“Disculpe amiga, compra Marshmallows?” said a young boy as I was preparing to hike up Volcano Pacaya.
Marshmallows? What would I do with marshmallows on a hike?! I had my homemade granola, water bottle, Iphone (for the snapchats of course) and sunscreen all packed up in my little backpack and was pumped to climb an ACTIVE volcano for the first time in my life.
Pacaya is an active volcano only 90 minutes away from the colorful city of Antigua in Guatemala. It’s a relatively easy climb of 8,000 feet and you are drawn to the most spectacular views of lagoons, other volcanoes and naturally the most amazing volcanic vegetation along the trail!
Initially what starts out as a steep uphill trek through dense green foliage, soon turned into a walk on the moon. The trail was covered with volcanic ash and soot. It was unbelievable that we were walking (slipping and sliding) on this! Eventually we came to a spot where you could actually see the lava flowing through these rocks! Sounds like a situation where the wise thing to do would be to keep your distance, but to my surprise, the tour guide stopped right there and pulled out some marshmallows and skewers from his back pack and handed them out!
Well you don’t get an opportunity like this everyday so I just made some s’mores (graham crackers and chocolate would have done the trick) from the lava heat and relished the powerful landscape around. It was one of those awakening moments when I realized how minuscule I was in comparison to nature and how transient my life could be given the unpredictability of the volcanic activity and it’s ability to wipe out its surroundings. It also made me arrive at the conclusion that I needed to live each day with complete happiness, as you just never know when that volcano will erupt.
We then started our descent and we came across a souvenir shop. I was amazed that someone would try to make a livelihood above such risky grounds. We spoke to the man who owns the shop and he started showing us videos of him fleeing from the last volcanic eruption in 2014. He spoke about how it was a terrifying experience in which he lost his shop but he felt blessed that he survived. I asked him about why he would come back to these dangerous grounds and he just smiled and said, “I not scared”. In that moment I realized one cannot let the past haunt and in the same breath one cannot let the future scare. Life is unpredictable but you have to conquer the mountain of fears and insecurities within and live each day with confidence and an element of fun. This is not your practice life, this is it so live to the fullest.