Backpacking Guatemala: The first 48

Santa Catalina Arch Antigua

I hopped off the plane, collected my backpack and rushed through customs.  On the other side of the frosted glass doors was the beginning of the rest of my life.  I strolled through the the doors and met a number of quizzical stares, which quickly morphed into curious grins. Within mere steps of my exit, the eager calls of “Taxi!, Taxi” ensued, each  offering to scurry me out of the notoriously dangerous capital to serene, colonial Antigua.  Convinced that there had to be cheaper options I wandered about searching for a bus.  Much to my disappointment I had missed the last one of the day by mere minutes.  the debate of taxi to Antigua vs. Guatemala city was a short one with a clear winner.  I ate the $30 US cost, but also likely avoided a mugging or bite from a scraggly street dog.  I arrived in Antigua just before midnight, yet even in the dark the pastel tones, ruins, and cobblestone roads left me in awe.

Antigua Guatemala

I checked in at the Jungle Party  Hostel, dropped off my belongings and began to investigate the Antiguan nightlife.  Several beers later and a few sips of the local rum and I’m  salsa dancing in the streets. The next day I began to pack up in search of the hostel I originally intended to stay, but then came Carlos.  The one man resident welcoming committee.  As luck would have it, this guy turns out to be hilarious.  The only thing he does more than smile and laugh,  is curse.  A skill I was more than happy to help him refine.  We set off to grab some breakfast and instantly I’m convinced to stay another night.  A few hours later and I’m convinced to stay in Antigua indefinitely.  It wasn’t long before the cervezas were flowing once again and I’m working the bar. By the end of the week, I had made new friends, braved the Guatemalan nightlife and city streets all while securing a one month exchange of “work” for room and board.

The kindness and generosity of the people I have met so far has been overwhelming,  it is now my responsibility to pay that forward.  I left on this journey in hopes of connecting with a people and a culture on an more intimate level and may’be just may’be to restore my faith in humanity a bit.  It’s early days still, but I can’t help but feel like I am exactly where I should be at this exact moment and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.