“Are you excited about your trip?” It’s a logical question to ask someone who is leaving the country for a year to visit interesting places around the world. It is also a question that I have answered with YES… even on days when I wasn’t sure how excited I felt. It seemed pompous or ungrateful to say, after saving and thinking about this trip for years, I wasn’t really thinking much about the trip at all…unless asked that question. Instead, my mind was focused on covering my expenses, renting my condo, turning off utilities, missing my loved ones, transitioning out of work, cleaning my closets, summer day agendas, and an endless list of “must do before I leave” items. And then…I got off the plane in Guatemala and it hit me, I was excited…like the authentic, deep down anticipation caused by a blossoming adventure caught me as I walked out of the airport. It started with a churning butterfly stomach I associate with something new….a bit of eagerness mixed with curiosity and a dash of healthy fear, which continued as I explored the city, met new people, and enjoyed some quiet time of reflection and calm.
I woke up in Chicago and after two uneventful flights soon found myself enjoying a mid-afternoon walk in the center of Guatemala City. I heard that the city wasn’t a destination spot, but more of a stopover point on the way to other Guatemalan treasures. I spent my first hours wandering around the city center…testing out some street snacks and finding a coffee shop where I could sit and watch the hub-bub of the main avenue pass me by. The storm clouds rolled in which seemed as good a sign as any that a nap was in order…and it was a great one. I think that along with the feelings of excitement, I am enjoying a sense of peace that I hope to keep as a travel companion during the entire journey…well, and beyond, of course!
After hosting couchsurfers for the past year, I decided to look up the Guatemala City network to see if any activities were planned for the next day. While I have likely shared the couchsurfing basics with most of you, and you have likely questioned my sanity at some point, I think it’s a good way to explore a city with locals and have enjoyed every interaction I’ve had. I contacted Jonathan for ideas about how to spend my day here and he quickly responded that he would meet me for coffee on his lunch break so he could share some ideas. His lunch break ended up being four hours of touring, lunch, chatting about life in Guatemala, and an offer to drive me to Antigua on his way to see a client on Saturday.
In a few short days, I have established a comfortable pattern in GC…enough that when I arrived at the same coffee shop for the third time, “my” server knew my order and was busily preparing it as I got comfortable at “my” table. 🙂
So…time to move on and explore the Guatemala that I have heard so much about….the places outside of the city…where I will be surrounded by nature, culture, people, and opportunities to challenge myself in new ways. My next stop will be Antigua where I will spend the next week at a Spanish language school…. something I really need. I think I look Spanish-speaking enough that people assume that I should understand their quick paced conversations and it is embarrassing every time I can’t. I know this is just a start, but I am planning to make this a mission until December while I am traveling through Central and South America. I am staying at a hotel tonight and then moving to a weeklong homestay organized by the language school. Tomorrow, I am hoping to find a church to attend in the morning and then try to get to the nearby volcano for hiking…don’t ask me which volcano…I just know there is one and researching options is on my task list for tonight. In fact, it is my greatest pleasure that that’s all I have on my to-do list!