Let’s start this post with some thoughts on randomness, coincidence and destiny. I often wonder if every choice we make in our lives influences what comes next or if we have the ability to start fresh every second of the day and re-create our world? On the one hand there are just too many things happening all around us which clearly are a consequence of previous actions. However, on the other hand our mind has to deal with so much information and clutter in this world, that we willingly tend to forget a lot of things in order to make more sense of our constantly changing world. I believe the truth lays somewhere in the middle or even more likely depends on the situation.
Our 14-hour trip from San Pedro La Laguna in Guatemala to our new home in San Cristobal Las Casas in Mexico is definitely a good example of how perceived randomness has the power to influence our destiny.
On 4th of January we were enjoying our last all-you-can-eat brunch at El Barrio in San Pedro, when John, an older American guy I had talked to a few times walked in and sat at the bar. I didn’t pay much attention to him, because we were with a big group and were having a conversation in a mixture of French, Dutch, English and Spanish, which was already more than an effort in itself. Nonetheless, after a few hours I decided to say hi to him, since I was leaving town and this would probably be the last time I would see him. We started talking about our future plans and the moment I mentioned Mexico he said: ‘I saw a big white van with a sign saying ‘Need a ride to Mexico?’ When I heard him say these words I instantly thought to myself: ‘This is too good to be true, we quickly need to find out who they are and when they want to leave.’ A few minutes later we went to check out the van, but unfortunately they were not there. They had written an email address on the side of their van, so all hope was not lost.
When I first met Ashly, one of the two Kiwis who owned the van, I immediately felt a very relaxed adventurous everything-will-be-all-right vibe. And even though he told us they had driven by accident illegally into Guatemala with a semi-illegal vehicle we felt this was the best option for us to travel to Mexico. Mainly because we had heard about people being robbed along the way and because you never know how chicken bus drivers react to our dog Lewis; half of the time it is not a problem, but to get to our destination in Mexico we had to take five different buses (and by the way, a dog is not allowed on the more expensive tourist buses which drive straight from Panachajel to San Cristobal).
Taking all of this into account we gladly accepted the ride in their van and the next morning we were off to Mexico. Two other girls had also decided to take up their offer, so this made a total of six people going on a mini-adventure. The back part of the van was transformed into one big bed, which easily fitted the three girls and me. Not a bad way to travel I thought to myself, they even had a DVD player attached to the ceiling of the van. We instantly got along and the vibe during the part of the trip in Guatemala was super chill. I felt a bit sick thanks to the worst curvy road I have ever been on, but the stops and interesting conversations made it a lot more bearable.
The moment of truth came upon us when we arrived at the Guatemalan-Mexican border. They guys got out of the car and went to the border patrol to explain their story. At first the officer didn’t want to hear about and said the law is the law, blablabla… Luckily for us and the Kiwis Jenny used her charm and Spanish skills to clear the air and an hour later I saw a smile appearing on the face of the officer, which could only mean one thing: ‘Let the gates open!’
We felt so relieved that we drove past the Mexican immigration office and didn’t realize we were illegally in Mexico till the next day when Jenny said: ‘Shouldn’t we have an entry stamp of some sorts in our passports?’ Mistakes are opportunities for new adventures and with that in mind we returned to the border the next day, hoping our enthusiasm from the previous wouldn’t turn into unnecessary problems. The 4-hour ride to the border was a lot of fun and the instant we arrived at the immigration office and were welcomed by a smiling female officer we knew everything was good. The ride home was a bit different, our collectivo (small local bus) got checked 5 times by police with enormous guns and almost every time people without the correct papers were taken off the bus. At one point one guy got out of the bus and started running like crazy. The cops looked at each other, but reacted a bit too late and before they knew he was gone. The whole ride left us with a bit of a strange feeling and definitely made us aware that we are not travelling in Europe anymore.
Throughout the whole experience I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if I wouldn’t have talked to John, the American in San Pedro. And so, I leave it up to you to decide: perceived randomness or destiny?