral and saw an old man kneeling in front of the realistically-colored statue of one of the saints, praying in Tzotzil for at least fifteen minutes, with his wife sitting in a pew waiting and looking on. From what I understand, he was probably praying to a combined Catholic saint and Maya god. When the Spaniards were figuring out how to Christianize the Maya, they noticed a certain similarity between the Maya pantheon and the Catholic saints, and decided to just associate a saint with each god, and let them keep worshiping the old deities under new names in a new context. So that was interesting to witness. Now I guess I’ll go look at a bunch of museums, and eventually move on to the next place. I’ll do what I can to make it interesting to myself.

File under: Year of Adventure, Still Alive, angst · Places: Mexico


Anonymous

History

Perhaps you née a break from travel, so that new thins will actually seem new. Take from an old pro, working for a while makes finding things while traveling more spontaneous to me. Anyway here's hoping things pick up for you. G.Pa

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Chuck

History

Today I found myself with a Spaniard who takes lots of photos, and we walked around town together finding things that were interesting to see. I also found a better stealth camping spot, much more comfortable. I think I'm mostly cured of the travel fatigue, for now. Or it's in remission?

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Anonymous

History

I am not surprised. You have an unmatched passion for travel. Our big snowstorm turned out to be a fizzle. About an inch. It is however very cold. Supposed to get below zero tonight. Brrr.

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Anonymous

History

The line between a professional wanderlust traveller, and a meandering vagabond is a thin one.

Try South America. While I'm not hitting the lost places, I overfly them all the time. I look down and see remote, very remote settlements on the faces of the Andes mountains. Lots look like they are perched on 30-40 degree inclines. Most would be next to impossible to reach, except for people like you. I look down and always wonder what a hard, but incredibly peaceful life they mus lead.

Dave

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