My plan was to stay in El Remate for three months, visit several Mayan sites, and write my second book. In that time, I was “adopted” by a local family, made a bunch of friends, connected with Guatemalan shamans (and participated in several traditional ceremonies) and began sponsoring the education of a couple of the local girls. El Remate quickly became more “home” than “vacation spot.” I extended my rental by another two months, and, just as I was getting ready to leave, bought a piece of land, drew out plans on graph paper, and gave them to one of my new Guatemalan friends to build my house.
While my house was being built, I traveled to Japan, Cambodia, and Thailand, and then loaded all my belongings on a cargo ship and moved to Guatemala. I had taken a few trips to Guatemala during the construction process to pick out materials and see how the house was coming along, but it was an entirely different experience walking into my completed house for the first time. I felt as if I were truly home since every aspect of the house is a reflection of me. Unlike most houses in this area of Guatemala, my house was a two-story home with lots of windows. Painted off-white, it had a terra cotta red Spanish-style roof and a small, secluded patio in front. A handmade wooden door painted slate blue with black iron decorations
opened up into a small foyer from which you could see the entire first floor – kitchen, dining room, living room and an office that was defined by some half walls to give it structure. Tucked in the back corner off the kitchen was a half bath. The Spanish feel continued in the house, with terra cotta ceramic tiles in the kitchen and bathroom and ceramic wood tiles in the other spaces. I had selected a sage-green color for the kitchen cabinets and black concrete for the countertops and island that separated the kitchen from the dining room.
The floating staircase with a metal railing that mimicked a tree with branches and leaves that I had drawn out for the builders was a new concept for them, but they had stepped up to the challenge. Each concrete step with a hardwood top was anchored to the wall, giving the impression that each step was lightly floating above the other. The master builder also happened to be a metal worker, and he crafted the railing himself. At the top of the stairs was a meditation space, and then a short walkway to the master bedroom suite – which took up the rest of the second floor. A large sliding door in the bedroom led to a second-floor balcony that ran the entire length of the back of the house.
Set in an undeveloped area of the jungle, the house was remote enough from the village that I had complete privacy but was close enough that I could easily visit friends or go to the lake. It was also remote enough that there wasn’t any electricity available, although running water was. Solar panels on the roof, connected to storage batteries that were housed in my bodega, provided all of the energy I needed to run my house. I loved that my house was powered by the sun, and therefore green and caring for the jungle that I was living in.
My yard was filled with trees, plants and flowers, and hummed with the energy of the jungle – toucans, parrots and hummingbirds were easily spotted, as was the family of howler monkeys that used the trees as part of their “food highway” through the jungle. A whole host of other animals also made the area their home. One day an ocelot even ran through my yard! Relaxing in my hammock on the second floor balcony off my bedroom quickly became a favorite pastime, since I was at tree-level with the birds and monkeys and could not only watch them, but also feel as if I were part of the jungle.
I quickly got into a routine and filled my days with consulting and shamanic work; writing; planning for and hosting an online radio show; volunteering at the local library and children’s center; and spending time with friends. To this day, my home in Guatemala is my sanctuary and fills me with peace.
If someone had told me that I would quit my job, build a house, and move to Guatemala prior to my accident, I would have laughed at them. But that’s how these life-changing moments work: they throw you for a loop so that you look at everything differently, and they put you on a different trajectory than you could have imagined. In retrospect, my accident was a gift. It allowed me to truly get to know myself and what I am capable of and gave me the opportunity to experience life in a more authentic way than I ever had before. Oh, and do it while wearing six-inch heels!
What’s your moment?
Did you miss Part 1 of this fascinating article?
About Jennifer B. Monahan
Jennifer is a business strategy consultant, shaman and coach who helps people all over the world live purposeful lives that not only bring them more joy and freedom, but also help them make the impact they want on the world. Her first book, “This Trip Will Change Your Life: A Shaman’s Story of Spirit
Evolution,” chronicles her experiences meeting and training with a Mayan shaman in Mexico and has won six literary awards, including two first-place Body, Mind, Spirit Book Awards and a 2017 National Indie Excellence Award. Her second book, “Where To? How I Shed My Baggage and Learned to Live Free,” describers Jennifer’s time living in a thatched-roof hut in Guatemala and then travelling to Cambodia, Thailand and Japan. It has won seven literary awards, including Winner in the 2019 Beverly Hills Books Awards and Silver Winner in the 2019 Nautilus Book Awards.
She is a regular contributor to Medium.com and Sivana East, has had articles published on Inc.com and MindBodyGreen.com and has a podcast, Living A Courageously Authentic Life, on BlogTalkRadio.com. She is in the process of writing her third book, a handbook for people looking to define, create and live their courageously authentic life. When not traveling, Jennifer splits her time between Guatemala and the United States. You can find Jennifer at SpiritEvolution.co.
My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with best-selling AUTHORS! May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary.
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BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK