The bells of the churches ring out. Echoing against the gray sky and I am reminded it is Sunday in Antigua, one of the great colonial cities of Guatemala. Where the ruins of churches litter the skyline with volcanoes and mountains behind that. In this lush valley listening to the city is how you get to know more about it.
The colors and vibrant dresses of the Guatemalan women in the Park de Central along with scarves for sale let you know you are truly here. Walking down cobble streets where horse drawn carriages run alongside tut tuts, the motorised small taxis, you have a sense of old and new coming together.
Antigua is full of charm and has it’s share of heart break as well. Walking along the streets (calles) you see many young and old that are looking to make their own way here and provide for their families or just survive. Many live off about $1 or 2 a day and I reminded of my own blessings. I am a tourist to this place but I feel comfortable here…at home amongst the noise and beauty of this place.
The local shop owners and people I have met at restaurants and bars have stories to tell. All you need to do is listen and come with an open mind. Traveling solo can be a bit lonely but in reality you are never alone for long if you want to strike up a conversation many are up to ask you Donde estas eres…where are you from.
Many of the people I have met came here to travel briefly and stayed because of the charm here.
On days like this, I understand the allure of staying. The idea of calling this place home and becoming a part of culture and tradition sounds lovely. Travelers need to come with an open mind and willingness to learn more about Guatemala. This holds true for many other places as well. So my suggestion is if you want to travel and have a wanderlust spirit…get yourself a book about where you wish to be and read up. Meet some locals or ex-pats who call the country home and learn the language…or try at least.
Have fun and go forth…be curious.