Discovering Guatemala: A Journey of Friendship, Adventure, and Self-Discovery

Lorien Steele
August 28, 2023

Sparkloft Discovery Trips are an opportunity for education, relaxation, and perspective-altering experiences. By taking time to slow down and appreciate other cultures and their natural and beautiful resources, employees come back refreshed with a new perspective to continue to grow Sparkloft's global perspective. Learn about Lorien's soul-changing Discovery Trip with a retreat group in Guatemala:

Have you ever embarked on a trip that changed your perspective on life and left an indelible mark on your soul? We all dream of a trip that immerses us in culture and experience in a transformative way, but we usually leave our trips with one-line quips that we translate down to our family and friends - “It was great!” “Yes, I would recommend it.” 

I don’t know where to begin to translate a trip of this magnitude, one where I was invited to join one of my best friends on a discovery trip to Guatemala with a retreat group called Get Wild Retreats. Always a skeptic, it was my first experience in group travel–which I had always imagined as being stuck in a location that I wanted to be in but being beholden to the whims and temperaments of others. Little did I know that this trip to Guatemala would become an extraordinary adventure filled with breathtaking landscapes, spiritual encounters, and lifelong connections that would forever leave its mark on me.

A Journey with My Best Friend

From the moment Lauren and I embarked on this journey, I knew it would be an unforgettable experience. We had been friends since 6th grade, sharing countless memories, but this trip would take our bond to new heights. We have explored many foreign lands together, but this trip brought us even closer, reinforcing the strength of our friendship. We shared an itsy bitsy full-size bed in a room built into a cliffside where we had to shake the bedding for scorpions every night and cuddle. We spent so much of our time laughing, but for the first time, we navigated a foreign culture and language together through the lens of our ancestry and explored our spiritual selves together, something we had never done.

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Packing Light and Free

As we prepared for our adventure, I made a conscious decision to pack everything into a single backpack. Liberating myself from excess baggage allowed me to embrace the simplicity of travel and focus on the experiences that awaited me in Guatemala. It was a refreshing change, both physically and mentally, and one completely necessary to navigate the terrain of cobblestones, cliffsides, mountains, and boats that came to be our lives over the next two weeks.

Journeying with Strangers Who Became Family

Our journey took us from Guatemala City to the ancient and beautiful streets of Antigua, through the majestic mountains of Guatemala, to our final destination for the majority of the trip, Lake Atitlan. Where we found ourselves thrust into a crazy adventure with 12 strangers. But as the days unfolded, these strangers became more than just fellow travelers—they became our chosen family. Sharing meals, conquering challenges, and supporting one another created unbreakable bonds.

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Wild Adventures and Unforgettable Moments

Upon emerging from the mountains into Lake Atitlan, we were transported to our retreat by the local taxi system, a wild pachanga boat ride. This exhilarating mode of transport was just the beginning of our extraordinary experiences. We practiced yoga twice daily, reconnecting with our bodies and minds while meeting insightful healers who left a lasting impact on our spirits. Our fearless leader, Kelsey, made sure to design an itinerary that focused on both mental and physical challenges and opened our curiosity to new experiences. 

Transformative Mayan Ceremonies

One of the most profound moments of our trip was the Mayan fire ceremony. It was a beautiful and emotional experience that called upon us to connect with our heritage and ancestors in ways we had never done before. The flames danced, carrying our intentions and desires into the universe, leaving us with a sense of connection and purpose.

We also ventured into the Mayan sweat lodge, a challenging physical and mental ordeal. Starting with a cacao ceremony, we entered a tiny room built of clay, heated by stones brought from the local volcano. Chanting, calling upon the blessings of the earth's elements, and inhaling the intoxicating scent of incense, we underwent a transformative purification process that reduced us to only being able to breathe and be present at the moment.

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Conquering Heights and Overcoming Obstacles

I embarked on my first hike since intensive surgery earlier this year–a procedure that left me unable to walk for a month and a half—and achieved a monumental milestone for myself. We tackled the ascent to Indian Nose, a hike that rose 7,200 feet, starting at an elevation of 2,100 meters above sea level. It was physically demanding, but the breathtaking views and the sense of achievement made every step worthwhile. The best part was the descent, where we traveled down the side of the mountain like the locals, standing in the back of a truck holding tightly to welded iron as we careened down switchbacks and watched the beautiful scenery of the mountainside villages unfold around us.

One of the most exhilarating moments during my trip to Guatemala was when we kayaked to a cliff-jumping spot that took adventure to new heights.  We had to scramble up a rugged cliff side to reach the jumping point, using every crevice and foothold available. As we reached the top, our hearts raced with anticipation. Walking out onto the remains of an old rebar building, we found ourselves balancing on the edge, peering down at the choppy waters below. It was a moment of pure adrenaline and excitement. With a deep breath, we took the plunge, soaring through the air, feeling weightless for a brief moment before plunging into the refreshing embrace of the water. The rush of the jump, combined with the stunning natural surroundings, created an unforgettable memory that will forever be etched in my mind.

This discovery trip to Guatemala taught me the incredible power of group travel.

Throughout the week, we formed a tight-knit family, overcoming challenges, sharing meals, and creating memories that will last a lifetime. I realized the beauty of surrendering control, allowing myself to be fully present in the moment. This journey rejuvenated my spirit and soul, reminding me of the transformative power of travel. I am eagerly looking forward to embarking on future adventures with strangers, knowing that these connections and experiences will shape me in ways I can't yet imagine.

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For a deeper look download our report:
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Lorien Steele, is an exceptional individual with a passion for creativity and a love for the great outdoors. As an Executive Creative Director, Lorien's innovative thinking and artistic vision have helped shape remarkable campaigns and projects. With an adventurous spirit, she seeks solace and inspiration in nature, constantly exploring new trails, mountains, and landscapes. However, despite her affinity for adventure, Lorien approaches group travel with a healthy dose of skepticism, preferring to carve her own path and seek unique experiences along the way.


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