The 7 steps to stop smoking

As a smoker I was a late starter. While friends of mine started smoking at the age of 13, I was never the least tempted. My dad used to smoke on New Years Eve to light the fire works which was easier with a cigarette when there is an ice wind blowing (or maybe it was just a bad excuse for my dad who used to be a smoker for 15 years). Once when my sister and I was about 12 and 13 years old my dad gave us a cigarette to smoke to "show us how bad it taste" and we coughed and definitely thought it tasted bad really bad

Nevertheless, while living on a kibbutz in Israel I started smoking and managed to smoke for the next 11 years, but I don’t think I ever considered it something I would do all my life. I have stopped a few times in my life before – the longest period being 9 months. Now I have stopped again, but this time it is forever. You might think "yeahh right "until next time". But actually by now I have not smoked for nearly two years – so I think my advice to you about stopping to smoke is valid. Below I have lined up 7 steps which I found to be helpful when stopping to smoke or deciding that you will soon stop smoking:

    1. Never stick to the same cigarette brand all the time. As a smoker you of course have your favorite brand but this is also a major part of the addiction: the familiarity with a certain "smoky’ taste and the chemicals it contains. Try to buy a different brand it will not taste "nearly as good" (if you can actually say that cigarettes taste good in any way). In fact it will probably taste bad. Smoke it anyway – but only when you really crave the nicotine. This will reduce your smoking a lot.

    2. After smoking a brand of cigarettes that you don’t really like you will automatically cut down the cigarettes. However, most of us still continue smoking even if it tastes bad because we are addicted to the nicotine. But you will probably be able to cut down the amount of cigarettes you smoke. The benefit of not stopping completely from one day to the next is that you don’t suffer from nicotine withdrawal and insomnia (which makes it even harder to stop smoking). I started out by not smoking at work which meant that I would not smoke the whole day and then when I would come home from work in the evening I would smoke one or two cigarettes. But I would still smoke a lot when I would go out with friends socializing – especially if they were smoking.

    3. The next step is to stop the daily cigarettes and that was a bit hard. I was no longer craving the nicotine on a daily basis but it was more the ritual part of coming home and "relaxing" with a cigarette. I had to adjust my mind to the fact that relaxation is not related to cigarettes. Apart from the nicotine addiction, the major part of an addiction is the association with activities that is pleasant activities of course (like coffee with a cigarette, the after dinner cigarette, the relaxing cigarette, the social cigarette, the cigarette that goes together with drinks etc.). I am not suggesting that you give all of your associations up at one time I don’t think it’s possible. I prefer a slow path of changing habits and mind. Once I had quite the daily cigarettes and no longer associated relaxing and after-work with cigarettes I continued smoking for quite a while socially. Of course it would ideally be great to be able to stop from one day to the next (and not damage your body more) but I think it is equally important to do it in a way that makes the smoking stop last.

    4. I decided that smoking was only "allowed" when I was drinking alcohol. Now I am not a big drinker and I will usually not drink alcohol more than once a week at the most. But believe me even this step can be hard. Your addictive brain might try to pursued you to buy a drink (even from seven-eleven) just so that you can smoke a cigarette. Fight it. Try to observe how you are yourself justifying to continue polluting yourself .it’s quite ridiculous really. I did buy a drink a few times on a week day just to be able to smoke but the cigarette didn’t actually taste good so I would turn it out after smoking half. At this point in time you might already have been socially smoking for half a year and you are no longer addicted to nicotine or used to the taste.

    5. The fifth step requires that you stop buying cigarettes yourself. This means that you will have to ask other people for cigarettes. Perhaps you don’t have a problem with that but I personally don’t like to ask people all the time for cigarettes. So it will probably limit your smoking to 2-3 cigarettes on a big night out. Despite the small number of smoked cigarettes I always got a soar throat anyway after a night out because at this point in time your body is not used to the smoke either.

    6. Now you will have to make the crucial and hard decision to stop forever. And when I say forever, I mean until you die (from age hopefully). But I don’t go around announcing to people that I stopped and I suggest you don’t do that unless it is a promise you make to them and that it will put more pressure on you to keep the stop. Telling people that you have stopped will automatically make them ask you all the time how the cigarette stop is going you don’t want that. You don’t want to be reminded of cigarettes when you are trying your utmost to forget about them. It’s like having a bad break-up in a relationship and then people constantly reminding you of your loss .not fun at all.
    I made a clear promise to myself that I will never touch a cigarette again and that it is a sign that I have no strength and willpower at all if I smoke again (basically I am a loser). Perhaps you need to tell yourself other things but for me it is really important that I am in power "meaning the part of me that wants to keep me healthy is in control. Now there is never a good time to stop completely I am aware of that and you might be able to pursued yourself that only smoking 2-3 cigarettes when you socialize will not give you cancer. But how do you know? If you are genetically sensitive to smoke it might cause lung cancer, throat cancer or mouth cancer. Do you dare to take the risk? How much is your life worth? It is really sad that we only realize that our health is priceless when we get sick. I will bet you anything that if you ask a person who has got smokers lungs or lung cancer if they wish they had never smoked – they will all say ‘yes’. Who wants to be sick if they can chose to be healthy?I recommend stopping to smoke on a memorable date (like your daughter’s birthday or going somewhere important a date you will remember later). But then again don’t wait with stopping smoking until a memorable date comes up the sooner the better!! Your lungs take at least 10 years to regenerate and repair the self-inflicted damage .start today!

    7.I suggest that you try spending more time with friends who are non-smokers it’ will make life much easier for you in the beginning. However, it can also be a good idea to spend time with friends who smoke because you will notice how ugly your clothes smell afterwards.Try not to think about cigarettes and focus on the obvious advantages of being a non-smoker: Enjoy that every day you can smell flowers better, the food has more flavor, you don’t ruin the health of your loved ones by making them passive smokers, your clothes and fingers doesn’t smell anymore, you save lots of money and you don’t constantly feel guilty about destroying your own health. And most important: Keep the promise you made to yourself – after all it is your life which is at stake.

Good Luck!

Indian’s nose | La Nariz de Indio

All we seem to do nowadays is study, study, study. We’re in week four of our Spanish studies at The Co-operative of Guatemalan Spanish Teachers and the weeks are flying past.

Most weekends the school lays on some kind of event or excursion, and this Saturday morning we got up far too early to climb the Indian’s nose – a mountain overlooking Lake Atitlan. After about an hour and a half of lung busting climbing, we reached the summit and were treated to this spectacular view.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, showing San Pedro volcano


More photos of Lake Atitlan taken from the Indian’s nose.
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 1
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 2
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 3

A house by the lake in San Pedro La Laguna

We’re now into week four of our Spanish studies at The Co-operative of Guatemalan Spanish Teachers in San Pedro, Guatemala, and the Spanish is noticeably improving.

House in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

Having spent two very interesting weeks with Jose, Maria & two year-old Felix as part of our homestay with a Guatemalan family, we both decided that our studies would benefit from a bit of ‘space’ for a couple of weeks. Although we’d thoroughly recommend the homestay experience to anyone learning Spanish in Guatemala, you are living with a family & depending on various factors such as the size of the family’s house, number & age of the children, and their TV watching habits etc. you may find that from time to time it can prove a challenge studying.

What you may lose in terms of privacy however, is more than made up for with the extra Spanish conversation practice the family provides, and of course what you learn about Guatemalan life.

Luckily for us, nearing the end of our homestay early last week, Tina was walking past one of the backstreet restaurants near the Cooperative School, and having struck up a conversation with the manager was offered a house rental. We went to see the house, and couldn’t really believe it – a house with a beautiful garden right on the shore of Lake Atitlan (see photo above). We accepted right away and moved into our new house two days later.


Photos of our new house & garden
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 1
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 2
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 3

Costs of studying Spanish in Guatemala

Accommodation costs: Guesthouses range from $4 a night, for a basic room with a private hot shower, up to about $20 a night for something much fancier.

Study costs: About $90 a week for 20 hours one-on-one Spanish language tuition (a significant proportion of this is used to help out particularly poor local families that the Cooperative school works with).

Homestay costs: About $60 a week for accommodation, with 3 meals a day provided 6 days a week (on Sundays students eat out).

Restaurant costs: Meals average about 25 Quetzals ($3.30) in most of the ‘tourist restaurants’ but are as little as $1.50 in other restaurants. A soft drink is about $0.60, a litre of local beer is about $3.50.

House costs: A bit less than the homestay with two meals a day in the manager’s restaurant thrown in. We’re not sure how this compares with other houses in the area, but imagine that if you’re staying here longer term you should be able to find something comparable.

Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala #2

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This week Tina and I have moved in with a Guatemalan family as part of a homestay arranged by the school we’re studying at – The Co-operative of Guatemalan Spanish Teachers. You can listen to the podcast we made below:

In this podcast, we discuss what it’s like to live with a family here, along with how our Spanish studies have been going moving into their second week. We finish the podcast with a trip to the colourful Sunday market at Chichicastenango – two hours from San Pedro.

Studying Spanish & living with a Guatemalan family


Our photos of Guatemala – including Lake Atitlan, San Pedro, The School, & Antigua
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 1
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 3
Video tour of the school including an interview with Luis, the Coordinator

You can also view the accompanying photos of Chichicastenango, Guatemala here.

Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala #1

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The following podcast takes the form of an informal discussion between Tina and I, recorded last week, during our first week studying Spanish at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. We discuss the school, prices, and dangerous wildlife.

Cooperative Spanish School, San Pedro La Laguna, GuatemalaA day or two after arriving in San Pedro La Laguna by Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, Tina and I began studying Spanish at The Co-operative of Guatemalan Spanish Teachers. For a month or two before our trip began we had extensively researched countries and locations to study Spanish in, and settled on The Cooperative Language School here in San Pedro due to its low prices, its amazing location on the shores of Lake Atitlan, its community orientated philosophy and the fact that Guatemalan Spanish is very easy to understand.

We’ll be attempting to publish a new podcast every week whilst we’re here and will be studying for at least a month..You can listen to episode 2 of this podcast here.

Location map

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Further info

It costs about $82 for 20 hours one-on-one Spanish Language tuition a week (4 hours/day), although I have been told the prices may be increasing 10-15% shortly. You can choose to study more (up to 6 hours) or less should you wish to.

A homestay (living with a Guatemalan family) costs approximately an additional $85/week, and this includes three meals a day, but doesn’t include Sundays – which incidentally is the day in San Pedro that most restaurants seem to be closed.

Should you wish to stay in a guest house, you are looking at between $4/night (very basic indeed), $7/night (simple/mid-range), $10-$15 (private hot shower, & possibly other amenities).
Restaurant meals in San Pedro range from about $2 to $7 depending on where and what you eat.


Our photos of Guatemala – including Lake Atitlan, San Pedro, The School, & Antigua
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 2
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 3
Video tour and interview with the coordinator of the school
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Cuenca, Ecuador

Podcast: Arrival in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

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It’s about 15 years and two months since I left Lake Atitlan for the first time. In those years I’ve never forgotten it. Think Lord of the Rings combined with Nordic myth or Loch Ness and you may start to fathom the mystical atmosphere this volcano-fringed lake exudes.

View to San Pedro from Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

There’s also a darker side, a side to which I think most travelers are oblivious. When I arrived here with three friends in 1993, we were dropped off in a small village to one side of the lake. The occupants seemed to retreat into doorways, staring at us from the shadows. Were we really so frightening a sight that people felt the need to hide from us? A year or so later, I discovered to my amazement that the village we had arrived in had shortly before been subjected to a brutal massacre at the hands of the Guatemalan government during a bout of civil war suppression.

Nowadays Lake Atitlan functions as a traveler Mecca on many levels – hippies, language students, party animals, or people attracted simply by its aesthetics – all congregate here and meditate, study, appreciate the view and frequently lose themselves in the freely available drugs.

We’ll be studying Spanish here (in San Pedro La Laguna) over the next few weeks during which time we’ll also be publishing regular updates about our experiences on

View our photos of arriving in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala here.

Video: Antigua, Guatemala

This video shows the beautiful city Antigua in Guatemala.

We spent 3 nights in Antigua when we first arrived jet-lagged to Central America. It is a great place to just relax and settle in to the rhyme of Guatemala (although most people will say that Antigua is not real Guatemala). We had been advised beforehand to NOT (under any circumstances) go into Guatemala City when we arrived because it is a very dangerous place. Therefore, we took a pre-booked shuttle (with Atitrans) straight from the airport in Guatemala City to Antigua.

Antigua offers many things to do: Spanish lessons, climbing the three volcanoes surrounding it, looking at the beautiful colonial architecture and churches, eating in some of the amazing restaurants and just enjoying the tranquil atmosphere. It is definitely worth a visit.