For the past two months, Marco and I had been traveling in la Chichona. We shared meals, activities, conversations, and jokes, a lot of jokes. We complemented and learned from each other, through good and bad times. As Stephen King would say, "We were Ka-tet, one from many. We had shared our water as we had shared our lives and our quest."
No matter the hour, boredom was never around. In San Pedro, we had been following a strict routine to get in shape. We wanted to climb the Acatenango volcano and be fit for the next surfing destination. And since we were cooking everyday, we experimented.
The veggie taco recipe was our little baby. We created it from intuition and went a long way since. Being both perfectionists, we aimed for the tastiest product. We cooked every meal like professional chemists, measuring the slightest change, striving for perfection. Came dinner, we would tell people we were French chefs at work and demanded honest and accurate feedback. Playing Michelin-starred chefs was fun. We were polishing our craft. Every dinner had a purpose and we improved every time, until Marco received a troublesome phone call.
His grandmother was sick. Despite his poker face, I felt his worries. He booked a ticket to France to go see her. We hugged each other goodbye and he left for the airport. For the first time in four months, I was alone.
I wanted to impress Marco for his return. My goal was to paddle across the lake and back, a total of 4 km. I built up my endurance gradually, stretching my limits every time. Having no one to impress or compete with, every workout was more draining than the last. I eventually crossed the lake and shared the news with him over facetime. He was impressed, but that was about it.
Now by myself, I did not have the motivation to hike up the hill for fresh vegetables everyday. I invited people for dinner to force myself to cook. They all loved the recipe but something was missing. Without Marco’s astute palate, the meals were just good or great. There was no challenge anymore. Cooking too, had lost its magic.
There was a void within, so I focused my energy on work. The Shitty Sugar ride was soon to be over and I needed to find a new way to make a living. I had a business idea lingering in the back of my mind for months. Now was the perfect time to test it. I started grinding.
My mornings were busy with sports, groceries and cooking. The afternoons were quiet and productive. I was putting in the time and efforts, creating and testing, and making progress. Every day was intense, productive, and repetitive. Solitude forces you to get shit done.
The rainy season in Guatemala honored its name. Everyday around sunset, the sky turned dark and the clouds cried over the quiet town of San Pedro. I blew my harmonica and listened to the rain. For two weeks I kept the pace, using every waking hour to fill the void Marco had left. Loneliness was creeping over me.
Despite my improvements in every field, I felt blue. There was no one to show my progress, no one to brainstorm or laugh with. Dark thoughts clouded my mind like the clouds over the lake. Life itself had become dull. I was not alone anymore. I was lonely.
One night, I remembered that evening with Paula and Maria; how we laughed after the girls had left. In a reflex, I turned around, all excited to share the joke. But there was nobody to listen. Suddenly, an immense sadness overwhelmed me. I exhaled into the grey sky, and started sobbing.
A few days later, Marco's grandmother passed away. I felt his grief. His sadness fueled mine. I was away from all the people I loved. I missed my mom, my dad, Marco, my friends. The lonely nights made me question everything. What was I doing here? Why was I traveling? I did not know anymore.
On the surface, everything looked the same. Yet, it felt different, bland, like a soup without salt. Loneliness sucked joy from my life. I needed laughter, affection, and support. Most of all, I needed someone to hug. Paula was the first person I thought of. I texted her, packed my stuff, and left for Antigua.
Christopher McCandless spoke true. “Happiness is only real when shared”.