Pippa discovers Guatemala: A TESTIMONIAL
After graduating from high school, it was clear to me that I didn’t want to start studying right away, but wanted to spend some time abroad. I spent a lot of time researching, looking for the right country and especially for the right organization to fit my plans. At the beginning of the year, friends recommended the young organization WanderWorld Travel to me and I contacted them right away. After very informative consultations, in which we talked about the right country for me and the ideal job, it was clear to me that I wanted to travel to Guatemala. The small country seemed to offer everything I wanted: exciting social projects, a diverse and interesting culture, great language schools and short travel distances to the sights. And full of it, it was something different. Most of my friends were in Australia and I didn’t want to swim with the crowd, but try something new. A decision that I am still very happy about today.
Arrival at the airport in Guatemala City
Super excited, I arrived in Guatemala City. Although I was super prepared through the help of WanderWorld Travel and had some idea of what to expect, a little nervousness is probably part of it. At the airport, the supervisor was already waiting for me. We both hit it off right away and during the trip he told me about the great country and his hometown of Antigua, where we were headed. Fernando is Guatemalan and has always lived in Antigua, but still speaks fluent German, because he studies German history and is very interested in our country.
After the long flight I was very tired and Fernando took us first to our accommodation. I had a room in a nice open house where 5 other people my age lived. We shared a bathroom two at a time and could use the communal kitchen. It was very neat and fortunately cleaned regularly. Downstairs, the family who owned the house had their apartment. They were very nice and I learned a lot from them about the conditions in Guatemala. Since I love to cook, I spent a lot of time in the family’s kitchen and learned to cook Guatemalan.
The very next day, the introductory session started. Fernando had already organized a sim card for us, which was super handy. He showed us an app that we could use to book hostels during our travel time and gave us lots of tips about traveling in Guatemala. He told us a lot about safety, which took away the rest of my concerns. If you follow a few rules, Guatemala is really easy to travel. After that, he showed us his hometown first. Fernando knows the city like the back of his hand, we learned a lot about the exciting history of the city. I learned that Antigua was the capital until the end of the 18th century, when it was destroyed by an earthquake. The old ruins are still standing all around the city. We also visited the market and he showed us his favorite restaurants, bars and cafes. Tips from a local are really worth their weight in gold. Luckily Guatemala is so cheap, here you can sometimes treat yourself even with a tight travel budget.
The next day we made a trip together to a coffee farm in the nearby area. A guide showed us the farm and we learned a lot about the long coffee tradition in Guatemala. In the evening, the Welcome Party was on the agenda. We met for a traditional Guatemalan dinner with tortillas, guacamole, tamales and enchiladas. Afterwards we went bar hopping and got to know Antigua’s nightlife.
Two days later, the time had finally come: my work at an aid organization began. The head of the organization, Carlota, welcomed me and showed me around. The organization is located in the center of Antigua in a beautiful old house. I spent the first two days here and was prepared for my work with the children. I learned a lot about the organization and how it works, as I was able to watch the different staff members do their work, such as collecting donations and planning new projects. My organization specializes in helping children. Around Antigua there are many very poor villages where people have little to live on. The organization supports the families by taking care of the children, especially offering them a place at school. On the third day, I went to the school for which I was assigned. Together with the other volunteers I went by bus to the small village 20 minutes away from Antigua. The school is only a few years old and about 200 children are taught there. The children were very sweet and happy about the visit from Germany. Fortunately, I had already learned a little Spanish before I left and so I was able to talk to the children. Through the language course that was included in the WanderWorld program, I was able to solidify my knowledge. On my first day at the school, I took a look at the school and got to know the teachers. Some of the teachers are from Guatemala and some are from other countries, such as the United States, Canada and Europe. They all welcomed me very nicely and integrated me quickly. Over the course of the next few days, I began teaching English to some of the children, helping them with their homework, and supervising them after school with recreational activities. I was allowed to come up with these myself, and we had a lot of fun together.
City of Antigua
Although I read a lot about Antigua beforehand, as the WanderWorld staff provided me with all sorts of information, I was amazed at how beautiful it looks in reality. One feels like in a large open-air museum, the streets are ancient and consist only of cobblestones. I didn’t want to go there by bike. J The houses are always being restored and are very colorful. There are nice restaurants and cute cafes everywhere. Everything is designed with great attention to detail and super cozy. You can also do a lot in the evening. The bars are full of people from all over the world. Antigua is the most popular place in Guatemala among backpackers. And the best thing is that many people stay here for a long time and you can make close friends. Once a week there is an electric party outside of town in a volcano crater. Everyone goes and the mood and atmosphere is incredible.
I was especially fascinated by the surrounding countryside of Antigua. On the very first weekend I participated in an overnight tour to the volcano Acatenango. You hike to just below the crater, where you set up your quarters. In the evening you sit together with a glass of wine and watch the fire of the active neighbor volcano El Fuego. An insane sight.
Travel in Guatemala
On the weekends, you have a lot of time for excursions into the surrounding countryside. Once I went with friends to the sea in El Paredón. There is nothing but a hostel with a nice pool and great waves for surfing. After an hour you know everyone there and in the evening there is BBQ and a pool party. Most worthwhile is a trip to Lake Atitlán. This lake in a volcano crater is in my opinion the most beautiful place in Guatemala. You can climb volcanoes, swim, canoe, take yoga classes on the jetties and visit the surrounding Mayan villages. I liked it so much that I went there a total of three times. After my work at the school, I continued to travel around Guatemala for four weeks and then to Mexico. There is still a lot to discover in Guatemala alone, but that would go beyond the scope of this report.
Guatemala has inspired me and fascinated me again and again. This country has something magical and you will never forget the feeling. The people there have learned to be very happy with very little possessions and money and pass this feeling on to their guests. Everyone is nice and helpful and you learn a lot about the culture from the locals. Also, there is an insane amount to see and that without traveling long distances. The weather was consistently good. A huge advantage is also the price level. Other friends were in Australia after high school and could hardly afford anything because everything is so expensive. Even with my low budget, I went out to eat almost every day in Guatemala and did all the excursions I was interested in because everything is so cheap. It’s very nice not to have to watch the money all the time.
I recommend everyone to travel to a “little bit different country” because you gain incomparable experiences that you will benefit from for the rest of your life.