Adjusting my schedule on a whim to sail to Guatemala was an emphatic reminder of why I love traveling without an itinerary. I could not possibly have invented such a perfect plan, and the serendipity only sweetened an already spectacular experience. Nothing is so peaceful as drifting on a calm sea under a gentle breeze, with only the quiet lapping of waves and the fluttering of sails and ropes to break the silence. Awaiting us in Guatemala was the stunning Rio Dulce, a cliff-lined river that cuts through a tropical forest, and gives way to a beautiful bay and the picturesque town of Livingston.
Merek and Ian are father and son; nonconformists with an atypical relationship guided by mutual respect and a shared sense of adventure. Ian is kind and vibrant, but fancies himself a pirate. The sea has bestowed a confidence and steeliness upon him, but a fresh tattoo of the Little Prince on his left shoulder betrays a softer side. Merek, though balding, manages something between a mullet and a rat tail, and wears a rotating selection of T-shirts with slogans like, “I don’t need sex. My government fucks me every day.” He has been sailing for most of his life, but bestowed the title of captain on his son after two years at sea. They operate as equals, but Merek knows there are times he must obey Ian, which he does eagerly. His pride radiates as he watches his son dance around the boat tying ropes, throwing anchors, and reading the wind. Their relationship has benefitted from five years in close quarters, and they talk about philosophy, love, sex and drugs with the fluency of close friends. I enjoyed their company and their stories, and wondered how a ten year itinerary and life at sea would suit me.