Updated: May 12, 2020
I booked the ticket drunk with one eye open with like 4% battery on my phone in a nightclub in Ibiza back in mid-Oct 2017. The trip was scheduled for around 30 days originally as that was the cheapest available (meaning I'd coincidentally spend my birthday somewhere different for a change). I didn't know where the heck Guatemala was, if the climate was pleasant, if it was dangerous, if I needed a visa, I barely knew anything. I had no idea what I was about to get myself into and what waited for me on the other side of the world (9,150kms away!). Long story short, I arrived at La Aura airport and was instantly bombarded by people trying to sell me useless things or hopping into their shared shuttles. luckily, I had preordered a private shuttle online to Antigua from the airport. When I arrived in Antigua, I was like a lost puppy unsure of where was safe or where to book myself in until I got my bearings of the area, but I had googled a little and fished around on where to stay etc. The Doozy Koala hostel in the beautiful city of Antigua was where I felt was my best bet to stay, and I'm so glad I did! The moment I walked in, I knew I was in for a treat. There was a fantastic vibe amongst the other travellers, the layout and overall decoration was very inviting and homely. I was then called over by the loud and clearly extroverted owners, the banter flowed effortlessly and suddenly... I felt right at home. (if you've ever hung around Aussies, you know what I mean). Almost instantly, all the concerns I had were gone, and it had only been 3-4 hours since I had arrived in Guatemala. I was so overwhelmed by the first impressions I knew that this was going to be a trip of a lifetime, and the start of something great, and it was! I met the most amazing people and had never laughed so much in my life! The backpackers and like-minded travellers who flood in by the hundreds daily fill the streets with friendly smiles and bring interesting stories to be heard and relived. The nightlife wasn't the best, bars and most places must shut early due to national laws on music and stuff, so things close by like 11 pm, but if you meet the right people you could be dragged along to some invite-only "after parties" which go on after closing hours, they are not to be missed! I've had amazing times at these things and met the most incredible people I'm honoured to call my friends now. Antigua was lovely, but I didn't fly from Ibiza to be in a somewhat chilly, small city, 5,029ft above sea level. I needed to keep active and seek diversity, so I took a volunteering position down at the beach (The Driftwood Surfer in El Paredon). It was a long uncomfortable ride on a shitty, bumpy dirt road, in a cramped minivan with no A/C. The Driftwood Surfer is located in an isolated little town on a black volcanic beach with a uniquely incredible vibe and after a few days... I was loving life! When It wasn't my shift to "work", I spent most of my days knocking back cheap and nasty tequila shots at the pool bar, pumping my favourite tunes and watching people surf. When I wasn't restocking inventory, cleaning/organising, painting or building furniture, I posted the food orders and made cocktails for pisshead backpackers who'd later invite me over to take a body shot off of some sexy girl in a bikini. I've had worse jobs in my life haha! So after a few months posted down at the beach, I made a move up to Lake Atitlan. This is a magical place, not Disney Land magical, It's out of this world, for many reasons, but you'll either love it or hate it, a bit like Marmite (I love both). Words cannot adequately describe the feeling you get when you are there, the lake itself is just beautiful, the views and vibe are hypnotising. The lake was formed and is the crater of a mega eruption some 85,000 years ago! You've seriously got to go if you ever visit Guatemala, you won't leave. I call those people "lake monsters." I have had the privilege of becoming one myself, and I'm honestly not complaining! My fellow monsters are some of the most uniquely charactered beings I've ever met, and I love them dearly. I'll always remain a lake monster despite not currently being there, my label...my rules! If you want to know where to stay at the lake I have some great suggestions, you can thank me later! In general, the country is beautiful, the food is fresh and delicious, and Guatemalans as a whole are honestly one of a kind. They are friendly, funny and genuinely good people or "Buena Onda" as they would say, I miss them all dearly! Interesting fact: I've experienced a few earthquakes at the lake, quite a surreal experience, one of which I was too drunk and fucked up to realise what was going on. Guatemala is such an active country when it comes to the forces of mother nature. You'll see the volcano "Fuego" erupting multiple times daily (The photo below was on my last day, it woke me up from how intense the rumble was from such a distance)! I'm also going to record a video soon enough, and explain in a bit more depth, my trip to Guatemala and my near-death experience, almost dying "tubing" down the river in Semuc Champey - Lanquin.
I won't rattle on too much about it if you want to know more DM me on Instagram - @a.constant.holiday and I'd love to share some more stories or tips and advice on how to get around and where to stay!