My first trip to Guatemala began with a blissful three days in the spiritually charged village of San Marcos, peacefully tucked along the shore of Lake Atitlán, one of the most gorgeous places I have been lucky enough to experience thus far in my travels. Even though I could have stayed there for weeks, months, forever, I only had a week in Guatemala and my itinerary told me that it was time to move on. Next stop: Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage city bursting with colonial architecture at the base of three volcanoes; Acatenango, Volcán de Agua and Volcán de Fuego, an active stratovolcano that erupted twice in 2018 alone.
Ever since my first trip to Central America on a trip to Nicaragua in 2015, Guatemala has been at the top of my list of destinations to visit. The combination of volcanoes, Mayan ruins, Colonial architecture, fabulous food, the promise of no jet lag and fewer tourists than other parts of the world are just a few of the reasons I wanted to visit captivating country. Other people didn’t see it that way, though. Whenever I was asked where I wanted to go next, and I answered with Guatemala, I was met with blank stares, quizzical looks and sincere expressions of concern. But since when have I ever let people’s opinions stop me from doing something I wanted to do?
From the moment I returned from my first solo trip to Los Angeles in November 2017, I couldn’t stop thinking about Guatemala. I had just taken a huge step in my personal life and development – after traveling with someone else for over 10 years, I had conquered my fear of doing things alone and rocked a badass trip to LA. I was now prepared to do anything, and not let anything hold me back from traveling anywhere I wanted to go. On Boxing Day 2017, three years to the date since I booked my Nicaragua trip, I made my decision and booked one round trip plane ticket to Guatemala.
Alberta, the province that I call home, is the land of diverse and gorgeous landscapes – the Rocky Mountains in the West, the Badlands in the South, and vast fields of canola throughout. Dotted randomly somewhere in the midst of all this natural beauty are Alberta’s two major cities, Edmonton, my hometown, and Calgary, 300km to the south. Although Calgary is a 3-hour straight shot down Highway 2, I hadn’t visited the city since 2011, always passing by on my way to the Rockies but rarely stopping. When I was invited by the Ramada Plaza Downtown to check out their Calgary Made Guest Room Package, I was eager to head south to discover some of Calgary’s best local businesses.
Boarding pass in hand and backpack on my back, I walked across the chilly jet bridge at Edmonton International Airport and boarded the 737 like I had done dozens of times before. I sat down in my seat, buckled my seatbelt and gazed out the window, contemplating the trip I was about to take. It was the first day of November and I was heading to Los Angeles, a city I had never visited before. There is nothing unusual about a Canadian heading south in the winter, just like there was nothing unusual about me jetting off to somewhere new – I did achieve my goal of traveling to 30 countries before the age of 30, after all. But this trip was going to be different. After traveling around the world with someone else for the past 10 years, I was setting off on my first solo trip.