My New Favourite Country? Travelling Guatemala With G ADVENTURES

Ever since watching Fun For Louis’ ‘Best Coffee in Guatemala’ vlog, Guatemala has been on my radar. And it wasn’t just because of the amazing coffee (yet it was a very big part of my obsession), but the people, the culture and the landscapes seemed incredible. Plus – what did I actually even know about Guatemala? I didn’t even really know where it was! So when I heard my study program in Mexico City didn’t start until the 1st of July, and realising I had three weeks completely free, this was my time to finally go to Guatemala.

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I found an awesome G Adventures tour that spent a week in Guatemala before making it’s way up to Belize and then Mexico. And before I knew it I was landing in Guatemala City.

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ANTIGUA

The first stop was Antigua, where I met my awesome G Adventures Group. There were people from all over the world, Germany (Luisa, my amazing room mate for the trip), Ireland, another fellow Aussie and lots of people from England. Our tour guide was from Costa Rica, thankfully, because it’s quite essential to know some Spanish when travelling in Central America.

As you can tell from the photos below – Antigua is very colourful and extremely beautiful. It is a UNESCO world heritage site for its outstanding universal value and is a backpackers paradise. With an abundance of hotels, hostels, bars, clubs, restaurants, markets and plazas, Antigua will surely steal your heart, just like it did mine.

I must admit, I was completely unprepared for the weather we faced in Guatemala. In my mind I thought ‘ooh Central America… hot.’ But boy was I wrong. A lot of the time it was actually quite cold and it rained a lot, because guess what… it’s their rainy season. So, note to self, always research the weather of the place you’re going before you go there! Lucky for me, this meant I got to buy the coolest purple jacket which you’ll see shortly in some pictures below.

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Lake Atitlán – San Juan and Panajachel

From Antigua, we drove a few hours to Lake Atitlán, this time, prepared for the rain. We shuffled our bags around and packed an overnight bag for our adventures across the lake to San Juan. Here, we were introduced to some local Mayan families, and we were introduced to Marcos and Juana, the family that Luisa and I would stay with for the night. We caught a tuk tuk through the torrential rain to their house with a view that looked up at the giant mountains surrounding the lake.

In Guatemala, there are over 23 different Mayan languages spoken, and Mayan is completely different to Spanish. And nor Luisa or I spoke any Spanish. Yet we did manage to communicate, in very broken English, Spanish and way too many hand gestures, we learnt a lot about life in Guatemala, the Mayan culture and history, and my favourite part, how to make tortillas. Mayan recognition, acceptance and equality has been a struggle for a long time in many Central American countries. For instance, neither X or X went to school and therefore cannot read and write. They work in intense labour jobs to provide for their family. Yet because of their hard work and changing economic and social patterns in Guatemala, all three of their sons attended and completed high school, with one studying at university to become a teacher and the other, a local artist. I will never forget the kindness and generosity that this family showed to Luisa and I. This unique experience of a homestay is unique to G Adventures to their sustainability program ‘Planeterra.’ I was so overwhelmed by the whole experience that I had to leave the table for a minute to shed a tear. It really put my life, values and experiences into perspective and I felt so lucky to be able to learn from one of the worlds oldest civilisations.

After our homestay, we headed back to Panajachel where we spent our last night on the lake.

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Luisa and I enjoying the view
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That volcano!
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The view from San Juan over the lake
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Making Tortillas the traditional Mayan way
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Luisa, Juana and I

Rio Dulce

This was by far one of our longest travel days. It took us approximately 9-10hours by bus to reach Rio Dulce. The roads in Guatemala are windy, prone to landslides, narrow and honestly make no sense. So I chucked some music in and watched the beautiful countryside roll by. Our tour guide Brayan actually managed to buy some DVD’s from the side of the road (I tell you, these people have everything!) so that definitely helped pass the time.

When we finally made it to Rio Dulce, we were welcomed by a to die for pool. After shrivelling up into prunes we settled in for a quiet night.

The next day we did a day trip to the Caribbean seaside town of Livingston, about an hour away from Rio Dulce by boat. We stopped off at some thermal hot springs, lily pad fields and really just enjoyed the stunning view on the incredible Lake De Izabal. Livingston is a really interesting town full of wonderful history and a unique culture. It was actually founded by an escaped African slave, descendants of the Garifuna. Today, there are special programs in place to ensure the preservation of the Garifuna culture and language, which is still widely spoken in Livingston.

Our last morning we went kayaking around the lake to find Howler Monkeys. We unfortunately didn’t see any but we sure did hear them. We did however see a manatee in the river, plus a beautiful sunrise. It was definitely one of the best mornings I’ve ever had.

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Flores

After our kayak, we were off to Flores. But first, an amazing waterfall and thermal hot spring. Paying just 100 Quetzales, let us cross a farmers field and walk the 5 minutes to one of the most incredible waterfalls I’ve ever been to. The water is a nice temperature and very deep – meaning ultimate jumping time! We climbed the rocks to the top of the waterfall where the pools of water at the top are actually a thermal hot spring. The water was so hot it felt like a bath. Once we enjoyed our spa treatment, we took it in turns of jumping from the top. Like any kind of jump rock, it was awesome fun. The best part was you could swim up and under the waterfall and the water that fell on you was super warm – like you were taking a shower. Honestly one of the best waterfalls I’ve ever been to.

Once we arrived in Flores, we jumped straight onto our party boat to start our booze cruise. Considering we had a 5am start the next day, we partied way too hard. Flores looked like such a beautiful town. We cruised around the lake and went to a platform that we could jump off into the lake. There was also a rope swing – which I may have nearly died by using. We would be drinking on the boat, diving off the boat, floating on our backs under the nights sky. It truly was a fabulous night!

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Luisa and I partying on our sunset cruise in Flores

Tikal

After a big night of partying, we somehow managed to get up at 5am to arrive at Tikal by 7am to avoid tourists and the heat. Despite our efforts, we were dripping with sweat at 7:30 so sunscreen and hats were of the upmost importance. We had an extremely knowledgable guide who showed us around the ancient city of Tikal, which used to be one of the epicentres of Mayan culture and civilisations. The pictures really speak for itself!

 

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After being taken back in time to 200AD, were headed off to explore a new country and get some ink in our passport to go to Belize!

Looking back on my time in Guatemala, I really can’t believe all of the incredible places we managed to go in such a short period of time. The diversity of such a small country and the kindness of the people I met will never be forgotten.

This being said, I’m not ignorant of the deep seeded issues faced by this country and it was unfortunately something we saw and experienced.  Gangs and violence are still an extremely prevalent threat to the safety of Guatemalans, economic inequality sees the rich thrive off of the vulnerable and poor and Mayans often face discrimination informally and through formal institutions such as education and work rights.

Throughout travelling this magnificent country, I’ve been able to learn, question and challenge myself and the ideas that I had. Guatemala is a resilient country and through growing popularity in tourism, perhaps this new found income will be able to counter some of these issues. This experience has epitomised the concept that travel is the best form of education and I’m so incredibly grateful and privileged that I’ve been able to explore and learn from such a beautiful country.

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Post Travel Depression: It’s Real and It SUCKS


They say the hardest thing about travelling is coming back home…

It’s been exactly 1 month since leaving Montreal – how the hell has that happened? If you speak to Time, please tell him he’s working a bit too quickly lately, because damn has time absolutely escaped me. I guess travelling around the States for 2 weeks helped (if you missed it you can check out my videos from America here). Upon being back in Australia I’ve been equally busy. Seeing friends, family, getting back to work, finding a house, and finally sleeping in my own bed (luxury!), I’ve been busy enough to distract me from the void in my stomach. But now that routine is finally starting to kick in, I’m slowly but surely hitting that inevitable wall of post travel depression.

Post Travel Depression, I argue, is a real and genuine thing that overcomes you a few weeks after returning from overseas. And the worst thing is, that you’re never really prepared for it. No matter if you’re a seasoned traveller or a first timer, I promise that it will still hit you as hard every time. You come back from your holiday (or in my case, exchange) and you’re like a minor celebrity. You walk around, see everyone you know, everyone’s asking about your trip, your pictures, if you met any cute boys… and you’re ecstatic.

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Did That Really Happen?

But then a week passes by, you start working again, then another week passes by, and you’re hanging out at your old bar, then a few more days pass by and it’s honestly like you’ve never left. Everything you’ve experienced, just feels like a dream. But how could it be a dream? It was one of the best experiences of your life! And slowly but surely, you slip right back into your old life, and you start sinking.

Change

I think the worst part is when you feel that you’ve changed, grown and had your mind and eyes well and truly blown. You’ve basically created a new version of you whilst on your travels, but the people you know and love back home, can’t see it. Sure they may notice little things, that you’ve put on some weight from all those baguettes, or picked up a weird accent, but at the end of the day, they’ll never truly understand. And that contributes towards the ‘dreamlike’ feeling of your experience, it kind of leaves you questioning if it really happened, and you feel yourself loosing a part of person you created overseas. And that feeling…. it’s incredibly horrible.

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Missing Out

It’s even worse when some sort of major event or occasion happens where you were living or travelling, and you get an overwhelming feeling of missing out. For example, not long after I left Montreal, there was a festival called IglooFest. And if the name itself isn’t enough to sell you, all of my friends went. OK, so that wasn’t the end of the world, missing an awesome festival. But what really hit me in the feels, was when it was my best friends 22nd birthday. You see snapchats, Instagrams, Facebook posts and you just know, deep in your heart, that everyone is having an amazing time, and that you’re really missing out on something special.

And I guess that’s something that we just have to come to accept and deal with. You can’t be everywhere at the same time (unless we make MAJOR advancements in technology asap). And we can’t always do everything we want to do. Reality strikes, your visas up, your exchange is over, your return flight is booked and you’ve got things to do. This doesn’t mean you have to be boring, but it does mean that physical barriers exist and at the end of the day, if you can’t be there in person, I’m sure you’re there in spirit (drinking all the spirits at the party whilst killing it at beer pong).

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Expression and Communication

The best way to deal with these feelings, is to get it out there. Society almost expects people who return from travel, to always be happy and rejuvenated. But by talking about how you’re feeling, and spreading the word of the honestly shit feelings you experience when returning, then you’ll get a lot more support, love and kindness.

And keep in contact with your friends you’ve met overseas. Give them a random FaceTime, send them a card, Snapchat them your day, write them a message and tell them that you’re having a rough time and that you miss them. I assure you that your friends will be missing you too. The most important thing to remember is that the friends you meet whilst on exchange or travelling aren’t just going to disappear. In fact, I think you’ll cross paths sooner than you expect.

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Your Next Adventure

Whilst everyone will experience this post travel depression differently and adjust at different rates and in different ways, I promise you, you’ll get through it. Soon enough you’ll be planning your next trip and starting your next adventure. The most important thing to remember is that travel and adventure is not just an action, it’s a mindset. So keep positive, live with purpose and accept and respect your feelings. You’ve gotta look after yourself, so that you can adjust to life back home, whilst planning your next adventure so you can do it all again.

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Simple & Easy Way To Make A KickAss Travel Video

So you want to make a travel video but you don’t know where to start? Well there’s a million ways to make a travel video. The most common is a quick GoPro edit with a Kygo song plastered on top. But if you don’t have time, money, energy or resources to put together an epic travel video… never fear. I have the ultimate travel app for you!

1SE (1 Second Everyday) is the easiest yet most creative way to document your travels. In short, this is how it works… you take one second of footage everyday and it saves it into a calendar. You can set reminders so you don’t forget to take a quick video. Then at the end of your trip, you mash it all together and export the file.

The best thing is, that it allows you to capture what you think is important or special about a particular day. And even if you don’t do anything specifically important or special in a day, and you end up filming your office desk or your coffee order, they’re all part of what make up your adventures.

PLUS… it requires minimal effort. It’s a slow project but at the end of the year, you’ve got about 5.5minutes of adventures, and I assure you that you’ll thank yourself when you watch your year back.

Below is my 1SE video from 2016. Let me know what you think! I’m making another 1SE for 2017 so watch this space! I’ll also be making a proper travel video (maybe with a bit of Kygo overtop) so once I sift through my 100’s of Gigabytes of footage, I’ll be onto it.

Make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel to be sure you don’t miss it!