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What It’s Really Like to Catch Covid While Traveling

The perils of catching Covid in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, and traveling with long Covid

By Sh*t Happens - Lost Girl TravelPublished 26 days ago 4 min read
Top Story - February 2024
The beautiful Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, where it all began (photo credit to Joseph Mitchley)

I was so excited to go to the little village of San Marcos, on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. It’s a cute hippy enclave, and I was excited to let my hippy flag fly! I’d planned to go to some yoga classes, get a massage, a sound bath, and maybe do some fun workshops. I wanted to swim and go walking every day we were there.

As luck would have it, I never did get to manifest my hippy dreams, and our stay in San Marcos couldn’t be further from the lovely health retreat I’d imagined.

When we checked into our new room, I didn’t know we’d end up imprisoned in that room for nearly two weeks.

At first, I thought it might be food poisoning or a bug, as it started as a shivering fever and feeling like I could throw up. I hoped I’d start to feel better as the day went on, but I just felt sicker and sicker. The next day Joe started to feel the same way. We were in denial at that point, but we knew at the back of our minds that there was a chance it might be Covid.

The problem was we had no food to eat. Luckily the food stores were half outdoors. Whoever was the least sick masked up, disinfected, and bought as many snacks as they could muster to keep us going for as long as possible. They scuttled there and back feeling like guilty self-conscious lepers, staying as far away from people as physically possible.

Back in the room, the symptoms kept on adding up till we couldn’t escape the fact that this must be Covid. Our racking, rattling coughs shook the walls.

We lay there with nothing to do, living off Doritos, bimbo cakes, and the kind of sandwiches that could survive a nuclear war.

At one point Joe’s fever was scaring me, and I very nearly took him to a hospital although we had no idea what the conditions would be like and how the hell we would reach a hospital from this remote place. Luckily we didn’t need to, but it was the worst couple of weeks of our trip and possibly our lives.

Once we knew that we were no longer infectious and were starting to feel more human, we ventured out in San Marcos. We were excited to be back in the world.

On our first outing, we went for a nature walk, there was a 20-minute stretch that was slightly uphill and I struggled like I’ve never struggled before. I had to stop every couple of minutes. It wasn’t that I was tired or my muscles couldn’t handle it, I just couldn’t get enough air into my lungs. They felt like shriveled-up raisins, that could only hold a thimble of air at a time.

After this, we decided to reward ourselves with a swim in the lake. I had no idea just how cold the water was and my tiny lungs completely closed off. I couldn’t breathe!

I was freaking out and somehow managed to haul myself out, laying on the stone and gasping for air like a fish out of water. Cold water shock. Once I’d finally gasped in the air like someone waking from a nightmare in a movie, I burst into tears.

It was the realisation that actually I wasn’t better; it wasn’t over and I didn’t know when it would be. I didn’t know if we’d be able to do all the things we had planned to do. A whole different kind of shock.

How would we hike volcanoes when I couldn’t even handle a slight incline?

The weeks leading up to our booked hikes; we tried everything within our power to get healthy and build our strength. We tried to make the best of it and control what we could and try to let go of what we couldn’t. (Easier said than done).

Luckily we did manage to hike those volcanoes. I still don’t know how we did it. God Damn it was the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done in my life (and a story for another time).

We were at the back of the group and with our wheezing breaths, coughs, and slow pace we were referred to as “the smokers”. I’ve never smoked a single cigarette in my life.

“The smokers” — (photo credit to Joseph Mitchley)

We were either brave or stupid (let’s be honest, mostly stupid) but fuck it we did it. I don’t know how we did, but we did and now we have the memory of watching a volcano erupt and of feeling truly alive again after feeling so close to death.

I’d do it again for this (photo credit to Joseph Mitchely)

And that’s what it’s really like to catch Covid while traveling…

Thank you for reading! Hearts and tips are always welcome and your support is very much appreciated.

This story was originally published on Medium

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About the Creator

Sh*t Happens - Lost Girl Travel

Hi! I’m Georgie and I share travel stories of when sh*t happens. I think that sometimes the worst things that happen to you traveling, are often the funniest

Follow me on Instagram! https://www.instagram.com/sh.t_happens_lost_girl_travel/

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Comments (10)

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  • Anna 14 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳

  • Naveed 20 days ago

    Dazzling job! Keep up the outstanding work—congrats!

  • Naveed 20 days ago

    Dazzling job! Keep up the outstanding work—congrats!

  • Dana Crandell21 days ago

    What a harrowing experience! Congrautlations on getting through it all and your Top Story.

  • Babs Iverson21 days ago

    Incredible!!! Awesome story!!! Glad the you recovered from Covid and managed the volcano hike!!! Loving it!!!💕♥️♥️

  • Margaret Brennan22 days ago

    I know what you went through. We were traveling north to visit our grown kid and their families when my husband said he was too tired to even get out of the hotel's bed. (we always stay one night while on the road). Yep! Covid. We extended our "overnight" and while I didn't have covid, was able to go out and bring in food for us. It was a horrible time.

  • I love the detail in which you describe everything. You make it all come alive for your readers. Sorry to hear you had Covid but glad you are now over it.

  • sleepy drafts26 days ago

    Wow!! What a terrifying experience. You told this so well. And the photo at the end! I hope you are feeling better and fully recovered soon. This sounds like one heck of a trip. 💗

  • Daphsam26 days ago

    OMG! That was a crazy story! One for your books! I had covid last month at home and I thought it was awful. Never in my wildest dreams could I have handled it were you where. You are so strong!!! What a trooper!!! You all both are feeling better.

  • I have a friend who came down with COVID from a trip to Las Vegas just a couple of weeks ago. But he didn't actually get sick until he was home. Travelling the way the two of you do & getting sick in the middle of it had to be a bit of a harrowing experience. To realize how long it takes to come back from it had to be extremely discouraging. Prayers & blessings to both of you.

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