I want to point out that this was my first experience out of the USA.
I was honestly a stay-at-home type at first. In fact, the idea of flying (first time for that too) to another country made me think of the show Lost.
This trip opened my eyes to a whole different culture and pushed me out of my comfort zone onto a cliff (which I promptly jumped off of).
Guatemala can be described in one word, beautiful.
The mountains rose into the clouds.
Lake Atitlan sparkled in the sunlight.
Trees spread as far as the eye could see.
Birds of all kinds sang in the trees and flew across the sky.
There was color wherever you looked.
Paintings decorated almost every building in San Marcos, where I slept most nights. It was a wonderful place.
As far as the culture goes, it is much more relaxed than in the states. While here it’s “Fast! Now!”, there it was much more relaxed. Everything is very open and airy. Most of the non-food shops are outside in stalls, or at least in shops whose doors stayed fully open during business hours.
Nothing seemed streamlined, which was a very new experience. This even included their products, many of which were made by hand. You could see the care and attention to detail in almost every piece.
The people there were a little bit of a new experience as well. (It didn’t help that I knew literally no Spanish and honestly can’t fully remember what I did learn there).
It was my first real experience of what people in other countries experience. I felt like a spoiled brat for ever complaining about being hungry or not having what I thought I “needed”. Most of the houses I saw were about the size of our living room.
But, the people there are very strong. They know how to keep going no matter what happens.
“If all your friends jumped off a cliff… would you?”
On this trip, I literally jumped out of (and off of) my comfort zone.
First, I am not a natural people-person. I don’t usually walk up to people and start a conversation. That is, until I went to Guatemala. On this journey I wanted to learn more, see more, and really be more than I ever had before. So I did.
And then, there’s the fact that I can’t swim. So I was understandably nervous at first when I heard that most of our traveling would be via boat. But after the first five minutes, I loved it! I was even more surprised when I actually somewhat enjoyed cliff-jumping.
Yes, I jumped off of a cliff…into deep water…without knowing how to swim. Luckily, I wore a life jacket.
My first international adventure was a blast! The sights, the sounds, the culture, everything was amazing! As soon as I have enough money and time I want to travel again. Maybe even with some of the people who went with me on this trip!
To anyone who reads this, don’t let any fears or preconceived ideas stop you from exploring this amazing world. The world is there to explore, so what are you waiting for! You don’t need to bring anything super special. Honestly the only stuff you’ll need could probably fit in a backpack! So go! Go!
Crys Long participated in a two week trip to Guatemala for the purpose of education and adventure. She and seven other girls climbed volcanoes, wandered markets, rode chicken buses and struggled with emerging Spanish in the highland villages as they found their feet and a fresh perspective on their worlds.