Guatemala: Terrifying + Beautiful

Cerro de la Cruz hike in Antigua

Cerro de la Cruz hike in Antigua

Where do I begin? Firstly, I feel the need to address my hermit existence for the past 6-8 months...I was burnt out. Done. Lost. Not my usual self. It was a combination of working too many jobs, saying yes to too many plans, saying no to friendships that were no longer healthy, being let down by "friends" that said they wanted to spend time together but didn't make the effort and painful family situations. The list goes on. I stopped shooting personal work for the first time ever and it terrified me. Creating images is what I do. It's what I went to school for and before school it was the one thing I was passionate about. I freaking loved it and then to have no passion for it at all scared the shit out of me. I'm not going to sugar coat anything. My friends have heard me say this before, and it doesn't relate to everyone, but in my opinion social media has aided people in not knowing how to communicate anymore. I see how social media can be helpful in many different situations but I have allowed it to affect me in a negative way. I see friends constantly glued to their phones, always checking how many likes and followers they have, always seeking instant gratification through others and complete strangers. I grew tired of having empty friendships and one sided conversations. All of this hit me really hard and I had to remove myself. That is the spark notes version of my sabbatical. 

Blogging is more for me than for my readers. But, if someone can read my jumbled mess of thoughts and get something out of it that's beneficial, I'm perfectly content with that.

What is slowly pulling me out of my deep funk is A LOT of self reflection. What makes me happy? What makes me healthy? What can I change to become happier and content? What INSPIRES me? I am re-learning how to take care of myself. 

there is you and you.

this is a relationship.

this is the most important relationship.

-nayyirah waheed

All I know is that in this moment what inspires me most is travel. I cannot stop moving. I am addicted to it. I save up for a trip to spend all my savings, to save up and plan another. I love every aspect of traveling. The uncomfortableness of it, the exhilaration of being in a foreign place, the frustration of not speaking the same language, trying new food, having no idea how to navigate or speak to the locals. It's frustrating, terrifying, beautiful and very humbling. That is how I would describe my recent trip to Guatemala.

So many people asked nervously, "WHY GUATEMALA?" 

 

Our view from our amazing hostel in Guatemala City

Our view from our amazing hostel in Guatemala City

Breakfast was provided every morning and we loved eating on the terrace.

Breakfast was provided every morning and we loved eating on the terrace.

 

And I responded..."because it was a cheap plane ticket and I haven't been there yet." My travel buddy, Ashton, and I were also contemplating Columbia but the ticket was cheaper to Guatemala. Plain and simple, that's how we pick our destinations. We have learned how to pack everything we need for a 9 day trip in a single backpack and I am so damn proud of how far we've come. Your travel partner, whether it s a best friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, cousin, can make or break your trip. I feel very LUCKY to have found such an awesome travel mate!

When we arrived I understood why people questioned where we were going. It's very different from home. The street food was tasty, especially the pupusas, which I learned was a Salvadorian dish, not Guatemalan. The fried plantains covered in brown sugar are to die for. Like, I wish I had one right now and the LICUADOS! Holy moly! They were probably my favorite! Then there was the insane driving and the fact that most taxi drivers laid on their horn and accelerated towards pedestrians. No seat belts. Car and motorcycle accidents are VERY common. It's also pretty normal for a taxi to have the check engine light on along with other hazard lights. You just get used to it.

 

 

  

Tuk tuk ride in Antigua

Tuk tuk ride in Antigua

The language barrier was brutal. My friend Ashton and I combined had 8 years of Spanish in school but we were pathetic. It was frustrating at times but you pick up words quickly when you're forced to. Especially, when you want to eat or when you're about to pee your pants.  In Guatemala City, get used to seeing lots of armed guards EVERYWHERE. Political rallies seemed to be really common as well. Besides the fact that I was warned multiple times in Guatemala City by locals to put my camera away because it wasn't safe, random men yelling things at us, not trusting that the taxi drivers would take us to an alleyway and mug us, and getting stared at ALL THE TIME, I LOVED GUATEMALA.

Are you sold yet? 

You have to able to go with the flow when traveling here and be aware all the time. I would go again in a heart beat. We climbed volcanos...Well kinda. I cheated and rode a horse because I couldn't breathe going up the mountain. It was a blast. Seriously. Do it.

Pacaya Volcano. Yes, it's active.

Pacaya Volcano. Yes, it's active.

My guide and the sweetest horse. All of my friends know that I am terrified of horses. So, this was a big feat for me.

My guide and the sweetest horse. All of my friends know that I am terrified of horses. So, this was a big feat for me.

Ashton bringing up the rear of our tour group. Her guide seemed to be very fond of her.

Ashton bringing up the rear of our tour group. Her guide seemed to be very fond of her.

Lots of laughs all around when Ashton couldn't get off her horse and ended up being cradled in her guide's arms.

Lots of laughs all around when Ashton couldn't get off her horse and ended up being cradled in her guide's arms.

Layers of lava rock

Layers of lava rock

Local Pacaya pup

Local Pacaya pup

Some of the lava rock pockets were so hot you could roast marshmallows.

Some of the lava rock pockets were so hot you could roast marshmallows.

HIking to catch the sunset

HIking to catch the sunset

The day we climbed Pacaya was also "La Quema del Diablo" which is translated to "Burning the Devil Day". Families would go outside at 6 pm to burn trash and symbols of Satan.

The day we climbed Pacaya was also "La Quema del Diablo" which is translated to "Burning the Devil Day". Families would go outside at 6 pm to burn trash and symbols of Satan.

Antigua and Flores were probably my favorite places in Guatemala. Yes, they are considered more touristy and that probably was a small factor in my preference. Antigua used to be the capital of Guatemala and is surrounded by volcanos. It is also covered in the most beautiful Spanish colonial buildings. The cobblestone streets and tuk tuk rides also made me extremely happy! Also, a huge shout out to Meryl, the best bartender in Antigua, for making us feel at home. That birthday cake shot was dangerously good.

Then to wrap things up (because this is the longest blog post in the history of blog posts) here are images of Flores, a tour of Guatemala City and Tikal. 

So, the big question...Would I recommend other people to visit Guatemala?

YES.

Go practice your Spanish, drink lots of Cabro, climb a volcano, climb the Mayan ruins of Tikal (Star Wars nerds get ready), get lost in Antigua or Flores for a day and have fun! Remember always say Por Favor y Gracias! 

Adios!