A lesson learned

One of the things I do before traveling to a new country is check out the U. S. Department of State’s website for travel warnings and tips. When preparing for my trip to Guatemala I hopped onto the website and was quite disheartened. Crime was abundant. And I’m talking about violent crime: murder, rape, and armed assault to name a few. The site advised staying in groups especially when hiking some of the volcanoes.

To add to my worries, one of my coworker’s would spend his lunch hour telling me horror stories from his son-in-law who was from Guatemala. One of the stories that stuck was that some criminals would cut off your finger to steal your ring. This made an impression on me.

I’m not sharing this information to scare anyone from traveling. I think it’s important to be informed and aware of possible threats. And I also know that crime like this exists in many areas in the world, including America.

I didn't opt to ride a horse. Halfway up I regretted my decision

I didn’t opt to ride a horse. Halfway up I regretted my decision

We still planned a trip hiking a volcano, but joined a group for safety reasons. When our vans entered the small village at the base of the hike, a small boy shouted, “The gringos are here!” Our cover was blown. But I was determined to stay vigilant. Well as vigilant as I could be considering I was completely exhausted from this activity (to see more on this visit this page). The entire day we didn’t encounter any problems, except for the van getting a flat tire. After making it back down, I sat on a stone wall while we waited for the remaining members of our group. That’s when I heard a rustle in the bushes behind me. I had been warned that people wielding machetes were quite dangerous and should be avoided. So imagine my horror when I saw a man with a machete emerge from the bushes. My legs were shot from the hike and I thought, “Well this is it.” There was no way I could muster up the energy to run. No way.

Not the easiest hike I've been on. As you get closer to the top, the rocks are hot.

Not the easiest hike I’ve been on. As you get closer to the top, the rocks are hot.

Then I looked closely at the man. No one else around me was panicking. No one was screaming. As it turned out the gentleman was just getting firewood. What’s the point of this story: be informed and aware of your surroundings but don’t go overboard and think every person wants to kill you. Most of the time, the people I meet on my trips are quite pleasant and fun to talk to. I’ve met a few crazies. The most memorable one was on a train in New York City. But that’s a whole different story.

The view on our way to Pacaya was stunning.

The view on our way to Pacaya was stunning.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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56 Responses to A lesson learned

  1. petit4chocolatier says:

    I love this story. There is crime everywhere; including neighborhoods. What an aggressive hike! I love it. Even the hot rocks! Looks beautiful.

    • TBM says:

      For a while I was on my hands and knees pulling myself up. That’s how I found out how hot the rocks get. If you put a stick in between the rocks it would smoke. Kinda cool.

  2. Wow, you are braver than me!! If I had heard those stories, I’m pretty sure I would have cancelled, but then I am a chickenshit :).

    • TBM says:

      I was scared, I won’t deny that. But I’m so glad I went. However, I should say that everyone should be careful all of the time, wherever they are.

  3. jmgoyder says:

    Ha – I would have been scared too!

  4. At the moment i read, i begin dreaming about going to this place:d

  5. niasunset says:

    Photographs are beautiful dear TBM, but lesson is great too, in travelling we need to know this. Thank you, love, nia

  6. Beth Ann says:

    I totally get it! I think our brain can take us places because of our fears and make us believe something that is not true! I have the tendency to be a little too trusting and thinking that nothing will ever happen to me. I have gotten a little more discerning as I have gotten older but maybe still not enough. However a machete might make me think again! 🙂

  7. Novroz says:

    That’s a very good lesson TBM 🙂
    It’s a bit difficult to be not prejudice in new place.

    anyway…lovely view!

    • TBM says:

      Fear is a powerful emotion and can play tricks on one’s mind. I loved the view. Wish I wasn’t so tired, I would have taken more photos.

  8. i’m glad you enjoyed your trip. “information is power” so i’ve been told, and it looks to me like you always go into things well-informed. my daughter loves the saying “keep calm and carry on” and i thought of that as i was reading your post.

    your photos are always so good! i can almost feel like i’m there. i’m traveling the world by proxy 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I see the Keep Calm and Carry On saying all over here in London. Maybe I should get a keepsake so I can travel with it to remind myself when a strange armed man pops out of the bushes. Of course it might not always work.

      • “Of course it might not always work.”

        lol, no, i think not. the machete wielding camera thief mentioned by one commenter would be hard for me to stay calm in the face of. but your posts always sound like you are prepared to cope with whatever comes next.

      • TBM says:

        I’ve learned over the years to stay calm. Then again, I’ve never encountered a machete in the face–and I would like to say, I hope I never do.

  9. Wise words, beautiful photos!

  10. biblioglobal says:

    I’ve definitely learned to take the state department’s website with a grain of salt. They will make everything sound as scary as possible. For understandable reasons of course.

    • TBM says:

      I understand that they have an obligation to inform the public, but sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed. Of course if I was a victim I wouldn’t want them to sugarcoat it and would like others to know what happened. It’s a difficult situation–how much is too much?

  11. nrlymrtl says:

    ‘I had been warned that people wielding machetes were quite dangerous and should be avoided.’

    *chuckle* Uh, yeah. I would think this would go for wherever you are. In fact, if you are wielding the machete, other folks should give you some space. Whether or not you would be a danger to yourself is unknown.

    • TBM says:

      I did find the advice a little odd since i try to avoid all armed people. But I appreciated the tip. Avoid people with machetes–check!

  12. Great story! I probably should have been more paranoid when I traveled in my 20’s, but I learned to trust my instincts and woman’s intuition. They were so often right.

    • TBM says:

      Intuition is useful–except when I’m deciding if I should turn left or right. Seems to let me down a lot when doing that.

  13. Madhu says:

    I agree, there is most likely more danger lurking back home than in all those ‘dangerous’ destinations 🙂

    • TBM says:

      No matter how hard we try, we can’t avoid danger. I’m always amazed when I hear on the news that someone from home was killed or something. I always think, “But I live here, it can’t happen here.” It does. It happens everywhere unfortunately.

  14. Lucid Gypsy says:

    My friends were robbed of their camera at machete point in Guatemala!

    • TBM says:

      Yikes! I hope they weren’t hurt, but the trauma would leave a lasting scar. I know bad things happen there and everyone should be on alert.

  15. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”

    P.S: I did not say that. It was someone else who did, but I am not able to recollect his/her name now.

  16. pattisj says:

    It pays to be aware, one doesn’t want to walk blindly into a bad situation. Can’t wait to hear the NY story.

  17. Fergiemoto says:

    That’s quite a story, but one does have to be aware no matter where the destination is. I know a person who would tell me nothing but bad things about a place before I traveled there, and things I needed to watch out for. This was when I was traveling abroad quite often. It’s good to be informed, but it would have been nice if this person said something positive about the places I was traveling to, because I looked forward to each of these trips.

    • TBM says:

      Some people are just negative and can’t see the good. And yes, I look forward to the trips as well and I want to focus on the experience, not the fear. There’s always some amount of fear wherever you go. That’s just life.

  18. Sartenada says:

    Great story indeed. Nowadays when travelling by car in some countries it is wiser to lock car’s door inside. One never knows what it can happen when car stops.

    In 1975 we visited Guatemala in the town of Antigua. I remember very well in a tourist shop when we entered it that somebody said that in Spanish “Gringos están aquí”, meaning that Gringos have come, meaning more concretely that raise prices. I said to one seller in Spanish that we are from Europe from Finland and we are not rich. Seller was very embarrassed and prices went down.

    • TBM says:

      I stayed near Antigua. It’s a lovely place. That is a shame about their customer service though. At least you talked some sense into them. Oh the joys and lessons you learn while traveling. It’s such an experience and even the bad teaches us. Thanks for sharing your story. Do you have pictures on your blog from you visit there?

  19. jannamills01 says:

    The photo of the view to Pacaya is beautiful, it looks very Mediterranean!

  20. The Guat says:

    Yeah you gotta keep your eyes open when you’re in the capital, but small towns are great. Not too much crime because small town justice is crazy down there.

  21. Lynn says:

    Another great story. Thanks for sharing. Not sure I fancy that hike! It looks a toughie.
    I think you have to be careful, or more to the point aware, wherever you go. Crime is everywhere after all. I think when we were going to Madrid recently we read all sorts of terrible stories warning you about different things. As it happens we had an amazing time and never saw a spot of trouble but it doesn’t do any harm to be pre warned and to take a few precautions.
    Lynn 😀

    • TBM says:

      The hike was tough. I’m glad I did it, but it’s crossed off the list for good! We had a wonderful time when we visited Spain, but had read many warnings before we went. It helped us prepare and keep our stuff safe before we left.

  22. i think it’s okay to move forward if you’re scared-feeling scared is just a warning sign – like when you get your hand to close to the fire. it’s being smart about things that allows you to decide how you’re going to move forward. you’ve obviously got that quality and won’t miss out on something as amazing as this. and i’m sure you’d know when not to go. a full life is always worth the risk.

    • TBM says:

      It’s important to stay alert but not to let fear deter you from enjoying life. Now if a war broke out right before we left for our trip, we would have cancelled for altered everything to ensure our safety. As you say, you have to be informed and make the best decision possible.

  23. Great story, and I wholeheartedly agree.

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  26. Daniel says:

    Beautiful post, proves to show that there are good and bad people everywhere, and you shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Congratulations!


  27. This was like my trip to Malaysia. Apparently the town I was staying in was very dangerous, despite me not seeing anything but a car accident.
    Sometimes you just gotta do a bit of prevention work, then let the adventure take it’s path..after all a holiday spent worrying isn’t a holiday at all.


    • TBM says:

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m curious about what town in Malaysia you were in. we are heading there in May. I’m glad it all worked out for you.

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