Field report

LAURA'S UNFORGETTABLE TIME IN LATIN AMERICA

Sometimes it just takes some effort to take the first step. WanderWorld helps you do just that. They pave the way for your trip abroad. You're not alone, you'll be prepared and you'll meet people along the way. If you're afraid of going off on your own and think community work is cool, you should definitely take a look at the programs.

October 2021 - January 2022
Laura in front of the view of Antigua

Laura traveled to Guatemala and Costa Rica with WanderWorld Travel. There she worked for a month in a hostel in Antigua, Guatemala and then supported our children's aid project in Tamarindo, Costa Rica for another month. In this report, she talks about her unforgettable time there, her experiences with the children, her experiences in the project and her free time.

LAURA'S PROGRAM:

My preparation time

It was already clear to me during my school days that I wanted to go abroad. Where and how was the question, and after some research I came across WanderWorld Travel and Latin America. I thought the programs were really cool and the places super exciting. I then booked my trip about four months in advance. I teamed up with a friend and we decided on the Hostel Experience in Guatemala and the Teaching Project in Costa Rica. WanderWorld called us several times and answered all our questions. After booking, we received a great preparation package with a packing list, checklist and route planner through the countries, including budget planning. Especially because it was our first backpacker trip, this really took away a lot of our fears. My excitement and curiosity grew with every day that drew closer to our departure to Guatemala.

The first days

I was really excited for the first time on the plane. Especially as I'm actually a shy person and an adventure like this was something big for me. When we arrived at the hostel, we were accommodated in a volunteer room. This allowed me to get to know the other participants before my first day of work. On the second day, we went on a short tour of the city with the contact person as part of the introductory day. Afterwards we went for a drink. Everyone was super nice and was happy to meet new, like-minded people. Of course, it still took a while to get used to the new home, especially with the time difference. But after a few days, the initial anxiety was gone. On the first working day, everything was explained to us calmly and we were given our working hours. This helped us to get used to our new everyday life and the new environment very quickly.

A day in the Teaching & Hostel Experience project

At the beginning of our shift, we were busy preparing coffee and juices for breakfast. As soon as the guests were awake and ready for breakfast, we welcomed them, took their orders and passed them on to the kitchen. From lunchtime until the evening, we mixed drinks at the bar and prepared games.
You meet so many interesting people from all over the world at the hostel who are open and have lots of stories to tell. What's more, you get to know the residents of the city, with whom you quickly become friends. You get the hang of it straight away when it comes to coming out of your shell, jumping over your shadow and gaining new experiences. You can also take your language skills to the next level in a flash through daily contact with both Spanish and English-speaking guests. The language course organized by WanderWorld served as a basis for this. We slept in the same room as the other volunteers, ate together and spent our free time together, so the volunteers at the hostel became my little family. I am still in close contact with most of them.

The teaching project gave me the opportunity to gain other experiences. We came to the project in the morning and helped the manager in the kitchen, as the children received a hot meal from her every day. Then we went to our English and art classes. The children were very sweet and always wanted to know as much as possible about us and our home. Teaching was sometimes a challenge in itself, as the classes were mixed and the age differences were often large. Nevertheless, we tried to convey the content as well as possible.

I believe that by helping with the children's aid project, I was able to give the leaders a helping hand and contribute my ideas. It was nice to see how children, some of whom have no access to education, are given an opportunity to learn here. The children in the project also have the chance to learn how to interact with other cultures.

My free time in Guatemala and Costa Rica

In Guatemala, you could spend your free time with the other volunteers from your own or another project, depending on your shift. You already know each other from the induction day. What's more, there are lots of locals who are open and want to show you new things. We usually went into town to our favorite café, strolled around the market, enjoyed the sunset on a viewing platform or just walked around. When we had two days or more free, we took day trips to the beach, the lakes or to the nearby Acatenango volcano. This was one of the best memories for me. I will never forget the feeling of arriving at the top of a volcano after a six-hour hike and watching the neighboring volcano erupt. During our free time, we also visited Semuc Champey, the Río Dulce and Flores in Guatemala. The unique Mayan ruins in the untouched jungle of Tikal are also one of my absolute favorite places.

In Costa Rica, I went straight to the beach after work. I spent the whole day there. Whether it was swimming, surfing or listening to music with friends. Living right next to a beach was just too good to be true, so I made the most of the time I had.

My experience with culture

The local people are very hospitable. They don't care which country you come from and they welcome you with open arms. The culture is colorful and cheerful, in Antigua even most women wear their traditional costumes. The food is also very good and different to our German national dishes. The younger generation is also very open-hearted and knows how to have fun. They often took us to parties and showed us which bars played good music or even had a band playing.

In Costa Rica, everyone lives the "Pura Vida". It feels as if there are no worries. People soak up the sun on the beach at lunchtime and party in the evening. Everyone is welcome, no matter how old you are, where you come from or how much you own. This fact also fascinated me the most. No matter how little people have, their zest for life is never lost.

My most beautiful moments

My favorite moment was when we sat on the floor in our room with all the volunteers and staff at the hostel. We spent the whole evening talking, drinking and laughing. In all different languages and age groups. At that moment, I knew that I had taken these people incredibly close to my heart and how much they had enriched my life in a very short space of time.

My accommodation

In the hostel in Guatemala, 12 of us slept in one room, which brought us closer together. Everyone had their own bed with a curtain and it was all very cozy. Of course, there are still corners in the hostel where you have your privacy if you want to have a moment to yourself.

In Costa Rica, I lived with a host family. I had my own room and that was a big change compared to the hostel. The family was super nice, they helped me with everything and the host mother cooked a good breakfast and dinner. There were also other young people living in the house who were on a student exchange, for example. It reminded me of a large shared flat but still had a very homely feel. I also made close friends here, with people from all over the world.

Security on site

I almost always felt safe there, but you shouldn't take chances and wander around alone at night. Realistically, something can happen in any country, Latin America is hardly any different to Europe. Don't leave your valuables lying around openly and bring a lock, for example. Every hostel offers the option of storing valuables in a locker. I always recommend traveling with other people and having respect for the culture.

How the trip changed me

In terms of my self-development, I can say that I have really come out of my shell. I have almost completely shed my shyness and am now even outgoing.
I took great people into my heart, got to know many places and had unique experiences. Saying goodbye is always difficult, but saying goodbye to Latin America was particularly so. I'm proud that I went through with it and didn't force myself to study. I am fascinated by the fact that I now even speak Spanish. I have learned what it means to get along in a new country and I no longer attach any importance to superficialities.

My tips for future participants

Latin America has so much to offer. The culture of the people, who radiate joy, gratitude and hospitality, cannot be compared to any other continent in the world. As already mentioned, the nature is incredible. From beaches, volcanoes, ruins and jungles to pumas and monkeys in the wild. Latin America is diverse, exciting and incomparable. Sometimes it just takes some effort to take the first step. WanderWorld Travel helps you do just that. They pave the way for your trip abroad. You are not alone, you are prepared and you meet people along the way. If you're afraid of going off on your own and think community work is cool, you should definitely take a look at the programs. I think there's something for everyone.

You should definitely be open to getting to know a new culture. Everything is different at first, but you shouldn't let that put you off. From my own experience, I can say that some things take time. Have fun and enjoy every moment. Treat people and nature with respect, be organized and ready to be independent.

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