The word “safe” is a relative term (Lessons from Guatemala pt. 2)


Toddlers on the backs of motorcycles. Hunching over a river of lava for a photo op. A waterfall hike over a rickety bridge (not to mention the police escort lest robbers attacked us on the way).

After four weeks in Guatemala, I’ve concluded that “safe” is a relative term at best.

It’s the little things…

Roasting marshmallows over the lava of Pacaya - a typical gringo activity outside Antigua.
Roasting marshmallows over the lava of Pacaya - a typical gringo activity outside Antigua.

Not unlike other American travelers outside the States, I had my fair share of moments thinking, “There would so be a guardrail there if this were the U.S.” But even in the more mundane instances of life, I couldn’t help but feel that we Americans are a bit over protective.

Take the children for example. Our host family had four girls under the age of 12. Almost their entire house was floored with the same unforgiving surface, including the landing next to their staircase, which in turn lacked “proper” guard rails. The entire house certainly wasn’t what I’ve learned to consider “child proof.”

And it’s not as if the kids never fell down. They did. They just learned that it hurt like crazy and so learned not to do it again.

It reminded me of a professor I had at Xavier who claimed that, if he had had kids, he would not buy them bicycle helmets. “I want them to learn to not fall on their heads!” he would exclaim.

A happy medium…

That said, I think there’s a middle ground between coddling kids and neglect, when it comes to child rearing, and between overprotective and dangerous, when it comes to safe habits in general.

Besides, as an urban dweller with a bicycle, I’m actually for bicycle helmets.

One thought on “The word “safe” is a relative term (Lessons from Guatemala pt. 2)

  1. I love your professor’s philosophy! My dad always used to say that “Experience is an expensive school, but a fool can learn in no other.” I think that it is true that as Americans we try to protect ourselves so much from harm that we deny ourselves access to those experiences that we can really learn from.

    Glad to see your trip has been insightful as well as very cool!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s