My heart raced as I boarded the plane from Newark, New York to Guatemala City, Guatemala. Not only was I about to be unplugged for an entire month, but it was my first time being out of the country, my first time being away from home for this long.
We landed in Guatemala City after the five-hour flight and once we got through immigration, we walked outside to find our driver, Juan, waiting with our bus. Slowly, but surely we got all 17 suitcases piled in the back.
The moon lit the night sky by the time we arrived, making it hard to see the landscape and the buildings surrounding us. All I could see on the hour drive to Hotel Quinta de les Flores were other cars, the never-ending winding road and a few street dogs laying on the side of the road.
We finally arrived to our hotel and without hesitation I walked to Casita Uno, the room I would be calling my home the next month.
The weeks spent in sunny Antigua flew by.
Maybe it was because I got to make new friendships and grow other friendships.
Maybe it was because I got to walk around the beautiful, bright colored and textured city every day immersing myself in their culture.
Or maybe it was because of all the new food I got to try.
Although, I think all of those had a part to do with what made my money well spent, I would argue a few other events played a bigger role.
I spent hours, multiple days a week at Virgen Del Socorro, a resident home for special adults and children playing ball, holding hands or listening to the residents talk about the “old days.”
I listened to stories about discrimination and tattoos from a tattoo artist at Antigua Tattoo, who happens to be one of the most humble people I’ve ever come across.
Leading up to the trip I spent my time researching about the country, tried learning basic Spanish words and phrases through Duolingo and worked my butt off by picking up whatever shifts I could to raise money for the $3800 trip I was going to pay out of pocket.
My first car, a 2001 maroon Buick Regal my senior year of high school, made my list of well spent money. But it only ended up lasting me about two years. While my trip to Guatemala was an experience that changed me, pushed me outside my comfort zones and gave me memories that will last a lifetime.
— Miranda Weippert