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Month 46 was dedicated entirely to Guatemala, as I slowly worked my way from El Salvador toward the Belizean border. Guatemala was the last Central American country I had yet to visit, and probably one of the most anticipated arrivals. Perhaps that’s too much for a place to live up to, as I don’t gush about my time in Guatemala like I do my time in Nicaragua or El Salvador.

I moved far too quickly this month, most likely because I never found a place I loved enough to settle down in. But that just led to a further sense of discontent. As is my unfortunate nature, I fled at the slightest pulse of unpleasantness, preferring the distraction of movement to the true challenge of sitting still and examining the root cause. That said, the month was brimming with highlights, and when all was said and done I’d had the privileged of exploring a country I used to dreamily flip through guidebooks for — and that’s always a win.

Antigua, GuatemalaAntigua

Where I’ve Been

I visited five destinations in Month 46, which doesn’t seem so hectic, right?

• Thirteen days in Antigua / Guatemala

• Eight days at Lake Atitlán / Guatemala

• Three days in Monterrico / Guatemala

• One day in Guatemala City / Guatemala

• Four days in Flores / Guatemala

But in reality, I used Antigua as a home base and hopped around from there, broke my time at Lake Atitlan into three different towns. Hence, my month actually looked more like this — a tad more exhausting.

• Six days in Antigua / Guatemala

• Three days in Santa Cruz / Guatemala

• Three days in San Pedro / Guatemala

• Three days in San Marcos / Guatemala

• Five days in Antigua / Guatemala

• Three days in Monterrico / Guatemala

• One day in Guatemala City / Guatemala

• Two days in Antigua / Guatemala

• Four days in Flores / Guatemala

Atitlan, GuatemalaLake Atitlán

Highlights

• Crossing the border in Guatemala, and having officially visited every country in Central America! It was a fun little milestone, and I look forward to saying the same in Southeast Asia someday.

• Arriving in Antigua right into a high five from , the most amazingly generous host ever. Luke and I met years ago on the blogging circuit and he’s one of my creative peers that I just truly respect. We’ve crossed paths everywhere from Denver to Toronto to Brooklyn and now to Antigua. He’s been in Guatemala on and off since 2008 and I can say with confidence that my time there would have been far more shallow were it not for him. I hope I can show him the same kindness in Koh Tao someday!

Roasting marshmallows over a volcano. It’s a cheap, easy activity that no visitor to Antigua should miss. Also a highlight? The lava earrings I bought there, my one beloved souvenir from Guatemala.

• Hanging with Antigua expats. Thanks to Luke, I was introduced to all kinds of amazing people, places, and events: Hobbitenango, the gorgeous hobbit-themed getaway on a mountain; live music all over town; a fundraiser stand up comedy show that poked fun at expat life; Mariachi or Muerto, a battle of the mariachi bands at Hobbitenango; a home-cooked dinner party; and his wonderful friends, who made all these moments fun and fiercely reminded me of my own community in Koh Tao. Again, in another life I would have passed through Antigua in a few days, but due to this connection I spent more than two weeks!

• Eating in Antigua. The salads at Pitaya. The painful trendiness of Tu Pina Tambien. The view at McDonald’s (seriously). The breads and cheeses and even macarons (!) at Metiz. Eating in Antigua was delicious!

• Staying at Iguana Perdida in Santa Cruz. Not often does budget accommodation stand out so significantly — often, it’s just a place to lay your head at night. But this lakefront compound was a destination in and of itself. I loved the communal dinners, the onsite dive shop, the free morning yoga, the warm staff of travelers and the eternal views out into the ocean. My own treehouse for $10!

• Getting so much writing and reading done. Something about the isolation and calming energy of Lake Atitlan allowed me to write and read more than ever. I worked on short stories and essays by day, and cozied up and read for my evening entertainment. I’d love to work more weeks like this into my travels, where I basically style a DIY writing retreat.

• Scuba diving at altitude. I love finding quirky dives wherever I go, and diving in a high-altitude lake in Guatemala certainly fits that bill. While I was bummed we had such poor diving conditions, the visibility didn’t affect the novelty of it all.

• Listening to a church-off in Santa Cruz. On afternoon, I finally dragged my bum off the lakefront and up the steep hill to the town of Santa Cruz. I quickly tuned into the fact that it was Sunday — and in this teeny tiny town, at least a dozen churches were competing for dominance of the airwaves. I’ll never forget that moment of standing at what felt like the top of the world, looking out over this beautiful lake, and listening to these competing hymns blasting from provincial pulpits. It was gorgeous!

• Lotus on the lake. I didn’t love San Marcos, but I did adore the morning yoga classes at Del Lago. It was among the most scenic places I’ve practiced!

• Meeting of the Mayans. I had one of my most interesting experiences in Guatemala in San Marcos. I was wandering the backroads of town looking for somewhere to eat, and stumbled into a dusty, empty family-run restaurant. The son of the woman cooking sat down to chat when I arrived and ended up joining me for my whole meal — where he told me about his work as a professor of Mayan theology at a nearby university and showed me the books he’d authored for sale on Amazon. He gave me a lot of insight into the tension between the tradition Mayan locals and the new age expat community that I was only able to wonder about prior. It was fascinating, and a good reminder that I sometimes should eat without wifi!

• Getting back to the beach. It felt so good to arrive in Monterrico! The previous month I’d spent all but four days at the ocean, and this month it was strangely reversed. My first two nights there I went running on the black sand beach at sunset and then came back to my hotel and swan laps in the pool, which I had all to myself at night. Doing backstroke under the stars — it was magical.

• Badass busing. I’d been taking mostly tourist shuttles on this trip as the routes I’d traveled would have required endless transfers and extra hours via public transit and these days, I mostly see time as money. But those shuttles do take some of the fun out of things, and so I was happy that twice this month I was able to work in journeys via Guatemala’s infamous chicken buses, basically retrofitted and brightly painted decommissioned American school buses that function as the country’s main source of public transit. My journeys from Monterrico to Guatemala City and Guatemala City to Antigua were both crowded, hectic, and sweaty (and one of them involved sharing a seat with a pulsing bag of live crabs) — and they were so much fun.

• Floating around Flores. This town could not have been sweeter, and was the perfect place for a low key last few days in Guatemala. I was mostly glued to my computer getting ready to take a week (mostly) off while my family was around, so I mostly explored through short walks to stretch my legs. But it couldn’t be a cuter town — especially San Telmo restaurant.

• Waking up with Tikal. While some of my fellow travelers could not have been more disrespectful (see lowlights below), hearing the jungle literally roar to life was a special moment. Other highlights from the day included seeing a huge diversity of wild animals, and hanging out with some local kids at the entrance to the park.

• One wild night. This month was a very tame one — very tame — but I did have one wild night out on St. Patrick’s Day. Going out with the whole hostel, dancing on bars, closing down bars, the whole bit. It was great fun, and it was also the first night I met…

• London Lawyer. After a failed fling in San Juan del Sur I was happy to avoid the distraction of a romantic interest for a while. But a month later, an innocent dorm room crush in Antigua turned into a sweet travel romance which eventually snowballed into a spontaneous trip to Bermuda. I had left Nicaragua feeling vaguely bitter about the previous situation, but I left Guatemala grinning about this one.

Atitlan, GuatemalaLake Atitlán

Lowlights and Lessons

• I quite simple did not love Antigua, or, overall, Guatemala — though my opinion has been softened with hindsight. Still, when you’re talking about a place as universally beloved as Guatemala, it’s tough to feel like you’re just not getting it.

• Remember when I wrote about leaving my laundry in El Salvador last month? Well, lucky for me a friend I’d met at Equilibrio was traveling right behind me and offered to bring it with her to Guatemala. There’s one shuttle a day from El Tunco to Antigua, leaving at 2pm and arriving around 8pm, and she was on it just two days after I was. We made plans to meet that evening so I could grab my laundry and we could grab dinner. But I didn’t hear from her until the next day, and she had a pretty good excuse for why: her shuttle had been hijacked by armed robbers. At around 7pm, just an hour outside Antigua, her bus was boarded by men with guns who drove the bus out to a field and tied everyone up in a clearing while they ransacked the bus. Thankfully, they left without harming anyone and after eventually untying each other and pushing the bus out of a ditch the group was able to get to law enforcement. But needless to say it was a harrowing experience — I was affected just hearing about it. Had I lingered just two days longer in El Salvador, that could have been me. That story, along with others I heard within days of arriving in Guatemala (like a couple who’d had their hotel room wiped clean while out for a walk and lost everything but the clothes they were wearing) and the fact that the expats I met were vigilant about not walking alone at night, left me feeling on edge, a feeling that is rather unfamiliar for me. I hesitated to write this because I dread a flood of “is Guatemala safe?!” questions — I’m not qualified to answer — but I can say anecdotally that there’s nowhere else in Central America I felt quite so uneasy.

• I was absolutely shocked by and unprepared for the cold — and the cobblestones — of Antigua. After six weeks in what felt like a sweaty swamp, I couldn’t believe I was freezing cold again. Antigua is indeed in the highlands and the weather there reminded me more of Cusco than of anywhere I’d been in Central America. In Lake Atitlan I basically went to bed every night at 9pm as it was the only place I felt warmth. Low 40s! If you are heading to Guatemala, pack boots and a sweater!

• I was allergic to Guatemala — my allergies were completely out of control the entire time I was there. I mean like, walking down the street and people asking me what was wrong because my face was red and puffing and oozing with various liquids kind of out of control. Antigua was the worst, but they were also acting up in Guatemala City and in Lake Atitlán but it might have been altitude related because once I was back down in the lowlands I finally had some relief.

• By the time I left Guatemala, I felt like I’d lost almost everything important that was once in my bag. My amazing Scandinavian headlamp, sentimentally gifted to me by an ex boyfriend? Gone. My beloved bedazzled eye mask? Bye bye. My favorite bikini? Left on the beaches of Monterrico. My Mophie Case? Who needs it! (Actually, I did.) And worst of all, my extremely expensive extremely critical backup hard drive, which I left hidden between my mattresses at Lake Atitlan after being paranoid about room robberies around the lake. Once I realized I’d left it, I did everything in my power to get it back — calls and emails to the hotel went unanswered, and my extremely sweet and generous friend Steffi took a boat from San Marcos all the way to San Pedro to ask in person for me, but no luck.

• Lesson learned in San Pedro: I would rather use a shower to wash my hands for three days then to remove a wolf spider from the sink of my private hostel room.

• I was kind of underwhelmed by San Marcos and San Pedro. I suppose I’m glad I checked them out, as I would have wondered otherwise. However, I wish instead I’d spent my time at Yoga Forest or at a local writer’s retreat (which I only saw the poster for on the final day, derp) instead!

• My most frustrating moment in Guatemala was the day I left the lake. I booked a shuttle from San Marcos back to Antigua, and waited with about fifteen other people at the designated spot the morning of departure. Two shuttles pulled up and started calling off names — everyone’s except mine. I kept showing my voucher (purchased, like they always are, from a random travel agency in town) and both bus drivers told me I wasn’t going with them. Chaos is a familiar old friend in these kinds of travel situations, so at this point I wasn’t alarmed. Finally, after much confusion, one of the bus drivers told me to get in, and off we went. About twenty minutes later, as we’d reached a desolate stretch of highway, the bus stopped and the driver hopped out and threw my bags off the bus onto the side of the road. “Wait here,” he said, ignoring my protests. Moments later I was choking on exhaust fumes and trying not to cry as I stood on the side of the road in rural Guatemala, completely alone aside from an outpost of rifle-toting municipal police. After a few moments of evaluating my options — there were few — I tried to approach the police to respectfully ask in Spanish to borrow their phone. I couldn’t understand them as they slipped into Quechuan, though their leering looks gave me a clue to their topic of conversation. I retreated back to my bags and checked my watch again. After twenty minutes had gone by, I approached the police with a different tactic — tears. Well, it wasn’t so much a tactic as it was I couldn’t not cry at this point. This time, the youngest one offered me his phone — if I paid twenty quetzales. I bitterly handed over the money and tried calling the number on my bus voucher. No answer. Back to my bags.Ten  minutes later I tried again, with my last twenty quetzales, and through both a language and poor cell service barrier tried to explain my situation. The line went dead. Back to my bags. In between each of these encounters was a very long-seeming stint of sitting on my bag in the sweltering heat, trying to decide if it would be safer to try to walk to the next town or hitchhike down the highway or maybe just lay down in the middle of the road and end it all! (The heat may have been getting to me.) Finally, finally, a full forty minutes after I was first dumped, a new minivan appeared. “Get in!” the driver said while snatching my voucher, as if annoyed at me for being late. Bewildered but relieved, I climbed in, only to find out that this van had originated in San Pedro, clear across the lake. What I can only imagine is that the travel agent who sold me my ticket had a friend/brother/cousin with a van leaving from San Pedro, and so he decided to sell me a ticket on that bus regardless of the fact that it made no sense whatsoever. The fun didn’t end there, either — when we arrived in Antigua, the driver refused to bring us to our hotels as promised and dumped us on the side of the road. While my fellow bus-goers grumbled, at that point I couldn’t have cared less, happy as I was to see civilization.

• My friends and I had a miscommunication about our time in Monterrico, and I was left cooling my heels there alone for longer than expected (had there been great wifi I might not have minded being stranded.) While we had a fantastic time once they arrived, it was frustrating to basically plan my entire month’s schedule around a long weekend that turned out to be more like 24 hours.

• I was SO wildly annoyed by my fellow tourists at Tikal. You can read my full rant here, but come on man — even a loudmouth like me knows there are moments when you need to zip it. Watching the sunrise from a sacred temple in which your guide asks you not to speak is one of them.

• Ah, freelancer life. This was the month where, with almost $10,000 due in outstanding invoices, I had to call my mom and ask her to put money in my accounts so I didn’t overdraw on them. I signed the first check that arrived straight over to her and paid her back in less than two weeks, but it was still an awful feeling and a first for me in almost four years of self-employment. That, along with scary low income levels, did not a pretty picture make.

Lols

• I love my fellow travelers, but occasionally I lose my patience for them. On my shuttle from Antigua to Atitlán, the driver tied all our bags to the roof of the van. It was a rainy morning and each time it started or stopped drizzling we’d pull over and haul the bags on or off the roof.  I’m surprised they don’t have a tarp, I remarked absentmindedly, thinking of all the dozens of shuttles I’ve taken that did. “This isn’t America, you know,” my Swiss seat mate chirped smugly, and continued on to a soliloquy of the horrors of being forced to travel next to someone carrying an entitled US passport. As if a piece of plastic sheeting were a rare exotic luxury and I’d just expressed shock that our minibus wasn’t outfitted with wifi and a latte dispenser. Aaaand that was the last human I electively spoke to for a week.

• This isn’t Guatemala specific, but Central America is truly the land of no hustle. Going to the ATM required endless doses of patience as each person took what felt like a lifetime within the booth. Like, what are they doing in there, composing a sonnet with the keypad? And buses. If they leave on time, great — they won’t arrive on time. Sometimes I’d look at the window and the driver would just standing around shooting the shit, like sorry, did you have another country you needed to be in? And don’t even get me started on the sidewalks. Should you have the audacity to walk a clip faster than drunk toddler, the people you leave in your dust will look behind you, bewildered, to see what must be chasing you. For this New Yorker, trying to slow down to Central America time was a constant and ever-amusing challenge.

• A first for me: slipping off an unattached toilet seat and literally falling into the toilet in Flores. My life is so glamorous it hurts sometimes!

Budget

I actually had an affordable month! Excluding my business expenses I spent $1,464 on a month in Guatemala. And good thing, because I had my worst month for income in years — but more on that in a minute.

My largest expense was, obviously, food — as usual I ate in places with healthy options and with wifi, which added up to $661. I spent just $235 on accommodation despite staying in mostly private rooms thanks to Luke’s generous hosting for much of my stay in Antigua. Entertainment clocked in at $174, including diving, volcano hiking, a night out for St. Patrick’s Day and a tour to Tikal. Miscellaneous, including toiletries, gifts, and a Sephora order my mom would bring down the next month totaled $143, while transportation came to $138. Finally, I spent $82 on spa treatments (two massages and a pedicure) and $31 on health and fitness (yoga and zumba classes).

Monterrico GuatemalaMonterrico

Work

I was actually on my computer working constantly, but in my case that doesn’t always translate directly to income. Month 45 was literally my worst month for earnings in over three years of blogging. (Spoiler alert: It was a temporary blip and I was back up to the big leagues the next month. Still, it emphasized the importance of saving!)

What little money I did make came from a small amount on blog ads and affiliates, and a bit of freelance writing and video work. In one small boon for the month, I sold (what I hope will be just my first) photo to National Geographic! The pay is meager, but the milestone is huge.

Health and Fitness

Fitness was more or less a fail for me in Guatemala. I walked a lot and did a ton of yoga in Antigua and Atitlán, and ran and swam in Monterrico, but I didn’t visit a gym once outside one half-hearted Zumba class (Guatemalan Zumba is not quite as spicy as Nicaraguan Zumba, I learned.) Luckily I was able to seek out some fairly healthy eating options, and with a few exceptions I drank very little alcohol throughout the month. Far from my worst month, but certainly not my best.

What’s Next

Two weeks in Belize before circling back into Guatemala once again!

Flores, GuatemalaFlores

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

 

Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here.

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67 Comments...
  • Justine
    July 30 2015

    There were so many parts of this that I wanted to comment on but when I got to the end and read about your photo being sold to National Geographic I was in awe. That is awesome. Congrats Meihoukai 🙂 That has been a dream of mine ever since I saw a photographer for National Geographic speak at my high school many moons ago. Out of curiosity which photo was it?
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      It was a stand up paddleboarding photo, of all things! And thank you, it was very exciting.

  • Kacy
    July 30 2015

    Oh my gosh that shuttle drama sounds so miserable! You handled it a lot better than I would have. In fact, you handled the whole month really well (I mean, there was a spider involved so I would have been done right there haha). I guess countries that leave something to be desired help you appreciate the ones you loved even more?
    Kacy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      Indeed they do! So grateful for all my amazing experiences in Central America.

  • Samantha
    July 30 2015

    I was robbed at gun point in Guatemala so I would definitely agree with your uneasy feeling about the country, especially since I lived in Honduras which was supposedly so much more dangerous! Hopefully you can make it back some day and have a better experience.

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      Wow, that would certainly do it Samantha! I too felt pretty comfortable in Honduras, though I’ve only been to fairly touristy areas — Copan, La Ceiba, and the Bay Islands.

  • Caity
    July 30 2015

    I love your round-up posts but this one in particular is full of interesting tidbits! …blimey Meihoukai that whole bus situation sounds awful and I think tears are the only normal reaction to such stress!
    P.S kudos on the NatGeo pic…long overdue if you ask me!

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      A lot happened this month that didn’t fit in any other blog posts, ha! I love having my roundups as a place to share those ones…

  • Rick
    July 30 2015

    Geee, I am exhausted just reading about your month, especially since you were in some of my NOT so favorite places.

    My sweet-spot south of the border is still Mexico!
    Thousands of miles of beaches with diverse fishing villages and surfer towns. Reefs to dive on the Caribbean side. Pyramids and ruins all over the place. Artsy gorgeous cities in the colonial highlands. Food food food music music music – wonderful people, and safer than most large American cities but by far safer than Central American counties.

    Done ranting – love your blog!

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      Sounds like raving, not ranting to me 🙂 I’m still dying to get to Mexico one of these days! I feel like I will need a good long chunk of time to dedicate to it…

  • Emily
    July 30 2015

    Guatemala was the first Central American country I visited and I think because of that I just have a big soft spot for it (on that trip I also did El Salvador and Belize – didn’t spend enough time in E.S. and Belize seemed so easy to travel in and less exotic to me) – I wonder if my thoughts would be different if I had started my Central American sojourns elsewhere…?
    Emily recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      Order can definitely play into things, I think! When you don’t have something to compare a place to, it definitely stands out more on its own merits.

  • Meihoukai
    July 30 2015

    I traveled to Guatemala with my mom several years ago for about three weeks, staying in Antigua but traveling to Lake Atitlan and Monterrico (similar to your itinerary). We felt the same way about our time in Guatemala, we weren’t as impressed with it as we had hoped after all of the great things we had heard-glad to know someone else felt the same way. But we didn’t have the same scary bus experiences that you had! Hoping I have the chance to check out some other countries in Central America soon.

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      It IS nice to know others felt the same way. Makes you feel less crazy, right?!

    • Camels & Chocolate
      August 12 2015

      Same! My husband and I did two weeks there: Atitlan, Antigua, Monterrico, Guat City. Atitlan was nice, Monterrico was fine, but overall I felt very MEH about the country as a whole (and like Meihoukai, unsafe at many points in our trip, though I was traveling with a male so not nearly as bad as had I been alone).
      Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

  • Amber
    July 30 2015

    Oh my gosh, first of all, so glad to hear you missed the hijacked bus (although it’s upsetting that your friend wasn’t so lucky… Glad to hear everyone got out ok)!
    Looking forward to hearing about your Belize adventure 🙂
    Amber recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      I’ve already started (actually almost finished) writing about it! Check my homepage for tons of Belize goodness 🙂

  • Gemma Two Scots Abroad
    July 31 2015

    You forgot to mention how you nailed your headlines for the Belize articles.
    Gemma Two Scots Abroad recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      Haha, that will be mentioned in the next roundup!

  • Britt
    July 31 2015

    ‘Hobbitenango’- I think this just sold me on Guatemala!

    But actually I’m really struggling with deciding whether or not to cut Guatemala from my trip. The whole uneasiness seems to be a common theme running through my personal female friends that have been and also some of the blogs I follow so I’m beginning to feel very wary and wondering whether I should go to Nicaragua instead or just spend more time in Belize.

    I love the idea of Chicken Buses though and in places like this I’ve actually heard its safer- because who wants to hold up a bunch of locals? Truly scary story though- I can’t imagine what they must have been feeling- glad to hear your friend is ok.

    I feel like I’ve met a kindred spirit when it comes to losing things. I’m terrible at it- it was a running joke between my sister and I on our last trip to Thailand. ‘So what is Britt going to lose today?’ or ‘where is your cardigan britt? where are your thongs?’.

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      Well, you’re less likely to be held up on a chicken bus but mucho more likely to be pickpocketed. So, pick your poison? Ha. I was told to never take chicken buses to or from Guatemala City and that’s where I started/ended both my own chicken bus journeys so remember luck is a huge factor. I would never advise someone not to go to a place, but I’m always honest about my experiences so others can be prepared! Thousands (millions?) of people do visit Guatemala every year without incident, after all (but no stats on how many of them were so paranoid about being robbed that they left behind a $200 hard drive 😉 )

  • KMunoz
    July 31 2015

    Totally agree with Emily; I started my Central America trip in Guatemala and really loved it and wonder if that’s a factor? But after thinking about it, the only place that I loved as much (actually more) was Mexico. I just didn’t click with other places, especially Nica and Costa Rica, the way I expected to, though I did try out a bunch of your suggestions in SJDS!

    Anyway, I came on to ask another question. I noticed you mentioned your mystery lawyer and I remember you bringing up your Koh Tao guy and others along the way. How do you manage your travel romances? I hope that doesn’t sound weird. I’m traveling long term right now, and I am pretty good about “love ’em and leave ’em” when they’re just people I meet but couldn’t actually see myself with “IRL.” But after spending two weeks with an Aussie/Welsch guy, I was gutted when our travels took us different places. And, right now, I am wrapping up a two-month stay (!) in Sweden with a Swede I met in Mexico. We stayed in touch and I came two months later. I’m already dreading the airport scene next week. So… how do you maintain that willingness to continue opening up and meeting these people? I’m starting to feel like I should take a break from the opposite sex altogether because it’s getting so overwhelming! Too many feelings and what-ifs all the time.

    Would love to hear your thoughts as someone who seems to have her love life in order and continue to be a nomad. Love your blog and, especially, these roundups. And congrats on the Nat Geo photo! That’s amazing.

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      Oh, I hope you enjoyed those San Juan del Sur suggestions?! I miss that place!

      As for dating on the road — it’s tough! I’m not sure if you read my previous roundup but I did explain my situation a bit more clearly there. I was indeed seeing Bearded Bartender for a while there on Koh Tao before I left for Central America. We knew we wouldn’t see each other for six months so decided to date other people in the interim. It was a sticky situation at times but I’m glad we did it! Being totally free on that trip made it all that much richer. Sometimes in the moment it can get a bit intense, but I think you’ll look back in retrospect and be so grateful for all those experiences — the good and the bad! I know I am. I remind myself that sometimes people are just meant to be in your life for a few weeks or a few months or even a few days — and sometimes they’re meant to be a bigger chapter. Enjoy it all 🙂

  • Camilla
    July 31 2015

    Guatemala seems like such a beautiful country. Definitely on my bucket list! (:

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      I hope you have a fabulous experience when you get there, Camilla!

  • Brooke
    July 31 2015

    Going to a place that everyone else adores and you think… “what am I missing?” — I totally, totally get that. Right now, I’m in Sarajevo. It’s fine, but all of the bloggers who told me to spend a lot of time here? I regret not shifting more of my days to Belgrade! I could go on and on about why Sarajevo just doesn’t click with my husband and me…

    On the other hand, I don’t regret coming here–I learn something from every destination. Besides, we’re staying in a great apartment with a fantastic host family, and it’s a nice place to recover before we’re off again.

    I suppose everyone is different, with different preferences, eh? 🙂
    Brooke recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 31 2015

      Indeed! I don’t regret going to Guatemala in the slightest — I spent quality time with awesome people, and saw places I’ve always dreamed of going! And it’s nice to leave a place without longing for it, every once in a while.

  • Janice Stringer
    July 31 2015

    Hi Meihoukai,
    How interesting… again. Congratulations on selling a photograph to Nat Geo. I think entering into journalism gives you a more direct route than being a Blogger. So hats off for your hard work and perseverance (I’m sure there has been plenty of it!)
    And how interesting to hear about your experiences in Guatemala. Personal safety is – as always, it seems paramount but I don’t think you should leave things like this out. It’s important people think about it and consciously decide what they are happy to do.
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      Exactly. When it comes to safety I try to present the information as black and white as I can, and then let readers make their own calls!

  • Rachel
    July 31 2015

    I think you would have liked Guatemala better if you had gone away from the touristy places. Atitlan is beautiful, but so is Xela (Quetzaltenango). A non-profit called Quetzaltrekkers runs hiking and climbing triPS in the area and the money goes to education in the surrounding area. Their trips are phenomenal. Semuc Champey is also a wonderful experience of hiking, swimming, and exploring caves. Rio Dulce gives you a taste of Garifuna culture and white sand beaches. Sorry but Antigua is full of rich white people and does not provide a full cultural experience of what the country has to offer. Guatemala has an amazingly rich culture compared to most Central American countries.

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      Actually, I did go to Semuc, Rio Dulce, and Livingston when I passed back through Guatemala a few weeks later. I thought Semuc was wildly overrated (post coming up this week!) but found Rio Dulce was a gem! Different strokes for different folks — I connected to the cultures of other countries much more strongly 🙂

  • Leah
    July 31 2015

    What a month! Felicidades on selling your first photo to Nat Geo, that milestone IS huge! I’m sure there are many more awesome milestones ahead of you. Keep inspiring, girl!
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      Thank you miss Leah! And the same to you!

  • julie
    July 31 2015

    ahh, this was a great roundup! you make me want to be a blogger and travel!! so many things to comment on. I also had a not so great time in Guatemala, although I never even made it to the touristy destinations. We entered from Honduras near the coast and then took like 8 different transfers of buses and mini vans and whatnot and frequently got ripped off and got tired of it and decided screw Guatemala and headed back to El Salvador (where we were living at the time) I keep meaning to go back but really, there are so many other places I would rather go to.

    I can’t imagine being dumped on the side of the road and then no one is willing to help you. that is terrifying.

    Congrats on the NatGeo photo!!! that is awesome!

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      I actually returned to Guatemala en route between Belize and Honduras and so I visited some of those coastal destinations as well (assuming you mean the East coast?) Posts about them coming up this week!

  • Camille
    July 31 2015

    That was a fascinating roundup, really interesting to get your mixed views on Guatemala… Reading your highlights I thought “what, it sounds like she had an awesome time, how come she didn’t love it?!”, then I read the lowlights and totally got it!!
    Camille recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      Haha, it was a rollercoaster of a month that’s for sure!

  • Huge congrats on the photo Meihoukai – that is beyond amazing! You bloody well deserve it too 🙂 Also so glad to be seeing your round up posts, I really do enjoy reading them.
    Francesca @ Cheskie’s Gap Life recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      Thanks Francesca! All caught up now so that they should be now immediately following the posts they are rounding up 🙂

  • Julia Nix
    August 1 2015

    Will you be seeing London Lawyer again?

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      You’ll just have to stay tuned to future roundups 😉

  • caroline
    August 1 2015

    Ohmygosh! Sooo much happened in one month! I cringed for you multiple times if that helps lol. I feel for ya for sure- especially getting left in the middle of nowhere. That’s insane.

    I didnt’ even know you could ‘sell’ your photos to NatGeo. If you’re ever in the need of a post, I’d love to hear more about the details!

    <3
    caroline recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      It wouldn’t be a very exciting post 🙂 They emailed me asking to use a photo, I said yes, I signed a contract and emailed the high-res version to them. Viola! 🙂

  • Ashley
    August 2 2015

    What a month this was! That’s so scary about the shuttle hijacking, and I would have been freaking out if a shuttle driver dropped me on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere without any clue as to what was going on. Kudos to you for keeping a cool head in that situation! And congratulations on selling a photo to National Geographic – that is amazing!
    Ashley recently posted..

  • Katie
    August 3 2015

    I definitely get the uneasy feeling from Guatemala as my passport was stolen on a chicken bus, our room was robbed and one of our debit cards was cloned and all in 3 weeks! Of my time in Central and South America I only ever felt uneasy in Guatemala and Bolivia as this is where I heard the most stories from fellow travellers about robberies etc and they are also two of the poorer countries so it’s not surprising
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      Oh man! I agree — I didn’t hear too many travel horror stories in Central America until I arrived in Guatemala. I know it’s anecdotal but it can definitely put you on edge — it did the same for me in Vietnam years ago.

  • Evelina
    August 3 2015

    I love how honest and precise your monthly roundups are. Always love reading them with the highs and the lows and the budget etc.
    Makes me want to document my travels better too. You easily forget details like that.
    Do you ever go back and read your old roundups? 🙂
    Evelina recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      Absolutely! I mostly started writing them just for myself, as a journal entry of sorts! But then I thought what the heck, I’m sure you guys would like a peek too!

  • Maria del mar
    August 3 2015

    Yeah, the bad moments can tarnish the trip. Congrats on the pic!
    I’m trying to choose between Portugal and Czech Republic for an autumn escapade…
    Maria del mar recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      I haven’t been to either, so they both sound pretty exotic to me!

  • Marni
    August 4 2015

    Congrats on your photo! That’s awesome. I would have been crying hysterically if I was left on the side of the road, and picturing all the ways I could be murdered. Same with the bus hijacking – that sounds absolutely terrifying! Glad to hear both you and your friend are okay.

    • Meihoukai
      August 5 2015

      You might be surprised how cool you can be under pressure… I know I always am!

  • Izy Berry
    August 6 2015

    Great post i live in Guatemala and sometimes it is dangerous the best advice i can give you is to ask someone of Guatemala before you travel it worth the effort it is a beautiful place
    Izy Berry recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 10 2015

      I definitely felt grateful to have friends living in Guatemala who I could ask for advice while traveling there. I’m sure it helped keep me safe indeed!

  • Aunt Karen
    August 13 2015

    My heart is pounding so hard half way through all these horrible experiences that I am coming back to finish when I calm down!

    • Meihoukai
      August 14 2015

      Oh no! At least you know I got home okay 🙂

  • Leigh
    August 14 2015

    What a month you had! Congratulations on ticking off all Central American countries, and especially on the National Geographic photo.

    I love that you are very honest about a destination but do not advise yes/no to visit. It’s definitely important to take all angles into account and realize that no place is 100% safe.
    Leigh recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 15 2015

      Considering how anecdotal one person’s experiences are and how shaped they are by hearing about OTHER’S experiences, I definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable telling someone not to go to a country just based on my one trip there. That said, I definitely don’t want to sugarcoat things! It’s a fine line to walk.

  • stacy
    August 15 2015

    Awesome blog. I will be spending 1 week in Antigua in Sept volunteering at a children’s center but have plenty of time to explore. Any suggestions???

    • Meihoukai
      August 17 2015

      Hey Stacy — this blog is full of them! Check out my links about hiking Pacaya, heading up to Hobbitenengo, and all my favorite Antigua restaurants. If you’re up for a side trip, check out my posts about Monterrico, Guatemala City and Lake Atitlan. Enjoy!

  • Meihoukaiis Nicole
    October 16 2015

    Hey Meihoukai!

    This was a very interesting read for me, thank you very much for sharing. I was wondering where the picture was taken of you looking at the valcanoes through a circular turquoise door?

    Thanks!

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2015

      Hi Meihoukaiis, that was Hobbitenango. If you click on my post about Antigua you can read all about it!

  • Meihoukaiis Nicole
    October 19 2015

    Thanks Meihoukai!
    I am living in antigua for another 2 months and will definitely have to check this place out! I have the same feelings as you do about Guatemala!

    • Meihoukai
      October 23 2015

      Ah, you will love it! It was my favorite part about Antigua.

  • jenna
    November 3 2015

    I’m glad it’s not just me. I feel the exact same. I am only able to get one month long trip a year and 8 months later, I still feel bummed that i didn’t love guatemala. My heart bursts thinking about nicaragua, but guatemala eh. It was the horrific bus rides, the fact that I got sick, the very unmemorable food, terrible guide at tikal. In hindsight, I know it was a cool trip that i’m lucky to have experienced but I don’t think I’ll be back.

    • Meihoukai
      November 4 2015

      Sorry to hear that Jenna — I know having limited time off ups the stakes when it comes to enjoying your trips. Guatemala just wasn’t for me, but I’m glad I went to see it for myself.