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Hippies in San Pedro, Guatemala

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After riding the boat from Santiago Atitlan we soon came into the port of San Pedro, Guatemala – a hippy town on the far side of Lake Atitlan. As Mira and I dismounting at the docks, we were promptly accosted by a hotel runner, who – taking us for hippies – attached himself to us like a barnacle and talked to us as if we were hip. In this traveling world, we could expect nothing else. I did not even try to make him pronounce my cow-bleating name. In fact, I did not even want to talk to him at all. But, for a tout, he was not too bad. He actually told us the name of a cheap hotel, some things about it, and the price. Knowing that he already gave us all the information we needed, he quickly realized that he could not be of any further service, and promptly departed from us with a smile on his face and a wave of his hand. Mira and I thought that it was funny that a tout would tell us the name and price of a hotel. It seemed as if by sharing this information he was putting himself out of job, as we could go straight away to the place that he directed us to go without following his lead. This is what we did.

Hippies in San Pedro, Guatemala. Did not give the hello test to these ones. They appear to be in love.


We ended up at the cheap Hotel San Francisco which had a kitchen and a good view of Lake Atitlan. Mira and I joked about the self-deprecating honesty of the tout as we entered through the doors. We thought we were slick. We soon mounted the sky high stairs of this classic hippy hotel of San Pedro. The hotel was actually pretty nice, we had an amazing view of Lake Atitlan, and were paying less than three dollars each for a great roof-top room with a private bathroom and shower. We were happy.

Even though the hotel was full to the brim with hippies. Of whom I occasionally had the opportunity to chase away from the patio outside of my room’s big picture window. I simply do not want to listen to hippies talking about moons and full moons and full moon parties when I am standing in my bare-butt skibbies inside the open window of my hotel room. I am not a part of the crowd, I do not wish for my ears to be subjected to cool talk. “Doesn’t hippy sound like something that you can just throw off of a high building and watch go splat at the bottom?” Mira rhetorically joked. Looking down, far down from the roof-top patio at the ground below, I momentarily thought about testing her theory.

I do not mind hippies – the old ones were great travelers who blazed stark trails across the earth, and they tend to be really interesting people who like good conversation and have great stories. You meet these grizzled old road dogs on every far-flung corner of planet earth, and they give no sign at how they ended up there. But I do want to be subjected to ‘cool dudes.’ Or more precisely, I just do not want to listen to ‘cool’ talk and having to make it known that, regardless of my outward appearance, I am not really all that cool. I hate drugs, I scarcely drink, will only touch a cigarette if it would make Mira laugh at how awkwardly I hold it, I go to bed early, wake up earlier, get tattoos because I – and I alone – like them, know nothing about what is trendy, do not know what trance music is, never been to a rave, only read books that were written by people who are long gone dead. I, yes it is true, am an old guy. I like to sit around and drink tea and talk about old books and Herman Melville. I am repulsed by bars unless they are frequented by Erik the Pilot and his unique brand of bar-room humor.

Hippy bar in San Pedro, Guatemala. I do not know what gives me this impression, but it seems as if you can purchase freedom in a bottle inside this place.

It is my impression that the hippies once found a way – any way – to keep traveling the world, chasing horizons, and never going home. I have been privileged to listen to the stories of more than a few of these old-time travelers. Now the hippies seem as if they are in a perpetual search for various and frivolous ways to spend all of their money so that they will have to go home. I do not have the impression that these hippies are really hippies at all, moreover, it appears to me, that they are just normal kids with dreadlocks.

Ain’t nothing wrong with this, I suppose.

But San Pedro, Guatemala is full of these dreadlocked kids far too proud of themselves and their dreadlocks to say hello to an unknown traveler passing them in the street. For fun, Mira and I walked around the bar district saying hello to every dreadlocked kid that passed our way – just to see if they would return our greetings. Our success rate was strikingly low. But this was a fun game none the less. It seems as if our unreturned greetings just proved the social hierarchy that resounds in such circles. THEY know where IT is at. I do not. But Mira and I would be launched into a sea of laughter at each dreadlocked kid who would give us the stone-face at our simple words of “Hello, how are you doing?”

If this is cool, then I am not.

Perhaps, I am a little proud of this.

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Filed under: Guatemala

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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