I have now been in Guatemala for a little over a month, and I just realised I didn’t tell you what I think about this country.
I arrived in Guatemala City on the 7th of September, and it didn’t get off to a very good start. I Could have said that I tend to have airport troubles, but the new me says: if you travel a lot, statistically you are bound to have some kind of problems, once in a while. Because to be frank, the majority of my flights and other types of transportation go pretty smooth.
So I arrived at Guatemala City airport, and I have encountered really strange issues with immigration. They were very suspicious about my travelling, and when I told them I have been just traveling, they questioned why I didn’t have more stamps in my passport (obviously it is a new passport and I don’t need stamps in Europe!!). They attempted to give me just one month visa instead of a regular 3, and in general, I was looked at like I was a narco trafficker or something.
We are definitely spoilt in Europe. Travelling within the EU and to other western countries is easy, and we are always treated well and with courtesy. But we forget that once we leave this EU bubble, we are just foreigners with no privileges. I then found out that I wasn’t the only person having this kind of trouble at Guatemalan airport, and most of the time, it affected those travelling from Colombia, Panama and Mexico.
So that didn’t start very well. But got better since then.
I have been offered a voluntary position in Livingston, helping in the hotel in return for a free bed and food, so straight from Guatemala City (2 days after actually), I travelled across the country to Livingston, which is typically the last stop for people visiting Guatemala, if at all. So I kind of started from the back. Only now, I am venturing into discovering more of this country.
I am in Flores now and yesterday went to visit Tikal, the ancient remains of a Mayan city called Yax Mutal, which was the capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Mayan empire. The post on this is coming soon!
Flores is a charming island town characterized by its colourful buildings, cobbled streets, quirky restaurants, coffee shops, and hostels. It is a pretty calm town, and I’m really enjoying my time here – chilling, exploring but mostly (as always) catching up on overdue posts.
So what are my thoughts on Guatemala?
A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone and I said that it feels a little like I’m on a ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ journey (If you didn’t read the book yet – you have to! Its million times better than a movie!).
Colombia was definitely a ‘eat’ part of it. Not in a direct sense. Bit it was indulgent in its beauty, experience, people, friendships, parties and many other things. I had a blast in Colombia!
Guatemala feels different. Not only it is a very different country, but I feel different here.
Guatemala is a beautiful, lush country characterized by incredible tropical vegetation and the most stunning lakes and rivers. It definitely feels very tropical and hot! The whole vibe about the country is also distinctive.
The population of Guatemala is mostly divided between indigenous Maya groups and ladinos(Westernized Native American person of predominantly mixed Spanish and the Maya or ‘Indígena’ descent). Guatemala, therefore, feels very deeply rooted in its heritage, traditional and even at times spiritual.
I’m, however, not connecting with Guatemalans as much I was connecting with Colombians. I can’t tell why just yet.
Guatemala is very colourful, with its traditional clothing, crafts, beautiful and quirky hostels and river restaurants. Guatemala is exceptionally green. It emanates this type of green that you didn’t even know could be achieved in real life, like saturating your photo in a photo editing tool.
Also, Guatemala attracts very different kinds of travellers. I met some incredible souls, people with purpose and hardcore travellers. I met more people like me. I had spiritual and philosophical conversations, went deep within me more often, and reflected much more than before.
I have had different experiences in Guatemala. I travel slower, I sweat more (!!!) I did actual work (like for someone and within set hours lol), and I’m being triggered a little bit more. Or maybe I’m not being triggered more often. Maybe I’m more aware of it. Or perhaps I notice it more prominently. I’m more aware of my reactions, of how certain situations or people’s behaviours affect me and wonder where this is spanning from. I’m changing.
As I have been doing this for nearly eight months, the initial exhilaration and excitement faded a bit and gave way to the realization that this is what I do now. I am settling into this lifestyle, and it isn’t this ‘new thing’ anymore.
So, for this reason, Guatemala seems to be this ‘pray’ section of my journey. It’s a little like meditating and sitting in a cross-legged position for too long. You get pins and needles, and you need to change the position. But you keep meditating because you know it soothes your soul, calms your mind and creates a clear sense of direction. I do feel a few pins and needles every now and then. But my soul is soothed, and my mind clearer than it has ever been. And I couldn’t imagine myself being anywhere else.
So what are my thoughts on Guatemala?
I haven’t entirely made up my mind yet. I like many things about it – nature, stunning rivers and lakes, the authenticity and the ever-present heritage and culture. I don’t like the heat. The tropical weather is killing me. People are incredibly kind and open. Sometimes a little too open, lol. It bothers my hidden introvert at times.
But being in Guatemala is definitely the most authentic experience of my life. As I was lying in my bottom bunk in my hostel’s ‘jungle dorm’, i looked around at other beds, no curtains and rustic wooden bed constructions, super cool lamps and dimmed light thinking – you wanted this. You always wanted this! This experience is now part of you. You are a backpacker. You are a traveller. And it really sunk in.